Did you know that there are 30 to 50 active serial killers hunting the United States on any given day? Maybe you bumped into one on the train yesterday. And the creepy guy in the old house on the corner? He’s hiding bodies in the basement.
Nah, probably not. But you never know.
Hollywood has long held an affinity for serial killers. Today, we sift through the pile and pick the fifteen best serial killer thriller movies of all time.
Dirty Harry (1971)
Clint Eastwood, in his seminal role as San Francisco Police Inspector “Dirty” Harry Callahan, tracks a psychopath by the name of “The Scorpio Killer”.
When a madman escapes from a sanitarium, Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance) must stop the killer before he returns to his hometown on Halloween night.
Based on the classic novel by Robert Bloch, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho breaks new ground with its delivery of psychological terror and tension. The secret life of Norman Bates will terrify any thriller or horror fan.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
The Silence of the Lambs is the second entry in Thomas Harris’s classic Hannibal Lecter series. Deranged murderer Buffalo Bill captures a senator’s daughter, and FBI recruit Clarice Starling is tasked with solving the case. But she’ll need to gain the trust of an infamous serial killer to save the day. If you love reading about FBI profilers hunting demented madmen, you’ll enjoy Mind of a Killer.
The Clovehitch Killer (2018)
The patriarch of a Christian family in Kentucky can’t hide a terrifying secret from his son. A simple, yet blistering study in psychological horror.
Summer of Sam (1999)
Directed by Spike Lee, Summer of Sam approaches the summer of 1977 from an original angle: by examining the terror and paranoia that turns families and neighbors against one another.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Tobe Hooper’s groundbreaking depiction of a cannibalistic family in rural Texas both chills and repulses. Shockingly, there is very little gore or blood in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The violence is implied, and that makes it even more effective. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre inspired Dusk Corners, the first novel in the Logan and Scarlett thriller series.
Black Christmas (1974)
After a murder rocks a small town during the Christmas season, a crank caller harasses sorority sisters. When the girls begin to disappear, the survivors fear a madman is watching them. But he’s closer than they think.
Before The Silence of the Lambs, there was Manhunter, the terrifying first entry in the Thomas Harris Hannibal Lecter series. Agent Will Graham emerges from retirement to track a fearsome murderer known as The Tooth Fairy.
The late Bill Paxton directs and stars in this gripping thriller about a mentally disturbed man, who turns to religion to save his family from a world of demons.
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
Loosely based on the life of murderer Henry Lee Lucas, this gritty and disturbing horror flick was made on a budget of only $100,000. A dark window on the depravity of the human race.
Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt star in one of the most tense and unsettling thrillers of the 1990s. A psychopath murders victims who commit one of the seven deadly sins. And now he has his eyes on the detectives hunting him.
Decades ahead of its time, M is the blueprint for what we now call the serial killer thriller movie. Peter Lorre stars as child serial murderer Hans Beckert, in a movie that gains critical appeal every year.
Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek star as real-life serial killers Charles Starkweather and Caril-Ann Fugate, as they go on a killing spree through the badlands of South Dakota. For a different take on the Starkweather-Fugate murders, check out Natural Born Killers.
When a Stranger Calls (1979)
Remember Black Christmas? When a Stranger Calls stole its plot. But don’t let that dissuade you from viewing this classic serial killer thriller. Have you checked the children?