For this article, I decided to elaborate on a list of the best French horror movies. This style of movie was never really popular in French cinema compared to the comedy section. Still, I managed to find some good French horror movies in order for you to get scared especially for Halloween. There are not only horror movies but also some French thriller movies on this list. I classified the list by the year of release starting with the oldest movies.
1- Carnival of Sinners (1943)
French name: La Main du diable
The oldest French horror movie on this list. It was shot obviously in black-and-white. This movie was produced by Maurice Tourneur. French producer that created many different quality movies in terms of style. His career remains today, unjustly forgotten and underestimated.
Synopsis: Guests are gathered in the restaurant room and they are chatting. All of a sudden, a strange individual bursts in. He has what looks like a shoebox under his arm, and has no left hand. After a power cut, the shoebox disappears. Customers decide to urge him to tell his story.
2 – Diabolique (1955)
French name: Les Diaboliques
French movie produced by the famous Henri-Georges Clouzot. In the mid-1950s, Alfred Hitchcock and Henri Georges-Clouzot were two directors at the top of their glory, the former making a lot of successful films in the United States and the latter having just received the Palme d’Or and the Lion d’Or for his masterpiece Le Salaire de la Peur. In 1995, the French Hitchcock came with this masterpiece Les Diaboliques.
Synopsis: In a school for young boys, Christina and Nicole, respectively wife and mistress of director Michel Delasalle, join forces to assassinate the man they have come to hate.
French name: Les Yeux sans visage
He inherits an excellent and effective script. It portrays intriguing characters and their relationships. Several scenes are striking and with one look, he can bring out the emotion of the characters, be it distress, fear, or cruelty.
Synopsis: Doctor Génessier, a famous plastic surgeon, wants to transplant a face to his daughter, disfigured in a car accident for which he is responsible. He has set up a laboratory on his property where his devoted assistant is trying to attract young girls.
4 – Delicatessen (1991)
French movie produced by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro. Today, people remember Jean-Pierre Jeunet as ‘Amélie Poulain’ or for English speakers “Amélie”, early fans remember that he once collaborated with a certain Caro to make two feature films: Delicatessen and La cité des enfants perdus.
Synopsis: The life of the strange inhabitants of a suburban building that stands in a huge wasteland and who all go to get their supplies from the butcher’s shop with the sign “Delicatessen”.
5 – With a Friend like Harry (2000)
French name: Harry, un ami qui vous veut du bien
This is more a French thriller movie rather than a horror movie. This movie was presented for the Cannes Film Festival and the director was Dominik Moll. The film is highlighted by the interpretation of Sergi Lopez in his character of Harry. He won the most prestigious French movie award, a César.
Synopsis: Michel, his wife, and their three daughters are on their way to their vacation when they stop at a gas station. There, Michel is recognized by Harry, an old friend from high school. It begins as a banal family comedy. Then little by little, the film discreetly metamorphoses into a grandiose psychological thriller. Tension sets in, unnoticed.
French name: Haute Tension
French horror film produced by Alexandre Aja which gathers the Belgian actress Cécile de France (funny having in her last name “From France” and being Belgian) and the French actress Maïwenn. This is a quite bloody French movie and perfect for watchers that like it when it is brutal.
Synopsis: In a dark atmosphere, two teenage girls settle down for the weekend in a country house with the family of one of them.
It is difficult to evoke Martyrs without mentioning its complicated distribution. It started with a ban of PG 18 in France, making it less likely for the network of theaters to want to distribute the film, postponement of the release, scandal in the press, and negotiations with the Ministry of Culture. The least that can be said is that Pascal Laugier’s second film has caused a lot of ink to flow and will have forged a solid reputation even before the film is shown.
Synopsis: In the 1970s, a little girl, Lucie, escaped from a factory where she was kidnapped and tortured without any real reason and with even fewer culprits. Gathered in an orphanage, she struggles to regain her serenity but finds another girl, Anna, a friend and above all a point of stability to which she can cling. Fifteen years later she believes she has found those who did this to her and is now seeking revenge.
Amer is that kind of movie that divides the opinion of the audience, either you will appreciate it or find it pretty boring. It has to be seen as a visual and sound artwork.
Synopsis: A little girl frightened by a villa that is too silent, a teenager attracted by mysterious presences lurking in her village, a woman who returns to defy her ghosts in the places of her childhood… The three key ages of Ana’s tormented life. Between desires, reality, and fantasies.
French movie produced by the unique French director Quentin Dupieux. This movie is a comedy horror movie, I did not know that it existed. I am pretty sure that by watching it, you are not going to be indifferent. After watching this movie, I recommend you try to describe this movie to your friends, you might sound like a crazy person.
Synopsis: In the Californian desert, incredulous spectators witness the adventures of a tire killer and telepath, mysteriously attracted by a pretty young girl. An investigation begins.
French name: Alléluia
French horror movie directed by Fabrice Du Weiz. This movie is adapted from the news brief of the Lonely Hearts Killers. Alleluia is French-style retreatment of a pitch that had everything to play the card of a creepy and sensational thriller. Important note, this is a Belgian-French movie 🙂
Synopsis: The story of Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez: a young nurse and a crook, also a gigolo, who sink into a deadly tragedy.
11 – Raw (2017)
French name: Grave
Raw is definitely my favorite movie from this list. This French fantastic / horror film was directed by the young Julia Ducournau and she managed to be nominated and win many prizes. The movie was nominated for six prizes for the César (as Best Soundtrack or Best Original Screenplay) and won for example the prize of the Fantastic Film Festival of Gérardmer in 2017. For this film get ready to get scared on your sofa with a wonderful soundtrack and a bloody story.
Synopsis: In Justine’s family everyone is a vet and vegetarian. At 16, she is a gifted teenager about to enter the vet school where her older sister is also a student. But, as soon as she gets settled, the hazing begins for her. Justine is forced to eat raw meat, and this is the first time in her life. The consequence is that Justine discovers her true nature.
12 – Climax (2018)
After watching this French thriller movie from Gaspard Noé, I could not tell if it was an amazing movie or a failed one. Long story short, you need to watch it! The staging, the original soundtrack, the dialogue, and the different angles for the shooting make this film unique. I loved watching the hypnotizing dance scenes accompanied by the music. For any techno fans, it is a movie you need to watch since one of the songs “Sangria” in the movie is from Thomas Bangalter. This name does not ring a bell? It is one of the members of the French band Daft Punk. Even without this music in it, any techno fan should watch this film. This movie will definitely make you anxious by following the course of a very chaotic techno party.
Synopsis: Being born and dying are extraordinary experiences. Living is a fleeting pleasure. A troupe of dancers decides to celebrate the last day of rehearsals before starting a tour in France and the United States. The atmosphere is festive, but soon some of the dancers begin to feel ill and behave strangely. Someone has poured drugs into the sangria. The party quickly turns into a nightmare.
Pascal Laugier is back with another horror movie less polemical than Martyrs in 2008 (seen in this list). Here it is “softer” in terms of violence with a PG 16 in France. Surprisingly there is in the film, the character of Colleen played by the famous French singer Mylène Farmer (Famous for my parents’ generation 😉 ).
Synopsis: After the death of her aunt, Colleen and her two daughters inherit a house. On the very first night, murderers enter the house and Colleen must fight to save her daughters. A drama that will traumatize the whole family, but above all will affect each of the young girls in different ways. While Beth becomes a renowned author specializing in horrific literature, Vera is stuck in a destructive paranoia. Sixteen years later, the family is once again reunited in the house, strange events will then begin to occur.
Are you going to watch those French horror movies? Let me know which one you prefer! Do you have other suggestions? Feel free to leave a comment, I want to know if I am missing a good horror movie and I might add it to the list later on. If you are looking for more scary entertainment check out my article about French series on Netflix there are some pretty nice French horror series like The Chalet, Black Spot, Vampire, or Marianne.