All Hannibal Lecter Performances, Ranked from Worst to Best

Who is Hannibal Lecter ?
A renowned scholar?
A connoisseur of art and music?
A gourmet of fine dining, especially human liver with fava beans and a glass of Chianti.
A man without any conscience ?
A killer without any mercy for his victims?
Well, let’s agree at – a pure psychopath!

Conceptualised by author Thomas Harris in his novel ‘Red Dragon’, Hannibal Lecter is the closest God could go while creating a pure psychopath. A man so learned, yet so vile. A man so educated, yet so cruel. A man so cruel, yet so mellow, when he likes someone. The character is said to be modeled on the real life persona of a physician who was accused of killing and dismemberment of many people, in the sixties. Over the years, many have been deeply intrigued by the character of Hannibal Lecter. A vile man with very little value for human lives, yet he is drawn towards people, who share his vulnerabilities. Be it detective Will Graham or Clarice Sterling, his empathy towards the troubled is obvious. On the other hand, his victims suffer the ignominy of becoming his cuisine, as he devours their flesh with much delight.

Art is always fascinated towards serial killers. So it did not take much time to adapt the most notorious serial killer’s story, to movies and TV shows. We, at The Cinemaholic, listed all Hannibal Lector performances from worst to the best. Read on –

6. Hannibal Rising (2007)

For a character like Hannibal Lecter, there has to be a pathbreaking backstory. A story so horrific that made a man cannibal. What was that incident, that removed the last trace of humanity from a little boy? Well, ‘Hannibal Rising’ was supposed to be the answer for all these questions, but could not. It failed spectacularly at the box office as the critics took delights to pan it heavily. ‘Hannibal Rising’ tells the story of a eight year old Hannibal, who goes through one of most horrific times during the great war and ends up becoming the evil reincarnated. The movie falters due to its eagerness to showcase Hannibal’s conversion into a cannibal, thus missing out on highlighting the enigma behind the character. Instead of understanding for Hannibal’s proclivity for committing murders, the movie concentrates itself on turning into a gore fest. It’s a pity that the screenplay by the author Thomas Harris became such a dud.

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5. Hannibal (2001)

When you have something like ‘The Silence Of The Lambs’ to follow up, the pressure seems right up to the nose. The second coming of Hannibal Lecter and Detective Clarice Starling was ominous from the beginning as Jodie Foster dropped out from her iconic role and was replaced by Julianne Moore. But that did not stop the film from becoming a disappointment. ‘Hannibal’ starts ten years after the events of its predecessor with a surviving victim of Hannibal Lecter using all of his influences to extract revenge on him, via Clarice Starling. The movie feels more like a run a mill thriller compared to its predecessor. Anthony Hopkins plays the titular role and surprisingly, is found to be less mesmerising. Instead of the much restrained performer of its predecessor, he’s shown to be a man that eating brains and faces and can get on the action anytime he wants, thus removing the enigma behind the man and making the movie a macabre and at times, distasteful. The movie also stars Gary Oldman who plays the nemesis Mason Verger to Hannibal.

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4. Red Dragon (2002)

Based on the novel of the same name by author Thomas Harris, ‘Red Dragon’ is the story where the legend of Hannibal Lecter is introduced to the world. Detective Will Graham who had a prior run-in with Hannibal and was instrumental in putting him into prison, is forced to join hands with him for a case. The 2002 version was the second time this novel was adapted for big screen. It had Anthony Hopkins and Edward Norton. But somehow it didn’t manage to create the awe that was expected from it. Primarily it was due to the fact that it had already been on big screen before and comparisons were bound to be made with its predecessor. The points where the movie rises to the peaks are the confrontation scenes between Hopkins and Norton as well as the scenes involving Ralph Fiennes as the antagonist ‘Tooth Fairy’, who’s fierce but also thought provoking through his actions.

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3. Manhunter (1986)

Now again, why ‘Manhunter’ should be considered to be above ‘Red Dragon’, when they both come from the same story? At the time of its release, the critics shredded it to pieces, naming it one of the most worst films ever. I really don’t blame them as some movies don’t really get their true dues when they’re released first. Over time, their true potential comes out to the forefront, which makes the viewer wonder why the hell, he didn’t like it the first time? Director Michael Mann’s ‘Manhunter’ which serves as the introduction of Hannibal Lecter, is like a heady cocktail that swoons the viewer into its maze. Unlike ‘Red Dragon’ which sets the stage by pitting detective Will Graham and Lecter against each other, ‘Manhunter’ never reveals the true reason of their distrust against each other. But it shows Will in such state of pity, that us viewers keep thinking about Hannibal’s impact over Will’s life. ’Tooth Fairy’ is the antagonist of this film and he is shown as the victim of circumstances rather than a pure evil. Music plays a huge role in this film, as it uses punk rock of the eighties to enunciate the disturbing scenes. Brian Cox plays Hannibal and gives a solid performance as the psychopath who controls many lives, even if he sits in a prison.

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2. Hannibal – The Series (2013-2015)

Unfortunately, TV’s best psychopath had to be stopped midway as ‘Hannibal – The Series’ was called off by NBC due to lower ratings. It focuses on the unique relationship between detective Will Graham and his serial killer consultant Hannibal Lecter, much before the events of ‘Red Dragon’ and ’The Silence of the Lambs’. While the detective has a unique trait to see himself in the killer’s footsteps thus living the psyche of the killer to understand his true purpose, the consultant thrives on his penchant for committing murders and then taking a part of the victim, to make a dinner out of it! Mads Mikkelsen plays Hannibal and gets to mouth some amazing lines. He is terrifying as the charismatic serial killer. The best part of the series are the death sequences which are horrifying as well as innovative. A corpse is teared open to shape like a cello, with the victim’s vocal chords resembling the strings, a dead body intertwined like a tree with branches are the ones to watch out for.

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1. The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)

19 minutes. That’s right, only 19 minutes of screen time but a lifetime of remembrance. That’s how Anthony Hopkins’s portrayal of Hannibal Lecter became the stuff of folklores. Such nuance and fieriness had seldom appeared on screen. When a young trainee detective Clarice Sterling from FBI is assigned the task of stopping a crazy psychopath serial killer, named Buffalo Bill, she unwillingly turns to one of the most nefarious serial killer for help. Deep down inside, she’s perturbed by a recurring nightmare where she keeps seeing lambs being slaughtered. All she wants to get rid of this dream and somehow she believes that if she could save that one innocent, she will be fine. Hannibal takes a liking to her for both share the same ignominy of being judged from the eyes of the biased world. Together they form a uncomfortable alliance to save an innocent’s life. Only the third film in the history of the Academy awards to win the big five awards, it fetched Anthony Hopkins the award of best actor, despite being on screen for a such a small period of time.

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