Top 10 Cannibal Movies
When I decided to compose this list, I wanted to avoid obvious choices like any of the notorious Italian cannibal films that boomed during the 1970s and 1980s and no “Texas Chain Saw Massacre”. Well, for that matter, there are no Hannibal Lecter films on this list either. They’re too obvious and cliched answers. I wanted to look at movies that might be known and might not be known; focus on them, bring them some attention. This is probably one of mankind’s oldest and deepest taboos: cannibalism. In some countries, warriors who defeated the enemy ate them for various honor and victories reasons. In other times, cannibalism is a terrifying act put upon a community. But in film, we can explore this act, this taboo, especially in horror to psychological reasons or for purely exploitation reasons. So let’s take a fun look at some of movie’s man-eaters and the scenes that make a lasting impact on us. (Of course, there’s plenty more but here are my top ones)
10 CANNIBAL! THE MUSICAL (1995, director: Trey Parker): Ever so loosely based on a Colorado man who cannibalized his miner and hunter friends during a bad winter storm, Parker’s film is wild, funny, and gory. This film might be light on cannibalism, except for the opening and a few scenes during the end, but it’s wildly imaginative for its low budget. The songs are addictive and will get stuck in your head, the comedy is typical Stone/Parker “South Park” stuff, but the film is pretty re-watch able. It’s like a “South Park” version of “Evil Dead”. Yum.
9 SWEENEY TODD (1936, director: George King): You might’ve seen the recent Tim Burton version, but this one makes Todd a premeditative murderer instead of a singing, revenge hunter. He uses his charm and wit to lure customers into his chair only to drop them head-first into a basement, where their throats are slashed and then cooked into Mrs. Lovett’s meat pies. Tod Slaughter (yes, that’s his real surname) literally chews p the scenery as Sweeney, adding black humor to the grim circumstances. Try to seek it out if you can.
8 TITUS ANDRONICUS (1999; playwright: William Shakespeare, director: Julie Taymor): Yes, even the great, immortal Shakespeare used cannibalism in one of his earlier works, and in this film version Julie Taymor elaborately staged the film with beautiful sets and costumes. Who cares, huh? She also cast Hannibal Lecter himself, Anthony Hopkins, in another fabulous role of a father who learned his daughter has been raped, kills her (due to it being dishonorable) and feeds his wife a meat pie made with her meat and some guests are feed it too. What’s with this list and meat pies? Avoid meat pies, seriously. Old Shakespeare mixed all of his typical themes, and although some critics are harsh upon this work, it’s also his goriest.
7 MOTEL HELL (1981, director: Kevin Connor): Meat’s meat and a man’s gotta eat! or so proclaims Vincent. This sort of “Texas Chain Saw Massacre” film plays down the horror and cranks up the comedy, black comedy. It’s really a hoot as Rory Calhoun eats up the scenery as Farmer Vincent; even scenes of the human farm are as wild as they are horrific. The scene that sticks out for me still, is when Vincent wears a pig’s head and chases our hero with a chainsaw in his meat producing factory, only o give up as he loses his breathe. Due for a remake soon, unfortunately.
6 DUMPLINGS (2003, director: Fruit Chan): This is absolutely the most unnerving cannibal film on my list. It’s featured as a short film in the “3 Extremes” film but on DVD, it’s featured on a second disc as a feature length film. Both work to horrific results. Choose your poison because either way, “Dumplings” is an intense, sickening, beautiful horror film. Check it out, it you can handle the sickening sound design and close ups. They say you can rejuvenate your aging skin with some virgin blood or meat, so is the basic premise of this crazy, but beautiful looking horror film.
5 DOCTOR X (1932, director: Michael Curtiz): From the director of “Casablanca” comes a cannibal film! Bet that sounds odd. This 1930s film might use cannibalism subjectively, but it’s known as the first sound film to use cannibalism. The title character is sent in to help the police since the victims were carved by a scalpel knife used exclusively to his institution. The film plays like a dark comedy, “old dark house” type of horror mystery, but it just might be the cannibal film you never knew about.
4 ALBERT FISH (2006, director: John Borowski): Borowski artfully crafts a docudrama about this infamous cannibal. No fiction film could ever recreate the horror that Fish is. This man is pure evil and Borowski’s vision of him is equally evil. He never actually shows Fish eating someone and he doesn’t have to. Fish letters describe his thoughts on eating human flesh and we use of imagination to fill in the gruesome details. This is a marvelous film and establishes Fish as the worst cannibal killer ever and Borowski as the go-to man for serial killers.
3 CITIZEN X (2000, director: Chris Gerolmo): Cannibalism is only subjective in these drama about one of the world’s more notorious serial killers. The film focuses more on the fall of Communism and how it aided the killer and hindered the cops. It’s a wonder why it didn’t make it to the theaters as it aired as a HBO original film, but who cares? Until “Zodiac” came out, this was one of the genre’s best films on the subject, featuring a stellar cast. Seeing “Citizen ” lure children deep into the wildness is enough to scare you without seeing him eat them, all 55 of them.
2 ALIVE! (1993, director: Frank Marshall): Well, not all of my picks are serial killers gone mad. Here’s a true story of a soccer team who crash landed in the Andes in South America and after being caught up in a blizzard, their food runs out. Forced to either die of starvation or eat the deceased, the remaining survivors must be forced with this horrible decision. It was first a book, then a Japanese remake, then a documentary; all are equally worth a watch. Civilized men who had to eat people to survive can taint your soul. Powerful film, only to be famously mocked in a skit on “In Living Color”.
1 SOYLENT GREEN (1973, director: Richard Fleischer): The film still plays out incredibly well despite a “Futurama” episode hilariously mimicking the now famous phrase Heston lets out at the end. It’s a thoughtful examination of our food supply that became in shortage in the film’s bleak future. Like all good science fiction, it takes a possible scenario like over-population and the shortage of food, expands it to a point in which we must do anything to survive. What is Soylent Green? What are the ingredients to the green snack bar? Well, I’m not giving it away if it’s on the list, but it’s a memorable moment in which we are what we eat. No other way to end the list than a global act of cannibalism!