From It Follows (2014) to The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920), here are 16 movies like Us for a horror movie night.
Doppelgangers, trauma, and secret enemies everywhere. Jordan Peele’s 2019 film Us infused new life into classic horror tropes. Made after his directorial debut Get Out (2017), it once again reimagines horror tropes to showcase the perspective of African-Americans. A well made horror film doesn’t need jump scares to frighten viewers. And Us if proof. Told over the course of a single day and night, the film is a tale of duality where everyone has a shadowy other self. These other selves are known as the Tethered. When they surface, the protagonist Adelaide and her family must face their own doubles if they are to make it out alive. Jordan Peele not only creates a genuinely terrifying and subversive flick, he also weaves social commentary about race, class, capitalism and modern-day America. The clever inferences, slick and gory action as well as an ambiguous ending contributed to the film’s popularity.
If you enjoyed watching Us as much as we did, keep reading to find out what else to watch now that Halloween is drawing nearer. Here are 16 similar movies like Us we think you’ll love (but keep those lights on!).
Movies like Us
1. The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920)
The town of Holstenwall in Germany is visited by a peculiar pair — Dr Caligari and a somnambulist called Cesare. The townsfolk initially dismiss them as ridiculous and harmless. A string of murders soon proves them wrong and their malicious intent is revealed. It is now up to Francis, a local man, to save his fiancée Jane from the fiendish Dr Caligari, and solve the murders. Proclaimed as the first true horror film, the usage of harsh, blunt images and forms, with sharply defined distortions make it a prime example of German Expressionism. The performances were also hyper-expressive in order to emphasize on the desires, turmoils, and fears of the characters.
The screenplay was directly inspired by writers Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer’s lives during World War I and offers a metaphor for the brutality of authority and Germany’s relationship with unchecked tyrants. Watch the film for a surprise twist that would undoubtedly spawn many alternate theories, had the film been made in recent times.
2. Tumbbad (2018)
Anand Gandhi and Rahi Anil Barve’s Tumbbad is set in a village of the same name in Maharashtra, India. Sohum Shah plays Vinayak Rao, who recounts the story of Hastar, an ancient god. Hastar is fated to be forever trapped inside the womb of his mother, the Goddess of Prosperity, in Tumbbad. Despite being warned by many to never remember or worship Hastar, the people of Tumbbad build a temple for him. Vinayak is forced to return to Tumbbad again and again due to his poverty. He takes on the quest to feed the hungry Hastar and tricks him to acquire his gold. However, greed knows no bounds, and monstrous appetites soon take over when his son follows down the same path.
Tumbbad is notable for its gloomy, gothic ambience, eerie visuals and the tragic analogy of human greed and self-destruction. It was the first Indian film to premiere at the Venice International Film Festival’s Critics Week and was screened out of competition.
3. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Deals with the devil and sinister neighbors permeate the frames of Roman Polanski’s paranoid horror/thriller Rosemary’s Baby. The film features Mia Farrow as the titular heroine who moves with her husband, Guy Woodhouse into the Bramford, a building in New York which abounds in secrets ranging from witchcraft to murder. Things begin to close in on Rosemary when she is manipulated by her husband into getting pregnant. Besides, their neighbors, the Castevets, take over almost every aspect of her life. Suspicious accidents occurring to those near her convince Rosemary that something malicious is afoot; whether or not she is able to escape remains to be seen.
Universally acclaimed as one of the best horror films ever made, Rosemary’s Baby is rife with heavy themes such as occultism, female anxiety, and urban paranoia. With signature camerawork that posits Rosemary as the audiences’ surrogate, the film creates a claustrophobic atmosphere that perfectly reflects the dark underbelly of 60s Americana.
4. Under the Shadow (2016)
Mother and daughter Shideh and Dorsa are at the center of this Persian psychological thriller-horror film set in the midst of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980s Tehran. Due to her political beliefs, Shideh, a medical student is forced to give up her studies. While Shideh’s husband is at war, she is suffocated by the oppressive laws of post-revolution Iran. In this tense scenario, the mother and daughter are visited by a strange boy who brings with him a mysterious entity into their lives. As the war progresses, supernatural phenomena and Shideh’s worsening PTSD endangers their lives, until it reaches a breaking point.
The film is a masterclass in blending genres. Director Babak Anvari expertly handles the uncertainty of life in war-torn terrain. The supernatural twist only emphasizes the way individual lives are changed by forces beyond their control. The film was the British entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards.
5. Get Out (2017)
Director Jordan Peele describes his debut film Get Out, as a horror film rooted in a satirical premise. The plot revolves around young African-American photographer Chris Washington as he meets the family of his white girlfriend, Rose Armitage. The seemingly innocuous, annual family gathering is soon revealed to be much murkier, when Chris discovers that it has a specific purpose. The Armitages prey upon African-American people in a uniquely perverse way, and unless he escapes, Chris could very well end up the latest in a long line of victims.
Get Out integrates classic horror film tropes such as a lone protagonist, rapid killings which is reminiscent of the slasher film genre. Watch the film for its ground-breaking thrills that also offers a disturbing look at racial politics, exploitation of black bodies and interracial relationships in recent times. The horror comedy was nominated for multiple Academy Awards, eventually winning in the Best Original Screenplay Category.
6. Funny Games (1997)
A family vacation gone awfully awry is the premise for Funny Games. However, it’s much more than a satire on home-invasion movies. As usual, Haneke offers a thought-provoking treatise on the portrayal and acceptance of violence in media. The 1997 Austrian film delights in leading the audience through a cat-and-mouse game between the alleged antagonists and the family in danger. Married couple Georg and Anna arrive at their lake house with son Georgie and pet dog Rolfi. They encounter two handsome young men called Paul and Peter. They seem to be normal guys, but soon reveal themselves to be sadistic killers.
As they trap and torture the family, escaping seems increasingly impossible. The film makes use of common tropes in the horror and slasher genre to its advantage, pairing them with fourth wall breaks, and commentary on the film from within the film. It spawned an American remake of the same name in 2007.
7. It Follows (2014)
David Robert Mitchell’s film It Follows is centered around a unique premise — the protagonist Jay Height (played by Maika Monroe) is stalked by a mysterious entity after having sex with her new boyfriend, Hugh. Hugh has knowingly passed the curse in order to free himself from it. He further reveals that she can get rid of it by having sex with someone else, thus effectively transferring the affliction. However, if the malevolent, shape-shifting entity catches up with Jay, it will kill her and pursue the previous person to have passed it on, and so on.
The film’s central idea – which reminds us of few Stephen King stories – has been read by many critics as an allegory for the exploration of sex, the taboo around free sexuality as well as a metaphor for sexually transmitted infections. At the same time, the central idea remains as a blank signifier, and therefore encourages different interpretations. Bolstered by Mitchell’s minimalistic horror aesthetic that turns mundane and familiar spaces into a terrifying atmosphere, this horror movie is a must watch.
8. Parasite (2019)
Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite centers itself around the poor Kim family and the wealthy Park family. The Kim family members infiltrate the Parks, working for them under various guises and striving to escape their lives of gut-wrenching poverty. Their arrangement is endangered when they discover the husband of a recently fired employee, who seems to be living in the Parks’ basement for years. Is he yet another ‘parasite’, who is not very different from the Kims? However, gradually through sheer indifference, entitlement, and arrogance of the Parks, we understand how the affluent have rigged the entire system to suck on the blood of the working class.
Parasite is not only one of the most entertaining thriller movies, but is also rich with ideas of capitalist labor exploitation, the disparity and increasing gap between the rich and the poor, and the singularly insular nature of wealth accumulation. The film garnered a whopping four awards at the 92nd Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director for Bong Joon-ho.
9. Lost Highway (1997)
Directed by David Lynch, Lost Highway is a mind-bending neo-noir film that revolves around the a jazz musician named Fred Madison (Bill Pulman). Fred keeps receiving mysterious surveillance tapes of his house. He is also tortured by the notion that his wife, Renee is having an affair. Soon, Fred is accused of killing his wife and faces the electric chair. In another storyline, we follow a young mechanic named Pete who is lured into saving the beautiful girlfriend of a gangster. Interestingly, both the women in the two different stories look identical, and played by Patricia Arquette.
Moreover, sinister and mysterious figures lurk in the background. The film is wickedly surreal, blurring reality and dream, truth and fantasy. Any explanation of the events is never offered and the open-ended implications only hint at certain directions that the audience may choose to venture into, with the director describing the film as a psychogenic fugue.
10. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Philip Kaufman’s remake of the 1956 horror cult classic tells the story of a California town by the name of Santa Mira. In this peaceful town, groups of people start reporting cases of friends and family members being replaced by identical look-alikes, devoid of all humanity. This is initially dismissed as mass hysteria, but as time progresses, a psychiatrist named Dr. Miles Benell realizes that this is not a hoax. The impostors are being created from pods, which have arrived from an alien life form. As the entire town is slowly converted and replaced, Benell forms an alliance with Becky Driscoll, his former girlfriend to keep his sanity intact and make it out alive.
Regularly touted as a sci-fi classic, the film offers plenty of ideas on loss of individuality, conformity and surveillance. Critics and audiences alike have viewed it as a reaction to the rise of McCarthyism and rigid adherence to populist ideals in America.
11. Possession (1981)
In his directorial career of four plus decades, visionary Polish filmmaker Andrzej Zulawski has made a bunch of demented arthouse classics like The Third Part of the Night, On the Silver Globe, and Cosmos. But nothing comes close to his deranged and disturbing horror feature Possession (1981). The film unfolds with slow, almost theatrical intensity, telling the story of an international spy, Mark (Sam Neill), who has returned home after an assignment only to discover that his wife Anna (Isabelle Adjani) wants to leave him.
While she insists it is not because of an affair, Mark is contacted by a man named Hienrich who claims to be Anna’s lover. Meanwhile, Anna’s mental state keeps worsening and her psychosis manifests itself as a dark creature. A troubled marriage and its collateral damage are laid bare, as Mark and Anna grapple with their innermost darkness. Doppelgangers, marital troubles that take a turn for the worse and gory sequences make this film a must watch. Possession earned lead actress Isabelle Adjani the Best Actress Award at the 34th Cannes Film Festival.
12. Black Swan (2010)
He picked me, mommy.
Obsession, identity, duality and perfection are at the center of Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan. Nina Sayers, a ballerina is picked to embody the dual roles of the White Swan-Odile/Black Swan-Odette in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. While she is flawless in embodying the virginal and pure Odile, she fails to let loose and capture the wild essence of the dark Odette. Competing with her for the role of Odette is Lilly, a novice who appears to have just joined the ballet company. An obsession to be the best and the limiting world of ballet itself lead Nina down a spiral. In the process she comes face to face with her own darkness, her own black swan.
The psychological thriller is noted for using the source material of Swan Lake as an important plot addition as well as a relevant thematic guide. It earned several Oscar nominations and lead actress Natalie Portman garnered her first Oscar for Best Actress at the 68th Academy Awards. [Related: Black Swan Explained]
13. You’re Next (2011)
Director Adam Wingard’s You’re Next offers a fresh take on the home-invasion horror thriller sub-genre. The narrative unfolds around a dysfunctional family, who come together to celebrate their parents’ wedding anniversary at an isolated vacation home. Soon, a gang of attackers wearing animal masks instigate a home-invasion and brutally kill people. Director Wingard proves to be adept in utilizing the conventional horror tropes in an effective manner.
Moreover, You’re Next largely works due to its non-violent yet tense first-half. The domestic disquiet in the Davison family is impeccably realized. Insecurities and anxieties simmer beneath the surface. Strong characterizations play a pivotal role in crafting the visceral violence of the later-half. Wingard’s film also scores big on dark humor, particularly when the bickering in the family continues despite the violent mayhem. Eventually, the biggest strength of You’re Next is Vinson’s fearless performance as Erin, the only character with a strong survival instinct.
14. Sleep Tight (2011)
Spanish filmmaker James Belaguero was best known for his critically acclaimed found-footage horror REC (2007). With Sleep Tight, he enters into the Hitchcockian territory and crafts one of the most disturbing psychological horror/thrillers. The narrative revolves around a suicidal sociopath Cesar (Luis Tosar). He works as an apartment block’s concierge and dedicates his time and energy making the residents’ lives miserable. Cesar is particularly determined to kill the happiness of a cheerful and beautiful tenant named Clara (Marta Etura).
From silently sneaking into her to sending her intimidating letters and texts, Cesar’s voyeuristic activities become increasingly disturbing. The stand-out element of Sleep Tight is the terrifying, Norman Bates-like performance of Luis Tosar. It’s definitely not an easy movie to watch, since the narrative largely unfolds from the perspective of a dangerous stalker. Besides, the film is an intimate character study of a terrible human being, and the ending is sure to haunt you for days.
15. The People Under the Stairs (1991)
Wes Craven is one of the influential Hollywood horror filmmakers. He is best known for making perennial Halloween favorites like Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream. Interestingly, Craven’s 1991 twisted horror feature The People Under the Stairs also happens to be one of his most unique works. The film featured a 13-year old African-American protagonist, which was a rarity in mainstream Hollywood movies of the time. The narrative is set in the ghetto of an unnamed city.
An ailing mother receives an eviction notice. Consequently, her two children – Ruby and Williams – decide to burglarize a home to save themselves from homelessness. Williams, a teenage boy, goes by the name ‘Fool’. He hears about a house full of gold from Ruby’s friend, Leroy. The young burglars, however, get trapped in the house of horrors. Wes Craven’s social commentary on the stark realities of economic hardship provides a strong layer to the horror narrative.
16. Martyrs (2008)
Pascal Laugier’s extremely disturbing Martyrs belong to the wave of New French Extremity horror. It’s a term that indicated the synergy of arthouse horror, exploitative cinema, and body horror in French cinema at the turn of the 21st century. Martyrs initially revolve around young Lucie, who is subjected to extreme mental and physical abuse. One day, she escapes from her mysterious captors and is placed in an orphanage. There she befriends Anna, who is also a victim of child abuse. Fifteen years later, Lucie embarks on a trip to seek revenge on the family that tortured her.
What follows is an intense, disorientating narrative that’s full of surprising twists and extremely twisted violence. Writer-director Pascal Laugier employs slasher movie tropes to raise unsettling questions about abuse, trauma, and martyrdom. The stomach-churning final-act might not work for all. At the same time, Laugier delivers one of the most subversive and inventive horror movie endings, particularly considering the film’s simple initial set-up.
There you go! These are some great scary movies similar to Us you’ll enjoy. Thriller, sci-fi and horror genres have always been mediums for artists and audiences alike to project subliminal fears regarding their place in time and history onto fictional stories. Gender anxiety, racial and xenophobic biases, the huge chasm between the have and have-nots or even the innermost neuroses of the mind — all of them find adequate expression through film in a way that allows for catharsis, for a collective sigh of relief. As if to say, “lesson learnt.”
If you’re looking for more movies like Us, check out 10 Cloverfield Lane, Scream, mother!, The Visit, Sinister, Candyman and The Invisible Man. Which of these have you already ticked off your list? What else did we miss? Let’s talk in the comments below.
Additional writing by Arun Kumar
An avid reader and a life-long lover of blue skies, I like to spend my time with obscure poetry and dissecting films. Currently besotted with Maupassant, art history and all things Nolan, you can find me spacing out to Queen while I look for new things to obsess with.