10 Great Movies About Serial Killers

The best movies about serial killers include Psycho, Sev7en, M, and of course, Silence of the Lambs.

By Rick Gonzales | Updated

Ever since people heard about the atrocities committed by the infamous Jack the Ripper, there has been a morbid fascination concerning serial killers. Whether it be the despicable acts in committing these gruesome murders or the fact that some of these serial killers were never brought to justice, Hollywood has also taken a fascination with their stories, and true life or made up. There are serial killer movies and then are KILLER serial killer movies. So, let’s take a look at 10 great movies about serial killers.


10. M (1931)

Taking a glance at the serial killer movie landscape, one would think that it has only been in the past few decades that Hollywood began to cash on these gruesome stories, but M, made in 1931, shows that this fascination goes back over 90 years.

The film is actually a German movie and stars screen legend Peter Lorre in a role that is considered to be his breakout role. M tells the story of Hans Beckert, a serial child murderer who is immediately up to no good when we first see him. After his intentions are presented, then completed, the movie turns into a cat-and-mouse game between Beckert and the police. Although filmed in the German language and over 90 years ago, M holds up as not only one of the first serial killer movies but one of the best.

9. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

What happens when someone is born with a strong, some would say superhuman, sense of smell? Well, they become a serial killer. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, stars Ben Whishaw as Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, the fictional notorious 18th Century serial killer whose story is told around his sentencing and execution, in flashback as to how he came to be an infamous murderer.

As a young kid, Grenouille is making deliveries when his sense of smell takes over and he spots a redhead girl selling fruit. He tries to get close to her so he can enjoy her fragrance but ends up startling her. To stop her from screaming, he puts his hands over her mouth, smothering her. It is then that he realizes he can get all the smells he needs from dead girls.

Grenouille begins to murder at regular intervals, each time trying to take their scent to make the most perfect perfume. Does he make it before his execution?

8. The Snowtown Murders

The Snowtown Murders is based on a true story set in Australia and tells the story of Jamie Vlassakis a 16-year-old who is living a rough life. He lives with his mother, Elizabeth, and two brothers, one of which rapes Jamie constantly. Elizabeth’s boyfriend takes indecent pictures of the boys, but the police don’t do anything about it. Elizabeth is then introduced to John, a man who loathes homosexuals and pedophiles.

As Elizabeth and John get closer, John begins to take Jamie under his wing and teach him his brutal ways. Jamie begins to see just how demented John truly is as bodies begin to drop all around them. Jamie begins to help John with his murders. The real-life killings didn’t stop until the South Australia Police find the remains of 8 bodies.

7. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

When Michael Rooker made his feature film debut in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, the film had trouble finding a distributor because of the graphic content. The film was so graphic and violent that it received an X rating. Completed in 1986, the film finally found limited release in 1990.

Rooker was brilliant in his first film, a serial killer with no remorse. His character was based on the real-life serial killer, Henry Lee Lucas, along with his roommate Otis, who also joined Henry on his killing spree. There is no rhyme or reason for Henry’s killing and not even love can stop him.

6. Psycho

Alfred Hitchcock joined the serial killing game with his 1960 film Psycho, one that turned Anthony Perkins into a fan-favorite serial killer, Norman Bates. The film follows Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) as she is making a getaway after stealing money from her boss. On her way out of town, poor weather forces Marion to stop at the Bates Motel.

There she meets proprietor Norman and quickly learns the meeting would be fatal. Marion is not the only one whose fate gets decided by a sharp knife. The twist ending sent shockwaves through movie theaters in 1960 and forever turned Norman into a sympathetic serial killer.

5. Monster

Monster, a true-life serial killer movie, is the first film from Wonder Woman director, Patty Jenkins. She also wrote the script for the movie as well. The film stars an unrecognizable Charlize Theron as serial killer Aileen Wuomos, a role in which Theron took home an Academy Award for Best Actress.

Aileen is a street prostitute who feels she has nothing to live for. On the verge of suicide, she meets Selby (Christina Ricci) at a gay bar. Although Aileen is not gay, she strikes up a relationship with Selby. Aileen, unable to find honest work, returns to the streets. After one violent john brutally rapes her, Aileen kills him in self-defense. Suddenly, Aileen begins to kill all of her johns, taking their money to support her and Selby.

In total (and in reality) Aileen killed seven men. Her time came to an end when she was first jailed, then executed in Florida in 2002.

4. American Psycho

Christian Bale Leonardo DiCaprio

When author Bret Easton Ellis was approached about taking his American Psycho novel and turning it into a film, he felt it simply couldn’t be done because of the extremely graphic nature of his story. The serial killer movie was purchased by producer Edward R. Pressman, who was determined to bring the story to the big screen.

Before Christian Bale was cast as serial killer Patrick Bateman, director Oliver Stone was brought in and since Lionsgate already had a contract with Leonardo DiCaprio, he was brought in to play Bateman. Things didn’t go well with Stone and DiCaprio, so both left the project, and Mary Harron took over the directing role, bringing back Christian Bale.

The film follows Bateman, who lives a double life – in the day he is a New York City investment banker and by night Bateman is a serial killer. Bale was joined by Willem Dafoe, Jared Leto, Josh Lucas, Chloë Sevigny, and Reese Witherspoon in this overly violent film.

3. Zodiac

The truly scary thing about this 2007 serial killer movie is that not only is the story true but the Zodiac Killer was never brought to justice. Zodiac tells the true story of a serial killer who did his damage in the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, and Robert Downey Jr. as men who are on the trail of the Zodiac Killer. The killer continues to stack up bodies while taunting the police. David Fincher, who we will hear about again shortly, brought the story of the Zodiac Killer to the big screen.

2. Se7en

This is the first serial killer movie that director David Fincher brought to the big screen and it includes an ending so shocking it had audiences reeling in grief. Yes, it was that good. The story follows Detective Bill Somerset (Morgan Freeman), who is one week away from retirement. His replacement, Detective David Mills (Brad Pitt) arrives to shadow Somerset, who has caught a strange case – a man ate himself to death.

When a second murder happens, Somerset begins to understand the killer’s motives. The first murder had the word “gluttony” at the scene while the second murder had the word “greed”. A third murder proved Somerset’s theory as the word sloth was found. Somerset believes the serial killer is following the seven deadly sins.

As the murders continue, so do the seven deadly sins, until there are only two sins left. They are brutal.

1. The Silence of the Lambs

As far as serial killer movies go, Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs ranks as one of the best ever. Anthony Hopkins chews scenery with a bit of fava beans and a nice chianti as Hannibal Lecter but it is Ted Levine as serial killer Buffalo Bill who truly shines.

The tense serial killer movie follows Clarice Starling, played wonderfully by Jodie Foster, an FBI trainee who has yet to finish at Quantico. She is pulled from her training by her boss so she can go interview Lecter. What her boss really wants is to see if Lecter can help answer questions about Buffalo Bill.

Starling and Lecter’s relationship becomes more about quid pro quo as Starling offers personal information while Lecter offers major hints about Buffalo Bill. Of course, Lecter also has his own agenda that he needs to see through as well.