5 Serial Killer Movies Based on Horrifying True Stories
Sit back and prepare to be disturbed! From biopics to psychological dramas, check out five of the most haunting serial killer movies based on true stories compiled here.
Serial killers often capture public attention and interest because they represent the dark, extreme and often inexplicable aspects of human behavior. The idea that a person could be capable of such heinous acts can be both frightening and intriguing, leading people to want to understand the motivations and psychology behind these crimes.
The Boston Strangler (1968)
This biopic of serial killer Albert DeSalvo stars Tony Curtis in the title role. The film follows DeSalvo’s murder spree that terrorized Boston between 1962 and 1964.
He was eventually arrested and convicted to life in prison. However, he was never able to be conclusively linked to all the murders attributed to him and later died in 1973 under mysterious circumstances, making this movie a must-watch for true crime fans.
Although it’s not always exact in its depiction of the facts, The Boston Strangler is often considered a classic and is remembered for Curtis’s intense performance as the notorious serial killer.
It also has an interesting twist at the end that gives credence to the rumors of DeSalvo’s innocence. Even if you don’t consider yourself a fan of horror movies, this is one to put on your must-see list.
The Deliberate Stranger (1986)
The three-hours helps to feel like you're participating in an emotionally exhausting pursuit while Bundy's crimes are slowly discovered.
In this two-part miniseries, Mark Harmon portrays Ted Bundy, one of America’s most notorious serial killers.
The movie follows Bundy’s disturbing young adulthood and criminal career as he became notorious for kidnapping and murdering numerous young women in the 1970s.
The film does a brilliant job at providing an inside look into the mind of a killer and its impact on those around him.
The Deliberate Stranger received critical acclaim and several awards. Linda Lael Miller won an Emmy for Best Writing in a Miniseries or Special, while Mark Harmon was nominated for Best Actor in a Miniseries or Special.
The miniseries is based on true events and reveals the terrifying details of Ted Bundy’s life.
Despite the grim plot points, the movie succeeds at showcasing how ruthless and calculating Bundy was as well as presenting his inner conflicts and sorrow that seemed to drive his criminal behavior.
The Zodiac's true number of victims may be unknown today.
Directed by David Fincher, Zodiac is a psychological thriller film about California’s unsolved (to this day) serial murder case surrounding the “Zodiac Killer” in the late 1960s and 70s.
The movie follows the detectives who worked on the case as they attempt to identify and apprehend the perpetrator of these grisly crimes. It’s full of suspense, tension, brilliant cinematography, and complex character development that will keep you hooked from start to finish.
This movie is based on real events that happened in between 1968 and 1971 in California. The film follows San Francisco cartoonist Robert Graysmith as he follows clues and pieces together evidence pointing to a serial killer known as “The Zodiac.”
This was one of the most infamous unsolved cases of that time, and the movie delves into the mind of this mysterious murderer as well as shedding light on law enforcement’s attempts to catch him.
Directed by legendary filmmaker David Fincher, Zodiac is a thrilling and haunting look at how one man terrorized an entire city. It stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., and Chloë Sevigny.
Wolf Creek (2005)
After their car breaks down, a group of backpackers fall prey to a murderous bushman in the outback of Australia.
Based on true events, Wolf Creek follows three backpackers who are lured to the Australian Outback by a serial killer named Mick Taylor.
This slasher horror film is full of suspense, terror, and gory violence as our protagonists frantically try to escape from the sadistic serial killer. The eerie vibes and tense tension it creates will keep you on the edge of your seat till the very end.
Wolf Creek is a rare breed because it straddles the line of being both scary and plausible.
While the events are exaggerated for shock value, director Greg McLean captures the feel of isolation and fear perfectly. Though Wolf Creek itself is fictional, the character of Mick Taylor was based on several real Australian serial killers.
This adds to the terror as you can’t help but wonder if these types of occurrences are possible in your own backyard, if left unchecked. Watch at your own risk!
Very Bad Things (1998)
No, it's not a good movie. But this story actually happened.
Very Bad Things follows a group of five friends who travel to Las Vegas for a bachelor’s party at a luxurious suite. However, their plan to have some fun turns upside down when things go awry and one of them accidentally kills a prostitute.
The friends try to cover up the crime but later are stalked by an unknown serial killer who has evidence connecting them to the murder. It is based on the true story of Din Warner, one of Nevada’s most mysterious serial killers in real life.
Despite being a dark, gritty movie, Very Bad Things features some hilariously dark humor which distinguishes it from other crime thrillers.
Din Warner was an old textbook salesman who managed to evade capture for years despite his killing spree spanning across six states. He would lure victims using fake offers of jobs–much like one of the friends in the movie did.
This sense of commonality makes Dean’s character even more disturbing as he parallels the real life serial killer and puts those around him in danger of becoming the next victims.
As the story progresses, secrets are revealed and shifted perspectives challenge viewers’ assumptions with gripping suspense that keeps them guessing until the very end.
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