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The Best Cosmic Horror Movies That Will Warp Your Mind

Updated January 19, 2021 887 votes 99 voters 2.7k views23 items

Cosmic horror might be your favorite genre that you didn't even know existed. While certainly a niche filmmaking style, it includes some the most revered mind-melting movies of all time. Many of these titles are derived at least in part by the work of H.P. Lovecraft. Some films, like 2019's Color Out of Space starring Nic Cage, is a faithful adaptation of the short story with the same name. Others, like The Thing, simply draw much of it's inspiration from the author. The head-popping films of David Cronenberg perhaps best exemplify the cosmic horror genre, including Videodrome and Scanners. Lesser known cult classics like In the Mouth of Madness and The Endless take viewers into temporal loops and plots that loop within themselves. In short, if you want films that warp reality and question humankinds place within the universe, then look no further than cosmic horror movies.

Whether you're already a cosmic horror buff or a new viewer looking for a watchlist, check out this interdimensional list! Vote up your favorites and come back as new ones get added.

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  • In the Mouth of Madness
    Photo: In the Mouth of Madness / New Line Cinema

    In the Mouth of Madness is a story within a story (maybe within another story). Considered informally to be the third installment in John Carpenter's "Apocalypse Trilogy," (preceded by The Thing and Prince of Darkness) this Sam Neill-led film pits an insurance investigator against an author and his manuscript that aim to unleash a portal to a monstrous dimension. Neill's character becomes trapped in the narrative of In the Mouth of Madness, driving him to an insanity that positions him as the central figure in the destruction of the Earth itself.

    • Actors: Sam Neill, Julie Carmen, Jürgen Prochnow, Charlton Heston
    • Released: 1994
    • Directed by: John Carpenter
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  • The Thing
    Photo: The Thing / Universal Pictures

    As with many of the most memorable cosmic horror films, The Thing launched to abysmal reviews and a poor showing at the box office (competing against E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial didn't help). In the decades since it's release, though, it's been heralded by many as one of the best films to ever come out of the genre, with specific praise given to it's innovative and grotesque creature design. The plot focuses on a team of researchers on an expedition in Antarctica who encounter "the thing" - a parasitic monster that copies and then replaces the form of it's victims. While much of the horror comes from Rob Bottin's creature effects, the psychological horror of knowing that any member of the crew could in fact be "the thing" is where the real danger lies.

    • Actors: Kurt Russell, Keith David, John Carpenter, Adrienne Barbeau, Wilford Brimley
    • Released: 1982
    • Directed by: John Carpenter
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  • Event Horizon
    Photo: Event Horizon / Paramount Pictures

    Event Horizon is a cinematic mind-bender that sadly suffered from perhaps the worst cosmic foe of all - the Hollywood studio system. Post-production was rushed on Event Horizon by Parmaount Pictures in a desperate scramble to find a summer release due to delays on James Cameron's Titanic. As a result, director Paul W. S. Anderson's final cut suffered and the film was a box office failure. However, the film gained a cult following with its twisted cosmic plot. During a deep space rescue mission that lands a crew aboard the titular ship, a sinister force manifests their deepest fears and regrets, driving them into madness that blurs the lines between reality and the hellish infinite beyond.

    • Actors: Laurence Fishburne, Jason Isaacs, Sam Neill, Joely Richardson, Kathleen Quinlan
    • Released: 1997
    • Directed by: Paul W. S. Anderson
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  • The Void
    Photo: The Void / D Films

    A good chunk of the entries on this list come from Lovecraftian films of the 80's and 90's, but The Void proved that the genre wasn't dead in 2016. This film, partially crowdfunded from Indegogo, follows a group of people who are terrorized by hooded cultists and grotesque creatures in a hospital. This throwback tale features face flaying, people transforming into tentacled beasts, and the plot of a crazed doctor attempting to defy death with severe consequences.

    • Actors: Aaron Poole, Kenneth Welsh, Daniel Fathers, Kathleen Munroe, Ellen Wong
    • Released: 2016
    • Directed by: Steven Kostanski, Jeremy Gillespie
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