Realistic Psychopaths In Film: Psychiatrists Give Their Verdict On Who Was The Most Accurate.


In 2014, Belgian psychiatry professor Samuel Leistedt wanted to find out which movie characters best displayed psychopathic traits.

Leistedt enlisted 10 of his friends to help him watch 400 films in three years. The films spanned nearly a century, from 1915 to 2010. When they finished watching all of the films, they found 126 psychotic characters.

Here is a breakdown of their findings.


Anton Chigurh of "No Country for Old Men" was the most realistic psychopath.

Javier Bardem’s character in “No Country for Old Men” is a classic psychopath, Leistedt and his colleagues concluded in their report. Chigurh approached the murder with a strange sense of normalcy, perfectly happy to have shed his signature flash-action pistol without a single grimace. “He appears to be invulnerable and resistant to any form of emotion or person,” the researchers wrote.

Honourable mentions went to two characters: Hans Beckert in "M" and Henry Lee Lucas in "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer."

In the 1931 German film “M”, Peter Lorre played a child killer with many of the characteristics that would be considered child predator today, Leistedt and his colleagues observed. “Lorre describes Beckert as a seemingly unremarkable man, tormented by the forced ritual killing of children,” the researchers wrote. In John McNaughton’s 1986 film “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer,” the protagonist’s inability to plan ahead, coupled with a turbulent personal life and bad family relationships, , making him a classic idiot psychopath, Leistedt said.


Early representations of psychopaths weren't very accurate.


Characters such as Tommy Udo in the 1947 film “Kiss of Death” and Cody Jarrett in “White Heat” (1949) have been misinterpreted as “villains of the genre”, such as the gangsters or lunatics, characteristic mental illness. They are often portrayed as brutal, unpredictable, sexually corrupt and emotionally unstable, forced to engage in random acts of violence, murder and destruction, the team writes. Nature, or facial expressions, often create well-known and unreal characters. “


For decades, slasher films reigned as the ultimate (false) display of psychopathy.

Movies like “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Friday the 13th” introduced a whole new style of psychopaths in cinema. But Leistedt and his colleagues argued in their report that Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees were not psychopaths. “In these murder movies,” they wrote, the psychotic characters are often unrealistic, accumulating many traits and personalities, such as sadism, intelligence, and the ability to predict the victims’ plans. Future kernels will use to escape. Today, these characters are more iconic. evil depictions of fictional killers rather than amusing psychopaths. “


Female psychopaths are just as rare in film as in the real world.

Of the 126 psychopaths in the group’s sample, only 21 were women. Often, these characters fit a similar stereotype, often seen as “scheming manipulators whose primary weapon is sex,” the team wrote. Examples of such psychopaths in film include Hedra Carlson in “Single White Female” and Catherine Tramell in “Basic Instinct” – both of which use men’s sexual desires to work against them to a degree. hazardous. Characters like Annie Wilkes in “Misery” and Rachel Phelps in “Major League” are among the few exceptions to this rule.


Some of the most famous "psychopaths" didn't make the cut.

Patrick Bateman in “American Psycho,” Gordon Gekko in “Wall Street,” Norman Bates in “Psycho,” and Hannibal Lecter in “Silence of the Lambs” are all entertaining and chilling. But Leistedt and his team say their personality traits don’t quite fit the psychopath stereotype.

“In our particular subject of interest, it appears that cinematic psychopathy, despite a real clinical evolution, is still fiction,” the authors write. “Most psychopathic villains in popular fiction look like universal, international villains, almost like ‘villain archetypes’.”