The Storied Franchise Of Hannibal Lecter On The Big Screen And Small

In honor of the hit new television series (of which I am a big fan) Hannibal, I decided to dissect the Hannibal Lecter movie franchise. Take a deeper look at each individual film in the order in which they were made not in any sort of ranking system or in a convoluted chronological order.

Hannibal Lecter is without question one of the best and most intriguing film characters of all time. He has become nearly a hero as opposed to villain despite being named one of the most terrifying on screen villains ever due to his real elements and everyday demeanor. Born in the world of literature he has had a new life in the world of film to a near cult status. He will always be remembered played by the brilliant Anthony Hopkins but not to be forgotten his on screen birth was by the always severely underrated Brian Cox then later as a young Hannibal by Gaspard Ulliel.

This takes us right into our list:

Manhunter (1986)

Director: Michael Mann


A young Michael Mann was the first given the privilege to start the insanity with on his second major motion picture made for the screen. While the movie is most definitely a 1980’s film with it’s shooting style and musical score, it is none the less a terrifying thriller and outside of it’s sequel, yes sequel, The Silence Of The Lambs, it is the best in the series. With Hannibal played by the ever great Brian Cox in a most striking way that unfortunately went fairly unnoticed. Will Graham who is Clarice Starling before Clarice Starling. If you are a fan of the television series this is the film out of the franchise you need to see. Will Graham is most like the disturbed TV version and the thought process and production is most similar. This film also feature Dan Butler and Frankie Faison who would later be in Silence Of The Lambs although in completely different roles. It is a great thriller and one that has always flown under the radar but should still be seen.

Silence Of The Lambs (1991)

Director: Jonathan Demme


The pinnacle movie as far as thrillers go. It’s certainly to best of the Hannibal series and one of the most successful Academy Award winning movies ever, being one of the few to sweep the major categories, movie,director,actor,actress and writer. Jodie Foster won her second Oscar and Anthony Hopkins became a household name purely off the success of his performance. Demme became a respectable name after having a reputation as comedic director without any further ability. This story is the most compelling and tense in the series be it book or film. It is the quite possibly the best film adapted from a novel outside of Gone With The Wind and is almost scene for scene accurate to the book. This is Thomas Harris masterpiece along with being the crown jewel in the series. The one “must see” of them all.

Hannibal (2001)

Director: Ridley Scott


Hannibal was the much anticipated sequel to the wildly successful Silence Of The Lambs.Not without it’s controversy at the time of it’s release due to it’s director and star replacing two Oscar winners is no ease task. Set between Europe and the US it is Clarice Starling’s continued search for Dr. Lecter. One thing is not a surprise and that is with director Ridley Scott at the helm the gore would be much more prominent than the last two films. Based of Harris’ critically acclaimed follow up to his 1988 novel much was expected but seemed to let audiences down at the time. Over time it has grown with fans and become one of the more accepted and loved of the series.

Red Dragon (2002)

Director: Bret Ratner


Director Bret Ratner was an odd choice to director what is ultimately a remake of Michael Mann’s Manhunter. Maybe producer’s thought they could recapture the magic that they once had with Demme who was also a comedic director before he helmed Lamb’s. While it is quite faithful to the book and the original film, that may be due to Ted Tally once again taking on the script. If one is in love with Hopkins as Lecter they most likely will start here to watch the films in chronological order but be advised Manhunter is the more terrifying and best of the two versions of the book.

Hannibal Rising (2007)

Director: Peter Webber


The most atrocious of the films it was directly written for novel and screen by Thomas Harris. It tells the origin of Lecter and what drove him into madness. Set in WWII Lithuania and early 1950’s Paris it is a black eye on the franchise with a terrible story and acting. It would leave one asking how this mastermind and brilliant psychologist and doctor got away with his actions for so many years across so many countries. Full of holes and terrible plot lines it is the only film of the franchise to receive multiple Razzie award nominations, though it didn’t win any it was very well deserved.

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21 thoughts on “The Storied Franchise Of Hannibal Lecter On The Big Screen And Small”

  1. I am also in love with the new show Hannibal… thanks for the info – I wasn’t aware of the Michael Mann movie, now I’ll have to check it out! Love your blog, thanks for another great read. 🙂

  2. I’m so glad to hear that there are other people out there who love ‘Hannibal’ the series as much as I do. I am going to be so p.o.’ed if it’s canceled. As for the movies it’s been ages since I saw Manhunter; but I must admit to liking Red Dragon and Hannibal. I haven’t watched Hannibal Rising and don’t intend to. Oh, and I loved The Silence of the Lambs, of course.

  3. Good write-up. I think the character is also quite fascinating, interesting and for my money, has never been played better than by Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs. That said, while I’m still behind on episodes, from what I have seen, Mads Mikkelson (which by the way, how cool of a name is that?!) has played the character brilliantly on the television show.

  4. I think Bret Ratner didn’t get the credit he deserved for Red Dragon. It’s a solid thriller. Still prefer Manhunter though. Michael Mann is way cooler than Bret Ratner.
    I do have to say the Hannibal TV series is setting new heights in creepiness. I hope it sticks around.

    1. It was a solid movie with a good cast just had the unfortunate situation of it being a remake of a movie like Manhunter

  5. I really want to watch the new show. I like the actors, I just haven’t had the time. Perhaps when it’s all out so I don’t have to wait for a next weeks’ episode! I watched Silence of the Lambs, it was very scary.

    Silence was the one with the pigs, right?

      1. No problem! I’ve kind of had a morbid curiosity about Hannibal (the character) but I haven’t gotten around to reading any books or anything. This was the best thing for a quick fix!

        And yeah, I love Ridley Scott, the only thing he’s done that I hated were Life in a Day and Robin Hood (which wasn’t THAT bad…just not my favorite interpretation.) It probably swayed my decision.

      2. I know…he just produced it. It was meant to be sarcastic sorry. You can’t blame him for stuff other people shot 😉 he did have a say in editing though I believe.

  6. nice right up . glad i am not the only one who thought hanibal rising kind of screwed up the character . though still proved why hanibal is one of the most scariest film characters. just proves that every film franchise will have a clunker even the one involving the character known as hanibal lecter. the tv version other then the guy playing hanibal having such a think accent one needs sub titles so far lives up to the creepiness of the character

  7. Ah, this is a set of films I have been salivating to rewatch recently. I am getting ready for it. I usually skip Manhunter, though, and just watch Red Dragon (much better).

    1. I think Red Dragon is more accepted because of Hopkins but I feel Manhunter was a much better made film and find Tom Noonan as the tooth fairy much more frightening

      1. I don’t know, I enjoyed Red Dragon more for Ralph Fiennes’s performance than anything, I thought that was so brilliant! Alright, you have sold me, when I do my watch thing again, I will start with Manhunter, then progress onwards, then do an in depth comparison between the two 😛

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