There are so many horror subgenres to pique viewer obsession. Many might be considered guilty pleasures, but obsession itself creates a prime category for horror and thriller films that keep us coming back for more. Whether it’s unrequited love, overly dedicated fans, or unexplained infatuations, those who obsess make for both highly entertaining protagonists and antagonists. How can you not be fascinated by a character that taunts, preys, and plays wicked games to get to the one they want? Obsession films have a distinct charm that viewers tend to curiously gravitate to: irritation, aggravation, outrage, and ultimate cringe. There is just something so appealing about watching a spiraling obsession play out not matter how tired or recycled the tropes become. Supported by some outstanding performances, the following films allow viewers to indulge that fascination without having to get too close. Attracting someone bent on destroying our lives for the sake of ownership is never a fun scenario and it never really ends well. However, if you’re like me and always looking for that torturous fix, these 10 Obsession Horror Movies To Obsess Over will satisfy that stalker craving.
10. One Hour Photo (2002)
Mark Romanek (Never Let Me Go) One Hour Photo is not exactly a pure-blooded horror movie (it’s more of a physiological thriller), but so much of its content is certainly horrific in nature. When it comes to films about obsession and stalkers, it’s wrong not to mention Robin Williams’s character Sy Parrish. Managing a photo development section of a large department store gives him a glimpse into the most intimate moments of his customers’ lives. When his focus shifts towards infatuation with one of his regular families, Sy’s mental hold begins to weaken. The way he infiltrates one family’s life and pictures himself in it as the beloved family friend is both somewhat sympathetic and disturbing. Seemingly harmless on the outside, ordinary with a friendly smile and a brilliant performance by Williams, Sy is a chilling portrait of a man truly obsessed. One Hour Photo is worth the time it takes to develop one stranger’s dangerous delusion.
9. Single White Female (1992)
They say imitation is the strongest form of flattery, but is it really? It can be taken as a compliment, but sometimes it should be taken as a caution. For Allie in Barber Schroeder (Reversal Of Fortune) Single White Female, it’s one of the many steps her new roommate, Hedy, has taken to go from friends to something more sinister. Vulnerability and codependency get a vicious treatment as Allie tries to establish boundaries and Hedy continuously pushes through them. From getting rid of pesky nuisances to eliminating anything that Allie holds dear, there are no bounds to Hedy’s obsession. Past trauma fuels Hedy’s ambitions, slowly turning her desire to look like Allie into wanting to be Allie. Single White Female pits woman against woman as Allie fights to maintain her identity and regain back control of her life against the pitiful, but dangerous Hedy. This film has that special hint of cringe and quickly progresses into violence like all good obsession narratives. Who doesn’t fume at that haircut scene? Infuriating.
8. The Gift (2015)
Revenge is a fairly controversial notion. Do people who inflict pain on others deserve the same pain to be inflicted on them? When that pain is emotional, it’s easy (probably even easier) to serve that dish back as coldly as possible. Joel Edgerton’s (Boy Erased) The Gift puts that notion into perspective as successful man Simon settles himself and his wife, Robyn, into a lovely house in the town where he grew up. Upon his return, Simon is faced by an old acquaintance from the past, Gordon known locally as “Gordo the Weirdo”, who makes his way into the couple’s lives with tremendously odd, awkward horror. What starts off as a kindness (on Robyn’s part) becomes a battle between Gordon and Simon so control over circumstances that continue to haunt the two of them from school. Gordon knows Simon more than what is let on at first, but the real truth behind their relationship slowly unfolds in a dark web of secrecy that reveals the kind of man Simon really is. Edgerton directs a pretty taut and sharp psychological thriller, not to mention he also gives a pretty commendable performance as Gordon. The Gift puts a unique spin on revenge, but maintains that classic lure of obsession in more ways than one.
7. The Roommate (2011)
Obsession films took a little break following the early 2000’s as sequels, prequels, remakes, torture porn, and found footage films dominated releases. With The Roommate, director Christian E. Christiansen (Life Hits) takes the typical formula and freshens it up with modern characters in a younger setting: college. The assignment of roommates is like a random lottery dealing out the good to some and the bad to others without rhyme or reason. As Sara arrives for her first year of college, she finds companionship in her shy roommate Rebecca, a new love interest, and freedom from her troubled past. Unfortunately, Rebecca becomes a little too dependent on Sara’s friendship and does everything she can to keep Sara all to herself. It’s a hip take on obsession and channels a lot of the classic moves (threaten a friend, kill a pet), but still a guiltily enjoyable watch. There’s a lot of parallels to Single White Female, adding somewhat of a strength to The Roommate in addition to Leighton Meester’s surprising ability to go from Gossip Girl chic to an unhinged monster. That tattoo scene might be more annoying than Single White Female’s haircut scene. Double irritating.
6. Swimfan (2002)
Obsession films are all about one person rocking the boat and one person who is the best of the best when it comes to pushing waves is Erika Christensen (Traffic) in director John Polson’s (Hide And Seek) Swimfan. Ben is a senior with a troubled past, but a lot to lose when he meets the new girl at school, Madison Bell. Beautiful, delusional, and vicious, Madison sets her sights on Ben, seduces him, and then tries to ruin his life when he rejects her causing Ben to partake in a serious game of cat-and-mouse. Taking infatuation to a younger setting, that being high school, Swimfan plays with digital stalking and remains a fresh entry to the fixation genre. As online chats became the epitome of the early millennium, the threat of stalking and harassment was birthed as we see Madison not only hit Ben up online, but also give the film its possessive title. The horror elements are subtle and simple, but deliver a memorable experience as viewers watch Madison destroy Ben’s reputation and opportunities after one dirty dip. It’s a smart lap around the pool of obsession, one best viewed from up in the stands.
5. Misery (1990)
Love is not a defining characteristic of obsession. We are all fans of something or someone. When enthusiasm becomes an addiction, mental stability may turn a little rocky as seen in Rob Reiner’s (The Princess Bride) adaptation of Stephen King’s Misery. Annie Wilkes is Paul Shelton’s number one fan, owning every book of his Misery novels and knowing everything there is to know about the author. When the horror stars align and Paul finds himself laid up in Annie’s isolated cabin and at her mercy. Being the ultimate fan that she is, Annie not only cares for Paul but holds him captive so that he may alter his final entry into the series that she holds dear. Annie Wilkes is a character drawn from King’s experience with obsessed readers and the pressure to produce and compromise his work at their behest. She is sweet and naive one minute, then brutal and deranged the next making her a perfect example of an unhealthy devotee and brought to life by one of horror’s greatest performances by Kathy Bates (American Horror Story). Misery is a portrait of one lonely woman’s obsession with her favorite author, plain and simple, but the real horror occurs while he is literally trapped in a room with her. We’re all guilty of being mega fans and calling out our favorite artists for not meeting our every expectation, but we’re not hobbling-them-in-a-bed bad. Most of us, at least. Just imagine how George R.R. Martin feels.
4. Fatal Attraction (1987)
There is no film more iconic when it comes to obsession than Adrian Lyne’s (Jacob’s Ladder) Fatal Attraction. The title alone says it all, but the infatuation drama narrative is really supported by a killer role played out by the talented Glenn Close (The Stepford Wives). Feeling the mundane dent in his family life, Dan uses his wife’s trip out of town as an opportunity to have a sexual liaison with the sexy and single Alex. It’s all hot and steamy until it isn’t when Dan’s family returns and he gently kicks Alex to the curb. Underestimating her determination to not be ignored, Alex steadily stalks the man she loves and sets the stage for all modern obsession films that came into fruition following Fatal Attraction’s release. The consequences of Dan’s actions manifest in Alex’s desperation and deadly efforts. Adulterers should always keep that poor rabbit in mind the next time they think of partaking in an affair.
3. The Crush (1993)
A teenage crush is harmless, right? We’ve all had one and the odds are that the object of our affection might not have been appropriate in age (I’m talking older because the reverse is vile). When magazine writer Nick Eliot rents a room from an affluent family, he begins a friendship with their young daughter Adrian in Alan Shapiro’s (Flipper) The Crush. Adrian’s juvenile attraction to the handsome older man starts off harmless enough, but it soon evolves into an all-consuming obsession that puts Nick in some very awkward and some pretty illicit positions. Nick entertains Adrian’s gestures at first (he should know better) and eventually finds himself on the receiving end of a very angry and very intelligent teenage girl. Alicia Silverstone (The Lodge) proves that appearances can be deceiving as she plays the role of Adrian with the perfect combination of seamless charisma and taboo talent. Using her innocent appearance to deceive everyone around her, Nick is easy to blame for all the malfeasance at play. The Crush walks a tight line that reverses the role of a predator and puts all the power in the palm of a venomous 14-year old. We’re not often feeling slight sympathy for the adult in this scenario, but he sure does pay for it.
2. Creep (2014)
Meeting someone for an online job listing can be risky, or so videographer Aaron learns when he meets Joseph in Patrick Brice’s (Corporate Animals) psychological found footage flick Creep. The subject and star of the show is Joseph, a man with a terminal illness that hires Aaron to capture future life lessons and wisdom for his unborn son. From the moment Joseph explains the gist of his wishes, every event of Creep is met with bizarre interactions and suspicious motives on Joseph’s part. Mark Duplass (Room 104) brings one of the genre’s most interesting and off-putting characters to life as Joseph consistently twists and turns his time with Aaron into situations of pure uncomfortable terror. His performance is one of the best in modern horror and brings a peculiar x-factor to the role of a man who enjoys subtly tormenting the subjects of his individual stories. Taking advantage of Aaron’s common courtesy, natural manners, and unwitting empathy, Joseph keeps his guest and viewers guessing as to what comes next from the weirdest bath of all time to a ferocious game of dress up. Just when Aaron thinks he is in the clear, he learns that the strange menace is never too far away and goes about friendship in all the wrong ways. Creep is wildly authentic and reinvents the theme of obsession for a smart, modern audience. It’s different, intense, and strangely appealing… a lot like Joseph.
1. Play Misty For Me (1971)
Clint Eastwood’s (Gran Torino) Play Misty For Me may one of the lesser known obsession films, but it sure does top them all when it comes to a batshit crazy villain. Inspiring most of the films on this list, Eastwood’s initiation into directing takes a brutal turn when local radio host Dave (also played by Eastwood) receives a particular song request from Evelyn. After the two sleep together he slowly realizes she wants more from him than just a song. The crazed fan wildly becomes attached to Dave, toying with every part of his life, both personal and professional. Nothing, and I mean nothing, can keep Evelyn away from Dave. Being committed for mental health treatment not only drives her infatuation with Dave deeper, but presents a bigger obstacle as he takes on a new lover while she is away. Jessica Walter (Arrested Development) puts on the performance of her career, one of my personal favorites in all of cinema, as a woman driven mad by her perceived love and obsession. Strikingly beautiful and earnest, Evelyn’s progressive spiraling behavior is not just something viewers can see in her actions, but in her eyes as well. Like I said, Jessica Walter is top-notch. “Misty” is a song you won’t hear Dave spinning ever again.
Honorable Mention: The Fanatic (2019)
They say “never meet your heroes” and sometimes they’re right. When a gushing, but unstable movie fan, Moose, looses his chance to meet his idol action star actor, Hunter Dunbar, the man’s determination becomes a dark obsession. Realizing his hero is less than what he expecting, Moose takes matters into his own hands by stalking Dunbar in a thrilling trip through Hollywood. Written and directed by Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst, The Fanatic is based on his own experience and puts John Travolta (Grease) in one hell of a strange performance opposite fan-favorite Devon Sawa (Final Destination). The seasoned actor embraces Moose’s manic character and is definitely the film’s strongest element. Well, him and all of the Limp Bizkit music.
What obsession movie is your favorite to obsess over? Which of these performances do you think is the best portrayal of love gone wrong? Which character is the most dangerous? Let us know your thoughts over on Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!