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01st Aug 2012

Cult Classic: The Silence of the Lambs

Sure we've all placed lasagne on our faces and affected a Hannibal Lector accent at one point or another yet over 20 years on, The Silence of the Lambs has lost none of its power.


Sure we’ve all placed lasagne on our faces and affected a Hannibal Lector accent at one point or another yet over 20 years on, The Silence of the Lambs has lost none of its power.

Without doubt, Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs is one of the greatest villain performances in the history of cinema and was duly awarded as such.

In the space of one year, the Welshman walked away with a Golden Globe, an Oscar and a BAFTA; the Oscar in particular being impressive as it was for a lead role even though the Lecter character appeared on screen for just over 16 minutes. That’s less than 10 per cent of the film’s running time, by the way.

Yet despite teaching us that a) Hopkins is one the finest actors of all time and that b) you should never help a creepy old man lift a sofa into his van, the real lesson from The Silence of the Lambs was one for snooty Academy members. After years of stuffy period epics dominating award shows, here was a perfect blend of crime and horror that featured a cannibalistic serial killer.

Based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Harris, the film came five years after the movie adaptation of its literary predecessor, Red Dragon – which confusingly was made once more in 2002 with Hopkins playing Lecter – but completely dwarfed the first Harris adaptation, becoming just the third movie to ever win the five biggest Oscars – Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Picture and Best Screenplay. As you can tell, this movie is pretty damn good.

The film’s protagonist is a young FBI trainee named Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster, portrayed in the sequel Hannibal by Julianne Moore) tracking a serial killer dubbed “Buffalo Bill”, who skins the corpses of his female victims but has great taste in music – ‘Goodbye Horses’ being a particular favourite.

To understand the monster, Starling visits the iconic Lecter and against her preconceptions discovers a suave, worldy gent behind the bars and later, the fearsome shackles.

A man with an astounding intellect and rather nice manners when he isn’t chewing people’s faces, Hopkins’ Lecter is quite simply electric on the screen and holds our attention tightly through his brief but incredible performance.

Aside from being extremely well paced, the film’s charms are all up on the screen. From the acting to the screenplay to the measured used of the Lecter character, there’s nothing that needs to be changed.

To even speak of the movie’s legacy today is to rattle off a list of honours so we’ll keep it brief. When the American Film Institute put together their 100 Years… 100 Heroes and Villains list they selected Lecter as the #1 cinematic villain. Not Darth Vader, Scar from The Lion King or the hunter that shot Bambi… just Lecter.

If you’re interested in seeing The Silence of the Lambs once more on the big screen but in an extremely unique setting, we’re delighted to announce that the Jameson Cult Film Club is returning for its biggest and most electrifying screening to date – August 14 at an undisclosed location.

Be sure to stay on JOE for further updates when they appear on this very section of the site for what promises to be an unforgettable night.

For more cult films, check out the Jameson Cult Film Club.



Cult films