There’s just something about an ax-wielding psychopath that really seems to speak to moviegoers these days, and that’s terrifying. Still, we’re not the types of lemmings to question what the public wants, and so we’ve decided that it’s time to honor the best of the big screen serial killers. The only rules for the top 10 this week are that the entries can’t have any sort of supernatural abilities (sorry, Freddy and Jason) and they have to be legitimately insane (sorry, every action hero ever). The result is a hodgepodge of the good, the bad and the ugly (mostly bad and ugly) that Hollywood has given us over the years. So, make sure you lock your doors and check on the children, because we’re coming at you with the top 10 movie serial killers. These guys are so great at what they do it’s crazy.
10. Sweeney Todd (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street)- Let’s start this list off with an E-flat. Johnny Depp recently starred in a big-screen adaptation of a musical about a British barber that loved to give extra-close shaves. First off all, this means there’s a musical about a serial killer, which is pretty creepy (then again, there’s a musical about a transvestite from transsexual Transylvania, so…). Secondly, they made a movie about the musical, which is also maybe even creepier. However, it was Tim Burton who really put the finishing creepy touches on this story with his signature style.
9. George Harvey (The Lovely Bones)- Nothing is quite as heartwarming as a story about a murdered child. In between filming hairy-footed New Zealanders, director Peter Jackson tackled this story about a girl who watches over her family and her killer from limbo. Her killer, being played by the brilliant Stanley Tucci, who was supposedly so uncomfortable playing the part of a child molester that he changed his appearance as much as possible. Nice try, Stan, but we’d recognize those acting talents anywhere. Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that this is a really upsetting film, which means it’s pretty good.
8. Earl Brooks (Mr. Brooks)- I don’t know why more people weren’t talking about Mr. Brooks when it came out. Sure, it features Dayne Cook in a supporting role, but you get to see him wet himself, which is always a fun time. The real star, though, is Kevin Costner, who plays a nearly perfect serial killer. He’s meticulous, patient and absolutely brilliant, which makes for a terrifying combination. Mr. Brooks is actually a pillar of the community, so no one would ever believe that every so often he likes to let of a little steam with a bit of home invasion and murder. The thing is, though, that he’s a ghost when it comes to the art of killing, and it’s actually pretty cool watching the character work.
7. Henry (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer)- Poor Michael Rooker. He’s always stuck playing some sort of bad guy (especially in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy film). Before he was beating the crap out of zombies with one hand tied behind his back (or left on a roof somewhere) in The Walking Dead, he was starring in a low-budget film about the notorious killer Henry Lee Lucas. It was actually one of his first roles, and it lead to him getting a lot of other gigs due to his brilliant portrayal of the psychopath. While it might not have had much of a budget, it makes up for it with some truly stomach-churning murder sequences. Then again, Rooker has always been pretty good at big-screen murders.
6. Mickey and Mallory Knox (Natural Born Killers)- This one is a bit of a cheat, because I just couldn’t decide between the two “protagonists” of Oliver Stone’s cult classic, Natural Born Killers. However, I had to include them or this list would be completely invalid. Hey, it’s my list and I’ll do what I damn well want with it. So, coming in at No.6 is the murderous duo that gripped a nation in terror with their cross-country rampage. We’ve all done crazy things in the name of love, but these two take it to a whole other level. There are some people out there who are truly fanatical about this film, and that’s almost as scary as the two character leads it sports.
5. Jigsaw (the Saw franchise)- You have to hand it to Jigsaw: He’s one hell of an engineer. However, unlike those other noble men and women who build bridges and design better office chairs, he decided to use his powers for evil. For the three of you who have no idea what Saw is, the series follows to work of fictional serial killer Jigsaw, who forces his victims to decide between a brutal death and a painful means of escape. The series is actually pretty creative with some of its deathtraps, which is terrifying when you consider that there are people who are paid Hollywood dollars to come up with them. Jigsaw comes in so high on our list, though, because of his legacy, which lived on through many terrible films even after the character’s death.
4. John Doe (Se7en)- In case you haven’t seen the movie Se7en (and if you haven’t, go watch it now. I’ll wait. O.K., welcome back.) I’m not going to reveal who John Doe is. Instead, I’ll talk about his murders, which are all based on the seven deadly sins. The film was actually one of David Fincher’s first feature-length movies (or at least the first good one), and it’s still one of his best. Like Saw, the film follows a killer who forces his victims to kill themselves. However, John’s twist is that he does so in a matter reflecting the sin his victims are most guilty of. Se7en is still one of my favorite horror movies because it has such a dark an ominous tone, and that‘s mostly because of how out of left field the actual killer is. You never see him coming.
3. Patrick Bateman (American Psycho)- One of the most memorable movie killers is actually someone relatively new. Before Christian Bale was running around dressed as a giant bat, he was 80s yuppie Patrick Bateman. The thing about Patrick is he is absolutely batshit insane, and we don’t mean in funny way. No, he is a true psychopath, and Bale’s brilliant performance is really what drives this film. He’s vain, narcissistic, obsessive and sadistic, which are pretty much all the right ingredients for a perfect serial killer. And on top of it all, Patrick does a very good job wearing a mask to hide what he really is. It’s hard to imagine why he never got an Oscar nod for this performance.
2. Norman Bates (the Psycho series)- Let’s go old-school for a minute here. Alfred Hitchcock gave us one of the first truly great big-screen killers in Norman Bates, a man who was a true mama’s boy. Recently, a young Norman managed to make his way to the small screen with the series Bates Motel on A&E. For our purposes, I’ll stick with the version made famous by Anthony Perkins (definitely not the Vince Vaughn one), which featured him as a motel owner who had a nasty habit of killing young women who checked in. Of course, the original was by far the best (the sequels just kept getting worse and worse), and to this day, Psycho is probably Hitchcock’s most well-known film.
1. Hannibal Lecter (Red Dragon, The Silence of the Lambs, Man Hunter, Hannibal and Hannibal Rising)- Coming in at No. 1 is another big-screen killer who has recently made the transition to television. However, Anthony Hopkins is still the king when it comes to this role. His performance was so subtle and brilliant because he played the killer as this cultured doctor who was always the smartest man in the room, but also the most dangerous. Unlike other serial killers on this list, there was something truly likable about Lector, a sort of sensitivity to him that made it almost seem like he was in the right for the things he’d done. Of course, those things include eating a census taker’s liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti. But you have to hand it to him: The man was a true foodie.