10 Hair-Raising Serial Killer Movies

You might want to double-lock your doors and windows before watching these...

By Stephanie Weber
10 Hair-Raising Serial Killer Movies

Serial killers are some of the scariest and most interesting subjects for horror movies. While there are many movies about both real and fictional serial killers out there, we’ve rounded up the best of the best. From lesser-known terrors to creepy classics, here are 10 of the finest serial killer films. Lock the doors and windows, and start watching.

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1. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

serial killer movies henry

Still from Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer via Maljack Productions

This film was considered shockingly violent when it was released, and it struggled to get a rating that would allow it to play in theatres. Luckily, despite a limited release, critics instantly recognized the film as one of the best and most disturbing movies about a serial killer ever made. Roger Ebert criticized the film industry for shunning it, and praised Henry for its artistic value. The story is based on the exploits of real-life serial killer Henry Lee Lucas.

2. Zodiac (2007)

serial killer movies Zodiac

Still from Zodiac via Paramount Pictures

Zodiac, directed by David Fincher, is one of the best thrillers of the 2000s, made all the scarier by the fact that the real-life Zodiac Killer was never caught. The film follows an amateur cartoonist in San Francisco, who becomes obsessed with tracking down the Zodiac. The movie excellently recreates the fear the Zodiac wrought during his killing spree in the late 1960s to early 1970s.

3. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

serial killer movies The Silence of the Lambs

Still from The Silence of the Lambs via Strong Heart/Demme Production

One of the most frequently quoted and revered horror films ever made, The Silence of the Lambs is firmly ensconced in the annals of horror history. Jodie Foster plays a young F.B.I. agent-in-training who must earn the trust of cannibalistic serial killer in order to get his help in catching another serial killer, Buffalo Bill. Buffalo Bill is based on a combination of real-life killers Ed Gein, Jeffrey Dahmer, and more.

4. Psycho (1960)

serial killer movies psycho

Still from Psycho via Shamley Productions

Psycho is one of the most iconic horror films ever made. Based on the killings of Ed Gein, the film shows a disturbed man who owns a hotel, and lives in the house behind it with his overbearing mother. “Mother” can’t help but kill the female hotel guests who get too close to her precious boy.

5. Man Bites Dog (1992)

man bites dog serial killer movies

Still from Man Bites Dog via Les Artistes Anonymes

This French art film made waves for its disturbing content. Shot in black-and-white, and through the style of a faux-documentary, Man Bites Dog is about a film crew following a ruthless criminal. The crew gets wrapped up in the killing spree, becoming accomplices to murder themselves. The translation of the movie’s French title is “It happened close to your home,” serving as a reminder that anyone could be a murderer.

6. American Psycho (2000)

american psycho serial killer movies

Still from American Psycho via Am Psycho Productions

Novelist Bret Easton Ellis first introduced us to fictional psychopath Patrick Bateman. Bateman is obsessed with the flashy and materialistic world of finance in 1980s New York City. One of the only things that brings him joy is viciously killing the women he seduces.

7. M (1951)

M serial killer movies

Still from M via Superior Pictures

A German art film about a cunning killer who preys on kids, M is a classic. Director Fritz Lang insisted on the use of real criminals for the final scene, and, according to lore, there were several arrests on set. The film is supposedly based on the serial killer Peter Kurten, dubbed “The Vampire of Dusseldorf”, who terrorized in the 1920s.

8. Monster (2003)

monster serial killer movies

Still from Monster via Media 8 Entertainment

Charlize Theron won an Academy Award for her portrayal of serial killer/prostitute Aileen Wuornos. While the film garnered a lot of attention for glamorous Theron’s impressive transformation into homely Wuornos, it was also criticized for painting Wuornos in a sympathetic light.

9. Citizen X (1995)

citizen x serial killer movies

Still from Citizen X via HBO Pictures

This horrifying film takes place in 1980s Soviet Russia, where a serial killer picks up his victims at train stations and lures them into the woods. The killer in this film is based on Russian monster Andrei Chikatilo, known as “The Butcher of Rostov,” who mutilated and killed at least 52 known women and children.

10. Se7en (1995)

se7en serial killer movies

Still from Se7en via New Line Cinema

This is the second film from David Fincher to hit the list, and it’s definitely one of the more disturbing films out there. This fictional story of a serial killer obsessed with the seven deadly sins shows graphic portrayals of murder. Two detectives, played by Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, realize that the killer is attempting to complete a murder for each of the seven sins. They must race against time to stop him before he completes his grotesque masterpiece.

Feature still from "American Psycho" via Am Psycho Productions