In order to fully appreciate this list of the Best Cosmic Horror Films of All Time, it is vital to have read our article – Cosmic Horror Tropes – where we described this horror genre as a subgenre of horror fiction that emphasizes the terror and insignificance of humanity in the face of an incomprehensible and uncaring universe. The genre often features themes of cosmic entities, ancient deities, and otherworldly beings that are beyond human comprehension and control. We also set out common tropes closely associated with this genre.
Thus, we present the Best Cosmic Horror Films of All Time, in chronological order.
“2001: A Space Odyssey” (1967) directed by Stanley Kubrick
The film deals with themes of human evolution, technology, artificial intelligence, and extraterrestrial life, and is notable for its abstract, visually striking imagery and minimal use of dialogue. The story begins with the discovery of a mysterious monolith on the Moon, and follows a voyage to Jupiter with the sentient computer HAL 9000, ultimately culminating in a psychedelic “Star Gate” sequence. The film is considered a classic and is widely regarded as one of the greatest films ever made.
“Alien” (1979) directed by Ridley Scott
The movie follows the crew of the commercial spaceship Nostromo, who discover a deadly extraterrestrial creature while on a return trip to Earth. The crew must fight for survival against the aggressive alien, which has infiltrated the ship. The film is known for its suspenseful atmosphere, groundbreaking special effects, and memorable creature design. It was a critical and commercial success and spawned several sequels and spin-offs.
“The Thing” (1982) directed by John Carpenter
The film is set in Antarctica, where a group of American researchers come into contact with an alien organism that can imitate and assimilate other life forms. The story follows the group as they struggle to survive and stop the creature from escaping and potentially destroying the world. The film is known for its intense and suspenseful atmosphere, as well as its special effects and practical creature designs.
“In the Mouth of Madness” (1994) directed by John Carpenter
The film stars Sam Neill as John Trent, an insurance investigator who is sent to a small New England town to investigate the disappearance of a horror novelist, Sutter Cane (played by Jürgen Prochnow). As Trent delves deeper into the case, he begins to experience terrifying hallucinations and reality begins to unravel around him, leading him to question his own sanity. The film is considered a homage to the works of H.P. Lovecraft and has received positive reviews from critics for its atmosphere and themes of insanity and the power of storytelling.
“Event Horizon” (1997) directed by Paul W.S. Anderson
The movie follows a rescue crew who are sent to investigate a missing spaceship, the Event Horizon, which has reappeared after disappearing years earlier. The crew soon discovers that the ship has been to the furthest reaches of space and has returned with a mysterious and deadly force onboard. The film is known for its intense and suspenseful atmosphere, as well as its graphic and disturbing imagery.
“The Mist” (2007) directed by Frank Darabont
The film takes place in a small town in Maine where a thick mist envelops the area, bringing with it terrifying creatures that terrorize the residents. The film follows a group of people who are trapped in a supermarket, fighting to survive as they grapple with their own fears and the unknown horrors lurking outside. The film stars Thomas Jane, Laurie Holden, and Marcia Gay Harden, and received generally positive reviews upon its release.
“Prometheus” (2012) directed by Ridley Scott
The movie is set in the late 21st century and follows a team of scientists and explorers who discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth and journey to a distant planet to find the source of that clue. The team discovers a civilization of beings who they believe are responsible for creating humanity, but their interaction with these beings leads to unexpected and deadly consequences. The film is a prequel to the Alien franchise and explores themes of creation, the nature of humanity, and the consequences of seeking knowledge.
“Annihilation” (2018) directed by Alex Garland
The film follows a team of scientists and soldiers who enter an environmental disaster zone called “The Shimmer,” which is expanding and altering the terrain and life forms within it. As they venture deeper into the zone, they encounter strange and dangerous creatures, as well as their own personal demons. The movie explores themes of self-destruction and the unknown. It stars Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, and Oscar Isaac.
“Color Out of Space” (2019) directed by Richard Stanley
The film follows a family who move to a rural farm and are plagued by a mysterious, otherworldly force that infects their land, home, and bodies. It stars Nicolas Cage, Joely Richardson, and Tommy Chong. The film received generally positive reviews for its atmosphere and visuals, but was criticized for its pacing and plot.
“The Empty Man” (2020) directed by David Prior
The film follows a retired police officer who is investigating a series of disappearances in a small town, and discovers that they may be connected to a mysterious cult known as the Empty Man. The film features elements of the supernatural, such as hallucinations, visions and otherworldly entities that are not fully explained, which also adds to the cosmic horror elements.
Make sure you check out the entries in the Best Cosmic Horror Films of All Time with the links provided.
… still there’s more …