Top 10 Real Serial Killer Movies and TV Shows

Tags: #Crime ,   #SerialKiller ,   #TrueStory ,   #Murder

Dan N. Scarborough

Dan N. Scarborough

Last updated:  2023-05-12 18:00:07

In truth, true crime movies and TV shows have featured serial killers for years, and there have been many excellent ones. Even if we don't admit it, people are intrigued by those who took many lives. Therefore, the top ten list of the most fascinating on-screen representations of their horrific acts is here.

10. "The Assassination Of Gianni Versace"

Famous creator's murder is depicted quite objectively

"The Assassination of Gianni Versace" is largely regarded as some of Ryan Murphy's best work. Yet, he is no scrub to TV shows about real serial killers, both fictional and fact-based. "American Crime Story's" second season focuses on Andrew Cunanan, whose most well-known victim was the titular fashion designer.

One of its strongest points is how the show tackles its subject matter. Cunanan is sympathetic since he is a gay guy living in a homophobic era and setting. Yet, the narrative is brutally honest about his terrible acts, particularly the death of his former boyfriend, David Madison.

9. "The Boston Strangler" 

Old school crime mystery movie

Fans of true crime only need to look as far as "The Boston Strangler" to see an instance of the genre from a bygone period. Even though the majority of viewers now have probably never watched the film, it was well-received upon release. Furthermore, Tony Curtis was nominated for a Golden Globe.

In "The Boston Strangler," Albert DeSalvo, the accused perpetrator, is examined psychologically while the story of the quest for the titular rapist/murderer is told. The film's performances by a brilliant ensemble, especially Curtis as DeSalvo, make it a scary biopic despite the lack of historical authenticity.

8. "Dahmer" (2002)

Dahmer was famous even before Netflix

Even before Netflix, Jeffrey Dahmer was a popular movie subject. The best of these is the 2002 biopic "Dahmer." The movie starring Jeremy Renner only had a five-theater run at its height but received favorable reviews for its eerie, subtle portrayal of the lead character.

Whereas some might want to emphasize the horrifying, graphic aspects of Dahmer's atrocities, this is a more psychological tack. Therefore, it probes the mind of its subject to discover what drives a serial murderer. Renner received strong praise for his portrayal and was nominated for Best Male Lead by the Indie Spirits Awards.

7. "The Frozen Ground"

A rare good recent Nicolas Cage movie

"The Frozen Ground" is a good Nicolas Cage movie with plenty of dark thrills that even his admirers frequently overlook. The plot centers on the search for Alaskan serial murderer Robert Hansen, who, in the 1970s and early 1980s, kidnapped, raped, and killed seventeen women.

The real star of "The Frozen Ground" is John Cusack as Hansen, who dominates every scene with a brilliantly diabolical performance. However, Cage wasn't hamming up as state trooper Jack Halcombe. Despite a lackluster initial response, the film has acquired a following in the streaming era. Furthermore, it topped Netflix's list for a week in 2020.

6. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

A monstrous mockumentary about a real-life killer

"Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" is a contentious but captivating serial killer movie. Thus, it has a reputation for being a realistic horror picture that doesn't sugarcoat its theme. However, the film isn't a pure biopic. Instead, it was motivated by Henry Lee Lucas's admissions, who falsely claimed to have murdered over 600 people.

Unlike many serial killer characters, Henry (Michael Rooker) is shown as utterly evil with no redeemable qualities. Even the possibility of abuse from his mother can't account for Henry's violent deeds. The fact that he ends up getting away with everything only adds to the gritty nature of the film. Therefore, the message is that virtue does not always triumph over evil.

5. "Mindhunter"

A brilliant Netflix show about hunting criminals

Even though "Mindhunter" was canceled after two seasons, it was a critically acclaimed show with a solid fan base. The show centers on FBI agents Holden Ford and Bill Tench as they interview serial killers who have already committed crimes. This way, they learn more about how to apprehend those still at large.

Although the murders are not the show's primary focus, many illustrious figures appear as guests, including Dennis Rader, Charles Manson, and David Berkowitz. The most prominent is Edmund Kemper, a charming and clever college girls' killer who was fully aware of how sick he was.

4. "Monster"

The most famous woman serial killer got her movie

Despite the common misconception that serial killers are men, Aileen Wuornos is a prominent female example. Therefore, her crimes, subsequent prosecution, and death received widespread media coverage. A perfectly cast Charlize Theron gives a career-defining performance in the Wuornos biography "Monster."

What "Monster" excels at is humanizing Wuornos, depicting her as a damaged individual who spirals out of control. This happened during financial hardship and abuse from her sex business clients. Despite her heinous deeds, the audience cannot help but feel compassion, given everything she has endured.

3. "Memories of Murder"

One of the best Korean movies of all time

A South Korean investigative thriller with Bong Joon Ho at the helm, "Memories of Murder" is based on events in South Korea between 1986 and 1991. This movie is regarded among the best Korean movies ever and introduced the now Oscar-winning Bong Joon Ho to the world cinema. 

The investigation into the string of killings in the South Korean village of Hwaseong is the subject of the narrative. Instead of concentrating just on that, Bong Joon Ho presents the subject uniquely. Therefore, it highlights the difficulties the detectives in the community experienced during their investigations. Every scene in the movie advances the plot, as there are no pointless moments. Finally, the end is ambiguous, leaving the audience to guess the meaning.

2. "No Man of God"

Ted Bundy is a monster on par with Dahmer

Ted Bundy is the serial killer who has garnered more attention from Hollywood than even Jeffrey Dahmer. In "No Man of God," FBI agent Bill Hagmaier (Elijah Wood) interviews Bundy (Luke Kirby) and asks for his assistance in apprehending the Green River Killer.

As it is set during his time on death row and portrays him as a more heroic figure in a dynamic akin to Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling, this film takes a different tack than most Bundy biopics. Although this can occasionally make the plot appear cliched, Wood and Kirby have great chemistry. Furthermore, Kirby's portrayal of Bundy is undoubtedly terrifying.

1. "Zodiac"

A mysterious serial killer that's not caught yet

David Fincher gained experience with serial murderer material before tackling "Mindhunter" with the 2007 true-crime movie "Zodiac." The film follows the Zodiac Killer case from various perspectives, including SFPD Inspector Dave Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and cartoonist-turned-true crime author Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal).

"Zodiac" lacks conclusive answers about who committed the atrocities, mirroring the real-life inquiry. Therefore, it gives it a grimly realistic vibe reminiscent of a cynical '70s crime movie. According to the plot, longtime suspect Arthur Leigh Allen—whom underappreciated character actor John Carroll Lynch portrays brilliantly—is the most likely culprit. Everything considered this is one the best movies based on serial killers.

TV shows and movies about serial killers based on true story are always quite popular. The reason behind it is the curiosity of people about the way deranged minds work. Some serial killers became quite popular with the media, gave numerous interviews, and received date and marriage proposals while in prison. With all that fascination, it's no wonder there are many popular movies and TV shows based on them.

Have you watched some of these shows on our top ten list? Which ones do you find most fascinating?

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