Movie psychos are dependable when it comes to wreaking havoc and dispatching amorous teenagers (or twentysomethings playing teenagers). The most successful have launched profitable franchises and sold merchandise ranging from t-shirts and rubber masks to engraved keyrings. But even the lesser-known killers can have a lasting impact on the genre, even if they fail to enter into mainstream pop culture like their more beloved colleagues.
This list of the top 10 movie psychos is limited to those who look primarily human, so don’t expect to see the xenomorphs from Aliens or that spider-headed creature from The Thing. For the purposes of this article, I like my maniacs standing on two definable legs, whether they’re chasing down a camp counselor with surprising speed or lunging out of the dark to decapitate virgins.
10. Chucky (from the Child’s Play franchise) – When serial killer Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) was mortally wounded by the cops, he used black magic to transfer his soul into a child’s doll. He’s been trying to get back into a human host ever since, but he doesn’t mind engaging in a little random murder in the meantime. The series has devolved into comedy over the years, but the upcoming installment promises to get back to its roots.
9. Victor Crowley (from the Hatchet franchise) – Accidentally hit in the face with an axe and consumed by fire, the hulking Victor (Kane Hodder) was forced to return as a vengeful ghost eternally searching for father. Pity anyone who enters his stretch of Louisiana swamp, as Crowley performs his kills with a ferocity rarely seen in horror movies. He’s also reborn every night, which makes putting him down permanently a tricky proposition.
8. John Ryder (from 1986’s The Hitcher) – A murderous drifter who haunts the lonely stretches of interstate in the American southwest, Ryder’s menace is boosted by the quiet intensity of actor Rutger Hauer. Possibly an agent of Death himself, his M.O. is simple: get picked up by an unsuspecting traveler, gain their trust, and then butcher them in the most horrific manner possible.
7. Leatherface (from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise) – This imposing madman has been portrayed in a number of ways since his film debut in the 1970s. But whether he’s a skin-wearing crossdresser or an out-of-work slaughterhouse employee, he always wields a massive chainsaw and has a taste for human flesh. Most of the killers on this list aren’t prone to rage-induced dances, so the Texas product gets bonus points in that category.
6. Patrick Bateman (from American Psycho) – Prowling the streets of Manhattan during the economic boom of the Reagan administration, Pat Bateman is the epitome of the American dream gone horribly wrong. Christian Bale is perfect in the role, as he lends both acting skill and six-pack abs to a character that’s as ugly on the inside as he is handsome on the outside.
5. Pinhead (from the Hellraiser franchise) – After encountering a mysterious puzzle box, a British military officer (Doug Bradley) finds himself trapped in an infernal dimension of pain. He’s then horrifically transformed into the being known as Pinhead, a droll guardian who whisks away anyone who’s foolish enough to open the puzzle box (known as the Lament Configuration). Most of the fellows on this list either stay mute or crack wise, so bonus points to Pinhead for his calm demeanor and classy British accent.
4. Freddy Krueger (from the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise) – While he has an unlikely costume for a horror icon, the sweater-wearing Freddy has been killing off teens for decades. With his trademark clawed glove and burned body, he started out as a child murderer who was subjected to vigilante justice by a group of angry parents. But while his physical body died, he managed to return in the dreams of his victims and make corny jokes while tormenting his prey. He also has the distinction of offing Johnny Depp on-screen, a privilege that fellow cinematic loons would kill for.
3. Michael Myers (from the Halloween franchise) – Also known as “The Shape,” Myers is a masked psychopath who has an obsession with murdering the female members of his family. He’s been pursuing this agenda since the late 1970s, and he’s managed to bounce back from being shot, stabbed, and even blown up. He never speaks and never stops coming, a combination that makes him especially well-suited to be the modern-day boogeyman.
2. Hannibal Lecter (from Silence of the Lambs and its sequels) – Most famously portrayed by Anthony Hopkins, Lecter is a brilliant psychiatrist who also happens to be a murderous cannibal. He’s easily the smartest killer on this list, and he seems to possess a wide range of knowledge about medicine, art, music, and literature. But don’t think about letting your guard down, no matter how charming the good doctor may seem. Otherwise, you might find yourself being served up as the main course.
1. Jason Voorhees (from the Friday the 13th franchise) – When it comes to horror icons, the hockey-mask-wearing Jason is at the top of the heap. As a child, he was thought to have drowned at summer camp after being neglected by some lusty camp counselors, but he somehow survived. The death of his deranged mother didn’t help his mood, and now he stalks the woods near Crystal Lake killing anyone who’s foolish enough to come around (teens are his favorite). He’s also made stops in Hell, Manhattan, and the future, which is a testament to his enduring popularity (and to the desperation of screenwriters).