|Hannibal Lecter character|
|First appearance||Red Dragon (1981)|
|Created by||Thomas Harris|
|Portrayed by||Brian Cox (Manhunter)|
Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, Red Dragon)
Gaspard Ulliel (Hannibal Rising)
Aaran Thomas (young; Hannibal Rising)
Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal)
|Nickname||Hannibal the Cannibal|
The Chesapeake Ripper
|Title||Dr. Hannibal Lecter|
Count Hannibal Lecter VIII
|Family||Count Lecter (father)|
Simonetta Lecter née Sforza (mother)
Mischa Lecter (younger sister)
|Significant other||Lady Murasaki|
Clarice Starling (novels)
Alana Bloom (TV series)
Bedelia Du Maurier (TV series)
|Relatives||Count Robert Lecter (uncle)|
Lady Murasaki (aunt-by-marriage)
Dr. Hannibal Lecter is a character created by novelist Thomas Harris. Lecter is a serial killer who eats his victims. Before his capture, he was a respected forensic psychiatrist; after his incarceration, he is consulted by FBI agents Clarice Starling and Will Graham to help them find other serial killers.
Lecter first appeared in a small role as a villain in Harris's 1981 thriller novel Red Dragon. The novel was adapted into the film Manhunter (1986), with Brian Cox as Lecter. Lecter had a larger role in The Silence of the Lambs (1988); the 1991 film adaptation starred Anthony Hopkins as Lecter, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor. Hopkins reprised the role for 2001 adaptation of the 1999 novel Hannibal, which sees Lecter evading recapture, and for a second adaptation of Red Dragon in 2002.
The fourth novel, Hannibal Rising (2006), explores Lecter's childhood and development into a serial killer. He was played in the 2007 film adaptation by Gaspard Ulliel. In the NBC television series Hannibal (2013–2015), which focuses on Lecter's relationship with Graham, Lecter was played by Mads Mikkelsen, who won a Saturn Award for the performance.
In 2003, Lecter (as portrayed by Hopkins) was named the greatest villain in American cinema by the American Film Institute. In 2010, Entertainment Weekly named him one of the 100 greatest characters of the preceding 20 years. In 2019, Lecter (as portrayed by Mikkelsen) was named the 18th greatest villain in television history by Rolling Stone.
Working as a journalist for Argosy in the 1960s, Thomas Harris interviewed mental patient Dykes Askew Simmons. Simmons was on death row in Nuevo León State Prison, Monterrey, for killing three people. Simmons had been shot by a prison guard and treated by a skilled prison doctor whom Harris referred to as "Dr. Salazar". When Harris interviewed Salazar, Salazar questioned Harris about Simmons's victims and disfigurement and the nature of torment. Harris described him as a "small, lithe man with dark red hair" who "stood very still" with "a certain elegance about him". The prison guard later told Harris that Salazar was a murderer who could "package his victim in a surprisingly small box". Salazar inspired Harris to create a character with a "peculiar understanding of the criminal mind".
Salazar is believed to be Alfredo Ballí Treviño, the last criminal condemned to the death sentence in Mexico, in 1959. Ballí was a physician from an upper-class Monterrey family who murdered his friend and lover Jesus Castillo Rangel and mutilated his body. He was also suspected of killing and dismembering several hitchhikers in the countryside during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Harris also incorporated some of these details into Buffalo Bill's development as a killer in Silence of the Lambs. Ballí's sentence was commuted to 20 years and he was released in 1981. After his release, Ballí continued working as a physician in an austere office until his death in 2009.
In her book Evil Serial Killers, Charlotte Greig asserts Lecter was inspired at least in part by the serial killer Albert Fish. Greig also states that, to explain Lecter's pathology, Harris borrowed the possibly apocryphal story of serial killer and cannibal Andrei Chikatilo's brother Stepan being kidnapped and eaten by starving neighbors. The location of the book Hannibal was inspired by the Monster of Florence. While preparing the book, Harris traveled to Italy and was present at the trial of the main suspect, Pietro Pacciani, where he was seen taking notes.
Hannibal Lecter is a serial killer who eats his victims. He is highly intelligent, with refined tastes and "impeccable" manners. He is deeply offended by rudeness, and often kills people who exhibit bad manners; according to the novel Hannibal, he "prefers to eat the rude". Hopkins described Lecter as the "Robin Hood of killers", who kills "the terminally rude".
In the novel Red Dragon, protagonist Will Graham says that psychologists refer to Lecter as a sociopath "because they don't know what else to call him". Graham claims that "he has no remorse or guilt at all", and tortured animals as a child, but he does not exhibit any of the other criteria traditionally associated with sociopathy. Asked how he himself would describe Lecter, Graham responds, "he's a monster", implying that Lecter's mind is somehow "incomplete" in the same way that some babies are born with missing limbs or non-functioning organs.
In The Silence of the Lambs, Lecter's keeper, Dr. Frederick Chilton, claims that Lecter is a "pure sociopath" ("pure psychopath" in the film adaptation). In the film adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs, protagonist Clarice Starling says of Lecter, "They don’t have a name for what he is."
Lecter's pathology is explored in greater detail in Hannibal and Hannibal Rising, which explains that he was traumatized as a child in Lithuania in 1944 when he witnessed the murder and eating of his beloved sister, Mischa, by a group of deserting Lithuanian Hilfswillige, one of whom claimed that Lecter unwittingly ate his sister as well.
All media in which Lecter appears portray him as intellectually brilliant, cultured and sophisticated, with refined tastes in art, music and cuisine. He is frequently depicted preparing gourmet meals from his victims' flesh, the most famous example being his admission that he once ate a census taker's liver "with some fava beans and a nice Chianti" (a "big Amarone" in the novel). Prior to his capture and imprisonment, he was a member of Baltimore, Maryland's social elite, and a sitting member of the Baltimore Philharmonic Orchestra's Board of Directors.
In The Silence of the Lambs, Lecter is described through Starling's eyes: "She could see that he was small, sleek; in his hands and arms she saw wiry strength like her own." The novel also reveals that Lecter's left hand has a rare condition called mid-ray duplication polydactyly, i.e. a duplicated middle finger. In Hannibal, he performs plastic surgery on his own face on several occasions, and removes his extra digit. Lecter's eyes are a shade of maroon, and reflect the light in "pinpoints of red". He has small white teeth and dark, slicked-back hair with a widow's peak. He also has a keen sense of smell; in Red Dragon, he immediately recognizes Will Graham's brand of aftershave, and in The Silence of the Lambs, he is able to identify through a plexiglass window with small holes the brand of perfume that Starling wore the day before. He has an eidetic memory with which he has constructed in his mind an elaborate "memory palace" with which he relives memories and sensations in rich detail.
Anthony Hopkins, the actor most closely identified with the character, said he played Lecter as "ultra sane, very still ... He has such terrifying physical power, and he doesn't waste an ounce of energy. He's so contained. He’s all brain." His performance was inspired by HAL 9000 from Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Critic Roger Ebert elaborated on this comparison: "He is a dispassionate, brilliant machine, superb at logic, deficient in emotions."
In the same essay, Ebert theorized:
One key to the film's appeal is that audiences like Hannibal Lecter...He may be a cannibal, but as a dinner party guest he would give value for money (if he didn't eat you). He does not bore, he likes to amuse, he has his standards, and he is the smartest person in the movie...He bears comparison, indeed, with such other movie monsters as Nosferatu, Frankenstein...King Kong and Norman Bates. They have two things in common: They behave according to their natures, and they are misunderstood. Nothing that these monsters do is "evil" in any conventional moral sense, because they lack any moral sense. They are hard-wired to do what they do. They have no choice. In the areas where they do have choice, they try to do the right thing.
According to the Guardian, before The Silence of the Lambs, films portrayed psychopathic killers as "claw-handed bogeymen with melty faces and rubber masks. By contrast, Lecter was highly intelligent with impeccable manners."
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In the backstory of the 1981 novel Red Dragon, FBI profiler Will Graham interviews Lecter about one of his patients who was murdered by a serial killer, before intuiting that Lecter is the culprit; he sees the antique medical diagram "Wound Man" in Lecter’s office, and remembers that the victim suffered the same injuries depicted in the drawing. Realizing that Graham is on to him, Lecter creeps up behind Graham and stabs him with a linoleum knife, nearly disemboweling him.
Graham survives, but is so traumatized by the incident that he takes early retirement from the FBI. Lecter is charged with a series of nine murders, but is found not guilty by reason of insanity. He is institutionalized in the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane under the care of Dr. Frederick Chilton, a pompous, incompetent psychiatrist whom he despises, and who subjects him to a series of petty cruelties.
Some years later, Graham comes out of retirement and consults Lecter in order to catch another serial killer, Francis Dolarhyde, known by the nickname "the Tooth Fairy". Through the classifieds of a tabloid called The National Tattler, Lecter provides Dolarhyde with Graham's home address; Dolarhyde later uses this information to break into Graham’s home, stab him in the face, and threaten his family before Graham’s wife Molly shoots him dead. At the end of the novel, Lecter sends Graham a letter, saying that he hopes Graham "won’t be very ugly".
The Silence of the Lambs
In the 1988 sequel The Silence of the Lambs, Lecter assists FBI agent-in-training Clarice Starling in catching a serial killer, Jame Gumb, known by the nickname "Buffalo Bill". Lecter is fascinated by Starling, and they form an unusual relationship in which he provides her with a profile of the killer and his modus operandi in exchange for details about her unhappy childhood.
Lecter had previously met Gumb, the former lover of his patient (and eventual victim) Benjamin Raspail. He does not reveal this information directly, instead giving Starling vague clues to help her figure it out for herself. In return for Lecter's assistance, the FBI and Chilton arrange for him to be transferred to a lower security facility, far away from Chilton.
Lecter escapes while in transit, however, killing and mutilating his guards and using one of their faces as a mask to fool police and paramedics before killing the latter and escaping. While in hiding, he writes one letter to Starling wishing her well, a second to Barney (his primary orderly at the asylum), thanking him for his courteous treatment, and a third to Chilton, promising gruesome revenge; Chilton disappears soon afterward.
In the third novel, 1999's Hannibal, Lecter lives in a palazzo in Florence, Italy, and works as a museum curator under the alias "Dr. Fell". One of Lecter’s two surviving victims, Mason Verger—a wealthy, sadistic pedophile whom Lecter had brutalized during a court-ordered therapy session, leaving him a horrifically disfigured quadriplegic—offers a huge reward for anyone who apprehends Lecter, whom he intends to feed to wild boars specially bred for the purpose.
Verger enlists the help of Rinaldo Pazzi, a disgraced Italian police inspector, and Paul Krendler, a corrupt Justice Department official and Starling's boss. Lecter kills Pazzi and returns to the United States to escape Verger's Sardinian henchmen, only to be captured. Starling follows them, intent on apprehending Lecter personally, and is injured in a gunfight with Verger's henchmen. Lecter escapes, thanks to Starling's help, and persuades Verger's younger sister Margot—his former patient, whom Verger had molested and raped years earlier—to kill her brother, promising to take the blame.
Lecter rescues the wounded Starling and takes her to his rented house on the Chesapeake shore to treat her, subjecting her to a regimen of mind-altering drugs in the course of therapy sessions to help her heal from her childhood trauma and her pent-up anger at the injustices of the world. He considers whether his long-dead younger sister Mischa may somehow be able to live again through Starling. One day, he invites her to a formal dinner where the guest and first course is Krendler, whose brain they consume together. On this night, Starling refuses to let her personality be subsumed, telling Lecter that Mischa's memory can live within him. She then offers him her breast, and they become lovers.
Three years later, former orderly Barney, who had treated Lecter with respect while he was incarcerated in Baltimore, sees Lecter and Starling entering the Teatro Colón opera house in Buenos Aires. Fearing for his life, Barney leaves Buenos Aires immediately, never to return.
The reader then learns that Lecter and Starling are living together in an "exquisite" Beaux Arts mansion, where they employ servants and engage in activities such as learning new languages and dancing together and building their own respective memory palaces, and is told that "Sex is a splendid structure they add to every day", that the mind-altering drugs "have had no part in their lives for a long time", and that Lecter is "satisfied" with the fact that Mischa cannot return.
Harris wrote a 2006 prequel, Hannibal Rising, after film producer Dino De Laurentiis (who owned the cinematic rights to the Lecter character) announced an intended film project depicting Lecter's childhood and development into a serial killer with or without Harris' help. Harris would also write the film's screenplay.
The novel chronicles Lecter's early life, from his birth into an aristocratic family in Lithuania in 1933, to being orphaned, along with his beloved younger sister Mischa, in 1944 when a Nazi Stuka bomber attacks a Soviet tank in front of their forest hideaway. Shortly thereafter, he and Mischa are captured by a band of Nazi collaborators, who murder and cannibalize Mischa before her brother's eyes; Lecter later learns that the collaborators also fed him Mischa's remains.
Irreparably traumatized, Lecter escapes from the deserters and wanders through the forest, dazed and unable to speak. He is found and taken back to his family's old castle, which had been converted into a Soviet orphanage, where he is bullied by the other children and abused by the dean.
He is adopted by his uncle Robert and Robert's Japanese wife, Lady Murasaki, who nurses him back to health and teaches him to speak again. Robert dies shortly after adopting Lecter, who forms a close, pseudo-romantic relationship with his aunt. During this time he also shows great intellectual aptitude, entering medical school at a young age and distinguishing himself.
Despite his seemingly comfortable life, Lecter is consumed by a savage obsession with avenging Mischa's death. He kills for the first time as a teenager, beheading a racist fishmonger who insulted Murasaki. He then methodically tracks down, tortures, and murders each of the men who had killed his sister. In the process of taking his revenge, he forsakes his relationship with Murasaki and seemingly loses all traces of his humanity. The novel ends with Lecter being accepted to Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Red Dragon was first adapted to film in 1986 as the Michael Mann film Manhunter, although the spelling of Lecter's name was changed to "Lecktor". He was played by actor Brian Cox. Cox based his performance on Scottish serial killer Peter Manuel.
In 1991, Orion Pictures produced a Jonathan Demme-directed adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs, in which Lecter was played by actor Anthony Hopkins. Hopkins' Academy Award-winning performance made Lecter into a cultural icon. In 2001, Hannibal was adapted to film, with Hopkins reprising his role. In the film adaptation, the ending is revised: Starling attempts to apprehend Lecter, who escapes after cutting off his own hand to free himself from her handcuffs. In 2002, Red Dragon was adapted again, this time under its original title, with Hopkins again as Lecter and Edward Norton as Will Graham. Hopkins wrote a screenplay for another sequel, ending with Starling killing Lecter. In 2016, Hopkins said, "I made the mistake of doing two more [Hannibal Lecter movies] and I should have only done one."
In late 2006, the novel Hannibal Rising was adapted into a film, which portrayed Lecter's development into a serial killer. In the film, which was finished by 2007, eight-year-old Lecter is portrayed by Aaran Thomas, while Gaspard Ulliel portrays him as a young man. Both the novel and film, as well as Ulliel’s performance as Lecter, received generally negative reviews.
In February 2012, NBC gave a series order to Hannibal, a television adaptation of Red Dragon to be written and executive-produced by Bryan Fuller. Mads Mikkelsen plays Lecter, opposite Hugh Dancy as Will Graham.
Fuller commented on Mikkelsen's version of Lecter:
"What I love about Mads' approach to the character is that, in our first meeting, he was adamant that he didn't want to do Hopkins or Cox. He talked about the character not so much as 'Hannibal Lecter the cannibal psychiatrist', but as Satan – this fallen angel who's enamoured with mankind and had an affinity for who we are as people, but was definitely not among us – he was other. I thought that was a really cool, interesting approach, because I love science fiction and horror and – not that we'd ever do anything deliberately to suggest this – but having it subtextually play as him being Lucifer felt like a really interesting kink to the series. It was slightly different than anything that's been done before and it also gives it a slightly more epic quality if you watch the show through the prism of, 'This is Satan at work, tempting someone with the apple of their psyche'. It appealed to all of those genre things that get me excited about any sort of entertainment."
The first season amends the series' continuity so that Graham and Lecter first work together during the hunt for Garrett Jacob Hobbs (Vladimir Jon Cubrt), the "Minnesota Shrike", a serial killer who preys on college girls. During the investigation, Lecter secretly calls Hobbs to tip him off that Graham is on to him, just to see what Hobbs will do. As a result, Hobbs turns on his own family, killing his wife and trying to kill his daughter Abigail (Kacey Rohl) as Graham charges in and shoots him dead. Killing Hobbs weighs on Graham's conscience and gives him nightmares, so his boss Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) sends him to Lecter for counseling. Throughout the first season, Lecter acts as Graham's unofficial psychiatrist, and they form a tenuous friendship. Lecter and Graham also become father figures to Abigail, and cover for her when they discover that she was her father's unwilling accomplice. Lecter is fascinated by Graham's ability to empathize with psychopaths, and he spends much of the series trying to undermine Graham's fragile sanity and push him into becoming a killer. To this end, Lecter prevents Graham from learning that he has advanced encephalitis, just to see how Graham would function under the circumstances. In the first-season finale, Lecter reluctantly frames Graham for a series of murders that he himself committed throughout the season – including, apparently, Abigail's – but not before Graham realizes that Lecter is the "Chesapeake Ripper", the very serial killer he has been trying to catch.
Throughout the beginning of the second season, Graham, who is now institutionalized, attempts to convince his skeptical former colleagues that Lecter is the real killer and begins pulling strings from within his cell in order to expose him. Meanwhile, Lecter begins to manipulate evidence from the outside, exonerating himself after the FBI's initial investigations into Graham's claims. Eventually, Graham persuades his friend and colleague Beverly Katz (Hettienne Park), a forensic scientist, to investigate Lecter in exchange for help on a case. She breaks into Lecter's house, where she finds evidence of his guilt. Lecter catches her, however, and kills her; he then sections her body vertically and displays it in tableau. Angry and vengeful, Graham convinces deranged hospital orderly Matthew Brown (Jonathan Tucker) to try to kill Lecter, but Crawford comes to Lecter's rescue in time. Lecter retaliates by taking as his lover Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas), a psychologist for whom Graham has romantic feelings. Lecter then exonerates Graham by planting forensic evidence of Graham's alleged victims at the scene of one of his own murders, resulting in Graham's release. He also frames his colleague Frederick Chilton (Raúl Esparza) by planting a mutilated corpse in his house and "influencing" his surviving victim Miriam Lass (Anna Chlumsky), into believing that Chilton had abducted and tortured her.
Graham resumes therapy with Lecter as an attempt to entrap him. Lecter becomes aware of the ruse, but is fascinated by the experience and allows it to continue in an attempt to examine his connection with Graham. In an attempt to push Graham into becoming a killer, Lecter sends his psychotic former patient Randall Tier (Mark O'Brien) after him, and Graham kills and mutilates Tier – just as Lecter hoped he would. Later, Graham attacks tabloid reporter Fredericka "Freddy" Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki), who is investigating him and Lecter. Graham shares a meal with Lecter of what is implied to be her flesh, but it is soon revealed that Lounds is still alive and conspiring with Graham and Crawford to draw Lecter into their trap.
Lecter and Graham acquire a common enemy in Mason Verger (Michael Pitt), a wealthy sadist whom they both despise for emotionally and sexually abusing his twin sister, and Lecter’s patient, Margot (Katharine Isabelle). Verger briefly enters therapy with Lecter to find out what Margot is saying about him, but soon kidnaps Lecter and Graham, intent on feeding them both to his prize pigs. They both escape, however, and Lecter takes Verger hostage in Graham's house. Lecter gives Mason a hallucinogenic drug cocktail, and tells him to cut off pieces of his own face and feed them to Graham's dogs. With Graham's tacit approval, Lecter then breaks Verger's neck with his bare hands, paralyzing him from the neck down.
In the second-season finale, Crawford arrives at Lecter's house to arrest him. In the ensuing struggle, Lecter seriously wounds Crawford, while a very much alive Abigail Hobbs pushes Bloom out of a window. Lecter then stabs Graham and cuts Abigail's throat in front of him, and flees before the police arrive. He is shown in a post-credits scene aboard a flight to France with his psychiatrist, Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson).
The third season amends the series' continuity to incorporate events from the novels Red Dragon and Hannibal. It also changes Lecter's origin story: in this continuity, Lecter's sister Mischa was murdered, cannibalized, and fed to him by a peasant in his native Lithuania; Lecter eventually made the peasant his prisoner. Certain episodes also suggest that, in his youth, Lecter was the unidentified serial killer known as the "Monster of Florence".
Months after his escape, Lecter is living in Florence with Du Maurier, working as a museum curator under the alias "Dr. Fell" – having murdered the original curator and stolen his identity. Disgraced Italian detective Rinaldo Pazzi (Fortunato Cerlino) tries to apprehend him to collect a bounty placed by Mason Verger (Joe Anderson), who is also consulting with Bloom to capture Lecter. Lecter kills Pazzi and tries to flee the country, but is accosted by Crawford, who engages him in brutal hand-to-hand combat. Meanwhile, Graham goes looking for Lecter with the help of the doctor's family servant Chiyoh (Tao Okamoto), traveling to his adversary's home country to find out more about him.
Lecter manages to escape from Crawford and meet up with Graham when he arrives in Italy again. Graham makes peace with Lecter before pulling a knife on him, but Chiyoh shoots and wounds Graham. Lecter takes Graham back to his villa and tries to perform a craniotomy on him in front of Crawford, but is interrupted by Italian detectives on Mason’s payroll, who deliver them both to his estate in Maryland. Mason’s physician Cordell Doemling (Glenn Fleshler) tells Lecter that he will mutilate him until he dies, and prepare gourmet cuisine from his flesh for Mason to eat. Influenced by Graham, Bloom frees Lecter, who suggests that Margot kill her brother, promising to take the blame. Lecter then kills Doemling, who is about to surgically remove Graham's face and graft it onto Mason's, and later instructs Margot and Bloom on how to "milk" the unconscious Mason's prostate to give Margot the sperm she needs to conceive a child and thus inherit the Verger family fortune. After Margot kills her brother, Lecter goes to Graham's house, carrying the wounded and unconscious Graham. When Graham wakes up, he allows Lecter to escape, claiming that he never wants to see him again. To spite Graham, Lecter surrenders to Crawford later that evening and is taken into custody.
Lecter is found insane at his trial, and incarcerated in the Baltimore Hospital for the Criminally Insane, under Chilton and Bloom's care. Three years later, Graham visits him at the hospital to ask for help in profiling a serial killer dubbed "the Tooth Fairy", who murders entire families. Lecter begins communicating with the killer, Francis Dolarhyde (Richard Armitage), and gives him Graham's home address. Dolarhyde attacks and wounds Graham's wife, Molly (Nina Arianda). Bloom and Crawford threaten to take away Lecter's hospital privileges unless he lets them listen in on his conversations with Dolarhyde. Lecter complies, but then suddenly tells Dolarhyde they are listening. Bloom punishes him by taking away his books and toilet seat, and confining him in a straitjacket and muzzle. Graham, in an attempt to make Dolarhyde come out of hiding, gives an interview with Chilton and Lounds in which he describes "the Tooth Fairy" as ugly, impotent, and a product of incest. Dolarhyde, enraged by the "bad review", abducts, burns and disfigures Chilton, and sends Lecter Chilton's severed lips, one of which Lecter eats.
In the series finale, "The Wrath of the Lamb", Lecter and Graham develop a plan to catch Dolarhyde, using Lecter as bait. Lecter goes with Graham on a police convoy, to be transferred to another facility in order to eventually draw the killer out. However, Graham has made a deal with Dolarhyde to free Lecter, and Dolarhyde attacks the convoy, killing the guards and letting Lecter and Graham live. Lecter then takes Graham to a secluded clifftop cottage where he previously held Abigail Hobbs and Miriam Lass. Dolarhyde tracks them down and attacks them, shooting Lecter in the back and stabbing Graham in the face. Though they are both badly wounded, Lecter and Graham manage to get the better of Dolarhyde and kill him together: Graham slices open Dolarhyde's chest, while Lecter tears out his throat with his teeth. Lecter and Graham then embrace, before Graham pushes them both off a cliff. Their ultimate fate is left ambiguous; a post-credits scene shows Du Maurier dining on her own leg at a table set for three. Series creator Bryan Fuller has said this scene is meant to suggest that Lecter and Graham survived and that Graham has become Lecter's partner in murder. Fuller has stated that Season 4 would have depicted Lecter and Graham on the run from the FBI in Argentina, mirroring Lecter and Starling's storyline from the novels.
Relationship between Graham and Lecter
The emotional relationship between Graham and Lecter forms the foundation of the series. In season 3, their developing romance has been taken from subtext into text. As to whether it was a part of the initial plan to portray their relationship as romantic, Fuller stated: "No, it naturally evolved because I guess I was absorbing so much of Mads and Hugh's performance, which felt like it was growing in intimacy, and it would have been inauthentic not to address it. Because all of these characters, and particularly Bedelia, was able to call out what she had witnessed [between Lecter and Graham], it seemed like a natural conclusion. I remember when I turned in the rewrite pages where Will asks Bedelia if Hannibal is in love with him, I got a note from Don Mancini, one of our writers who was always pushing for more homosexual text – not just context or subtext but text, text, text – and he was like, "I'm so glad you put that in there! They said it! They said it!"  Discussing what motivated him to verbally acknowledge the romance between Graham and Lecter, Fuller said, "It felt like we had to shit or get off the pot, ultimately, because there had been so much going on between these two men that when Will asks, "Is Hannibal Lecter in love with me?" it is very much about death and the romance between these two men. There is a quality to connections that go above and beyond sexuality. You can have this intimate connection with somebody that then causes you to wonder where the lines of your own sexuality are. And we didn't quite broach the sexuality. It was certainly suggested, but the love is absolutely on the table."  Remembering how the song for the finale of the series – "Love Crime" by Siouxsie Sioux – was created, Fuller said: "It was interesting. She [Siouxsie Sioux] was like, "I want to write this song, and what are the things I should really be thinking about?" And I was like, 'this is a love story. A love story between a full-fledged psychopath and someone who has nascent psychopathic abilities.' Actually, Hannibal Lecter is not a psychopath; he's something else entirely. But it's a love relationship between two men: one of them is a cannibal, and one of them understands those cannibalistic instincts all too well." 
In other media
Reception and legacy
In 2003, Lecter (as portrayed by Hopkins) was named the greatest villain in American cinema by the American Film Institute. In 2010, Entertainment Weekly named him one of the 100 greatest characters of the preceding 20 years. In 2019, Lecter (as portrayed by Mikkelsen) was named the 18th greatest villain in television history by Rolling Stone.
His "fava beans" quote was the 21st greatest movie quote of American cinema.
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- Harris, Thomas (1988). Red Dragon. New York City: G.P. Putnam’s Sons. p. 67.
He's a monster. I think of him as one of those pitiful things that are born in hospitals from time to time. They feed it, and keep it warm, but they don't put it on the machines and it dies. Lecter is the same way in his head, but he looks normal and nobody could tell.
- Harris, Thomas (1988). Silence of the Lambs. New York City: St. Martin's Press. p. 15.
Dr. Lecter has six fingers on his left hand
- Harris, Thomas (1988). Silence of the Lambs. New York City: St. Martin's Press. p. 16.
Dr. Lecter's eyes are maroon, and they reflect the light in pinpoints of red
- Harris, Thomas (1988). Silence of the Lambs. New York City: St. Martin's Press. p. 17.
He tapped his small white teeth against the card and breathed in its smell
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His approach to Lecter's personality, Hopkins says on his commentary track, was inspired by HAL 9000 in 2001: He is a dispassionate, brilliant machine, superb at logic, deficient in emotions.
- Ebert, pg. 419
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