Board up the haunted houses and keep your creepy woods: In the modern age, there’s simply no place more terrifying than the internet.
Since even before the days of the Sandra Bullock-starring “The Net” from 1995, cyberspace has provided a compelling backdrop to countless horror, thriller, and suspense films. Some are rooted in science fiction, while others employ the supernatural. The eerie expanse of the web provides for it all and is made infinitely more interesting by the spooky implications of an unseen world that millions of users don’t actually understand.
Found footage flicks are among some of the first scary internet movies to come to mind, with cheeky titles like “Unfriended,” “Followers,” and even “#Horror” bringing a knowing goofiness to the conceit of computer screen films. “Searching” and “Host” garnered newfound appreciation for the format, integrating smart authenticity into their design and direction. Meanwhile, movies like “Spree” and “Dashcam” took that show on the road, combining ride share apps and live streams to tremendous effect.
Visible windows, tabs, and cursors aren’t required to make internet scares (or suspense) stick, of course. More traditionally shot films, including recent releases “KIMI” and “We’re All Going to the World’s Fair,” have successfully molded internet themes to their cinematic stories.
Satirical black comedies stand out as especially fruitful ground for exploring social media themes, with titles from “Tragedy Girls” and “Ingrid Goes West” to the more recent “Not Okay” delivering exasperated sighs — and genuine laughs — in equal measure. Although not strictly comedies, the category’s most feminist entries, including the sex work-centric projects “Zola” and “CAM,” make similar use of light-hearted internet fodder to emphasize their more serious perspectives.
The best internet and social media movies tend to be scary because the technologies they examine tend to be scary. So, while coming-of-age films like “Eighth Grade” involve the internet and can be anxiety-inducing in their own ways, they’ve been excluded from this generally more frightening ranking. Conversely, documentary films, like “We Live in Public” and true crime projects like “The Tinder Swindler,” are inarguably horrific, but have been excluded to keep the focus fictional.
Listed in an order that considers both fear factor and quality, here are 13 of the scariest movies about social media and the internet.