9 Serial Killer Movies Based On True Stories
by Daniel Lukacs
July 07, 2017
Murdering another person is probably one of the most evil crimes that we could imagine. Throughout history, there have been various definitions and penalties for it. According to Wikipedia, killing another person was outlawed by the Code of Ur-Nammu, which was written c. 2000 BCE. It called for capital punishment for any offenders.
Even though murder strikes fear in the hearts of the public, we still have an unnerving fascination with it. Of particular interest are the cases of serial killers. These monsters kill several people within a short period of time, often leaving the authorities baffled.
Jack the Ripper was one such case. After finding at least 5 women murdered from August to November of 1888, British police searched in vain for answers. The English people followed the news stories with fear and interest. The cases remained unsolved to this day.
To help people better understand the events and characters of certain serial killings, movies and documentaries have been made. Of course, Hollywood capitalizes on sensationalizing the murderer and the grim details.
You may have seen serial killer movies based on true stories. We've even immortalized some of the notorious serial murderers on t-shirts and hoodies. Here are some gruesome slayings that were adapted to the big screen:
1. The Deliberate Stranger -1986
This movie appeared on NBC in two parts, says Wikipedia. It is based on a book of the same name by reporter Richard Larsen. You will not get to see the earlier parts of Bundy’s life, being raised by his maternal grandparents in Philadelphia. The film passes the first six of his murder victims and begins with his mass murders in four different states.
According to a review by Bundy’s former attorney, Polly Nelson, everything in the movie was accurate. She also said that Mark Harmon was spot on when he portrayed Bundy’s expressions and posture. At the time the movie premiered, Bundy was still alive in prison. Nelson shared in her published memoirs that Bundy did not care to even watch the movie. For his starring role in the movie, Harmon was nominated for a Golden Globe Award.
Even though the movie attempted to be as accurate as possible, writers changed the names of the victims to protect their family’s feelings. The program got high ratings according to Neilsons. If you rent this movie, you will still get a little glimpse into the tortured mind of Ted Bundy, who was sent to the electric chair in 1989. He was responsible for at least 30 murders.
2. Chicago Massacre: Richard Speck-2007
In July of 1966, Richard Speck systematically raped and murdered 8 nursing students in their college dorm, says Thoughtco.com. The movie stars Corin Nemac as the twisted criminal. The film will take you to that fatal summer night when Speck tortured and brutally killed the young women. It also portrays his prison life and perverted behaviors. Even though he was sentenced to die for his crimes, the Supreme Court nixed his execution. Richard Speck died of a heart attack in prison in 1991. He was 49 years old.
This is a haunting tale about an unsolved serial murder case during the latter part of the 60s and early 70s. It is based on the true crime novel written by Robert Graysmith, says Wikipedia. In the San Francisco Bay and surrounding areas, 7 men and women were periodically found murdered. The movie chronicles the murders, as well as the cryptic notes the murderer sent to baffle the police. To this day, only one of four Zodiac puzzles has been solved. No one has identified the Zodiac killer.
4. Helter Skelter-1976
Six years after the infamous Manson family trial, actor Steve Railback gave a chilling portrayal of Charles Manson in this movie. It was named after a book written by Vincent Bugliosi. It was nominated for several awards, says Wikipedia. In August of 1969, Manson lead his followers on a bloody murder campaign that left 5 people dead in the Hollywood area. One of them was the pregnant actress, Sharon Tate. Since 1970, Mansion and his deadly followers have been serving life sentences in prison.
Jeremy Renner plays one of the most hideous serial killers in our time, Jeffrey Dahmer. The film uses flashbacks from pivotal points in young Dahmer’s life to the unspeakable murders that he committed between 1978-1991.
The film changes victims’ names for the respect of their families. Dahmer lured young gay men to his house, where he strangled and dismembered them. He collected human body parts, and committed necrophilia and cannibalism. After being in prison for life sentences, Jeffrey Dahmer was beaten to death by a fellow inmate in 1994.
6. The Boston Strangler: The Untold Story -1968
If you like vintage murder mystery movies, then you will be interested in this 1968 classic movie. It stars Tony Curtis as the strangler and Henry Fonda as the persistent police detective. It weaves the horrid true crime tale of a mentally deranged man named Albert DeSalvo, who was convicted of raping and strangling 13 women in the Boston area. He was sentenced to life in prison, where he was found stabbed to death in 1973. Wikipedia reports that DNA analysis concludes that DeSalvo may have been responsible for even more sexual assaults and murders. Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film a 3 star rating.
7. Ed Gein: Based On A True Story
Perhaps no other mass murderer has spawned more Hollywood movies than Ed Gein. This severely twisted individual got his bloody start by being a teenage grave robber. For more than ten years, he collected and preserved body parts of women that he had murdered. Actor Steve Railback (of Helter Skelter fame) returns to the screen to portray this grotesque monster. After being charged for grave robbing, murder, and mutilation of corpses, Gein was sentenced to life in the state mental hospital. He died of cancer at the age of 78 in 1984, says Thoughtco.com. The killers from the movies Psycho, Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and Silence of the Lambs were all loosely based on Gein’s unfathomable crimes.
8. To Catch A Killer: The Story of John Wayne Gacy-1992
We have this gruesome child killer to thank for a common phobia of clowns. In this made-for-TV movie, Brian Dennehy (who usually plays a cop) stars as the killer clown who murdered 33 young men and boys from 1972-1978, says Wikipedia. He lured young men into his home, where he murdered them and buried their bodies around on his property. Gacy had been a respected member in his neighborhood. A court convicted him of sexual assault and serial murder. John Wayne Gacy was executed by lethal injection in 1994.
Since women are rarely perpetrators of violent crimes, it was unimaginable that one was charged with murdering seven men between 1989-1990. The beautiful Charlize Theron starred in this 2003 movie about Aileen Carol Wuornos, the convicted serial killer. Theron does a fantastic job of playing the troubled prostitute who turned to murder in Florida, states Wikipedia. Despite Wuornos’ insistence that the murders were in self-defense, a jury found enough evidence to find her guilty as charged. She was one of the few women in US history to be executed. She received a lethal injection in 2002.
These disturbing real life serial killer movies will remind you of the depravity that some humans can be capable of doing. Even though these movies sound like gory fiction, it is scary to realize that they are based on true stories. Some of these serial killers are immortalized on clothing from Serial Killer Shop.