Last Updated on August 26, 2022 by Ben Oakley
The influence of movies inspiring crime is still debated and argued over to this day. Most people who watch violent movies do not go on to re-enact what they might have seen. But there are some people that do. Before we look at the list of 6 movies that influenced killers and criminals, let’s take a closer look at the truth of it.
‘Pornography and violence poison our music and movies and TV and video games. The Virginia Tech shooter, like the Columbine shooters before him, had drunk from this cesspool.’Mitt Romney, during his presidential campaign.
Romney sat on the extreme side of the fence and was in effect blaming entertainment for the reasons behind violent crime. Is the death of Simba’s father in ‘The Lion King’ any more violent than John McCLane taking out bad guys in ‘Die Hard’?
Researchers found that watching any type of movie, violent or not, can help people cope with their emotions. It can help people overcome challenging situations, expand their imagination, and relieve stress.
Those who commit violent crime, including murder, already exhibited aggressive traits. Such attributes were predictive of criminal behaviour, and not the viewing of movies themselves. Movies might validate one’s own beliefs, rather than changing them.
Here are 8 movies that influenced killers and criminals.
1. The Collector (1965)
This 1965 British film is said to have directly influenced a number of cases. Serial killer Robert Andrew Berdella AKA: The Kansas City Butcher remains one of the evilest killers in the modern era.
His case was one of the first known instances of a movie that influenced the thought processes of someone who had the potential to kill and would go on to kill.
The plot of The Collector is about a man who abducts women and holds them captive in his basement to add to his collection. It is a direct correlation to the exact process used by Berdella in his future murders. Except that he chose men instead of women.
Berdella directly cited the film as an influence of how he could kill. The Collector was also said to have influenced the serial killing duo Leonard Lake and Charles Ng. who together in the mid-1980s killed at least 11 people but was suspected to be 25.
2. Basketball Diaries (1995)
You mean that Leonardo DiCaprio film where he plays a basketball player succumbing to heroin addiction influenced someone to commit a crime? Well, yep.
In a dream sequence, DiCaprio’s character walks into his school wearing a black trench coat and carrying a shotgun. He then proceeds to massacre his classmates, which was something not lost on school shooter Barry Loukaitis.
The 1996 school shooting carried out by Barry Loukaitis at the Frontier Middle School in Washington, was a virtual mirror to the scene in the film. He killed three people and injured more while walking through his school wearing a black trench coat.
He was also heard quoting lines from the film. He later claimed he had got the idea of a school shooting from a Stephen King book called Rage, The Basketball Diaries, and Natural Born Killers.
3. Scream (1996)
Despite becoming one of the biggest horror movies success stories of the 1990s and 2000s, Scream and its character Ghostface had a lot to answer for.
He had two large kitchen knives in his hands as he lunged at Cambier, stabbing her 30 times, and in doing so had ripped open the entire left side of her body. He then carried the mutilated corpse to his bed, slipped a rose into one of her hands, then called his father to confess.
In 2006, 16-year-old Cassie Jo Stoddart was murdered in her own home by two of her classmates. After hiding in her basement, they cut the power then stabbed her 30 times. The pair had pre-planned the murder and filmed themselves talking about before and after. At their trial, they cited Scream as a direct influence.
4. The Matrix (1999)
Unbelievably, the ‘Matrix defence’ has become a real thing and of all the movies that influenced killers, it is one of the most bizarre. The premise of the film is that our reality is not real, instead we live in a giant computer program that we only perceive to be real.
Several killers used the logic that people who were killed were not real people.
In 2000, Swedish exchange student Vadim Mieseges killed and dismembered his landlady in San Francisco. He hid her body parts in bins all over Golden Gate Park. He confessed to killing her upon his arrest but claimed he had been sucked into The Matrix.
Unbelievably, his lawyers put forward The Matrix defence in that Vadim believed the world was not real and as such was not responsible for his actions. Using this as his defence, Vadim was found not mentally fit to stand trial and instead sent to a psychiatric hospital.
Two years later, in 2002, another landlady was murdered at the hands of Tonda Lynn Ansley, who shot her landlady in the head. She too believed she had been getting messages from inside The Matrix. On the basis of The Matrix defence, she was found not guilty by reason of insanity.
5. Robocop 2 (1990)
American serial killer Nathaniel White from New York killed six females from 1991 to 1992. He beat and stabbed them to death while on parole. White already had an aggressive personality but claimed it was Robocop 2 that inspired him to kill his first victim.
In the film, a victim’s throat was cut and the knife slit down the chest to the stomach. White copied the exact same style of murder and then left the body in the same position as it had been left in the scene of the film. He was sentenced to 150 years in prison.
6. Interview with the Vampire (1994)
A day after Daniel Sterling had watched Interview with the Vampire (affiliate link) at the cinema, he took on Vampiric tendencies and believed he had the powers of the characters in the film. Lisa Stellwagen had seen the film with him and visited him again the next day at his home.
But Sterling had a plan in place and after a couple of hours of small talk, he told Stellwagen he was going to kill her and savour her blood. Then he stabbed her seven times and drank her blood for several minutes.
Astonishingly, Stellwagen survived, and her testimony sent Sterling to prison. Sterling later claimed that he enjoyed the movie but wouldn’t blame his attack on it, despite directly referencing it as an inspiration.
7. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Freddy Krueger has remained one of the most famous horror characters for almost four decades. 20 years after the film’s releases, in September 2004, British spree killer Daniel Julian Gonzalez killed four people and injured two others.
He held the macabre belief that he wanted to become a famous serial killer and used Freddy Krueger and Jason from the Friday the 13th films as his direct inspiration. In one of the attacks, he was wearing a mask to hide his identity. He attacked elderly people as they walked alone in parks.
His mother had previously written a letter to her MP criticising that a serious incident had to occur before he could receive mental help. In her letter, she rhetorically asked “does my son have to commit murder to get help?” Gonzalez was jailed for life and committed to Broadmoor Hospital where he took his own life in 2006.
8. American Psycho (2000)
In 2004, in Florida, 14-year-old Michael Hernandez stabbed his school classmate 40 times and slit his throat after luring him into a bathroom.
When he was arrested, he told police that he had modelled his new killer personality on the character of Patrick Bateman from American Psycho. He also claimed that Hannibal Lecter was another influence but didn’t eat any part of his victim.
He was found guilty of first degree murder in 2008 and sentenced to life in prison, where he died in 2021 of heart problems related to obesity.
You might see that Natural Born Killers has been left out, well fear not, there is a whole post in the works dedicated to that film alone. Natural Born Killers is responsible for so many real-life crimes that we couldn’t possibly fit them all into one post. For movies that influenced killers, the film sits head and shoulders above the rest. Do you know of any movies that influenced killers? Share the article or comment below.
Prolific Multi-Genre Author | True Crime Anthologist | Real-Life Writing Machine #writetheplanet #stillthewaves