Zodiac and the 9 best real life serial killer movies

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - OCTOBER 03: Jake Gyllenhaal attends the 'Stronger' premiere at the 13th Zurich Film Festival on October 3, 2017 in Zurich, Switzerland. The Zurich Film Festival 2017 will take place from September 28 until October 8. (Photo by Alexander Koerner/Getty Images)
ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - OCTOBER 03: Jake Gyllenhaal attends the 'Stronger' premiere at the 13th Zurich Film Festival on October 3, 2017 in Zurich, Switzerland. The Zurich Film Festival 2017 will take place from September 28 until October 8. (Photo by Alexander Koerner/Getty Images) /
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2. Memories of Murder

Based on the very first documented serial murders in Korea that took place between 1986 and 1991 in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province. It’s directed by South Korean director Bong Joon-ho, one of the greatest directors to ever live, guaranteeing a near-flawless movie viewing experience.

Adapted from the 1996 stage play by Kim Kwang-rim, Memories of Murder doesn’t just recount the crimes of a serial killer, it shows how the misdeeds of one man changed an entire country.

The killer is never identified in the film because at the time of its release he had yet to be caught. The movie was released in 2003 and it wasn’t until September 2019 that Lee Choon-Jae was finally identified as the Hwaseong killer. Upon identification, he was already serving a prison sentence for raping and murdering his sister-in-law in 1994.

Although he initially denied any involvement, Lee later confessed to both the Hwaseong murders and to an additional 14 others. He also confessed to 30 rapes.

His crimes are considered to be the most infamous in South Korea’s modern history and the film shows why. Song Kang-Ho and Kim Sang-Kyung star as Detective’s Park and Seo, the two detectives trying to solve the case. Very similar to Zodiac but more intense and much darker.

The killer clearly had a lot of problems, other than the obvious one. His kill routine was irritatingly anal; only striking on rainy nights and only targeting women who wear red after requesting that a special song play on the radio.

1. Vengeance is Mine

Finally, on this list of serial killer movies, we have Vengeance is Mine, a Japanese film directed by Shōhei Imamura, based on the book by Ryūzō Saki that’s about an unusual serial killer named Akira Nishiguchi (changed to Iwao Enokizu in the film) who killed five people between October and December in 1963. Before Nishiguchi was a serial killer he was a fraudster, embezzling money and committing petty theft for a living.

However, it didn’t take long for him to start robbing and murdering people instead. His first victims were two men he lured in the woods and stabbed before stealing all the money they had, around $750. He was quickly put on the most wanted list but killed three more people while fleeing the city, including a young motel manager and her mother when he couldn’t pay the motel bill.

Nishiguchi was eventually found and executed on Dec. 11, 1970. A prosecutor called him “the Black Gold Medalist in history” and his crimes were the direct catalyst for the creation of the Japanese Metropolitan Designated Case system.

Outside of his criminal activity, there isn’t much known about Nishighchi so the film works to fill in some of the blanks. It’s told throughout a series of flashbacks, showing the murders and then backtracking to the past where it offers some backstory. Vengeance is Mine is about a serial killer, but it plays out more like a living picture painted by a thousand crying people. It’s out of the ordinary in a way that beautifully seduces and repels you at the same time. But most Japanese films are like that.

The film won the 1979 Best Picture Award at the Japanese Academy Awards and won Best Screenplay at the Yokohama Film Festival, where actor Ken Ogata also won Best Actor for his portrayal of the killer.

Which of these serial killer movies is your favorite? How many have you seen? Did we miss any serial killer movies we should be adding to the list? 

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