Messed up? See the actors who played terrifying serial killers in movies
Over the years, people’s interest in serial killers hasn’t waned in the slightest. If anything, interest in these people and their crimes has increased in recent years with the popularity of true-crime documentaries on Netflix and other streaming services like it.
But why serial killers? Why focus on something so dark, all the more frightening for being true?
As human beings, we feel a need to understand things. We categorize the world we live in, consciously or subconsciously, in ways that help us know what to expect and achieve a level of ease and comfort in our day-to-day existence.
Throw a serial killer into the mix, and you have an extremely independent variable. We study them because we want to understand how a human being, seemingly like us, could do such awful things. We want to know how to be safe, and how to stop crimes like these from happening in the future.
Unfortunately, as of yet there is no easy fix for this kind of evil and psychopathy. In the meantime, these crimes are creative fodder for actors to challenge themselves to go darker than they ever have. Here are some actors who have notably portrayed serial killers in movies.
Charlize Theron as Aileen Wuornos
Charlize Theron underwent one of the most well-known transformations in movie history for her portrayal of Aileen Wuornos, who was convicted of killing seven men in the span of a year. She won an Academy Award for her portrayal.
Wuornos was a sex worker who killed her first victim after he violently raped her. Afterwards, she continued to kill until she was eventually caught. She was sentenced to death, which was carried out in 2002. This performance is notable, as most serial killers in movies (and in real life) are male.
Darren Criss as Andrew Cunanan
Darren Criss won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for playing Andrew Cunanan, the serial killer who murdered Gianni Versace. Cunanan had five victims before he committed suicide.
The first victim was his close friend, who he beat to death with a hammer. After that, he murdered another friend. He then traveled to Chicago where he murdered a well-known real estate developer Lee Miglin. Next, he shot another man.
His most famous murder was that of Gianni Versace, brother of Donatella. He was shot on the front steps of his home by Cunanan, who killed himself a week after this fifth murder.
Jeremy Renner as Jeffrey Dahmer
Jeremy Renner played Jeffrey Dahmer in the movie Dahmer. Dahmer’s crimes earned him the nickname “Milwaukee Cannibal”. He often partook in cannibalism, dismemberment, necrophilia, and rape in addition to murder. His known victims are 17 in number, and were all male.
Dahmer was a particularly sadistic killer, with a penchant for luring men into his home, where he would drug, rape, and kill them before dismembering them and keeping parts of their bodies.
John Cusack as Robert Hansen
John Cusack portrayed Robert Hansen, a serial killer who was convicted of raping and murdering seventeen women. Hansen would often pick up a sex worker and force her to run from him in the woods after raping her. Once caught, he would murder the victims.
His reputation as a mild-mannered baker helped him stay hidden and avoid arrest for some time, but he was eventually caught and confessed to his crimes. He died in prison.
Kathy Bates as Madame LaLaurie
Kathy Bates, no stranger to playing psycho characters, played Madame LaLaurie on a season of American Horror Story. Madame Delphine LaLaurie was a slave owner who brutally tortured & murdered slaves on her estate. She was never held accountable for her crimes and is thought to have lived out the rest of her life as a free woman in France.
Leonardo DiCaprio as H. H. Holmes
Martin Scorsese is teaming up with Leonardo DiCaprio once again for a film in which DiCaprio will portray serial killer H. H. Holmes. Holmes’s story is particularly interesting, as he confessed to twenty-seven murders but was only convicted of one.
He owned a hotel that he used as a site to conduct the murders, which is now famously called “The Murder Castle”. Holmes was sentenced to death by hanging.
Zac Efron as Ted Bundy
In Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, Zac Efron plays a much better-looking version of Ted Bundy, the serial killer who is known to have killed at least thirty women & girls.
Bundy would break into women’s homes, often while they were sleeping. While living in Seattle, he would kidnap female college students as they walked from location to location. He was also known for luring women under the pretense of needing assistance, only to kidnap them as well.
Bundy’s portrayal in the media has sparked controversy, as his attractive qualities have been vastly overblown. Though Efron’s casting plays into that false narrative, his performance has been praised.
Are there any portrayals of serial killers you wish we’d included here? Let us know!