Serial Killers in Movies
8.6 01. Anthony Hopkins
Fictional character in a series of novels by author Thomas Harris
Nicknames: Hannibal the Cannibal
Method of operating: Cannibalism and Torture
The first film, Manhunter, loosely based on Red Dragon, features Brian Cox as Lecter, spelled as "Lecktor". In 2002, a second adaptation of Red Dragon was made under the original title, featuring Anthony Hopkins, who had previously played Lecter in the motion pictures The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal.
Hannibal Lecter is introduced in the 1981 novel Red Dragon as a brilliant psychiatrist incarcerated after having been revealed to be a cannibalistic serial killer. The novel depicts FBI Special Agent Will Graham, who originally captured Lecter, consulting him to catch serial killer Francis Dolarhyde, known only to law enforcement and media by the pseudonyms "The Tooth Fairy" and later, "The Dragon."
Lecter appears in the 1988 sequel The Silence of the Lambs and assists an FBI agent-in-training named Clarice Starling in catching a serial killer known only as "Buffalo Bill". Lecter and Starling form an unusual relationship in which he provides her with a profile of the killer and his modus operandi in exchange for details about her unhappy childhood. Lecter eventually stages a dramatic, bloody escape from captivity and disappears.
Also potrayed by: Brian Cox (Manhunter) & Gaspard Ulliel (Hannibal Rising)
6.5 02. Ted Levine
Fictional character and the main antagonist in the 1988 novel The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris, and its 1991 film adaptation, in which he was played by Ted Levine.
Nicknames: "Buffalo Bill"
Method of operating: He kidnaps by feigning disability and lures victims into his van. He leaves his victim in a deep pit for a few days, then he shoots them and partially skins the victim to sew together with skins of other victims.
The novel reveals that Gumb was abandoned by his mother — an alcoholic prostitute who misspelled "James" on his birth certificate — and was taken into foster care at age two. He lived in foster homes until the age of 10, after which he was adopted by his grandparents, who became his first victims when he impulsively murdered them at the age of 12. After being released from a juvenile facility when he was 19, he went on to serve in the Navy.
Gumb murders overweight women so he can remove their skin to fashion a "woman suit" for himself. He considers himself transsexual, but is too disturbed to qualify for sex reassignment surgery. He becomes known as "Buffalo Bill" during his murder spree because of an off-color joke by Kansas City homicide detectives; upon discovering his first victim, one of the detectives say: "this one likes to skin his humps."
Harris based Gumb on five real-life serial killers: Jerry Brudos, Ed Gein, Ted Bundy, Gary M. Heidnik & Edmund Kemper
8 03. Anthony Perkins
Fictional character created by writer Robert Bloch as the central character in his novel Psycho, and portrayed by Anthony Perkins as the villain of the 1960 film of the same name directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
Method of operating: Stabbing victims to death while wearing his mother's clothing
Has killed at least 11 people.
The character is based on real-life murderer and grave robber Ed Gein.
Both the novel and Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 film adaptation explain that Bates suffers severe emotional abuse as a child at the hands of his mother, Norma, who preaches to him that sex is evil and that women (except herself) are whores. The two of them live alone together in an unhealthy state of emotional dependence after the death of Bates's father. When Bates is a teenager, his mother takes a lover, making him insanely jealous. Bates then murders both of them with strychnine and preserves his mother's corpse. Bates develops dissociative identity disorder, assuming his mother's personality, repressing her death as a way to escape the guilt of murdering her. He inherits his mother's house, where he keeps her corpse, and the family motel in Fairvale, California.
Also potrayed by: Oz Perkins (Psycho II, reflection), Kurt Paul (Bates Motel), Henry Thomas (Psycho IV: The Beginning, flashbacks), Ryan Finnigan (Psycho IV: The Beginning, flashbacks), Vince Vaughn (Psycho: 1998 remake)
8.2 04. Christian Bale
Fictional character, the antihero and narrator of the novel American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis and its film adaptation.
When he is first introduced in Ellis' novel, young investment banker Patrick Bateman's "mask of sanity" is about to slip, according to his own admission. Bateman works as a specialist in mergers and acquisitions at the fictional Wall Street investment firm of Pierce & Pierce and lives at 55 West 81st Street, Upper West Side in the American Gardens Building (where he is a neighbor of actor Tom Cruise).
In his "secret life", however, Bateman is a serial killer who murders a variety of people, from colleagues, to the homeless, to prostitutes. His crimes, including rape, torture, murder, necrophilia and cannibalism, are described in graphic detail in the novel.
7.3 05. Woody Harrelson
Fictional character in a 1994 American crime film Natural Born Killers, directed by Oliver Stone.
As a child, Mickey was abused by both his parents and witnessed his father commit suicide when he was ten. Mickey is shown throughout the movie as an efficient killer, with knowledge of firearms and knife throwing. It is also shown that he knows how to kill with his bare hands such as the time in prison when he demonstrates killing a man by breaking his neck during a yoga session. Mickey is based on the infamous real-life spree killer known as Charles Starkweather.
6.7 06. Juliette Lewis
Fictional character in a 1994 American crime film Natural Born Killers, directed by Oliver Stone.
As a child, Mallory suffered physical, verbal, emotional and sexual abuse at the hands of her father. Mallory devotes herself to Mickey, stating he is her one true love. Mallory often tells stories and fantasies about her and Mickey living in paradise, to which Mickey often responds, "That is poetry". Of the two, Mallory seems to be the more aggressive, showing signs of being an uncontrolled psychopath with zero empathy for the people she kills. One example is when she and Mickey kill their last victim, Wayne Gale. Mallory continues shooting Gale repeatedly after he is dead.
8.1 07. Ralph Fiennes
A fictional character and the main antagonist featured in Thomas Harris' novel Red Dragon.
Nicknames: The Tooth-Fairy
Method of operating: Organized serial murder, Mutilation
Dolarhyde is a serial killer nicknamed "The Tooth-Fairy" due to his tendency to bite his victims' bodies, the uncommon size and sharpness of his teeth and other apparent oral fixations. He refers to his other self as "The Great Red Dragon" after William Blake's painting "The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun" (Mistitled in the book as "The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun", another painting by William Blake).
Born in Springfield, Missouri with a Unilateral complete cleft lip and palate, Francis Dolarhyde is abandoned by his mother and cared for in an orphanage until the age of five. He is then taken in by his grandmother, who subjects him to severe emotional and physical abuse. After his grandmother becomes afflicted with dementia, Dolarhyde is turned over to the care of his estranged mother and her husband in St. Louis, Missouri; he is further abused by this family and is sent back to the orphanage after being caught hanging his stepsister's cat. He begins torturing animals at a young age. After being caught breaking into a house at age 17, he enlisted in the Army. While on his tour in Japan and neighboring countries, he learns how to develop film and receives cosmetic surgery for his cleft palate. He later gets a job with the Gateway Corp. as the production chief in their largest division—home videos.
Dolarhyde begins his killing spree by murdering two families within a month after discovering The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun with both crimes being committed on or near a full moon; it is hinted in the book that he had killed before that, however. Dolarhyde is obsessed with the image and convinced that he is "unique" and is becoming the Dragon. He chooses his victims through the home movies that he edits as a film processing technician. He believes that by killing people, or "transforming" them, as he calls it, he can fully become the Dragon.
Also potrayed by: Tom Noonan (Manhunter) [pic on the left]
7.6 08. Gunnar Hansen
The main antagonist in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre horror-film series and its spin-offs.
Signature weapon: Chainsaw
Created by: Kim Henkel & Tobe Hooper
He wears masks made of human skin (hence his name) and engages in murder and cannibalism alongside his inbred family. Leatherface never spoke in any of the films or comics, which portray him as mute. In the first film he tells his brother Drayton Sawyer (who confronted him about a missing door) through gibberish about how he killed everyone and broke it while chasing them—he spoke no English (except "uh uh," meaning "no," when Drayton asked if any of them "got away"), but Drayton appeared to understand him. Often in films Leatherface would yell and make strange sounds as a form of communication.
Also potrayed by: Bill Johnson(The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2), R. A. Mihailoff(Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III), Robert Jacks(Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation), Andrew Bryniarski(The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning)
6.3 09. Skeet Ulrich
Fictional character in a 1996 all-star cast horror film Scream, directed by Wes Craven. (+ the sequels)
In the first film, the killer is in fact two people; Billy Loomis (Ulrich) and Stu Machern (Lillard). Billy and Stu killed Sidney Prescott's mother prior to the events of the movie because she had slept with his father, Hank Loomis prompting Billy's parents to divorce. Stu never gives a motive except for "peer pressure" but showed symptoms of psychopathy. On one brief moment in Scream, Sidney puts on the Ghostface costume, taunts Billy and Stu with the voice changer over the phone, and then attacks them.
Minutes before Sidney's mother is murdered, she has sex with Cotton Weary, which in turn makes the scene appear to be a rape/murder crime, framing Cotton. Billy and Stu then proceed to try to murder Sidney and most of her friends as revenge.
6.7 010. Tobin Bell
A fictional character in the Saw franchise.
Method of operating: Constructing symbolic death traps, Psychological torture, Indirect physical torture
Created by: James Wan & Leigh Whannell
Jigsaw, introduced in the series as John Kramer, was a civil engineer dying from an inoperable frontal lobe tumor that had developed from colon cancer. After a failed suicide attempt, Kramer experienced a new respect for his own life and set out to put others through deadly trials to help them appreciate their own lives by testing their will to live through self-sacrifice. Frequently the tests were symbolic of a perceived flaw in each person's life. The Jigsaw name was given by the media for his practice of cutting puzzle pieces out of the flesh of those who failed their ordeals and perished, symbolic of their missing survival instincts.
Films: Saw, Saw II, III, IV,V and VI
5.9 011. Nick Castle
A Fictional character from the Halloween series of slasher films.
Signature weapon: Kitchen knife
Created by: John Carpenter, Debra Hill
He first appears in John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) as a young boy who murders his older sister, then fifteen years later returns home to murder more teenagers. In the original Halloween, the adult Michael Myers, referred to as The Shape in the closing credits, was portrayed by Nick Castle for most of the film, with Tony Moran and Tommy Lee Wallace substituting in during the final scenes.
A common characterization is that Michael Myers is evil. John Carpenter has described the character as "almost a supernatural force - a force of nature. An evil force that's loose," a force that is "unkillable". Professor Nicholas Rogers elaborates, "Myers is depicted as a mythic, elusive bogeyman, one of superhuman strength who cannot be killed by bullets, stab wounds, or fire." Carpenter's inspiration for the "evil" that Michael would embody came when he was in college. While on a class trip at a mental institution in Kentucky, Carpenter visited "the most serious, mentally ill patients". Among those patients was a young boy around twelve to thirteen years-old. The boy gave this "schizophrenic stare", "a real evil stare", which Carpenter found "unsettling", "creepy", and "completely insane". Carpenter's experience would inspire the characterization Loomis would give of Michael to Sheriff Brackett in the original film. Debra Hill has stated the scene where Michael kills the Wallace's German Shepherd was done to illustrate how he is "really evil and deadly".
Also portrayed by: Nick Castle, Tony Moran, Will Sandin (child), Dick Warlock, George P. Wilbur, Don Shanks, Chris Durand, Brad Loree, Tyler Mane, Daeg Faerch (child), Chase Wright Vanek (child)
8.7 012. Johnny Depp
Sweeney Todd is a legendary serial-killer who has become the titular villain of many works of fiction based on an old "penny dreadful" known as The String of Pearls. The story is best known today as a very popular and successful musical by Stephen Sondheim Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
In the original version of the tale, Todd is a barber who dispatches his victims by pulling a lever as they sit in his barber chair. His victims fall backward down a revolving trapdoor into the basement of his shop, generally causing them to break their necks or skulls. In case they are alive, Todd goes to the basement and "polishes them off" (slitting their throats with his straight razor).
In some adaptations, the murdering process is reversed, with Todd slitting his customers' throats before dispatching them into the basement via the revolving trapdoor. After Todd has robbed his dead victims of their goods, Mrs. Lovett, his partner in crime (in some later versions, his friend and/or lover), assists him in disposing of the bodies by baking their flesh into meat pies and selling them to the unsuspecting customers of her pie shop. Todd's barber shop is situated at 186 Fleet Street, London, next to St. Dunstan's church, and is connected to Mrs. Lovett's pie shop in nearby Bell Yard by means of an underground passage. In most versions of the story, he and Mrs. Lovett hire an unwitting orphan boy, Tobias Ragg, to serve the pies to customers.
Pic: Sweeney Todd potrayed by Johnny Depp
6.8 013. Kevin Costner
Fictional character in a 2007 thriller film, Mr. Brooks directed by Bruce A. Evans
Nicknames: Thumbprint Killer
Earl Brooks is a wealthy, successful businessman recently honored by the Portland, Oregon, Chamber of Commerce as "Man of the Year". In his secret life, Brooks is a serial killer. Brooks is encouraged by his alter ego, Marshall, whom only Brooks can see and hear.
Urged on by Marshall, he kills a couple while they are having sex and, as part of his pathology, leaves each of the victims' bloody thumbprints on a lampshade. Brooks follows his meticulous modus operandi, including fastidious preparation and cleaning up the crime scene before departing.
7.4 014. Robert Englund
A fictional character from the A Nightmare on Elm Street series of horror films.
Freddy is a disfigured dream stalker who uses a glove armed with razors to kill his victims in their dreams, which ultimately results in their death in the real world. However, whenever he is put into the real world, he has normal human strength and vulnerability.
Robert Englund has said many times that he feels that the character represents neglect, particularly that which is suffered by children.
Wes Craven says his inspiration for the basis of Krueger's power stemmed from several stories in the Los Angeles Times about a series of mysterious deaths: All the victims had reported recurring nightmares beforehand, and died in their sleep. Additionally, Craven's original script detailed Krueger as a child molester, which Craven said was the "worst thing" he could think of (this idea was later recycled for the character's background in the 2010 remake). The decision was made to instead make Krueger a child murderer in order to avoid being accused of exploiting the spate of highly publicized child molestation cases in California around the time A Nightmare on Elm Street went into production. Craven's inspirations for the character included a bully from his school during his youth, a homeless man who had frightened him when he was eleven, and the 1970s pop song "Dream Weaver" by Gary Wright.
Also potrayed by: Jackie Earle Haley
8.2 015. Kevin Spacey
Fictional character in a 1995 American horror crime film Se7en, directed by David Fincher.
John Doe is a psychopathic serial killer obsessed with the Seven Deadly Sins of Christianity, and he kills his victims in symbolic murders representing in an attempt (at least in his own mind) to remind the world about the inevitability to avoid these sins. His insanity is based on fanaticism and obsession but did little to damage his knowledge; in fact, his madness may have added to it as he is portrayed as a twisted mastermind who is comfortable with toying with the authorities.
John was a malevolent, twisted, sadistic, deadpan, cruel, God fearing vigilante who thought he was doing the right thing and flatly would not consider the possibility he was wrong. John was also calm, cool, collected and apathetic. He had a very gentle, smooth way of speaking and rarely raised his voice. He took it very poorly however when detective Mills suggested John's victims were "innocent", as John thought everyone who committed one of the 7 deadly sins was a criminal.
7 016. Betsy Palmer
A fictional character in the Friday the 13th films, and the antagonist of the original Friday the 13th film.
In the original Friday the 13th film, the character is simply named Mrs. Voorhees, her first name not being revealed until Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter.
At age 15, Pamela became pregnant by Elias Voorhees, and on June 13, 1946, at age 16, she gave birth to a hydrocephalic boy she named Jason, as shown in Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday. Because of his deformity, Pamela never sent Jason to school, and was extremely overprotective of him.
Pamela got a job as a cook at Camp Crystal Lake. On a fateful day in 1957, Jason, infuriated with the constant teasing from other children, sneaked out of his cabin late at night to prove he could swim. The counselors were not watching him, as they were at a party in one of the adult cabins, drinking, smoking pot, and having sex. Jason was never recovered from the lake and presumably drowned. Pamela blamed the counselors because she was working the day that it happened.
After her son's death, Pamela began hearing voices telling her to kill. In 1958, a year after Jason's death, Pamela brutally murdered two counselors who she felt were responsible for her son's death. Camp Crystal Lake was closed after the murders and was nicknamed "Camp Blood" by local residents. When the owner tried to re-open the camp in 1962, Pamela returned, poisoned the water, and set several fires. The camp was shut down once again and did not reopen until 1980. Pamela lived in a house which bordered the Camp Crystal Lake property. In Friday the 13th, it is revealed that no one knew who set the fires or poisoned the water. Pamela confesses her reasons for not allowing the camp to be reopened in Friday the 13th, stating she does not want another tragic accident to happen.
On Friday, June 13, 1980, the new owner of Camp Crystal Lake, Steve Christy, and seven young counselors return to the deadly campground to prepare it for reopening, even after several ominous warnings of a death curse by the local residents. Enraged, Pamela goes on a savage killing spree, killing Christy and six of the camp counselors.
Also potrayed by: Connie Hogan, Marilyn Poucher (Friday the 13th Part III), Paula Shaw (Freddy vs Jason), Nana Visitor (Friday the 13th 2009)
6 017. Ari Lehman
A fictional character from the Friday the 13th series of slasher films.
He first appeared in Friday the 13th (1980), as the son of camp cook-turned-murderer, Mrs. Voorhees, in which he was portrayed by Ari Lehman.
Creators: Victor Miller, Ron Kurz, Sean S. Cunningham, Tom Savini
In his original appearance, Jason was scripted as a mentally disabled young boy. Since Friday the 13th, Jason Voorhees has been depicted as a non-verbal, indestructible, machete-wielding mass murderer. With the exception of flashbacks of Jason drowning as a child, and a brief scene in Jason Goes To Hell where his spirit is possessing another body, the character has never spoken in any of the sequels to the original Friday the 13th. Online magazine Salon's Andrew O'Hehir describes Jason as a "silent, expressionless ... blank slate." When discussing Jason psychologically, Sean S. Cunningham stated, "... he doesn't have any personality. He's like a great white shark. You can't really defeat him. All you can hope for is to survive."
Many have given suggestions as Jason's motivation for killing. Ken Kirzinger refers to Jason as a "psychotic mama's boy gone horribly awry ... Very resilient. You can't kill him, but he feels pain, just not like everyone else." Kirzinger goes on to say that Jason is a "psycho-savant", and believes his actions are based on pleasing his mother, and not anything personal.
Also potrayed by: Warrington Gillette & Steve Daskewisz, Richard Brooker, Ted White, Tom Morga, C. J. Graham & Dan Bradley, Kane Hodder, Ken Kirzinger, Derek Mears
6.4 018. Michael Rooker
Fictional character in a 1986 film Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (released in 1990), directed by John McNaughton.
The character of Henry is loosely based on real life serial killer Henry Lee Lucas.
The character of Henry shares many biographical concurrences with Lucas himself. However, as the opening statement makes clear, the film is based more on Lucas' violent fantasies and confessions rather than the crimes he was convicted of. Similarities between real life and the film include:
Henry Lee Lucas became acquainted with a drifter and male prostitute named Ottis Toole, whom he had met in a soup kitchen in Jacksonville, Florida. In the film, the character's name is "Otis" and the two met in prison.
Henry Lee Lucas became the lover of Toole's 12-year-old niece, Frieda Powell, who lived with Lucas and her uncle for many years. As in the film, Frieda Powell preferred to be addressed as "Becky" rather than her given name. However, in the film Becky is Otis' younger sister and is considerably older than the 12-year-old Frieda Powell.
As in the film, Lucas' mother was a violent prostitute who often forced him to watch her while she had sex with clients, and occasionally dressed him in girl's clothing. Lucas' father lost both his legs after being struck by a freight train; the character relates a similar story.
7.8 019. Ben Whishaw
In the 1985 Patrick Süskind novel Perfume (and its subsequent 2006 film adaptation Perfume: The Story of a Murderer), Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is a man born with a heightened sense of smell who seeks the perfect scent, noting that he lacks his own, which drives him to create a scent to identify himself and be noticed. It eventually leads to him becoming a serial killer.
He is born in Paris on July 17, 1738 to a woman working at the fish stall who, after having given birth to stillborns and semi-stillborns, decides to leave him for dead. His cries, however, notify the authorities who place him within an orphanage while hanging her for attempted infanticide. (In the novel, however, he is passed over several wet nurses who reject him for lacking a body odor.) He eventually becomes a tanner's apprentice and becomes fixated on the body odor of a young woman selling plums. He pursues her for the scene that draws him and kills her via smothering so he can continue to smell her (particularly focusing on her breasts in the film) until the attractive scent is lost. Back in the tanner's building, he pledges to recreate the scent and becomes fixated on women who smell in a similar way.
7.1 020. Kurt Russell
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