Real-Life Serial Killer Movies

Some Films Examine Their Minds and Prosecution Instead of Murders

Photo of Charles Manson


Michael Ochs Archives  / Getty Images

Movies based on the true-to-life stories of American serial murderers have run the gamut of opinion from audiences and critics, with audience approval ratings according to Rotten Tomatoes ranging from 10 percent for "Speck," the story of student nurse killer Richard Speck, to 88 percent for "Bonnie and Clyde," the Depression-era bank robbers and murderers.

Here are 10 films about serial and spree murderers, with release dates from IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes ratings:

of 10

The Deliberate Stranger (1986)

Ted Bundy


Bettmann/Getty Images

Mark Harmon plays compulsive killer Ted Bundy, who was responsible for the deaths of at least 30 women from Washington state to Florida over more than a decade.

Rotten Tomatoes: 71 percent audience (no critics' rating) 

of 10

To Catch a Killer (1992)

Brian Dennehy stars as John Wayne Gacy, a homicidal monster who tortured and murdered more than two dozen young victims and buried them in the crawlspace beneath his house.

Rotten Tomatoes: 87 percent audience (no critics' rating)

of 10

Helter Skelter (1976)

Based on prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi's book, this movie examines the grisly Tate-LaBianca murders by followers of Charles Manson, focusing on the investigation and prosecution of the cultish Manson "family." Steve Railsback portrays Manson.

Rotten Tomatoes: 100 percent critics, 74 percent audience

of 10

Dahmer (2002)

Writer/director David Jacobson's movie about serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who killed and cannibalized 15 boys, focuses on Dahmer's deranged mind rather than his grisly crimes.

Rotten Tomatoes: 68 percent critics, 40 percent audience 

of 10

Ed Gein (2000)

Steve Railsback also plays Ed Gein in this movie about a 1950s Wisconsin farmer who was a deeply disturbed serial killer. The Gein case inspired the movies "Psycho," "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," and "The Silence of the Lambs."

Rotten Tomatoes: 10 percent critics, 40 percent audience

of 10

The Boston Strangler (1968)

Tony Curtis plays Albert DeSalvo, who confessed to a rape and killing spree of 13 women in the early 1960s that terrorized Boston. Also starring is Henry Fonda.

Rotten Tomatoes: 86 percent critics, 75 percent audience

of 10

Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway portray Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, who robbed small banks in Texas and Oklahoma during the Great Depression. At its release it was considered one of the most violent films ever produced by mainstream Hollywood.

Rotten Tomatoes: 89 percent critics, 88 percent audience

of 10

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

Loosely based on Henry Lee Lucas, a confessed serial killer, the movie has been described as "a terrifyingly intimate journey into the twisted life of a murderous psychotic."

Rotten Tomatoes: 86 percent critics, 71 percent audience

of 10

Summer of Sam (1999)

This is Spike Lee's portrayal of the Bronx in the summer of 1977, when the Son of Sam, David Berkowitz, terrorized the city, stalking and killing lovers parked on dark streets with a .44 caliber handgun.

Rotten Tomatoes: 51 percent critics, 59 percent audience  

of 10

Speck (2002)

Based on the murders of spree killer Richard Speck, this movie details the killing of eight nursing students in a Chicago dormitory on July 13, 1966.

Rotten Tomatoes: 10 percent audience (no critics' rating)

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Your Citation
Montaldo, Charles. "Real-Life Serial Killer Movies." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Montaldo, Charles. (2020, August 27). Real-Life Serial Killer Movies. Retrieved from Montaldo, Charles. "Real-Life Serial Killer Movies." ThoughtCo. (accessed July 28, 2021).

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