There’s no shortage of fictional serial killers out there. And if you’re a “fan” of the most gruesome murderers, then our most horrifying fictional serial killers list is just what you need. They may be imaginary, but these sinister individuals have a way of haunting their victims in a very believable way; whether it’s in a movie, TV show, book, or video game.
1. Freddy Krueger
Type: Movie Killer
Movie: A Nightmare on Elm Street
Year Released: 1984
Director: Wes Craven
Top-Billed Cast: Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon
M.O.: Freddy Krueger kills his victims in their dreams, using a number of ways to torment them. He feeds on their fears and attacks with his infamous razor sharp glove, causing them to die in the real world. His preferred victims are children (including teenagers), mainly the ones who live on Elm Street.
Character Summary: Sometimes compared to the Boogeyman, Frederick “Freddy” Charles Krueger is a dream-demon who only attacks victims in their sleep —and it’s nearly impossible to wake up in time. He kills whenever he wants, and as much as he wants, until someone stops him.
Krueger is known for his razor gloves, brown fedora, green and red sweater, and his burnt skin. He imagined his iconic weapon himself, and it’s among the many ways he kills.
In the first film he’s featured in, it’s revealed that Krueger is a child killer who gets captured, but is released on a technicality. He’s eventually hunted by a crowd of angry parents, who corner him in the boiler room where he used to take his victims.
The parents then burn him alive, which is how he got his scars, but his spirit moves on to haunt the children of those parents in their dreams. Kreuger can take on many forms in order to kill his victims. Each time he’s killed, it never lasts for long.
Type: Book/Movie Killer
Year Released: 1990
Director: Andy Muschietti
Top-Billed Cast: John Ritter, Tim Curry, Harry Anderson, Annette O’Toole
M.O.: Pennywise the Dancing Clown kills his victims in whatever way he chooses, and doesn’t have any particular preference. Like the Stephen King novel, Pennywise can shape shift, but normally takes the form of a clown.
Character Summary: It has been adapted into both the ’90s miniseries, and the hit 2017 film based on the same premise. In the miniseries, Pennywise is a demon who wakes up every 27 years to prey on children, and feeds for months at a time.
Though he will kill anyone he chooses, his primary targets are typically kids and teenagers. He can take on many forms in order to attack his victims, and can hypnotize them. Although he goes by Pennywise the Dancing Clown, he is also known as just Pennywise, or Mr. Bob Gray while in human form in the novel.
He’s known for lurking in sewers, and existed in a void in the universe known as the “Macroverse.” He hunts children because it’s easier to feed on their fears in many forms. He was defeated once before by the Losers, but returned, resulting in them banding together as adults to kill him again.
3. Jason Voorhees
Type: Movie Killer
Movie: Friday the 13th
Year Released: 1980
Director: Sean S. Cunningham
Top-Billed Cast: Betsy Palmer, Kevin Bacon, Ari Lehman
M.O.: Jason Voorhees is known for brutally murdering his victims with a machete, but can naturally turn anything in his environment into a weapon.
Character Summary: Jason is known to be an urban legend, and the curse of Crystal Lake. He was deformed, and according to the story, he drowned as a child at Crystal Lake.
He wears his iconic white hockey mask to cover his deformities, and kills anyone who trespasses on the lake. He’s seemingly undead and immortal, killing to avenge his mother, who was decapitated by a camp counsellor 21 years after his drowning.
He has many powers, including superhuman strength, near invulnerability, regeneration, pain tolerance, rage, and tracking abilities. Despite being immortal, Jason believes he can still drown, making water his true weakness.
He was killed many times, and even fought Freddy Krueger in the 2003 slasher flick, Freddy vs. Jason. The character has also appeared in multiple films, comic books, and video games.
4. Dexter Morgan
Type: Book/TV Killer
TV Show: Dexter
Year Released: 2006
Director: Michael C. Hall
Top-Billed Cast: Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas
M.O.: Dexter Morgan is a forensic technician for the Miami police, who kills using a variety of methods. Although he’s a serial killer himself, he only kills murderers, and uses his police ties to find them.
Character Summary: Born Dexter Moser to Laura Moser and Joseph Driscoll, he had an older brother named Brian. Dexter’s birth parents were drug addicts, and his mother acted as an informant for Detective Harry Morgan, who placed her in Hector Estrada’s drug cartel.
Laura was murdered in front of her sons by the cartel, so Harry eventually adopted Dexter and raised him as his own, knowing he had developed urges to kill from the time he was young. Harry helped him harness those urges and raised him to do good instead of evil.
Dexter has many aliases, including Sean Ellis, Dave Cutler, and The Beast. He’s a sociopath and often refers to other people as “humans,” as if he’s an exception or something else. Although he’s arguably a type of vigilante (killing only those who do evil deeds), he uses a number of creative ways to kill his victims, and enjoys it. But he can never stop his thirst for blood.
He first appeared in the book series by Jeffry P. Freundlich, under the pseudonym Jeff Lindsay, in 2004. Though the TV adaptation took some liberties with the character, many key elements remained; including Dexter preserving the blood from each of his victims in microscope slides that he keeps in a wooden box.
Type: Movie Killer
Year Released: 2004
Director: James Wan
Top-Billed Cast: Cary Elwes, Dina Meyer, Danny Glover, Leigh Whannell
M.O.: Jigsaw uses his keen intellect to set up elaborate puzzles and traps that eventually lead to the gruesome death of his victims.
He wears a pig mask when capturing his victims, and uses a red and white puppet named Billy to speak to them on camera with the catchphrase, “I want to play a game.”
Character Summary: The Jigsaw Killer ( who often goes by Jigsaw) was born John Kramer, a 52-year-old civil engineer who was diagnosed with cancer. Angered by the fact that he would die soon, he became annoyed with people not appreciating their lives.
He chose the name “Jigsaw” because he would cut a jigsaw puzzle shape into his victims to symbolize that a piece of their soul was missing. He has no powers, other than his intelligence, toy making, death traps, and lack of empathy for human life. His legacy was also continued by some of his surviving victims, who later took on the Jigsaw persona. Since his first appearance, the character of Jigsaw also appeared in a non-canon comic book, and multiple video games.
6. Frankenstein’s Monster
Type: Book Killer
Year Published: 1818
Author: Mary Shelley
Main Characters: Victor Frankenstein, the Monster
M.O.: Frankenstein’s monster is made up of a combination of body parts, and he possesses super strength. He only kills out of fear, self defense, or anger.
Character Summary: The monster originally has no name, but is often referred to as Frankenstein, which is actually the name of his “father” and creator, Victor Frankenstein. The creation often goes by “the Monster,” “Adam,” “the Creature,” or “Frankenstein’s Monster.”
Victor created him to prove that a dead body could be resurrected, but he was frightened of his creation due to his grotesque form. Alone and feared, the Monster killed out of anger and revenge, and eventually killed himself when Victor died.
Frankenstein’s monster has made appearances in various movies, TV shows, plays, novels, comic books, and even songs.
7. Hannibal Lecter
Type: Book/Movie Killer
Movie: The Silence of the Lambs
Year Released: 1991
Director: Jonathan Demme
Top-Billed Cast: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins
M.O.: Hannibal Lecter is known for eating his victims, and mutilating them until he kills them.
Character Summary: Dr. Hannibal Lecter goes by many names and aliases, including Hannibal the Cannibal, Dr. Fell, and Count Hannibal Lecter VIII. He was born to a wealthy family in Lithuania, and loved his younger sister, Mischa.
When Nazi deserters invaded their home, they kept Hannibal and his sister hostage. When the deserters ran out of food, they ate Mischa, only for Hannibal to discover her remains. This is what sparked his cannibalism, as he ate his sister’s killers out of revenge.
He became a brilliant doctor, but continued to kill and eat his victims until he was captured and locked up, though he later escaped. He’s known to play mind games with his victims (including FBI agent Clarice Starling), and viciously kill anyone over any period of time.
Hannibal Lecter first appeared in Thomas Harris’ 1981 novel, Red Dragon, and its sequels. Before The Silence of the Lambs, the book was adapted into 1986’s Manhunter, where Brian Cox portrayed the alternately spelled Dr. Hannibal Lecktor. Following the success of the Academy Award winning Anthony Hopkins starrer and its sequels, Mads Mikkelsen played Hannibal Lecter in the NBC show, Hannibal.
Type: Video Game Killer
Video Game: The Suffering
Year Released: 2004
Designers: Midway Games
Characters: Torque, Horace, Hermes T. Haight
M.O.: Torque kills in a number of ways in the game but is most famous for killing with his rifle whenever possible.
Character Summary: In the game, Torque is sent to Abbott State Penitentiary on Carnate Island in Maryland for the murder of his ex-wife and two children. He claimed that he blacked out and didn’t remember murdering them.
He was sentenced to death for the crime but escaped due to a supernatural event at the prison. While playing as Torque, gamers can either fight and kill guards, or they can take a non-violent path. Too much killing makes Torque guilty, while choosing the path of good means he was framed.
Type: Comic Book Killer
Comic Book: DC Comics
Year Released: 1950 (Batman #59)
Creator: David Vern Reed, Lew Sayre Schwartz, Bob Kane
Characters: Batman, Deadshot
M.O.: Deadshot kills his targets by using a variety of weapons but is famous for his rifle and a pair of suppressed, wrist guns.
Character Summary: Deadshot’s real name is Floyd Lawton, and he’s an assassin for hire who originally made his debut in Gotham City. Deadshot grew up with his abusive father, and while trying to kill him, he unintentionally shot and killed his brother.
Since then, he’s been known to never miss. He works for anyone who hires him and doesn’t stop until the job is done. He’s a known enemy of Batman and is a member of the Suicide Squad, a covert government black ops team.
Deadshot kills whenever necessary. Since he has no powers of his own, he relies on his expert combat, marksmanship, and tactician skills. The character has also made (though typically animated) appearances in TV shows, movies, and video games. Portrayed by Will Smith, Deadshot was most recently featured in 2016’s Suicide Squad, and will likely return in its untitled sequel.
10. Norman Bates
Type: Book/Movie Killer
Year Released: 1960
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Top-Billed Cast: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, John Gavin
M.O.: Posing as his mother, Norma Bates, and killing anyone who is viewed as a threat, especially to hide his crimes.
Character Summary: Norman Bates was born outside of Fairvale, California to Norma (née Pool) and John Bates. Due to his mother’s abuse, Norman develops an Oedipal complex, and suffered from multiple personalities, often thinking of himself as Norma Bates.
His father died when he was a child, and Norman later poisoned his mother and her boyfriend out of jealousy. He runs the Bates Motel where he continues his killing spree, murdering whenever he feels threatened. With no special abilities, he uses his intelligence to find a number of creative ways to kill people.
He first appeared in the novel Psycho, which was adapted into Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film. The character also appeared in the film’s 1998 remake, as well as Freddie Highmore in the 2013-2017 TV adaptation, Bates Motel, which focused on Norman Bates’ early life.
11. The Joker
Type: Movie/Comic Book Killer
Movie: The Dark Knight
Year Released: 2008
Director: Christopher Nolan
Top-Billed Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Michael Caine
M.O.: Based on the DC Comics villain, Heath Ledger’s Joker caused chaos in Gotham City, often blowing things up and driving people to do desperate things.
Character Summary: The Joker goes by many names, including The Clown Prince of Crime, Agent of Chaos, Freak, and simply The Clown in comic books and animated features. In most versions, it’s revealed that he grew up with his abusive father, which leads to the scars on his face.
But in the film, he tells different stories to different people about how he got them. The Joker wears his iconic purple suit with dyed greenish hair, and fading face paint. He kills whenever he wants and uses a variety of methods such as explosives, guns, knives, and poisons. His only motives are to spread chaos and watch the city destroy itself in fear.
12. Serial Killer X
Type: Video Game Killer
Video Game: Condemned: Criminal Origins
Year Released: 2005
Creator: Monolith Productions
Character: Serial Killer X
M.O.: Serial Killer X stalks and murders other serial killers by using their own methods against them.
Character Summary: His real name is Leland Vanhorn; he is the nephew of Malcolm Vanhorn, and the enemy of Ethan Thomas. Little is known about him, other than that he wasn’t as strong as Malcolm to fight off the evils of Metro City, but was a good kid growing up. As an adult, he became more aggressive and violent, channeling his anger on the serial killers that plagued Metro City.