In movies and TV shows, most of the villains act larger than life. Everything is exaggerated, and we all take comfort in the belief that people as evil as they are do not exist in the real world. Well, it turns out that evil is real. The world is a much darker place than you think, so here’s a list of fictional villains that were all based on real people.
Rebooting the James Bond franchise was a tough job. The British spy is one of Hollywood’s longest running movie series, and it is mostly recognized for cool one liners, crazy gadgets, and over the top villains. Casino Royale, however, was a gritty action movie full of intensely brutal scenes. While Daniel Craig’s portrayal of Bond was praised, another reason the film succeeded was because of its villain, Le Chiffre. Played by Mads Mikkelsen, he is an evil genius who moves money around for terrorist organizations. He’s a complete sadist, the scene where he tortures James Bond being the best example.
Bond creator Ian Fleming based Le Chiffre’s character off of famed occultist Aleister Crowley. The character’s physical description in the original novel is very similar to Crowley’s, including how the whites of their eyes are fully visible around the iris. The infamous torture scene from Casino Royale, where Le Chiffre seems to focus on James Bond’s manhood in the most painful way, is believed to be based on Crowley’s interest in sadomasochism. To be honest, it makes that scene way more disturbing knowing that the villain was based on a real person.
JAMES PATRICK MARCH
The American Horror Story series has always included historical figures in the show’s storylines, starting with the Black Dahlia murder taking place in the house from season 1. In the fifth season, subtitled Hotel, the show introduced the ghost of James Patrick March, a serial killer who also owned a swanky hotel. Of course, this particular building had been designed to assist March in his killings, with secret torture chambers and fake corridors built throughout, all placed there to trap unsuspecting guests. If that sounds pretty messed up, then it’s probably not going to help to learn that March’s character was based off of H.H. Holmes, one of America’s first and most terrifying serial killers.
H.H. Holmes built a hotel in Chicago, hiring and firing construction crews constantly so that no one but him fully understood the design of the hotel. There were soundproof rooms, air tight vaults, and chutes that led to the basement’s furnace. All of those features were used for the most horrifying possibilities imaginable. Holmes’ body count is still unknown, as he is believed to have disposed of his victims’ bodies by selling the skeletons to medical schools. Next time you’re staying at a hotel and the maid forgets to turn down the room, just remember that it could be worse.
When it comes to movie psychos, Norman Bates is clearly the biggest name in the game. The killer from Psycho may not have had the biggest body count, but he’s still one of the most fascinating characters in horror cinema history. Struggling with split personalities, Norman is shy and quiet, while his “mother” is angry, possessive, and full of rage. It’s revealed that Norman actually murdered his mother, and then assumed her identity, often blacking out and waking to find the bloody messes that his mother had made. Real life serial killer Ed Gein played a big role in the creation of Norman Bates.
Gein, like Bates, was a real mama’s boy, although she apparently didn’t think much of him. She was an overbearing presence in his life, and believed to have kept him from socializing properly. The two lived alone together until her death, at which point Gein started dressing like a woman and wearing human skin. He was eventually caught with the corpse of a missing woman on his property, at which point police found his house full of various human remains. Norman Bates isn’t the only fictional killer based on Gein, either. Hollywood keeps coming back to this well, using Gein as the basis for several murderers, including Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. In Hollywood, he’s the horrifying gift that keeps on giving.
Possibly the greatest twist ending ever is in The Usual Suspects. The film revolves around an investigation of a massacre on a boat believed to be involved in a large drug shipment. When the name Keyser Soze is mentioned by one of the survivors, the FBI agents freak out. He’s a mythical criminal, and this could be their best chance to capture him. The story is told through flashbacks, as told by Kevin Spacey’s character, Kint, who also survived the massacre. At the end of the movie, it’s revealed that Kint is actually Keyser Soze, and the entire story he told was probably made up. One thing that wasn’t entirely made up was the myth of Keyser Soze, who was actually based on real life murderer John List.
A resident of New Jersey, John List murdered his entire family one night in 1971. He planned the murder so meticulously that it went unnoticed for almost an entire month, giving List plenty of time to disappear. List was so careful in covering his tracks that he even cut the images of his face out of every picture in his family’s house, and he stayed on the loose for 18 years. During that time, he had gained a mythical status as a fugitive, although his story has a rather boring ending. His story was featured on America’s Most Wanted, and List was recognized by one of his neighbors. He had assumed a new identity and even remarried. Unfortunately, List didn’t have an ending as cool as Keyser Soze had in the movie.
One of the most chilling movie murderers of all time is Dr. Hannibal Lecter, most famously portrayed by Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs. He is intelligent, artistic, classy, and quite lethal. Thomas Harris, the author who created Hannibal the cannibal, based Lecter on a prisoner he met while in Mexico. Harris had gone to the prison to interview a different man, but encountered the future Dr. Lecter already serving a life sentence. This mysterious prisoner proved to be the main influence in creating one of Hollywood’s greatest villains.
Harris wouldn’t give the man’s real name, instead calling him Salazar. To be clear, Harris was too scared to ever mention Salazar’s real name, despite the prisoner serving a life sentence in Mexico. Researchers believe that the man’s name was Alfredo Trevino. He was convicted of killing a close friend of his and then mutilating the body, although he was also suspected in a number of other murders. His view on fava beans has not been stated on record.
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