Few characters on television are as compelling as a serial killer. Fueled by some kind of trauma or pathology that makes them kill in ritualistic ways, these twisted murderers have made some of the best and scariest villains in TV history.
While many TV shows feature serial killers as major plot points, some actors have created especially compelling, unforgettable onscreen murderers. (In real life, these are the most depraved serial killers in history.)
To compile a list of the most memorable TV serial killers, 24/7 Tempo reviewed dozens of the most iconic horror, thriller, and detective shows featuring murderers. We selected the serial killer characters who were a major part of the plot either over the course of the entire series or for several seasons.
Though these characters are all killers, they are also quite different from each other. Some are disaffected loners on the fringes of society, like Norman Bates of “Bates Motel,” while others are seemingly normal members of society hiding a dark secret – for instance Dexter Morgan on the long-running (and rebooted) series “Dexter.” (These are the 20 best episodes of “Dexter,” according to IMDb.)
Click here to see the most memorable TV serial killers
Many of the killers on this list get a special sense of satisfaction from keeping their identity a secret, taunting law enforcement for not being able to bring them to justice. Much like the real-life Zodiac Killer, some demented murderers entangle detectives into deadly cat and mouse games.
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