Late-stage capitalism is a bad look. As Jennifer Lopez told us in Hustlers, “This whole country is a strip club. You’ve got people throwing the money, and you’ve got people doing the dance.” The proletariat is fed up, and even the youth of TikTok are crying outrage at the billionaire class. The popular art of 2019 is responding, too, with privilege-skewering movies like Ready or Not, Us, and this weekend’s critically festooned Parasite parading through our multiplexes.
Centered on a poor family whose members lie their way into the home of a very wealthy one, the latest film from South Korea’s Bong Joon-ho begins, in the words of Vulture’s E. Alex Jung, as “a black comedy about class differences well suited to our season of scams” before slowly contorting itself into a surreal kind of horror story laced with manipulation, murder, and peaches. “The way Parasite’s story unfolds from there is like a magic trick. It alternately entertains and devastates, like a candy bar with a razor blade tucked inside.”
So in honor of rage, Vulture has assembled a list of 30 essential eat-the-rich horror movies for your economic 99 percent enjoyment. A note about what’s included below: We wanted to stick with movies in which the rich or the ruling class got absolutely annihilated, shamed, bankrupted, or had their lives utterly ruined. You might say, “But American Psycho?” To which you’ll be told, “But in the end, Patrick Bateman gets to keep on keeping on.” Yes that movie makes the upper crust look like a bunch of assholes, but this list is about movies in which the elite actually pay the price for their indulgences. ‘Tis the season to be petty.
- 1 El Angel Exterminador (1962)
- 2 The Masque of the Red Death (1964)
- 3 Frogs (1972)
- 4 La Grande Bouffe (1973)
- 5 Zardoz (1974)
- 6 The People Who Own The Dark (1976)
- 7 Empire of the Ants (1977)
- 8 Happy Birthday to Me (1981)
- 9 Eating Raoul (1982)
- 10 Eat the Rich (1987)
- 11 Rabid Grannies (1988)
- 12 They Live (1988)
- 13 Society (1989)
- 14 The People Under the Stairs (1991)
- 15 Funny Games (1997/2007)
- 16 Land of the Dead (2005)
- 17 Hostel (2005)
- 18 You’re Next (2011)
- 19 The Purge Franchise (2013-Present)
- 20 Stoker (2013)
- 21 Snowpiercer (2013)
- 22 The Man in the Orange Jacket (2014)
- 23 Maps to the Stars (2014)
- 24 High-Rise (2015)
- 25 Office (2015)
- 26 Mayhem (2017)
- 27 The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
- 28 Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)
- 29 Us (2019)
- 30 Ready or Not (2019)
El Angel Exterminador (1962)
Luis Buñuel’s extremely simple tale of a dinner party gone wrong is surprisingly grotesque. A ritzy society couple invites a group of friends over for an elaborate meal, and after retiring to the music room for drinks they are unable to leave again. Nothing is physically stopping them from exiting, but they are still unable to cross the threshold. Likewise, no one from the outside is able to enter and help them. As the days mount up, the party guests start to lose hope, turn on one another, or go mad as conditions break down and they waste away in their palace of excess.
The Masque of the Red Death (1964)
In this Roger Corman adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story of the same name, Vincent Price plays the heinous Prince Prospero, who we see partying in his castle and terrorizing the poor townspeople. But no man is above death, which Prospero will learn when a red masked presence crashes his grand ball. Nicolas Roeg served as cinematographer for Mask, so you’ve got some titans of cinema bringing you this grandiose fall from grace.
In this eco-horror movie, it’s nature that’s giving the rich their just desserts. The wealthy Crockett family, presided over by a cantankerous chemical baron, is polluting the island where they live on a sprawling estate. With no regard for the flora and fauna around them, local wildlife starts rising up to protect their land. Fear the frogs!
La Grande Bouffe (1973)
Alternately titled Blow-Out in the U.S., this Italian cult film skewers the excesses of the wealthy by telling the story of four rich men who come together at a lavish villa with the expressed purpose of eating themselves to death. A twist on the horror genre, La Grande Bouffe makes the simple act of eating gross and stressful by the end, as the men continually shovel food into themselves while entertaining various visitors, including a group of students and several prostitutes. Eat lightly before you watch.
Zardoz takes place on a future Earth where humans are divided into two groups: the Brutals, who live terrestrially and worship a giant, floating stone head named Zardoz that spews guns out if its mouth, and the Eternals. The Eternals live in the Vortex, and their lives have been rendered dull and mostly meaningless by technologically enabled immortality, and they live off food grown for them by the earthly class. The movie focuses on a Brutal Exterminator named Zed (Sean Connery) who infiltrates the Vortex and proves to the Eternals that their counterparts aren’t so simple and savage as they assume. Also, Sean Connery wears a small red outfit that basically looks like the dance costumes from the 2018 Suspiria.
The People Who Own The Dark (1976)
A bunch of rich business and military men gather at a castle for some debauched good times when nuclear war breaks out. Though protected from the initial strike inside the manse, those inhabiting the area around them have all gone blind and are scrounging for resources. Your money and status can’t keep you safe when the people who own the dark start closing in.
Empire of the Ants (1977)
Joan Collins plays a crooked land developer trying to sell idyllic beachfront property to investors in an area that will never actually be turned into anything. While she’s running her scam, however, toxic waste is seeping into the terrain, resulting in a race of giant, angry ants that begin picking off the investors. Mobilize the working class! Take back what’s yours!
Happy Birthday to Me (1981)
This excellent Canadian slasher is about a group of popular high-school students known as the “Top Ten” who start getting picked off by a mysterious killer. All the action builds up to a birthday-party finale that deserves much more credit as an all-timer in slasher history.
Eating Raoul (1982)
The Wikipedia description of this comedy-horror movie is just too simple and good not to use: “It is about a prudish married couple (played by Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov) who, in an effort to raise money to buy their dream restaurant, resort to killing affluent swingers and robbing them.” They just wanna rob. And open a restaurant.
Eat the Rich (1987)
At one point in the trailer for British black comedy–horror satire Eat the Rich, star Lanah P politely says to another character, “Hi. We’re starting a people’s uprising. Do you fancy joining us?” Lanah stars as Alex, a server at a fancy restaurant called Bastards who gets fired for being rude to the upscale clientele. From there, there’s a terrorist attack, a fascistic government official running for prime minister, secret KGB agents, emergent anarchists, and somehow more. It also features Miranda Richardson, Lenny Kilmister, Jennifer Saunders, Jools Holland, Sir Paul McCartney, and many more. It’s a messy ride, but it does culminate in Alex having her revenge on Bastards and its patrons.
Rabid Grannies (1988)
If you want to go maximum silly, go with a movie that combines Satanic panic with cannibalism. When the devil-worshipping, ostracized nephew of two elderly sisters is not invited to their birthday party — and also not included in their will — he sends a cursed gift along that turns the rich aunts into flesh-eating crazies trying to eat their greedy family members. The title says it all, really.
They Live (1988)
What happens when wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper discovers a widespread conspiracy on behalf of conglomerations to control the population through subliminal messaging in media and advertising? John Carpenter’s They Live happens, in which Piper goes on a rampage to weed out the corruption and expose the elite as the skinless corpse-looking aliens that they are. Prepare to kiss ass and chew bubblegum.
Thanks to the twisted stylings of director Brian Yuzna and his frequent collaborator, effects master Screaming Mad George, Society is a singular visual experience. The adopted teenage son of a high-tone Beverly Hills family has never really fit in with the upper crust, but near the start of Society, young Bill Whitney starts thinking something is truly off about the people who raised him. They’ve always assured him that one day he will contribute so much to “society,” but they don’t mean that in the way supportive parents typically do. If Bill wants to survive he’s going to have to fight, and he’ll have to survive one of the grossest, weirdest, wildest climaxes in movie history.
The People Under the Stairs (1991)
This Wes Craven movie follows a young boy named Fool as he breaks into the home of his conniving landlords to swipe some of the rumored fortune they have stashed in their house. Fool and his mom are about to lose their apartment in the city, and the Robesons don’t care, but once inside their locked-down suburban house, he learns they’re even worse than just being a pair of greedy slumlords. The premise of this list pretty much gives away the ending, but that doesn’t make watching the fall of the incestuous, sadistic Robesons any less enjoyable.
Funny Games (1997/2007)
Filmmaker Michael Haneke directed both the original German-language version of this film as well as the English-language remake ten years later. Both follow a well-to-do family on holiday at their posh lakeside home, who have their vacation interrupted by a pair of clean-cut sadists named Peter and Paul. The young men hold the family hostage in their home and toy with them for hours, even breaking the fourth wall at one point to make us, the viewer, complicit in their violence. This isn’t a feel-good “Eat the Rich” movie, but sometimes you have to take your medicine.
Land of the Dead (2005)
George Romero kept his Dead universe alive for almost half a century, and Land was an excellent extension of the franchise that came out 37 years after his original. In Romero’s fourth of his six Dead movies, survival outposts have popped up around the country, and the one in Pittsburgh (naturally) is lorded over by a ruthless Dennis Hopper. Zombie conflicts have always been a great cinematic avatar for dissecting society’s woes, but where you were all-in behind Duane Jones’s Ben in 1968, by 2005 we were ready to root for the undead.
In the halcyon days of the torture-horror era, Eli Roth was king, and Hostel was his signature study in over-the-top brutality. A couple of college students go on a trip to eastern Europe and get snatched up by a super-secret group of elites who pay to torture people to death. Humorously, Hostel: Part 2 is ultimately a victory for the ultra-rich over the regular rich, but the first movie is all about every-guy Jay Hernandez killing his way out of a death basement.
You’re Next (2011)
Almost every character in You’re Next is an asshole, which makes rooting for their demise at the hands of pig-masked strangers a pretty easy ask. The setting is a family gathering at a spacious country abode, and in addition to cheering hard for Sharni Vinson as the outstanding horror heroine, Erin, you’ll be giving multiple rounds of applause as each of these privileged bastards bites the dust.
The Purge Franchise (2013-Present)
Some Purge movies hit the Wall Street versus Main Street issue harder than others, but this entire franchise is about the have-nots killing each other to keep the haves in power by annually thinning out the ranks of the 99 percent — and how the lower classes will fight back to destroy the Man in whatever capacity they can. Do you want to see street justice served to religious zealots, state-sponsored white supremacists, and smug old white men laughing at the poors as their blood is spilled during a night of limitless crime? Plug in for a long Purge marathon.
Park Chan-wook’s only English-language movie enters this list through a side door. While there are no members of the proletariat pounding at the door of the Stoker family home to burn the rich folk inside alive, it is like watching an excruciating, slow dismembering of miserable privileged people at their own hands. Director Park is cinema’s foremost purveyor of perverted domestic discord, and Stoker makes antagonists of each of its characters. Money isn’t buying anyone here happiness, but the self-immolation might make us commoners feel better!
When the grime-covered steerage dwellers finally start advancing through the caste system of train cars in humanity’s last outpost — as the train itself speeds on a loop of track around the world to avoid freezing in the subarctic temperatures outside — you’ll be shouting “Lead us to salvation, Chris Evans!” at your screen. (Don’t act like you didn’t already do the same for America’s Ass.) Snowpiercer, a sci-fi film that dips into the horror well, is a bleak affair for basically everyone involved, but at least the ruling class gets a dose of what they deserve. If the repressed class is going down, they’re taking the gluttonous rich with them into hell’s icy ninth circle.
The Man in the Orange Jacket (2014)
Here’s a rare entry: a Latvian horror movie. After a rich industrialist lays off hundreds of workers, one of the former employees makes his way to the man’s secluded mansion for some street justice. But instead of fleeing the scene, the killer decides to borrow the life of luxury around him. Wearing the robes of the rich, however, also comes with a price, so consider The Man in the Orange Jacket a kind of communist warning about the perils of joining the vanguard.
Maps to the Stars (2014)
If you’ve followed Mia Wasikowska’s career even a little bit, it shouldn’t surprise you that she appears twice on this list. In David Cronenberg’s set-Hollywood-on-fire drama from 2014, Wasikowska plays a mysterious woman who ingratiates herself to an emotionally frail movie star, played by Julianne Moore. She becomes her assistant, but it’s all a ruse to get closer to the actress’ New Age-y therapist (John Cusack), whom she holds a deep, dark grudge against. Everything about this movie is either sad or sick or uncomfortable or a combination of all three, and Wasikowska is like some ghostly avenging demon sent to knock down people so insulated by their wealth that they become monsters.
Feeling nihilistic? Try this black-hearted drama from Ben Wheatley! Movies about societies organized vertically by status are such a tidy vessel for these kinds of themes. There are dystopian living systems, class structures organized by elevation, opportunities for catastrophic physical destruction of architecture that represents life itself — and High-Rise has all of those things! Tom Hiddelston plays a doctor who’s just moved into a (mostly) luxury-apartment tower that’s on the brink of civil war. Tensions are rising between the haves and the have-nots, and the building is buckling under the strain. Let it burn!
When a middle manager at some bland corporate office snaps and kills his entire family and then disappears, a young woman starts work at the same company just as his former co-workers try to piece together the mystery of his psychotic break — and his unknown whereabouts. Despite her best efforts, the shy woman doesn’t quite fit in at work, and the longer she’s there the more resentful she becomes of her dismissive superiors. She also gets more and more curious about the missing murderer, and develops a dangerous sympathy for what might have driven him to snap. The message here: Always be good to your interns.
Derek Cho (Steven Yeun) is a corporate drone at a large consulting firm whom we meet just as a virus called ID-7 is tearing across the world. It’s not deadly, but it turns the infected into rage monsters acting out their most violent impulses, and it hits Derek’s office the same day he learns he’s the scapegoat for a huge corporate screwup. After being fired, Derek teams with a woman (Samara Weaving) who has just had a loan extension callously rejected by the company, and with the building under quarantine they resolve to make their way to the executive floors to get justice for their unfair treatment. This one is a rager for the working men and women!
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
Writer and director Yorgos Lanthimos really thrives in making discomfort cinema. The horror-thriller Sacred Deer showcases the filmmaker’s signature halting, unnatural style of dialogue and centers on a wealthy surgeon (Colin Farrell) whose odd relationship with an even odder teen boy (Barry Keoghan) starts to take a toll on his life. The boy wants a father figure, but when the surgeon is unable to make enough time for him, the young man starts insinuating himself into the rich man’s pristine home and family. And then people start getting severely, inexplicably sick. After Deer, it might be a long time before you’re comfortable eating spaghetti or listening to Ellie Goulding again.
Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)
There are few cultural enclaves that feel more walled off than the world of fine art, which is saturated with pretension and deep-pocketed connoisseurs. So how better to punish the greedy than having the art itself fight back? The deceased painter who created the works was no angel himself, but he made it pretty damn clear that everything he made should have been destroyed upon his death, and now these high-brow gallery mavens are going to get their comeuppance. There’s also a hobo robot art piece that kills people, so don’t miss out.
Do you know where your tether is? Do you know what they’re doing now? Have you prepared for the coming overthrow?
Ready or Not (2019)
Ready or Not is what I like to call “melee horror,” the kind of genre movie that’s all about lots of people dying in crazy ways and commits as much to action as it does to terror. In it, Samara Weaving plays a brand-new bride forced to participate in an initiation ritual with her new, exorbitantly wealthy in-laws before they fully accept her. She has to pull a card from a deck and whatever game is listed on that card is the one she has to play. Sadly for the bride, she pulls the deadly “Hide and Seek” option, which means the family aims to hunt her down and kill her before the sun rises. Weaving has quickly cemented herself as a melee-horror queen, and Ready or Not is the exact sort of cinematic schadenfreude you want on a Friday night.