Top 13 Greatest Serial Killer Movies

13. Time After Time (1979)
This movie makes the list even though it isn’t really a horror movie. It isn’t scary at all, actually, but the plot, while a bit cheesy at times, also contains a bit of genius, including its star Malcolm McDowell. Here’s the deal: the notion of a serial killer is not a modern one. Jack the Ripper, while arguably the most famous serial killer, is not modern either.

The aim of this film is to bring the Leather Apron right into our world. What if Saucy Jack was alive today, and instead of killing the streetwalkers of Whitechapel, he stalked the streets of San Francisco? Add H. G. Wells, the author of The Time Machine (played by McDowell) and the machine itself—which actually works—and you have a great plot. How would Wells react to the same city, during a time which should have been, by his calculation, a utopia? Of course, for our purposes Wells is hunting down the Ripper who, back in the 1880’s, was his best friend. It’s corny, for sure, but spot-on in its social commentary. Did I mention it has Malcolm McDowell?

12. Chiefs (1983)
This is near the bottom of the list because it’s almost completely unknown, as a TV miniseries, and not available on DVD. In that way, I feel like I’m cheating you guys. However, the book is magnificently creepy, well-written, and the concept is great: three generations of police chiefs go about their small town duties while a serial killer works within their midst. It also has an all-star cast, featuring Charlton Heston, Keith Carradine, Billy Dee Williams, and Danny Glover. Any movie about a serial killer with such a remarkable cast deserves a spot on this list.

11. The Riverman (2004)
When I graduate from college later this year, my degree will boast a double-minor, one of which is criminal justice. I pursued this area of study because my absolute favorite subject ever (aside from horror, of course) is criminal psychology. And of all the criminals I’ve studied, Ted Bundy is the most fascinatingly frightful, and the best book I ever read about him was called The Riverman: Ted Bundy and I Hunt for the Green River Killer by Dr. Robert Keppel. This A&E adaptation is the most accurate and faithful true crime movie I’ve ever seen. Side note: Cary Elwes looks too much like Bundy for his own good. Creeepy. It also inspired the next movie on this list, because Bundy consulted with the Seattle PD to help them catch who they later discovered was Gary Ridgeway.

10. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
I won’t go on and on about this film, because we all know it’s great. I will, however, say that this is the best Hannibal Lecter movie of the lot and that Ted Levine (Buffalo Bill) is one of the greatest character actors EVER. (Check out his work on the TV show Monk too.) And this movie has not one, but two serial killers. More bang for your buck!

9. Saw (2004)
Don’t even debate me: those people did not kill themselves. They weren’t investigated as a tragic grouping of suicides, now were they? Jigsaw was the one responsible. To date, he’s claimed around 30 victims. And that makes him a serial killer. For my money, Saw was the best of the series.

8. Suspect Zero (2004)
If you haven’t seen this film, stop reading, go over to Netflix, and watch it. Then come back, and we’ll talk. You can’t deny that this movie has the most prolific serial killer of them all—and by that I mean the smartest, most ruthless, and most despicable. He was one nasty dude. And I don’t mean Sir Ben Kingsley; he’s just awesome.

7. Frailty (2001)
Does killing for God give you the right to murder? How about only killing bad people? Combine the two and you have a delicious, double-whammy. Such is the case with Frailty, a movie about a family who receives a mission from God to remove demons from the world, directed by and starring Bill Paxton. Now, this plot is all well and good, but what if one of the family members doesn’t believe and is certain his father is killing innocent people? And how far would a father go to make that son recognize the sanctity of their calling? Oh, the drama and blood that would follow. And, as with the questions this movie’s plot poses, the answers presented are just as ambiguous as whether the mission is real.

6. From Hell (2001)
Johnny Depp + Jack the Ripper = one awesome movie. Really, I only choose this because it’s the best—and most horrific—portrayal of one of the most widely accepted Ripper theories. Indeed, Jack did “give birth to the 20th century.” And there’s a great sequence involving Johnny Depp in a bathtub.

5. American Psycho (2000)
No, the original Psycho is not on my list. Why? Because poor Norman, while based on a pseudo-serial killer, is not a true serial killer. On the other hand, Patrick Bateman is. This movie is also about as all-American as a serial killer movie can get: ‘80s yuppie, in designer suit, murders anyone who bothers him, rivals him, or, really, anyone he comes across. What could be scarier than that? Oh yeah—the objectification, mutilation, and sexual exploitation of women. We’ve got that too. This film was also directed by Mary Harron, who, I think, is the only female to have directed a serial killer film.

4. Se7en (1995)
Six words for the seven deadly sins: Kevin Spacey as a serial killer.

3. The Boston Strangler (1968)
Tony Curtis set the standard for all other modern serial killer films with truly amazing acting. It’s moody, not entirely factual, but dramatically pleasing, and it puts self-identification with the killer right into the viewers’ comfort zone, a good characteristic for any horror film.

2. Citizen X (1995)
Andre Chikatilo was one nasty card-carrying socialist. Russia’s worst serial killer, Chikatilo raped, mutilated, murdered and cannibalized 53 young women and children between 1978-1990. This film chronicles one detective’s struggle to catch him under the repressive Communist government of the Soviet Union. Stephen Rea is superb as Lt. Viktor Burakov, and Donald Sutherland is superb as his superior, Col. Mikhail Fetisov. Oh, and Max von Sydow—the greatest horror actor, according to one of my previous lists—makes a smart cameo. What makes this film stand out is how beautifully it shows the bleakness of socialism, which invades the entire film. The subject matter is terrible—and shown in near-full detail—but the weather is also bleak, the color palette is drained, and the sense of loss the film carries gets under your skin while remaining fascinating and disturbing.

 


1. The Last Horror Movie (2003)

What makes this numero uno? It’s insanely unique. There has never been a movie quite like this (no, Behind the Mask and Man Bites Dog are not like this film). No one is as well-spoken, intelligent, ruthless, good at what he does, and—dare I say it?—as good looking as Kevin Howarth as Max Parry. This film combines modern sensibilities and plot twists with the tried-and-true traditions of the standard serial killer movie. Plus, it seems real… all too real. Like maybe, just maybe, I should go check my doors and windows to make sure they’re securely locked. Like maybe, just maybe, there will be a knock at the door and behind it, waiting, is Death.


Top 13 Greatest Serial Killer Movies

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79 Responses to Top 13 Greatest Serial Killer Movies

  1. Dusitn says:

    This list sucks.. Where is Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer? By far the best and more accurate than your River Man…! Seriously you Minored in this get it right and read more about serial killers..No I wont debate you on Saw but I will say this that movie sucked and is not even close to reality of what a serial killer would do!

    • Anonymous says:

      Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is a great film, but it is not accurate when it comes to the life of Henry Lee Lucas. Very loosely based on him.

    • Anonymous says:

      silence of the lambs deserves a closer spot to number one. Also, did anyone else think Saw was torture p*rn garbage?

      • Anonymous says:

        It might have been torture p*rn, but it was NOT garbage. If you had a brain bigger than a pea or a larger attention span, you’d understand this movie series better. The plot is absolutely amazing…If you bothered to watch it from start to finish.

        • JV says:

          SAW sucked, period. Anyone defending it as a “great serial killer movie” is easily amused by garbage and can be called d-bag by their own mother. No interesting characters in that movie. The plot was interesting, but still needed you to suspend reality in order for you to even think about sitting through the movie. And, the serial killer himself wasn’t even interesting. Lots of gimmicks and BS. Get real. I mean… get real!

          • Anonymous says:

            saw is not a garbage….. it’s original, smart, brilliant film, FUCKER

          • Anonymous says:

            SAW is defiantly not garbage, people who hate on it just presume it’s all gore and no story line. That’s what i thought but after i watched it i then realized it was one of the best Detective, Serial Killer Thriller.

      • martine says:

        It was def garbage. The plot was sort of unique, but too silly and unbelievable.

      • B says:

        I actually think silence of the lambs tops all serial killer movies if we are looking at the complexity of the killer. I do love the concept of Dexter. Seven is a great plot! I actually consider The Cell a pretty cool serial killer movie as well. What about Rob Zombie’s movies lol. Entertaining at least…

  2. cvxb says:

    Se7en is by far the most entertaining out of those movies… anyone know of more movies like seven ? main idea ” cops trying to stop/arrest a serial killer “, ‘Zodiac’ was similar and pretty good ( the same director of Se7en ). you could consider ‘no country for old men’ a serial killer movie since the main villain goes on a killing spree.

  3. _ says:

    Re: “Zodiac”-like movie? Check out the Korean film “Memories of Murder” (2003)

  4. ben g says:

    you dudes are insane you ought to create a movie with all cerial killers in one town aginst some zombies or sh*t

  5. rakwib says:

    If you haven’t seen it, check out “Mr. Brooks.” Kevin Cosnar and William Hurt play dueling personalities locked up in one serial killer’s head. It’s quite good

    • tom says:

      Totally agree, Mr Brooks is brilliant!

    • Anonymous says:

      Mr. Brooks is one of my all time favorite movies…the back and forth between Hurt and Costner is brilliant

      • Metal Slug says:

        Just finished watching Mr Brooks and must disagree. Kevin Costner, a schizophrenic serial killer – i think not
        And, Demi Moore a hard nosed detective – Fail
        Actually, it was a little entertaining but just feel the casting was weak. Fun but not in the league of “Zodiac”, “Silence of the Lamb”,”Summer of Sam” etc

        • Proteus says:

          You just copied word for word the opinion of a certain critic on Rotten Tomatoes Metal Slug. That’s pretty lame. Can’t you come up with your own analysis?

          Mr. Brooks is one of the most underrated movies EVER. It is absolutely brilliant. Granted it does have a relatively small target audience – I wouldn’t expect everyone to love it – but for me it was glorious.

        • Anonymous says:

          Summer of Sam is not a serial killer movie. Just because he is in a minute of it or is mentioned from time to time dont make it about him. Summer of sam is a stupid disco sex and drugs movie period

  6. PRINCEAKS1 says:

    Watch the Korean film “The Chaser”(2008) One of the best serial killer movie it’s with english subtitles.That was the first Korean movie I saw and I love it even I don’t understand a word of Korean language.It’s one of the best movie ever made.You can watch this movie on stagevu in best quality on this link: http://stagevu.com/video/ajcbzpxoodhp
    Watch and tell me what you think.

  7. David Peretiatko says:

    What a terrible list. No mention of “Natural Born Killers”? No mention of “Zodiac”, which is probably the best based-on-a-true-story serial killer film ever made? No foreign (especially asian) serial killer films? Yet you mention “Saw”, which is one of the worst serial killer concepts and stories ever to be made, which is why the American public loved it.
    Also, while I loved “Silence of the Lambs”, Buffalo Bill never killed anyone in the movie, and Hannibal only killed 2 people, which was at the end. So, in my definition, it is not a serial killer movie.
    Why do people with no insight make lists?

    • Julian Edwards says:

      i didnt watch suspect zero as you suggested as it got bad reviews, one said zero people would like it! lol. glad you did. american phycho one o fav movies eva tho so not all bad. watched a great movie of theme “tony” on veehd based on british serial killer which i would recomend to these enjoying this sort. bit cleverer and realer then saw mind. peace out

    • Christian says:

      Silence of the Lambs was about Starling (and the FBI) trying to catch “Buffalo Bill”.. who’s a serial killer. Just because they found him in time(meaning he didn’t get a chance to kill and skin Catherine Martin) doesn’t make it any less of a Serial Killer movie. You still get to see a body of a deceased man when they pull the moth from his mouth.
      Your problem is that it’s not about the killer, It’s about Starling and her struggle to solve the case with Lecter (while he brings up her past causing more conflict). It still deserves a spot on the list.. or a better one.. :)

      Other than that, I agree.. Terrible list.

      My problem is that there’s no PSYCHO(1960) on the list…

    • Cody says:

      Buffalo Bill did kill people, it was just not shown in the movie itself, but it was mentioned.

    • Anonymous says:

      ummm buffalo bill had killed and dumped people in the rivers as part of the movie, why is it that people need to see accual murder for someone to be a serial killer. Silance of the Lambs in a way gives a throwback to older movies when they relied of suspense and suggestions to scare or set a mood not a ton of blood. you cannot deny that the end of the movie where it is pitch black and Jodie Foster is being hunted by him was creepy the first time you saw it

  8. Anonymous says:

    suspect zero fantastic movie, some people have got no taste.

  9. Montana says:

    best so far is the Korean movie “I saw the Devil”

    • burner says:

      YEs. “i saw the devil” is indeed one of the best movies i’ve ever seen, and not only in this kind of catagorie but ON OF THE BEST of all movies.

  10. LB says:

    Mr. Brooks. He is probably the most sympathetic serial killer too. You can’t help but love him. However, I must comment to say that while I loved “From Hell” it is not one of the widely accepted views on who Jack the Ripper was. In fact, the opposite is true, the way the women were cut actually suggested no backround in medicine.

  11. Gaya says:

    Frailty is one of my favorite serial killer movies…
    not in the least because my hunk Matthew has the lead in this..
    Together with Powers Booth they form a good team..
    The psychology behind it is air tight..
    As a former forensic psychologist i think the performance of both Matthew an Powers
    was sublime…

  12. HollyQ says:

    The biggest omission is “M,” IMO. Kind of like not mentioning “Nosferatu” in a list of vampire movies. I definitely expected to see “Zodiac” in there, too. Interesting list, though.

  13. Anonymous says:

    “I only choose this because it’s the best—and most horrific—portrayal of one of the most widely accepted Ripper theories.”

    Um, no it’s not. No serious Ripperologist even entertains the notion that the Duke of Clarence or any of his cronies was involved.

  14. Update:

    Just a note, We have a top 20 list in this category coming soon. We think this is a pretty good one, though we wanted to post an updated list that includes a few new key films. Also please note, in serial killer form, cinema can mean mean both fiction and non fiction. So in the reference of “movies”, this spans the gamut. In fact, the better serial killer films HAVE been fiction.

    We’ll try and make best effort not to forget some even if as “special mentions”

    Serial killer films, even in “movie title” alone are hard to track down, especially old ones that no one remembers the names of. (Let alone track down to watch)

    HorrorNews.net

  15. panda lover says:

    I like your reviews. I feel the same way about these movies.

  16. panda lover says:

    Saw – I’m a big fan of saw and I watched them all.
    I even have the theme song as my ringtone.
    I hope there’s a new one this halloween.

    Silence of The Lamb – I love this movie!

  17. Ed Gein says:

    Your “#1 movie”, “The Last Horror Movie”, is a pathetic waste of time, which i shut off after 25 minutes of my time being wasted. Seriously one of the dumbest “movies” i have ever seen, actually i wouldn’t even classify it as a movie, i bet the budget for making it was less than 100 dollars.

  18. anon says:

    Good list but WHY DO YOU POST SPOILERS!?!?!? Syupid persoN!!!

  19. PlutosDesire says:

    “4. Se7en (1995)
    Six words for the seven deadly sins: Kevin Spacey as a serial killer.”

    What an ass. What about people who haven’t seen the movie? DOn’t you think you’re spoiling the fun for them?

  20. Rou says:

    How old is this site? Where is Bundy,Monster,Fact and Dahmer? Those are great films. Well made too!

  21. Rou says:

    Gacy?

  22. ellis says:

    copycat is the best sh*ts on all the films mentioed

  23. Anonymous says:

    I watched Suspect Zero on your recommendation. It was f*cking terrible. Honestly you have the tastes of a 10-year-old.

  24. Our new list, please refer to..as this list has been superceded

    http://horrornews.net/39922/25-best-serial-killer-movies-of-all-time/

  25. It’s a fine list but you say you’ve deliberately left out Psycho (1960) but included American Psycho (2000). We witness Norman Bates kill at least two people and we are told that he also killed his mother and her lover. But in American Psycho, both the film and the book, make it clear that he’s only killed one person, the hobo in the alley. All the other killings took place only in Patrick Bateman’s mind. Furthermore, you’ve included Time After Time but not Murder By Decree. You’ve included The Boston Strangler but not Ten Rillington Place. Most of the films in the above list were made after 1990, only three before that year, and nothing before 1968. Peter Lorre in ‘M’ is the great-granddaddy of all serial killer films, but it’s missing here. I know it’s difficult when you limit yourself to a number when writing a list. No matter what you include, somebody’s favourite film is bound to be missed out on. Deranged (1974) is one of my personal favourites.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Uh you forgot hellraiser

  27. Uh you forgot hellraiser

  28. Uh you forgot pin head and letherface

  29. eeeeeeeeeeeee says:

    If I made this list I’d have Jason Freddy Kruger Michel Myers chucky hellraiser species leperchun piranah jaws lake placed boa vs python and letherface. Therteen movies that’s all that’s on the top of my head

  30. OK if the movies have to have no supernateral content in them then wat about hostil you have saw why not hostil

  31. Ohh by the way horror news.net im a fan of your site and opinions ohh I have a idia for the site me and some other people want in a website its a good idia could you make a top therteen most good and most torcheris scary movies.

  32. martine says:

    Actually “From Hell” is based ion a comic book by Alan Moore.. who admitted that the theory is a total farce. The whole royal family involvement is just a bunch of nonsense and has been totally shown to be impossible. Its also sort of unfair to cast doubt on an innocent family like that even if they are royal.

  33. Jack says:

    “Memories of Murder” is a must watch………..no list can be good enough without mentioning this movie………..

  34. Anonymous says:

    Have you never seen Zodiac!? Well deserves a top 3 spot

  35. eggy says:

    i prefer rape films

  36. deborah says:

    mmmmmm here are some serial killer movies i really liked,
    evil enko, the butcher of plainsfield, the alphabet killer, the zodiac, BTK killer is pretty good,
    gotta love hell raiser, wolf creek, a shock to the system, perfume, is a good one, trapped,
    mmmmm think thats all i can think of at moment, …..:)

  37. Anonymous says:

    wtf? why isnt serial mom on here?

  38. Adam says:

    It is sad that people mistake gratuitous violence as anything more than shock value. Movie creators have replaced suspense, engaging dialog, and well thought out multilayer-ed characters with blood and guts. Everyone should feel cheated by most of the crap that is passed off as horror and/or suspense, but instead they make the top of most lists. Violence for the sake of violence will never make a good movie, however, it does make a high budget Hollywood snuff film with no redeeming qualities. If your into that kind of garbage by all means support these films. It’s time to open your eyes. The people making these think you’re stupid and you’re proving them right. I’m thinking of a particular series; if you don’t know which one than you are hopeless.

  39. rockhard10 says:

    Russia is a Cummunist country,and is not representative of Socialism,but a bastardization of it,with a Dictator.Sweden is a true”Socialist” country,and hardly bleak,but I wouldn’t expect someone who puts Silence of the Lambs at 10th,to be particularly bright.There are some glaring ommisions here,particularly Mark Harmons brilliant depiction of Ted Bundy,in the Deliberate Stranger.Don’t make me cut you.

  40. mexicanwave says:

    Peeping Tom & Dressed To Kill

    stupid, stupid list, i agree. just signed up here to post this, imagine how irritated can you get a person to do so..?!

  41. m billman says:

    Citizens is one of the best serial killer films I’ve ever watched considering its based on TRUE life its a stunning film

  42. jwade says:

    Patrick Bateman wasn’t a serial killer. He never really killed anyone. He was a pathetic loser who dreamed about killing people. If you read the book, you would know that. All the murders were his fantasy.

  43. Lucifer says:

    The problem ere is the blurring of movies about real serial killers and fictitious ones. Seven was awesome, as was the entire Hannibal series of movies. But Saw whilst entertaining is just fodder. There are movies that beat a lot of these that aren’t even on the list.

    Citizen X rocks
    The deliberate Stranger isn’t on there.
    To Catch a Killer isn’t.
    The Zodiac Killer isn’t.
    No mention of the psychological movie about the Yorkshire Ripper.
    Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer is missing.
    And finally The Frozen Ground should now be on there.

  44. Lucifer says:

    Also forgot the movie about Jeffrey Dahmer too lol.

  45. Lucifer says:

    lmao,

    Also the one about Dennis Nielsen, George Christie and the german serial killer from around 1930, i forget his name.

  46. The Black Saint says:

    Wow…some great responses here, some stupid ones too. Whether or not you agree with it I think it’s important to note that this list is just one person’s opinion. It’s not gospel. But I really dig the reactions this list got & although I’ve seen nearly all of the films mentioned throughout the thread there are a couple I’ve never heard of before & I plan on tracking them down.

  47. LA says:

    maniac con elijah wood ^^

  48. Md. Al-amin Tusar says:

    from this list i watched several movies .most of them were ok. but the movie called “Frailty” was just awesome.
    10 out of 10 from me

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