Film & TV
We all get a thrill watching a horror flick. And if things get too scary, we can tell ourselves that it’s just make-believe. That’s not true of these six movies based on the rampages of real serial killers. But at least we can comfort ourselves with the fact that these six are all now safely locked up—or dead.
Killer: Jeffrey Dahmer
Moniker: The Milwaukee Cannibal
Played by: Jeremy Renner
Body Count: 17
M.O.: Strangulation, Dismemberment, Necrophilia, Cannibalism
Today: Dead. Beaten to death by a fellow prisoner.
Jeffrey Dahmer was one of the most depraved serial killers of all time. He began his killing career just three weeks after graduating from high school. Handsome and charming, he lured young men back to his home where he generally drugged them, strangled them, had sex with them (sometimes after death), and dismembered them, saving and sometimes eating the remains.
2. The Snowtown Murders
Killer: John Bunting
Moniker: Bodies-in-Barrels Killer
Played by: Daniel Henshall
Body Count: 11
M.O.: Torture, Strangulation, Cannibalism
Today: In prison, serving 11 consecutive terms of life without parole.
John Bunting was the ringleader of a murderous gang that terrorized South Australia from 1992 to 1999. Like many other serial killers, he believed he was cleansing the world of undesirable or weak people. Some of his victims were discovered dismembered in barrels of acid, giving the killer his nickname.
3. Wolf Creek
Killer: Ivan Milat
Moniker: The Backpacker Killer
Played by: John Jarratt
Body Count: 7
M.O.: Left victims face down with their hands behind their backs.
Today: In prison, serving seven consecutive life sentences plus 18 years life without parole.
The killer is called Mick Taylor in the movie, but the story is based on Ivan Milat’s killing spree, which terrorized New South Wales, Australia from 1989 to 1993. Milat preyed on backpackers in the Australian outback, many of them foreign tourists. Some of his victims were decapitated.
Killer: The Zodiac
Played by: Unknown
Body Count: 5+
M.O.: Targeted and shot or stabbed couples
Today: On the loose
Unlike the other entries on this list, the killer at the center of this film has never been captured. The Zodiac claimed responsibility for 37 killings. Police believe that he actually only killed five. Regardless, the Zodiac struck fear into the hearts of Northern Californians for nearly a year, as he assaulted and killed (primarily) couples in the area. Zodiac follows Robert Graysmith's years-long attempt to identify the killer. Although Graysmith, and the film, seem to settle on one particular suspect as the Zodiac, the case is less clearcut than it may appear in the film.
Killer: Aileen Wuornos
Played by: Charlize Theron
Body Count: 7
M.O.: Shooting at close range
Today: Dead, executed in 2002 by lethal injection.
Wuornos, the rare female serial killer, targeted men she claimed had raped her, or tried to. Abandoned by her mother, Wuornos began selling her body as a child for cigarettes and food. She was working as a prostitute in Florida during her killing spree. The glamorous Charlize Theron required extensive makeup to transform herself into the hard-used Wuornos.
Related: 9 Notorious Female Serial Killers
6. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
Killer: Henry Lee Lucas
Moniker: The Confession Killer
Played by: Michael Rooker
Body Count: Unknown. He confessed to 600 unsolved murders, but was probably lying about many.
Today: Dead. He died of a heart attack in prison. His death sentence was commuted to life in prison by Texas Governor George W. Bush.
Lucas’s first murder was probably his mother, a prostitute who reportedly made Lucas watch her work. There is strong evidence linking him to between two and ten more murders, but when he was in prison he began confessing to hundreds of unsolved cases. Most of those confessions turned out to be false. In the film, his victims are entirely random, including a good samaritan who stops to help Lucas fix his car.
Featured still from "Dahmer" via Blockbuster Films