8 Italian Cannibal Films You Need to See

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With the release of Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno, the cannibal film has gained wider attention. Of course this is not the first film of its type and, hopefully, will not be the last. Let us have a quick lesson about the cannibal genre; specifically, Italian cannibal films.


The cannibal sub-genre was established in Italy with Umberto Lenzi’s film, Man from Deep River. The film only features one scene of cannibalism, but it was enough to spark a fire in the Italian film industry. Thus, cannibal films began being churned out by great and not-so-great filmmakers. While the genre lasted from 1972 to 1988, it began to wane around 1981 – the same year which saw the release of Lenzi’s Cannibal Ferox (a.k.a. Make Them Die Slowly). The genre is most known for its brutal, graphic violence and scenes of real animal slaughter.

While other countries got in on the action as well, the genre is a predominantly Italian phenomenon. They’re also the best of the bunch (the entries from other countries aren’t all that great: just watch Cannibal Terror – a French cannibal film – if you don’t believe me). While various directors tried their hand at the genre, Italy produced two of the most notorious: Umberto Lenzi and Ruggero Deodato, whom each produced three films. They weren’t only the most prolific, but also the best. Thus, their films will make up the bulk of this list.

And with that, let us move onto our list: 8 Italian Cannibal Films You Need to See. Barf bags are available upon request.

 Man from Deep River (1972) – Dir. Umberto Lenzi



The film that started it all. Ivan Rassimov plays John Bradley, a photographer who heads into the jungles of Southeast Asia to take wildlife photographs. There, he is captured by a tribe. During an escape attempt, Bradley kills one of the tribesmen – which results in the tribe deciding to make Bradley one of their own. How? By a series of brutal and violent rites! While not as violent and sickening as you may be led to believe, or hope, the film is entertaining. Think Dances with Wolves in the jungle and you’ve got an idea. Though it only features one scene of cannibalism – that, in all honesty, isn’t that spectacular – it was the first of its kind and opened the floodgates for a slew of imitators – many of which were far better. 




 Cut and Run (1985) – Dir. Ruggero Deodato


Deodato’s final cannibal film is more of an action film than anything. Reporter Fran Hudson (Lisa Blout) heads into the jungle to investigate a war between drug cartels and a cannibal army. The film was derived from an unmade screenplay by Wes Craven called Marimba. After funding fell through, the producers held onto the script and brought Ruggero Deodato on board. They wanted him to do a second Cannibal Holocaust, but Deodato refused. While the flick is entertaining, there isn’t a whole lot of cannibal violence in it. Still, it will definitely help pass the hours on a Sunday afternoon.




 Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals (1977) – Dir. Joe D’Amato

emanuellecannibalsJoe D’Amato (director of Anthropophagous) was known for making movies solely for financial reasons and most of his movies are cash-ins. However, that doesn’t stop them from being entertaining – like this entry in D’Amato’s “Black Emanuelle” series. Cannibal slayings at a hospital pique the interest of investigative journalist and nymphomaniac Emanuelle (Laura Gemser), and she goes down to the jungle with a group of people in tow. Cue cannibal atrocities. I watched this flick late one night on YouTube. While it didn’t contain that much cannibal violence, it was still an entertaining flick (especially given that it’s a D’Amato film). Worth a watch, just don’t expect to have your mind blown. While the “Black Emanuelle” series is known for being rife with hardcore XXX scenes and various other sexual atrocities, much of that is absent here – which means it’s safe for children!


 Eaten Alive! (1980) – Dir. Umberto Lenzi

eatenaliveTakes a Jim Jones-like cult and throw them into a cannibal infested jungle. Voila! Eaten Alive! Shelia (Janet Agren) and Mark (Robert Kerman) team up to face the perils of the jungle as they search for Shelia’s sister, Diana (Paola Senatore) – who has joined up with Jonas (Ivan Rassimov) and his cult. Of course, this wouldn’t be a cannibal flick without – you guessed it – cannibal hijinks! The film includes the requisite animal slaughter and cannibalism, but the film itself is a bit ho-hum. Definitely a middle-of-the-road affair that you’ll probably watch once and never touch again. Still, it’s necessary viewing for any and all cannibal enthusiasts.



 Jungle Holocaust (1977) – Dir. Ruggero Deodato

jungleOriginally meant to be directed by Umberto Lenzi as a follow-up to Man from Deep River, Deodato took the reins and crafted a fun little cannibal flick. A downed plane leave Robert (Massimo Foschi) and Rolf (Ivan Rassimov) stranded in the jungle. Venturing through the jungle, the two are separated, and Robert gets captured by a cannibal tribe. Atrocities ensue – including animal slaughter and rape. Also features explicit nudity. Definitely not for the little ones. Not quite as brutal as other cannibal films, but still a lot of fun.



 Cannibal Apocalypse (1980) – Dir. Antonio Margheriti

apocCannibals go urban. This film treats cannibalism like a virus. Charles Bukowki (Giovanni Lombardo Radice)) is a Vietnam P.O.W. who is infected with a strange virus that makes people crave human flesh. Once he is brought home to the big city, all hell breaks loose. Combining cannibalism with urban action, Cannibal Apocalypse stands in a category all its own. Plenty of blood and guts fly every whichway in this entertaining cannibal romp. Definitely worth checking out.




 Cannibal Ferox (1981) – Dir. Umberto Lenzi

feroxA group of people head into the Amazon with Gloria (Lorraine De Selle), a student who wants to prove that cannibalism doesn’t exist. Once there, they bump into Mike (Giovanni Lombardo Radice), a crazed criminal. After Mike kills a native girl, the cannibals decide it is time for a feast of epic (and gory) proportions! While Cannibal Holocaust might be the most notorious cannibal film of all, Cannibal Ferox is certainly the most morally bankrupt. Whereas Deodato’s film frames the atrocities within a moral narrative, Lenzi says to hell with that and just lets loose with everything he can think of. Castration, animal slaughter, rape, brain-eating, hooks through breasts – the list goes on and on. Definitely not for the squeamish. Cannibal Ferox is definitely close to the top of the cannibal heap, only surpassed by one other film…


 Cannibal Holocaust (1980) – Dir. Ruggero Deodato

Cannibal_HolocaustThe notorious! The infamous! The film still widely banned and censored to this day! Cannibal Holocaust. You should have known this would make the top of the list. An anthropology professor (Robert Kerman) heads into the jungle to find out what happened to a missing crew of documentary filmmakers. What he find there will leave him absolutely appalled. But, in this case, who are the real cannibals? This film is essential viewing for horror fans. In fact, you can’t call yourself a horror fan without having watched this one. The film makes use of the “mondo” style of filmmaking (popularized by Mondo Cane, and other films of its ilk) and completely turns it on its head, condemning the participants to the same moral low-ground as those they are filming. The film will shock and revile, but it will certainly not be forgotten. Watch it. Now!

Sadly, the cannibal genre declined after Deodato’s film, with only Cannibal Ferox being a worthy contender. All the rest were ho-hum at best, or complete crap. But though the genre has faded away, each of these films is still widely available for home viewing. So, instead of watching The Green Inferno again, get your credit card out and go pick up one of these flicks. Now!

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About Evan Romero

Evan Romero has been a horror fan since watching “Leprechaun” at the age of five. Aside from watching and writing about horror flicks, he delights in torturing friends with Z-grade movies. He’s also an unabashed Andy Milligan fan, God help him.

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