Psychopathy As Victim Of Cinematograph: Psychopaths In Film

Table of Contents

Films that depict psychopathy

Anton Chigurh is a menacing figure who is feared due to his ruthless and cold-hearted nature. He is a professional hitman with a penchant for violence, making him one of the most dangerous criminals in the world.

Hannibal Lecter

In closing,

Films have been an effective medium for expressing ideas, evoking emotions and starting conversations. Films are an integral element of culture. They help to shape our worldviews. They are more accessible than any other form of art due to their popularity in streaming services. Films can be used to show psychological phenomena and altered mental state. The audience saw John Nash’s paranoid thoughts in his film A beautiful mind. Through various cinematic audio-visual methods, the viewer was able to empathize and experience Nash’s psychosis. Films typically depict psychiatric disorders through four genres: drama, crime-fiction, suspense, horror. Psychopathy will be the subject of this essay.

Films that depict psychopathy

People have a strange fascination about psychopaths. Yet, many don’t understand this psychological concept. Psychopathy Checklist Revised (PCLR) continues to be a complex concept. Robert Hare first introduced the PCLR in 1991. The criteria were then updated in 2003. The PCL-R has come under fire from the psychiatric community because it relies too heavily on psychopathologists’ criteria and is inconsistent with other models. It could be because there is no classification for psychopaths in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV. Instead, similar traits are grouped under the wider term Antisocial Personality Disorder. Psychopathy is an extreme form of APD. Only 1 in 5 APD patients are classified as psychopaths. The PCL-R is heavily inspired by the Cleckley guidelines (first published in 1941; updated over the years). This allows for a better understanding about what a psychopath really looks like. The archetypical psychopath is a shallow, egocentric, uninhibited individual who has no regard for truth and displays antisocial behavior. This essay will assess the authenticity two psychopath characters in their respective films that have been critically and commercially successful. The two characters for this essay were Hannibal Lecter and Anton Chigurh respectively from No Country for Old Men. The plots of both films can be described as thrillers or crime fiction. Psychopaths’ extreme and unpredictable character traits are helpful in facilitating detective fiction plots that revolve around death and crime. These films were chosen for their iconic status and influence among viewers. The Silence of the Lambs is currently ranked 23rd. No country to old men is 158th. Both actors, Javier Bardem and Anthony Hopkins, were nominated for Academy Awards in Best Supporting Actor (Bardem), as well as Best Actors (Hopkins). Personal note: I love the absurdity and deviations from normal of both antagonists. This essay will explore how these characters fit into the clinical definitions psychopathy. The combination of Cleckley’s criteria as well as PCLR will be used to evaluate the psychopathy depicted in Anton Chigurh’s portrayal. Anton ChigurhNo Land for Old Men is a 2007 detective mystery thriller by the Coen Brothers. Llewellyn (played in Texas by Josh Brolin) stumbles upon 2,000,000 dollars after a failed drug deal. Chigurh is hired to find the money and tries to track Moss down to kill anyone who impedes his plans. Chigurh, a hitman who is extremely efficient with his captive bolt pistol, is an excellent one. Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), who is trying to save Moss, tracks down Chigurh and ensures his safety, makes it a cat-and mouse thriller.

Chigurh’s inability to feel emotion while interacting with other characters is one of his most striking characteristics, especially when he is killed. The first scene in which he killed the deputy sheriff is a clear example of this. Later, he also killed a civilian. To emphasize the expressionless, cold face of Chigurh, both directors took close-up shots. He stared blankly at his body, not reacting to the fact that he was being shot in the forehead. Cleckley’s list and PCL-R both indicate that the psychopath has a shallow effect. These characteristics are strongly associated with psychopathy according to empirical research. Chigurh is seemingly unable to feel empathy, and is focused only on his task. His inability communicate with others and to respond emotionally to them makes him a psychopathic. However it is possible to argue that he doesn’t possess the superficial charm needed to be considered a psychopath. Chigurh has difficulty interacting with civilians because of his lack charm. He attempts to track Moss and arrives at Moss’s housing complex where he finds a woman with ties to Moss. He cannot pick up social cues and extend courtesy to get information. He leaves frustrated. Chigurh has the psychopathic features of intimidation, manipulation, and glibness, but he is not like other psychopaths. His lack both of remorsefulness and guilt is another character trait that connects with his poverty of effects. This is evident in the scene that he murders Moss’ wife Carla Jean. After the shootout that ended in Moss’s death, Carla Jean returns to her mother’s funeral and finds Chigurh waiting patiently in her bedroom. The scene features no music, constant camera moves from Carla Jean’s faces and Chigurh’s emphasis on the polarizing facial expressions. He leaves the scene and stops to check his shoes, possibly for blood. These characteristics were studied and found to be a sign of severe psychopathic traits. Chigurh makes it seem like he keeps his promises and is honest in his actions. Chigurh is quick to respond when Carla asks why he came. Chigurh has a sincerity to his words and actions. He also has his own moral compass which is recognized by Wells. Researchers identified two other traits in Chigurh, namely impulsivity as well as insincerity. Chigurh may be a careful and methodical killer, but at times he can act recklessly, putting his entire strategy at risk. Chigurh finds it irritating that the cashier is talking to him about fuel. The conversation eventually escalates into a heated confrontation. He becomes annoyed and decides to flip the coin to save his life. He doesn’t consider the cashier important and will only draw more attention to himself from the police. Although he would lose nothing, he still uses it to entertain himself. This is another indication of his manipulative behaviour. PCLR psychopaths are known for their irresponsibility, recklessness, and stimulation seeking. Chigurh has no delusions and hallucinations. This is an important component of Cleckley’s criteria to determine if a person is a psychopath. While he is aware that his actions are illegal in the eyes and law, he does not care. Psychopaths also struggle morally to comprehend the severity of their actions. This is evident in Wells’ final conversation before Chigurh murders him. Wells asks Chigurh if he has any idea of his insaneness. Chigurh replies that he does not.

Chigurh’s personality was evaluated in the movie. The most obvious characteristics were recklessness and ruthlessness. He also lacks psychosis.

Leistedt’s and Linkowski’s analysis affirmed this conclusion. They classified him as an idiopathic primary psychopath. I agree. His other traits of sincerity as well as goal planning, which I think are more realistic than his portrayal, don’t negate the realistic aspects.

Hannibal Lecter

Chigurh is compared to Hannibal Lecter, another iconic movie star. Silence of the Lambs has been one of the most beloved films of the past. It is a film that the US Library of Congress considers to be ‘culturally and historically significant. Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of Lecter earned him the Best Actor Oscar Award. He had only 20 minutes to screen. The story is about Clarice Starling, an FBI student who is given the task of interviewing Lecter to aid in the FBI’s pursuit of “Buffalo Bill”, a serial killer. Lecter is well-known as a psychopath and has a large fan base. Lecter uses his intelligence, charisma, and charm to make people feel good about himself. Lecter knows that the FBI cannot help him if he doesn’t have the information necessary to find Buffalo Bill. He suspects the murderer but only provides limited information to reach a settlement with Senator Elizabeth Warren, the mother who kidnapped the woman. While Lecter can’t fully show his charm in prison, unlike the earlier movies, there are many scenes that demonstrate his affection for Starling. Starling opens the files and Lecter makes a brief, flirtatious gesture at Starling. As mentioned before, Lecter has mastered manipulation and superficial charm. He is also a gifted savant, with a high level of intelligence that contrasts with his psychopathy. His superior intelligence is evident by his ability to outsmart the police and criminal justice officials when he escapes. He also has a preference to music and fine arts, which indicates his intelligence. His creativity is evident in the decorations of his cell. When asked about the painting, he replied that it was the Duomo as seen through the Belvedere. Are you familiar with Florence? Cleckley criteria state that psychopaths might have “intelligence”, which is defined as being more intelligent than the average person. The PCL-R, however, does not mention intelligence. Cleckley used an disproportionately high number of middle-class, well-educated and wealthy individuals to explain the differences. PCL-R observed a poor association between superior intelligence and psychological disorders. A meta analysis from 2018 showed that intelligence and psychological ability were inextricably linked. O’Kane et al. O’Kane reported an inverse relation between IQ and PCL R scores. Recent research shows that there is a weak connection between intelligence and psychopaths. However, there are still conflicting opinions. This can also be linked to the fact that psychopaths rarely have high-profile careers. Lecter was a successful psychiatrist with a high level of intelligence and education. Lecter has had his intelligence exaggerated by Hollywood. Referring to PCL R and current literature, I think his intelligence, successful career, and intelligence suggest a less realistic portrayal as a psychopath. Lecter has an inflated self because of his charm, intelligence, and manipulative abilities. Starling was the best example of this. Lecter was offended when an FBI trainee came to interview him. He showed her his temporary badge and said, “Crawford sent an FBI trainee to me”. His face was visibly disgusted. Lecter is presented throughout the movie as calm, in control, which is illustrated through his mannerisms. In his voice, there is a slight hint of discontent. Lecter is shown in the film by its director. His face dominates the shot and makes him seem larger than other characters. This emphasizes Lecter’s superior self-worth. The nurses he attacked while undergoing an ECG were two examples. He saved one eye.

His pulse never rose above 85, even though he ate his tongue. I ate his liver and enjoyed a glass of nice chianti. He acts and kills in an uncontrollable manner that shocks viewers. But it is his calm demeanour that scares them more. When Cleckley refers to psychopaths, this calm and “always under control” attitude isn’t typical. It is instead impulsivity as well as irresponsibility. Lecter describes himself as a collected, calm individual capable of planning ahead. Lecter escapes from the policemen by killing them. This is a great example. He was always in control and demonstrated this by his quick, calculated movements. He never acts irrationally or unwisely, even when Starling insults him. It is important to note that he does show some impulsivity when he kills one police officer, disembowels him, and then ties him up in a cage. The movie’s overall calm portrayal of him does not make him a psychopath. His psychopathic personality is also questioned by his unrealistic ability to kill people. The movie didn’t explore this subject as deeply as the other movies. Lecter is a real psychopath. These elements include his lack of remorsefulness and his propensity to exploit others. His self-worth is also high. Others, however, are exaggerated. They include Lecter’s calm demeanor, extraordinary killing ability, which is unrelated to his previous training, as well his intelligence and successful career. This makes Lecter a fictionalized character, but it also portrays psychopathy in a dramatic way (Mahn 2013, 2013). Lecter, in my opinion, is not a realistic portrayal of psychopath.

In conclusion,

Analyzing these films reveals that the characters in these films are polarizing in their portrayal as psychopaths. But is realism important? Economically, no. Economically, the answer is no. Film is an integral part our culture, and influences our ideas on topics we are not familiar with. Psychopathy is one example of a misperception that can be spread. One of the most common misconceptions about psychopaths is their violent nature. This is what Chigurh, Lecter and others have shown. Reality is much more complicated. There are many different realities. Chigurh may be the most realistic portrayal, but psychopaths are usually portrayed in fiction, as they seek to entertain, and not educate.


  • treyknox

    I am Trey Knox, 26 years old, and I'm a education blogger and teacher. I blog about various subjects in education, and I also teach high school English and writing.