It’s been 25 years this weekend since The Silence of the Lambs hit theaters and scared the ever living crap out of everyone. One of the biggest reasons for that, of course, was the performance of Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Hopkins was in the two hour movie for just about 24 minutes total, but the impression he made still resonates all these years later. There is no more telling an endorsement of the performance, perhaps aside from Hopkins’ Best Actor Oscar for the role, than the American Film Institute honoring his portrayal by naming Lecter the No. 1 movie villain of all time.
What exactly contributed to Hopkins’s ability to frighten the way that he did? Just like a reptile, he never blinks. He also modeled his performance on HAL, the computer from the seminal 2001: A Space Odyssey, another of the most terrifying movie villains there ever was mostly due to its frigid, calculating efficiency. And that voice, as Hopkins described it, a cross between Truman Capote and Katherine Hepburn (!!!). The choice proves flawless — show me someone who didn’t feel the hair on the back of his or her neck stand up pretty much every time Lecter opens his mouth in the movie and I’ll show you a liar.
Hopkins reprised the role in the mostly forgettable sequel Hannibal and the prequel Red Dragon (a remake of Michael Mann’s 1986 stunner Manhunter, which featured a twisted Brian Cox as Lecter). But it was Silence that made the character so iconic while also making Hopkins’ career.
Check out the video above for a more detailed look at what makes Dr. Hannibal Lecter the greatest movie villain ever to darken the screen.