Though movies like Psycho and Silence of the Lambs have been analyzed by horror fans and film experts for decades now, a highly interesting report was just posted over on Science News, which provides an insight into those and other movies that we've never quite gotten before; insight from a real forensic psychiatrist, who knows a thing or two about psychopaths.
Samuel Leistedt has been interviewing and diagnosing real psychopaths for years now, and he recently set out on a mission to watch a whole lot of movies, and pluck out the ones that realistically and unrealistically depict cold-blooded killers. Leistedt and a colleague spent the last three years watching and re-watching over 400 movies, whittling down the list to 126 films, ranging from 1915 to 2010. A team of 10 other fellow psychiatrists then watched those movies and made their own diagnoses, which were used to form a massive research paper that documents cinema's most and least realistic psychopaths.
Among the 'frighteningly realistic' on the list are Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer's titular character, No Country for Old Men's Anton Chigurh and M's Hans Beckert. As for the most unrealistic, Norman Bates and Hannibal Lecter make that portion of the list, despite the fact that they're both based on real-life serial killer Ed Gein.
The main difference between a realistic depiction of a killer and an unrealistic one? While many big screen killers belt out maniacal laughs and are at times quite smart and sophisticated (as is the case with Lecter), Leistedt says that real psychopaths are cold, calculated and completely emotionless. “They’re cold-blooded,” he says. “They don’t know what an emotion is.”
You can read more of the scientific analysis over on Science News.