Table of contents:

23 terribly scary movies about maniacs
23 terribly scary movies about maniacs

Stories of real killers and semi-mythical monsters are waiting for you.

23 terribly scary movies about maniacs
23 terribly scary movies about maniacs

The best movies about real maniacs

Not all of these films claim to be documentary, but at the heart of each is a chilling biography of a real killer.


  • Germany, 1931.
  • Thriller.
  • Duration: 118 minutes.
  • IMDb: 8, 3.

The picture tells how, in one of the cities of Germany, people are jointly trying to catch an unknown villain who is killing girls. The cruelty of the elusive maniac scares even the most rabid criminals. While the police unsuccessfully conduct raids, the criminal community unites to capture the murderer. And in the end it is their actions that turn out to be decisive.

The first sound film by the legendary director Fritz Lang, a key figure in German Expressionist cinema. The plot is based on the real case of the killer maniac Peter Kurten from Dusseldorf, also known as the Dusseldorf Vampire. Only in the film is the maniac called Hans Beckert.

2. In cold blood

  • USA, 1967.
  • Crime drama.
  • Duration: 134 minutes.
  • IMDb: 8, 0.

The film, directed by Richard Brooks, is based on Truman Capote's famous novel about a terrible crime that took place in Kansas in 1959. Then the outcasts Perry Smith and Richard Hickok decided to rob the Clutters' farm, believing that they would find 10 thousand dollars in cash there. But when the criminals did not find the money, they killed all family members in a rage.

By the way, the very process of Truman Capote's creation of his novel is a separate interesting story, which is told in more detail in the films Capote (2005) and Bad Glory (2006).

3. Monster

  • USA, Germany, 2003.
  • Biography, crime, melodrama, thriller.
  • Duration: 109 minutes.
  • IMDb: 7, 3.

Patty Jenkins' crime melodrama tells about the painful and scary life of serial criminal Eileen Wuornos. The victims of this cruel woman were elderly single male drivers.

The film does not try to find an excuse for Wuornos' actions. But at the same time, the viewer partly understands why Eileen became a killer. Her hard and dramatic fate is unlikely to leave anyone indifferent.

For this role, Charlize Theron absolutely deservedly received an Oscar. The external metamorphosis of the actress is especially surprising. The beautiful Charlize was not afraid to reincarnate beyond recognition: dentures, lenses and special makeup were used.

4. Zodiac

  • USA, 2007.
  • Thriller, detective.
  • Duration: 158 minutes.
  • IMDb: 7, 7.

The mysterious killer Zodiac, whose identity has not yet been established, is a frequent guest in world cinema. Perhaps the most famous of the many Zodiac films was directed by David Fincher. It is based on the eponymous book by independent journalist Robert Grasmith. It is Robert who is one of the main characters of the picture, and is played by the charming Jake Gyllenhaal.

The film tells about the search for the killer from two points of view: the police and Grasmith. The latter sacrifices everything to achieve the truth. During the investigation, it turns out that Robert's dedication and dedication is in stark contrast to the indifference of the police, who, by and large, do not care whether the perpetrator is caught or not.

5. Handsome, bad, ugly

  • USA, 2019.
  • Thriller.
  • Duration: 110 minutes.
  • IMDb: 6, 7.

The charming manipulator Ted Bundy is definitely one of the most creepy maniacs. A movie has been shot about him more than once. For example, in Murders on the Green River (2004), Bundy played by Cary Elwes helps police officers find another serial killer, Gary Ridgway.

More recently, "Handsome, Bad, Ugly" directed by Joe Berlinger was released on Netflix. In it, Bundy's story is told not quite usually: the details of the murders are not disclosed, and the maniac himself denies his involvement in the crimes.

We can say that the film turned out not about the killer himself, but rather about how the psychology of his real and potential victims works. During Bundy's lifetime, a kind of fan club had gathered around him. Many women genuinely admired the handsome criminal. They refused to believe that this handsome, educated and eloquent man was in fact a real psychopath, who killed and dismembered girls like them.

All of this is due to the psychological effect that makes physically attractive people seem smarter or kinder to us than others. The worst thing is that even knowing about the dark side of such a handsome man, someone will think that they can heal a cruel person with their feelings. Of course, in reality this is not so, because no amount of love will help people like Bundy.

So the main thing for the viewer is not to fall into the trap of Bundy's charm, in addition played by one of the main beauties of Hollywood, Zac Efron. Therefore, before watching it, it is better to familiarize yourself with the documentary Conversations with the Killer: Ted Bundy's Recordings on the same Netflix, or just open Wikipedia. And then the halo effect will quickly disappear and be replaced by horror and disgust.

6. Golden Glove

  • Germany, 2019.
  • Thriller.
  • Duration: 115 minutes.
  • IMDb: 6, 7.

The shocking film by German director Fatih Akin follows Fritz Honck, a real-life serial killer from Hamburg. According to the plot, Honka meets his victims - drunken prostitutes - at the local bar "Golden Glove", after which he brings them to his disgusting apartment and brutally kills them.

Handsome Jonas Dassler for the role of Honka - an alcoholic with greasy hair and grotesque features - transformed into a real monster. And this metamorphosis is truly amazing.

The best films about fictional maniacs

These serial killers never existed. But some of them were inspired by real stories.

1. Psycho

  • USA, 1960.
  • Psychological horror, thriller.
  • Duration: 109 minutes.
  • IMDb: 8, 5.

"Alfred Hitchcock" and "suspense" are practically synonyms. Take, for example, the classic Hitchcock film "Psycho" based on the novel of the same name by Robert Bloch: the atmosphere of paranoia reigning in it, even today, can, if not frighten the audience to hell, then at least make them feel uncomfortable.

It is not for nothing that the film is so often cited in popular culture. After all, he largely predetermined the development of the horror genre. For example, after the release of "Psycho" a new cinematic formula was established: to make beautiful young girls victims of murderers and maniacs.

The maniac himself - Norman Bates - in the film looks so sweet and charming that at first it is difficult to suspect him of any crime. By the way, to keep the powerful final twist a secret, Hitchcock bought as many copies of Bloch's novel as he could find before the premiere.

Bates's character, especially his particular relationship with a domineering and violent mother, is based in part on the real-life maniac Ed Gein, one of the most famous serial killers in US history. Still, Psycho cannot be considered a direct adaptation of Hein's biography. Indeed, at the time of writing the novel, Bloch did not really know all the details of the killer's life. True, when the writer, many years later, nevertheless found out more about Heine, he was surprised at how reliable his Bates came out.

Many years later, Norman Bates appeared on the screen again in a remake of Gus Van Sant. And in 2013, the Bates Motel series was released about Norman's life with his mother before the events of Psycho.

2. Blood red

  • Italy, 1975.
  • Jallo, detective, crime thriller.
  • Duration: 98 minutes.
  • IMDb: 7, 7.

Director Dario Argento is primarily known as the author of films in the Giallo style, a special subgenre of Italian horror films. Many film critics believe that it was the giallos who became the harbingers of slashers.

Filmmakers working in this direction wanted not only to scare the viewer, but also to amaze him with their beauty. Therefore, the scenes of the murder in giallo are furnished with extraordinary aesthetics.

Blood Red features one of the most terrifying and persuasive maniacs in film history: a mysterious, nameless assassin wearing black leather gloves. And unlike the philosophizing John Doe or Hannibal Lecter, this villain does not waste time talking, but without further ado kills left and right, which makes him even more terrifying.

3. Travel companion

  • USA, 1986.
  • Psychological thriller, slasher.
  • Duration: 97 minutes.
  • IMDb: 7, 3.

Boyfriend Jim Halsey picks up a voting companion on the road, but he has no idea what kind of trouble he is thereby making. After all, his passenger named John Ryder is a bloodthirsty maniac sowing death.

The brilliant Rutger Hauer got used to the role of a cold-blooded psychopath so much that even C's partner Thomas Howell was afraid of him. Best of all, the essence of Hauer's character is reflected in the film's slogan: “Whatever you do, he is still ahead of you. Whatever you do, he wins even more."

In 2007, a remake was released with Sean Bean as the killer. However, the film received negative reviews from critics.

4. Silence of the Lambs

  • USA, 1991.
  • Thriller.
  • Duration: 118 minutes.
  • IMDb: 8, 6.

Undoubtedly, the most striking character in "The Silence of the Lambs" is the bombastic, tactful and polite cannibal Hannibal Lecter, invented by the writer Thomas Harris. Anthony Hopkins, who played Hannibal, prepared himself responsibly for the role of a philosophizing murderer. The actor studied the dossiers of real maniacs, in particular the serial killer and cannibal Albert Fish. And the famous unblinking look Hopkins borrowed from Charles Manson.

Although Anthony Hopkins only appears on screen for 16 minutes in total, this did not stop the genius actor from winning an Oscar for Best Actor. The image of Hannibal became so popular that three more films were later shot about this character, in two of which Hopkins played. And then came the cult TV series "Hannibal" with the talented Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen in the title role.

Another equally impressive psychopath appears in the film - Buffalo Bill, played by Ted Levine. The prototypes of this character were several real maniacs at once - the notorious female hunters Ted Bundy and Gary Heidnik, as well as Ed Gein, who loved to flay the skin from his victims.

5. Natural born killers

  • USA, 1994.
  • Thriller, crime, drama, melodrama.
  • Duration: 119 minutes.
  • IMDb: 7, 3.

Director Oliver Stone's grotesque crime thriller tells the story of serial killers Mickey and Mallory. The script, which was suggested by Quentin Tarantino, was supposedly based on the real story of a teenager named Charles Starkweather and his girlfriend Caryl Fugate. In the 1950s, these youths shocked all of America, killing several innocent people in cold blood.

Based on these terrible events, many films were shot: "Sadist" (1963), "Wasteland" (1973), "Murder in the provinces" (1993). They are worth seeing if you want to know the real story of Starkweather and Fugate in more detail.

The example of "Natural Born Killers" was contagious. There were some fans of the film who decided that killing for fun, like Mickey and Mallory, was great fun. In total, the film was "guilty" of at least eight deaths.

6. Seven

  • USA, 1995.
  • Detective, thriller, neo-noir.
  • Duration: 127 minutes.
  • IMDb: 8, 6.

The plot of the thriller by David Fincher tells how detectives William Somerset and David Mills are looking for serial killer John Doe, who imagines himself the punishing hand of God.

Unlike many other on-screen maniacs who kill without any purpose or meaning, John Doe, brilliantly played by Kevin Spacey, has a well-structured concept. He believes that he is obliged to open people's eyes to the severity of their fall. And the best, in his opinion, way to do this is to commit seven (according to the number of biblical deadly sins) symbolic sophisticated murders.

Worst of all, the character's true motivation remains unclear until the very end. And the murderous calmness of the hero Spacey drives you crazy when watching: it seems that he alone controls the situation. And, in essence, it is.

7. Highway

  • USA, 1996.
  • Thriller.
  • Duration: 110 minutes.
  • IMDb: 6, 9.

The film follows the killer and rapist Bob Wolverton, played by Kiefer Sutherland. In ordinary life, Wolverton is a respected man, happily married and working as a child psychotherapist in a boys' school. Only his victims know about the dark side of the murderer.

Their number was almost joined by the young Vanessa Lutz, an illiterate girl from the slums of Los Angeles. Whether the heroine will manage to outwit the killer and open the eyes of others to the true essence of this supposedly decent person - the viewer will know if he watches the film to the end.

8. American psycho

  • USA, Canada, 2000.
  • Drama, thriller.
  • Duration: 102 minutes.
  • IMDb: 7, 6.

The main character of the film is Patrick Bateman, a prosperous resident of Manhattan, invented by the writer Bret Easton Ellis. Bateman is known to those around him as a high-profile executive at a prestigious Wall Street firm. But in fact, this well-dressed, prosperous young man is a bloodthirsty psychopath, having fun with torture and murder in his free time.

The madness of the plot is added by the fact that Patrick, perhaps, kills people only in his imagination. Of course, this does not justify him at all. Rather, it is an allusion to the moral degradation of a society in which people are so passive and indifferent to everything that they do not even notice the atrocities happening under their noses.

9. Saw: Survival Game

  • USA, 2004.
  • Horror.
  • Duration: 103 minutes.
  • IMDb: 7, 6.

The centerpiece of the sprawling Saw franchise, which grew out of one successful independent film, is the extremely intelligent maniac John Kramer.

Like John Doe in the thriller Seven, Kramer sees himself as something of a punishing hand. Only instead of making people think about the gravity of their sins, he wants to teach them to value their lives. And for this, Kramer places his victims in cunning traps, from which one can get out only at the cost of difficult moral choices, most often leading to terrible physical injuries of the heroes.

10. Perfumer: The Story of a Murderer

  • France, Germany, Spain, USA, 2006.
  • Drama.
  • Duration: 147 minutes.
  • IMDb: 7, 5.

The central character of the film by the talented director Tom Tykwer based on the novel by German writer Patrick Suskind is a very unusual killer from the 18th century Jean-Baptiste Grenouille. The rejected hero from the bottom of society has a phenomenal sense of smell. Thanks to his genius as a perfumer, Grenouille understands how to appropriate the scent of any person. True, the technology he invented allows him to do this only at the cost of murder.

In Grenouille's head, the idea is born to create a unique perfume that can make you fall in love and charm. To do this, you need to take the life of 13 beautiful girls.

Perhaps it's because of Ben Whishaw's charm, but the on-screen Grenouille turned out to be a much more pleasant character than the book prototype. In the finale, the viewer may even suspect the hero of sincere remorse. And in the novel, the murderer was simply bored with his creepy activities.

11. Old people don't belong here

  • USA, 2007.
  • Thriller, western.
  • Duration: 122 minutes.
  • IMDb: 8, 1.

One of the most memorable negative characters in world cinema is undoubtedly Anton Chigur from the Oscar-winning thriller by the Coen brothers. This villain can hardly be called a classic maniac. He is not worried about abstruse philosophical questions. He pursues a quite intelligible goal - to find the money stolen from the mafia.

At the same time, Chigur kills in cold blood everyone who gets in his way. And he does it quite outside the box - with the help of a pneumatic pistol for slaughtering livestock. This person is pure existential evil. And thanks to the acting work of the amazing Javier Bardem, Chigur's eerie empty look is simply impossible to forget.

12. Who are you, Mr. Brooks?

  • USA, 2007.
  • Thriller.
  • Duration: 120 minutes.
  • IMDb: 7, 3.

The plot is centered around the life of a respectable family man and a successful businessman named Earl Brooks. But appearances can be deceiving: a cruel serial killer is hiding under the guise of an exemplary citizen.

Brooks is a cunning and cautious maniac. He never leaves evidence or fingerprints. But Earl's quiet life comes to an end when he is blackmailed by photographer Marshall, who accidentally witnessed Brooks' latest crime.

13. The house that Jack built

  • Denmark, Sweden, France, Germany, 2018.
  • Psychological thriller.
  • Duration: 155 minutes.
  • IMDb: 6, 9.

In his shockingly naturalistic film, Lars von Trier tells the story of serial killer Jack, set in the Pacific Northwest. The protagonist - an engineer and architect by profession - considers each of his murders to be a work of art.

Jack is a real monster. He commits his atrocities with amazing composure. A distinctive feature of the hero is obsessive-compulsive disorder. For example, despite the danger of being caught, he repeatedly returns to the house of one of the victims to make sure there are no accidental traces of blood.

The best movies about fantastic maniacs

This category primarily includes slasher killers. A kind of semi-mythical unkillable monsters, spirits sneaking into teenage dreams, or resurrected drowned people.

1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

  • USA, 1974.
  • Horror movie, slasher.
  • Duration: 83 minutes.
  • IMDb: 7, 5.

The iconic character from "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" - the film that actually laid the foundation for the genre of slashers - a maniac nicknamed Leatherface. The hero's appearance is extremely impressive: tall, almost inhuman growth, an eloquently blood-stained apron and, of course, the famous mask made of human skin.

2. Halloween

  • USA, 1978.
  • Horror movie, slasher.
  • Duration: 91 minutes.
  • IMDb: 7, 8.

The main character of the "Halloween" franchise - the silent maniac Mike Myers - is undoubtedly evil in its purest form. Obligatory attributes of an assassin are a huge table knife and a terrible mask of Captain Kirk from Star Trek.

Typical behavior for Myers is to appear and disappear out of the blue. His actions do not obey the laws of logic. Also, Myers is practically indestructible, which suggests his inhuman nature.

3. Friday the 13th

  • USA, 1980.
  • Horror movie, slasher.
  • Duration: 95 minutes.
  • IMDb: 6, 5.

The main antagonist of the Friday the 13th film series, Jason Voorhees, is one of the world's most recognizable villains. The plot of the first film, which later grew into a vast franchise, begins in an infamous children's camp. An unknown person kills the children resting in it one by one.

However, in all its glory, Jason Voorhees appears starting only from the second film. And in the third part of the franchise, his obligatory attribute appears - a hockey mask, behind which the maniac hides his face. This cold and calculating killer, in a sense, punishes his victims for immoral behavior, which usually includes extramarital sex and drug use.

4. A Nightmare on Elm Street

  • USA, 1984.
  • Horror movie, slasher.
  • Duration: 92 minutes.
  • IMDb: 7, 5.

The cult killer Freddy Krueger, without whom it is impossible to imagine the horror genre, first appeared in the film by Wes Craven. The film later grew into an impressive franchise. The image of this maniac is very recognizable: a face burnt to meat, a red-green striped sweater and sharp blades stuck right on his fingers.

The ghost killer is practically invulnerable and appears to its victims in nightmares. Before killing a man, Freddie loves to play with him, embodying the deepest and most personal fears.