Cold-blooded killers are people, too. And people can be complex. These characters are driven to kill, but that doesn’t mean all of them are completely okay with it. Based on their motivations and interesting moral codes, we might even be willing to cut them a little slack for their killing sprees (maybe).
Below are the Top 10 Serial Killers With Strong Moral Compasses!
10. Louis de Pointe du Lac – Interview with the Vampire (1994)
Louis (Brad Pitt) is easily one of the softest killers on this list. Urges to kill and feed come with the territory of being a vampire, but Louis is disgusted by the violence and resists feeding as much as possible. He isn’t without his moments of weakness, however (*cough* Claudia *cough*); but he mostly sticks to feeding on animals to curb his hunger.
9. James – End of the F***ing World (2017)
James (Alex Lawther) is seventeen and a self-diagnosed psychopath. He’s already engaged in a number of red-flag behaviours, like murdering animals, and he feels like he’s ready to move on to killing humans. It’s only once he goes on a road trip with his intended victim that he begins to weigh murder against actually developing a personal relationship with someone.
8. Dexter Morgan – Dexter (2006)
I really want to make this list without Dexter (Michael C. Hall), only because he’s an obvious choice for this list. But since he’s such an obvious choice, I can’t skip him. Thanks to his adoptive father identifying Dexter’s killer bent at a young age and imposing a code of ethics upon him, Dexter is a vigilante serial killer, only permitting himself to murder people that he has proven beyond a reasonable doubt have committed murder themselves.
7. Veronica – Final Girl (2015)
Veronica (Abigail Breslin) has spent her entire childhood training to kill very bad people. She graduates her training at 17 with her first mission: kill young men who have been abducting teen girls, drugging them, and playing killer games in the woods. Finally having the opportunity to murder these criminals, Veronica learns that she actually enjoys the activity. It’s only a matter of time before she and her trainer William (Wes Bentley) move on to their night killings.
6. Hayley Stark – Hard Candy (2005)
Rounding out this section of killers driven to punish criminals, we have young Hayley Stark (Ellen Page). She’s hyper-focused on tracking down sexual predators, drugging them, torturing them, and leading them toward killing themselves. Despite saying otherwise, she doesn’t seem to enjoy torturing Jeff Kohlver (Patrick Wilson) a photographer who has preyed upon an underaged girl. She even swings between cold detachment and compassion toward him. At times it’s hard to root for her, but we can’t deny that she’s abiding by an unflinching moral code.
5. Chucky – Child’s Play (2019)
The only completely non-human killer on this list, Chucky is not possessed by the spirit of serial killer Charles Lee Ray in this franchise reboot, and for that reason his murder spree takes on a new flavour. He’s more of an oblivious killer, his faulty programming causing him to set death in the path of anyone or anything that threatens Andy (Gabriel Bateman). He may be murderous, but he’s mostly just trying to take care of his human buddy.
4. Hannibal Lecter – The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) is so cold and calm that it’s hard to trust anything he says, yet we believe him when he seems to have a soft spot for Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) and gives signs that he will not harm her. After all, Lecter‘s modus operandi is to “eat the rude”, not “eat anyone and everyone.”
3. Sir Thomas Sharpe – Crimson Peak (2015)
Thomas (Tom Hiddleston) has gone through a number of years and wives complicit with his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain)’s murder-and-marriage plots. It’s only when he finally falls in love with someone other than Lucille — young intellectual American Edith (Mia Wasikowska) — that he begins to feel suffocated by his sister and try to redeem himself for his past wrongdoings.
2. John Wayne Cleaver – I Am Not a Serial Killer (2016)
Teenager John (Max Records) isn’t a serial killer, but he would be the first to admit that he could easily become one. John is a diagnosed sociopath with homicidal impulses. That said, he doesn’t want to follow through with his urges and is taking every step he can to keep himself in check, from setting up personal rules and coping mechanisms, to speaking regularly with his therapist. Instead of killing, John throws his focus into profiling someone who is serially murdering people in his hometown.
1. Hans Beckert – M (1931)
Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre) is perhaps the first serial killer to be depicted on the screen. He is guilty of despicable crimes, namely stalking and murdering children. When he’s finally captured, though, he gives an impassioned speech about his compulsion to kill. The men who hunt him down as a criminal to kill him have the choice to do so. He bemoans the fact that, unlike them, he has no choice. “It’s me, pursuing myself!” he says, “I want to escape, to escape from myself! But it’s impossible. I can’t escape, I have to obey it.”
Honorable Mention: John Kramer – Saw (2003)
Despite his elaborate death traps, Kramer (Tobin Bell) AKA Jigsaw doesn’t want his victims to die. He doesn’t revel in the gore created when someone fails a task. He would much rather they survive and learn to cherish the lives they have through facing the elaborate deaths they could have suffered at Kramer‘s hands.