15 Creepy Horror Movies and The Chilling Real-Life Cases That Inspired Them

15 Creepy Horror Movies and The Chilling Real-Life Cases That Inspired Them
Image credit: Legion-Media

If truth is stranger than fiction, that might explain why movies based on horrific crimes are popular.

Jump scares are fine in their place, but psychological thrillers in which we can imagine what it's like to be in the victim's place are infinitely more disturbing.

We have compiled a list of 15 lesser-known creepy films based on actual events. Turn the lights down, the sound up, and watch the following films, if you dare.

Badlands (1973)

Before Mickey and Mallory in Natural Born Killers, Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen starred in Badlands. Both movie couples were based on star-crossed teen couple Caril Ann Fugate and Charles Starkweather.

After killing Caril's entire family, they hit the road, leaving around a dozen victims in their bloody wake before being captured.

Tenderness of Wolves (1973)

Based on the true story of murderer Friedrich "Fritz" Haarmann, is a tale not for the faint of heart. Amongst the accusations made about Fritz during his 1924 court case, were the abduction and slaying of dozens of young boys and the selling of their flesh to unsuspecting neighbors.

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Kiss of a Killer (2013)

Bela Kiss, what a beautiful name for a monster. For that's exactly what neighbors of the murderer with this moniker believed him to be.

A monster who preyed on women in early 20th century Budapest. They found no less than 24 corpses on Bela's property, but as far as we know, no one ever found Bela.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

Henry Lee Lucas was one half of a globetrotting duo claiming a body count well into the hundreds. Henry and his partner in crime (and sometime lover), Ottis Toole, assisted law enforcement all over the U. S. close cold cases by admitting to all unsolved murders brought before them.

Under closer scrutiny, however, things just didn't match up. Once Henry realized the genuine possibility that a spot on death row awaited him, he recanted.

The Axeman of New Orleans (2019)

If the Ripper letters unnerved the masses, the note from this axe-wielding serial killer published in 1919 newspapers left people terror-stricken.

No one knew who the killer was. Soon rumors spread he possessed supernatural abilities such as passing through locked doors.

The only thing anyone knew for certain was he loved jazz. He wrote he would murder the inhabitants of the first house he found not playing jazz on the night of March 19, 1919.

The Gray Man (2007)

Cannibal serial killer Albert Fish used his small stature and soft voice to his advantage. Fish's appearance was so unimposing, he had no difficulty convincing parents to entrust their children to him.

After brutally murdering and partially consuming one of his victims, he wrote to the girl's parents detailing the crime. Whether a thinly veiled boast or an example of his twisted logic, Fish assured the grieving family he didn't assault her, she died a virgin.

The Gorilla Killer (2015)

Already a troubled child, 10-year-old Earle Nelson was admitted to a psychiatric facility after he suffered a serious head injury which resulted in headaches and behavioral problems.

He strangled all his victims with his freakishly strong, oversized hands, leading to him being compared to a gorilla. The exact number of victims is unknown, but his victims are believed to be around 2 dozen over only a year and a half.

While the City Sleeps (1956)

A 1940s murderer dubbed "The Lipstick Killer," after police found a message to them written with the victim's lipstick, was ultimately identified as teenager William Heirens.

Heirens maintained his innocence, passing away in 2013 while still incarcerated. The years since the murder have produced substantial evidence he was in fact wrongfully convicted.

I Want to Live (1958)

Susan Hayward's portrayal of convicted killer Barbara Graham netted her an Oscar. Graham's tragic life and ultimate execution are perfect for the classic Nature vs. Nurture debate.

Passed around and abused in foster homes and state-run facilities, she developed substance abuse issues and accumulated a lengthy rap sheet of misdemeanors.

On March 9, 1953, Graham was in the company of three men who robbed and murdered an elderly woman. It made no difference that Graham took no part in the vicious act. Being present was enough to earn her a seat in the gas chamber.

Bluebeard (1963)

Based on the life of serial killer Henri Landru, the title refers to the legendary character of the same name who killed his wives one after the other.

Landru was a father of four, with a wife and mistress to support. He seduced, robbed, and killed women in order to keep his dependents in the style to which they'd grown accustomed.

The Devil Strikes at Night (1957)

Beginning in 1928, serial killer Bruno Lüdke, committed at least 50 murders over 15 years. Or did he? Although he confessed to the crimes, witnesses stated he showed signs of physical assault following the police interview.

Bruno had an unspecified mental deficit that many felt prevented any chance he could have carried out these crimes. Authorities did not formally charge Bruno, and the case never went to court.

Instead, the authorities declared him insane and admitted him to a Nazi-run asylum where SS doctors experimented on him until the last experiment led to his death shortly before the end of WW2.

Compulsion (1959)

The term "crime of the century," batted around so often, it has completely lost meaning, does accurately describe the case against Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold.

Leopold and Loeb were young elitists subscribing to the notion of Nietzsche's superman. The murder of their victim, young Bobby Franks, was an experiment to commit the perfect murder.

They wanted to do it. They had a "compulsion" to do it, so they did it. The pair's straightforward reasoning and unapologetic admission are still shocking a century later.

Wonderland (2003)

Starring Val Kilmer as John "King of Porn" Holmes and Kate Bosworth, this film is based on the "Wonderland Murders" AKA the "Four on the Floor Murders."

A hedonistic mélange of sex, drugs, and…… porn. Some members of law enforcement stated the violence and bloodshed eclipsed that of the infamous Sharon Tate murder.

The Limehouse Golem (2016)

Although ostensibly a work of fiction, Ripperologists and fans of the true crime genre will easily draw parallels between Jack the Ripper and the fictional serial killer he inspired.

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This period piece allows the viewer to immerse themselves in Victorian era London when death walked among the living.

M (1931)

This film with its dark atmospheric cinematography preys on a parent's worst fear; someone taking their child. Writer/Director Fritz Lang spent a week observing and interviewing asylum patients who were child killers.

One of these inmates was Peter Kürten, a sadistic murderer of children in the 1920s.

All in all, these only skim the surface of amazingly shocking movies based on even more shocking true cases. If you're looking for an unsettling way to spend your evening, we hope this list has given you some viewing material.