The 5 Best Psychopath Movies of All Time

There are crime and horror films, and then there are films about serial murderers. They are genuinely a different, less human beast when they cross over into those other genres. Serial killer movies aren't really about giving a rush, unlike crime movies, which let viewers virtually experience life lived outside the law, and horror movies, which primarily give us the exhilarating shock of adrenaline that comes with terror. Instead, they compel us to look into the darkest, most terrifying parts of the human psyche-places we'd prefer to believe don't exist.

Apr 21, 2023 - 14:27
Apr 21, 2023 - 17:20
The 5 Best Psychopath Movies of All Time

Do you know? The finest serial killer films don't focus on shocking audiences with obnoxious material. The best ones look at the circumstances that lead to them as well. For at least a century, filmmakers have been debating the part society plays in creating murderers. In this piece, we are about to give you a list of movies about serial killers that go beyond exploitation a higher priority when ranking the finest ones ever produced. But make no mistake, they will all leave you shaken. If they ever go from you.

1. Psycho (1960)

What else is there to say about Alfred Hitchcock's masterwork that hasn't been said a hundred times over? It is the picture that, in a downward-cutting motion, inaugurated 1960s cinema, shattering nearly every preexisting taboo, from violence to sex to plotting to even show a toilet in use. It contributed to the creation of the slasher film, predicted the splatter movie, and elevated horror to a high art form. Numerous copycats and parodies, mediocre sequels, a TV spinoff, a biography, a documentary, and a shot-for-shot remake have all been produced as a result. It's difficult to picture anybody else playing Norman Bates, so if there's anything "new" to say about Psycho, it's that the film's broad appeal has served to hide Anthony Perkins' core performance.


2. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Given Anthony Hopkins' superb performance as a psychiatrist-turned-psychopath who understands a great Chianti goes well with human liver, Jonathan Demme's Oscar-winning film isn't the cannibal's first on-screen debut, but it is the one that has left the most of an impression on the general public. In Silence of the Lambs, Buffalo Bill, who loves to skin his victims and use them as masks, is the other sicko. It's more like a T-rex against Velociraptor scenario, though. Even though he is (largely) imprisoned, Lecter is the top predator in this instance.


3. The Night of the Hunter (1955)

The Night of the Hunter (1955)

Charles Laughton's spiritually charged exercise in discomfort finds Robert Mitchum's traveling preacher takes a pretty loose view of the whole "thou shalt not kill" thing, serving as another warning to never trust a person with writing on his knuckles. He steals from the real-life serial killer Harry Powers by preying on helpless widows and their young children in search of an unjust fortune. The name has been changed to "Harry Powell," but the intent and strategy to give this masterwork a grim undertone of realism have not changed. Although it was expertly captured in black and white by cameraman Stanley Cortez, you can still make out the scarlet of blood that has been spilled in the picture.


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

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1990)

Even the grimmest and bloodiest slasher movies end up playing violent crime for transgressive pleasures, if not praising it. Not right here. Henry Lee Lucas, the admitted murderer who served as inspiration, does, in fact, offer a picture of psychopathy that is so cruel, unyielding, and apart from the conventional Hollywood image that for years, no distributor would touch it. (The MPAA had first assigned it an X rating.) There isn't a single hint of cinematic artifice whatsoever, least of all in the performances, which are shot in an up-close and overly-personal manner: In contrast to his friend Otis (Tom Towles), who had to be forcefully prevented from defiling corpses and raping his sister, Michael Rooker, playing the main role, is meat locker cold. However, he is the moral compass in the film. 


5. M (1931)