5 Best Adaptations of Real-Life Psychopaths in Film/Television - Raindance

You know you are in for a scare when a movie begins with the phrase, “Based On True Events.” My obsession with serial-killer films started when I first watched The Silence of the Lambs. Although Hannibal Lecter is a fictional character, I was haunted by his evil persona and sinister grin. While fictional murderers never cease to frighten me, films that are based on real killers are the most bone-chilling. Here are five of my favorite films/TV shows that display adaptations of real-life psychopaths.

Cameron Britton as Ed Kemper in Mindhunter

Mindhunter, the American television series that aired in 2017 highlights several serial-killers. Most memorable is Cameron Britton’s thrilling performance of serial-killer, Ed Kemper. Committing his first murder on August 27th of 1964 and engaging in necrophilia, Edmund Kemper killed ten people. In the television series Britton does a remarkably accurate impression embodying Kemper’s dry sense of humor, expressionless face, and twisted personality.

John Dall and Farley Granger in Rope inspired by the story of Leopold and Loeb

Rope, an old mystery film from 1948 is based on two friends, Brandon and Phillip, who murder David, a mutual friend simply for the thrill of it. The two friends play a dangerous game to feel a sense of accomplishment for their crime. They host a dinner party and invite David’s parents. What no one knows is that the chest on which the buffet is arranged hides David’s body on the inside. This film is loosely based on Nathan Freudenthal Leopold Jr. and Richard Albert Loeb. These are two intelligent and wealthy boys who kidnapped and killed a fourteen-year-old in May 1924. In Rope, Brandon and Phillip, like Leopold and Loeb are cunning and boastful.

Raymond Cruz as Ariel Castro in Cleveland Abduction

Cleveland Abduction, is an American drama that debuted May 2, 2015. The film is based on the kidnapping of Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus that occurred in Cleveland, Ohio in 2002. The girls were kept captives unable to see the light of day or breath in fresh air. They suffered many years of rape and abuse in Castro’s house until 2013 when they managed to escape. The feeling of entrapment grows as Raymond Cruz portrays Castro’s evil and aggressive nature.

Paul Bettany as Ted Kaczynski in Manhunt: Unabomber

Manhunt: Unabomber, is a miniseries that re-enacts the search for the Unabomber, otherwise known as Ted Kaczynski. Kaczynski, a renowned intellect, who formerly studied at Harvard College and the University of Michigan, lived in isolation because of his anarcho-primitivistic beliefs. He killed three people and injured twenty-three between 1978 and 1955 with self-built bombs that he targeted towards companies and individuals involved with modern technology. Paul Bettany gives a compelling and spot-on performance of Kaczynaski representing his anti-social, introverted, and lonesome existence.

Charlize Theron as Aileen Wuornos in Monster

Monster is an American drama that debuted November 16, 2003. The film is based on serial killer Aileen Wuornos who was a prostitute and killed seven men in Florida in the late 1980’s and 1990’s. Wuornos, known for being delusional and mentally unstable, claimed that all seven men raped her during her sex-work and therefore she acted out of self-defense. After an extreme makeover, Charlize Theron performs an award-winning portrayal of Wuornos.



Ellen was born and raised in Lawrence Kansas. In her third year of studying at the University of Kansas, she is majoring in Communications and minoring in Business. Currently she is an intern at Raindance Film Festival where she monitors the Raindance Toronto Twitter account. Her aspirations lie within the entertainment industry where she dreams of working behind the scenes in event management or marketing.