Any fan of horror movies knows the name “Hannibal Lecter.” This iconic character has been played by some of the biggest names in Hollywood, and his gruesome crimes have been the subject of numerous films and books.
Diabolical cannibal Hannibal Lecter has been the basis for five movies, all adapted from Thomas Harris novels about Lecter: 1981’s Red Dragon, 1988’s The Silence of the Lambs, 1999’s Hannibal, and 2006’s Hannibal Rising.
The first film starred Brian Cox as Hannibal Lecter. Anthony Hopkins took over the role for “The Silence of the Lambs,” “Hannibal,” and “Red Dragon.”
If you want to experience the full Hannibal Lecter story, then you’ll want to watch all the movies in order. Then, starting with” Manhunter” and ending with” Hannibal,” this list will take you through all the most significant moments in Lecter’s history.
So whether you’re a longtime fan or just getting started, check out these Hannibal movies in order.
Hannibal Lecter Movies in Order of the Release Date
- Manhunter (1986)
- The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
- Hannibal (2001)
- Red Dragon (2002)
- Hannibal Rising (2007)
Manhunter is a 1986 American neo-noir psychological thriller film directed by Michael Mann and based on the Thomas Harris novel Red Dragon. This is the first film in the Hannibal movies.
The film stars William Petersen as FBI profiler Will Graham, who hunts for “Tooth Fairy” killer Hannibal Lecter (played by Brian Cox). The film also features Tom Noonan as serial killer Francis Dolarhyde and Dennis Farina as Jack Crawford, Graham’s boss at the FBI.
Manhunter was a commercial and critical success, grossing over $8 million at the box office and receiving mostly positive reviews from critics. Petersen’s performance, in particular, was praised, with many calling it one of the best performances of his career. In addition, the film’s use of color and stylish visual aesthetic was also singled out for praise.
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However, some critics found the film excessively violent and gory, particularly in its depictions of the killings carried out by Lecter.
Nonetheless, Manhunter is considered one of the best films of the 1980s, and its influence can still be felt in many modern crime thrillers.
If you are a fan of horror movies, you will want to watch Manhunter. This is the first film in the Hannibal Lecter series and is an excellent introduction to the character. The film is well-made and features some great acting by William Petersen and Brian Cox.
However, it is essential to note that this film is violent and gory, so viewer discretion is advised.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
The Silence of the Lambs is a 1991 American psychological horror thriller film directed by Jonathan Demme and based on Thomas Harris’ 1988 novel of the same name.
The film stars Jodie Foster as FBI trainee Clarice Starling. She seeks the help of cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter (played by Anthony Hopkins) to catch another serial killer known as “Buffalo Bill” (played by Ted Levine).
This new killer murders women and removes their skin, and the only way to get him is by using Lecter’s brilliance. Therefore, Crawford sends over Clarice Starling – an FBI trainee – in hopes that she’ll be able to extract information from Lecter about Buffalo Bill’s inner thoughts.
Anthony Hopkins’ first Hannibal movie, The Silence of the Lambs, is also the best cinematic portrayal of the character. Even though its ending gave viewers an unsettling feeling that this killer could be close by, it was set up for a sequel and birthing an unanticipated horror franchise.
The Silence of the Lambs is the most famous Hannibal Lecter movie in the series, grossing $272.7 million worldwide and winning Oscars in the five major categories it was nominated for.
If you are a fan of horror movies, you will want to watch The Silence of the Lambs. This is one of the most iconic films in the genre, and it features some fantastic performances by Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins.
Hannibal, the third film in the franchise and sequel to “Silence of the Lambs,” was released in 2001, a decade after The Silence of the Lambs; it was directed by legendary Ridley Scott and with a screenplay written by playwright David Mamet.
Anthony Hopkins returns as Hannibal Lecter, with Julianne Moore taking over for Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling. The plot revolves around creepy villain Mason Verger (Gary Oldman), who offers Hannibal a $3 million bounty after he escapes custody at the end of Silence of the Lambs.
The film is told from the villain’s perspective, with Hannibal as the protagonist. He is an antihero hunted by a rich deformed pedophile obsessed with Lecter. The movie grossed $165 million domestically and $351 million worldwide due to rave reviews and high anticipation.
The film left audiences wondering if there would be a sequel, but the franchise ultimately decided to focus on prequels and spin-offs.
This American psychological crime thriller movie is sure to make you fall off your chair. If you are a fan of the Hannibal Lecter franchise, this is a movie that you will want to watch.
Red Dragon (2002)
Red Dragon is a prequel to “The Silence of the Lambs” and is based on the novel by Thomas Harris, released in 2002 and directed by Brett Ratner. The film stars Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter, Edward Norton as FBI profiler Will Graham, and Ralph Fiennes as serial killer Francis Dolarhyde.
Blake’s Red Dragon tattoo sends Ralph Fiennes’s fantasy off the rails this time, as he takes on the role of the psychotic Tooth Fairy. His performance is spine-chilling, to put it mildly. In one scene that will stick with you long after watching, he glues a news reporter (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to a wheelchair before setting it ablaze and sending it careening down a busy street.
The movie Red Dragon features detectives Ed Norton (Will Graham) and Harvey Keitel going to the imprisoned Hannibal Lecter for help catching a new serial killer, the Tooth Fairy. What follows is an exciting game of cat-and-mouse as Lecter works with them to try and stop the Tooth Fairy before he kills his next victim – Emma Watson’s character, who is blind.
Despite its lackluster box office performance, Red Dragon is a great film worth watching. It features some fantastic performances by Anthony Hopkins and Ralph Fiennes and is an exciting addition to the Hannibal Lecter franchise.
Red Dragon was less successful than its predecessor, grossing $209 million worldwide on a $78 million budget, however, it did receive generally positive reviews from critics.
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Hannibal Rising (2007)
Though it is both the movie and book Hannibal Rising’s most recent release, it is chronologically the first in the Lecter timeline. Set in 1944 in Lithuania, this film shares Hannibal Lecter’s origin story of his newfound love for destruction and human flesh.
The plot followed Lecter when he was eight years old; his entire family died due to the conflict between retreating Nazi forces and a Soviet tank that stopped at their lodge.
After the second world war ended, Europe was in shambles. Young Hannibal and his sister were then attacked by a group of militiaman thugs– one of which being the super creepy Enrika Dortlich (played by Richard Brake). These men needed to eat to stay alive, so they chose Hannibal’s younger sister as their next meal.
Lecter eventually finds and kills the people responsible for his sister’s death. He gruesomely revenges, even eating a live man’s face off. Hannibal Rising has a strong lead performance from Gaspard Ulliel as a young Hannibal lector, and the film is very dark and disturbing.
Since Anthony Hopkins was not in it, Hannibal Rising failed to interest people and did poorly at the box office. It grossed only $27 million domestically, which is less than what either Hannibal or Red Dragon made in their opening weekends. The film felt like a cheap cash grab to many viewers, and it was the last Hannibal Lecter movie to be released in theaters.
However, if you have watched the Hannibal films, you will want to see how it all started for the cannibalistic serial killer. It is a very dark film, but it is still an essential part of the Lecter franchise.
So these were all the Hannibal Lecter Movies. In Order, you can watch them get the complete experience of the cannibalistic serial killer’s story.