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Very few things in the wild actively hunt humans. The African crowned eagle, crocodiles, and polar bears all seek human prey. Can humans be added to this list? In 1924 Richard Connell released “The Most Dangerous Game,” a short story that turns the hunter into the hunted. Used to hunting big game animals, the predator becomes the prey after falling from a yacht and swimming to a mysterious island. “The Most Dangerous Game,” as it turns out, is humankind.
Within this horrifying fiction lies the true history of humanity. Humans have enjoyed bloodsport for millennia. People killing and dueling to the death has been a spectator sport since the time of gladiators. Hundreds of years later, we are still putting people in arenas to watch a bloody battle that occasionally turns deadly. This seemingly inherent love for violence leads to the desire to conquer the most dangerous game. To hunt humans. The films in this list should not be confused with cannibalism horror. Even scarier, these hunters do not seek to feast on the flesh of their prey. So, what is the point of this hunt? Keep reading to find out.
Best Movies Where Humans Hunt Humans
Bored of his usual prey, a hunter intentionally strands luxury yachters on his remote island. There, he hunts them for sport. The Most Dangerous Game is the earliest adaptation of the short story of the same name. In the midst of its violence, it raises important questions. “I was thinking of the inconsistency of civilization,” one of the yachters says before they become stranded. “The beast of the jungle, killing just for his existence, is called savage. The man, killing just for sport, is called civilized… It’s a bit contradictory, isn’t it?”
A safari guide escorts a rich man on an elephant-hunting expedition in South Africa. When the rich man over-hunts and refuses to pay respect to the indigenous people, every member of the expedition except for the guide is killed. The guide is stripped and sent out into the wilderness to survive. He is offered the most basic of a fighting chance as the native tribe’s warriors follow and hunt him, turning the guide into their naked prey.
After World War III, a new form of entertainment, which is also meant to quell the violent tendencies of the world’s population, is devised. Called “The Big Hunt,” people from around the world are selected to compete is a series of hunts, sometimes as the hunter, and sometimes as the victim. The hunts are broadcast to the world, giving the person who succeeds in the goal of winning ten hunts fame and fortune beyond the means of most people.
In a totalitarian state, citizens can be sent away to re-education camps for just about any perceived offense to the ruling class. Once locked away, these “social deviants” are subjected to abuses ostensibly meant for their own self-improvement, but in reality are largely for the amusement of their captors. At a particular camp, a yearly “turkey shoot” occurs in which a few prisoners are selected to be hunted by the camp’s warden and his friends. The hunt is organized to the amusement of the elite in power, but this year the downtrodden have the will to fight back.
In search of her missing father, a young woman is attacked by a brutal gang. She is rescued by Chance, a homeless Marine vet with excellent combat skills. The two work together, scavenging the streets of New Orleans to find Natasha’s father. Eventually, they discover that he has been targeted by an organization that sells the opportunity to hunt homeless people. This action-thriller is directed by John Woo, who is famous for his “heroic bloodshed” films. Hard Target is his debut American film.
Jack Mason is homeless, depressed, and ready to end his life after everyone he cares about dies. At his lowest point, he is offered an odd opportunity from a total stranger: act as a hunting guide for a few days, and he’ll earn enough money to start turning his life around. Mason accepts, but instead of leading a hunt, he is the hunted. Rich people preying on the poor and the desperate is represented as explosive action in one of the better action-thrillers of the 1990s.
A random group of ninth-graders is selected to play a deadly game: “Battle Royale.” Only one kid will leave the island a victor. Only one kid will leave the island at all. The annual Battle Royale entails a fight to the death designed for only one champion to survive. The director of the film took inspiration from his personal history of horror. “My class had been drafted and was working in a munitions factory,” says director Kinji Fukasaku. “In July 1945, we were caught up in artillery fire. . .We survived by diving for cover under our friends. After the attacks, my class had to dispose of the corpses.”
This dark drama explores a concept that is rarely dissected—the family behind the murderer. What could have caused Kevin to go on a primal hunting spree in his high school gymnasium? The film explores Kevin’s motives, as well as his mother’s guilt. “He utilizes the massacre to battle for authenticity with his mother. He could have done many things to engage in that warfare. The school shooting just happened to be what he chose,” Ezra Miller says of Kevin’s motives.
In a dystopian future, the twelve districts of Panem must choose two young people from among its population to compete in the yearly Hunger Games. These twenty-four “tributes” are placed together and forced to hunt each other until one one survives. The game is broadcast for the entertainment of the masses, but it is also a punishment stemming from an attempted uprising in the past. But the continued punishment threatens to spark a new rebellion.
In an American near-future, crime rates are rising as the population bloats to excess. “The New Founding Fathers,” a new political party, devises a way to combat social issues. They enact an interactive annual event called “The Purge.” This event makes all crime legal, even murder. Human hunters take to the streets as the population is divided into predator and prey. For one night only, survival of the fittest trumps economic status.
With enough money, almost anything can be bought. For tycoon John Madec (Michael Douglas), his money allows him to pay off a sheriff so he can illegally hunt an endangered animal. But when Madec accidentally kills a man during the hunt, his money can’t buy the silence of his hunting guide Ben (Jeremy Irvine). So instead, Madec intends to frame Ben for the murder, saying the young man went insane from exposure in the desert. To ensure his story is believable, Madec uses his tools and skills as a hunter to watch Ben and keep him isolated in the desert until he succumbs to the elements. But Ben’s survival instinct may make him a hunter himself.
Some think that marriage ties you to a person for all eternity. But, it also ties you to their family. This is unfortunate for Grace, who marries into a mysterious dynasty. The wedding night is full of terror rather than tenderness. Grace spends the night trying to survive a wedding night ritual, which involves being hunted by her devil-worshiping in-laws. Amid the hunt, this darkly comedic satire takes audiences to the heights of familial dysfunction.
The basic premise of Anonymous Animals is simple, yet it comes across very surreal in its execution. In this world, the roles of animals and humans have switched. Anthropomorphic animals treat humans like humans treat animals, hunting, trapping, and killing them. The message is abundantly clear when you see the fear on the faces of the people being hunted in the movie.
A group of working-class strangers wake up in the forest. They quickly become prey to rich hunters who use the land for their favorite bloodsport. A conspiracy theory unravels as the human prey tries to survive the many traps set by the wealthy hunters. Perhaps adding even more comedy to this satirical film, around the time of the film’s initial test screenings, then-president Donald Trump tweeted: “The movie coming out is made in order…to inflame and cause chaos. They create their own violence, and then try to blame others. They are the true Racists, and are very bad for our Country!”
More Human Hunting Movies
- A Game of Death (1945) – This adaptation of Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” is directed by Robert Wise (The Haunting, West Side Story).
- Bloodlust! (1961) – Teens visiting a tropical island are captured by an insane doctor who uses his property to hunt a particular type of big game.
- The Woman Hunt (1972) – Women are abducted and placed on a remote island. There, they are treated like animals and hunted for sport.
- First Blood (1982) – John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) is hunted by the police of a small town after he refuses to be treated like a criminal. Then, Rambo turns the tables, hunting the very police officers who are closing in on him.
- Deadly Prey (1987) – A training camp utilizes extreme methods to teach its students how to hunt. When they release a man into the forest to track him down, they realize that the prey may be more dangerous than the predators.
- The Running Man (1987) – Professional killers hunt convicts in this fictional TV show. Escaping the killers means freedom, being captured earns them a brutal death.
- The Pest (1997) – Desperate for cash, a comedian signs up to become human prey in a deadly game.
- The Eliminator (2004) – Starring Michael Rooker and Bas Rutten, seven people are kidnapped and hunted by armed men, with the last surviving victim/prey winning a hefty cash prize.
- Naked Fear (2007) – Loosely based on a real serial killer, Naked Fear is about a woman who is stripped nude, then released in the wilderness so a killer can hunt her like an animal.
- Never Leave Alive (2017) – Pro-wrestler John Hennigan stars as a famous big-game hunter who is trapped on an island and hunted for sport by an ex-KGB agent.
- The Most Dangerous Game (2022) – In yet another adaptation of the original story, Casper Van Dien plays Baron Von Wolf, a rich man hunting humans on a remote island.
- Apex (2021) – Bruce Willis is Thomas Malone, a prisoner given a chance for freedom if he can survive a hunt organized for a group of wealthy hunters.
- Death Hunt (2022) – A man and his mistress are hunted for sport in this variation of the idea of The Most Dangerous Game.