The 10 best serial killer movies and TV shows
Prepare for spine-tingling tales about the chilling and macabre exploits of serial killers from the big and small screen. Herewith is a veritable smorgasbord of twisted true and fictional crime stories to satisfy the collective obsession with this depraved and diabolical genre. Let the screams begin!
1. Night Stalker: The Hunt For a Serial Killer
Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer is a fascinating true crime docu-series that delves into the notorious murder and assault spree of Richard Ramirez. The series unpacks how he terrorized indiscriminately, his victim pool including men, women, children, the elderly, and representatives of multiple races and ethnicities. It also offers an exhaustive account of the investigation that led to his capture and arrest, including his satisfying epic takedown by a heroic posse of neighbors in East Los Angeles, who subdued him until police arrived. At its core, Night Stalker is a detective story that immerses viewers in the nail-biting process of bringing Ramirez to justice.
Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer is streaming on Netflix.
2. The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst
In The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, HBO delivers a chilling true crime series that explores the life of suspected mass murderer Robert Durst. The late real estate scion is believed to have taken the lives of his ex-wife Kathleen McCormack, his friend Susan Berman in 2000, and his neighbor, Morris Black, in 2001. In the final episode, Durst inadvertently confesses to the murders on a hot mic, murmuring, “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”
The Jinx is a must-see TV for true crime lovers. The series is streaming on HBO Max.
3. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
Are you looking for a fictional tale about murder, madness, and human frailty? Don’t miss Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by German filmmaker Tom Tykwer. It tells the story of egoist Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a man with a nose for fragrance and an insatiable bloodlust. Born in the 17th century, Grenouille has an uncanny sense of smell that entices him down a long-and-winding road of obsession that eventually leads to murder. He is motivated by capturing and distilling the scents of his victims into the perfect blend of perfume. His Promethean skill as a master perfumer is unmatched in the known world and ultimately reveals the power of sensory pleasures to enslave the human heart. In the end, Grenouille arrives at a scent-sational realization.
Watch Perfume: The Story of a Murderer on Netflix.
4. Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer
The television series Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer tells the mesmerizing story of the murders, trials, and execution of one of the most famous serial killers in the world through the eyes of his ex-partner Elizabeth Kendall, and her daughter, Molly. The show features archival footage and interviews with survivors, investigators, journalists, and other people connected to the murders. Director Trish Wood explores the implications of Bundy’s misogyny in the context of the counterculture and growing feminist movement in the 1970s.
Watch Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer on Amazon Prime Video.
5. Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer
Female serial killers are a rare and exotic breed, which makes the true-crime story of Aileen Wuornos all the more poignant. She became known as “America’s first female serial killer” after she murdered six men during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The series is a follow-up to Nick Broomfield’s 1992 documentary Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer. He empathically explores the psycholopgical impact of Wuornos horrific childhood and grueling life as a sex worker while recognizing the indefensible brutality of her crimes. The result is a true-crime masterpiece.
Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
6. The Batman
The Batman captivated audiences with Matt Reeves take on the Riddler as a calculated and cold-blooded serial killer. The inspiration for the character came from real-life criminals, including Jack The Ripper and The Zodiac Killer, to lend authenticity to the story. The madman holds Gotham City captive with fear as Batman scrambles to decipher the trail of puzzling clues left in the Riddler’s wake.
Don’t miss The Batman on HBO Max.
7. The Jeffrey Dahmer Files
Director Chris James Thompson takes a deep dive into the life of one of America’s most infamous serial killers with The Jeffrey Dahmer files. He was convicted of sixteen of ghastly homicides. The documentary is an example of masterful true crime storytelling that intersperses archival footage with interviews and staged scenes to analyze the flawless façade that covered up Dahmer’s heinous crimes.
The Jeffrey Dahmer Files is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
8. The Silence of the Lambs
Hannibal The Cannibal is easily the most terrifying fictional serial killer in modern cinema. In The Silence of the Lambs, the clinical psychologist turned murderer is locked in a game of psychological chess with Jack Crawford, the head of the Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI, through his proxy Agent Clarice Starling. The inspiration for Dr. Lecter came from the Mexican serial killer Alfredo Ballí Treviño, a surgeon who butchered his lover and countless hitchhikers for over a decade. The film is so unbeliably compelling that it remains the only horror movie to win an Academy Award for Best Picture.
Watch The Silence of the Lambs on HBO Max.
9. H. H. Holmes: America’s First Serial Killer
In the disturbing documentary H. H. Holmes: America’s First Serial Killer director John Borowski tells the story of con artist and murderer Dr. Henry Howard Holmes. He bought an empty lot in Chicago where he erected his infamous Murder Castle and embarked on a killing spree that is as shocking today as it was when it took place in the 1800s. Machiavellian and sadist, Holmes used his cunning to lure unsuspecting victims to his house of horrors where he tortured and murdered them.
H. H. Holmes: America’s First Serial Killer is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
No list of serial killer movies and TV shows would be complete without the cinematic tour de force that is Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. The film irreverantly upends the stereotype of the nuturing mother and converts it into a thing of unfathomable terror, boldly tapping into the inherent societal fear of feminine power.
Psycho has terrifed and fascinated generations of film lovers. It is without question one of the most influential horror movies ever made. The movie is adaptapted from the 1959 novel by Robert Bloch, who based its protagonist Norman Bates on real life serial killer Ed Gein, also known as The Butcher of Plainfield.
Don’t miss Psycho on Amazon Prime Video.
Our picks for the 10 best serial killier movies and TV shows contains a collection of classic horror movies and gritty true crime documentaries that drill down deep into the darkest recesses of the human psyche. They are as intriguing as they are illuminating about the tell-tale signs of human predators and the destruction they leave in their wake.