The Silence of the Lambs

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

In 1981 Thomas Harris (author of Black Sunday) released a very dark thriller called Red Dragon, about a gifted FBI profiler named Will Graham, who comes out of retirement to assist in the investigation of a Serial Killer known as "The Tooth Fairy" (for his habit of leaving bite marks on his victims; plus the press reporting that he's gay). During the novel, Graham reluctantly seeks help from another serial killer, the brilliant if amoral psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter. The two had previously forced each other into mutual retirement, Graham by catching Lecter, and Lecter by nearly disemboweling Graham while trying to escape.

The novel was well-regarded for its unyielding gothic tone and the unnerving detail and care Harris put into the psychological dysfunctions of villain Francis Dolarhyde. The book was made into the movie Manhunter in 1986, starring William Petersen (yes, that one) as Graham and Brian Cox as Hannibal "Lecktor".

In 1988, Harris followed up with a sequel called The Silence of the Lambs. The lead was now ambitious FBI trainee Clarice Starling, sent to try and persuade Lecter to offer his insight into "Buffalo Bill" — a serial killer who abducts women, kills and skins them, and shoves chrysalitic moths down their throats. Lecter agrees to help in exchange for Clarice's most traumatic memories, and the two develop a weird symbiotic relationship.

This book was a huge success, and was adapted into an even more successful 1991 film starring Jodie Foster as Clarice and Anthony Hopkins in a career-defining performance as Lecter; the film became the third, and to this day, the last film ever to win all five major Oscars (Picture-Director-Actor-Actress-Screenplay), which for a February-released thriller was astonishing. Of all the books and films, The Silence of the Lambs is perhaps the only true classic, and indeed both series are often referred to as "The Silence of the Lambs Series".

Much later, in 1999, Harris released the next novel, whose film adaptation was immediately put into production for a summer 2001 release. Building off of the huge popularity of the Lecter character, it was simply called Hannibal, and focused on Clarice, an Italian detective and a former victim of Lecter's all hunting Lecter in different ways for different reasons. The book, although still acclaimed, was far more controversial with critics and readers, especially with the controversial ending. The movie, although changing the ending, received mixed reviews, not least of all because Jodie Foster decided not to return to the role she made famous and was replaced by Julianne Moore. Both book and film, however, made a great deal of money.

The following year saw a new film adaptation of Red Dragon, starring Hopkins and Edward Norton and keeping the original name this time. It was a moderate success, although fans of Manhunter complained that a "remake" was unnecessary. Others enjoy having the film to complete the continuity of the series, as well as another excellent Lecter performance by Hopkins. The film's tone is also much closer to the grounded American feel of The Silence of the Lambs when compared to Hannibal, which was more upper-crust international. The film also included the focus on the Red Dragon's psychological torments, which was all but ignored in Manhunter, and featured an ending more faithful to the original book's.

2007 saw another book/film double, this time released almost simultaneously. Named Hannibal Rising, it depicted Lecter's beginnings as a serial killer, and both film and book were quite thoroughly panned by critics and audiences alike. The author has said that he never intended Lecter to have a Freudian Excuse-based origin story, and only wrote the book because he was told that if he didn't, another author almost certainly would.

Overall, one of the most successful and widely popular book/film series of the modern era, blending the merits of crime novel and literature, detective thriller and art film, and permeating popular culture with its scenes, themes, and its characters who have become household names. Its influence on other works in the same genre can't be underestimated. In 2003, the American Film Institute very justifiably named Dr. Hannibal Lecter the most memorable villain in the history of film. In turn, Foster's Clarice Starling was named the most memorable heroine (though she placed 6th on the list overall).

The Silence of the Lambs is the Trope Namer for:
Tropes used in The Silence of the Lambs include:
  • All Men Are Perverts: You can count on one hand the number of men who don't hit on Clarice.
  • Alone with the Psycho: The movie of The Silence of the Lambs.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: There really are a couple of types of moths that have skull shaped patterns on them.
  • American Accents
  • Appropriated Title: The series began with Red Dragon, but it's known as the Silence of the Lambs series due to the popularity of that film.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Hannibal was retconned into being aristocracy.
  • Assault with a Deadly Antler: In the series Hannibal, the Chesapeake Ripper impales a victim on a set of antlers.
  • Asshole Victim
    • Hannibal's first kill was a racist Asian-hating punk who insulted Hannibal's Japanese aunt, and was sliced up with her sword by Hannibal soon thereafter.
    • This is Lecter's entire M.O., which is why he remains somewhat sympathetic. Lampshaded by Barney in Hannibal when he remarks "Lecter prefers to eat the rude."
    • In The Silence of the Lambs, Dr. Chilton is portrayed as sleazy, underhanded, uncooperative and a publicity hound. At the end of the movie it's clear that Lecter will kill and eat him.
  • Author Appeal: Hannibal's detailed knowledge of wines and foods apparently greatly reflects Harris' own expansive knowledge of food and wine.
  • Auto Cannibalism: Hannibal manipulates a drugged Mason Verger into cutting off and eating his own nose, and also feeds Paul Krendler his own brain.
  • Belated Backstory
  • Black Best Friend: Both Hannibal and Clarice have one. Hannibal's is a combination of Black Best Friend, Worthy Opponent, and Friendly Enemy.
  • Blind and the Beast: Francis Dolarhyde falls in love with Reba McClane partly because she's blind and can't see his harelip, although it's strongly implied that most women he knew were attracted to him already. He just thinks of his harelip as being a much greater problem then it actually is.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: In the first two books, the POVs for all three serial killers (Dolaryhde, Gumb and Lecter) demonstrate that they have completely alien personalities and outlooks on life. They are not simple Card Carrying Villains so much as they are are living in a terrifying fantasy world of their own creation where nobody else is a real person and their every thought reflects their twisted pathologies. At first, this might seem over the top, but the longer you stay with them the more it becomes flat-out disturbing and outright freaky.
  • Body Count Competition: In Hannibal, Clarice receives a congratulations from the Guiness Book of Records because she had recently become the female FBI agent who had shot and killed the most people. Needless to say, shes not especially pleased.
  • Boxed Crook
  • Butterfly of Transformation: The reason why Jame Grub keeps butterflies and moths, since he desires to change into a woman.
  • The Chessmaster: Hannibal Lecter.
  • Collector of the Strange: Buffalo Bill collects parts of the skin of his victims to make a "woman suit".
  • Combat Pragmatist: Lecter, Lecter, Lecter. In his deranged Crowning Moment of Awesome he bites a guard on the face, then pepper sprays him, then bludgeons the guard's friend to death with a truncheon -- friend who is unarmed, and has his hands handcuffed to the cage bars. Then listens to a piece of classical music that makes the cell kind of like a high-end restaurant.
    • It was Johann Sebastian Bach's The Goldberg Variations, recorded by Glenn Gould in 1955. [1]
  • Composite Character: In the film, Benjamin Raspail, a flutist in the Baltimore Philharmonic Orchestra and a patient of Lecter's who was romantically involved with Jame Gumb, with Klaus, one of Buffalo Bill's victims and whose head is discovered by Clarice. The new film character has Raspail's name and history as a lover of Gumb, but the fate of Klaus of being killed by Gumb.
    • In Red Dragon, the novel, Will has caught two serial killers prior to the Tooth Fairy case- Lecter, and another guy who was killing college students- no hint is given as to Lecter's M.O.. In Manhunter, the other guy is vaguely referenced but "Lektor" has been locked up for killing college girls.
  • Consulting a Convicted Killer: The novel is the Trope Maker, along with Red Dragon. And most other depictions of this trope are intended as direct Homages to the film adaptation, especially Anthony Hopkins' portrayal of Hannibal Lecter. In Lambs, Clarice Starling visits Hannibal in his cell on multiple occasions for help with catching another serial killer called "Buffalo Bill". Hannibal ends up giving Clarice cryptic clues in exchange for information about Clarice's unhappy childhood. Hannibal later uses an agreement to disclose Buffalo Bill's real name in exchange for a transfer to another asylum as an opportunity to escape.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • In Silence, Hannibal has painted a view of Florence from the roof of the Duomo as part of his Wicked Cultured personality. One of the first establishing shots in Hannibal is that exact vista in real life.
    • Also, the above-mentioned drawing was the Duomo "seen from the Belvedere". Clarice found Buffalo Bill in Belvedere, Ohio. Could Hannibal have known all along that this was where Bill was living?
      • He also stresses the word Simplicity. Clarice figures out what Bill is doing with the skins when she finds a dress pattern, which includes cuts of cloth identical to those found on the victims. The brand of the pattern is Simplicity. Either this is a hell of a coincidence or he knew all along.
    • At the end of Red Dragon Hannibal is informed of a young female FBI agent who wants to question him.
      • For those few in the audience who hadn't seen Silence of the Lambs first, it would have been evident this final scene was intended to mean something...but what?
    • Young Hannibal tries on his aunt's samurai mask, evoking his future restraint mask.
  • Creepy Crossdresser: Buffalo Bill, though it's sort of averted. Both the novel and movie go out of their way to tell the audience that being a transsexual, in and of itself, is not connected to violence- specifically, Clarice says (and Lecter agrees) that Bill cannot be a transsexual because transsexuals are not violent. According to Lecter, Bill only thinks he's a transsexual due to his "hatred of his own identity."
    • This also reflects the Fair for Its Day but out-of-date psychology that the book and film relied on. Transsexuality was conflated with transvestism (crossdressing) and was at the time thought to be a mental disorder, albeit a benign one. Which is kind of the point here: no records or proven cases indicated that transsexuality predisposed a person to violence, and so Bill is dismissed as being a "true" transsexual. Nowadays a distinction is drawn between transvestism (crossdressing now considered a common lifestyle choice) and transsexuality (transgender people whose gender identity doesn't align with their physical sex). Neither of these, in and of themselves, prevent someone from being a homicidal maniac.
  • Cut Apart: Famously used to set up the Alone with the Psycho climax of Silence.
  • Death by Racism: In Hannibal Rising, Hannibal's first victim is an Asian-hating racist who insulted his Japanese aunt, whom he then disembowels and beheads with her family's katana the day after.
  • Diabolical Mastermind
  • Enemy Rising Behind: Hannibal does this.
  • Enforced Method Acting [context?]
  • Evil Cripple: Mason Verger.
  • Evil Detecting Dog: When Hannibal returns to America he makes a stop at Paul Krendler's house. Gathering information on him. Krendler's German Sheppard knows very well, that Hannibal is an intruder, but in an inversion he does not charge or bite him. Instead he just lays there barking and growling as him. It seems he knows Hannibal is the bigger predator and is naturally afraid of him.
  • Evil Makes You Ugly: Verger again.
  • Evil Will Fail: Subtle example in Hannibal. Posing as "Doctor Fell", Hannibal insults Inspector Pazzi, the detective investigating a missing scholar (who Lecter almost certainly killed to get the scholar's job) for his failings on the "Il Monstro" case. Lecter claims he had been following the "Il Monstro" case in the papers, which is the first thing that arouses Pazzi's suspicions (that "Fell" had been following a Serial Killer case so closely), and along with a later remark to Clarice about "coming out of retirement" suggests he basically sabotaged his own freedom, as well as a new career. It is strongly implied that he is, in fact, the Il Monstro killer [2]
  • Failure Knight: Starling, with Dead Little Lambs forming the center of the story's central analogy.
  • Fakeout Escape: In Silence, Hannibal gets bonus points for not even escaping himself, but letting the guards load him into an ambulance, thinking he is their mutilated colleague.
  • Faking the Dead
  • Fan Disservice: The Buffalo Bill dance scene from Silence.
  • FBI Agent: Will Graham, Clarice Starling, and some minor characters.
  • Fed to Pigs: Taken Up to Eleven in Hannibal.
  • The Film of the Book
  • Foiler Footage: Two alternate endings of Hannibal were filmed for the purpose of obfuscation. Hannibal dies in both.
  • Forensic Drama
  • Freudian Excuse: Offered repeatedly, with mixed results.
    • Retconning one into Hannibal Lecter's past was not generally viewed as a good move. While it pretty much threw out Lecter's initial characterization as a Complete Monster, it was a plausible plot device in Hannibal: it made everything else about Lecter mentioned by others (like Doemling) mesh better and completed the Failure Knight analogy hinted at since the previous book. But extending Lecter's Freudian Excuse into a full story really inflicted severe Badass Decay. However, it's arguable that Lecter has the most hilariously, unintentionally ridiculous Freudian Excuse ever: His sister was eaten by Nazi Cannibals when he was a child.
      • Believe it or not, this Freudian excuse could be based on a Truth in Television. The infamous Ukrainian cannibal Andrei Chikatilo was told growing up that his brother was cannibalized by neighbors during the Holodomor (massive famines caused by Soviet agricultural policy).
    • The Freudian Excuse is deployed surprisingly well, however, with Dolarhyde in the first book. Will Graham notes, "As a child, my heart goes out to him. As an adult, he's irredeemable."
  • Go-Go Enslavement: In Hannibal, Clarice is rendered unconscious by a gunshot wound and wakes up wearing an evening gown (specifically an Absolute Cleavage Sexy Backless Outfit) instead of the casual clothes she was wearing earlier. Which never happened in the book — although Clarice does end up wearing the evening gown, she's allowed to put it on without Lecter being in the room. Nor does Lecter ever undress her, except to tend her injuries.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Reba and Dolarhyde. Of course, D was the Ax Crazy Serial Killer of the story, so this is either subverted, or invoked deliberately to make D more sympathetic.
    • Subverted in the end of the Hannibal novel.
  • Gory Discretion Shot
  • Hand Cannon: Buffalo Bill's .357 revolver.
  • Hand of Death
  • Hand Signals: In the 1991 film a police officer uses them to communicate with other officers when he thinks Lecter is nearby listening to them.
  • Heterosexual Life Partners: Clarice and Ardelia, with Krendler making the sort of comments you'd expect out of a Fan Boy.
  • Horny Scientist: Clarice gets hit on by two in Silence of the Lambs; she may even have wound up in bed with one of them by the end of the book.
  • The Hunter
  • I'm a Humanitarian
  • Hypocritical Humor:

Starling: "Much oblige [sic], Ardelia. I got to make one more call. If I can get done with that in time, I'll catch up with you in the cafeteria, okay?"
Mapp: "I was so in hopes you'd overcome that ghastly dialect. Books are available to help. I never use the colorful patois of my housing project anymore. You come talking that mushmouth, people say you eat up with the dumb-ass, girl."

  • I Ate What?:
    • A common response of Lecter's dinner guests. Some of his guests ended up hospitalized for crippling anorexia.
    • A long-delayed horrific version in Hannibal Rising. Possibly it genuinely hadn't occurred to him for twenty years, or possibly he'd just refused to admit it to himself, but he ate his Dead Little Sister as well, disguised in a stew.
  • Idiot Ball: Hannibal Lecter is so terrifying that he is escorted everywhere by multiple squad cars, forced to wear a straitjacket and a hockey mask when not in his cell, guarded by about 20 armed officers waiting outside--and when it's time to open the cage and feed him, two slow-moving, dull-witted cops plus one set of handcuffs will apparently suffice for security purposes.
    • This is explained more thoroughly in the book: Lecter agrees to the exchange of information solely for the chance to be subjected to the lesser security measures of the Tennessee state police. They don't know what he's capable of, so it only takes a bit of chumminess, and discrediting Chilton by revealing to them that he isn't a real doctor, to convince them to set aside Chilton's seemingly over-the-top restraint procedures.
  • Insufferable Genius: Crawford and Starling identify this as pretty much Lecter's only weakness - he needs to be the smartest guy in the room, and he has to know you know that.
  • Jerkass: Freddy Lounds, Paul Krendler, and Frederick Chilton. Behind the Scenes, there's John Douglas, who Jack Crawford's based on, for the Enforced Method Acting: he gave audio tapes of women being tortured and raped to Scott Glenn as research for the role of Crawford. The tapes disturbed Glenn so much he never reprized the role, which forced the producers to move Crawford's death near the end of Hannibal to happening before the events of the story in the film version and recasting the role with Harvey Keitel in Red Dragon.
  • Just Desserts: At the end of Silence, Hannibal, while in hiding, informs Starling that he's "having a friend for dinner." He's staring right at Dr. Chilton as he speaks the line. At the climax of Hannibal, the boars that Mason hoped would eat Hannibal put him on their menu instead.
  • Karma Houdini: Lecter is this in spades, though Thomas Harris admitted he had grown to like his character so much this trope became inevitable. Margot Verger and Barney are minor examples, with Margot getting away with killing her brother Mason in the book and Barney knowing about it and pretty much gets away with helping bury that knowledge, though since Mason Verger is an Asshole Victim par excellence, it's hard to hate them for this.
    • Since Mason had been torturing Margot all her life, one has to wonder why she didn't kill him sooner. He did have a reason, though, she needed his sperm to produce an heir with Judy, otherwise she would be cut out of the family fortune upon Mason's death.
    • At the end of the Hannibal novel Lecter even finally settles down with Starling following the events of the novel.
    • When asked where Lecter is after the events of the second movie (where he escaped, though he had to cut off his own hand to do so), Anthony Hopkins himself commented that he's probably in some tropical paradise where there are no extradition treaties.
  • Karmic Death: Most of Hannibal Lecter's victims.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: And that's why Hannibal uses one to performs his first kill on the Asshole Victim who insulted his Japanese aunt. Odd, because in the previous works, he'd been interested mostly in the Italian Renaissance. But Japan is popular these days.
    • Could be some sort of poetic justice: she is descended of samurai, whom had a rigid code of honor. He's preserving her honor; especially with decapitation. As a corporal punishment, decapitation was seen as VERY dishonorable. Had Hannibal made the man commit suicide, his aunt's honor couldn't have been properly restored.
  • Kubrick Stare: This is Lecter's default expression when revving up the creepy.
  • Living Lie Detector: Downplayed. Lecter's very good at reading body language, but he does miss a few lies and half-truths Clarice feeds him.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Hannibal Lecter; arguably also Chilton and Krendler, with their manipulations being wildly outclassed by Lecter's.
    • Don't forget Jack Crawford, who intentionally sent Clarice to Lecter with no clue as to why she was really doing it, because if she had known Lecter would have figured it out. He also entices Lecter with a phony deal from Senator Martin, and fakes a sexist attitude in front of the sheriff in order to get him to talk alone.
  • Metaphorically True: In the novel of Silence, Starling tells Lecter that her father was a marshal. Later on, when she is recounting to him how he died, Lecter catches enough clues to deduce that the man had actually been a night watchman. Starling's defense is that the official job description had read "night marshal". (Lecter doesn't press the point.)
  • Monster Misogyny: Buffalo Bill only kills women, although we discover he has his... er, reasons...
    • Somewhat shaken up by the implication that Jame Gumb doesn't specifically hate women as much as he is bitter towards them due to jealously, as indicated by his last line in the novel. In the film it's hinted at further during the infamous skin lotion scene. He refers to Catherine Martin as "it" and refuses to address her directly. Finally, her pleas for her mother get to him and he starts crying before screaming at her to put the lotion in the basket, indicating that he felt a moment of guilt or remorse for what he's doing, a sensitivity he tries to restrain by treating his captives as objects. This is pointed out by Clarice when she comments on the Senator's plea, noting that she repeats the name to humanize her daughter, making it harder to tear her up.
  • The Mountains of Illinois: During the raid of Buffalo Bill's alleged hideout in Calumet City, large hills can be seen in the background. (The scene was actually filmed near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.)
  • Mugging the Monster: An unfortunate pickpocket in Hannibal.
  • No Party Like a Donner Party: the fate of Hannibal's Dead Little Sister in Rising. As several bad guys with varying degrees of sympathy point out, she had hypothermia and they'd all have starved otherwise. Including Hannibal.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent
  • Nothing Is Scarier
    • Subverted, or at least played with, in the Silence film's climax, when Clarice is in Buffalo Bill's house. He turns out the lights, plunging the basement into darkness. We then see the scene through Bill's night-vision goggles, as he watches her stumble around helplessly.
    • Another version of this in the autopsy scene. When Clarice is taking note of the condition of the body, we don't actually see the body outside of a shot of the hand and some partial shots of its face. We know what condition it's in (rotting and with a bullet hole in the chest) because of Clarice's note-taking. Her facial expression says it all and makes it even more disturbing. Then they flip the body over and we see exactly what it looks like and it is still fucking disturbing.
  • Not So Different: Lecter taunts Graham with this.

Lecter: You want the scent? Smell yourself.

  • One-Scene Wonder: Anthony Hopkins won a Best Leading Actor for only 24 minutes of screen time total.
  • Paparazzi: Freddy Lounds in Red Dragon, played by Stephen Lang and/or Philip Seymour Hoffman. Tabloids are a big part of the later two books as well, but there are no actual reporters involved.
    • In fact, the media in general is such a colossal Jerkass, it makes Lecter's letters to Starling look downright complimentary (and partially, they are). It also makes her feelings of alienation in Hannibal all the more plausible.
  • Pet the Dog: Dolarhyde and Reba. Characters later suggest that The Power of Love almost convinced him to Heel Face Turn. Too bad "The Dragon" had to intervene.
    • Lecter's relationship with Clarice contains some of this. While some of it is Batman Gambit, he also has some genuine respect and affection for her. His initial favor to her (pointing her toward the severed head of Bill's first victim), is also to make up for a gross discourtesy she suffered from Miggs.
  • Photographic Memory: Graham. Lecter to an extent; he can draw a cityscape of Florence from memory, at the very least.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Jame Gumb.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: In the books, Lecter is described as having maroon (brownish-red) eyes.
    • Lecter appears with bright red eyes in some posters for Hannibal and Hannibal Rising.
  • Red Right Hand: Francis Dolarhyde's harelip, Lecter having maroon eyes and six fingers on one hand in the books.
  • Save the Day Turn Away: Hannibal Rising climaxes with one.
  • Scary Black Man: Played with in the movie. Our first shot of Barney the orderly (from Starling's POV) makes him look pretty grim, but When He Smiles...
  • Scary Shiny Glasses
  • Scenery Porn: Ahh, Florence...
  • Screw Yourself: Buffalo Bill: "Would you fuck me?"
  • Serial Killer: Some of the most famous examples. Buffalo Bill is a composite of several notorious serial killers--Ted Bundy (wearing a cast on his arm and claiming to need help), Gary Heidnik (imprisoning women in his basement), and Ed Gein (murdering women and flaying their skin in order to make a "woman suit").
  • Sherlock Scan: Lecter can give you your entire backstory based on a brief conversation. Much like Sherlock himself, he'll do this at the slightest provocation just to prove how clever he is.
  • Shout-Out: The suit Francis Dolarhyde wears in Red Dragon when he goes to eat the original "Red Dragon" painting is an echo of William Petersen's suit in Manhunter.
  • Smug Snake: Dr. Chilton through and through. He obnoxiously hits on Clarice, takes entirely too much pleasure in shocking visitors with the account of the time Lecter mutilated a nurse who let her guard down and styles himself as Hannibal's "arch enemy"... while Lecter himself has nothing but contempt for Chilton.
    • Crystallized by Lecter leaving a rather insulting chemistry formula behind in a toilet just to make his disgust clear.
    • In the third book, he's joined by Paul Krendler, a homophobic, sexist, corrupt FBI worker who propositions Starling and does everything in his power to mess with her career when he doesn't get what he wants.
    • Chilton is made to be an even bigger dick in the book, where it's flat out stated that Hannibal would have given Starling Buffalo Bill "tomorrow". Unfortunately, Chilton interfered and fucked everything up, resulting in the deaths of a couple cops, some paramedics and a tourist during his escape, further risking the life of Catherine Martin and bringing about his own death.
    • Fridge Brilliance: In fact, when Lecter said Billy Rubin was Catherine's murderer, he wasn't lying.. not entirely. Since the name stands for Chilton and he 'fucked everything up'.
    • Lecter has actually found the best way to deal with Chilton though; he simply doesn't speak to him. The book mentions that Chilton hasn't heard Lecter speak to him in years. This just makes him even more childish in his petty acts of vengeance.
      • Lecter also had a paper published that tore Chilton to shreds.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Dr Lecter beats the life out of two police officers while the movie plays unfitting music.
  • Sparing the Aces: Put simply:

Hannibal: The world is more interesting with you in it.

  • Spiritual Successor: For starters, The X-Files
  • Stalker with a Crush: Lecter definitely counts in relation to Starling.
  • Stock Subtitle: Hannibal Rising.
  • Tear Off Your Face: Lecter does this to one of the guards as a component of his infamous escape sequence.
  • There Are No Therapists: Utterly subverted, since Lecter is imprisoned in a psychiatric institution and has been visited by a number of shrinks. Of course, since he's a psychiatrist himself, this rarely works out right.
    • An even more interesting subversion is that Lecter mentions to Clarice that he's using his skills as therapist to work with one of the other patients. He gives the impression that he's sincerely trying to help the man, though it's possible he's doing it out of sheer boredom (and even more possible he made the whole thing up to screw with her head.)
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Clarice empties all six chambers of her revolver into Buffalo Bill's chest at point-blank range. As he's laying on the ground dying, she reloads.
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else: Hannibal Lecter in the movies, though in the books there are a couple of signs.
  • Timeshifted Actor
  • Tongue Suicide: After being induced by Hannibal, Miggs commited suicide by swallowing his own tongue.
  • Touch of the Monster: In Hannibal, after Clarice passes out from the gunshot wound in her shoulder, Hannibal carries her bridal-style to safety (well, safer than a pen full of flesh-eating pigs, anyway).
  • Transgender: 'Buffalo Bill' thinks he is a trans woman, though if you trust Lecter, he's not. He doesn't want to be a woman: he wants to be his mother.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Reba, blind and female. Also invoked by a line of dialogue in the book, which is now on the trope's quote page.
  • Uncanny Valley: Intentionally invoked by the acting of Ted Levine as Buffalo Bill, when he mocks Catherine's screaming. The flat, emotionless sound, combined with his completely blank facial expression create an effect that is entirely inhuman.
  • Villain Protagonist: Lecter in Silence.
  • Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World: In the book version of Silence (the film mostly dropped the plotline) Clarice is juggling her hunt for Buffalo Bill with her FBI training, knowing she's in danger of being held back for non-attendance despite being a brilliant student who's busy doing Bureau work.
  • Weapon Stomp: In the novel, Hannibal Rising (not sure if it's in the movie or not), Hannibal gets into a fight with Grutas, who is scrambling toward a gun; he steps on the gun and slashes Grutas.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Poor Inspector Pazzi. He just wanted to make his wife happy....
  • Wicked Cultured: Lecter. His pathology is centered around this trope, as he eats (and serves) his victims as exquisite meals, apparently to prove how much better he is than them; or, in Starling's words, "show his disdain for those who exacerbate him" (or, sometimes, to perform a "public service"). Apart from this, and a more general love of fine dining and drink, he enjoys classical music, is a highly talented artist, and has sufficient knowledge of Dante, the Renaissance and its related literature to get a temp job as a library curator at a Florentine museum, and impress the board enough to nearly make it permanent.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: "Buffalo Bill" uses a fake cast and an unwieldy object he's supposedly trying to put in a van to lure Catherine into position to kidnap her. (This part of the character was based on Ted Bundy, who often used this tactic to entice his victims.
  1. It is quite good.
  2. There actually was an Italian Serial Killer by that name- "The Monster of Florence"-, but they operated in the 60's and 70's, and may have been more than one person.