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The 10 Scariest Serial Killer Movies Of All Time

The world has an ongoing fascination with serial killers—partly out of fear, partly out of a desperate need to understand what drives such individuals. The serial killer is handled in all sorts of ways in popular culture—for example, Showtime’s hugely popular Dexter series takes us so far into the mind of a sociopath that we can empathize with him. Mostly though, serial killers are just downright terrifying, which is why the following films are so compelling.

Here are our top 10 scariest serial killer movies of all time. We suggest you snuggle up in the comforts of your home, make some popcorn and get ready to be scared!


5. American Psycho (2000)


Trade publication, CFA Magazine, recently claimed that one in ten people working on Wall Street is a clinical psychopath, compared to one in a hundred in the general population. This explains why Bret Easton Ellis-creation, Patrick Bateman, is such a fascinating and terrifying creation: the slick, successful, handsome guy… who also happens to murder prostitutes, homeless men and dogs in his spare time. Bateman is scary precisely because he’s realistic.

4. Zodiac (2007)


David Fincher’s exploration of San Francisco’s real-life Zodiac Killer—who attacked seven people in the Bay Area in the 1960s and ‘70s, killing five of them—was a subtle and brooding movie, for the most part. The terror here comes from the scenes where Zodiac is mercilessly picking off his unsuspecting and helpless victims. The fact that these events actually happened remains truly spine-chilling.

3. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1990)


The low-budget grit in Henry brings it a realism that is truly haunting—especially since the film is based loosely on real life murderer, Henry Lee Lucas. The scariest thing here is the cavalier nature of the killer—Henry is a classic sociopath: unfeeling, unremorseful, unpanicked and unphased by his own disgusting actions. And that’s just too real to be anything but terrifying.

2. Se7en (1995)


Even better than Zodiac, David Fincher’s Se7en remains uncommonly shocking, horrifyingly graphic and conceptually very intense. The murderer in the movie is particularly unnerving because of his very ordinariness. John Doe is an everyman of sorts, from his name to his lack of fingerprints. He is calculated and—scariest of all—he is smarter than everyone else. The end of this movie, as John Doe’s plan plays out exactly as he had wanted, is unusually bleak and frankly, unforgettable.

1. Silence of the Lambs (1991)


Few movies leave the kind of permanent imprint on popular culture that this one did. Thanks to a wide-eyed, spine-tingling performance from Jodie Foster as FBI agent, Clarice Starling; an incredibly disturbing one from Ted Levine as Buffalo Bill; and a deeply unnerving portrayal of Hannibal Lecter by Anthony Hopkins, Silence of the Lambs remains the scariest serial killer movie of all time. Let’s not also forget the articulate, intelligent and intuitive nature of Lecter, the abject terror of Buffalo Bill’s calculated psychosis and, oh yes, the cannibalism and human skin suit. Impossible to forget.


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