Zodiac Killer in popular culture

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The crosshair-like symbol used by the Zodiac Killer in signing his correspondence

The Zodiac Killer was a serial killer who operated in Northern California in the 1960s and 1970s. His identity remains unknown. His crimes, letters and cryptograms to police and newspapers inspired many movies, novels, television and more.

This article lists only entertainment ("popular culture") inspired by the events, not documentary media.


  • The Zodiac Killer (released April 6, 1971) was directed by Tom Hanson and starred Hal Reed and Bob Jones.[1]
  • Dirty Harry (released on December 23, 1971), directed by Don Siegel, was filmed in San Francisco. In the movie, which is very loosely based on the Zodiac case, the killer (played by Andrew Robinson), who calls himself "Scorpio", at certain points sends intimidating letters, with the handwriting based on the real life killer's and kidnaps a school bus full of children and threatens to kill them all.[2][3]
  • The "Gemini Killer" in the movie The Exorcist III (released on August 17, 1990) was also loosely based on the Zodiac Killer.[4]
  • The Zodiac Killer is mentioned in the film The Addams Family Values (1993). While at Summer camp, Wednesday, Pugsley and Joel go over a set of "Schizos and Serial Killers" trading cards, with Joel mentioning the only cards he doesn't have are "Jack The Ripper and that Zodiac guy". Pugsley then offers to trade an Amy Fisher card for Joel's Black Widow card.
  • A short film entitled Disguised Killer (2000) was produced in Vallejo; set in the present, it is based on the Lake Herman Road murders.[5]
  • In 2005, Lions Gate Entertainment released Zodiac Killer. Set in the modern day, the films features a nursing home employee who begins copycatting the Zodiac, angering the original killer, who is revealed to be a member of a moralistic secret society, and who has been living under the guise of Zodiac expert Simon Vale (portrayed by writer and director Ulli Lommel). Two years later, the company released Curse of the Zodiac, a loose retelling of the original murders, also written and directed by Lommel.[6]
  • In 2006, THINKFilm released The Zodiac.
  • Hunting the Zodiac, a documentary by John Mikulenka, was screened for the public in San Francisco on March 3, 2007 at the 4Star Theater. [7]
  • Zodiac, directed by David Fincher, is based on the two non-fiction books by Robert Graysmith: Zodiac and Zodiac Unmasked: The Identity of America's Most Elusive Serial Killer. Filming locations included San Francisco and Los Angeles, and it opened in theaters nationwide on March 2, 2007.[8]
  • In the 2012 movie Seven Psychopaths, a flashback sequence depicts Zachariah Rigby and his wife Maggie, who have spent their lives gruesomely murdering serial killers, arriving at the Zodiac's house, where he has been apparently farming rabbits. Maggie pins him to a table by his hands using two large knives, and burns him to death with gasoline. After witnessing this, along with many other grisly things she'd done, he tells her he can no longer continue murdering people, and she leaves him. After relaying this story to the main character, Marty, Rigby laments, "I shoulda helped her kill that hippie."


  • The heavy metal band Macabre's album Sinister Slaughter, from 1993, features a song entitled "Zodiac", about the killer.[9]
  • The song "Gemini" by Slayer, from 1996, deals with the cruelties of the serialkiller, the "Gemini" killer (written by Kerry King and Tom Araya).
  • San Francisco metal band Machine Head's 1997 album The More Things Change... features "Blood of the Zodiac", inspired by the Zodiac killer.
  • The 1998 demo Poverty Sucks by San Francisco Bay Area's Poverty included the song "Insane Instinct," whose lyrics were drawn directly from a Zodiac Killer letter. The late Buddy Mills (Insanity) played drums on the recording. The session vocalist, Rob Huffman, is author of the short story "Campin' With The Zodiac." A rough edit of the story was quoted heavily in Robert Graysmith's Zodiac Unmasked, the sequel to Zodiac. Huffman's family had ties with prime Zodiac suspect Arthur Leigh Allen.
  • The band Pleasure Forever's 2003 album Alter features a song called "This is the Zodiac Speaking".
  • The Japanese horror punk band Balzac have a side project band, founded in 2004, consisting of the same band members that is called Zodiac. Song lyrics make frequent references to the words and actions of the Zodiac Killer.
  • German EBM band SAM 2008 album "Synthetic Adrenaline Music" features a track called "Zodiac Killer".
  • The song "Unhuman" by industrial artist Architect, from 2010, samples dialogue from the film Zodiac. The line "I like killing because man is the most dangerous animal of all" spoken by Gyllenhaal's character is used.
  • The song "My Name is..." by The Old Main, from 2010, references the Zodiac Killer in their song off their first album The Old Main, written by Rod Lacy.
  • Kamelot's album Poetry for the Poisoned, from 2010, features two songs, "Dear Editor" and "The Zodiac", about the Zodiac Killer.[11]
  • The song "Rich as F***" by 'Lil Wayne ft. 2 Chainz, from 2013, contains a reference to The Zodiac Killer.
  • Japanese doom metal band Church of Misery wrote a song about the Zodiac in 2013 entitled "Sick of Living", quoting Zodiac's cryptic nature and the infamous piece of poetry carved under the desktop in the Riverside City College library.
  • American deathrock band Christian Death's 2000 album Born-Again Antichristian features a track called "Zodiac (He Is Still Out There...)", about the Zodiac Killer.


  • Towards the end of Sanford and Son, season two, episode one, titled "The Light Housekeeper," Fred begs Lamont not to leave him alone as the Zodiac Killer has never been captured.
  • The season 2 episode of Nash Bridges, titled "Zodiac," has the inspectors following a copycat using the same methodologies as the original killer.
  • The Zodiac case forms the basis for "The Mikado," a second season installment of the television series Millennium. The episode, featuring a fictionalized version of the Zodiac Killer known as Avatar, was written by Michael R. Perry and first aired on February 6, 1998.[12]
  • The series "George Lopez" had Benita Lopez making a reference to the Zodiac Killer.
  • The show Psych has a recurring serial killer/killers "Yin/Yang", whose crimes bear similarity to the Zodiac killer's, played by Ally Sheedy.
  • The series "Heroes" character Sylar, portrayed by Zachary Quinto, is loosely based upon the Zodiac killer. Sylar taking his name from a watch mirrors one theory regarding the Zodiac Killer. One suspect was allegedly given a "Zodiac" brand watch that had the same logo (a crossed circle) that the killer used to sign his letters. Also of note, before one alleged victim died, she was followed by a suspicious man wearing horn-rimmed glasses.
  • A Season 6 episode of Medium, entitled "The Medium is the Message," portrayed a killer called "The Libra Slayer" who showed a proclivity for symbols. His case was decades old, much like the Zodiac Killer's.
  • The Zodiac Killer is mentioned numerous times in Criminal Minds, a television program which follows a team of profilers at the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit. On January 18, 2012, an episode featuring a Zodiac Killer copycat active in the Bay Area aired. Recurring villain George Foyet, a.k.a. "The Boston Reaper", was heavily based on the Zodiac.
  • In season 6, episode 16 of Parks and Recreation ("Galentine's Day"), April (Aubrey Plaza) and Donna (Retta) give Leslie (Amy Poehler) a stuffed bear that, with the press of its paw, plays a friendly voice recording from Anne (Rashida Jones) to make Leslie feel better when missing her best friend. Leslie then finds out that April also included her own recording: "I'm just an unbiased bear, but I think Anne sucks. Also... [deep, gravely voice] I am the Zodiac Killer."
  • During an episode of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart sarcastically admits that he is the Zodiac Killer.

Video games[edit]

  • In the 2007 video game Manhunt 2, the player character Daniel Lamb is modeled after the Zodiac Killer's composite sketch.
  • The Zodiac Killer is mentioned once in the 2010 video game Heavy Rain, and the Origami Killer of the game is based somewhat on him.
  • The main antagonist of the 4th Cause of Death volume, from 2010, is largely inspired by the Zodiac Killer.


  • The California Crime Book, "Horror-Scope For Murder (The Zodiac Killer)", a 1971 novel by Robert Colby.
  • Great Crimes of San Francisco: True Tales of Intrigue by the Bay, “This is the Zodiac Speaking...”, a 1974 novel by Duffy Jennings.
  • Zodiac Killer: Still at Large, a 1977 novel by Cliff Smith Jr.
  • Great Unsolved Mysteries, "Zodiac-The Sign of Death", a 1978 novel by James Purvis.
  • The Zodiac Killer, a 1979 novel by Jerry Weissman.
  • Zodiac, a 1986 novel by Robert Graysmith.
  • One Was Not Enough: True Stories of Multiple Murderers, "The Zodiac Killer", a 1986 novel by Georgina Lloyd.
  • Duet For The Devil, a 2000 novel by T. Winter-Damon & Randy Chandler.
  • Zodiac Unmasked, a 2002 novel by Robert Graysmith.
  • San Francisco's Finest: Gunning For The Zodiac, a 2012 crime suspense thriller by Joseph Covino Jr.
  • The Zodiac Paradox, a 2013 tie-in novel with the television series Fringe, features the Zodiac Killer being brought from the show's parallel universe due to one of Walter's experiments.

Web Series[edit]

  • In Marble Hornets, people being stalked by The Operator sometimes compulsively draw a symbol that appears several times throughout the series, it being the Zodiac Killer's symbol rotated on its side so that it resembles an X through a circle instead of a cross-hairs. One of these, Alex Krailie, is a serial killer himself who wears glasses. In addition, the characters drawing these symbols often tend to communicate in code, another similarity to the Zodiac Killer.


  1. ^ Beldin, Fred. "The Zodiac Killer > Overview". AllMovie. Retrieved 2009-07-01. 
  2. ^ "Dirty Harry (1971)". Filmsite.org. Retrieved 2009-07-01. 
  3. ^ "Zodiac Killer Movies | Zodiac Murders | The Zodiac Movie | Serial Killers". Zodiackiller.com. Retrieved 2009-07-01. 
  4. ^ "The Exorcist III Info, Trailers, and Reviews at MovieTome". Movietome.com. Retrieved 2009-07-01. 
  5. ^ "Disguised Killer". asianamericanfilm.com. Retrieved 2010-04-25. 
  6. ^ "The Serial Killer Cinema of Ulli Lommel". Hollywood Action House. Retrieved 2010-08-21. 
  7. ^ http://www.huntingthezodiac.com
  8. ^ "Just the Facts: David Fincher's Zodiac". stopsmilingonline.com. Retrieved 2010-07-15. However, the Zodiac blueprint is derived largely from the “original case files” of the serial killings that terrified Northern California throughout the late Sixties and Seventies. 
  9. ^ Macabre - Sinister Slaughter album Encyclopedia Metallum - The Metal Archives.
  10. ^ Axl's history of personal hints regarding a song/or concept on the next album, in the previous album. MYGNR Forum. February 3, 2013. Retrieved on February 7, 2013.
  11. ^ Kamelot (2010). Poetry for the Poisoned. Kamelot Media Group LLC. 
  12. ^ "The Mikado". millennium-thisiswhoweare.net. Retrieved 2010-07-31.