Leigh Whannel’s The Invisible Man has become one of the most celebrated horror films of recent years, (read our review here). Whannel seems to have defined his approach to technology, motivated camera movement, and experiential post-production experimentation that he broke out using with sci-fi action hit Upgrade. The Invisible Man though seems to be a totally different beast. Totally removed from the original classic, The Invisible Man plays out like a totally modern parable about abuse, self-destruction, and the cultural trauma toxic masculinity has left upon the world. So what legacy is The Invisible Man drawing from if not the classic monster movies? Today we lay out 23 films that connect to and inspire The Invisible Man, that you can use to help contextualize it, and also just enjoy as the great movies that they are. Don’t say we never treat you!
Now, we’ve tried to be as spoiler-free as possible, but if you want the cleanest of experiences watching The Invisible Man, this is maybe an article you should hold off from reading until you’ve seen the movie.
(Ridley Scott, 1979)
Alien was described by its writers as an attempt to convey to men the horrors of sexual assault and forced impregnation. Avoiding spoilers, this is… relevant to The Invisible Man. Aside from that though, the idea of the xenomorph is entirely relevant to the idea of an invisible abuser that you cannot see invading and ruining your life.
All The Colours of the Dark
(Sergio Martino, 1972)
Deeply inspired by Rosemary’s Baby, this is Martino’s second Giallo and one of the all-time greats of the genre. While most Giallo are viewed as men investigating the murders of women, Martino helped define a genre of ‘Women In Peril’ Gialli, where women aren’t fitting into the role of the domesticated heterosexual housewife in the modern world pushing them to conspiracies where they are the only sane ones being gaslit by society. This genre is, as we will see, not unique to Gialli, but with films like this, Forbidden Photos of a Lady Under Suspicion, and Amer, it’s obvious that it is common to Gialli, and a significant contingent of the genre. All The Colors of the Dark follows Edwige Fenech as Jane Harrison, who feels dissatisfied, and her search for meaning leads her to take part in a black mass. From then on the aesthetic shares much with The Invisible Man, from the clinical yet frenetic camera work to systematic cutting off of support structures as a method of terror. Like The Invisible Man, All The Colors of the Dark puts you in the emotional position of a woman in a sexist society with terrifying efficiency.
(Jennifer Kent, 2014)
Jennifer Kent channels classic horror while giving it a deeply fresh edge in this revolutionary ghost story that reflects the horrors of being traumatized and begreived . In many ways The Babadook is a monster movie in the same way as The Invisible Man, this entity just hanging over this unfortunate woman and slowly ruining her life. In both The Invisible Man and The Babadook, the monster is mental illness.
(Bob Clark, 1974)
A movie about women being stalked by men? Well look no further than Bob Clark’s Black Christmas. The key to understanding Black Christmas is really its abortion subplot and the way that ties back into the main plot in a way that perfectly exemplifies Black Christmas‘ commentary on the way men commodify and control female bodily autonomy and female spaces, which is really a key dynamic in The Invisible Man, the invasion of bodies and spaces without your knowledge or control.
(Brian de Palma, 1984)
The first director to get multiple mentions in this list, Brian de Palma’s Body Double often plays out like an inverse of Whannel’s The Invisible Man. While Moss is stalked, Wasson stalks. You could argue until the cows come home about how self-critical Body Double‘s male gazing is, but it is certainly a film about the ways in which men project themselves onto women.
Bernard Rose (1992)
The Invisible Man at points does feel very 90s. Films about the reliability of women and their testimony was very much in the zeitgeist of 90s thrillers. Whether we’re talking about Basic Instinct, Body of Evidence, or Fatal Attraction, the 90s were very concerned with how much you could trust women. Candyman though stands alone in its quality though, (maybe because it’s actually sympathetic to women). It mirrors the structure of The Invisible Man beautifully though, a character becomes convinced of a ridiculous thing that we know to be true, there is a midpoint turn that calls the audience’s bluff after questioning the truth for so long, and the characters are involved in similar crimes in similar ways that get them put in mental institutions that they then have to break out of to solve the murders, and they both end in very similar ways as well.
They both belong firmly in the genre of ‘movies that wouldn’t happen if you just believed women’.
(Brian de Palma, 1976)
I really don’t know how many times I can tell you to believe and respect women. Although de Palma does succumb to his more male gazey tendencies in the opening credits of this movie, it is in general and incredibly sympathetic and nuanced movie and de Palma’s direction is bang on in putting you in the position of Carrie being victimized by her limited society. Interestingly though Carrie is more victimized by the internalized misogyny of her female peers and family than anyone else, (not that men in positions of power are much help). I do feel like Carrie would have a kinship with Cecelia though, two women who are told by those around them that they are the problem, they are the mad ones. Just, believe women, believe victims guys.
(Jacques Tourneur, 1942)
Jacque Tourneur & Val Lewton’s classic not only has one of the most formative and famous jump-scares in history but is one of the perennial, ‘Women in Peril’ films, maybe setting up the traditional elements that are most being subverted by The Invisible Man. If the central craziness in Cat People turns out to be real, that’s a level of othering of the feminine that wouldn’t feel so much at home in Whannel’s tale of female honesty. Cat People does still fit into the tradition of ‘Just Listen to Women, Goddammit!’ films. The Invisible Man if anything represents the movement that horror films have seen recently of certain traditions moving away from fantastical explanations of what’s going on, and more into explanations centered in human psychology, (not that Cat People isn’t concerned with human psychology, it most definitely is, just modern movies have less and less represented this psychology in the externalized or the supernatural).
Dial M For Murder
(Alfred Hitchcock, 1954)
Hitchock’s paranoid thriller Dial M For Murder is maybe the progenitor in the tradition of films that centers the conflict through the lens of toxic masculinity, putting it at the head of the tradition of something like Body Double. Like The Invisible Man, Dial M For Murder follows a collaborative conspiracy to destroy the wife of one of the conspirators for purely vindictive reasons, and like The Invisible Man, doesn’t pull any of its pointed punches.
(David Cronenberg, 1986)
Like The Invisible Man, David Cronenberg’s The Fly is a remake of a classic of sci-fi horror that centers around the victim. Gina Davis puts in a spectacular performance as a woman who watches her lover use a scientific representation of his hubris to turn himself into a monster, but internally and externally, there is its similarity to The Invisible Man. The Fly has been read as an allegory for a toxic relationship before, seeing the one you once loved reveal his inner monstrousness, and being trapped in that relationship.
(George Cukor, 1944)
Where do you think the word ‘gaslighting’ came from? That’s right! This movie! A ‘Women in Peril’ film from the woman’s perspective, this is such a culturally important film that you really should see it irrespective of its relationship to The Invisible Man. An engrossing mystery and fascinating character study unpicking a twisted relationship. I saw it when I was like 15 and hated it, what a fool I was…
(Ari Aster, 2018)
Another in the ‘Just Beleive Women, Goddammit’ genre, Hereditary also shares a genetic connection with The Invisible Man in just how much it posits grief and trauma front and center in the conflict. If you’re reading this, you probably have seen it so take the rest of class off, but if you haven’t, this is well worth your time.
(Paul Verhoeven, 2000)
Two films about invisible male scientist villains just 20 years apart? Shocker. One of Paul Verhoeven’s commercial flops, this somewhat represents the end of his run of sci-fi classics despite Hollow Man still having a cult following. Even if The Invisible Man is much, much better, comparisons to Hollow Man is easy.
A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin
(Lucio Fulci, 1971)
One of the forerunners of the Giallo boom of the early 70s, A Lizard In A Woman’s Skin represents the formula of Giallo that we referenced earlier with All The Colors of the Dark a year beforehand. This time the thing about our protagonist that buts up against society is being gay, (we love to see it). A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin is really sympathetic to the plight of the repressed gay and follows her plight into self-doubt and conspiracy in a way that chimes with the very modern concerns of The Invisible Man.
(Bong Joon-ho, 2019)
Parasite is another film that structurally measures up well next to The Invisible Man, mainly to do with the boldness of the mid-point turn. Like Candyman, the midpoint turns of Parasite and The Invisible Man call the film’s bluff. What do I mean by that? Candyman plays half the film leading up to the reveal that Candyman isn’t real, he’s a metaphor for social issues, but then, wait a second! He is real! With Parasite, the whole of the first half is leading you down a garden path of understanding the fact it’s all a metaphor for social issues. There is no parasite, it’s a metaphor, but then WAIT A SECOND. All three twists are pretty sudden and blazé, and the beauty fo the second half of all three films is how well they manage afterward and how much they hold up.
(Brian de Palma, 1992)
Raising Cain is a really underseen and undersung Brian de Palma entry. I’ve always had real problems with de Palma’s bloated excesses in the 80s through to the 90s with films like Scarface, Body Double, and his next film after Raising Cain, Carlito’s Way. Raising Cain though is one of his tightest efforts and boldest explorations of mania. See it, get thrilled by it, fall in love with it and John Lithgow’s blistering lead performance with some of de Palma’s slickest direction. Like The Invisible Man, it explores paranoia, self-doubt, and mania in a Hitchcockian mode, it has some amazing twists, and has a baby stealing subplot.
(Alfred Hithcock, 1940)
Look, I know that
a) this is the only one on this list that I haven’t seen
b) my favorite director, Ben Wheatley, is about to remake it
BUT, I’ll try to do it justice here.
Hitchcock’s first Hollywood production is a slow burn adaptation of Hollywood mainstay author Daphne du Maurier. Hitchcock had already adapted her Jamaica Inn and would adapt her work again with The Birds before Nic Roeg made horror masterpiece Don’t Look Now!. Rebecca stands out from them all though with it’s swirling sense of conspiracy and one woman looking for the real, twisted truth behind what is plaguing her and nagging at the back of her mind that it shares with The Invisible Man.
River of Grass
(Kelly Reichardt, 1994)
This may at first blush seem like an odd choice, but Reichardt’s tale of displaced feminity, lost in her world and without a rock to cling on to, accused of a murder that she didn’t commit, seems to have a lot of kinship with The Invisible Man…
(Roman Polanski, 1968)
We have already touched significantly on the relevance of Rosemary’s Baby. The neplus-ultra of ‘Women in Peril’ movies, any movie in which women suspect that there is something deeply wrong that no one is seeing, with all of her support network being slowly eroded, owes a huge debt to Rosemary’s Baby. Whannel’s telling with the language of cinema what is not being seen, (a mighty task for any filmmaker) does a lot visually with empty space what Polanski does with sound. Just like Rosemary’s Baby, in The Invisible Man, there is a whole, intricate game that we are not seeing that could be its own movie by itself happening behind the scenes.
Shadow of a Doubt
(Alfred Hitchcock, 1943)
Hitchcock’s southern gothic masterpiece is a very special film in the way it shows toxic masculinity from the female perspective. Terese Wright and Joseph Cotton give two of the best performances Hitchcock every got as two dueling wits with a very twisted kind of chemistry. Joseph Cotton’s insidious creeping dread which he instills is very reminiscent of Whannel’s blockbuster, and whereas we don’t see a lot of Cotton’s actions, we don’t see any of the villain in The Invisible Man. Shadow of a Doubt might also be my favorite Hitchcock.
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance
(Park Chan-wook, 2005)
Park Chan-wook’s twisted tale of female vengeance at points feels like the last act of The Invisible Man spread out to feature-length, it has the same sense of vengeance, (duh), the same skill with visceral set pieces, and the same morally ambiguous climax.
(Dario Argento, 1982)
Dario Argento might just be the king of thrilling set pieces, and Tenebrae is full of the kind of thrilling sudden violent explosions that make The Invisible Man such a surprising romp. Tenebrae seems to be inspiring a lot of 21st Century horror films, from Us, to Assassination Nation, to even Funny Games, and its fingerprints are all over The Invisible Man. Tenebrae is the ultimate in slick and stylish thrillers and it’s a tradition that The Invisible Man wears like a badge of honor.
Your Vice Is A Locked Room & Only I Have the Key
(Sergio Martino, 1972)
Our final entry is Sergio Martino’s classic, Your Vice Is A Locked Room & Only I Have the Key, by far the superior of the two Gialli adaptations of Poe’s The Black Cat. It’s not only one of my all-time favorite Gialli, but one of the all-time ‘Women in Peril’ films. A classic of gaslighting films, Your Vice… follows a rich wife in an abusive relationship who’s maid is murdered in the night, and it looks like she might have done it. The film is ultimately pretty nihilistic and no one comes out particularly covered in glory, but as far as character writing in Gialli go, this is up there with the best of them. It’s dramatic, it’s gay, and the film’s final reveal with have your heart in your mouth with dramatically ironic dread.