12 Reasons Why Mads Mikkelsen Is The Best Hannibal Lecter
Photo: Hannibal / NBC

12 Reasons Why Mads Mikkelsen Is The Best Hannibal Lecter

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Vote up the reasons that make Mikkelsen such a great 'Hannibal.'

Brian Cox, Anthony Hopkins, and Mads Mikkelsen have all taken up the elegant, poised, and devilishly charming mantle of Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Though Cox and Hopkins are immeasurable in their respective roles as the greatest villain fiction has ever seen, Mads Mikkelsen's Hannibal gives us far more than we bargained for. Mikkelsen told Hannibal series creator Bryan Fuller he "didn't want to play Anthony Hopkins or Brian Cox. He wanted to play Satan," redefining a character horror audiences were already so familiar with.

Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter lives up to the challenge of revitalizing a role most would argue had already been played to perfection. Over the course of three seasons on NBC's Hannibal, he gives us a glimpse into the operatic, gothic romance that is his life in Baltimore surrounded by elite and powerful figures.

For his style, his recipes, and his relationship with Will Graham alone, Mikkelsen is the best Hannibal Lecter we never expected.

  • Mikkelsen's Hannibal Exerts Total Emotional And Intellectual Control Over His Prey
    Photo: NBC
    345 VOTES

    Mikkelsen's Hannibal Exerts Total Emotional And Intellectual Control Over His Prey

    Abigail Hobbs is one of the most unlucky characters in NBC’s Hannibal. Not only was she born to a criminally psychotic father, but her adoptive dads, Hannibal and Will, only add to her trauma. Will unloads the guilt of taking Garrett Jacob Hobbs's life onto Abigail by trying to take his place, and Hannibal uses her toxic devotion to her father to convince her she had no other option but to follow in his homicidal footsteps.

    Abigail's tragic story provides the most direct evidence of Hannibal's skillful manipulation of his victims' emotional state of mind. He uses her trauma to convince her to cut off her own ear, run away with him, take hallucinogens, and push Dr. Alana Bloom out of a window. Ultimately, her downfall is her choice, but it's Hannibal who makes her believe she's making the right decisions.

    345 votes
  • Mikkelsen's Micro-Expressions Help Preserve Hannibal's Facade
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    482 VOTES

    Mikkelsen's Micro-Expressions Help Preserve Hannibal's Facade

    Hannibal prioritizes the preservation of his genuine self. Mikkelsen's inimitable micro-expressions, such as a small twitch of the lips, subtly convey what he's thinking in a way only someone who knows him as intimately as Will Graham would notice.

    In the debut season's third episode, "Potage," when Hannibal walks into Will's classroom as he profiles the copycat slayer, he ever so slightly smiles, revealing his pleasure with Will's accurate analysis of him. He enjoys being seen, as he so rarely is.

    Mikkelsen's version of Hannibal also has to hide his disgust when in the presence of those he deems inconsiderate. His stoicism allows people to project the persona they want to see, which explains how he manages to charm Baltimore's elite, including the FBI.

    Even Alana Bloom can't help but fall for the doctor - her former mentor - once she believes she's gotten a glimpse into his sincere heart. Of course, even that version of him is false - and she pays the price.

    482 votes
  • Mikkelsen's Hannibal Never Lies
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    385 VOTES

    Mikkelsen's Hannibal Never Lies

    In the Season 2 episode, "Su-zakana," Will decisively encapsulates Hannibal's approach to deceit: "I don't expect you to admit anything you can't, but I prefer sins of omission to outright lies, Dr. Lecter. Don't. Lie to me.”

    Even at his most deceitful, Mikkelsen's Hannibal does not lie. He relies mostly on half-truths, misdirection, and charm to convince the people around him he can be trusted. Above all else, lying is rude, and we all know how Hannibal feels about the rude.

    When Will finally confronts Hannibal in the Season 1 episode "Savoureux," he points his weapon at him and asks, "Are you a murderer, Dr. Lecter?"

    Instead of denying the accusation, Hannibal genuinely wonders, "What reason would I have?" - perhaps hoping Will was being honest himself when he said, "I can see you."

    Hannibal often answers hard questions by diverting the conversation to a more interesting point, allowing him to use his advanced intellect to manipulate and deceive instead of outright lying to those he deems unworthy of the truth.

    385 votes
  • Mikkelsen Embodies The Style And Charm Of Harris's Character
    Photo: NBC
    426 VOTES

    Mikkelsen Embodies The Style And Charm Of Harris's Character

    In an interview with ScreenSlam, Mads Mikkelsen explains how the Season 2 fight scene between Hannibal and Jack Crawford was choreographed as a classical dance. 

    Thomas Harris's Dr. Lecter is a consumer of the fine arts. The author based Lecter on an encounter he had with Alfredo Balli Trevino, whom he described as having "a certain elegance about him." Only later did Harris learn Trevino was an inmate accused of slaying his partner.

    Hannibal was never meant to embody the low-level sociopathy of fictional slayers like Mason Verger. His entire persona is centered around the doctrine of eating the rude. If there's one truth about his character that is never questioned, it's his immaculate taste and elegance. He is revered for his charm, in spite of his private atrocities. In fact, even in the absence of any true redemptive characteristics, Dr. Lecter may be fiction's most likable villain.

    Of course, inseparable from Mikkelsen's performance as Hannibal is his appearance. The man can wear a suit. For three years, Dr. Lecter was the best-dressed man on television, his wardrobe as immaculately tailored as his meals are immaculately prepared. Boasting an array of bold, unexpected patterns, styles, and color combinations, he is the absolute portrait of confident (if latently malevolent) class. As Bryan Fuller puts it, Mikkelsen's Hannibal is a "devil in a blue suit." He continues:

    Lecter is really a bit of a dandy and someone who loves the finer things in life - someone who would have a bespoke wardrobe... I thought of Hannibal Lecter as this man who appreciates the beauty in life, who would love color and pattern and stimulating fabrics.

    426 votes
  • Mikkelsen's Hannibal Can Conceal His Evil
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    373 VOTES

    Mikkelsen's Hannibal Can Conceal His Evil

    Dr. Lecter demonstrates empathy to gain insight into his prey. In order to best manipulate them, or truly devastate them, he has to learn what it is they're afraid of and what their desires are. Most people will only reveal such insights to someone they trust - someone they are close to. Someone like their therapist. In this case, it's essential that Hannibal is able to conceal his darkness. In Will's own words, "You have no traceable motive... which is why you were so hard to see. You were just curious what I would do."

    Abigail Hobbs is the first character to show us exactly how skilled Dr. Lecter is at hiding. He uses her trauma to control her, making sure he is the only person she can trust, and even convincing her to fake her own demise. 

    Hannibal is so confident in his disguise, in fact, that he throws a carnivorous dinner party at the beginning of Season 2. With Will pointing the finger at him, he still isn't afraid to feed the FBI those they are seeking justice for.

    373 votes
  • Hannibal's Relationship With Will Graham Is Clearly Toxic, But Does Not Lack Depth
    Photo: NBC
    397 VOTES

    Hannibal's Relationship With Will Graham Is Clearly Toxic, But Does Not Lack Depth

    One of the key reasons Mikkelsen's Hannibal is so captivating is his relationship with Will Graham. That he truly cares what happens to Will - and even attempts to run away with him - complicates his otherwise narcissistic and sociopathic perception.

    When asked if he was worried fans wouldn't respond well to Hannibal and Will being separated for so long in Season 3, Bryan Fuller reiterated how important it is for people to have space after a bad breakup to really grow and change their perspective. Fuller emphasizes, "Both Hannibal and Will have hurt each other in incredible ways, and yet somehow come out the other side with a great mysterious love."  

    Hannibal and Will's relationship is built on a foundation of manipulation, curiosity, and intense empathy. Hannibal cares what happens to Will, if for no other reason than to preserve what control he has over him. He even turns himself in so that Will will always know where to find him.

    397 votes