Written by: Greg McCabe
In the real world, serial killers are terrible people who destroy lives. In the movie world, however, they make for very intriguing villains.
When putting this list together, I tried to follow a few basic rules. First, I did not want any movies or characters that were directly based from real-life serial killers. I wanted original characters that were created for the screen (or the book that inspired the screen adaptation). I also wanted characters that, more or less, fell into the traditional serial killer archetype, which meant no rampage killers, revenge killers, or hitmen. Lastly, I excluded slasher and paranormal killers. Basically, if you’ve returned from the grave eight times, then you didn’t make this list.
10. Copycat Killer (William McNamara) Copycat
It’s easy for McNamara’s portrayal of the copycatting murderer to get lost among the strong performances of Sigourney Weaver and Harry Connick Jr., but it’s still impressive nonetheless.
09. The Tooth Fairy (Ralph Fiennes) Red Dragon
A surprisingly worthy prequel to The Silence of the Lambs, this film features a haunting performance by Ralph Fiennes, who perfectly balances creepy and psychotic.
08. Mickey and Mallory (Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis) Natural Born Killers
Featuring the only duo on the list, and the only female, Harrelson and Lewis’ portrayal of the deranged lovebirds matched the overall visual feel of the film: dark, disturbing, and chaotic.
07. Otis B. Driftwood (Bill Moseley) House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects
“I am the devil, and I am here to do the devil’s work.” I think this quote from The Devil’s Rejects just about sums up this character, who really seems to take a sense of pride in his murderous endeavors.
06. Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) Saw
The litany of sub-par sequels almost got this one bumped into the slasher film category and off this list. However, the original Saw gave us a very creative and principled serial killer.
05. God’s Hand (Bill Paxton) Frailty
Probably the biggest sleeper on the list, this vastly underrated movie revolves around a killer that genuinely believes he is doing the work of God.
04. Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) American Psycho
Finally, a serial killer for my generation! Flawlessly portrayed by Christian Bale, this corporate yuppie does his best to maintain a mask of sanity while offing business associates, prostitutes, and homeless people.
03. Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine) The Silence of the Lambs
A mesmerizing and riveting performance by Levine in an absolutely brilliant movie gives us one of the greatest serial killer characters of all time.
02. John Doe (Kevin Spacey) Se7en
What Kevin Spacey does for the role of the villain in this movie in nothing short of genius.
01. Hannibal the Cannibal (Anthony Hopkins) The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, Red Dragon
Anthony Hopkins provided us with one of the most iconic characters ever to be portrayed on film, not just in serial killer movies, not just in horror movies, but of all time.
About the author: Greg McCabe is a born-and-raised Texan. His debut novel, The Undying Love, was published in 2013. Greg enjoys all genres of fiction, but seems to gravitate towards horror and science fiction.