The Ted Bundy Tapes hit Netflix in January 2019. The popular documentary series detials Bundy's story, often in his own words, and has people talking about Ted Bundy some 30 years after his execution and more than 40 years after he terrorized several states.
As the discussion of Bundy's exploits heats back up, it's worth noting that this isn't the first time his atrocities have found their way into pop culture. There are several other movies and shows about Ted Bundy that have been made over the years, each of which draw on the complicated aspects of his cultural manipulation and the horrifying details of his spree.
- Photo: Netflix
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile screened at Sundance in January 2019 and is directed by Joe Berlinger, who also serves as the producer of the Netflix series Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes. The film focuses on Bundy's relationship with his girlfriend, played by Lily Collins, and her struggle to accept her partner's heinous acts. It has been accused of glorifying Bundy (Zac Efron) an accusation which the director calls "naive and knee-jerk"; he says his intentions are to portray "the experience of how one becomes a victim to that kind of psychopathic seduction."
So far, critics have almost universally praised Efron's role as Bundy, with Rotten Tomatoes saying that it "often transcends its narrative limitations through sheer force of Zac Efron's compulsively watchable performance."
That same "compulsively watchable performance" generates much of the film's discomfort, according to David Crow at Den of Geek, who writes that the film "pivots around the eerie lack of an eeriness in Bundy’s disposition for almost its whole running time."
- Photo: Orion Pictures
Buffalo Bill, played by Ted Levine in this Academy Award-winning 1991 adaptation of Thomas Harris's The Silence of the Lambs, shares traits with several infamous offenders, including Bundy. The scene in which Bill lures a senator's daughter into his van by pretending to have a broken arm is lifted straight from Bundy's playbook.
Bundy may also have played a role in the relationship between Dr. Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling. In 1984, Bundy offered to use his "expertise" to help investigators find the Green River Killer. Though Silence of the Lambs wouldn't be written for another four years after Bundy's aid, Harris had already introduced Dr. Lecter in the 1981 novel Red Dragon in which he helps FBI Investigator Will Graham track down Francis Dolarhyde. Harris actually attended one of Bundy's trials, and reportedly gave him a copy of Red Dragon.
- Photo: Lionsgate
Adapted by Mary Harron from the Bret Easton Ellis novel of the same name, American Psycho is a satirical horror comedy that polarized audiences when it was released. Following Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), a wealthy and shallow New York investment banker who just might also be subject to violent tendencies, this 2000 film blurs the line between reality and fantasy. Is Bateman really a grisly slayer? Or has he simply withdrawn into his dark fantasies?
In the film, Bateman references Bundy, and Ellis told Rolling Stone that he "read every book about Ted Bundy." His narrative was decried as a "how-to novel on the dismemberment of women" by the president of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Organization for Women.
- Photo: USA
In 1971, mystery and true-crime writer Ann Rule worked alongside Bundy at a crisis hotline. The two became friends, and that friendship eventually formed the basis for the 1980 book that catapulted Rule to fame. The book was adapted into a made-for-TV movie in 2003, starring Billy Campbell as Bundy and Barbara Hershey as Rule.
Rule's chilling first-person account of her relationship with Bundy - which continued even after he became a prime suspect - shows how Bundy managed to trick so many people for so long. In 1999, she told CNN, "People like Ted can fool you completely. I'd been a cop, had all that psychology - but his mask was perfect."