The Best French Horror Movies: Martyrs, Diabolique, Raw, Eyes Without a Face Make the Cut

by | October 26, 2020 | Comments

(Photo by TWC/courtesy Everett Collection)

From creating the first scary movie in 1896 to pushing extreme boundaries well into this century, France has had a long history in horror. And now we’ve collected every French horror movie with a Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes to see which of the country’s film are really on the cutting edge in terror.

First of all, that first scary movie in 1896? It’s called The Haunted Castle, directed by Georges Melies. It has bats, and spooky skeletons and witches! What Haunted Castle doesn’t have? A Tomatometer, meaning not enough critics have reviewed it to give it a score. So it’s not the earliest movie on our best French horror movies list, but it’s there in spirit.

Instead, the oldest movie comes from 1928: The Fall of the House of Usher, directed by Jean Epstein, adapting the Edgar Allan Poe story. House has a perfect 100% rating, meaning it’s not only the longest in the tooth on this list, it also places #1.

Looking at #2 and #3 of the best French horror movies is like traveling chronologically through time, from the 1920s into the 1950s. Georges Franju’s cold and creepy Eyes Without a Face and Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Hitchcock-esque Diabolique both came in during the ’50s, representing a high-water decade for France until the millennium.

(Photo by Courtesy Everett Collection)

During the 2000s, you may recall French horror movies gaining a lot of traction internationally for their pattern of shocking violence, unflinching gore, and deeply disturbing scenarios. Coined the New French Extremity movement, these movies their mark in the list with Fresh punishers like Martyrs, In My Skin, Them, and Inside. One of the more popular of these extreme movies, High Tension, was deemed Rotten by critics and thus didn’t make the cut.

The influence of the movement is still felt today, as seen in Julia Ducournau’s lurid, flesh-consuming Raw from 2016, which places fifth on the list. And out of all 20 movies on this guide, other Certified Fresh films include action-thriller Revenge (#4) by Coralie Fargeat, and zombie flick The Night Eats the World (#9), which is back in the conversation for its thematic similarities to #Alive, a Korean zombie movie recently released on Netflix.

See the full list of every Fresh and Certified Fresh French horror movie on Rotten Tomatoes.

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