There are countless examples of films based off of horrific, real-life events, and they’re often gripping and often times revealing.
Many people find out about famous or horrendous crimes through initial exposure in film, but often times it works the other way. Sometimes a film can be so heinous or provocative that it actually drives individuals to try to act out these crimes in real life – either to chase the similar thrill to the person they’re seeing on screen, or merely to just see if they can pull it off.
It goes without saying that this list is going to cover some truly disgusting and terrifying crimes, and some of the real-life crimes are actually much worse than what was portrayed on screen. This is certainly not a list for those with a weak constitution, as it will go into detail on some of the most tragic crimes that were inspired by incidents committed in film. We will will cover everything from robbery, to murder, to insane amounts of bloodshed, and everything in between.
Some of the films on this list are incredibly famous, not only for their acclaim, but for their huge influence on audiences.
Without further ado, here are 15 Movies That Inspired Real-Life Crimes.
The psychopathic serial killer, Jigsaw, from the Saw film franchise is one of the most feared villains in Motion Picture history. He has extremely elaborate and gruesome traps that ensnare his victims, as he tortures them with decisions to either kill the ones around them to save themselves, or to commit self-harm to obtain keys to the traps that are holding them.
A Salt Lake City mother ended up turning in her son and his friend after she overheard them speaking one night about kidnapping, torturing, and murdering several people. The two boys went into detail on their plans to construct a Saw-style torture room, to teach people lessons that were harming others. They had mentioned a police officer that they knew, and two middle-school girls. The boys even admitted to procuring cameras and camcorders to document the murders, like Jigsaw would have.
14. American Psycho
In 2004, a young man named Michael Hernandez stabbed his middle-school classmate to death and he admitted to modeling his behavior after the killers in American Psycho and Silence of the Lambs. He had said that he identified so completely with these killers that he attempted to act out their actions in their respective films.
Hernandez believed that God had granted him special powers and had completely agreed with his choice to murder his classmates. The teen boy was convicted of first-degree murder in 2008, after he was discovered with the evidence linking him to the crime.
Modeling is an important stage of development, and sometimes when children are at a crucial and susceptive age, they can pick many different kinds of terrible role-models, and Michael chose the worst ones of all.
13. The Dark Knight
Everyone is aware of The Dark Knight; it’s one of Christopher Nolan’s most acclaimed and profitable films, and it’s a pop-culture behemoth today. In 2010, a Wisconsin man was sentenced to almost a year of jail time after he had broke into his cousin’s house and assaulted him while dressed as Gotham’s Prince of Crime.
An even crazier incident occurred in 2009, when a young girl assaulted an Indiana High School teacher. The girl ran at the teacher with a razor blade, but only after she had gone to the bathroom and carved the Joker’s trademark smile into her fact, and applied the Joker’s red, white, and black makeup.
This teen sensation of a film was able to completely brainwash a subset of teens when the first installment of the Twilight franchise hit theaters in 2008. It also ended up driving one Iowa teen completely insane.
After a vice principal had received word that a 13-year-old girl was bitten by a male classmate, he investigated it further and found out that the boy had actually bitten 10 different classmates, all in the span of one months time. When he was contacted, the boy’s father said that his son’s love for the Twilight film had caused him to act out and bite his fellow students.
11. Fight Club
Chuck Palahniuk basically wrote his gritty debut novel for David Fincher. It’s brilliantly, psychotically dark, and it reaches into the mind of a single man until he goes absolutely insane. The film world built around Fight Club was brutally endearing, as it showed a group of men who feel disempowered and disenfranchised basically trying to change the world (in the worst possible way).
In New York City, on Memorial Day in 2009, a group of men attempted to commit a series of terrorist actions similar to those in the film. They set off homemade bombs in various locations around the city, including a Starbucks. The series of bombings were eventually traced back to Kyle Shaw (Not Robert Paulson), a member of a local “fight club” who bragged about the crimes. He clearly didn’t pay attention to the first rule.
10. First Blood
Everybody loves John Rambo, but not everyone wants to be John Rambo. After the 1982 action film came out, though, many young American men wanted to imitate their hero in the Canadian wilderness. One man who was dressed in Army fatigues was actually gunned down in a standoff between him and an officer after he had already shot and killed another officer.
Another 18-year-old man in the Toronto area was found lurking in a ravine wearing khakis and face paint and carrying around a music stand. Another man was found, dressed in army clothes and with pace paint as well, and was pursued for two weeks after he had been spotted launching rocks with a slingshot at a group of children.
9. A Nightmare On Elm Street
This famous horror film was later proven to be the inspiration for Daniel Gonzalez’s killing spree in 2004. One night, the paranoid schizophrenic consumed a series of drugs and went on an absolute rampage, killing four people in the process, including a doctor and his wife. Gonzalez had armed himself with a series of kitchen knives, as he pretended to be the killer from A Nightmare On Elm Street, Freddy Krueger.
The official reports claimed that the young man did not receive the proper treatment for his medical condition, and that’s why he acted out the way he did. He was given six life sentences for the murders, as well as two attempted murders that he carried out in England. He ended up committing suicide in his cell in 2007.
8. The Town
The Town is an incredibly well crafted, Oscar-nominated crime drama that follows the story of a man caught between his allegiance to his criminal friends and his new love interest who was a witness to their crimes. He attempts to protect her, while struggling with the idea of leaving his life of crime behind.
The story really isn’t about the robberies, but more concerned with the struggle that Affleck’s character has, being caught between his criminal career and his new love. Apparently a group of men in New York missed all that, and were really sold on the smart heist techniques that were shown in the film.
A group of men committed 62 robberies involving $217,000 in stolen cash, modeling their crimes after the ones presented in the film. They cut the power supply to the Bank so the employees couldn’t call for help, they wore miners’ headlamps to see in the dark, and they applied bleach to the scene to destroy evidence.
7. Interview With The Vampire
This film was the inspiration for one of the bloodiest crimes on this list (and that’s saying quite a bit). In 1994, a young man named Daniel Sterling ended up seeing Interview With The Vampire with his girlfriend at the time. The following day, Sterling told her, “I’m going to kill you and drink your blood.” At this point, she was probably thinking that this was a bit of a deal-breaker, but she also might have assumed he was joking. He wasn’t.
That evening, Sterling ended up stabbing her seven times and drinking her blood “for several minutes.” He eventually confessed that the movie certainly influenced his actions, but that he did not blame those actions solely on the film.
Wes Craven’s 1994 horror film Scream was a totally revolutionary look at the genre, and it changed the way these films would be made for decades – and counting. The film was so detailed in its portrayal of murder that one American judge even went on record to say that it was, a “very good source to learn how to kill someone.”
The film did inspire its fair share of copycat murderers, the most notorious of which was 24-year-old Thierry Jaradin. Jaradin had actually befriended a young teen named Alisson Cambier and invited her over to his house. Once there, he proposed that they engage in intercourse, which she turned down. He then excused himself into another room and he put on the iconic costume. He took two large carving knifes, and stabbed Cambier 30 times in a manner befitting the opening scene to the film. He then confessed over the phone to police, and blamed the film for his actions.
5. Natural Born Killers
Natural Born Killers is one of the most infamous films when it comes to crimes committed because of a single movie. The film portrays a couple on the run from authorities who commit a series of violent and terrible crimes, and have a blast doing so.
Two young lovers from Oklahoma set out to enact their own killing spree across the country, and to model their killings after the couple from the film. In March 1995 they began their spree by robbing and shooting the owner of a liquor store, driving to Louisiana to shoot a cashier at a convenience store (who did survive, but was paralyzed), and finally returning home to brag to their friends about their exploits. They were soon arrested and sent to jail in 1995.
4. Queen Of The Damned
This is certainly the most deranged incident on this list, and it also involved a young man who was influenced by the idea of vampires.
In 2002, a young man named Allan Manzies murdered his longtime friend because he claimed that a character in the movie Queen of the Damned had told him to do it, and promised to make him a vampire in his second life. After he had watched the film over 100 times, he claimed to have been visited by the female vampire from the film, Akasha, in the middle of the night.
Menzies ended up stabbing his friend to death, drinking his blood, and eating part of his head before burying him in a shallow grave. The “vampire killer” was found dead, years later in his cell, after an apparent suicide.
3. Money Train
This somewhat obscure 1995 heist film included a scene where a thief called “The Torch” robs a subway toll booth, and he then traps the clerk inside and sprays the booth with gasoline. After dousing it in gasoline, he lights the booth on fire, killing the clerk.
A young man attempted to follow through with this plan in real-life, and he filled the coin chute of a booth with lighter fluid, and threated to light the clerk on fire if he didn’t hand over the money. He ended up lighting the chute on fire regardless, and the 50-year-old victim suffered from burns over 75 percent of his body before he was rescued. Unfortunately he ended up dying in the hospital several weeks after.
Backdraft follows a group of Chicago firefighters as they attempt to track down a serial arsonist, but end up putting out the fires that he leaves in his wake.
This real-life crime is actually a bit of a catch-22, because the young man simply wanted to be a hero, but he ended up committing a serious crime instead. After he had watched the movie, the young man was overcome with emotions, and he decided that he wanted to be heroic like the men presented in the film. To do this, he ended up setting a chair in his girlfriend’s house on fire as she and her family slept. He didn’t even get to put the fire out, because the family woke up after smelling the smoke and put it out themselves.
1. Taxi Driver
Taxi Driver is without-a-doubt one of Martin Scorsese’s most brilliant, and certainly one of his most violent films. Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro) is a vigilante who wants to murder a political figure, and receives acclaim and appreciation for his violent acts.
After seeing the movie, a man named John Hinckley Jr. began to acquire an unhealthy attraction to the 12 year old female leader of the film, Jodie Foster. Hinckley ended up firing six shots at then-President Ronald Regan as he left a Washington, D.C., Hilton on March 30, 1981. Reagan was injured by one of the bullets, and his press secretary, James Brady, was hit in the head by another one of the shots.
Later on, Hinckley would recount that his actions were in an attempt to impress Foster, and that it was, “the greatest love offering in the history of the world,” and “Everybody, but everybody, knows about John and Jodie.”
What do you think about the “I saw it in the movies” excuse? Let us know in the comments!
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