Our first top ten of 2015, I will focus on ten of, what I feel are, the best serial killer movies. Now, these are in no set order, and they are my opinion, so feel free to comment and disagree, we always like to hear your thoughts.
1 – Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
Based on Henry Lee Lucas, the notorious serial killer, this Michael Rooker fronted thriller is a cult classic with a fan-base willing to put some gold coins on the line to state that this is the premier serial killer movie ever committed to celluloid. They have a point. Gritty, dirty and raw, as films of this ilk should be, it is brutal and Rooker is phenomenal as Henry, bringing grey areas and dimensions to a character you’d expect to just be another personification of evil, seen through a vapid Hollywood eye. It remains one of my favourites in this strange, harsh and brilliant little sub-genre.
2 – The Silence of the Lambs
Perhaps the most famous film in this list, and one that is beloved by so many. The Silence of the Lambs has characters inspired by various stories and cases from a number of killers from the annals of crime history. Hannibal Lector himself, the infamous lead-villain of the tale as well as the side-character, the memorable psychopath Buffalo Bill, have gone down as two of the most famous and well-played “killers” in film history. An almost-flawless movie, this remains a masterclass of crime film, and with acting talent like Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins at the helm, it’s easy to see why. Amazing.
3 – Monster
Charlize Theron, made-up to the nines, looks wonderful, and acts even better, as the mannish female serial killer, Aileen Wuornos, a prostitute who killed clients and had a gay relationship, in the film played by Christina Ricci. It adds so many layers to the story and humanises Wuornos as well as giving reasons and explanations as to why she may have committed the crimes she did. It earned Theron an Oscar, and remains one of the best crime films ever made, in my view. Just terrific.
4 – Psycho
Everyone knows Psycho. Alfred Hitchcock, one of the greatest film directors in history, created a film of tense, dark and horrific levels. Anthony Perkins delivers his greatest performance as Norman Bates, and the sheer iconic images, from the opening of the film until it’s closing moments, make this a classic in cinema, in general, as well as one of the best films to be based on serial killer crimes. Obsessive, disturbing and gloomy, you’d be hard pressed to find a film as famous that deals with themes as dark.
5 – The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
One of my personal favourite films. Ever. Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a horror favourite, and used serial killer history to tell it’s tale, with Ed Gein’s story being the main influence, for obvious reasons. Entrails and hacked off body parts strewn around, a dead skin mask wearing psychopath named Leatherface, and a bizarre family dynamic, they don’t come much more messed-up as this. It has seen various sequels, remakes, prequels and re-imaginings, but at the end of the day, this original 1974 classic is the finest of the franchise.
6 – Seven
David Fincher is a director who accomplished some great things, but one of his greatest, for me at least, has always been his dark 1995 thriller, Seven, focusing on a serial killer who used the seven deadly sins as his inspiration behind his misdeeds. With Brad Pitt delivering one of his very best performances of his career, and other names such as Kevin Spacey giving us something special, it is grotesque, gory and has a twist that will make your head pop off. Just top notch stuff. You might even call it a “killer movie”. Ha. Sorry.
7 – American Psycho
Christian Bale’s Patrick Bateman is one of cinema’s true weirdo’s. Based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis, the 2000 film was a sadistic, bloody and hilarious cocktail of character deep curiosity and some exceptional scenes of murder from our psycho with the lovely business cards. Forget his work in the Dark Knight flicks, this is one of Bale’s best pieces of work. As wacky as it is freaky.
8 – Deranged
Roberts Blossom delivers an out-right peculiar performance, based on Ed Gein and the story surrounding his crimes and capture. It’s gross, it’s creepy and it feels grimy, not unlike Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. One of my favourite horror films, I don’t feel like Deranged gets enough praise. It is a genuinely unsettling and faithful telling of one of the most notorious serial killers in American history.
9 – I Saw the Devil
A Korean dark thriller that is so pitch black it could even be judged as bordering on horror. With hypnotically brilliant performances from the cast, and magnificent cinematography, it is one of the best crime films to come out of Korea in the last couple of decades. Cult status has taken it to high places in the UK and elsewhere, and it is only growing in popularity as more people discover it. Brutal and with enough turns and twists to keep you on the edge of your seat until the end, this is a serial killer movie with massive style.
10 – Summer of Sam
I pondered the inclusion of this film on the list a few times, unsure as to whether my love for the film was matched by other people, but I decided that I would keep it here. While following the case of the media labelled “Son of Sam” David Berkowitz, the film also follows the people who lived in the area of the killings when they occurred. The cast are great, featuring Adrian Brody as a punk-rocker, among others, and it is a weird, greasy film that has a different sounding voice to other serial killer based movies. One I find extremely underrated, Summer of Sam is an oddity, but a great one.