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Hannibal Tetralogy character
Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs
Sir Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter
Birth name Hannibal Lecter VIII
D.O.B. January 20, 1933 (1936 in film)[1]
Titles Dr. Hannibal Lecter M.D. / Count Hannibal Lecter VIII
Aliases Lloyd Wyman
Dr. Fell
Mr. Closter
Nicknames Hannibal the Cannibal
Gender Male
Nationality Lithuanian (Father), Italian (Mother), French (Citizenship), American (Long-time residence)
Race Caucasian
Ancestry Lithuanian nobility (Paternal)
Italian nobility (Maternal)
Relatives Mischa Lecter (Sister)
Count Robert Lecter (Uncle)
Lady Murasaki (Aunt-by-marriage)
Romance Lady Murasaki
Clarice Starling (Novel)
Education Institut De Medicine St Marie, Paris, France (M.D.)[citation needed]
Johns Hopkins University Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland (Psychiatry Residency Training)
M.O. Cannibalism and Torture
Victims 29+
Occupation(s) Forensic Psychiatrist
Created by Thomas Harris
Portrayed by: Brian Cox - Manhunter
Anthony Hopkins - The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, Red Dragon
Gaspard Ulliel - Hannibal Rising
Aaran Thomas - Hannibal Rising (child)

Hannibal Lecter, M.D. is a fictional character in a series of novels by author Thomas Harris. The character is introduced in the thriller novel Red Dragon (1981) as a brilliant psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer. The novel and its sequel, The Silence of the Lambs (1988), feature Lecter as one of two primary antagonists. In the third novel, Hannibal (1999), Lecter becomes the main character. His role as protagonist and anti-hero occurs in the fourth novel, Hannibal Rising (2006), which explores his childhood and development into a serial killer. Lecter's character also appears in all five film adaptations.

The first film, Manhunter, loosely based on Red Dragon, features Brian Cox as Lecter, spelled as "Lecktor". In 2002, a second adaptation of Red Dragon was made under the original title, featuring Anthony Hopkins, who had previously played Lecter in the motion pictures The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal. Hopkins won an Academy Award for his performance of the character in The Silence of the Lambs in 1991. In 2003, Hannibal Lecter (as portrayed by Hopkins) was voted by The American Film Institute to be the most memorable villain in film history.[2]



In literature

Hannibal Lecter is introduced in the 1981 novel Red Dragon as a brilliant psychiatrist incarcerated after having been revealed to be a cannibalistic serial killer. The novel depicts FBI Special Agent Will Graham, who originally captured Lecter, consulting him to catch serial killer Francis Dolarhyde, known only to law enforcement and media by the pseudonyms "The Tooth Fairy" and later, "The Dragon."

Lecter appears in the 1988 sequel The Silence of the Lambs and assists an FBI agent-in-training named Clarice Starling in catching a serial killer known only as "Buffalo Bill". Lecter and Starling form an unusual relationship in which he provides her with a profile of the killer and his modus operandi in exchange for details about her unhappy childhood. Lecter eventually stages a dramatic, bloody escape from captivity and disappears.

Following the success of The Silence of the Lambs and the immense popularity of the character, Harris wrote a third novel titled Hannibal released in 1999. It takes place seven years after the end of Silence of the Lambs and starts with Lecter residing in Florence, Italy, while Mason Verger, one of his surviving victims, attempts to capture him, intending to feed him to his specially bred pigs. Fleeing Verger's Sardinian henchmen, Lecter returns to the United States but is subsequently captured by them, however Starling comes to rescue Lecter and though she becomes incapacitated Lecter is able to carry her to safety and the two escape. Having figured out Krendler's role in the conspiracy, Lecter recruits Starling in avenging themselves on him. He kidnaps Krendler, drugs him, and performs a craniotomy upon him. Lecter, Starling and Krendler himself then feast upon the brains of Krendler, whom Lecter eventually kills. Afterwards Lecter and Starling become lovers and they disappear together, to be last seen by Lecter's former guard, Barney Matthews, in Buenos Aires.

In 2006, Harris wrote a prequel to the Lecter books entitled Hannibal Rising. Harris undertook the project after Dino De Laurentiis (owner of the cinematic rights to the Lecter character since Manhunter) announced that he was going to make a film (with or without Harris' help) depicting Lecter's childhood and development into a serial killer. Harris also wrote the film's screenplay. The novel explains that Lecter is born into an aristocratic family in Lithuania in 1933, and that he and his little sister Mischa are orphaned in 1944 when invading German and Soviet forces storm the family estate. Shortly thereafter, Lecter and Mischa are captured by a band of Nazi deserters, who murder and cannibalize Mischa before her brother's eyes. The death of his beloved sister is extremely traumatic for Lecter, rendering him temporarily mute and sparking his fixation with cannibalism. Lecter escapes from the deserters and takes up residence in an orphanage until he is adopted by his uncle Robert and his Japanese wife, Lady Murasaki. As Lecter grows into a young man he forms a close, pseudo-romantic relationship with the widowed Murasaki and shows great intellectual aptitude, entering medical school at a young age. During this period, he receives tutelage in the Japanese Martial Art of Kenjutsu by Murasaki, who descended from a house of Hiroshima Samurai. Despite his seemingly comfortable life, Lecter is consumed by a savage obsession with avenging Mischa's death. After gaining his first taste of murder, Lecter methodically tracks down, tortures and murders each of the men who killed his sister, in the process forsaking his relationship with Murasaki and seemingly losing all traces of his humanity. The novel ends with Lecter being accepted into the Johns Hopkins Medical Center.

In film

Brian Cox as Hannibal "Lecktor" in Manhunter. Cox was the first actor to portray the character.

Red Dragon was first adapted to film in 1986 as the Michael Mann film Manhunter. For reasons unknown, the filmmakers changed the spelling of Lecter's name to "Lecktor," who was portrayed by Scottish actor Brian Cox.

In 1991, Orion Pictures produced a Jonathan Demme-directed film adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs, in which Lecter was played by Welsh actor Anthony Hopkins. Hopkins' Academy Award–winning performance made Lecter into a cultural icon. In 2001, Hannibal was adapted to film, with Hopkins reprising his role. The ending for the film was changed from the novel due to the controversy that the novel's ending generated upon its release in 1999: in the film adaptation, Starling attempts to apprehend Lecter, who cuts off his own hand to free himself from her handcuffs. In 2002, Red Dragon was adapted to film again under its original title Red Dragon instead of the previous title of Manhunter with Hopkins once again as Lecter and Edward Norton as Will Graham.

Gaspard Ulliel as young Lecter in Hannibal Rising.

In late 2006, the script for the film Hannibal Rising was adapted to novel format. The novel was written to explain Lecter's development into a serial killer. In the film, the young Lecter is portrayed by Gaspard Ulliel. Both the novel and the film received generally negative critical reception.[3]

Concept and creation

Thomas Harris has given few interviews, and has never explained where he got inspiration for Hannibal Lecter, but in a documentary for Hannibal Rising, Lecter's early murders were said by the filmmakers to be based on murders that Harris had covered when he was a crime scene reporter in the 1960s. In 1992, Harris also paid a visit to the ongoing trials of Pietro Pacciani, who was suspected of being the serial killer nicknamed the "Monster of Florence". Parts of the killer's modus operandi were used as reference for the novel Hannibal, which was released in 1999.

According to David Sexton, author of The Strange World of Thomas Harris: Inside the Mind of the Creator of Hannibal Lecter, Harris once told a librarian in Cleveland, Mississippi, that Lecter was inspired by William Coyne, a local murderer who had escaped from prison in 1934 and gone on a rampage that included acts of murder and cannibalism.

Red Dragon firmly states that Lecter does not fit any known psychological profile. However, Lecter's keeper Frederick Chilton claims that Lecter is a "pure sociopath." Lecter's pathology is explored in greater detail in Hannibal and Hannibal Rising, which explain that he was irreparably traumatized as a child in Lithuania in 1944 when he witnessed the murder and consumption of his beloved younger sister, Mischa, by Lithuanian Hilfswillige. One of the Hilfswillige members also claimed that Lecter unwittingly ate his sister as well.

Hannibal Lecter is described in the novels as being small and sleek, and with wiry strength in his arms.[4] In The Silence of the Lambs it is revealed that Lecter's left hand has the condition called mid ray duplication polydactyly, i.e. a duplicated middle finger.[5] In Hannibal, he performs plastic surgery on his own face on several occasions, and removes his extra digit. Lecter's eyes are a shade of maroon, and reflect the light in "pinpoints of red".[6] He is also said to have small white teeth[7] and dark, slicked-back hair with a widow's peak.

Popular culture

Hannibal Lecter has often been the subject of parodies and references in general media. In addition to making an appearance in MAD magazine, Hannibal Lecter has been the subject of parody for several television series and films such as The Simpsons, the Nickelodeon program Fairly OddParents, Austin Powers in Goldmember, Good Eats, Addams Family Values, NBC's The Office (U.S. TV series), South Park and Kevin Smith's Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, most of these parodies feature the character wearing Hannibal's infamous mask. The character has even been parodied in a musical, entitled SILENCE! The Musical. In 1992, Billy Crystal, while hosting the 64th Academy Awards, made his entrance in mask and straitjacket as Hannibal Lecter. In the 1993 comedy National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1, F. Murray Abraham plays "Harold Leacher," a Lecter-like character, who, when questioned by the police officers played by Emilio Estevez and Samuel L. Jackson as to what human flesh tastes like, replies "Like chicken." The character has also been parodied in the Eminem music video for the song "You Don't Know" in which Eminem reenacts the meeting between Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling. He also references Lecter in the songs "Forever", and "Medicine Ball".

Film series


Film Director Writer(s) Producer(s)
Manhunter (1986) Michael Mann Dino De Laurentiis
Richard Roth
The Silence of the Lambs (1991) Jonathan Demme Ted Tally Kenneth Utt
Edward Saxon
Ron Bozman
Hannibal (2001) Ridley Scott David Mamet
Steve Zaillian
Dino De Laurentiis
Martha De Laurentiis
Ridley Scott
Red Dragon (2002) Brett Ratner Ted Tally Dino De Laurentiis
Martha De Laurentiis
Hannibal Rising (2007) Peter Webber Thomas Harris Tarak Ben Ammar
Dino De Laurentiis
Martha De Laurentiis

Box office

Film Release date Box office revenue Box office ranking Budget Reference
United States Foreign Worldwide All time domestic All time worldwide
Manhunter August 15, 1986 $8,620,929 $8,620,929 #3,658 [8]
The Silence of the Lambs February 14, 1991 $130,742,922 $142,000,000 $272,742,922 #252 #258 $19,000,000 [9]
Hannibal February 9, 2001 $165,092,268 $186,600,000 $351,692,268 #153 #160 $87,000,000 [10]
Red Dragon October 4, 2002 $93,149,898 $116,046,400 $209,196,298 #473 #370 $78,000,000 [11]
Hannibal Rising February 9, 2007 $27,670,986 $54,498,898 $82,169,884 #1,953 $50,000,000 [12][13]
Total $425,277,003 (e) $499,145,298 $924,422,301 $234,000,000 (e)
List indicator(s)
  • A dark grey cell indicates the information is not available for the film.
  • (e) indicates an estimated figure based on available numbers.

External links


  1. ^ (see case file extras on DVD of Red Dragon)
  2. ^ "AFI's 100 Heroes & Villains". American Film Institute. June 2003. Retrieved 2007-02-12. 
  3. ^ Hannibal Rising at Rotten Tomatoes
  4. ^ The Silence of the Lambs p. 16, para. 2: "She could see that he was small, sleek, and in his hands and arms she saw wiry strength like her own".
  5. ^ Silence of the Lambs p. 15, para. 2: "Dr. Lecter has six fingers on his left hand".
  6. ^ Silence of the Lambs p. 16, para 4: "Dr. Lecter's eyes are maroon, and they reflect the light in pinpoints of red".
  7. ^ The Silence of the Lambs p. 17, para. 4: "He tapped his small white teeth against the card and breathed in its smell".
  8. ^ "Manhunter (1989)". Box Office Mojo. 
  9. ^ "The Silence of the Lambs (1991)". Box Office Mojo. 
  10. ^ "Hannibal (2001)". Box Office Mojo. 
  11. ^ "Red Dragon (2002)". Box Office Mojo. 
  12. ^ "Hannibal Rising (2007)". Box Office Mojo. 
  13. ^ "Hannibal Rising Production Budget". The Numbers. 


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