Terrifying Jeffrey Dahmer Documentaries & Movies That True Crime Fans Should Watch Immediately
If you're hoping to delve deeper into one of the darkest serial killer stories that has ever taken place in the United States, you'll want to watch not just one, but all of the terrifying Jeffrey Dahmer documentaries and movies. But be warned: you'll need a strong stomach. According to the TV channel Oxygen, the Milwaukee Cannibal "raped, killed and dismembered 17 men and boys" over the course of 13 years. According to The Guardian, the serial killer had sex with many of his victims after killing them and also "ate some [of them]." But, despite the horror of Dahmer's story, there seems to be an appetite for material that might lead audiences to understand what caused a person to commit such repugnant crimes.
Even 25 years after the cannibalistic killer was brought to trial, a new "two-night special" of programming is being made about his life. According to Oxygen, Dahmer on Dahmer: A Serial Killer Speaks will focus on his relationship with Nancy Glass, an investigative journalist who conducted the first TV interview with the murderer. (After his arrest, Dahmer spoke openly about his crimes, often to the press.) It will also include interviews with his parents Lionel and Shari Dahmer, and with Billy Capshaw and Preston Davis, who both survived their encounters with the murderer.
But if that's not enough to cure you of your dark interest in this story, check out the other Dahmer documentaries and films below.
1. 'The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer'
This true crime film is all the more horrifying for focusing on the serial killer a year before, according to the New York Times, Dahmer was murdered in a Wisconsin prison. It stars Carl Crew in the titular role and is told as a firsthand account of the murders.
2. 'Serial Killers: Real Life Hannibal Lecters'
This one is for viewers who'd like to understand the Milwaukee Cannibal in the context of other cannibalistic serial killers. The hour-long documentary isn't just focused on Dahmer; it also tells the tales of Ted Bundy, Albert Fish, John Wayne Gacy, and Andrei Chikatilo and compares these very real serial killers with the fictional cannibal Hannibal Lecter.
Starring Jeremy Renner — AKA Hawkeye from The Avengers — in the titular role, this drama focuses on the cannibal's later years and his tortured inner life. As Entertainment Weekly reported in their review of Dahmer, "It lets you brush up against the humanity of a psycho, without making him any less psycho." The film also outlines a theory as to how he was able to murder unnoticed for so long, stressing the fact that his victims were usually young people of color; in an upsetting scene, one victim does make it to the cops, but still gets sent home with the serial killer, who claims the kid is drunk.
4. 'The Jeffrey Dahmer Files'
The LA Times calls it a "hybrid of documentary and fiction," with the film staging scenes and weaving them in with real footage. The Jeffrey Dahmer Files interviews people who came into contact with the serial killer, including his neighbor Pamela Bass, the detective who took his confession Patrick Kennedy, and the medical examiner at the time Dr. Jeffrey Jentzen. The movie's strength appears to be the way it contrasts the grotesque details of the crimes with the man's everyday facade, showing us how the murderer appeared innocent and totally normal to those who had daily contact with him. As tvguide.com observes, this leads us to the conclusion about Dahmer "...that evil can pass right before our eyes on a daily basis."
5. 'My Friend Dahmer'
This 2017 adaptation of a graphic novel by John Backderf, who attended high school with the serial killer, focuses on Dahmer's high school years, specifically 1977-1978. It stars Disney Channel favorite Ross Lynch as the murderer and cannibal and won glowing reviews, with The Hollywood Reporter describing it as "exceptionally moving" and Variety calling My Friend Dahmer "a serious and audacious attempt to dramatize the inner life of a sick puppy when he wasn’t quite so sick."
6. Footage Of Dahmer's 1992 Trial
This isn't a documentary, but this is equally compelling; the full 1992 trial of the murderer is available for viewing on YouTube.
It's perfectly possible that we will never understand the mind of someone who could commit such sadistic acts. However, the creepiest of the films above are those that, instead of further sensationalizing the story, focus on the human element — suggesting that Dahmer got away with his crimes for so long purely because he was able to function on a normal level in his daily life.