Top 10 TV Shows About Serial Killers



Top 10 TV Shows About Serial Killers

VOICE OVER: Peter DeGiglio WRITTEN BY: Cassondra Feltus
Just like the rest of you, we're obsessed with TV shows about serial killers. For this list, we'll be looking at television series that focus heavily on serial killers both real and fictional. However, we won't be including any docuseries. Warning: there are mild spoilers ahead! Our countdown includes "Hannibal" (2013-15), "Sharp Objects" (2018), "Criminal Minds" (2005-20), and more!
Just like the rest of you, we're obsessed with TV shows about serial killers. For this list, we’ll be looking at television series that focus heavily on serial killers both real and fictional. However, we won’t be including any docuseries. Warning: there are mild spoilers ahead! Our countdown includes "Hannibal" (2013-15), "Sharp Objects" (2018), "Criminal Minds" (2005-20), and more! What do you think is the most interesting program about this type of criminal? Let us know in the comments.

#10: “Bates Motel” (2013-17)

In 1960, Alfred Hitchcock introduced us to who would become the quintessential cinematic serial killer — Norman Bates. A&E’s series “Bates Motel” is a modernized prequel to the events of “Psycho,” following a teenage Norman Bates and his mother Norma. The two arrive to White Pine Bay, Oregon, where they are the new owners of a motel. The series explores his unusually close relationship with his mother, his fractured psyche, his declining grip on reality, and growing homicidal impulses. Throughout the show’s 5-season run, Norman has relationships, both romantic and friendly, as does Norma. But for Norman, mother always comes first.

#9: “True Detective” (2014-19)

In the first season of this anthology series, Louisiana detectives Rust Cohle and Marty Hart investigate the ritualistic homicide of sex worker Dora Lange in 1995. The nonlinear story structure alternates between 1995 and 2012, when the detectives are interviewed after a recent murder appears similar to Lange’s, suggesting a serial killer is still out there. Like most detectives in film and television, both Cohle and Hart struggle with their inner demons as they take on this bizarre case. The atmosphere is incredibly bleak, dripping with pessimism and philosophical dread, but that’s Southern gothic for you and reason enough to check out this show. Seasons 2 and 3 may follow different offices and cases, but they are also worthwhile, specifically for the cinematography, action scenes and performances.

#8: “You” (2018-)

Joe Goldberg is just a nice, gentlemanly bookshop clerk…or so he seems. He’s actually an obsessive stalker with a bad habit of killing people. When the beautiful Guinevere Beck came into his store, it was love at first sight. For him, at least. And unfortunately for Beck, she instantly becomes the center of his twisted world. Believing he’s the only one who can “save” her from bad influences (hello, savior complex!), Joe does everything to help Beck in the ways he thinks she needs. Like kidnapping and killing her semi-boyfriend Benji. But his tendency to get lost in his own fantasies almost gets him in trouble. His body count only rises in the subsequent seasons, and we don’t think he’ll be slowing down anytime soon.

#7: “Sharp Objects” (2018)

Based on Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name, “Sharp Objects” is a dark and thrilling series about St. Louis crime journalist Camille Preaker. She’s sent to her hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri to report on a girl’s murder case. When she arrives, the body of another girl who’d been missing is found on display in town. As a struggling alcoholic, Camille being back around her belittling, manipulative mother, Adora, is a toxic situation. Between her traumatic childhood, the small-town gossip, and memories of her deceased younger sister, Camille has one hell of a time on this assignment. But she meets Kansas City Detective Richard Willis and together they investigate the murders.

#6: “Killing Eve” (2018-)

MI5 analyst Eve Polastri’s fascination with a female serial killer lands her a job on a special MI6 task force just to find her. The beautiful and incredibly dressed Villanelle is a psychopathic assassin, who is as deadly as she is amusing, with a playful yet methodical approach to her work. When she meets Eve, Villanelle becomes infatuated. Equally obsessed with one another, the two chase each other around Europe in a seductive game of cat and mouse. Hilarious hitmen and women have become their own genre with shows like “Barry,” starring comedian Bill Hader. But unlike Barry, Villanelle still seems to enjoy what she does. One thing’s for sure, she’ll always look good doing it.

#5: “Twin Peaks” (1990-91; 2017)

Back in 1990, David Lynch changed television with his surreal horror series. The central mystery was the death of Laura Palmer, a popular teenager whose body washed up on a riverbank. FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper finds similarities between Laura’s murder and one from a year prior, leading him to believe it’s a serial killer. Cooper has dreams of an unknown man, one of TV’s scariest villains, simply known as Bob (or Killer Bob). All of his scenes are pure nightmare fuel, and he gets even more screentime in Lynch’s prequel film “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me.” In 2017, most of the original cast reunited for a third season, which brought even more murder and mayhem to the town of Twin Peaks and beyond.

#4: “Criminal Minds” (2005-20)

CBS’s addictive crime drama centers on criminal profilers from FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit as they travel all around the US investigating criminals like serial killers and mass murderers. The show features fictional serial killers inspired by real cases, and often actual killers like Zodiac and Jeffrey Dahmer are mentioned. The team deals with some of the strangest cases, involving killers with various motives and methods, from cannibals to criminal masterminds. The unsubs, or unknown subjects, are sometimes interested in their own psychology and seek answers to explain their behavior. The show stands out among a slew of police procedurals because the BAU focuses on the how and why more than who and when.

#3: “Dexter” (2006-13; 2021-22)

“Dexter” is one of the most popular serial killer shows to ever grace our screens. The Showtime series follows Dexter Morgan, who is a forensic blood spatter pattern analyst for the Miami Metro Police Department by day. And by night, he’s a vigilante serial killer himself. Dexter only kills murderers who got off without punishment, escaped custody, or evaded apprehension altogether. He follows a strict code taught to him by his deceased father Harry, a homicide detective who adopted Dexter after finding him at the gory crime scene of his mother’s murder. It’s this horrific experience that led to his “dark passenger.”

#2: “Hannibal” (2013-15)

NBC’s critically acclaimed horror-thriller explores the intimate and increasingly unhealthy relationship between FBI special investigator Will Graham and forensic psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter. Movie fans are more familiar with Dr. Lecter and Clarice Starling’s quid pro quo, but her own titular series focused on the aftermath of the Buffalo Bill case. In “Hannibal,” Will’s job involves immersing himself in the minds of killers. And his boss Jack Crawford strongly encourages the criminal profiler to see Dr. Lecter to keep his sanity, which is ironic considering Hannibal is a serial killer himself and a cannibal. Their patient-doctor dynamic is interesting, to say the least. And under his “care,” Will’s mental state only worsens. However, the two manage to continue working on solving uniquely gruesome serial murders.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” (2018)

Chronicles the Life & Crimes of Andrew Cunanan in the 1990s

“Ragdoll” (2021-)

A Serial Killer Taunts Detectives Investigating the Murder & Dismemberment of Multiple Victims

“The Fall” (2013-16)

DSU Stella Gibson Goes on the Hunt for the Belfast Strangler

“Luther” (2010-19)

A Dedicated Detective Who Often Breaks the Law to Catch a Killer

“Mr. Mercedes” (2017-19)

Based on Stephen King’s Trilogy About a Retired Detective Drawn Back to an Unsolved Case

#1: “Mindhunter” (2017-19)

Topping our list is David Fincher’s “Mindhunter,” a crime thriller created by Joe Penhall that chronicles the nascent days of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit in the late 70s/early 80s. This stylistic series follows Special Agents Holden Ford and Bill Tench, along with psychologist Dr. Wendy Carr, as they conduct interviews with incarcerated repeat murderers for a research project. Their goal was to gain insight into the mind of a killer to solve ongoing crimes. Ford and Tench are loosely based on John E. Douglas and Robert K. Ressler, former agents who introduced criminal profiling into the Bureau. And Dr. Carr is inspired by psychology professor/researcher Ann Wolbert Burgess. It’s a fascinating look into the history of criminal psychology, reportedly featuring real dialogue from notorious serial killers like Edmund Kemper and David Berkowitz.