7+ Starvation Movies

Starvation isn’t just about malnutrition. Here is a list of the best films with starved souls and bodies alike. 

In The Machinist (2004), Trevor’s deterioration shows how guilt can eat away at you.
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Darkness is most dangerous once it finds a human host to feed on. Once there, it escapes by eating its way out, feeding upon every bit of flesh on its way. Only then does true starvation take over. In the animal kingdom, starvation is caused by a lack of access to food. Humans, being far too complex a species, experience starvation in different measures. The films on this list show characters that aren’t only hungry for food. They hunger for what is essential to the spirit. Love, freedom, forgiveness, and more. 

The Platform (2019) illustrates how social systems lead to food insecurity and starvation.

For humans and animals alike, starvation leads to desperation. What does that desperation lead to? Some people must resort to cannibalism. Others unleash violence that until then remained deeply hidden. Disappearing before your eyes, these characters fight for their lives until only a skeleton remains. Eventually, even the spirit fades. These films shine a light on the forces that can devour you. Guilt, neglect, and even corrupt government can leave you empty and starving. Keep reading and be reminded of how hollow a human can become. 

Best Starvation Horror Films

The People Under the Stairs (1991)

Director Wes Craven based this story on a real-life case. In 1978, a pair of burglars broke into an LA home. As police were arresting them they discovered children locked in the basement. 

This Wes Craven cult classic brings us into a truly diabolical home–one run by incestuous and abusive parents. Within its walls dwell starving and disfigured children hoping only to escape. One child, “Roach”, even has his tongue cut out as punishment for screaming. He and the other children have no choice but to resort to cannibalism. Something humans historically do in similarly starving situations, they are forced to feed on each other and any who threaten the house. When a group of robbers breaks in, they may be the starving children’s next meal. However, one of the burglars is determined to free the children from their cannibalistic damnation. 

Thinner (1996)

Lead actor Robert John Burke lost 20 pounds in preparation for the role.

A privileged obese lawyer has trouble losing weight. When he accidentally kills a Roma woman (referred to in the film as “gypsy”) the lawyer thinks he must have been blessed. Not only does the court find him “not guilty”, but he also sheds body weight without even trying. This blessing shows itself as a curse, however, when he becomes skeletal. Upon confronting the now-widowed Roma elder that placed the curse on him, he learns of only one way to be rid of what plagues him. Soon, the lawyer learns that there are worse things than being overweight. Worse things, still, than withering away completely. Even without a Roma curse, guilt ravages the body after it has infected the mind. Like a parasite, guilt leaves the body and mind devoured before leaping to the nearest host, your loved ones. 

The Machinist (2004)

Christian Bale famously lost 63 pounds for his role in The Machinist.

Trevor’s body withers away as insomnia takes over his brain. After not sleeping for a year, he becomes an unreliable narrator of his own life. All alone in his apartment, he eats ravenously, yet nothing seems to change. Looking at Trevor, you’d see a body so lonely that not even food will stay on it. The actor explains what it feels like to be this light. “When you’re so skinny that you can hardly walk up a flight of stairs […] you’re, like, this being of pure thought. It’s like you’ve abandoned your body.” Christian Bale explains, “That’s the most Zen-like state I’ve ever been in my life.”

First Love / Primo Amore (2004)

This Italian film is loosely based on “Il cacciatore di anoressiche,” an autobiography by Marco Mariolini.

After meeting a man on a blind date, Sonia soon finds herself imprisoned in his desires. To mold her into his ideal, he withholds food to the point of starvation. His obsession with anorexic women destroys the one he claims to love. He will stop at nothing to shrink this woman until she is as small as she can be. Hating the way her skeleton pushes against her skin, Sonia realizes she needs to reclaim her body. And she must take it by force. 

An American Crime (2007)

Elliot Page was the only actor considered for the role of Sylvia Likens.

When carnival workers must travel for a job, they entrust their kids with a local housewife. Her home is full of kids who are excited to welcome the two teenage girls. This is a deadly mistake. Soon, one of the teenagers is locked in her basement. There, she is starved and tortured. While she seeks maternal affection from the housewife, all she receives is cuts and burns. Her children and kids of the neighborhood also join, rejoicing in her pain and deterioration. The film is made more horrific by the fact that the film is based on a true story. The real Sylvia Likens died partially of starvation in her abuser’s home in 1965. 

The Platform (2019)

With 333 floors and two prisoners each floor, there are 666 prisoners–one of many allusions to the setting as hell.

The horrors of a trickle-down economy are highlighted in this sci-fi horror film. Prisoners are entrapped in a vertical prison, where one tray of food stops at each level. Because of this, those who reside in the bottom tier are left to starve. The director of the film breaks down the social implications of this sci-fi horror film: “In a world where many starve […] the waste and superficiality of the so-called ‘first world’ are insulting.” Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia continues, “the film, nuanced to what many claims is not a social critique, is a social self-criticism.”

More Starvation Films

Many movie fans are still haunted by the horrific Sloth scene from Se7en (1995).
  • Matango (1963) A group of Japanese couples are shipwrecked on an island. The starving survivors are forced to eat poisonous mushrooms. Deadly and distorting consequences follow.
  • Se7en (1995) Has a serial killer murdering people based on the seven deadly sins. The victim of Sloth if left to horrifically starve over the course of months.
  • Hunger (2009) Has five strangers awake in a dungeon to find themselves the subject of an experiment. They must survive, even if it means destroying each other. 
  • Famine (2011) Students are mysteriously killed during a school’s annual 24-hour famine.
  • Starve (2014) Trapped in an abandoned high school, three friends battle paranormal forces. 
  • The Witch (2015) Exiled from their former community, a family moves to a farmhouse that is barren and haunted. 
  • The Survivalist (2015) A survivalist’s life is threatened by starvation and more so by two women who seek to join his hidden refuge.

Meet The Author

Kasey Rae is an artist, writer, and filmmaker, residing in the mountains of New York. Her favorite horror films are Nightmare on Elm Street and The Descent.