Tickle the Nerves: 15 Best Maniac Movies of All Time

This is a great journey into the world of horror – a selection of 15 detective stories and psychological thrillers about serial killers and maniacs. Some of them are based on real events. Others are just scary fantasies. But all these films have either already become classics or have every chance of becoming one soon. Turn it on to get a shot of adrenaline with cortisol and try to guess who will be the culprit.


Year: 1960
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
IMDb rating: 8.5

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Psycho is a film that influenced the further development of the genre and is one of the world’s top thrillers about maniacs.

Marion Crane is dating a divorced man but is dissatisfied with their relationship – the girl believes that her lover pays little attention to her. One day, Marion steals a large sum of money from work, flees the city, and stays overnight in a small motel. It is run by a polite and quiet young man named Norman Bates, who adores his mother but suffers from her overprotectiveness. At this point, the detective story turns into a horror movie.

“Psycho” is also considered one of the best films about maniacs with an unpredictable outcome – Hitchcock even tried to buy the entire circulation of the book that he adapted. Psycho is also interesting to rewatch. Even if you remember all the twists and turns of the plot, try watching it again. You’ll notice how different the suspense will feel and how differently you’ll look at the behavior and dialogue of the characters.

Taxi Driver

Year: 1976
Director: Martin Scorsese
IMDb rating: 8.2

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Former Marine Travis Bickle went through Vietnam and now can’t find his place in the world. Suffering from insomnia, he first drives aimlessly around the city and then gets a job as a night taxi driver.

One day, he falls in love with a girl named Betsy, who is so different from the inhabitants of New York at night. However, the bright hopes of the audience are very quickly shattered — they are replaced by a spiral of violence, which unwinds faster and faster. The turning point is when Travis meets a half-crazed business person who gets into a taxi and tells the driver that he wants to kill his wife, who is allegedly cheating on him.

The Silence of the Lambs

Year: 1990
Director: Jonathan Demme
IMDb rating: 8.6

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It is a classic of psychological films about maniacs, which received five Oscars at once, and the first film about Hannibal Lecter.

In order to find an unknown man who kidnaps young women and skins them, the FBI decides to seek the help of a dangerous cannibalistic killer, former psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Clarissa Starling, a young student of the FBI Academy, is sent to negotiate with him. A strange and rather close relationship arises between Lector and Starling: the maniac agrees to help the girl in exchange for stories about some moments of her past.

Like Psycho, the film is inspired by the story of maniac and body snatcher Ed Geen. The central roles in the story are played by the charming anti-hero Lecter and Clarissa Starling, a female character of a new type.

Man Bites Dog

Year: 1992
Director: Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel, Benoît Poelvoorde
IMDb rating: 7.4

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The dark comedy that inspired Quentin Tarantino to create the script for Natural Born Killers.

“Man Bites a Dog” is a black-and-white grotesque mockumentary movie about a film crew working on a documentary about a serial killer. Three of its participants communicate with the killer himself, his relatives, and friends. At first, they act as dispassionate observers, but then they plunge into the abyss of violence, becoming its accomplices.

A non-standard approach to the script, unexpected plot twists, and social issues that are raised in the film, as well as its influence on the further development of cinematography, make the film “Man Bites a Dog” in the list of the best movies about maniacs.

Natural Born Killers

Year: 1994
Director: Oliver Stone
IMDb rating: 7.2

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A crime comedy, the first draft of the script of which was written by Quentin Tarantino. According to one version, the creators were inspired by the true story of Charles Starkweather and Caryl Fugate, a pair of serial killers who operated in the 1950s.

Mickey and Mallory are a couple of assassins in love who drive through one-story America against the backdrop of roadside cafes, glowing motel signs, and endless steppes. Mickey and Mallory ruthlessly dispatch their victims and enjoy reading newspaper articles about their crimes.

The story of two lovers gives Oliver Stone the opportunity to talk about a society in which evil killers instantly turn into superstars with their fan club. And also about the influence of the mass media on this very society.


Year: 1995
Director: David Fincher
IMDb rating: 8.6

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The detective film about a maniac tells the story of William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) and his young partner David Mills (Brad Pitt), who investigate a series of murders.

Somerset and Mills encounter a mysterious maniac who stages the murders so that each of them is symbolically associated with one of the seven deadly sins: pride, envy, lust, anger, greed, gluttony, and laziness. The detective and his young partner must not only solve the crimes but also understand why the killer chose these particular sins and how they are connected to his past.

Fincher creates a dark and oppressive world in which every character seems suspicious and dangerous. It’s no wonder that Seven is considered one of the most famous thrillers about maniacs with an unpredictable ending.

The Talented Mr. Ripley

Year: 1999
Director: Anthony Minghella
IMDb rating: 7.4

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If you’re looking for the best psychological thrillers about maniacs, this movie is not to be missed. The main character of the film is a young man named Tom Ripley, who lives in the United States and works for a rich American, Herbert Greenleaf. Tom is jealous of his boss’s life and dreams of fame and fortune.

One day, Greenleaf sends Tom to Italy to persuade his son Dick to stop wasting his father’s money and return to the United States. Tom meets Dick and his wife, Marge, and soon realizes that he can use Dick to achieve his goals. He begins to devise a plan that will help him become the heir to the Greenleaf fortune.


Year: 2001
Director: Ridley Scott
IMDb rating: 6.8

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Another film based on Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter book series is the sequel to The Silence of the Lambs and the last film in the Cannibal Psychiatrist series.

The events unfold ten years after the escape of Dr. Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) from prison. Clarissa Starling gets into trouble after an operation to arrest the head of a drug lab. At the same time, Lecter contacted her again and offered to resume their communication. Clarissa is also approached by millionaire Mason Verger, the only survivor of the encounter with Lecter, who is now dreaming of revenge.

“Hannibal” may be inferior in the depth of psychologism to “The Silence of the Lambs.” Besides, there were changes in the cast – Julianne Moore, who refused the role of Jodie Foster, was replaced. However, it’s still a solid and interesting thriller about a maniac, both charming and creepy, with a lot of powerful scenes that you can hardly forget.

Mr. Brooks

Year: 2007
Director: Bruce A. Evans
IMDb rating: 7.3

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Mr. Brooks leads a double life. By day, he is a successful businessman and an exemplary family man, and by night, he is a serial killer. Brooks doesn’t want to kill people at all; he tries to fight his bloodthirsty alter ego named Marshall, but he constantly loses.

One day, a witness to Brooks’ crime appears. A man with a camera offers to keep a secret, but on one condition – he wants to be a witness to future atrocities. As Brooks ponders how to get rid of the blackmailer and the incriminating images, his daughter is in serious trouble. Now Brooks, whom Detective Tracy Atwood is already following, has to save not only himself but also his family.


Year: 2007
Director: David Fincher
IMDb rating: 7.7

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The detective drama, based on real events, is dedicated to the Zodiac, one of the most mysterious criminals in America, whose identity has not yet been revealed.

San Francisco, late 1960s. A series of murders of couples in love in their cars takes place in the city. Wanting to play with the police and become famous, the criminal sends messages to the newspapers, signing himself with the nickname Zodiac. In the letters, he describes his crimes, threatens new murders, and demands the publication of encrypted messages. The heroes of the film, reporter Sharon Peat and detective Paul Avery will have to try to reveal the identity of the Zodiac and prevent new murders.

The personality of the real Zodiac still excites detectives. He did send coded messages to the newspapers that crime fans around the world are trying to unravel, and sometimes they succeed.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Year: 2007
Director: Tim Burton
IMDb rating: 7.3

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A musical thriller about a serial killer bent on revenge, starring Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham-Carter, and Alan Rickman.

Simple-minded barber Benjamin Barker lived in London with his beloved wife, Lucy, and daughter. But their happiness was short-lived, for the voluptuous and vicious Judge Turpin also appreciated Lucy’s beauty. In order to get the woman, he sent Benjamin to life imprisonment.

Fifteen years later, Barker managed to escape. He returned to London under the name Sweeney Todd, only to find his house empty and his wife and daughter gone. The owner of a small bakery, Mrs. Lovett, not recognizing Benjamin, told the poor man his own story. Grief-stricken and thirsty for revenge, Todd vows to punish Judge Turpin and Bailiff Bamford. On the advice of Lovett, who is in love with a fugitive, he returns to his trade as a barber and waits for the right moment to take revenge on his offenders.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Year: 2011
Director: David Fincher
IMDb rating: 7.8

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It is a detective thriller in the format of a “locked room” where an island acts as a room. The film is based on the novel by Stieg Larsson from the Millennium trilogy.

Journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) investigates an old case — 40 years ago, a girl named Harriet Wagner disappeared on an island belonging to the Wagner family. Harriet’s uncle suspects that members of his family are involved. So Mikael and the extravagant hacker girl Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) will have to poke their noses into the hornet’s nest of the Swedish establishment and tear off the veils behind which corruption, the imperfection of the legal system, violence against women, and other dirty secrets are hidden.

This is an American thriller about a maniac. There is also a Swedish film adaptation, but it has not gained such fame.

The House That Jack Built

Year: 2018
Director: Lars von Trier
IMDb rating: 6.8

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It is an extremely bloody and dark thriller that we advise you to watch only for those who have very strong nerves. The film covers 12 years of the life of a serial killer named Jack. During this time, he commits many crimes, but we learn about 5 of them in detail, perhaps even in too much detail. The film is divided into five chapters – “incidents” that Jack tells Verge, his guide to Hell.

Director-provocateur Lars von Trier shows us an action movie turned inside out. In this genre, the audience is accustomed to mountains of impersonal bodies, which do not cause much reflection on the heroes of action films. Here, the viewer comes face to face with the victims, and there is no way for him to avoid this contact. Death in The House That Jack Built is disgusting, just as it is outside the Hollywood spotlight.

“The atrocities we commit in our imagination are our true desires, suppressed by civilization. And we have to embody them through art,” says Trier through the mouth of his character. He strives to turn each of the murders into a work of art, towering above ordinary people and showing us his empty heart that knows no love and compassion.

Holy Spider

Year: 2022
Director: Ali Abbasi
IMDb rating: 7.3

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The film is based on the true story of serial killer Saeed Hanai, who was executed in 2002 for ten murders of sex workers.

One day, a man named Saeed, the father of the family and a man of faith, discovers that he has a mission to cleanse the holy city of Mashhad of fallen women. At nightfall, he gets on an old motorcycle, hunts down sex workers, and kills them. However, the look of pleasure on his face clearly shows that the “holy mission” is just an excuse. The police are not particularly interested in the case, and then the capital’s journalist, Arezu Rahimi, takes it up.

Sacred Spider Killer is not only a thriller about a maniac. It highlights the social problem that exists in traditional and religious societies. There are women in it who were married off early and then abandoned by their husbands. Such women are forced to engage in sex work. Although their services are used, these women remain invisible, and their activities are condemned. Arezu Rahimi, like Saeed Hanai’s victims, is a woman. She faces incomprehension from the men, surprise, and even opposition from the police, who tacitly support the killer.


Year: 2023
Director: Kirill Kemnitz
IMDb rating: 7.0

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Closing our list of highly-rated films about maniacs is a chamber noir thriller, one of the producers of which was Ilya Naishuller.

Sasha is a Moscow night taxi driver. He prefers to work at night, as it is “harder to pretend” at this time, and Sasha likes to study his passengers and guess who they really are.

One day, an escort named Lisa gets into his taxi. A dialogue ensues between them, and the girl asks Sasha to be her driver for the night. What she doesn’t know yet is that the taxi, where she wants to relax between client meetings, may not be such a safe place, and the driver, Sasha, is probably involved in the murders of her colleagues.

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