What’s left to say about Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece that hasn’t already been said a dozen times over? It’s the movie that cut the ribbon – via a downward slashing motion – on 1960s filmmaking, breaking damn near every established taboo of the previous decades, from violence to sex, to plotting, to showing a toilet in use. It helped invent the slasher flick, anticipated the splatter film and elevated horror to high art. It’s spawned innumerable imitators and parodies, some subpar sequels, a TV spinoff, a biopic, a documentary and a shot-for-shot remake. If there’s anything ‘new’ to say about Psycho, perhaps it’s that the movie’s far-reaching impact has come to obscure the Anthony Perkins performance at the centre – it’s impossible to imagine anyone else as Norman Bates, and the film casting such a long shadow without him.
Serial killer movies are the dark heart of the crime genre. Unlike true-crime podcasts or the written word, the crimes themselves – often executed with a degree of preparation usually reserved for much more joyous occasions, and invariably gory – need to be visualised. This can (and does) make for a troubling viewing experience, but also gives filmmakers the chance to pose tough questions of society's failings and our own voyeuristic urges.
Since Fritz Lang ended M with a kangaroo court passing sentence on Peter Lorre's killer, serial killer films have come in all shapes and sizes: from the procedural mysteries of David Fincher's Zodiac to the co-opted horror tropes of Silence of the Lambs, via the giallo nastiness of Tenebrae. Some are straight-up exploitative (we've avoided those), others are provocative and shocking (they're here). Hopefully, some on this list will be new to you – others may have left bloodstains on your subconscious. Here’s 31 of the very best films about the very worst of humanity.