Real-life Crimes Inspired By Hollywood Blockbusters
The film industry has a massive effect on society as well as on individuals. Movies have created entire subcultures and gain huge audiences that attempt to copy, in some way or another, the characters or worlds that appear on the silver screen. Many times, though, it’s for all the wrong reasons. Anyone who has seen a movie knows the amount of crime and violence that is portrayed. What happens when people go too far and copy villains and criminals? After all, life imitates art far more than art imitates life. Read on to find out just which films have inspired horrific crimes. The list will surprise you.
1. Taxi Driver
Taxi Driver is an American vigilante film directed by Martin Scorsese which follows the life of main character Travis Bickle, a discharged US Marine. Bickle is a lonely and depressed man living in New York City who becomes a taxi driver to cope with his insomnia.
Bickle becomes infatuated with a campaign volunteer named Betsy who is working for presidential candidate Charles Palantine. Bickle shaves his head into a mohawk and attempts to assassinate Senator Palantine at a public rally but is chased off by secret service agents. Read on to find out how life eventually imitated art.
2. Attempted Assassination
On March 30, 1981, John Hinckley Jr. attempted to assassinate US President Ronald Reagan in front of a hotel in Washington DC, he sported the same mohawk-look as in the movie. Reagan was hit in the chest by a ricocheted bullet but was not fatally injured. Reagan recovered and quickly returned to the White House.
It was later revealed that Hinckley’s assassination attempt was part of an obsession with the movie Taxi Driver and he reportedly was trying to gain Jodie Foster’s affection. Foster played a 12-year-old child prostitute in the film. In court, Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity.
The Saw horror franchise revolves around physical and psychological torture. The series’ main antagonist, the Jigsaw Killer, captures his victims and tests their will to live through gruesome torturous games. Embittered by his shortened life due to cancer and the loss of his son, the Jigsaw Killer attempts to “teach” his victims how not to squander their life away.
The franchise has raked in over $873 million at the box office despite receiving mostly mixed to negative reviews. Critics of the series have dubbed the movies “torture porn” for deliberating focusing on gore and grotesque graphic violence. Who could possibly derive inspiration from such violence?
4. Torturous Murder
One killer attempted to recreate a murder from the fourth installment of the SAW series by severing his neighbor’s spinal cord. Matthew Tinling stabbed neighbor Richard Hamilton 17 times in the head, neck and legs in what police called a “savage and prolonged murder.”
Tinling tortured Hamilton into giving him his credit card PIN number prior to his eventual death. Tinling withdrew money from his neighbor’s account to purchase crack cocaine. In a different case, a copycat killer strapped an explosive device around a man’s neck and forced him to rob a bank. The device was detonated in the bank and the man was killed instantly.
5. The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight starring Christian Bale and Heath Ledger premiered in 2008 as the second installment in Nolan’s Batman film trilogy. The film was a smash hit and ranks as one of the highest grossing films of all time. Heath Ledger starred as the psychopathic criminal mastermind the Joker, terrorizing Gotham City and creating anarchy.
Ledger described the Joker as a “psychopathic, mass murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy.” This Batman film inspired one of the most horrific copycat attacks of all time.
6. Mass Murder
In 2012 at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises a man named James Eagan Holmes, armed with grenades, a rifle, a shotgun and a handgun, attacked the theater audience in Aurora, Colorado. Holmes killed 12 people and injured 70 others in his horrific assault. Prior to the attack, Holmes dyed his hair bright orange and according to police claimed to be the Joker.
Holmes also rigged his home with explosives, knowing that authorities would search his residence after the attack. The explosives were defused by a bomb squad and luckily no one was injured. The Aurora shooting was the deadliest attack in Colorado since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. Holmes received twelve life sentences and an additional 3,318 years in prison for murder and for those he attempted to murder.
7. A Nightmare on Elm Street
The Nightmare on Elm Street franchise is a series of horror movies, nine have been made so far, which revolves around the serial killer known as Freddy Krueger. The killer stalks his victims in their dreams and attacks them, killing them in the real world while they sleep.
He is best known for his burnt appearance, metal-clawed brown leather glove, brown fedora and striped red and green sweater. The films have a huge cult following and have grossed collectively over $457 million at the box-office worldwide. But who could possibly find the gruesome tales of Krueger inspiring?
8. Freddy Krueger Killer
A Nightmare on Elm Street has inspired many killers, but one certainly stands out from the crowd. In the UK, a Freddy Krueger obsessed man named Daniel Gonzalez went on a killing spree in London. Over the span of three days, Gonzalez knifed four people to death and attempted to murder two others before he was caught. His victims were chosen completely at random. London police referred to him as a “drug-crazed, cold-blooded murderer.”
In court, he tried to plead insanity but the jury wasn’t convinced. Gonzalez was sentenced to six life sentences in prison. He killed himself in 2007 by slicing his wrists open with a broken CD case. Gonzalez described his killing spree as “…one of the best things I’ve done in my life”
9. Fight Club
Fight Club was released in 1999 and quickly became one of the most talked about films of the 90s, critics either loved it or hated it. The film didn’t meet studio expectations at the box office and it wasn’t until it was released to DVD that Fight Club really started to gain a following. Today it’s considered a cult classic. The film explores themes of violence, masculinity, anti-materialism, anti-corporate activism and mental illness.
In the film, the members take part in bare-knuckled fights to feel more alive. The fighting club gradually evolved into Project Mayhem, an organization that wanted to destroy global debt by blowing up buildings containing credit card companies’ records.
10. Project Mayhem
A US teen created his own fight club in 2009 and launched his own version of Project Mayhem, targeting corporate America. On Memorial Day, the leader of the club planted an explosive device outside a Starbucks Coffee shop which shattered the store’s windows upon detonation. No one was injured in the blast.
At least two members of the club were caught and the leader was charged with arson, criminal possession of a weapon and criminal mischief. Fight clubs inspired by the movie have popped up all across the globe. One member of an Australian club died from a brain hemorrhage three days after a fight.
11. The Matrix
The Matrix franchise has been named one of the greatest sci-fi series of all time. The movie depicts a dystopian future which humans are used as an energy source and the world is ruled by machines. The human population perceives reality as normal through a simulated reality called the “Matrix” and most people are unaware that they are living in a dream world.
The movie’s protagonist, Neo, attempts to form a rebellion against the machines and free the human population from the Matrix. But how exactly did this sci-fi movie inspire crime?
12. You’re Not Human
The Matrix is a bit of an unexpected candidate for inspiring crime however it has been used multiple times as defense. In July 2002, Tonda Lynn Ansley shot her landlady in the head and told police that “our world is just an illusion generated by our machine overlords.” Ansley claimed that we are living in a simulated reality and as such her landlady wasn’t real to begin with.
A jury found her not guilty of the crime by reason of mental defect. Many other people have successfully used “the Matrix defense” and been found not guilty.
13. Natural Born Killers
Natural Born Killers is a satirical crime film that was released in 1994 starring Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis and Robert Downey Jr. The storyline, written by Quentin Tarantino, revolves around Mickey Knox and his wife Mallory who after going through traumatic childhoods, fall in love and become mass murders. The film focuses on the media attention and irresponsible glorification the mass murderers receive.
The duo rose to stardom for their brutal killings and gained a cult-following, even their own lawyer treated them like celebrities. Natural Born Killers is notorious for the wave of “copy-cat” crimes it inspired. The film was ranked the eighth most controversial film in history by Entertainment Weekly– read on to find out why.
14. Edmonson and Darras
While Natural Born Killers inspired many copy-cat killings the most infamous was couple Sarah Edmondson and boyfriend Benjamin James Darras. After a night of doing hard drugs and watching the film on loop, the couple left their Muskogee, Oklahoma home and went on a killing spree. In Mississippi, the couple shot a local businessman at point-blank range twice in the head with a revolver. The duo then drove to Louisiana and gunned down a convenience store cashier, the attack left the cashier paralyzed from the neck down.
Other crimes included the decapitation of a 13-year-old Texan girl, a man who murdered his mother and sister, a couple killing their roommate and a few murders that took place while viewing the film itself.
15. Queen of the Damned
The Queen of the Damned is an Australian-American horror film loosely based on Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles. The now-rock star vampire Lestat wakes Akasha, queen of the vampires, with his music. Queen Akasha makes Lestat her king, after consummating their union and feeding on her blood he is then compelled to obey Akasha’s every command.
The movie received sweeping negative reviews and Anne Rice has publicly stated that she does not understand the film and that it “mutilated” her work. It still had a few copycats, though.
16. The Vampire Killer
Allan Menzie, a 23-year-old man claiming to have received orders from the Queen of the Damned, murdered 21-year-old Thomas McKendrick and drank his blood. Menzie later told the court that he was obsessed with the movie, having watched it more than 100 times, and that he could hear the voice of the Queen. Menzie bludgeoned McKendrick with a hammer before stabbing him 42 times because McKendrick had made an insulting remark about the film.
McKendrick’s body was located several weeks after the crime in a shallow grave and forensic evidence revealed that part of his brain had been eaten by the cold-blooded killer. Menzie became known as “the vampire killer” and later killed himself in prison.
17. Child’s Play
The Chucky movies are supernatural slasher films based around a possessed and terrifying good guy doll. The doll is possessed by serial killer Charles Lee Ray which was transferred into the doll via a voodoo spell to avoid spending his afterlife in hell. The demented doll, named Chucky, goes on a massive killing spree, slashing everyone he can get his child-like hands on.
The Chucky series spanned its own franchise of seven films and has a large cult following. Most of the movies have been box office successes. Critics have condemned the franchise for its portrayal of a child killer and the influence it can have on young children. Some children have indeed committed horrific crimes after watching a Chucky film.
18. Child Murders
In 1993, two 10-year-old boys, who were fans of the Chucky movies, abducted two-year-old James Bulger from a shopping center and tortured him to death. His body was left on train tracks and was cut in half by the time authorities located the two-year old. Bulger suffered so many injuries that forensic investigators were not able to determine which attack was the fatal last blow.
Australia’s worst serial killer, Martin Bryant, was also a big fan of the Chucky movies. Martin stated that the doll was one of his inspirations when he went on a killing spree in Port Arthur in 1996, killing 35 people.
19. American Psycho
The 2000 film American Psycho is a black comedy horror film starring Christian Bale. Bale plays a wealthy New York investment banker named Patrick Bateman who enjoys a lavish lifestyle. After being upstaged by a colleague’s business card (apparently a big deal) he viciously murders a homeless man and his dog.
Bateman then goes after the colleague, murdering him and staging his apartment to look like the victim left the country. As the movie goes on Bateman comes to realize that there are never any consequences to his actions.
20. Sleeping Victims
In 2012, an American Psycho-obsessed teen name Brian Douglas White axed his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend and his own mother to death. Prior to the gruesome act, he posted quotes from the film on Facebook. The murders started around 7:30 am and White killed both of his victims while they slept.
White took his own life by shooting himself after he committed the murders. The main photo on his Facebook page featured what looked like a crime scene photo with blood splattered everywhere.
The first Scream movie was released in 1996 and to date remains the highest grossing slasher film in the United States. The films revolve around a psychotic serial killer who terrorizes and taunts their victims before slashing them to bits. The first film grossed over eleven times its production cost and received largely positive reviews.
The Scream franchise has spawned three additional movies and a television series. According to the creator, Wes Craven, there are plans in the works for making a fifth and sixth movie installment to the series. Unsurprisingly, the Scream films have inspired a few real-life crimes.
22. What Your Favorite Scary Movie?
One night Cassie Jo Stoddart, her boyfriend and two of her classmates, Brian Draper and Torey Adamcik were watching a movie at a house where Stoddart was house-sitting. At some point, Draper and Adamcik left only to double back to the house and turn off the electricity to scare the couple. After the electricity came back Stoddart’s boyfriend went home and the two boys lying in wait snuck into the house and stabbed Stoddart 29 times to death. Draper and Adamcik recorded their plan on video tape prior to committing the murder.
Both were convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole. During court proceedings, it was revealed that Draper had been “impressed” by the assailants of the Columbine High School massacre.
23. Interview with the Vampire
Interview with the Vampire is a drama horror film released in 1994 based on Anne Rice’s book by the same name. The film starred Tom Cruise as Lestat and Brad Pitt as Louis, both vampires. Louis slowly becomes dissatisfied with the life of being a vampire and refuses to hurt humans, feeding only on animals. His partner Lestat, on the other hand, takes pleasure feeding on humans and considers their lives meaningless. Lestat decides to turn a young girl into a vampire, making her the couple’s vampire daughter, in order to convince Louis to stay with him.
After finding out that she will never age the daughter attempts to kill Lestat and flee with Louis but Lestat survives and returns for revenge.
24. Vampire Thirst
In 1994, after watching Interview with the Vampire a man named Daniel Sterling told his long-time girlfriend that he was going to kill her and drink her blood. The girlfriend, Lisa Stellwage, laughed the comment off thinking that he was just quoting a line from the movie. In the middle of the night, Sterling stabbed her seven times and drank the blood from her wounds.
Stellwage miraculously survived and Sterling was convicted of attempted first-degree murder.
The RoboCop movies are cyberpunk action films about a robot police officer tasked with cleaning up the city of Detroit, Michigan. RoboCop 2’s plot centered around a scheme by Omni Consumer Products to take over the city of Detroit by having the city default on its debt. After the foreclosure on the city, they planned to take over its government.
The cancellation of police pensions gives way to a strike in the police force however RoboCop isn’t able to join due to his program directives. The film would appear to be a poor candidate for copycat crimes if it weren’t for the murderous villains in the movie…
26. Serial Killer
In the early 1990s notorious serial killer, Nathaniel White admitted to copying his first victim’s death from a killing he saw in the RoboCop 2 film. White killed at least six women while he was on parole for a different crime, abducting a 16-year-old girl. White stabbed his victims to death, his first victim was pregnant with her third child.
“The first girl I killed was from a ‘RoboCop’ movie… I seen him cut somebody’s throat then take the knife and slit down the chest to the stomach and left the body in a certain position. With the first person I killed I did exactly what I saw in the movie,” White stated.
27. First Blood
First Blood was the first Rambo film, based on the David Morrell novel by the same name. The film was released in 1982 starring Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo. Rambo, a troubled and misunderstood Vietnam veteran, is confronted by an aggressive small town police force who try to run him out of the city. While being chased out of town Rambo unintentionally causes the death of a police officer which causes a furious pursuit of the war veteran.
The film inspired many young boys to don camo pants and bandanas and head out to the woods, armed with any weapon available. But some took it way too far…
28. Real-life Rambo
In the wake of the first Rambo movie, police reports came rolling in about young men causing trouble while imitating the problematic hero. In an eerily similar re-enactment of Sylvester Stallone’s character in First Blood a Canadian man, dressed in camo and a red bandana, killed a police officer and fled the scene. After a brief chase, the Rambo impersonator was shot dead in a stand-off with Canadian authorities.
In a separate instance, a man was shooting rocks with a sling-shot at children and then fled into the woods. Police pursued the Rambo-clad man for two weeks before catching him.
29. Wedding Crashers
The romantic comedy Wedding Crashers premiered in 2005 starring Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn was a massive box office success. The duo crashed weddings to meet and hook up with women until one of the characters gets too involved with a woman and accepts an invitation to spend an extended weekend together. The movie deals with jealous boyfriends, breaking up a marriage and other romantic shenanigans.
The film received generally positive reviews and was called “crude but also funny” by the New York Times. But how did this seemingly innocent movie inspire real-life crimes? Well, it certainly wasn’t due to people actually crashing weddings.
30. Spiking The Gatorade
In the film Wedding Crashers Owen Wilson’s character spikes Bradley Cooper’s wine with Visine eye drops, causing him to become violently ill. One New Jersey boy used this tactic against a schoolmate he claimed was bullying him and snuck eye drops into his Gatorade. The victim became violently ill, lost his sight, began hallucinating and was hospitalized for three days.
The perpetrator admitted to the crime and that he copied it from the film Wedding Crashers but stated that he only intended on giving the alleged-bully diarrhea. Eye drops and nasal sprays contain tetryzoline, which when taken orally can cause violent diarrhea, vomiting, seizures and possibly a coma.
31. Money Train
Money Train is an action heist film starring Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson and Jennifer Lopez. Harrelson’s character loses his job and decides to rob the “money train,” a train that transports revenues for the New York City subway. During the heist, a thief named Torch robs a subway toll booth and then traps the clerk inside.
After spraying the booth with gasoline, he set the booth on fire. In the film, the clerk manages to escape, but in real-life people haven’t been so fortunate.
32. Subway Heist
In just three weeks after the release of Money Train at least seven different instances occurred in which robbers attempted to replicate the crime. In one case a man sprayed the subway booth with lighter fluid and threatened the clerk with a match to hand over cash.
The attacker lit the booth of fire after receiving the money, leaving the 50-year-old victim with severe burns on over 75 percent of his body before being rescued. The man died several weeks later in the hospital.
33. Project X
Project X is a comedy film that was released in 2012 following three friends who attempt to gain popularity among their peers by throwing a party. The party quickly escalates to a massive destructive rager that destroys the neighborhood.
The party is thrown at one of the main character’s homes during a weekend his parents are away and turns into a chaotic mess of drugs, guns, destruction and arson. Teens worldwide loved the film, apparent by the movie’s huge box-office success, and of course sought to emulate their own wild parties.
34. Party Animals
The Project X movie sparked waves of massive-scale teen parties and resulted in numerous arrests and massive property damage. One such copycat party resulted in the complete destruction of a $500,000 Texas home.
The epidemic of copycat parties actually moved Warner Brothers to issue a statement that they “do not condone–and strongly discourage—anyone from attempting to imitate conduct portrayed by actors in a controlled environment during the filming of a motion picture.”
35. The Town
The Town is a crime thriller movie directed and starring Ben Affleck released in 2010. The film follows a group of bank robbers who set out to rob one final bank. One of the robbers gets tied up in a romance with another gang member and tries to protect her and leave behind the life of crime.
During the bank robbery the gang dresses up as masked nuns but the heist goes terribly wrong. Surprisingly, even the heist gone wrong had its own copycats.
36. Armed Robbery
A copycat gang in New York City, using techniques from the movie The Town, committed over 62 robberies. The gang stole over $217,000 in cash and after being caught admitted that they were inspired by the film. They would wear costumes and cut the power supply of their targeted location to prevent employees from calling the police.
While leaving they would douse the place with bleach in an attempt to cover up any DNA evidence that would lead authorities back to the group. Numerous other gangs tried using some of the same methods from the movie, some even donned the famous masked-nun outfits.
37. A Clockwork Orange
The 1971 dystopian surrealist crime film A Clockwork Orange depicted horrifically violent crimes that have been dubbed “ultra-violence.” The film received rave reviews and quickly became a cult-classic. The movie follows antisocial delinquent Alex DeLarge, leaders of his “droogs,” through a whirlwind of drug abuse, murder, rape, prison time and torture.
Time magazine ranked the film number nine on their list of Top 10 Ridiculously Violent Movies. Critics of the film called the director a “bad pornographer” and lashed out against the dehumanization of Alex’s victims and the highlighting of his own sufferings.
38. Gang Violence
Several copy-cat crimes have been based on A Clockwork Orange. In the UK a Dutch girl was brutally gang-raped while the group sang “Singin’ in the Rain,” the same song sung by the film’s protagonist Alex when he raped his own wife. In a different instance, a group of young boys beat a woman to death and another beat a homeless man into a coma.
Since the film’s release, there have been numerous cases of gangs mirroring the actions and dress of Alex’s gang from A Clockwork Orange.
The first movie in the Twilight Saga premiered in 2008 and brought along with it a wave of vampire related everything. Twilight received fairly mediocre reviews by critics but fans of the book series (literally every teenage girl) went wild.
The movie series, based on Stephenie Meyer’s novels, followed the life of Isabella “Bella” Swan, a human, who falls in love with Edward Cullen, a vampire. Edward is not just any vampire though–he and all the vampires in the Twilight Saga sparkle in the sunlight.
40. Vampire Apocalypse
In 2005 a young man went on a terrifying Twilight-inspired crime spree that left one Iowa town petrified. The Des Moines Register reported that a 13-year-old boy (who shall remain nameless) was arrested at a local school for biting an 11-year-old student. After some investigation, the police learned that the boy had bitten at least 10 other students in the span of about a month.
The serial-biter was sent to a juvenile detention facility. The boy’s father blamed the movie Twilight for his son’s actions.
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