9 Horrifying Real Life Crimes Inspired by Movies and TV


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Movies and TV shows often walk a fine line between entertainment and influence. While many enjoy horror flicks and crime dramas for the thrill, there are always those few who seem to mistake these dramatizations for how-to guides. As Randy Meeks famously quipped in “Scream,” “Movies don’t create psychos. Movies make psychos more creative.” Here are nine real-life crimes that were inspired by popular movies and TV shows.

Image Credit: IMDb.

1. ‘Natural Born Killers’ (1994)

According to critics, Oliver Stone’s 1994 “Natural Born Killers” might just be the most controversial and tragically misunderstood movie of its time — and with much blood on its hands. Starring Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis as Mickey and Mallory, the film tracks the Bonnie and Clyde-esque duo’s murderous rampage across the U.S., gaining national fame for their killing spree. 

The movie inspired many “natural born copycats” and has been linked to various murders. In one notable case, after repeatedly watching the movie, two teenagers from Oklahoma committed murders in Mississippi and Louisiana. Another incident involved a Texas teenager who claimed he wanted to emulate the film’s characters.

Additionally, two students in Paris who had a poster of the movie in their bedroom murdered three police officers and a taxi driver. These events led to multiple lawsuits against the filmmaker and distributor Warner Bros., though the cases were dismissed. The film was banned in several countries and remains highly controversial.

Image Credit: IMDb.

2. ‘Scream’ (1996)

The 1996 slasher film “Scream” inspired not only Halloween costumes and a parody movie, but also countless harmless, albeit tasteless, pranks. However, it also played a tragic role in the real-life murder of a teenager. 

In 2006, Cassie Jo Stoddart, a 16-year-old high school student in Pocatello, Idaho, was brutally murdered while house-sitting for her aunt and uncle. Inspired by the teen horror hit, Stoddart’s classmates, Torey Adamcik and Brian Draper, aspired to become infamous killers. On the night of the crime, the boys visited the house to “hang out” with Stoddart and left after secretly unlocking the basement door. They later re-entered wearing masks and dark clothing and eventually attacked and fatally stabbed her while videotaping parts of the brutal act. 

Image Credit: Dimension Films / IMDB.

3. ‘Fight Club’ (1999)

The first rule of Fight Club is that you should not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is that you don’t start a real-life one and incite violence. This is what happened after many people tragically misunderstood Fincher’s cinematic grenade lobbed at the cozy heart of consumer culture. Since its release in 1999, the film has sparked not just debates about its themes of consumerism and disenchantment with modern life, but also started a slightly alarming trend: real-life fight clubs. These gritty, underground gatherings, where men slug it out while channeling their inner Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, have popped up from Silicon Valley to Council Bluffs, Iowa, proving that art doesn’t just imitate life — sometimes it punches it in the face. 

Image Credit: IMDb.

4. ‘Breaking Bad’ (2008-2013)

It’s hardly surprising that a show as clever as “Breaking Bad,” which transforms an average Joe chemistry teacher into a ruthless meth kingpin, could inspire some real-world mischief. And indeed, it has. 

In 2010, Kansas City’s Chief of Police, Darryl Forte, encountered a peculiar strain of blue meth dyed with a food color similar to Walter White’s signature product. In 2012, Alabama police ran into a 55-year-old meth dealer named “Walter White.” But maybe the most unsettling copycat crime was probably that of Jason Hart, who tried to dispose of his deceased girlfriend’s body with sulfuric acid, a method straight out of the series’ playbook. 

Image Credit: AMC.com.

5. ‘The Town’ (2010)

The intense and meticulously planned bank robbery tactics depicted in Ben Affleck’s 2010 “The Town” seem to have inspired a real-life burglary crew in New York. Mimicking the methods in the film, a group allegedly executed 62 burglaries, cutting power to their targets’ stores and using headlamps for navigation in the dark. They even went as far as splashing bleach on ATMs and cash drawers to erase DNA evidence. According to NYPD reports from October 18, 2011, the suspects confessed to emulating the actions they witnessed in “The Town.” 

Image Credit: IMDb.

6. ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971)

Since its 1971 debut, Kubrick’s dystopian classic has inspired more than just film critiques — it’s spurred a slew of bizarre copycat crimes across Britain. The notorious film saw its violent antics replicated in real life being cited in a court case as early as 1972, where a 14-year-old was accused of manslaughter. 

In the following years, numerous “copycat” crimes were reported, where perpetrators mimicked behaviors depicted in the film. These incidents contributed to public and media backlash, leading Kubrick to voluntarily withdraw the film from UK cinemas in 1973 to quell the growing unease.

Image Credit: IMDb.

7. ‘The Dark Knight’ (2008)

Heath Ledger’s Joker in “The Dark Knight” not only left an unforgettable mark on cinema, but also inspired some rather disturbing real-world antics. In 2009, a high school girl from Clinton, Indiana, took her Joker fandom to the extreme by painting and cutting her face to resemble the chaotic villain. She escalated her performance by attempting to attack a teacher with a kitchen knife — though, thankfully, no one was hurt. She was taken into custody and placed in psychiatric care. Fast forward to 2020, and we find a St. Louis man, Jeremy Garnier, dressing up as the Joker during a livestream, where he threatened to bomb a public space. He was arrested before he could turn off his camera. 

Image Credit: IMDb.

8. ‘Taxi Driver’ (1976)

John Hinckley Jr.’s attempt on President Ronald Reagan’s life on March 30, 1981, was inspired by the film “Taxi Driver.” In the 1976 classic, Robert DeNiro plays Travis Bickle, a disturbed taxi driver who plots to assassinate a presidential candidate to impress a young woman. Hinckley, absorbed in his own fantasies and believing he had an imaginary girlfriend, saw himself in Bickle, driving him to emulate his actions to impress actress Jodie Foster, who played a young prostitute in the movie. Hinckley’s attack outside a Washington D.C. hotel wounded Reagan with a ricochet bullet. Hinckley was subsequently charged with multiple offenses but was found to be mentally ill at the time of the attack.

Image Credit: IMDB.

9. ‘Dexter’ (2006-2013; 2021-2022)

Dexter Morgan, the antihero of the TV series “Dexter,” which aired from 2006 to 2013 and briefly from 2021 to 2022, is certainly not someone you’d expect to inspire real-life emulation. However, Mark Twitchell, a Canadian man, took his fandom to a horrific level. 

A huge fan of the show, Twitchell used the dating website Plenty of Fish in October 2008 to lure a man to his home. There, he had meticulously prepared a “kill room” in his garage, mimicking the behavior of Dexter Morgan, the show’s titular serial killer. Twitchell’s actions led the media to dub him the “Dexter Killer,” a nickname that highlighted his disturbing connection to the character throughout his trial. Unlike the fictional Dexter, who ends up living quietly as a lumberjack, Twitchell was sentenced to life in prison.

This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.

Image Credit: Amazon.com.

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