What if the natural world is scarier than a serial killer? A terrestrial creature born like any other, committed to predation as Mozart was to the keyboard. Because of the fear and curiosity they elicit, they have become a popular subject for research and dramatization. True crime as an entertainment genre has grown well beyond the bookshop, and films about homicidal maniacs are not a new phenomenon. Psycho (1960), maybe the most iconic serial killer film of all time, depicted the powers and carnage of a deceptive psychopath better than others. The suspense in the framing, the genius of the editing, and the surprising twist ending are all characteristics that horror films have worked painstakingly to master over the years, and Alfred Hitchcock laid the groundwork more than 60 years ago.
As the medium progressed, acting and cinematic presentation became more realistic, but standards for violence and nudity deteriorated. A classic serial killer film such as William Lustig’s Maniac and Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs highlight the subject’s flexibility. This serial killer film provides audiences with a glimpse into the unfathomably twisted and unpredictable world of a person who has been purposely cut off from morals, ethics, honor, or compassion. Horror masters from the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and now continue to push the limits of what can be conveyed on film in terms of severity and dread. Every few years, visionary, violent films—many of which were initially slammed for their disgusting, but semi-accurate, representations of serial killers—produce controversy before the work’s meaning and aim infiltrate into the mainstream. But, whether for crime or criticism, the serial killer sub-genre lives on in real crime, television, and film.
Top 15 Best Serial Killer Film Updated In 2022
Here are 15 of the greatest and deadliest serial killer film
- Director: Mary Harron
- Writers: Mary Harron, Guinevere Turner
- Cast: Christian Bale, Justin Theroux, Josh Lucas, Bill Sage, Chloe Sevigny, Reese Witherspoon
Over the 21 years since its premiere, American Psycho has gone from being characterized as sexist, violent, pornographic trash to an all-time masterpiece film based on Bret Easton Ellis’ novel of the same name. It’s a gory, comic examination of buttoned-up, toxic masculinity as portrayed by Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale). Bateman is a successful, beautiful business executive who is also a raging, murderous crazy person, as the job demands. His disdain for society and its inhabitants boils over into rants against music, geopolitical upheaval, and fellow human hunters. The critique is transformed into comedy by dry, humorous corporate politics and a caustic picture of Wall Street’s rich workers and their buddies. The violence, as well as Patrick Bateman’s sadistic actions, remains frightening and revolting, but having a chuckle in between bloodbaths helps to lessen some of the shocks of the savagery.
- Director: Duncan Skiles
- Writer: Duncan Skiles
- Cast: Dylan McDermott, Charlie Plummer, Samantha Mathis, Madisen Beaty, Brenna Sherman
In The Clovehitch Killer, Charlie Plummer (Looking for Alaska) believes that ignorance is bliss. He lives in a small town, attends church, is a member of his local Eagle Scout-style Rangers club, and aspires to attend a decent college and go on to the next stage of his life. When he uncovers strange artwork and pornography that can only be credited to his father, he gets a glimpse beyond the curtain of his father’s paternal veneer (Dylan McDermott). Interest breeds curiosity and Tyler (Plummer) begins quietly promoting his father’s investigation with a newfound buddy. Whereas many serial killers flick relish in the gore and mayhem, Clovehitch revels in the suspense of suspicion. Tyler’s perspective of the man he loves is shattered by his father’s conduct and secrets. Almost the whole film is told from Tyler’s point of view, and his visual disquiet conveys the unsettling discomfort his revelations cause.
- Director: Patrick Brice
- Writers: Patrick Brice, Mark Duplass
- Cast: Patrick Brice, Mark Duplass
Creep is a must-see indie film. It gets right into the setup. Patrick Brice, co-writer and director, portrays a videographer who takes on an unusual job, assisting a sick father (Mark Duplass) in recording a film to leave behind for his soon-to-be-born baby. The unusual conduct of his client, as well as the forced intimacy necessary to chronicle a dying man’s message to his son, gives Aaron (Brice) pause but does not dissuade him. Joseph (Duplass) is odd, delicate, and kind all at the same time. His positivity and attitude charm him, calming the terror caused by his bizarro feelings. It’s eerie and unsettling, but it fills a niche in the thriller genre that few other films do, and with considerably less to work with than virtually any other film. Despite Joseph’s unusual conduct, there is a little throughline of who is hoodwinking whom until someone receives a troubling phone call.
4. Creep 2
- Director: Patrick Brice
- Writers: Mark Duplass, Patrick Brice
- Cast: Karan Soni, Mark Duplass, Desiree Akhavan, Kyle Field, Caveh Zahedi, Jeff Man
Creep 2 is every bit as creepy, personal, and suggestive as the first. It keeps the small cast, largely limiting the screen time of Sara (Karan Soni) and Mark Duplass. It’s a good sequel since it develops the character introduced in Creep while also bringing new concepts and characters. Creep 2 is a found footage film in the same vein as Creep. Sara’s online series “Encounters” shows her contact with a stranger she met on the internet. With the curtain lifted on Duplass’ murderous intentions, the film is freer to examine his character in detail than it would have been via deception. It raises intriguing issues, such as what a serial killer going through a midlife crisis might be like. How would they, and especially him, cope or adjust? In terms of ambition and expression, Creep 2 ranks among American Psycho, The House That Jack Built, and Man Bite Dog among contemplative serial killer films.
5. Deep Red
- Director: Dario Argento
- Writer: Dario Argento
- Cast: David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia, Macha Meril, Eros Pagni
Dario Argento, the horror director and Giallo genius (Suspiria, 1977), created one of his greatest films, Deep Red, in 1975. It’s a murder mystery in which bodies pile up from beginning to conclusion. Deep Red, part slasher, half serial killer film, part whodunit, seamlessly traverses subgenres. The killer chopping up victims is sliced up on the screen via strong framing and blocking. The depth and visual lines produced by the cinematography and movement in each shot are stunning. Argento enlists the help of Goblin once more to produce some unique music for the film. Overall, the music is extremely groovy, with rhythmic and horn portions reminiscent of David Holmes’ Ocean’s series theme. While there is a touch of humor woven throughout the film, the soundtrack is about the only thing this blood-soaked Italian horror classic has in common with Steven Soderbergh’s heist trilogy. It’s brutal, nasty, and meticulous in its continuity, all while generating a gripping, eye-catching serial killer film.
- Director: Rob Zombie
- Writer: Rob Zombie
- Cast: Sid Haig, Sheri Moon Zombie, Bill Moseley, William Forsythe, Ken Foree, Danny Trejo
Rob Zombie crafted a gritty masterpiece with The Devil’s Rejects, which remains one of his greatest films. Even by the standards of films placed on this list, the cruel antics of the Firefly group, not to be mistaken with the western-tinged space pirates that adorned television and film in the early 2000s, are unpleasant to watch. Bill Moseley and Sheri Moon Zombie are sociopaths who kill without remorse while escaping the authorities. It’s a western meets grindhouse cinema in the manner of the 1970s. The gritty, neon green frames extract as much blood and sweat as they can from each character. The filthy, horrifying mutilations carried out by the Firefly gang in House of 1000 Corpses are only slightly toned down to ground the film in a more realistic tone. Otis and Baby appear to be predators that anyone may come across after a run of ill luck. Their rash behavior drives their hunter, Sheriff Wydell (William Forsythe), to the brink of despair in his pursuit of justice.
- Director: John Carpenter
- Writer: John Carpenter
- Cast: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tony Moran, Nancy Kyes, P.J. Stoles
Before the Cult of Thorn and the other reboots, Halloween was about a killer in a mask. Michael Myers, often known as “The Shape,” was a murderous guy who murdered his own sister on Halloween as a child. Years later, he escapes from captivity for a night of hedonism. Halloween, which was supposed to be a standalone novella, created a series that outgrew the idea. Halloween, along with Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street, is a classic slasher. The villain, like in A Nightmare on Elm Street, is instantly recognisable with his pale white mask and dark dead eyes, but he isn’t the only notable figure. Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis), Lynda (P.J. Soles), and Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) are three-dimensional characters who captivated viewers worldwide—Laurie and Loomis went on to feature in multiple sequels before being recast for Rob Zombie’s reboots. John Carpenter’s third film, for which he wrote, directed, produced, and composed the music, provides an early indication of his auteurship’s potency. It’s cinematic and terrifying, with ominous music to add to the atmosphere.
- Director: John McNaughton
- Writer: Richard Fire, John McNaughton
- Cast: Michael Rooker, Tracy Arnold, Tom Towles, Mary Demas
The typical serial killer setup is a white male with mommy issues. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer maintains an unwavering level of intensity. This film, based on the true slayings of convicted killers Henry Lee Lucas and Ottis O’Toole, has no light at the end of the tunnel. The world is brutal, and Henry (Michael Rooker) exacerbates it. In addition to his own deadly desires, Henry tutors a buddy and dissatisfied white guy named Otis (Tom Towles), with whom he stays. He teaches Otis techniques that may conceal his remorse when he commits crimes, and Henry, to a point, supports his sadism. The gruesome record they keep makes the pair as terrifying as any fictitious or real-life killer. The performances and the raw presentation make the film tough to watch at times, but audiences looking for an accurate portrayal of a psycho-killer will find much to dissect in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.
- Director: Rob Zombie
- Writer: Rob Zombie’
- Cast: Sid Haig, Karen Black, Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon Zombie, Rainn Wilson, Tom Towles
Rob Zombie’s feature debut, House of 1000 Corpses, is as colorful and wild as Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and its sequel combined. The levity with which the Firefly gang inflicts torture at will is downright scary. Bill Moseley channeled Charles Manson for his insane lectures that would have any sober mind lost in their own metaphors. Sid Haig’s vulgar and insane clown appears to be the apex of lunacy until the last act shifts the film from serial killer to slasher. The unpredictability of the editing bombards the audience with speeches and images of the dead. Bodies and their parts are strewn across the film like leftover takeout. It’s unfathomably extravagant. However, the grainy picture, nefarious characters, and belt of atmosphere combine to make this shambles of lunacy a remarkable horror film.
- Director: Lars Von Trier
- Writer: Lars Von Trier
- Cast: Matt Dillon, Bruno Ganz, Uma Thurman, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Riley Keough
One of the finest serial killer films ever made is The House That Jack Built. It’s contemplative and brutal, dark and comedic—it has many similarities with American Psycho’s qualities. The viewer follows Jack (Matt Dillon) as he discusses his life as a serial killer and an engineer. He explains his reasons, questions, fears, and goals to Verge, a mysterious and usually off-screen individual (Bruno Ganz). Documentary video, plans, classical artworks, and lots of corpses accompany their chats about art, love, death, murder, architecture, and other topics. As they stroll inexplicably, Verge tries to curb Jack’s narcissism and keep the discussion on the topic. Jack pontificates about the importance of his deeds and how he regards himself. The violent violence is frequently countered with black humor, yet the film is flawed. No one is immune to Jack’s fatal desires, not men, women, or children. The self-reflection has been woven into the film by writer/director Lars Von Trier (Melancholia) and the strange, breathtaking final act elevates this film above the sum of its parts; they elevate it to something genuinely exceptional.
11. I Saw The Devil
- Director: Jee-Woon Kim
- Writers: Park Hoon-jung, Jee-woon Kim
- Cast: Lee Byung-hun, Choi Min-Sik, Jeon Gook-hwan, Ho-jin Chun, San-ha Oh, Yoon-Seo Kim
I Saw the Devil is a dark film, even by the standards of the films on this list. In this Korean vengeance film, the unyielding intensity is only matched by the stifling despair. Lee Byung-hun plays a secret service agent on the search for the killer who beheaded his wife. Jang Kyung-Chul (Choi Min-Sik), the killer, is pure evil. His actions and demeanor place him among the most despised people imaginable. There’s a thrill in his actions’ unpredictability, and there’s a sadistic pleasure in the dreadful game of catch-and-release he finds himself in with an unknown opponent. I Saw the Devil is a stylish and dramatic film that pours on the sorrow of tragedy and loss in a loving light. The action and lighting are lively and distinctive—in fact, everything about this film is memorable, even down to the disturbing final picture.
12. Ichi The Killer
- Director: Takashi Miike
- Writer: Sakichi Sato
- Cast: Tadanobu Asano, Nao Omori, Shin’ya Tsukamoto, Paulyn Sun, Shun Sugata, SABU
Ichi The Killer, one of the finest live-action adaptations of any manga, is as good as it is revolting. Ichi is bold in its representations of sadism, masochism, and psychosis, beginning with one of the nastiest title cards in movie history. Few films carelessly brutalize their characters in this way. Almost every scene has blood and violence, especially if Ichi (Nao Omori) or Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano) is present. The character arcs of the two aforementioned guys, one who is obliged to perpetrate violence and one who enjoys it, complicate the plot. There’s some humor in this film, but you’ll have to wade through more than two hours of blood and sperm to find it. If you can stomach the cutting and body fluids, Ichi The Killer is a fantastic, one-of-a-kind film about a serial killer with an outrageous style of death.
- Directors: Timo Tjahjanto, Kimo Stamboel
- Writer: Takuji Ushiyama, Tim Tjahjanto
- Cast: Kazuki Kitamura, Oka Antara, Rin Takanashi, Luna Maya, Ray Sahetapy, Tensui Sakai
In Killers, two guys commit murder for a variety of reasons. One of the killers is Nomura, a Japanese financial professional who moonlights as a cruel murderer. Nomura (Kazuki Kitamura) is a smooth, unassuming guy who also happens to be maniacally insane—the Japanese Patrick Bateman. Video footage of a man’s dying seconds connects Nomura to journalist-turned-murderer Bayu (Oka Antara), and Nomura seeks to help Bayu on his road of vengeance against the corrupt politicians who destroyed his career. Neither guy appears to understand the other’s reasoning, yet they are united in their rejection of society’s principles. Oka Antara is as insane as Bayu. His shouts and convulsions heighten the ferocity of his battles on his rampage. His acting is impressive, and it works nicely with the film’s craziness. The Killers is an excellent choice to double feature with Ichi the Killer because of the brightness, darkness, and dualism.
14. Lady Vengeance
- Director: Park Chan-Wook
- Writer: Park Chan-Wook
- Cast: Lee Yeong-ae, Kim Byeong-Ok, Bu-seon Kim, Choi Min-sik, Mi-ran Ra, Dal-su Oh
Lady Vengeance’s cuisine consists solely of murder and vengeance. Lady Retribution is the concluding act in Park Chan-vengeance Wook’s trilogy, existing as an amalgamation and perversion of the ideas and characters of the previous two films. Geum-Ja Lee (Lee Yeong-ae) has spent more than a decade in jail plotting the ultimate retaliation against the person she believes brought her there. While the narrative progresses in the present, flashbacks reveal character motivations. The editing produces visually appealing transitions between the past and the present. Geum-JA has done nice things in the past to gain the goodwill and favour of convicts she will call on when their sentence is over. Her strategy revolves around accusing another defendant of the crimes for which she was convicted—enter Mr Baek (Choi Min-Sik). Mr Baek is a teacher who is the single target of Lady Vengeance’s wrath. Choi Min-Sik, as always, is memorable in his portrayal. Even though he has little dialogue, his presence is dominating and spooky.
15. Man Bites Dog
- Director: Remy Belvaux, Andre Bonzel, Benoit Poelvoorde
- Writers: Remy Belvaux, Andre Bonzel, Benoit Poelvoorde
- Cast: Benoit Poelvoorde, Jenny Drye, Remy Belvaux, Andre Bonzel, Jean-marc Chenut
Man Bites Dog, which predates American Psycho and The House That Jack Built, is probably the prequel to both flicks. The mockumentary features a film team following and studying, with his permission, a serial killer named Ben in France (Benoit Poelvoorde). Ben is a well-educated, inquisitive observer of the world. He’s also a cold-blooded killer and a narcissist. He walks around, murdering as he pleases and dwelling on the specifics of selecting victims, disposing of bodies, and anything else that catches his interest. The film crew is introduced halfway through the film, and their existence, let alone their work, feels like a remark in and of itself. Who would agree to capture these occurrences and spend time with a murderous narcissist? Are artists the only observers? The critic’s voice goes beyond artists and members of the media. During Ben’s comments about money, prestige, and vulnerability at the time, the elder generation is often brought up. Ben, despite his brilliance, falls victim to the dangers of racism and misogyny that appear to be endemic to a callous mentality. Man Bites Dog has a lot of bark and even more bite for a film created by and starring the same few guys.