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The Best Movies About Real Serial Killers 

Ranker Film
Updated October 3, 2019 1.2k votes 315 voters 16.1k views 27 items

List Rules Only movies about real-live serial murderers.

While characters like Hannibal Lecter and Michael Myers are certainly frightening figures, movies about real life serial killers are an especially unsettling viewing experience. Skilled writers can definitely draft fictitious scenarios so vivid they seem real, but there is something extra sinister about watching a film and knowing the events played out in real life. There's no solace in closing your eyes and telling yourself, "It's just a story." For adrenaline junkies who love a good scare, movies about real killers are a huge draw. Luckily, there is no shortage of films that fall into that category on the horror market. 

Films about real serial killers often translate to critical acclaim for actors and actresses. Charlize Theron was nearly unrecognizable when she portrayed notorious female serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster. She was even awarded the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance. In Zodiac, Jake Gyllenhaal got inside the head of Robert Graysmith, the cartoonist-turned-amateur detective determined to apprehend the mysterious Zodiac killer, who remains elusive even today. In addition to solid acting, such the best serial killer movies require excellent directors and writers capable of grappling with disturbing source material to produce a compelling narrative.

While all the below films are great, which are truly outstanding? Share your opinion by voting up the best movies about serial killers! When you're done, check out these serial killer TV series.

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1
Zodiac is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Movies About Real Serial Killers
Robert Downey Jr., Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo

Released: 2007

Directed by: David Fincher

Zodiac is a 2007 American mystery thriller film directed by David Fincher, based on the 1986 non-fiction book by Robert Graysmith. In the late 1960s/early 1970s, a San Francisco cartoonist (Jake ...more

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2
Monster is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Movies About Real Serial Killers
Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci, Rose Byrne

Released: 2003

Directed by: Patty Jenkins

Monster is a 2003 drama film about Aileen Wuornos, who was executed in Florida in 2002 for taking six men's lives in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Wuornos was played by Charlize Theron, and ...more

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3
Extremely Wicked, Shocki... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Movies About Real Serial Killers
Zac Efron, Lily Collins, Kaya Scodelario

Released: 2019

Directed by: Joe Berlinger

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile is a 2019 thriller film directed by Joe Berlinger. Ted Bundy (Zac Efron) and his girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer (Lily Collins) struggle to accept the ...more

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4
My Friend Dahmer is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Movies About Real Serial Killers
Ross Lynch, Alex Wolff, Dallas Roberts

Directed by: Marc Meyers

My Friend Dahmer is a 2017 American biographical drama film directed by Marc Meyers. Before Jeffrey Dahmer (Ross Lynch) became a notorious serial killer, he was a shy, alcoholic teen who never ...more
5
The Deliberate Stranger ... is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Movies About Real Serial Killers
The Deliberate Stranger is a book and television film about American serial killer Ted Bundy.
6
Dahmer is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Movies About Real Serial Killers
Jeremy Renner, Bruce Davison, Dion Basco

Released: 2002

Directed by: David Jacobson

Dahmer is a 2002 American biopic horror film about the American serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. Jeremy Renner stars in the title role. There are two timelines in the film: The "present" ...more

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7
Citizen X is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Movies About Real Serial Killers
Donald Sutherland, Max von Sydow, Imelda Staunton

Released: 1995

Directed by: Chris Gerolmo

Citizen X is a 1995 biography drama film written by Robert Cullen and Chris Gerolmo and directed by Chris Gerolmo.
8
To Catch a Killer is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Movies About Real Serial Killers
Brian Dennehy, Margot Kidder, Meg Foster

Released: 1992

Directed by: Eric Till

To Catch a Killer is a two-part television film from 1992, directed by Eric Till and starring Brian Dennehy and Michael Riley. It is based on the true story of the pursuit of American serial ...more
9
Aileen: Life and Death o... is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Movies About Real Serial Killers
Jeb Bush, Aileen Wuornos, Nick Broomfield

Released: 2003

Directed by: Nick Broomfield, Joan Churchill

Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer looks at Aileen's violent, tortured childhood in Troy, Michigan and her subsequent years on the road as a hitch-hiking prostitute which culminated in ...more
10
Henry: Portrait of a Ser... is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Movies About Real Serial Killers
Michael Rooker, Tom Towles, Tracy Arnold

Released: 1986

Directed by: John McNaughton

This film is a 1986 American psychological horror film directed and co-written by John McNaughton who seemingly operates with impunity. It stars Michael Rooker as the nomadic killer Henry, Tom ...more

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11
Ted Bundy is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Movies About Real Serial Killers
Tom Savini, Tracey Walter, Diana Kauffman

Released: 2002

Directed by: Matthew Bright

Ted Bundy is a 2002 American crime drama film directed and co-written by Matthew Bright. The film dramatizes the crimes of serial killer Ted Bundy. It stars Michael Reilly Burke in the title ...more

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12
Gacy is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Movies About Real Serial Killers
Adam Baldwin, Allison Lange, Charlie Weber

Released: 2003

Directed by: Clive Saunders

Gacy is a 2003 direct-to-video biographical-drama film directed by Clive Saunders and written by Saunders and David Birke. The story revolves around the life of serial killer John Wayne Gacy.
13
In Cold Blood is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Movies About Real Serial Killers
Robert Blake, John Forsythe, Will Geer

Released: 1967

Directed by: Richard Brooks

In Cold Blood is a 1967 film based on Truman Capote's book of the same name. Richard Brooks prepared the adaptation and directed the film. It stars Robert Blake as Perry Smith, Scott Wilson as ...more

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14
Snowtown is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Movies About Real Serial Killers
Daniel Henshall, Louise Harris, David Walker

Released: 2011

Directed by: Justin Kurzel

Snowtown, also known as The Snowtown Murders, is a 2011 Australian film based on the true story of the Snowtown murders directed by Justin Kurzel and written by Shaun Grant.

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#14 of 23 23 Disturbing, Brutal Movies Based on Real-Life Atrocities #23 of 55 The Best Australian Dramas #82 of 98 The Best Serial Killer Movies

15
The Town That Dreaded Su... is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Movies About Real Serial Killers
Dawn Wells, Ben Johnson, Andrew Prine

Released: 1976

Directed by: Charles B. Pierce

The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a 1976 American horror film by producer and director Charles B. Pierce who also co-stars as a bumbling police officer named A.C. Benson, also known as ...more

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16
The Boston Strangler is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Movies About Real Serial Killers
Henry Fonda, Tony Curtis, George Kennedy

Released: 1968

Directed by: Richard Fleischer

The Boston Strangler is a 1968 American film based on the true story of the Boston Strangler and the book by Gerold Frank. It was directed by Richard Fleischer, and stars Tony Curtis as Albert ...more

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17
Jeffrey Dahmer: The Secr... is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Movies About Real Serial Killers
Laura Tesone, Donna Stewart Bowen, Keith Gearhart

Released: 1993

Directed by: David R. Bowen

Jeffrey Dahmer: The Secret Life is an American true crime film, released in 1993. It stars Carl Crew as Jeffrey Dahmer, an American serial killer, necrophile and cannibal. The film is a first ...more
18
Chicago Massacre: Richar... is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Movies About Real Serial Killers
Tony Todd, Corin Nemec, Andrew Divoff

Released: 2007

Directed by: Michael Feifer

Chicago Massacre: Richard Speck is a 2007 horror film directed by Michael Feifer. The film is based on the true story of 1960s mass murderer Richard Speck.
19
10 Rillington Place is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Movies About Real Serial Killers
John Hurt, Richard Attenborough, Robert Hardy

Released: 1971

Directed by: Richard Fleischer

10 Rillington Place is a 1971 British crime drama film, directed by Richard Fleischer. It stars Richard Attenborough, John Hurt and Judy Geeson and was adapted by Clive Exton from the book Ten ...more

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20
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Barbara Hershey, Billy Campbell, Kevin Dunn

Released: 2003

Directed by: Paul Shapiro

Ann Rule Presents: The Stranger Beside Me is a 2003 crime-drama TV movie directed by Paul Shapiro.
21
The Gray Man is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Movies About Real Serial Killers
The Gray Man Silas Weir Mitchell, Patrick Bauchau, Lexi Ainsworth

Released: 2007

Directed by: Scott L. Flynn

The Gray Man is a 2007 biographical thriller film based on the actual life and events of American serial killer, rapist and cannibal Albert Fish. It premiered at the Montreal World Film Festival ...more
22
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John Corbett, Sara Canning

Released: 2011

Directed by: Allen Kroeker

The Hunt for the I-5 Killer is a 2011 action thriller film written by Teena Booth and Ann Rule and directed by Allan Kroeker.
23
Who Killed Atlanta's Chi... is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Movies About Real Serial Killers
Jim Belushi, Gregory Hines, Bill Duke

Released: 2000

Directed by: Charles Robert Carner

Who Killed Atlanta's Children? is a TV movie about the Atlanta child murders starring James Belushi and Gregory Hines. It was directed by Charles Robert Carner and first aired on Showtime on ...more
24
Killer: A Journal of Mur... is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Movies About Real Serial Killers
James Woods, Cara Buono, Steve Forrest

Released: 1995

Directed by: Tim Metcalfe

Killer: A Journal of Murder is a 1995 American drama film written and directed by Tim Metcalfe. It is based on the life of serial killer Carl Panzram, and uses passages of his biography. James ...more
25
Out of the Darkness is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Movies About Real Serial Killers
Charlie Sheen, Martin Sheen, Robert Trebor

Released: 1985

Directed by: Jud Taylor

Out of the Darkness is a 1985 television film about the pursuit of the serial killer David Berkowitz by New York City detective Ed Zigo.