1. SE7EN (1995).
Two detectives, a veteran and a rookie, track down a relentless serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins as his modus operandi. This is the ultimate serial killer/detective film. It has everything: David Fincher’s masterful direction, a storyline like no other, incredible yet honest performances by Freeman and Pitt, and the quintessentially unmerciful bad guy. A masterpiece.
2. SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991).
A young FBI cadet must confide in a manipulative and incarcerated killer to receive his help in catching another serial killer — Buffalo Bill — who skins his victims. Having recently been included into the National Registry, this is one of the best films ever made, in my opinion. The casting is exceptionally thought out; the characters are formidable and compelling; and the general atmosphere is harrowing. A must-watch.
3. I SAW THE DEVIL (2010).
When the pregnant fiancée of a secret agent becomes the most recent victim of a serial killer, he sets out on a relentless pursuit of revenge. For fans of both the serial killer genre and Ji-woon Kim’s hugely impressive filmography, comprising A Bittersweet Life and A Tale of Two Sisters, as well as the serial killer being Oldboy, I Saw The Devil is a must-see for any strong stomach.
4. THE CHASER (2008).
Joong-ho is a dirty detective-turned-pimp in financial trouble, as several of his prostitutes have recently disappeared. Whilst trying to track them down, he finds a clue that the vanished girls were all booked by the same client with whom one of his girls is meeting right now. Along with some of Takashi Miike’s stomach churners, this goes down as one of the most explicitly violent films I have ever seen. The detective has found his killer; now all he has to do is find the killer’s next victim. This film really does never stop moving.
5. PSYCHO (1960).
A secretary in her 30s steals $40,000 from her employer’s client, subsequently encountering a young motel owner — Norman Bates — who is too long under the thumb of his mother. The serial-killer film that made/changed a genre? The serial killer that changed how we will look at small-country folk out in the middle of nowhere? I think it is a ‘yes’ to both. Also being based on Ed Gein, the man that inspired such characters as Buffalo Bill and Leatherface, Norman Bates changed the way I, and millions of others, will now look at motel owners into taxidermy — that’s for sure!
6. PUBLIC ENEMY (2002).
Relentless cop Chul-joong and a merciless killer in a raincoat run into each other in a small alleyway and form a fatal bond. A free-for-all fight occurs by coincidence on a rainy street one night. A week later, the bodies of an old couple are found with multiple stab wounds. Chul-joong suddenly recalls the night he met the man in the raincoat. A game of cat-and-mouse ensues between the two. I discovered this moderately unknown South Korean beauty whilst on a mission to buy any film with the Tartan Asia Extreme packaging. I wasn’t disappointed. Here we have an anti-hero cop and a Patrick Bateman-like killer who doesn’t give a damn about anyone.
7. AMERICAN PSYCHO (2000).
A wealthy New York investment banking executive hides his alternate psychopathic ego from his co-workers and friends as he escalates deeper into his illogical, gratuitous fantasies. Straight off the bat, I’m not quite sure whether this is supposed to be seen as a comedy or horror film. However, I never stopped laughing throughout the whole film, but was also sickened at times, so this has to rank in my list. Bret Easton Ellis’ masterpiece is the epitome of a dark/black comedy/horror film. I don’t think you are meant to be laughing, but you are.
8. ZODIAC (2007).
A cartoonist (Robert Graysmith) working for the San Francisco Chronicle becomes an amateur detective obsessed with tracking down the Zodiac Killer. Following Graysmith’s book very carefully and not holding back on any of the gruesome details, David Fincher, yet again, proves why he is the current master of the suspense-thriller genre.
9. MEMORIES OF MURDER (2003).
In 1986, in the province of Gyunggi, South Korea, a second young, beautiful woman is found dead, raped, tied, and gagged with her underwear. Detectives Park Doo-Man and Cho Yong-koo, two brutal yet stupid local detectives without any technique, investigate the murder using brutality and through torturing the suspects, without any practical results. Based on a true story, this is exactly what a serial killer/detective thriller should be: no subtext, no subgenre — just two cops kicking over rocks in order to protect a local community.
10. TATTOO (2002).
Two unlikely detectives from opposite sides of the track are teamed up to hunt down a serial killer whose victims are linked by the beautifully intricate tattoos on their skin. Stumbling across this fairly rare German gem after seeing it being compared to no other than David Fincher’s Se7en, I was pleasantly surprised by how far this film was willing to go.