Who Do You Think Is The Best Portrayal Of A Psychopath In Film?

America is obsessed with serial killers. Grizzly murderers pop up in some of the greatest films ever made, but what is the most realistic portrayal? Psychiatrists have chimed in and here’s who they picked as the most realistic cinematic psychopath.

Meet The Psychiatrists.

Samuel Leistedt was a forensic psychiatrist for over a decade. In 2014, the Harvard research fellow published a paper with his colleague Paul Linkowski about psychopaths and cinema. The two studied hundreds of films to see which ones nailed psychopathy and which dropped the ball. Here are some of their most interesting findings.

The Most Realistic Portrayal 

Anyone who saw No Country For Old Men knows how chilling Javier Bardem was as Anton Chigurh. He’s remorseless, cold, and calculating. Leistedt’s favorite cinematic psychopath: “He does his job and he can sleep without any problems. In my practice, I have met a few people like this.” In fact, Chigurh operated like the few professional hitmen, “cold, smart, no guilt, no anxiety, no depression.”

Chigurh “seems to be effectively invulnerable and resistant to any form of emotion or humanity,” Leistedt writes. This fits his vision of psychopaths built by his won experience, “They’re cold-blooded…they don’t know what an emotion is.” Another realistic component is Chirgyrh’s need to travel. For serial killers to continue to kill, they must remain mobile.

Another true-to-life portrayal came from Wall Street. Leistedt writes of Gordon Gecko, he’s “probably one of the most interesting, manipulative, psychopathic fictional characters to date.” Douglas, too, took home an Oscar for the role.

Surprising Misses

Norman Bates has scared generations of moviegoers in Psycho. The film is typically regarded as one of the greatest ever made and a hallmark of the slasher genre, but he’s not actually a psychopath. The duo concluded that he’s a delusional psychotic. That’s a completely different diagnosis.

What About Lecter?

Silence of the Lambs is yet another all-time titan of cinema featuring a serial killer. Anthony Hopkins, like Bardem, took home an Oscar for his unnerving portrayal of Hannibal Lecter. The duo felt Lecter’s intelligence and elitism were not actually common amongst real psychopaths.

Sophisticated taste and exceptional skill are the backbone for Lecter’s character. “These traits, especially in combination, are generally not present in real psychopaths,” the researchers say.

They chimed in on some other classic films. Kiss of Death is not realistic, but M is. Every few months there’s another psychopath on screen for folks to marvel at. True crime shows no sign of waning in popularity, so it will be interesting to see which films nail it and which do not in the future.

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