Truth is often stranger--and more disturbing--than fiction. Some of the best serial killer films are based on notorious real life cases. What are some of the most intriguing true life serial killer movies to check out? We’ve compiled a list of just a few of the best, for both true crime and horror movie fans.
A young Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek star in this atmospheric Terence Malik film based on the true story of two teenagers, Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate, who went on a killing spree in the late 1950s. There were 10 victims killed during a 2 month period. Starkweather was executed and Fugate spent 17 years in prison for the crimes.
Charlize Theron famously transformed herself to play Aileen Wuornos, a prostitute who brutally killed a series of Johns in the 1980s and 1990s. Her lesbian lover played a key role in her arrest. Wuornos claimed self-defense (justified in at least one case) but was found guilty and eventually executed in 2002.
The Deathmaker (1995)
A German film about real life serial killer Fritz Haarmann. Haarmann was known as the Butcher of Hanover; he sexually assaulted, killed, and mutilated at least 24 young boys and men in the early 1900s in Germany. He notoriously took apart the bodies at his home, and then transported the pieces in a bucket to the nearby Leine River for disposal.
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
This infamous film was initially given an X rating for its graphic violence, and became one of a handful of movies that generated the new NC-17 rating for non-pornographic adult films. It’s based on the real life story of Henry Lee Lucas, who was convicted of 11 murders, but famously “confessed” to hundreds of unsolved murders while in prison.
Out of the Blue (2006)
A film from New Zealand about the real life Aramoana Massacre, New Zealand’s deadliest mass murder, in which a man named David Gray went on a shooting spree and killed 13 people. Gray was killed in a shootout with police.
In Cold Blood (1967)
This classic film is based on Truman Capote’s non-fiction book about the murders of four members of a family in rural Kansas in the 1950s. Two ex-cons named Perry Smith and Dick Hickcock killed the family after being told they had a safe full of money to rob (there was no money). Capote interviewed the killers before they were executed in the 1960s.
David Fincher directed this film about San Francisco’s notorious Zodiac Killer, active in the 1960s and 1970s. The still unidentified killer, known for sending taunting letters to the press, claimed to have killed 37 people. Only 7 victims have been confirmed. The film appeared on many top ten lists and was nominated for several awards.