396 voters

The Best Movies About Real Serial Killers

Updated October 3, 2019 1.8k votes 396 voters 19.1k views27 items

List RulesOnly 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.

  • 1


    Robert Downey Jr., Jake Gyllenhaal


    Directed byDavid 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


    Directed byJoe 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 reality...  more

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  • 3


    Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci


    Directed byPatty 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 her...  more

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  • 4
    The Deliberate Stranger is a book and television film about American serial killer Ted Bundy....  more
  • 5


    Jeremy Renner, Bruce Davison


    Directed byDavid 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" of the film...  more

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  • 6

    My Friend Dahmer

    Ross Lynch, Alex Wolff


    Directed byMarc 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 quite...  more
  • 7


    Directed byNick 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 the...  more
  • 8

    To Catch a Killer

    Brian Dennehy, Margot Kidder


    Directed byEric 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 killer...  more
  • 9

    Citizen X

    Donald Sutherland, Max von Sydow


    Directed byChris Gerolmo

    Citizen X is a 1995 biography drama film written by Robert Cullen and Chris Gerolmo and directed by Chris Gerolmo....  more
  • 10

    In Cold Blood

    Robert Blake, John Forsythe


    Directed byRichard 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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  • 11


    Adam Baldwin, Allison Lange


    Directed byClive 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....  more
  • 12

    The Town That Dreaded Sundown

    Dawn Wells, Ben Johnson


    Directed byCharles 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 "Sparkplug"....  more

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  • 13

    Ted Bundy

    Tom Savini, Tracey Walter


    Directed byMatthew 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 role,...  more
  • 14

    Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

    Michael Rooker, Tom Towles


    Directed byJohn 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 Towles...  more

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  • 15


    Daniel Henshall, Louise Harris


    Directed byJustin 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....  more

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  • 16

    The Boston Strangler

    Henry Fonda, Tony Curtis


    Directed byRichard 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

    10 Rillington Place

    John Hurt, Richard Attenborough


    Directed byRichard 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
  • 18

    Killer: A Journal of Murder

    James Woods, Cara Buono


    Directed byTim 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 Woods...  more
  • 19

    Chicago Massacre: Richard Speck

    Tony Todd, Corin Nemec


    Directed byMichael 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....  more
  • 20

    The Gray Man

    Silas Weir Mitchell, Patrick Bauchau


    Directed byScott 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 on...  more
  • 21

    Jeffrey Dahmer: The Secret Life

    Laura Tesone, Donna Stewart Bowen


    Directed byDavid 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 hand...  more
  • 22

    Ann Rule Presents: The Stranger Beside Me

    Barbara Hershey, Billy Campbell


    Directed byPaul Shapiro

    Ann Rule Presents: The Stranger Beside Me is a 2003 crime-drama TV movie directed by Paul Shapiro....  more
  • 23

    The Hunt for the I-5 Killer

    John Corbett, Sara Canning


    Directed byAllen 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....  more
  • 24

    Who Killed Atlanta's Children?

    Jim Belushi, Gregory Hines


    Directed byCharles 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 July 16,...  more
  • 25

    Out of the Darkness

    Charlie Sheen, Martin Sheen


    Directed byJud 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....  more