Hannibal Lecter is a character who has been fascinating and horrifying audiences ever since Silence of the Lambs came out in 1991. Both the Hannibal movies as well as the NBC television show have given fans insight into this cruel, intelligent serial killer. Both Anthony Hopkins and Mads Mikkelsen brought Hannibal to life in distinct, memorable, and frightening ways, and both versions of the character have been beloved by fans.
We’ve collected a list of 10 of Hannibal’s most chilling quotes from both the films and the television show.
10 “I NEVER FEEL GUILTY EATING ANYTHING.”
Mad’s Mikkelsen’s Hannibal Lecter provided a new take on the foundation that Anthony Hopkins had built. This Hannibal is one we see before he has been imprisoned, so we get to see him in a more refined state.
Mikkelsen also took a more “fallen angel” approach to the character and made him more elegant and charming. Mikkelsen’s version of Hannibal is definitely one who doesn’t live a life of regrets and who delights in decadence, and this charmed audiences because of Mikkelsen’s strange good looks.
9 “WELL, CLARICE, HAVE THE LAMBS STOPPED SCREAMING?”
Anthony Hopkins’ version of Hannibal will always be iconic, as it was the first on-screen interpretation. When Silence of the Lambs came out, it definitely surprised audiences. Hopkins brought to life both the elegant side of Hannibal as well as the dark, creepy side.
His dialogue with Clarice in the film is often chilling and filled with tension. He speaks in metaphors often and leaves Clarice with riddles to answer. His ability to read her and analyze her also makes him extremely scary.
8 “CRUELTY IS A GIFT HUMANITY HAS GIVEN ITSELF.”
Hannibal on the television show is also just as prone to speaking in riddles and metaphors. Some of the dialogue from the show is so riddled with clues and metaphors that it can be hard to understand. Hannibal is clearly an extremely intelligent person, and his conversations with Will Graham allow him to display all of his intellect, as he’s found an equal.
In this quote, Hannibal is talking about how our animal ancestors gave us emotions, but it’s humans who have learned the art of cruelty. Clearly, Hannibal is fascinated by the idea of cruelty and the things human beings do to each other, and this is quite a chilling moment.
7 “DISCOURTESY IS UNSPEAKABLY UGLY TO ME.”
While Hannibal Lecter might be a serial killer and cannibal, he has a certain code of conduct that he lives by. He hates rudeness and discourtesy, and people who show these traits are put on his chopping block.
When Clarice visits Hannibal in the Baltimore State Hospital and a man throws his bodily fluids on her, Hannibal is incensed. The fact that Hannibal does have a strange code of ethics makes him that much scarier because even though he is so polite, in a sense, he is also so evil.
6 “WITHOUT DEATH, WE’D BE AT A LOSS. IT’S THE PROSPECT OF DEATH THAT DRIVES US TO GREATNESS.”
In Hannibal, one topic that comes up often in discussions with Will Graham is that of death. Lecter is intrigued by the concept of death in many forms, both in reality and in philosophy. While this quote could seem benign coming from someone else, from Lecter’s lips it takes on a sinister note.
Death obviously drives Hannibal in some type of way, and his view of what makes him great is a twisted one. One thing that makes Hannibal so cruel is that at times he can seem to feel empathy but is a vicious killer anyway.
5 “REMARKABLE BOY. I DO ADMIRE YOUR COURAGE. I THINK I’LL EAT YOUR HEART.”
This quote comes from Red Dragon, a film which inspired much of the television show, too. In this quote, Lecter shows the two sides of his character. On the one hand, he can respect and admire the intellect and bravery of others, especially when their abilities nearly match Hannibal’s. But he is also still just as cruel to these people.
Threatening here to eat Will Graham’s heart is a bone-chilling moment, but the way it is said has a certain beauty. The dichotomy of Lecter is that he can appreciate beauty so thoroughly and still participate in the ugliest acts.
4 “I DO WISH WE COULD CHAT LONGER, BUT I’M HAVING AN OLD FRIEND FOR DINNER.”
This line is one that was first said in Silence of the Lambs, but it is also said nearly the same way in the television series. It’s easy to see why as it’s such an iconic line.
Hannibal uses this commonly said phrase but it's clearly a gross play on words, as Hannibal literally wants to eat human flesh. This gives this phrase double meaning. Hannibal loves good wordplay, and his wit makes for some memorable lines.
3 “KILLING MUST FEEL GOOD TO GOD, TOO. HE DOES IT ALL THE TIME.”
In the NBC series, Hannibal often talks about God and death. He notes all of the cruel things that God does and clearly sees himself as some sort of godlike figure as well.
This quote illustrates Hannibal’s narcissism and pride. He compares his own murders to that of God killing innocent people. Hannibal is definitely a devil/demon-like character in this series, so this quote is particularly fascinating.
2 “A CENSUS TAKER ONCE TRIED TO TEST ME. I ATE HIS LIVER WITH SOME FAVA BEANS AND A NICE CHIANTI.”
This quote is one of the most well-known and quoted from the Silence of the Lambs. It has definitely made its way into pop culture for the last couple of decades.
The way Hannibal says this line is so calm, but he clearly recognizes the humor in it. This is another instance that shows Hannibal’s love of fancy things and fine dining and how he mixes this elegance with his love of murder.
1 “WHENEVER FEASIBLE, ONE SHOULD ALWAYS TRY TO EAT THE RUDE.”
This is another iconic quote that is said in both Silence of the Lambs and then requoted in Hannibal. This line is easy to remember and is one that fans of the character have attached to.
It’s a slightly funny quote, even as it is deeply disturbing. All of us have moments where we feel angry towards rude people, so on a small level, the quote is relatable, even as it repulses us.