The Silence of the Lambs is not only one of the most famous and classic serial killer films there is, but we're going to venture to say it's one of the best movies of all time. In fact, this film is one of three to win Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay at the Academy Awards, and we think that definitely says something about this film.
Honestly, even now this film is pretty timeless and is definitely impressive for being almost 30 years old. However, like all things, not everything ages well. Here are 5 reasons this movie will forever be timeless, and 5 reasons it doesn't quite hold up.
10 Aged Poorly: The Lone Female Cop
It's an ongoing theme in this film for every man that Clarice comes across to flirt with her. Honestly, we kind of think this just means it's rare for a woman, much less an attractive woman, to be a police detective or work for the F.B.I. Despite being brilliant, the men in this movie only see Clarice as someone to hit on and ask out on a date. From the creepy hospital manager to the bug specialist, we're kind of annoyed that they can't see her as an intelligent person with more authority than them, and who they shouldn't be hitting on during the job, or, at all.
9 Aged Well: The Psychological Insight
For a 1991 film, this movie actually gives a lot of props to the psychological side of investigation. Sure, that's the point of the criminal behavior unit, but it's still refreshing to see a film focus on the underlying, psychological disturbances of the offender, and not just their violent tendencies.
This was impressive in the early 90s, but it still holds up as being influential and important to the discussion of criminality. Hannibal's ability to psychologically evaluate other serial killers is kind of way ahead of this movie's time, and we're all here for it.
8 Aged Poorly: The West Virginia Shame
Clarice spends the entire film trying to hide her Virginian accent while she's working. Yes, at the time, this was a stereotype she was trying very hard to avoid. Of course, now, we'd like to throw this out the window and think that a brilliant detective can come from just about anywhere. If there's anything this movie teaches us, it's that your background doesn't mean a whole lot and that the power is yours. So, if you're from Virginia, speak that accent loud and proud, dear.
7 Aged Well: Political Corruption
This film is also one of the few detective serial killer films to discuss the corrupt nature of the system. This movie demonstrates this most clearly through the senators and through Dr. Chilton. Their goal is success and reputation, and they honestly couldn't really care less about the offenders, their mental state, or what even happens to them. While there are clearly detectives and officials that do, it's important to consider that not everyone has the best intentions at heart and that these selfish goals can lead to some bad stuff (like Lecter getting away, for example).
6 Aged Poorly: The Insane Murderer Narrative
Yes, this movie is about a psychopath. In fact, it's about many psychopaths. Hannibal Lecter is being kept in a hospital, and as Clarice visits him, she walks past several other seemingly psychotic and violent criminals. While it's important to the plot, this film is definitely guilty of painting every mentally ill person ever as criminal and violent.
We know that's not true, and we're sorry to say that this is probably the film's greatest downfall. Mental illness does not equal serial killer, and you shouldn't associate it with Miggs, Lecter, or Buffalo Bill.
5 Aged Well: The Technological Advances
Again, for a 1991 film, we're kind of impressed at the technology and techniques that this film utilizes. Clarice makes multiple references to the computer programs that have helped in their search, and their technology is the reason they *think* they have found Buffalo Bill. However, this film also shows that technology can't account for everything, and sometimes these institutions rely too much on them. Clarice, with her very own brain, solves the case and makes a leap that the computer couldn't. So, impressive technology for the 90s, but also a nice little warning flag.
4 Aged Poorly: The Dumb Beat Cops
If there's anything that's laughable about this movie, it's the other officers you meet in the film. Specifically, when they're holding Hannibal at the court house after he's been transferred. In fact, you might remember the officer that turns to Clarice and asks her if it's really true, that Hannibal is, in fact, a vampire?
Yeah, you're supposed to laugh, and yes, it's actually funny. However, this movie isn't doing any favors to front-line officers. Their job is tough, too, and they have a whole different set of skills and tasks.
3 Aged Well: The Intelligent Serial Killer
One thing this movie does that separates it from many is having an actual intelligent criminal. Hannibal Lecter is brilliant, even, and is a psychiatrist with a Ph.D. Films can be guilty of showing violent criminals as impulsive, frantic, and, well, below average in intelligence. We don't see that at all with Hannibal, and while it's kind of frightening, it's really refreshing, and this is still one of the most interesting parts of this classic film.
2 Aged Poorly: The Transvestite Narrative
Honestly, the #1 thing this movie did wrong is make Buffalo Bill a transvestite. Again, it's in the 90s, but we're definitely going to say it isn't holding up today. Sure, it's kind of cute with the moth metaphor, but it's also kind of offensive. There are very few films about transgenders, and this one, which labels the man as a "transvestite", is a murderer? Yeah, not holding up so well. Also, we're going to forget when Clarice says that "there's no correlation between transsexualism and violence, transsexuals are very passive". That's one mighty large brush you're painting with there, Clarice, and it's not aging well.
1 Aged Well: The Brilliant Female Cop
While we've already scrutinized this film for sexualizing the only female cop in this film, we're also going to say that this movie does do favors for females in the field. Clarice is brilliant, brave, and actually does her job better than pretty much anyone else in the film (all of whom are males). If you were the only woman in the field in the '90s, we're betting Clarice Starling was probably one of your heroes. She should still be, and we're hoping that many women out there are trying to be the next brilliant female detective.