Movies like Midsommar take their core ideas from a long legacy of genre films and are a part of a new wave of horror films, one defined in particular by the movies of Midsommar‘s distributor A24. As a result, there are a lot of movies that are similar to Midsommar in terms of both style and subject matter.
With Ari Aster’s follow-up film, Beau Is Afraid, releasing in 2023, the spotlight will once again be on the writer and director, with his numerous cinematic influences coming up in the wider discourse about filmmaking today, as they did with his other movies. From a folk horror classic to more recent hits, the best movies that are similar to Midsommar can sometimes offer an insight into Aster’s process.
The Wicker Man (1973)
Available to stream on BFI Player Classics
As far as folk horror movies about cults go, none are as iconic as The Wicker Man from director Robin Hardy, and there are a number of connections between the film and Midsommar. Though the movie is 50 years old and has had a notoriously bad remake, it remains a shocking, surreal, and provocative story revolving around sexuality and paganism.
The main character of The Wicker Man is a police officer investigating a disappearance in an island community that he visits, so fans of the mystery elements of Midsommar‘s plot will see all of those present and dialed up to their extreme here. It’s not as gory as a modern horror movie like Midsommar, but, as the community in the film inevitably shows its true and sinister nature, the horror is just as palpable.
Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022)
Available to rent or purchase on Amazon Prime Video
As much of Midsommar‘s runtime is dedicated to relationship dynamics as it is to horror and there are few modern horror films that can really match that aspect of it. Bodies Bodies Bodies is a lot more comedic than a more intense horror movie like Midsommar, but it does delve into the darker sides of its characters through contemporary-feeling dialogue.
The film takes place at a mansion during a hurricane party, with the barbed conversation between the guests quickly devolving into a bloody murder mystery, so there’s no cult aspect to the story. However, leaving the kind of self-centered characters seen at the core of Midsommar‘s ensemble alone to fight among themselves produces results that are just as volatile and violent.
Kill List (2011)
Available to stream on IFC Films Unlimited
The cult and folk horror tropes that are utilized by Midsommar stem from specific sources in European culture and many of the same ones are used in Ben Wheatley’s horror film Kill List. The movie follows two hitmen who move through a list of targets, with each killing becoming more disturbing than the last as it becomes clear that there is some wider plot being kept from the main characters.
Like Ari Aster, Wheatley is not the kind of filmmaker to shy away from either prickly drama or gruesome horror, so fans of the balancing act that Midsommar does with those two qualities will not be left wanting by Kill List. The film also has a gut-wrenching ending that will stick with even the most hardened horror movie fans for a long time after the credits roll.
The Empty Man (2020)
Available to stream on Cinemax
Horror movies like Midsommar really examine how the rhetoric and ritualism of a cult can influence a person’s mind. David Prior’s film The Empty Man is a straightforward supernatural chiller in many ways, and it’s wrapped in a conventional detective mystery approach, but it offers a much deeper insight into the mentality of a nihilistic cult than either of those genres usually do.
The main character in The Empty Man is a detective who uncovers a dark cult while searching for a missing girl, much like in The Wicker Man. However, the film takes a more mind-bending approach to the narrative, layering in rich and disturbing lore surrounding the titular entity at the heart of the story.
The Invitation (2015)
Available to stream on Pluto TV, Tubi, Peacock, and Amazon Prime Video
Not to be confused with the 2022 horror film of the same name, The Invitation is a slow-burning dramatic thriller set across one incredibly painful dinner party that takes on increasingly threatening overtones when it becomes apparent that the hosts have joined a cult. Though the story is set in the Hollywood Hills, director Karyn Kusama makes the feelings of isolation within the main characters and the central situation feel so apparent that it may as well be set in as secluded a location as Midsommar.
Like Midsommar, the film also heavily revolves around characters dealing with grief and how it’s impacting their personal relationships. The cults in both films offer a feeling of stability and comfort to the characters but ask a terrible price for it, meaning that, similarly to Midsommar, The Invitation steadily ratchets up its tension throughout by making the main characters seem more and more trapped within obviously dire circumstances.
Available to stream on Paramount+
Writer and director Alex Garland had been famous for his striking and unusual genre stories for a long time before his film Men but this English folk horror movie presented one of his strangest whilst also being his least elaborate. The film follows a grieving woman staying at a country home as she endures increasingly menacing encounters with a series of men who are all played by the same actor, Rory Kinnear.
As the movie neither explains nor even acknowledges the full extent of its peculiarity, the viewer is strongly compelled to interpret events for themselves and question the point of view of the main character. Fans of Midsommar‘s most cryptic qualities will have fun dissecting the themes of Men.
The Sacrament (2013)
Available to stream on Pluto TV, Tubi, Crackle, Vudu, and Hulu
Written and directed by Ti West, this found footage film eschews the usual supernatural horror angle for a more realistic scenario. The film is presented as the documentary footage of two journalists who are following a colleague as he visits his sister at a very reclusive religious commune, and it very much revolves around the workings of dangerous real-life cults.
The Sacrament is a very different approach to the subject of cults on a visual level compared to the one seen in Midsommar but the sense of helplessness that each set of main characters feels regarding their unnerving situations is very similar. There’s an emphasis on emotional terror in the film as well as the interest in the psychology of communes that it also shares with Midsommar.
The Witch (2015)
Available to stream on HBO Max
Next to Ari Aster, one of the most popular names in horror movies to emerge over the past decade is undoubtedly Robert Eggers, who wowed critics and general audiences alike with his debut The Witch. Through period-accurate dialogue and an overall stripped-down approach, the movie makes its 17th-century setting feel both authentic and terrifying.
Like Midsommar, the woods surrounding the main characters add a uniquely malevolent personality to the film and there are themes of female liberation intertwined with the atmospheric horror. The story follows a family of Christian settlers living on a remote farm in colonial New England as they become gradually overwhelmed by fear and paranoia over what the family’s patriarch believes to be witchcraft destroying their lives. It’s a simple premise that props up a much more ambiguous and complex narrative that fans of Midsommar‘s dreamlike moments will appreciate.
A Cure For Wellness (2016)
Available to rent or purchase on Amazon Prime Video
Director Gore Verbinski cemented his place in horror movie history relatively early in his career by successfully adapting the famous J-horror film Ring into the English language and although his latter horror film A Cure for Wellness is an original story, it evokes the style of classic European horror movies. Besides that, however, what makes it a movie that’s similar to Midsommar is its focus on mental well-being.
The film follows a young and overworked businessman who’s attempting to find one of his company’s high-ranking executives at a retreat hidden at the foot of the Swiss Alps and the fragility of the main character’s psychological state is as important in the film as Dani’s is in Midsommar. Verbinski’s skills with aquatically-themed horror also mean that the experience is satisfyingly weird once the dark secret behind the sanitarium’s cult-like behavior is unearthed.
The Ritual (2017)
Available to stream on Netflix
Though director David Bruckner hasn’t yet made waves as large as the ones made by horror filmmakers like Ari Aster, he has been a name to watch for some time in the genre thanks to a series of standout segments in anthology movies followed by several successful features. His debut feature has a plot that’s similar to Midsommar‘s in many respects but is a more straightforward creature feature by the end.
The Ritual follows a small group of male friends who are hiking through the Swedish countryside to commemorate the death of one of the group’s members, who was murdered in a convenience store robbery. Feelings of guilt and anxiety over mortality fuel this largely psychological horror film that bursts into gorier and more bizarre territory when the eerie presence that stalks the characters finally reveals itself.
Available to stream on Showtime and Paramount+
The films of writer and director Gaspar Noé are most well-known for their intense atmospheres and their shocking acts of violence, with Climax being no exception. The movie follows a dance troupe as their small party progressively devolves into a horrifying frenzy after everyone is unwittingly dosed with a psychedelic drug that someone has placed into the punch bowl.
Fans of Midsommar‘s harrowing drama and examinations of social mechanisms won’t be disappointed by the approach to psychological horror in Climax. The movie is not only driven by the actors’ improvisations but also structured by them, meaning that it suddenly moves in unexpected directions throughout and explores the characters’ deepest fears and most repressed desires. The film never shows the distorted reality that each character sees, so it’s also heavily reliant on the actors to sell the dread.
Available to stream on HBO Max
Ari Aster exploded onto the radar of both horror movie fans and general cinephiles alike with his debut film, Hereditary. The movie’s focus on family drama was not only refreshing but also impressively unflinching when considering how brutal and unforgiving the horror of the film also is.
Fans of Midsommar should also see the film for its use of cult and folk horror tropes, though the main attraction is always the performances, particularly from Toni Collette. Similar to Dani in Midsommar, Collette’s character must cope with incredibly tragic and horrific deaths in her family as a deadly cult’s plot unfolds around her, and anyone who loved Florence Pugh’s performance in Midsommar should feel obligated to also see Collette’s in Hereditary if they haven’t already.
NEXT: 10 Movies That Inspired Ari Aster’s Hereditary