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10 Greatest Films on Serial Killers You Need to Watch

Most of the film loving populace is particularly interested in the genres of suspense and mystery. A fair number of works in those genres have been about serial killers. Dark, gloomy and occasionally gory, these films offer a unique cinematic experience. Here we take a look at 10 of the outstanding films on serial killers:

10. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

films on serial killers

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was directed by Tobe Hooper is one of the best films on serial killers ever made. It is centered on the maniac called Leatherface, who is inspired from real-life killer Ed Gein, who went on a killing spree. It is regarded one of the best films on murderers, and was a major commercial success too.

9. American Psycho (2000)

American Psycho Movie 2000

The only film in the list by a woman director, Mary Harron, American Psycho is a cult classic, starring Christian Bale and Willem Defoe. Based on the novel of same name by Bret Easton Ellis, it revolves around the investment banker Patrick Bateman (Bale), who leads a double life as a serial killer. While not a film that satisfies every viewer, the film is an important work in the genre all the same.

8. Manhunter (1986)

films on serial killers

Michael Mann’s Manhunter was the first film to introduce the famous villain Hannibal Lecter (though spelled Lecktor in the film) to the big screen. Adapted from the novel Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, the movie is centered on investigator Will Graham (William Petersen) who needs to consult psychopath Hannibal Lecktor (Brian Cox), whom he had captured himself, for a case revolving the serial killer known as Tooth Fairy. Though not as popular as the portrayal by Anthony Hopkins, Brian Cox lends life to Lecter in a uniquely disturbing manner; it is one greatest movie on serial killers.

7. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

films on serial killers

Inspired by the real-life serial killers Henry Lee Lucas and Otis Toole, this film was directed by John McNaughton. The film is sure to split the viewers. It follows the psychopath Henry (Michael Rooker) and his partner Otis (Tom Towles) as they kill random people and shoot their acts in the camera. The arrival of Otis’ sister and her growing attraction to Henry escalates tension between the two friends. The film is particularly notorious for the dark subject and the gruesome scenes.

6. M (1931)

films on serial killers

M was the first sound film by the iconic German craftsman Fritz Lang. The movie revolves around Hans Beckert, a serial killer targeting children. Peter Lorre plays the Beckert in a breakthrough performance. Despite the subject matter, there are no violence scenes involving the children, Lang leaving it to the imagination of viewers. The movie was also one of the earliest to employ the technique of leitmotif.

5. Memories of a Murder (2003)

films on serial killers

South Korean filmmaker Joon-ho Bong’s second directorial venture was based on the first serial killer case reported in the country, in late 1980s. The film follows two cops, Park Doo-Man and Seo Tae-Yoon, with vastly different styles of operation, as they investigate a series of rapes and murders in rural parts of the country. The film was a critical commercial success and one among those which earned the South Korean film industry international recognition. Memories of a Murder came sixth in our list of the greatest films on serial killers.

4. Zodiac (2007)

films on serial killers

One of the bets crime thrillers in the 21st century, Zodiac is the work of David Fincher, based on the book by political cartoonist Robert Graysmith. The film is inspired by the story of real Zodiac serial killer in the San Francisco Bay Area during the late 1960s. It stars Robert Downey Jr. as crime reporter Paul Avery and Jake Gyllenhaal as Robert Graysmith himself, the two who look into the case of self-proclaimed Zodiac killer. The film, abundant with stylish visuals and exemplary acting performances, competed for Palm d’Or at Cannes.

3. Psycho (1960)

Films on Serial Killers Psycho 1960
The critics may tell that Vertigo is best work, but nobody can argue that
Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense, is particularly known for this chilling mystery. Based on the real-life killer Ed Gein, Psycho is perhaps the most influential crime thriller, one of the greatest films on serial killers ever. Janet Leigh plays Marion Crane, who steals money of her boss and flees the town, who is subjected to a gruesome murder in the shower. The shower scene is clearly the most famous murder scene in world cinema. Psycho set the standard for the following films in the genre, and continues to influence the grammar of film-making.

2. Se7en (1995)

films on serial killers

Second David Fincher film on the list, Se7en stars Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman and Gwyneth Paltrow. The movie follows the veteran police officer William Somerset (Freeman) and the novice David Mills (Pitt) as they investigate a murderer who kills his victims in accordance with the seven deadly sins. The striking visual style complements the screenplay. With stellar acting performances, the movie offers an incomparable cinematic experience.

1. Silence of the Lambs (1991)

films on serial killers

Directed by Jonathan Demme, this genre defining movie swept all the major five Academy Awards, in a rare occurrence. It was based on the novel of same name by Thomas Harris. Starring Anthony Hopkins, Jodie Foster and Ted Levine, it follows the FBI agent Clarice Starting (Foster), assigned to investigate about Buffalo Bill, a serial killer who targets young women. She consults the infamous serial killer Hannibal Lecter as part of her investigation. Hopkins’ chilling portrait of Hannibal Lecter is one of the finest acting performances in history.

10 Greatest Films on Serial Killers:

  1. Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  2. Se7en (1995)
  3. Psycho (1960)
  4. Zodiac (2007)
  5. Memories of a Murder (2003)
  6. M (1931)
  7. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
  8. Manhunter (1986)
  9. American Psycho (2000)
  10. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Written by: Nikhil Rajagopalan

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