5 Best True Crime Serial Killer Movies Like Boston Strangler

Hulu has finally released director Matt Ruskin’s latest film, Boston Strangler, with Keira Knightley, Carrie Coon, Chris Cooper and David Dastmalchian. Based on the haunting true story, this film follows journalist Loretta McLaughlin as she battles the sexism of her time, as well as a corrupt and incompetent justice system, to investigate the murders of the titular Stranger and help bring him to justice.

For those who enjoyed watching this brutal yet compelling crime movie, here are 5 similar biopics about real life serial killers worth checking out.

The Boston Strangler (1969)

This isn’t the first time the Boston Strangler has had his own movie. Unlike the more recent biopic, which explores the possibility of multiple killers, the 1968 version portrays Albert DeSalvo (played by Tony Curtis) as the definitive Strangler, and instead follows the head of the “Strangler Bureau” ( played by Henry Fonda) investigating the murders. This film is also unique in its repeated use of split screens, making the film look like photographs from a newspaper, evoking how many people were following the Strangler’s story at the time.

The Boston Strangler takes a lot of creative liberties with the story it’s based on. The most glaring change is the way DeSalvo is portrayed as having dissociative identity disorder and turning the film into a disturbing journey through the mind of a serial killer. While this largely inaccurate film may not be top-tier biopic material, its signature visual style and Curtis’ Golden Globe-nominated performance as the Strangler still warrants a watch.

Helter Skelter (1976)

A close-up of Charles Manson in

Based on the novel of the same name by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry, this made-for-TV movie chronicles the investigation of the shocking Tate-LaBianca murders committed by the Manson family in 1969. These murders shocked Hollywood and the country as a whole. like the Boston Strangler scared his town, so Hell Skelter was understandably the most watched TV movie upon its release.

The chilling music and disturbing visuals make for a gruesome procedural crime drama, evoking the terror unleashed by one of the worst murder spree in American history. While most of the acting in this film may not be realistic, Steve Railsback gives a captivating and haunting performance as Charles Manson that makes you feel like he’s popping out of the screen.

Jack the Ripper (1988)

Frederick Abberline and George Lusk

This underrated TV movie presents a gripping account of the detective who led the search for the titular killer while battling alcoholism. As in Boston Stranglerthe Ripper’s actions instilled fear in an entire town, and yet his true identity remains in dispute decades later.

Likewise, the investigation into the Ripper shakes up the entire British system, with riots breaking out in the streets and the killer possibly being a member of the royal family. Featuring a Golden Globe-winning performance from Sir Michael Caine, this crime movie is a haunting and heavily overlooked period piece that should appeal to audiences looking for a completely different story.

The Good Nurse (2022)

In The Good Nurse, two nurses talk to each other.

This suspenseful Netflix drama follows the true story of how nurse Amy Loughren (Jessica Chastain) helped expose the truth that her colleague, Charles Cullen (Eddie Redmayne), was a serial killer who killed his patients. While it’s a very different story from Loretta McLaughlin’s, The good nurse still shows the premise of a woman overcoming the odds to help the authorities unmask a ruthless killer.

At the same time, Loughren struggles to support her family as a single mother with heart problems, similar to how Loretta McLaughlin faces marital problems in her pursuit of the Boston Strangler. The good nurse is also injected with real star power thanks to the critically acclaimed performances of Chastain and Redmayne, which should give audiences a good dose of true crime drama.

Zodiac (2007)

Robert Downey Jr.  and Jake Gyllenhaal in Zodiac.

This David Fincher-directed biopic takes audiences back to the late 1960s to portray the dark and thrilling manhunt for the infamous Zodiac Killer. But similar to Keira Knightley’s movie, Zodiac follows Robert Graysmith as he moves beyond his role as a political cartoonist and tries to uncover puzzles left behind by the killer in an obsessive attempt to get him to catch him.

Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, and Robert Downey Jr. Zodiac keeps audiences on the edge of their seats as it delves deeper into the terrifying mystery behind the real killer who continues to baffle authorities and amateur detectives more than half a century later. Just like with Boston StranglerFincher’s film has no concrete conclusion, as the identities of both killers remain a mystery to this day.

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