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#10 NO MAN OF GOD (2021)
No Man of God image
Image Credit © Company X

Several movies and TV shows have been made about serial killer Ted Bundy and his grizzly crimes, yet No Man of God is the best so far.

Set in the late 1980s, No Man on God focuses on the last years of Bundy’s (Luke Kirby) life as he awaits execution on death row. During that time rookie FBI profile Bill Hagmaier (Elijah Wood) interviewed a notoriously reluctant Bundy to get to the crux of Bundy’s psychosis and why he killed. This resulted in Bundy’s confessing to numerous unsolved numerous, and an unlikely connection between Bundy and Hagmaier.

Directed by Amber Sealey, No Man of God delves into the evil that drove one of mankind’s most infamous monsters with an intimacy that is engrossing and startling. Performances all around are terrific, especially from Kirby who brilliantly straddles the line between charming and creepy, always evoking a sense of danger that seeps through his pores. It all results in a serial killer movie void of exploitation and filled to the brim with smarts and depth.


Natural Born Killers image
Image Credit © Warner Bros.

Oliver Stone’s hyper kinetic meditation on violence and the media is a highlight amongst the Oscar winning directors many controversial films.

Natural Born Killers is also a stinging condemnation of the unholy marriage between violence and entertainment in its depiction of serial killer lovebirds Mickey (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory (Juliette Lewis) and their reign of terror across America. Covering the carnage is tabloid journalist Wayne Gale (Robert Downey Jr.)

Based on a story by Quentin Tarantino (who has publicly trashed Stone for the handling of his material), Natural Born Killers features Stone at his most fearsome both thematically and visually. Stone throws everything on the screen and not only manages to make it stick, but also draws career defining performances from its exceptional cast that also includes Tommy Lee Jones and Tom Sizemore.


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#8 CITIZEN X (1995)
Citizen X image
Image Credit © HBO Films

An engrossing and chilling made for cable HBO release, Citizen X portrays the 10-year hunt for serial killer Andrei Chikatilo, also known as “the Butcher of Rostov”, during 1980s era Soviet Union.

Stephen Rea stars as Lieutenant Viktor Burakov, a forensic specialist whose continual investigation into the serial killer responsible for the mutilation and murder of 52 people (mostly women and children) is constantly hindered by Soviet bureaucrats who are more concerned with the negative image these crimes will have upon the image of the USSR.

Directed by Chris Geronimo, Citizen X not only succeeds as an investigative thriller into the most savage serial killer in Russian history, but also depicts the frustrating and stifling environment of communist tyranny in which Chikatilo was able to kill without detection or remorse. Terrific performances from Rea as Bukarov, Donald Sutherland and Max Von Sydow as Soviet bureaucrats who help the investigation, and especially Jeffrey DuMunn as Chikatilo, round out one of the best true-crime serial killer movies.       


American Psycho image
Image Credit © Lions Gate Films

Although Christian Bale first made his debut in the 1987 war drama Empire of the Sun, the Oscar winning method man would truly make an impact as investment banker and serial killer Patrick Bateman in the pitch-black comedy thriller, American Psycho.

Based on the novel of the same name by acclaimed author Bret Easton Ellis, the Mary Harron directed American Psycho portrays the homicidal Bateman as a psychopath in the purest form, acting the part of slick finance man during the day while revelling in this true nature of killer and sadist after work hours. Bale’s bravura performance is truly something to behold, presenting Bateman as a vision of perfection from the outside while descending into manic chaos within.

Also featuring memorable turns by Jarred Leto, Josh Lucas, and Reese Witherspoon, American Psycho is pitch perfectly directed by Harron who delivers a potent blend horror and humour.  


Sweeney Todd image
Image Credit © Warner Bros.

Fancy a song during your homicidal bloodshed? Then Sweeney Todd is just the serial killer thriller for you.

The seventh collaboration between director Tim Burton and his equally eccentric star player Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street saw the pair at their darkest and indeed bloodiest, with crimson red splattered across the screen in this tale of wronged barber Sweeney Todd (Johnny Depp) and his revenge on the aristocrat (Alan Rickman) who destroyed his life, with numerous innocent souls feeling the sting of Sweeney’s blade.

Based on the musical created by Steven Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler, Sweeney Todd features Depp and his co-stars Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, and Sacha Baron Cohen all singing a tune as the blood count rases, making this a one-of-a-kind serial killer movie.   


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#5 PSYCHO (1960)
Psycho image
Image Credit © Universal Pictures

Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 horror classic Psycho is still a powerful horror experience, even in these post-torture porn times.

Psycho stars Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates, a mild-mannered hotel proprietor who suspects his domineering mother of killing his female occupants. We come to find out that (spoiler alert!) Norman, suffering from split-personality disorder, was the killer all along.  

It is hard to deny the influence that Psycho holds on the horror genre, with the now infamous shower scene featuring a naked Janet Leigh, a knife wielding murderer, and a stream of blood running down the drain, an iconic and nightmare inducing sequence which set the bar for many to follow.

Perhaps more important is that Psycho thrust the thriller genre into the twisted psychosis of the serial killer, with Hitchcock peeling away at the normal facade of Norman Bates to reveal a homicidal mad man with a bad case of “mommas boy” syndrome.  


The Silence of the Lambs image
Image Credit © Metro Goldwyn Mayer

30 years on from Psycho, and the serial-killer-thriller saw the bar raised again with The Silence of the Lambs.

Not the first film to feature famed fictional psychopath Hannibal “the Cannibal” Lector (Michael Mann’s 1986 film Manhunter wins that prize), The Silence of the Lambs featured a unique mix of police procedural, gothic horror, and psychological thriller to enthral and scare the bejesus out of many a movie goer.

Directed by Jonathan Demme, The Silence of the Lamb stars Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling, an FBI agent who forms a unique bond with psychotic psychiatrist Hannibal Lector (played by a career best Anthony Hopkins) while she investigates another serial killer in the human skin collecting Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine.)

A disturbing, tense, and suspense filled crime thriller, The Silence of the Lambs is a serial killer movie that has rarely been bettered.


#3 SEVEN (1995)
Seven image
Image Credit © WPDA Studios

The greatest buddy cop movie of all time (think about it) is also one of the best serial killer movies, with Se7en offering two mismatched cops (Morgan Freeman & Brad Pitt) on the hunt of a killer who uses the seven deadly sins as his motive.

Perhaps most important is that Se7en gave us the first classic from master filmmaker David Fincher, who bounced back from the critically panned Alien 3 with a crime thriller that has seared the minds of film fans everywhere, with its intelligent mystery and grimy, rain drenched aesthetic still holding a powerful effects decades after its release.  

With an uncredited Kevin Spacey delivering chills as the murderous John Doe, and an ending to end all endings, Se7en is an undeniable masterwork of visual and thematic power.


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#2 M (1931)
M image
Image Credit © Paramount Pictures

Fritz Lang’s classic noir M is an iconic film for many reasons, among them that it gave us a chilling monster in the form of Peter Lorre’s whistling child murderer Hans Beckert. It was Lorre’s first leading role that would subsequently lead the Hungarian born actor to be typecast as a villain in numerous Hollywood films.

Despite the film being over 90 years old, M still packs quite a punch. Not many scary movie moments have been able to top the chilling scene where Hans studies his reflection in the mirror, nor have many serial killer movies tackled the emotions of grief and anger from the victim’s families as M does in its final scenes.

An American remake of M was released in 1951. Justifiably, it bombed both commercially and critically.


#1 ZODIAC (2007)
Zodiac image
Image Credit © Paramount Pictures

Who is the Zodiac? It is a question that has haunted authorities and crime buffs for decades and is the focus of David Fincher’s masterful true crime thriller Zodiac.

Based on true events surrounding the exploits and manhunt of a serial murderer who terrorized the San Francisco Bay Area during the late 1960s and early 1970s, Zodiac is a tale of obsession told through the investigations of a detective (Mark Ruffalo), a journalist (Robert Downey Jr), and a cartoonist (Jake Gyllenhaal), who oddly enough came closer than anyone in solving the mystery.

It was that cartoonist, Robert Graysmith, whose books on the Zodiac were adapted by the underrated James Vanderbilt, giving a sense of place, impeccable detail, and strong characters for Fincher to create a sprawling, intelligent and engrossing mystery that is as horrifying as it is addictive.

Fincher’s methodical approach and knack for the visual left no stone unturned in his recreation of these events and the environment they were set in. Perhaps more important for this list is Fincher’s ability to scare his viewers in his recreation of the Zodiac’s many atrocities with a deft hand for tension and realistic approach to violence, with some sequences too horrific to endure.

Gyllenhaal, Ruffalo, and especially Downey Jr. are stellar in their roles, as are supporting players Anthony Edward, Elias Kosteas, and John Carroll Lynch as prime suspect Arthur Leigh Allen.

Zodiac may run for 3 hours, yet it is time well spent.


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