The 50 Best Villains in Movie History

23. Hannibal Lecter

Played By: Anthony Hopkins
Movie: The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

There have been many cannibals in film history, but only one who could make us swear off our favorite meal: liver and fava beans with a nice chianti. A brilliant psychiatrist and human flesh-eating serial killer who appears in five movies and an upcoming television series, Dr. Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter is at his best in 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs, where the imprisoned doc guides young FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) in a game of quid pro quo as she pursues “Buffalo Bill,” a homicidal sociopath who’s fashioning himself a woman suit out of real woman-skin.

Even while caged or restrained, the evil genius is terrifying because, as Starling learns, given the chance, Lecter will eat somebody’s tongue right out of their mouth and his pulse won’t even get above 85. And when he does finally shed blood, having calculated his way to an escape opportunity, it's gloriously stomach-turning, gentle classical music playing while Lecter beats his guards to death with a baton like a conductor leading a symphony orchestra. For his curtain call, he slips through police lines in an ambulance by wearing the face he removed from one of the dead men.

Nobody wants a psychiatrist in their head, but after watching Anthony Hopkins’ Academy Award-winning performance, it's impossible to get Lecter out of yours. —JM

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