The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

silence of the lambs poster 1991 movie
10 Overall Score
Story: 10/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 10/10

Acting, story, and visuals all work perfectly together


Movie Info

Movie Name: The Silence of the Lambs

Studio: Orion Pictures

Genre(s): Horror/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s): February 14, 1991

MPAA Rating: R

silence of the lambs jodi foster clarice starling

I must not fear, fear is the mind-killer, fear is the little death that brings obliteration…

A serial killer named Buffalo Bill is killing women in the eastern United States, and Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) is getting desperate to catch him.  Calling in an up-and-coming cadet named Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), Crawford hopes Starling can entice famed serial killer Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) to give the FBI insight into the killer’s motives and next possible target.  When the daughter of a senator is kidnapped, the cat-and-mouse game between Starling and Lecter is taken to the next level…and a life hangs in the balance!

Directed by Jonathan Demme, The Silence of the Lambs is a procedural horror thriller.  The movie adapts the 1988 novel by Thomas Harris whose previous 1981 novel Red Dragon was adapted into the film 1986 film Manhunter which featured Brian Cox in the role of Hannibal Lecter.  The film was released to critical acclaim and a strong box office.  The film won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Hopkins), Best Actress (Foster), and Best Adapted Screenplay with nominations for Best Film Editing and Best Sound Mixing (also making it third film to win “The Big Five” categories).  The film was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress in the National Film Registry in 2011.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #13).

silence of the lambs hannibal lecter anthony hopkins cell

Introducing a screen icon (again)

The Silence of the Lambs was one of those movies I heard people talking about.  I wasn’t able to see R-Rated movies yet, but the buzz of a “quality” horror film that was very extreme and edgy was something I immediately wanted to see.  I read the book before I finally saw the movie and surprisingly, it was one of those movies where the film took the book and improved.

The Silence of the Lambs is a film that has everything going for it.  The script for the movie layers great characters in a story with thrills and horror.  The movie has faced controversy for the portrayal of a transgender murderer especially as times have changed, but it also felt like a strange movie showing things that hadn’t been shown in a mainstream picture…it was raw and brutal.

silence of the lambs buffalo bill dance ted levine

So if you tuck it, is it still full frontal nudity?

The cast is also perfect.  Jodie Foster gives off a very sympathetic vibe, and despite her appeared strength, the character is vulnerable and fallible.  She’s paired with the scene stealing Hopkins who played up the Lecter character in a way that would come off cheesy or over-the-top in most movies, but it works here.  They are supported by a nice crew including Scott Glenn as the no-nonsense detective, Ted Levine as the creepy Buffalo Bill (who does the unforgettable dance), Brooke Smith as Bill’s captive, Diane Baker as the prisoner’s Senator mother, Frankie Faison as Lecter’s loyal prison guard, and Anthony Heald as the slimier-than-Lecter psychiatrist.  There are cameos by Chris Isaak, Roger Corman, and Don Brockett (known for Chef Brockett on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood) as one of Lecter’s cell block prisoners.

silence of the lambs ending night vision jodie foster clarice starling

The instant you wanted night vision goggles…

The movie is gritty, and its style can be seen in a lot of films that followed it.  The procedural and gore level of the movie was higher than a lot of mainstream movies at the time and unlike the typical horror movie, the level of horror is scarier because of the realism…the serial killers feel like they are realistic even if they are cartoonish when boiled down.

The Silence of the Lambs feels like a movie that had a lot of influence.  The “thriller” really seemed to make a comeback after the movie, and serial killers who were calculating instead of chopping up horny teenagers surged.  On the procedural side, shows with daunting agents and detective seeking out the truth seemed more prevalent (Agent Scully of the X-Files alone feels like a direct descendant of Starling).  The Silence of the Lambs was followed by Hannibal in 2001 (with Julianne Moore recast as Starling) and another adaptation of Red Dragon serving as a prequel in 2002.

Related Links:

Manhunter (1986)

Hannibal (2001)

Red Dragon (2002)

Hannibal Rising (2007)

Hannibal—Season 1 Review and Complete Episode Guide

Hannibal—Season 2 Review and Complete Episode Guide

Hannibal—Season 3 Review and Complete Episode Guide

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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