Today I am back with another horror franchise ranking! I will be discussing and reviewing the Hannibal series. No, I am not referring to the modern television show (although it is incredible and should be watched immediately). I am taking a look at the movies released between 1991-2007. Each film revolves around the notorious Hannibal Lecter, a cannibalistic man with supreme intelligence and intellect. He is both harmful and helpful at the same time. A spoiler-warning is in full effect. Just FYI, I am not going to include Manhunter, as it revolves around the same source material as Red Dragon and apparently isn’t nearly as good. I want to give a big shout-out to Dave Tynan on Instagram for allowing me to use his wonderful artwork. Go check his page out. Also, I have not read any of the novels by Thomas Harris. Let me know if I should. Now without further ado, let’s get into it!
1.) The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
In first place, we have one of my favourite horror movies of all time: The Silence of the Lambs. Clarice Starling, a top FBI agent, is asked to interview Dr. Hannibal Lecter (a brilliant psychiatrist with a penchant for cannibalism) to gain insight into the whereabouts of a psycho serial killer named Buffalo Bill. Hannibal enjoys taunting and questioning Clarice about her own past and when given an opportunity, escapes the mental institution. Despite his disgusting way of life and perverted fascination with Clarice, she’s able to use his teachings to pursue the killer. Anthony Hopkins did an exceptional job of creeping out audiences worldwide. Funnily enough, you cannot help but root for him as he becomes the lesser of two evils when compared to Buffalo Bill. It’s hands down the best movie in the franchise and you cannot change my mind!
2.) Hannibal (2001)
In second place, we have Hannibal, the sequel to The Silence of the Lambs. It follows disgraced FBI special agent, Clarice Starling, as she attempts to apprehend the cannibalistic serial killer before his surviving victim, Mason Verger, captures him. Once again, Hannibal is the lesser of two evils compared to the wealthy child molester, who is intent on ending his life after he was disfigured during their therapy session. Firstly, I love that the majority of the film took place in Florence, Italy. Chief Inspector, Rinaldo Pazzi, is also investigating our villain after the disappearance of a library curator. The cat and mouse game among the European cobble-stoned streets was truly captivating. Secondly, the gore is on point. The disemboweling scene at the Palazzo Vecchio is undeniably great horror cinema. Lastly, the final act will have you biting your nails in suspense. Lecter kidnaps Clarice and forces her to watch him cook a Justice Department Official for dinner. Every moment will capture your attention. The chemistry between Starling and Lecter is undeniable, despite her obvious revulsion and hatred toward him.
3.) Red Dragon (2002)
In third place, we have the prequel to The Silence of the Lambs, Red Dragon. Ex-FBI agent, Will Graham (Edward Norton) is an expert investigator who quit the Bureau after almost losing his life in the process of capturing the elusive Dr. Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). After a series of particularly grisly murders, Graham soon realizes that the best way to catch this killer (known as the Tooth Fairy) is to find a way to get inside the killer’s mind. For our protagonist, that means confronting his past and facing his former nemesis, the now-incarcerated Lecter. As mentioned above, Hannibal is both harmful and helpful. He understands the inner workings of a fellow psychopath, as he is one himself. You have to appreciate the many layers to this film. The Tooth Fairy is one of the most unsettling monsters in the franchise. He truly believes he is the Great Red Dragon – which is tattooed on his back – and that each death brings him closer to achieving his final form. You won’t forget his epic transformation scene in a hurry.
4.) Hannibal Rising (2007)
In last place, we have Hannibal Rising, which is a prequel to Red Dragon and takes place when Lecter (played by Gaspard Ulliel) is a young man. After witnessing the violent deaths of his parents at the end of World War II, he flees from a Soviet orphanage to his uncle’s home in Paris. There, he learns his uncle is dead, but the man’s mysterious Japanese widow, Lady Murasaki, welcomes him nonetheless. An aptitude for science helps Hannibal gain acceptance to medical school, where he hones the skills needed to exact revenge for his sister and the atrocities he witnessed. It’s the backstory we’ve all been waiting for. We cannot help but root for our villain, knowing what he experienced as a child. It also helps that he essentially becomes a Nazi killer. However, we also witness how his struggles shaped him into a cold-hearted cannibal. The reveal at the end was chilling. I enjoyed this movie but it’s in last place because 1.) no Anthony Hopkins and 2.) it isn’t as epic as the other three films. I will say, it’s definitely the most visually stunning in the series. It probably helps that it was the newest film to be released.
Thank you for reading! Let me know what you think of my ranking. Do you agree?
Peace & Love xoxo
I’ve seen “Manhunter” with a very young William Petersen. I don’t recall hating it, but I can’t remember if I thought it was good.
Your list is perfect. On complaint: I’d wiped out the “eat your own brain” memory. Now I have to Eternal Sunshine it again 😂
I didn’t want to watch it because it’s apparently exactly like Red Dragon but not as polished? And they spell Lecter like Lektor lol! That bothered me haha. Thank you so much! Yeah it’s super disturbing isn’t it?
“The most stable elements, Clarice, appear in the middle of the periodic table, roughly between iron and silver.
Between iron and silver. I think that is appropriate for you.”