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Done To Death: Top 10 Movies Based On Serial Killers

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No.5 Wolf Creek (2005)

Wolf Creek poster smallIn your typical “don’t stay out after dark” and “don’t talk to strangers” warning ploy, three backpackers find themselves stranded in the Australian Outback after their beat-up old car refuses to start. Figuring they’ll have to spend the night outside, they bunker down and prepare themselves, but are “saved” when friendly-but-dodgy bushman Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) finds them and offers to tow them to his camp, because he’s, surprise surprise, great with cars and offers to repair it for them. After some drugged water, and bouts of unconsciousness, one of the backpackers, Liz Hunter (Cassandra Magrath) wakes to find herself tied up in a shed, and the sounds of her friend, Kristy Earl (Kestie Morassi), being tortured coming from the nearby garage. Long story short, after escaping, the girls return to Taylor’s camp, Liz has fingers lopped off, and her spinal cord severed when Taylor finds her in one of his cars, Kristy takes off on foot, only to be shot later. Third backpacker, Ben Mitchell (Nathan Phillips) escapes and is rescued by a couple of Swedish backpackers. Taylor is never caught.

The Inspiration

Bradley John Murdoch picture

Bradley John Murdoch picture

Though not typically a serial killer (he’s only been charged with one murder), I felt the inclusion of the story of Bradley John Murdoch was merited. Plus, it’s a pretty good movie. Murdoch was arrested in 2003, and charged with the murder of Peter Falconio, who’s body has never been found. He was also convicted of other assault chargers on Joanne Lees, Falconio’s girlfriend, and was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 28 years.

No.4 Natural Born Killers (1994)

Natural Born Killers

Natural Born Killers

The story of Mickey and Mallory Knox, lovers, who cut a path through the American Southwest, killing victims in a haze of psychedelic drugs and good ol’ fashioned blood lust. Between New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada, they take down close to 52 people, always leaving one person alive to tell the tale of Mickey and Mallory. Sensationalized by the media, they become antiheroes, and are celebrated and glorified by the world at large.

The Inspiration

Charles Starkweather pictureNBK is based loosely on the lives of teenage lovers-turned-spree killers, Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate, who murdered 11 people in Nebraska and Wyoming in late 1957 and early 1958. Believing he transcended this plane of existence after his first kill, Starkweather later confessed to having believed that on this new plane, he was above the law. After his initial murder, Starkweather went on to kill Fugate’s mother, step-father, and 2-year-old sister. In 1958, Starkweather surrendered after glass from a car window, shot out by a deputy-sheriff of Douglas, Wyoming, cut him and caused him to think he was bleeding to death. Late 1958, Starkweather received the death penalty, and got the chair in June of 1959. Fugate received a life sentence.

Caril Ann Fugate picture

No.3 From Hell (2001)

From Hell poster smallIt’s 1888 and the prostitutes of the slum of Whitechapel are being mutilated and murdered by an unknown killer. Masonic and Royal conspiracies run amok and there’s ample opiate usage, but ultimately it’s the same story that we already know and love, made only slightly better by the incorporation of Johnny Depp, who plays Inspector Frederick Abberline, and who’s rampant use of drugs allows him to have “psychic” dreams about the murders.

The Inspiration

Jack The RipperTo date, 11 murders, committed between 1888 and 1891 have been, in some way, attributed to Jack the Ripper and included in the original case file, though only five (dubbed the canonical five) are widely believed to have been the work of the Ripper. The canonical five, in order of the discovery of their bodies are Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly. All five had had their throats cut and, with the exception of Stride, each had deep lacerations to the abdomen and at least one organ removed.

No.2 Silence of the Lambs (1991)

The Silence of the Lambs posterClarice Starling (Jodie Foster), a trainee at the FBI Academy is relieved from her training and given the job of interviewing former psychiatrist and cannibal, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), because it is believed Lecter may have information on a serial killer, Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine), who likes to skin his victims, in an effort to make himself a “woman suit.” From this movie, we get one of the most well-known, and disturbing lines ever uttered in a Horror movie, “it puts the lotion on its skin, or else it gets the hose again.”

The Inspiration

Ed Gein picture

After the death of Ed Gein’s mother, he came to the realization that he wanted a sex-change, thus beginning his nightly visits to the local graveyard where he’d dig up women he thought resembled his mother, bring their bodies back to his house, and tan their skin, in order to make his very own “woman suit.” Upon searching Gein’s house, police found a multitude of preserved female body parts, which included noses, whole bones, lips, full, severed heads, human “masks,” bowls made from skulls, and chair seats covered in human skin. In 1957, Gein was tried on one count of first-degree murder, and found mentally incompetent by reason of insanity. He was transferred to a mental hospital until 1968, when he was found competent to stand trial. He was eventually charged and found guilty of first-degree murder, but spent the rest of his life in a mental institution. In 1984, he died of respiratory failure.

This brings us to Number 1 on our list of movies based on serial killers. It also happens to be my personal favorite (Serial killer, not movie).

No.1 Countess Dracula (1971)

Countess Dracula poster In Hungary, in the 17th century, recently widowed Countess Elisabeth (Ingrid Pitt), mourns not only the loss of her husband, but also the loss of her beauty. After accidentally cutting a servant girl, Elisabeth finds that she can retrieve her youth by bathing in the blood of young, virginal girls. She enlists the help of her lover, Captain Dobi (Nigel Green), and together they kidnap, murder, and drain the blood of numerous local young women. Running out of prospects to kill, Elisabeth grows older again, and is eventually found out and imprisoned for her crimes.

The Inspiration

Countess Erzsebet (Elizabeth) Bathory

Countess Erzsebet (Elizabeth) Bathory

Countess Erzsebet (Elizabeth) Bathory de Ecsed was a Countess of well-known Hungarian lineage. She is also known as being one of the most prolific female serial killers in history. Some say she had killed upwards of 650 women before she was caught and imprisoned in her castle. After the death of husband Ferenc Nadasdy, the Countess was lamenting over her age and fading beauty when she slapped her hand-maiden in the face for brushing her hair too hard. The young girl’s nose started to bleed, and some of it dripped onto the Countess’ hand. Upon cleaning the blood away, Elizabeth thought the skin that had been touched by the blood looked younger, and more vibrant than the rest of her hand. This small act prompted the death of hundreds of young, poor girls, who were lured to the Countess’ castle by the promise of well-paid work as handmaidens. Though she was never tried or convicted of her crimes, Elizabeth was walled up in her castle’s tower, with only a tiny slit cut out of the bricks with which to provide her food and water. She lived that way for four years, until her death in 1614.

There you have it, dear readers, a top 10 list of my favorite real-life Serial Killer-inspired movies. Have a movie that wasn’t mentioned on my list? Go ahead and Yell! about it in the comments below!

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  • Piacesonopiu

    Killer article! I’ve never seen Countess Dracula but I do seem to remember being Elizabeth Bathory in a couple rounds “Nightmare” back in the day. I still think Natural Born Killers shoulda gotten the number 2 spot if only for the fact that Woody Harrelson makes a waaay hotter psycho than Hopkins but since Joanna Jaguar is hotter than both of ‘em put together, I’m lettin it sliiiide 

  • TheyAreComingToGetUs

    How about #11 (Honorable Mention)  American Psycho – Although technically not based on any specific real life serial killer, the story of Patrick Bateman it is still a personal favorite.  

    • https://www.facebook.com/joanna.jaguar Joanna Jaguar

      I tried so hard to find a real serial killer that Bateman could have possibly been based on, because I love that movie so much, and he’s one of my favorite psychopaths ever. If I ever do another fictional serial killer top ten, I’ll definitely add him!

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