Every Hannibal Lecter Movie Adaptation In Order
Thomas Harris, the creator of The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal Lecter, has a new novel and I could not be more excited! I’ve basically been Googling “Thomas Harris new book” every week since 2006, when I finished reading Hannibal Rising.
Harris’s new novel, Cari Mora, is about a mansion on the Miami Beach waterfront where twenty-five million dollars in cartel gold lies buried beneath it. The novel’s titular character, Cari Mora, is the mansion’s caretaker, who comes up against ruthless men who seek to take the gold.
Almost every Harris novel has been adapted for television or the big screen, from Black Sunday and Manhunter, which was based on Red Dragon (but is different than the Red Dragon movie), to the other Hannibal Lecter movies, like The Silence of the Lambs. And of course, the gorgeously dark and disturbing television show!
Here’s a look back at all of the on-screen adaptations of Thomas Harris novels. Now would be the perfect time for a marathon viewing—especially while enjoying a nice Chianti and some fava beans.
Oh, what a glorious piece of film this is now! Manhunter (based on the book Red Dragon) is definitely a cult classic. It’s directed by Michael Mann (who was responsible for Miami Vice) and it’s basically like Miami Vice meets Hannibal Lecter. Pastel colors, cheesy music, stylized visuals.
William Petersen plays Will Graham, and he is hunting a creepy serial killer, played by the criminally underutilized character actor Tom Noonan. Hannibal Lecter also makes an appearance. (Or ‘Lecktor,” as it’s spelled in the credits.)
Most people don’t realize it, but Lecter was played by Brian Cox first. He has one scene in Manhunter, and he’s quite good, but if you’ve seen Anthony Hopkins and Mads Mikkelsen, it’s not going to be your favorite.
THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991)
Jonathan Demme’s classic psychological horror masterpiece is one of the only movies that is as good as its source material. Anthony Hopkins kills (ha!) as Hannibal Lecter, and Jodie Foster is amazing as FBI agent Clarice Starling. (And those shoulder pads!)
Starling is a new recruit who needs Lecter’s help catching a serial killer, and he uses the opportunity to entertain himself with a game of mental cat-and-mouse.
It’s terrifying to this day, and I still think of this movie every time I hear “American Girl” by Tom Petty. It is also only the third film in Academy Award history to win every major category.
HANNIBAL (Movie) (2001)
Hannibal is on the loose! Who better to catch him than Clarice Starling? (Spoiler: No one.) This is another faithful adaptation of a Thomas Harris novel. Many people were distressed when Jodie Foster didn’t reprise her role as Agent Starling, but Julianne Moore manages a strong performance, and Anthony Hopkins is once again terrifying, yet entertaining, as everyone’s favorite cannibal. And Ray Liotta is perfect as a slimy, condescending agent of the law who gets his just desserts. No, wait, he IS dessert. That brain scene is just WOW.
RED DRAGON (2001)
A new adaptation (after Manhunter) of the first Harris novel to feature Hannibal Lecter, with Edward Norton as Will Graham, and Ralph Fiennes taking a turn as the ultra-frightening serial killer Graham is trying to stop. (He’s called The Tooth Fairy and he’s REALLY bad.) Anthony Hopkins returns for a third time as Lecter, whom Graham asks for help in catching the killer. (Seriously, who doesn’t need Lecter’s help??) Rounding out the cast are the amazing Harvey Keitel, Mary-Louise Parker, Emily Watson, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, making it the Harris film featuring the most Award-nominated actors.
HANNIBAL RISING (2007)
Like superheroes, supervillains also have origin stories, and Hannibal Rising is Harris’s explanation for just why his beloved Dr. Lecter is the way he is. This is a prequel to the other Hannibal books, and it explains the trauma Lecter experienced as a child during WWII that turned him into the monster he became as an adult. It’s DARK. Let’s just say that Peter Parker got off easy with that bite from a radioactive spider. French actor Gaspard Ulliel takes a turn playing a young Lecter in the film, and you can tell he loves every minute of it.
HANNIBAL (TV series) (2013-2015)
Another Hannibal Lecter reboot, this time with the fantastic Mads Mikkelsen stepping into his bloody shoes. It was hard to imagine anyone but Hopkins in this role, but Mikkelsen has taken Lecter and transformed him. He has more wiggle room to grow as a character, as this series shows us Lecter as a free man, a snazzy dresser with impeccable taste, who spends his days treating patients and enjoying life long before his imprisonment. And by ‘enjoying life’, I mean ‘murdering and eating people with impunity’.
Using elements and characters from Red Dragon and Hannibal, including Hugh Dancy as the long-suffering Will Graham, the show has its own storylines and lots of frights and delights.
BONUS: BLACK SUNDAY (1977)
Black Sunday was Harris’s first novel and his first to be adapted. While it’s not a part of the Hannibal series, it’s still a great watch. This is the story of a deranged man who wishes to crash a blimp into the stadium during Super Bowl X with the help of terrorists, and the intelligence agents who get wind of the plot and rush to stop the tragedy from happening.
Bruce Dern is his usual wacky self as the unhinged blimp pilot, and Robert Shaw actually plays one of the good guys for a change. The intense film is directed by John Frankenheimer, known for such classics as The Manchurian Candidate and The Iceman Cometh.
About Thomas Harris’s New Book
Twenty-five million dollars in cartel gold lies hidden beneath a mansion on the Miami Beach waterfront. Ruthless men have tracked it for years. Leading the pack is Hans-Peter Schneider. Driven by unspeakable appetites, he makes a living fleshing out the violent fantasies of other, richer men.
Cari Mora, caretaker of the house, has escaped from the violence in her native country. She stays in Miami on a wobbly Temporary Protected Status, subject to the iron whim of ICE. She works at many jobs to survive. Beautiful, marked by war, Cari catches the eye of Hans-Peter as he closes in on the treasure. But Cari Mora has surprising skills, and her will to survive has been tested before.
Monsters lurk in the crevices between male desire and female survival. No other writer in the last century has conjured those monsters with more terrifying brilliance than Thomas Harris. Cari Mora, his sixth novel, is the long-awaited return of an American master.
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