Greatest Movie Series
Franchises of All Time

The "Hannibal Lecter" Films

Hannibal (2001)

Hannibal Lecter Films (Original)
Manhunter (1986) | The Silence of the Lambs (1991) | Hannibal (2001)

Hannibal Lecter Films (Prequels)
Red Dragon (2002) | Hannibal Rising (2007)

The "Hannibal Lecter" Films (Original)
Hannibal (2001)
d. Ridley Scott, 131 minutes

Film Plot Summary

The film opened, in the pre-credits sequence, with psychiatric Nurse Barney (Frankie Faison) answering questions regarding the past "friendly" relationship at an asylum between FBI agent Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore) and villainous serial killer and brilliant psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), known for brutal murders and savage cannibalism. He was speaking to the horribly disfigured, paralyzed, wheelchair-bound and wealthy Mason Verger (an uncredited and unrecognizable Gary Oldman), one of Lecter's many victims, who sought revenge. Barney told Verger that with Starling, unlike with others, Lecter "answered her questions. She interested him. She intrigued him." Verger ordered his attending private physician, Dr. Cordell Doemling (Zeljko Ivanek), to cut a check for $250K for Lecter memorabilia - his hockey mask.

After the credits, a coordinated DEA/FBI/police drug raid was being orchestrated on the streets of Washington DC, and led by FBI Special Agent Starling, to capture notorious HIV-positive drug dealing queen-pin Evelda Drumgo (Hazelle Goodman) who was running a meth lab in the area of the city's busy fish market. Surrounded by bodyguards, she was spotted carrying a baby in a front-harnessed carrier, and Starling began to abort the raid ("All units stand down") - due to crowdedness. But one police officer named Bolton refused and revealed his weapon, precipitating a violent confrontation and gun battle. Starling was shot in the stomach (protected by a vest) and compelled to kill Drumgo with the baby (afterwards covered with the blood of her mother), who was wielding a MAC-10. The "ill-fated drug raid" resulted in the death of a BATF officer, later buried at Arlington National Cemetery, and five others. The event was controversial for the Justice Department and FBI for their "use of firepower rather than judgment." Starling was unjustly blamed for the "calamitous strike force" failure on a Fox News TV report, which described how she had attained celebrity ten years earlier when involved in the capture of Dr. Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter, and the rescue of Catherine Martin (daughter of a former US Senator from Tennessee).

Starling was named in a "wrongful death suit" filed by one of those slain (observed by Mason Verger, who subsequently contacted the Justice Department). A hearing was held by various government officials, including Justice Department representative Paul Krendler (Ray Liotta), during which Starling admitted: "This raid was an ugly mess," but she had a regrettable choice to either die or shoot a woman carrying a child. The politically-influential Verger, Lecter's fourth victim (and the only one who survived), requested that Starling meet with him at his secluded estate in Asheville, North Carolina, to share private information with her, and have her reassigned to the "celebrated case" - in exchange for clearing her from the DC public relations mess. [Later, the Guinness Book of World Records stated that she was infamously recognized for being "The Female FBI Agent Who Has Shot and Killed the Most People".]

In Verger's bedroom during a deposition interview, the bedridden victim of Lecter claimed to Starling that what happened was "my salvation," and then disclosed some of his past history as a child molester and convicted sadistic pedophile. He had been assigned by the courts to Dr. Lecter for therapy as his patient, and during a social meeting at his home (told through flashback), he pervertedly engaged in a S&M session, including sexual asphyxiation (by hanging), drug use (under the influence of amyl nitrite), and after Lecter's suggestion peeled the skin off his own face with a mirror shard ("It seemed like a good idea at the time") after which Lecter fed the pieces of flesh to the dogs. He then presented Agent Starling with "new information" - an X-ray of Lecter's broken arm (when he had been restrained following an attack on an asylum employee), received a few weeks earlier from Buenos Aires. Verger vowed: "I hope it'll help you catch him, to help cleanse the stigma of your recent dishonor."

Afterwards, Starling thoroughly reviewed the FBI document files and videotapes regarding the Lecter case in a basement, including one of Hannibal "The Cannibal" assaulting an attendant at the Baltimore State Hospital - with bloody face-eating. She also questioned Nurse Barney, who had worked with Lecter for six years at the asylum, while admitting her own fascination with the villain: "He's always with me, like a bad habit." She wondered what had happened to Lecter's mementoes, such as a signed copy of The Joy of Cooking (worth $16,000), suspecting that Barney had been selling Lecter memorabilia (such as the X-ray) for lots of money. He admitted his involvement, but stressed: "I'm not a bad guy," and then gave Starling his set of valuable taped conversations between herself and Lecter, recorded by Dr. Chilton.

The film's setting then moved to Florence, Italy, where Chief Police Inspector Rinaldo Pazzi of the Questura (Giancarlo Giannini) was involved in determining the reason for the disappearance of the Capponi Library's curator Signore de Bonaventura, who headed up the repository of rare books, historical documents, and art treasures housed in a Renaissance-styled palace. Pazzi met the temporarily-appointed new curator, named "Dr. Fell" - Hannibal Lecter!, wearing a Panama hat. There was no farewell or suicide-note, accounting for the past curator's disappearance.

Starling received a letter (sent through a re-mailing service in Las Vegas), with the envelope addressed to "Clarice" - sealed with red wax. The two-page handwritten letter, beginning with "Dear Clarice," was from Lecter, expressing how he had followed her "disgrace and public shaming," and knew that her previous success in capturing Jamie Gumb was now overshadowed by her killing of five during the FBI shootout ("Do you imagine your Daddy being shamed by your disgrace?", he asked mockingly about her humiliation) - "the sorry, petty end of a promising career." He intimated that her background was just "good old trailer camp, tornado-bait, white trash." He also noted, coincidentally, that he had returned to the FBI's 10 Most-Wanted List. He asked: "Are you back on the case? If so, goody goody...Your job is to craft my doom. So I am not sure how well I should wish you, but I'm sure we'll have a lot of fun." He also mentioned coming out of retirement and returning to public life.

Experts at a perfume company surmised that the letter's writer used a rare hand-cream ("raw ambergris base, Tennessee lavender"), hand-engineered and found (or sold) in only a few shops throughout the world, including Japan and Europe. During Pazzi's investigation in his department, he discovered a security surveillance camera videotape from a perfume shop in Florence and recognized "Dr. Fell" at the counter. He was also told that the "FBI through Interpol requested a copy" of the videotape from the perfume shop. He became suspicious after following "Dr. Fell" - who was seen drinking wine in a glass held by a napkin, to prevent fingerprints. Pazzi researched the FBI's website ( where he recognized, on the FBI's illustrated 10 Most Wanted List and database, that Hannibal Lecter was in fact "Dr. Fell" - with a $250,000 reward offered for the capture of the "armed and extremely dangerous" criminal. In addition, in a search for "Hannibal Lecter reward," he learned that Verger was offering a separate reward of $3 million for information that would lead to Lecter's arrest and incarceration.

In the next scene, slimy Justice Department official Krendler spoke to Starling about her obsession with the cannibalistic serial killer during her investigation, and their past relationship was revealed. He was still holding a grudge after she rejected his romantic overtures and sent him home to his wife years earlier. He crudely suggested: "And besides, this town is full of corn-pone country pussy. That said, I wouldn't mind having a go with you right now if you want to reconsider."

Meanwhile, Inspector Pazzi phoned the contact number on the Verger website, and was eventually told to obtain a fingerprint of Lecter before being paid with the first portion of the reward ($100,000 deposited in a Swiss bank account). He then met with "Dr. Fell" to pick up the previous curator's inventory of belongings in cases ("they must be as heavy as bodies," Lecter hinted), and discussed Pazzi's ancestor - Francesco de Pazzi - who was accused of murder and hanged at the Palazzo Vecchio 500 years earlier ("thrown naked with a noose around his neck from a window"). Later, Pazzi blackmailed a known pickpocket to rob "Dr. Fell" of his wallet, in order to obtain a fingerprint from him on a shiny wrist bracelet, but Lecter foiled the plan and the pickpocket ended up dead from an abdomen stabbing. However, the print was a 16-point match, to which Verger replied: "Bingo" - the first step in Pazzi receiving the full $3 million reward. Pazzi's next duty was to merely "point out" Lecter so he could be seized - alive - by "professionals." Verger notified his animal handlers and mercenary henchmen in Sardinia to be ready - they were training huge, vicious, human-flesh-eating wild hogs - part of Verger's ultimate plan to torture and kill Lecter.

Back in the US, agent Starling accessed the user logs of those who had viewed the FBI's database information on Lecter, and was curious about someone named (Pazzi). She also recognized Lecter in the Florence perfume shop security tape mailed to her. She immediately phoned Inspector Pazzi and warned him about how Hannibal Lecter was a "very dangerous man" - but he denied knowledge of him or having accessed the private FBI files. Starling knew he was lying and confronted him: "You're trying to catch him yourself, aren't you? For the reward?" - and sternly warned again about the killer's lethal power: "He will kill you too" - but Pazzi hung up.

During an evening lecture to scholars at the Palazzo Vecchio, Pazzi plotted to kidnap Lecter after he presented his lecture - about the link between avarice, hanging, and self-destruction in the medieval mind. Prophetically, Lecter displayed slides of the death of traitor Judas Iscariot who was hanged with his bowels falling out. After the main audience left, Lecter showed Pazzi a picture of his ancestor's hanging, as he ominously foretold: "I'm giving very serious thought - to eating your wife" - before chloroforming the inspector. After binding him up with tape, the malevolent Lecter learned that Pazzi had sold him out to Mason Verger, and then intercepted a call on Pazzi's phone from Clarice ("Is this Clarice? Well, hello Clarice"), whom he referred to as "an old friend." Pazzi was then murdered - as he was pushed out of the palace window and hanged, Lecter cut his "bowels out" and his entrails were visible hanging down toward the cobblestone square. The killer also slit the throat of one of Verger's men with a scalpel.

Frustrated by how Lecter escaped, Verger contacted Justice Department official Paul Krendler and bribed him, for $500,000, to falsely accuse agent Starling of receiving and withholding a postcard written to her by Lecter. Starling was questioned, and framed by Krendler in order to disgrace her -- she was accused of withholding the note which read "like a love letter" and sounded like Lecter's writing: "Like a nut with a crush." As a result, ten-year bureau veteran Clarice Starling was placed on administrative leave, and forced to surrender her weapon and ID. She knew Verger was behind her suspension, due to his feelings of personal revenge against the "lethal madman" Lecter, and accused Krendler of being in "collusion" with him for a monetary bribe.

Lecter appeared back in the US, and snuck into Krendler's home in Chesapeake Beach, VA while he was off bike-riding, and stole Krendler's Verizon phone bill. He then purchased an elaborate set of cookware, place settings, and crystal, robbed a hospital's morgue of various pieces of equipment (including a bone saw), and took everything to a wooded, private lakefront house. The creepy Lecter also spied upon Starling in her own home as she slept, and then phoned her - and instructed her to drive away, ultimately telling her to arrive at Union Station in downtown Washington DC. She was unknowingly followed by a van with Verger's Italian-speaking mercenary henchmen in pursuit. As she drove, Lecter asked her, by cell phone, about her floundering career, her life, her superiors, and the treatment she had received: "It's you I'm worried about" - he suggested that the Bureau resented her because she wasn't like them: "They hate you and they envy you." She told Lecter how Mason Verger was seeking to kill him, although the cunning Lecter knew better - "He just wants to see me suffer in some unimaginable way." Lecter knew she was leading Verger's men to him as she also searched for his whereabouts among the mall's shopping levels. He suggested helping her, by harming those who had harmed her: "What if I made them scream apologies?" He lightly touched her hair, without her knowing it, as he rotated close to her on a nearby carousel.

Verger's men identified Lecter outside the station in the parking lot, tasered him, and threw him in the back of their van, as Starling vainly attempted to stop them. She then notified the FBI of the kidnapping, and was sternly instructed to return to her home. After police inspected Verger's estate, and no evidence of Lecter was found, Verger commanded his men to transport Lecter to his NC estate. Face to face with his mortal enemy, Verger told Lecter how he planned to have Lecter consumed by wild pigs with "three pairs of incisors, one pair of elongated canines, three pairs of molars, four pairs of pre-molars, upper and lower, for a total of forty-four teeth." Dinner would be at 8:00 - his feet would be fed first, followed by his body, the main course, seven hours later. Lecter would be kept alive on an IV drip while the wild boars devoured him from the toes up. Starling also drove to Verger's rural estate, suspecting that Lecter was being brought there, and she stealthily approached a hog barn with a firearm, where Lecter (masked) was strapped to a small fork lift and prepared for the main course. As Verger's physician Dr. Cordell Doemling (Zeljko Ivanek) drove his disfigured employer to the barn to witness the event, Starling intervened and shot two of Verger's men, as Lecter greeted her: "Good evening, Clarice. Just like old times." A third henchman shot and wounded Clarice in the left shoulder as she released Lecter - who then rescued her from the ravenous pigs that savagely attacked Verger's own men. Cordell was ordered by an infuriated Verger to shoot Lecter, but he refused, and then when Lecter suggested: "Why don't you push him in? You can always say it was me," Cordell obeyed - and Verger faced the gruesome, bloody death by carnivorous boars he had planned for Lecter.

Lecter then drove the unconscious Clarice to Krendler's lakefront house, performed surgery on the bullet wound in an upstairs bedroom, and helped her to recover. Krendler arrived for the Fourth of July weekend at his home, where he was surprised to find the dining room table set for an elegant dinner. He was abruptly confronted by Lecter and drugged. Clarice awakened upstairs - she found herself dressed in a sexy, backless black formal dress with a low-cut revealing front. As she stumbled slowly toward the stairs, still suffering from doses of morphine, she phoned the police who promised to send units in ten minutes, but refused their request to leave the house.

Downstairs at the table, she found Lecter preparing a gourmet meal for a drugged and wheel-chair seated dinner guest - Krendler, wearing a backwards baseball cap bearing his initials. Clarice was stunned when Lecter removed Krendler's cap, exposing a circular scar around the top of his head. The doctor then neatly sliced and removed the entire top of Krendler's skull to expose his brain's cerebral cortex. As he cut out part of the brain tissue in the pre-frontal lobe and sauteed it in a pan by the table, Lecter assured Clarice: "The brain itself feels no pain." Krendler noted: "That smells great" and then ate a piece of his own brain when offered ("It is good"). Lecter taunted Clarice about whether she would sacrifice his freedom for her own return as a hero to her FBI job: "Those people you despise almost as much as they despise you." With blood running down his face, an almost comatose Krendler was wheeled into the kitchen, where Clarice vainly attacked Lecter with a heavy silver candlestick. He threw her against the refrigerator, and then caught her pony-tail in the fridge's door (and then ripped off the handle), telling her: "Would you ever say to me, 'Stop...If you loved me, you'd stop?'" She replied: "Not in a thousand years, to which he said: "That's my girl."

As he forced a kiss on her lips, he heard a click - she had handcuffed his left wrist to hers, as he threatened: "I'm really pressed for time, so where's the key?" When she wouldn't answer, he reached for a meat cleaver, raised it in the air, and said as he grabbed her: "Above or below the wrist, Clarice. This is really gonna hurt." She appeared to scream in agony as he hacked with the cleaver, and the scene turned to black. In the next scene, police cars with sirens surrounded the house. Clarice - with both hands intact, was outside searching for Lecter, who had apparently escaped (and cut off his hand to release himself).

In the final scene, Lecter was a passenger in an airplane, drinking wine with his left arm in a sling. He had also brought along a cardboard box with various food items (including crackers, fruit, caviar, cheese, etc.), to avoid eating the airplane food. The little Asian boy seated next to him asked: "What's that?" (a plastic container with part of Krendler's cooked brain?), to which Lecter replied: "That I don't think you would like." When the boy replied: "It looks good...Can I have some?", Lecter thought: "Well, I suppose it's all right. After all, as your mother tells you, and my mother certainly told me, 'It is important,' she always used to say, 'always to try new things.' Open up."

Film Notables (Awards, Facts, etc.)

The film was adapted from the 1999 Thomas Harris novel of the same name. It was the third of a continuing series of films adapted from the best-selling books. The film was set 10 years after the events of the previous film The Silence of the Lambs (1991), although the novel's time frame was seven years later.

With the tagline: "His genius undeniable. His evil unspeakable."

With no Academy Award nominations.

With a production budget of $87 million, and box-office gross receipts of $165 million (domestic) and $351 million (worldwide).

FBI Agent Clarice Starling
(Julianne Moore)

Evelda Drumgo
(Hazelle Goodman)

Justice Dept. Officer
Paul Krendler
(Ray Liotta)

Mason Verger
(Gary Oldman)

Dr. Cordell Doemling
(Zeljko Ivanek)

Nurse Barney
(Frankie Faison)

Dr. Hannibal Lecter/"Dr. Fell"
(Anthony Hopkins)

Italian Chief Inspector
Rinaldo Pazzi
(Giancarlo Giannini)

Allegra Pazzi
(Francesca Neri)

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