There are a lot of really creepy serial killer movies based on true stories out there. Although, for some horror movie lovers, the thrill of watching the movies is in the element of unrealism.
However, if you’re a fan of crime documentaries and want to explore the darker side of humans, and you’re looking for some binge-worthy movies this weekend, we have some serial killer movies based on true stories you could check out.
These movies will likely focus on a single murderer, each dealing with a distinct aspect of that criminal’s life; the plot centers around the actions of the murderer and his victims, the events surrounding their murders, and how law enforcement eventually caught the perpetrator in question.
Most screen adaptations are dark and harrowing, but if you’re looking for lighter fare, look at our list below and find one that sounds interesting to you.
Table of Contents
- 1. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (2019)
- 2. Dahmer (2002)
- 3. Ed Gein (2000)
- 4. The Night Stalker (2016)
- 5. Gacy (2003)
- 6. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
- 7. Hunt for the BTK killer (2005)
- 8. The Boston Strangler (1968)
- 9. Monster (2003)
- 10. Zodiac (2007)
1. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (2019)
This movie is one of the more recent serial killer movies based on true stories. It depicts the life of Ted Bundy, an American serial killer who kidnapped young women and girls and raped and murdered them during the 70s.
The movie portrays the memoir The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy, written by Bundy’s former girlfriend, Elizabeth Kendall.
Joe Berlinger directed the movie and cast Zac Effron as Ted Bundy, Lily Collins as Kendall, Kaya Scodelario as the wife of Bundy, Carole Ann Boone, and John Malkovich as Edward Cowart. This judge presided over Bundy’s trial.
2. Dahmer (2002)
Dahmer is next on our list of serial killer movies based on true stories; the film depicts the true story of a well-known serial killer, Jeffery Dahmer.
Considered one of the most gruesome serial killers, Dahmer is known to be responsible for the rape, murder, and dismemberment of up to 17 male victims between the late 70s and early 90s.
The film portrays Dahmer in the present as he stalks his victims and also highlights events from his past in reverse chronological order till the point of his first kill. David Jacobson directed it with the role of Dahmer, played by Jeremy Renner.
3. Ed Gein (2000)
Ed Gein Is one of the serial killer movies based on true stories that tell the story of a murderer and suspected serial killer that goes by the same name.
Although confessing to killing only two people, the gruesome manner of murder and the heinous acts earn him a place on the list of serial killers.
Gein was known to mutilate the remains of his victims, stealing corpses from graves to make masks of human faces and suits out of human skin. The movie depicts Gein’s tormented upbringing, showing the rocky relationship with his mother.
Steve Railsback plays the role of Gein, and the movie was written by Stephen Johnston and directed by Chuck Parello. The life of Gein serves as a basis for other popular films like Teas Chainsaw Massacre, Silence of the Lambs, and Psycho.
4. The Night Stalker (2016)
On our list of serial killer movies based on true stories, the Night stalker depicts the life of serial killer Richard Ramirez who terrorized the neighborhood of the Great Los Angeles Area and San Francisco Area for 14months.
He was not only a serial killer but a serial rapist, child molester, and burglar and was known to dabble in Satanism. Ramirez attacked and brutalized his victims in varying ways and with various weapons, including knives, guns, and even a claw hammer.
The movie, directed by Meghan Griffiths, features Lou Diamond Philips, who plays the role of Ramirez, Bellamy Young, Chelle Sherrill, and Benjamin Barrett.
5. Gacy (2003)
Released in 2003, Gacy is based on the life of John Wayne Gacy, a serial killer who raped, tortured, and murdered about 33 men and boys.
What makes his story chilling, however, is the fact that he was believed to be a respectable citizen, even performing at charitable events and in children’s hospitals as a clown, earning him the nickname ‘Killer Clown.’
Gacy raped, tortured, and strangled his victims, burying twenty-six of them in his home, three somewhere else on his property, and the remaining four in a river. Clive Saunders directed the movie, and Mark Holton played the role of Gacy.
6. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
Although based on the true story of Henry Lee Lucas, a convicted serial killer, the movie is based more on his confessions than on the actual crimes he was found guilty of that led to His conviction.
Known as the Confession Killer, Henry Lucas was said to have confessed to over 600 murders; investigations proved that many of his confessions were false.
His original conviction was for the murder of his mother, who was a prostitute and abusive to him, and two others over 20 years.
In the movie, Henry, played by Michael Rooker, is released from prison after the murder of his mother and goes on a killing spree. Henry has an accomplice, Otis, who Tom Towles plays.
Henry Lucas got convicted for murdering 11 people, despite his outrageous claims of hundreds more, and received the death sentence for the murder of Debra Jackson.
7. Hunt for the BTK killer (2005)
The movie depicts the true story of serial killer Dennis Rader, also known as the BTK killer. It is adapted from the book Nightmare in Wichita written by Robert Beattie.
What makes Rader’s story unique is being known for sending taunting letters to the police and media, outlining his brutal acts. For 30 years, he remained elusive till he got apprehended in 2005.
His habit of sending taunting letters was finally his undoing. This serial killer movie’s perspective is mainly from the three detectives who handled his case over the three decades it remained open. Gregg Henry plays the role of Dennis Rader, and Stephen Kay directed the movie.
8. The Boston Strangler (1968)
This film is yet another one of those serial killer movies based on true stories. It tells the story of the life of a serial killer responsible for the assault and murder of 13 women during the 60s.
Albert DeSalvo, a serial rapist, and murderer, confessed to being the strangler, but for decades, controversies surrounded the matter.
It wasn’t until July 2013 that DNA evidence linked DeSalvo to the murder of one of the victims. However, there were inconsistencies in the investigation that led many to believe DeSalvo wasn’t responsible for the murder of all 13 victims.
The Boston Strangler stars Tony Curtis as DeSalvo and Henry Fonda as John Bottomly, the detective responsible for obtaining DeSalvo’s confession.
Richard Fleischer directed the movie, and it is an adaptation of a book with a corresponding title, written by Gerold Frank.
9. Monster (2003)
The movie Monster tells the unusual story of a female serial killer, Aileen Wuornos, a prostitute responsible for the death of 7 men, who were all clients of hers.
Wuornos robbed and shot all 7 of them in what she claimed was an act of self-defense because, in one way or the other, she had been assaulted by each man, although her claims aren’t enough to free her from getting convicted and eventually ending up on the death row.
Theron stars as Wuornos in Monster, and the movie shows the difficult life of Wuornos and describes her story from her first murder until her execution after 12 years on death row.
10. Zodiac (2007)
Last on our list of serial killer movies based on true stories is Zodiac. David Fincher directed the film, An adaptation of one of Robert Gray Smith’s books Zodiac, published in 1986, and Zodiac Unmasked, published in 2002.
The movie follows the story of the Zodiac Killer, a serial killer who terrorized the San Francisco Bay area between the late 60s and early 70s.
The zodiac killer had five victims, according to reports, although in taunting letters the killer sent to the police and newspapers, he claimed to have killed 37 people.
The story of the zodiac killer became a high-profile case in America because of its unusual nature, and only two of his victims survived.
The Zodiac Killer himself coined His name in the letters he mailed to the newspapers and was unfortunately never caught.
However, Arthur Leigh Allen, a convicted sex offender, was the only person publicly named as a suspect by the authorities.
A glance at this list of serial killer movies based on true stories will give you a good idea of where the fascination with true crime comes from.
You could argue that part of the inexplicable fascination stems from the horror of seeing real people trapped in a life that’s not entirely human; many serial killers share those disturbing qualities.
But the desire is also related to how real crime shows allow us to look closely at people who should know better, and that’s why so many movie plots center on them.
We have little idea how many people have committed serial murder, so alas, there are likely plenty of true-crime-inspired serial killer movies still to be made.
But we can think of a couple of exciting film options off the top of our heads. Otherwise, if you’re feeling moved to tell us more about your favorite serial killer movies based on true stories, we’d certainly be interested!
These aren’t the best films; maybe you couldn’t stomach watching any more serial killer films discussed earlier.
But here’s something for you to consider: these serial killer movies based on true stories depict actual events does not mean the movie should be skipped in favor of something more uplifting, like Christian Bale in American Psycho.
The truth is that people have been fascinated by serial killers for years and have made movies about them.
True stories are no different from fiction in some instances, and many of the films discussed above may merit watching after all.