There’s something about a horror movie involving a doctor that’s scarier than one with a regular killer. Maybe it’s because doctors know about anatomy and can put that knowledge to gruesome use, or maybe it’s because they never should have started using their power for evil. Of course, being a mutant or murdering psychopath might have something to do with it, too. At any rate, here are the 10 most frightening movie doctors of all time, from the misguided to the truly insane:
Dr. Hannibal Lecter: Was there any doubt that he would make the list? Granted, Hannibal Lecter made his first on-screen appearance in 1986’s Manhunter, where he was played by Brian Cox, but it’s Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of the cannibalistic doctor from the 1991 thriller The Silence of the Lambs that became the iconic version of the character. He’s refined, brilliant, and partial to eating pieces of his victims. Definitely not a man you want to upset.
Dr. Christian Szell: “Is it safe?” Laurence Olivier’s terrifying delivery of that line in Marathon Man is just the beginning of his brutal dental torture of a younger man (Dustin Hoffman) he believes can help him recover a collection of diamonds tied to Nazi war crimes. Olivier’s performance as the deadly doctor won him an Academy Award.
Herbert West: Okay, so technically, Herbert West starts out as a med student, but surely his ability to reanimate dead tissue and bring people back to horrific life qualifies as a doctoral-level achievement. Re-Animator is a bracing mix of horror and comedy, and has become a cult classic thanks to its unique tone and shocking moments of gore and sexuality. (If you’ve ever wanted to see a severed head pleasuring a woman, you have found your movie.)
Dr. Seth Brundle: David Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly uses the same basic ideas of the original film but adds an even darker tone and some disturbing special effects. Brundle’s experiments in teleportation backfire when his DNA is mixed with that of a fly, and he begins to lose his sanity as he transforms into a repulsive monster. Not a flick for the squeamish (trust me).
Dr. Beverly Mantle: Jeremy Irons plays twin brothers in Dead Ringers, another Cronenberg film about identity. Gynecologist Mantle pushes the limits of technology and tools in his growing fascination with one of his patients. The guy is flat-out creepy.
Dr. Moreau: H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau gets a modern update with this 1996 film, and the good doctor is played by none other than Marlon Brando in one of his final roles. He brings a fantastic atmosphere to the portrayal of the diabolical doctor who wants to breed human-animal hybrids.
Dr. Giggles: Maybe the only slasher flick to ever get name-checked by Ludacris, Dr. Giggles follows the insane son of an even crazier doctor as he goes on a killing spree in his hometown to avenge his father’s death.
Dr. Henry Jekyll: There have been many adaptations of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, including John Malkovich’s brooding turn as the personality-shifting doctor in 1996’s Mary Reilly. Anybody who can invent a potion to become someone else is a force to be reckoned with.
Dr. Jed Hill: Alec Baldwin’s character in Malice isn’t a lunatic or a killer, just a quiet, evil, manipulative con man willing to take a life if it’s part of the larger plan. The movie’s a little overheated, but Hill’s egomania is legendary (and even popped up in a reference made by Baldwin’s character on “30 Rock” years later).
Dr. Channard: The Hellraiser films are pretty brutal, but even so, the Channard character from Hellbound: Hellraiser II is a terrifying addition to the series. He’s fascinated with the gateway to hell and the awful inhabitants contained there, and feeds corpses to a revived spirit in order for it to regain bodily form. Guy is nuts, and frightening in every way.