The 10 Most Macabre Movie Murderers

In recent years, we've had few new murderers to add to the canon of great cinematic serial killers. Here are the ten greatest to date...
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In recent years, we've had few new murderers to add to the canon of great cinematic serial killers. Here are the ten greatest to date...

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Killer Joe is unleashed on British cinemas this Friday and if the early reviews are to be believed, we are in for a most macabre treat. The film currently holds a 95% “fresh” rating on the review aggregator with critics particularly reserving praise for Matthew McConaughey’s surprisingly sinister performance. In recent years, the critics do not usually consider McConaughey with any real seriousness, and it is no wonder when he spends the majority of his time on screen with his top off, so it comes as somewhat of a surprise to read comments such as  “McConaughey gives the film its Mephistophelean pull: his line delivery lacquered with honeyed menace,  he summons a dread-like gravity” from Ian Nathan in Empire and “McConaughey underplays with seductive, snake-like charm” from Neil Young in The Hollywood Reporter.

Directed by William Friedkin, a man who knows a thing or two about the macabre (having directed The Exorcist), Killer Joe aims to provide us with a classic cinematic killer to remember. Here are the ten greates macabre movie murderers to date that it will be competing with:

10) Peter and Paul – Arno Frisch, Frank Giering/ Michael Pitt, Brady Corbet.

Clean cut, polite and well-spoken. Peter and Paul from Funny Games, do not look like typical movie murderers. The two teenage boys, dressed all in white are used by the director, arthouse favourite Michael Haneke, to evoke the banality of on-screen violence in mainstream cinema. Their shocking, unexplainable massacre of a family is anything but funny.

Christian Bale’s maniacal yuppie is both sickening and compelling in equal measure

9) Hannibal Lecktor – Brian Cox

Anthony Hopkins’ renowned take on the infamous Hannibal Lecter character (more on that later) has often overshadowed Brian Cox’s insidious incarnation of the intellectual cannibal. Whereas Hopkins radiates a serpentine-like malignance, Cox creeps the audience out through an all knowing and uncaring intelligence in Michael Mann’s stunning Manhunter.

8) Patrick Bateman – Christian Bale

A character darker than his own Batman and even more twistedly funny than Heath Ledger’s Joker, Patrick Bateman continues to remain the stand-out performance of Christian Bale’s career. The film itself is divisve, but it cannot be denied that Christian Bale’s maniacal yuppie is both sickening and compelling in equal measure. Forget Madoff, Bateman is Wall Street’s defining villain.

7) Damien Thorn – Harvey Spencer Stephens

Damien is just a little boy, but he also happens to be the devil incarnate. Harvey Spencer Stephens’ rosy cheeks and small stature, may seem like the perfect guise yet there is an inescapable malevolence emanating from the child, a malevolence that is so effective in unsettling audiences as it comes from what is usually a pillar of innocence.

The smile. The candycorn. The house. It is the small idiosyncracies that make Norman Bates’s character so memorable.

6) Ghostface – Roger L. Jackson

Funny, foul-mouthed and ferocious; Scream’s Ghostface is the Daddy of slasher killers by virtue of the fact that it knows absoloutley everything about all others. The masked costume,which had already been a Halloween bestseller before it appeared in the film, is iconic, yet it is the cruelly comedic voice of Roger L. Jackson (who voiced Ghostface in all four Scream films) that lends the costume its distinctive character.

5) Norman Bates – Anthony Perkins

The smile. The candycorn. The house. It is the small idiosyncracies that make Norman Bates’s character so memorable. It Is of course the shower and cellar scenes that are forever associated with Psycho, yet their power to scare is only possible by surrounding performance from Anthony Perkins. Perkins adds just the right amount of oddness to his portrayal of Bates, causing the audience to question, but never truly know, his true nature.

4) John Doe – Kevin Spacey

As John Doe in Se7en Kevin Spacey plays a serial killer responsible for perhaps the most shocking and depressing ending in film history. The audience becomes familiar with the character only through his work. From ballooned bodies, to breathing corpses, it is the unmatched horror of Doe’s murders that make him such a distinctive movie killer.

Bardem transforms himself into a calmly chaotic emotionless killing machine.

3) Hans Beckert – Peter Lorre

Peter Lorre plays Hans Beckert in ‘M’, a Fritz Lang masterpiece that ranks alongside his more well known Metropolis. Beckert is a serial killer and paedohile, subject matter incredibly controvertial for it’s time (1931). More upsetting to audiences, however, was Peter Lorre’s portrayal of the tortured soul, a performance that turned the German into a worldwide star. In the world of on-screen killers, this is the original from which all are judged.

2) Anton Chigurgh – Javier Bardem

Javier Bardem’s performance as Anton Chigurgh in the Coen Brothers’ comtemporary classic, No Country For Old Men, is only five years old yet it is destined to haunt for many more years to come. Bardem transforms himself into a calmly chaotic emotionless killing machine. The awkward silence that follows Chigurgh hints at a chaos (Chigurgh kills on the whim of a coin toss) bristling underneath. Make no mistake, Chigurgh is no friendo.

1) Hannibal Lector – Anthony Hopkins

The Silence of Lambs was the darling of the 1991 Oscars, propelled to popular and critical success not through one critical ingredient – Anthony Hopkins’ awe-inspiringly creepy performance. Hopkins was so powerful as Hannibal Lecter that he was recognized he received the Award for Best Actor from the Academy despite appearing in the film for just 10 % of it’s running time; 16 minutes. His time on-screen may be short, yet every single second of Hopkins as Lecter is bound to remain under your skin for a long, long time.

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