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Weekly Review: The Hannibal Lecter Trilogy
Posted by Kevin Ho on Oct 11, 2012 - 5:42:28 PM

HOLLYWOOD—I have not had the chance to experience a lot of defining movies in history. I have also come across peers and colleagues who are unaware of the impact in our pop culture and lives. I will begin a journey through film exploring different eras, genres, and even regions using film lists found from sites like the Internet Movie Database, Box Office Mojo, as well as recommendations from readers like you.


In the spirit of this month, I am reviewing The Hannibal Lecter Trilogy including the films, “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991), “Hannibal” (2001) and “Red Dragon” (2002). These movies are based on the novels written by Thomas Harris.


I will first break down the trilogy and review each movie individually then the trilogy as a whole. It would be beneficial to your movie experience to watch these in the order presented, although, I believe they all can stand alone.


“The Silence of the Lambs”


This movie gets right to the point. As soon as you meet Hannibal Lecter, he meets you. He demands your attention by giving you complete attention. By you, I mean through the interactions with the main protagonist, Clarice Starling, an FBI trainee played by Jodie Foster. His style is literally “quid-pro-quo” as he burdens this saying to Agent Starling throughout the movie.


To my surprise, the movie didn’t center on Dr. Hannibal Lecter. He was more of an advisor to catch another serial killer at large. His help was needed desperately in order to prevent another crime. Anthony Bruno, with the Crime Library, described Dr. Lecter’s advice as an “indirect Cheshire-Cat” manner and I couldn’t agree more.  It is a perfect analogy.


This movie should be seen for its conversations and drama aspect. I ran into a friend after seeing this, and I discovered it’s one of his favorite movies. My friend, Tony White, has seen the movie repeatedly and said, “What I love about the movie is the infinite change in power between characters, but the power can change at any instant”¦ and it does!” The movie really portrays conversations in such a way that you can pick at the thoughts and motivations. I believe this is why Tony felt such a rush to see the constant shifts in power.  It’s no wonder the film won five Oscars, 41 other film awards, and was nominated 30 times.

Director Jonathan Demme cleverly utilizes the glass environment to capture both actors.




Hannibal took what I enjoyed the most from “The Silence of the Lambs.” It took the conversations, expanded on them, and accomplished a substantial sequel. This installment does center on Dr. Lecter and continues several years after the end of the first.


I didn’t like the choice to cast a new actress for Agent Clarice Starling, but Julianne Moore played a more mature role that fit the character at the given time. You can sense the experience she must have obtained between movies. 


Where “The Silence of the Lambs” focused on Agent Starling trying to catch the protagonist in order to prevent a crime, Hannibal focuses on Agent Starling trying to catch Dr. Hannibal himself. However, I still feel this movie really has him as Cheshire-Cat-like advisor even though Dr. Hannibal is in the spotlight. The real conflict in the movie is between Clarice and her agency. This sequel recycles the conversations from the last as evidence and cleverly provides our protagonist with advice.


I dug into this movie hoping to find more about Dr. Lecter’s character. It’s still not enough. It’s eerie to say I respect Dr. Lecter’s view on the world, although I don’t agree with his methods. “Dr. Lecter only eats the rude,” says Barney, a caretaker at the asylum played by Frankie Faison in all three movies. If you are civil to Hannibal, he can respect your existence.

Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter.


“Red Dragon”


This is a prequel to the first installment. The synopsis resembles “The Silence of the Lambs.” Once again, Dr. Lecter’s advice is needed to help catch a serial killer. Although your protagonist is no longer the beloved Agent Starling, Edward Norton delivers a tremendous performance as Detective Will Graham.


Someone mentions Dr. Lecter in the first two installments saying his killings did society a favor. Someone said he once removed a member of a symphony in order to make the symphony sound more beautiful. Unfortunately, this isn’t a memorable quote that can be easily found without the original script or re-watching the movie—which I wouldn’t mind doing later on.


The prequel opened with Hannibal visiting the symphony and staring down the flawed instrumentalist with a discerned expression. Acting is reacting and even the composer reacts to the flutist’s playing. Moments later, you see Dr. Lecter politely serving guests. These guests turn out to be the symphony board. They are aware there is a missing member. One of them states, in a sensitive manner, that he is actually relieved for the symphony’s sake. Another asks Dr. Lecter what they are eating that evening. I’m sure you can assume. Bon appétit.


The Trilogy as a Whole


As I mentioned before, each installment can stand alone. I’m glad I saw each of them in the correct order. The first leads into the second, and the last installment integrates details very well thus completing the trilogy. It was surprising how Dr. Hannibal always seemed to be in the background even when he may have been the criminal the FBI were after. It’s daunting how clever he is. Even though he lurked in the back of my mind while watching these movies, he had such significance to the actions of everyone. Everyone feared him, but respected him at the same time.


Special Agent, Jack Crawford played by Scott Glenn, warned Agent Starling in “The Silence of the Lambs” to never forget whom Dr. Lecter is. He is a psychopath and he’ll get in your head. When I begin to forget who he is and accept him as a person, the movies find a way to remind me of his horror. It made the experience that much richer for me.



If I could relate this series of movies to ones more recent, I would say it’s a crime-investigation thriller like “The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo” (2009 ”“ Denmark) with the intelligence of Jigsaw from “Saw." I have not yet seen the American version of “The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo" (2011), but the feel of the trilogy was similar to the Denmark version. "Saw" was the movie that got me interested in the horror genre. It was sick and twisted, but I appreciated Jigsaw’s intentions for his victims. He gave his victims an option to live or die, and it was up to his victims to overcome their flaw to earn their life back. Jigsaw and Dr. Lecter are two very different people, but they both despise those that take life for granted.


There is more to Dr. Lecter’s character if you are interested. Thomas Harris also wrote a book called Hannibal Rising in 2006 and the movie version was released in 2007. "Red Dragon" was actually a remake of “Manhunter." Dr. Lecter’s character wasn’t popular until Anthony Hopkins’ remarkable portrayal.


Originally, I wanted to revisit “Silence of the Lambs,”  “The Shining" or “Psycho” (1960). With a poll among friends, “Silence of the Lambs” won. After watching it, I was so intrigued and curious; I wanted to continue through the trilogy. If you would like to participate in the poll or have a suggestion for a movie to revisit, please email me at

||Spoiler Alert||

Please continue reading at your own discretion.


There isn’t much I want to say this week. There were key moments that I loved about how the first ended. I’m talking about the climax scene when it was pitch black and Buffalo Bill had his night goggles. This is one of the scenes my friend referred to regarding the shift in power. “With his night vision goggles, he was able to reach out and touch her hair. He was just toying with her. That was my favorite scene,” says Tony White who hasn’t seen the movie recently, but still remembers the scene vividly.


I knew exactly what he was talking about. She fell and she was so spooked. She felt powerless, but as soon as she hears the click of Buffalo Bill’s gun, she gained the power back. What clever filmmaking. Maybe Thomas Harris was responsible for composing the scene so vividly in his book, but the translation was executed so well.


As a new fan of the series, I appreciated the little response Dr. Lecter gave Dr. Chilton at the end of “Red Dragon.” It sent chills down my spine, but made me want to say, “Good evening, Clarice.”



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