Hannibal Lecter In Order: How To Watch Every Movie & Show Chronologically & By Release Date (2024)

Hannibal

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Hannibal Lecter In Order: How To Watch Every Movie & Show Chronologically & By Release Date (7)

Summary

  • The Hannibal Lecter movies showcase Dr. Lecter's chilling intellect, grisly acts, and criminal history through captivating dialogue between characters.
  • The popularity of the novels and Anthony Hopkins' portrayal inspired further onscreen depictions of the charismatic cannibal's origins.
  • To understand the confusing timelines, it's essential to watch the Hannibal Lecter movies in the right order to separate release dates from chronological events.

The Hannibal movies, in order, helped turn the doctor into one of cinema's most charismatic villains, Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Through creepy yet captivating dialogue, viewers get acquainted with his grisly acts of violence, his chilling intellect, and his criminal history. The character was created by author Thomas Harris, and his Hannibal Lecter books have all been adapted into series and movies with confusing timelines. To make matters worse, some actors appeared in multiple Hannibal Lecter movies playing different parts.

The combined popularity of the novels along with Hopkins' Oscar-winning portrayal inspired further onscreen depictions of the cannibal's origins. As more movies and series followed, a breakdown was necessary to understand and separate the release date from the chronological unfolding of events in Hannibal Lecter's life. For fans interested in the series kicked off by The Silence of the Lambs, this is the way to watch the Hannibal Lecter movies in order.

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Real-Life Inspiration Behind Hannibal Lecter Explained

Hannibal Lecter is one of, if not the, greatest cinematic villains ever made whose inspiration came from a real-life encounter with a surgical killer.

How To Watch Hannibal Lecter In Chronological Order

Hannibal Lecter In Order: How To Watch Every Movie & Show Chronologically & By Release Date (9)

Movie

Timeline

Hannibal Rising (2007)

Hannibal's origin story.

Hannibal (2013-2015)

Hannibal's time as a serial killer.

Red Dragon (2002)

The aftermath of Hannibal's arrest.

Clarice (2021)

Clarice before meeting Hannibal.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Clarice seeks Hannibal's help.

Hannibal (2001)

Hannibal on the run.

How To Watch Hannibal Lecter In Release Date Order

Manhunter

Released In 1986

Hannibal Lecter In Order: How To Watch Every Movie & Show Chronologically & By Release Date (10)
Manhunter

Director
Michael Mann

Release Date
August 14, 1986

Writers
Thomas Harris , Michael Mann
Cast
William Petersen , Kim Greist , Joan Allen , Brian Cox , Dennis Farina , Tom Noonan

The first adaptation of Harris's work (in this case the novel Red Dragon) was Manhunter in 1986, directed by Hollywood legend Michael Mann, and stars Succession's Brian Cox as Hannibal Lecter (spelled Lecktor in the film). In keeping with the source material, Hannibal plays a smaller supporting role in the story with the main focus being on FBI agent Will Graham (William Petersen of CSI fame), the man who caught Hannibal in the first place, hunting down a new serial killer known as the Tooth Fairy.

Manhunter is a movie that is often dismissed because it was before Anthony Hopkins's run as Hannibal. However, despite that, it is well worth the watch thanks to Mann's direction and Tom Noonan's performance as serial killer Francis Dollarhyde. It is a fascinating movie to watch as a companion piece alongside Red Dragon.

Movie

Release

The Silence of the Lambs

1991

Hannibal

2001

Red Dragon

2002

Hannibal Rising

2007

Hannibal

2013 - 2015

Clarice

2021

The Best Order To Watch All Hannibal Lecter Movies & TV Shows

Hannibal

(2013-2015)

Hannibal Lecter In Order: How To Watch Every Movie & Show Chronologically & By Release Date (11)
Hannibal
Cast
Hugh Dancy , Caroline Dhavernas , Aaron Abrams , Mads Mikkelsen , Laurence Fishburne , Scott Thompson

Release Date
April 4, 2013

Seasons
3
Network
NBC

Writers
Bryan Fuller

Showrunner
Bryan Fuller

Despite taking place in modern times, Hannibal is set between Hannibal Rising and Red Dragon and intimately explores Hannibal Lecter's pathology. At this point, Dr. Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) is a consultant to FBI profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) while he tracks serial killers in Minnesota, ignorant to the fact that he speaks to one every day. Beautifully shot and incredibly well acted, it's one of the best representations of (and introductions to) Thomas Harris's universe.

The show goes over some aspects that fans will recognize from other movies, but it is a unique approach to Hannibal as a character.

While the relationship between Hannibal and Clarice Starling was iconic, this show deepened and gave new insight to the bond he had with Will Graham. The show goes over some aspects that fans will recognize from other movies, but it is a unique approach to Hannibal as a character. It is also worth noting that, within the timeline of the character, it is exciting to see Hannibal operating as a serial killer while also being a respected member of society, something that was only mentioned in the past movies.

The series ran for three seasons and earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Special Visual Effects in a Supporting Role. Despite strong reviews, especially for Mikkelsen's ability to make the iconic role of Hannibal his own, the show was never a huge ratings hit. However, there is a loyal fanbase that is still hoping for a Hannibal season 4.

The Silence Of The Lambs

Released In 1991

Hannibal Lecter In Order: How To Watch Every Movie & Show Chronologically & By Release Date (12)
Silence of the Lambs

R

Director
jonathan demme
Cast
Scott Glenn , Jodie Foster , Anthony Hopkins , Ted Levine , Anthony Heald

Runtime
118 minutes

In The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) is an imprisoned serial killer, and young FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) needs his help tracking down another serial killer, “Buffalo Bill" (Ted Levine). Hannibal Lecter's best quotes come from The Silence of the Lambs' iconic script as Dr. Lecter takes an interest in Clarice and the two form a fascinating partnership.

The movie comes directly before the events of Red Dragon in the timeline as that prequel ends with Hannibal being informed that a young FBI agent has come to speak with him. While Hannibal is incarcerated for most of the movie, The Silence of the Lambs also features his daring escape. The ending shows Hannibal contacting Clarice while on the run from authorities, where he hints that he will take revenge on his former captor, Dr. Chilton. Hannibal being out in the world also sets up the sequel that would follow 11 years later.

The Silence of the Lambs grossed $272.7 million worldwide (via Box Office Mojo) and won Oscars in all five major categories it was nominated for: Best Picture, Best Actor (Hopkins), Best Actress (Foster), Best Director (Jonathan Demme), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Ted Tally). This is a rare instance for a horror movie, and is one of only three movies to win all five major Oscars, alongside It Happened One Night and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Red Dragon

Released In 2002

Hannibal Lecter In Order: How To Watch Every Movie & Show Chronologically & By Release Date (13)
Red Dragon

Where to Watch

*Availability in US

  • stream
  • rent
  • buy

Not available

Director
Brett Ratner

Release Date
October 4, 2002

Studio(s)
Universal Pictures

Writers
Ted Tally
Cast
Harvey Keitel , Mary-Louise Parker , Anthony Heald , Emily Watson , Anthony Hopkins , Philip Seymour Hoffman , Edward Norton , Ralph Fiennes

Red Dragon takes place in the 1980s, starting with Hannibal Lecter is an established forensic psychiatrist helping FBI profiler Will Graham (Edward Norton) hunt serial killers, all the way through to Hannibal being committed to the sanatorium under Director Frederick Chilton (Anthony Heald), which is where Clarice Starling finds him in The Silence of the Lambs. In Red Dragon, Graham has to ask for Lecter’s help in finding the "The Tooth Fairy" (Ralph Fiennes) who, unbeknownst to Graham, Lecter has been in contact with, pitting the two men against each other.

It is another moment talked about various times before, but actually seeing Hannibal caught is a key moment in the timeline.

The movie is essentially a condensed version of Hannibal season 3. It is also based on the same story as Manhunter, which came out 16 years before. While Red Dragon was successful, making $209 million at the worldwide box office (via Box Office Mojo), it doesn't match up with Michael Mann's 1986 movie, the TV show, or The Silence of the Lambs. However, seeing Hopkins back in this iconic role while facing off with Graham does make for some memorable scenes. Fiennes is also excellent as the formidable killer.

Unlike Manhunter, Red Dragon centers on the relationship between Graham and Hannibal. Their past is also giving more context with an opening prologue that shows them working alongside each other until the moment Graham realizes that Hannibal is the serial killer they have been hunting. This leads to Hannibal nearly killing Graham, adding to his fear of the killer. It is another moment talked about various times before, but actually seeing Hannibal caught is a key part of the timeline.

Hannibal

Released In 2001

Hannibal Lecter In Order: How To Watch Every Movie & Show Chronologically & By Release Date (18)
Hannibal (2001)

R

Director
Ridley Scott

Release Date
February 9, 2001
Cast
Anthony Hopkins , Julianne Moore , Ray Liotta , Frankie R. Faison , Giancarlo Giannini , Francesca Neri

Runtime
132 Minutes

A decade after the events of The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lecter is still on the run, and Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore) is haunted by her inability to catch him. When she's contacted by Mason Verger (Gary Oldman), the only man to survive one of Lecter's attacks, she's unknowingly used as bait to lure Hannibal into being captured, and in the process is injured.

Hannibal shows some compassion for Clarice and rescues her from being a casualty of Verger's plans before once again avoiding police custody, a significant change from Harris's book ending, which sees Clarice join Hannibal in Europe as part of a bizarrely toxic relationship. Hannibal brought in a nice worldwide box office haul, with $351.6 million (via Box Office Mojo), but reviews were mixed.

The movie plays very much on the relationship between Hannibal and Clarice, which is part of the reason it falters. Jodie Foster was not willing to reprise her role in the sequel, leading to Moore filling the character's shoes. As brilliant of an actor as Moore is, the recasting immediately lost a lot of that dynamic that was established in the first movie and it feels like a new character chasing Hannibal after all these years rather than these old acquaintances in a game of cat-and-mouse.

Hannibal Rising

Released In 2007

Hannibal Lecter In Order: How To Watch Every Movie & Show Chronologically & By Release Date (19)
Hannibal Rising (2007)

Director
Peter Webber

Release Date
February 6, 2007

Cast
Gaspard Ulliel , Aaran Thomas , Gong Li , Dominic West , Rhys Ifans

Set in 1944 Lithuania, Hannibal Rising is first in the chronological Lecter timeline and serves as an origin story for Lecter’s taste for human flesh. Eight-year-old Hannibal loses his family in the fallout between retreating Nazi forces and a Soviet tank in front of his house, and as an adult, Lecter (Gaspard Ulliel) hunts down the soldiers who brutally killed his sister after holding them captive.

While interesting for Hannibal fans, "seeing how the meat is made" isn't necessary to enjoy his madness, and the material is covered better in the Hannibal TV series. And without Anthony Hopkins as Lecter, Hannibal Rising ended up as the least successful movie in the series based on both box office and critical reviews — $82,169,884 (via Box Office Mojo) and 16% on Rotten Tomatoes.

A big problem with the movie is what befalls a number of unnecessary prequels in that it offers lackluster explanations of things that fans didn't need to know more about. There is even a callback to the iconic muzzle mask Hannibal wears in The Silence of the Lambs which makes no sense. Hannibal Rising makes the mistake of thinking the audience wants a reason to like Hannibal and understand why he became a serial killer and cannibal. Seeing him on this revenge mission doesn't feel at all like the character presented in the other movies and ruins the mystique.

Clarice

Released In 2021

Hannibal Lecter In Order: How To Watch Every Movie & Show Chronologically & By Release Date (20)
Clarice

Cast
Kal Penn , Michael Cudlitz , Devyn Tyler , Rebecca Breeds , Nick Sandow , Lucca De Oliveira , Marnee Carpenter

Release Date
February 11, 2021

Seasons
1
Network
CBS

Writers
Alex Kurtzman

Showrunner
Alex Kurtzman

Clarice is a continuation of Clarice Starling’s (Rebecca Breeds) storyline after the events of Silence of the Lambs, but before the plot of Hannibal. Between the two films, Clarice had a lot of ground to cover in a single season and is only worth watching for hardcore fans of her character. Hannibal Lecter is only mentioned, so even completists may decide to skip it.

There was almost a second season of the show on Paramount+, but it never ended up happening and the show concluded with just 13 episodes. While Clarice could have made for a solid procedural show with a compelling protagonist, it was actually weighed down by its connection to the existing franchise. Due to some rights issues, there was a lot that Clarice couldn't address that fans might have been expecting. In the end, it felt like a strange addition to the Hannibal franchise that was neither full in or fully out of the timeline.

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