Watch These Serial Killer Movies At Your Own Risk

Warning: Contains spoilers.

If the sheer quantity of serial killer films says anything, it's that all things bloody, gruesome, and sick have captivated movie audiences for decades. You draw the psychological conclusions yourself. By now, certain horror movie tropes that originated in slasher films like Halloween (1978) are so familiar we can practically identify just when the masked killer will emerge, and on whom he’ll prey first (It’s always the guy who gets separated from the group).

Though all slasher movies will make your stomach churn, it's easy to get bored watching a bloody film that's clearly cut from a mold. That’s where these imaginative (and gruesome) films come in. Though each will compel you to sleep with the lights on, the films are thought-provoking and intelligent, as well as scary.

Here are the serial killer and slasher movies you should never, ever watch alone.

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The Movie: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

The Killer: Leatherface dons a horrific mask made of the human skin of his victims. To make matters more disturbing than they already are, Leatherface was inspired by the real-life serial killer, Ed Gein.

In the first installment of the six-movie series, things go south for two siblings and their friends when they encounter a family of cannibals. One such murderer is Leatherace (Gunnar Hansen), from whom they narrowly escape.
The Movie: It (1990 and 2017)

The Killer: It is a supernatural being born of Stephen King's imagination. It rises from the sewers of Derry, Maine every 27 years to prey on the town's youth. Its most common form is Pennywise the Clown. And even though It is supernatural, It is still the creepiest serial killer ever.

In It, a group of kids who call themselves the Losers Club take on a manifestation of every child's worst nightmare — a killer clown.
The Movie: Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

The Killer: Good luck getting Freddy Kreuger's disfigured face out of your mind. Kreuger sneaks into his victims' dreams and kills them with razors. The effects take hold in real life. Kreuger has a major edge over the other serial killers on this list. When he's in the dream world, Kreuger completely invulnerable.

In his backstory, Kreuger had been a murderer of children. The parents of his victims locked Kreuger in a room and burned him alive. In his new form, Kreuger returns to his neighborhood and hunts down teenagers as they lie vulnerable in sleep.
The Movie: Monster (2003)

The Killer: Charlize Theron transformed herself into Aileen Wuornos, a real-life sex worker who murdered six of her clients.

Soon after moving to Florida, longtime prostitute Aileen (Charlize Theron) meets, and falls in love with, Selby Wall (Christina Ricci). While carrying out the affair, Aileen returns to prostitution. She's raped by a client, and kills him in self-defense. After this initial murder, Aileen finds herself committing increasingly grisly crimes and robberies.
The Movie: The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

The Killers: The film features two serial killers, both with alarming M.O.s. Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine) kidnaps, starves, then skins, his victims. Then, there's Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). Though currently he's prison, Lecter was known for eating his victims.

The only horror movie to receive the Academy Award for Best Picture, Silence of the Lambs is the story of a FBI trainee (Jodie Foster) who enlists the help of one serial killer to catch another. If you can't beat 'em...
The Movie: Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

The Killers: Mortimer Brewster's "nurturing" aunts, who lure lonely men to their apartment and slip arsenic into their wine, à la Arya Stark. The bodies are hidden in the basement by Mortimer's deranged brother, Teddy.

A screwball comedy about elderly serial killers? That's the power of movie-making. Cary Grant plays Mortimer Brewster, a man who's bringing his fiancee to meet his elderly aunts, whom he adores. Little does he know these "nice" aunts have succumbed to the Brewster family curse of insanity, and kill single men with the intention of sparing them from loneliness.
The Movie: Peeping Tom (1960)

The Killer: Instead of a tortured artist, filmmaker Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm) is a torturer artist. He murders women in order to film their terrified dying expressions.

Perhaps 1960s audiences weren't quite prepared for Peeping Tom, which, along with Psycho, was an initial installment in the "slasher" genre. Critics lambasted the graphic, disturbing examination into the mind and history of a serial killer. Despite being considered a classic now, Peeping Tom effectively destroyed director Michael Powell's career.
The Movie: Scream (1996)

The Killer: The individual(s) behind the mass murders in Scream stalk, taunt, and ultimately slash their victims to death with a knife. The signature costume, including a mask inspired by The Scream painting by Edvard Munch, is assumed by many characters over the course of the Scream franchise.

At first, Scream follows the same format as every Halloween-inspired slasher film does: A masked killer preys on a group of young people. But in Scream, the teenage targets are familiar with the movie tropes the killer is using, having seen many slasher films themselves. They think they know exactly how to survive a scary movie – but do they? Wes Craven's film manages to satirize the genre while still delivering a scare.
The Movie: Zodiac (2007)

The Killer: In the late 1960s and early '70s, a still-unidentified murderer, referred to as Zodiac, killed several victims, but with no uniform MO. He teased detectives by sending them enigmatic letters, astrological charts, and bloody clothing. Set during the height of San Francisco's Zodiac terror, the film focuses on a group of investigators and journalists who are consumed by solving the crime. As the manhunt drags on in this David Fincher thriller, the murder count rises.
The Movie: Seven (1995)

The Killer: A murderer chooses targets he feels are committing the seven deadly sins, and then uses their "sin" as a template for the method of murder.

After a career spent facing the brutal underbelly of society, Detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) is set to retire. For his last case, Somerset teams up with the newly transferred David Mills (Brad Pitt), who has just moved to the city along with his pregnant girlfriend (Gwyneth Paltrow). And what a last case it is. They come upon a series of increasingly grizzly murders, all pointing to a serial killer motivated by a dark sense of vigilante justice. Seven's twists, turns, and unceasing darkness make it one of the most difficult films to watch.

We won't spoil who the murderer is, but it'll surprise you.
The Movie: Natural Born Killers (1994)

The Killers: Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis play murderers (and lovers) whose extreme killing spree is followed by a tabloid journalist (Robert Downey, Jr.), and turns them into cult heroes.

Face it: we're fascinated by serial killers — we're writing a list about them, and you're reading one. Natural Born Killers is a satirical crime film that taps into that very impulse. As the murderous duo at the heart of the movie continue their killing spree, they're swept away by a strangely adoring media storm. Naturally, the film itself was the topic of a controversy in the media, too.
The Movie: Halloween (1978)

The Killer: Clad in a white hockey mask, Michael Myers terrorizes a group of teenagers his small hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois, after escaping from an insane asylum.

Thanks to Halloween, the babysitter's worst nightmare isn't having a toddler barf. It's having Michael Myers knock on the door. Jamie Lee Curtis will forever be the horror movie genre's best "final girl," or the only one left alive.
The Movie: Basic Instinct (1992)

The Killer: Murder mystery writer Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone) is such a suave killer, she's able to distract the guy on the case through seduction.

This erotic thriller proved that a woman could be a sex symbol and an ice-pick murderer. Nick Curran (Michael Douglas) is assigned to investigate the death of a rock star, who was stabbed to death with an ice pick. All signs are pointing to the rock star's girlfriend, Catherine, but Nick loses his rationality as he's pulled into her cat-and-mouse game.
The Movie: Psycho (1960)

The Killer: Norman Bates, the deranged motel owner who murders his guests when seized by the "Mother" half of his split personality.

How could Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) know that stopping for the night at the Bates Motel would spell out her doom? Marion befriends Norman, the seemingly friendly motel clerk, who complains about his domineering mother who controls every aspect of his life. When Norman finds Marion fatally stabbed in the shower next day, he automatically assumes his mother is responsible — and, in a way, he's right.
The Movie: Henry: The Portrait of a Serial Killer (1989)

The Killers: After being released from jail for murdering his mother, Henry (Michael Rooker) convinces his prison buddy Otis (Tom Towles) go on a remorseless, cruel killing spree.

The most horrifying part of Henry — and there are many — is that it's based on the account of real-life killer Henry Lee Lucas. Unlike other horror films, which rely on camp or tropes to couch their gruesome subject, Henry is an unflinching look at the psychology of a killer. You will not easily forget this movie.
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