How to Watch the Hannibal Lecter Movies and Shows in Order (Chronologically and by Release Date) (2024)

Hannibal

How to Watch the Hannibal Lecter Movies and Shows in Order (Chronologically and by Release Date) (1)

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How to Watch the Hannibal Lecter Movies and Shows in Order (Chronologically and by Release Date) (2)

The Big Picture

  • The chronological order to watch the Hannibal Lecter movies is: Hannibal Rising, Red Dragon, The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal.
  • The Silence of the Lambs is the most famous movie in the series, winning Oscars and grossing $272.7 million worldwide.
  • The TV show Hannibal takes place between Hannibal Rising and Red Dragon, and features Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter, while the show Clarice takes place between The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal.

Most movie-goers were first introduced to the highly intelligent and charismatic serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter, famously played by Anthony Hopkins, in the movie The Silence of the Lambs. The movie is based on the book by the same name, written by Thomas Harris in 1981. Before Hopkins even appears in the movie, the audience is forced to imagine the monstrosity that is Dr. Lecter, or “Hannibal the Cannibal,” through dialogue between characters who know of the horrendous acts he committed prior to his incarceration. Once he is formally introduced, it becomes apparent that everything he does is extremely calculated, leading people to wonder how he got caught in the first place. What was his life like before his incarceration? As more movies followed, the timeline understandably got a little more confusing. This article should help clear things up as a breakdown of the timeline of the life of Hannibal Lecter. So if you’re planning on exploring The Silence of the Lambs series, here’s how you can watch the Hannibal Lecter movies and shows in order, chronologically and by release date.

The Books:

How to Watch the Hannibal Lecter Movies and Shows in Order (Chronologically and by Release Date) (3)

Publication Year

Red Dragon

1981

The Silence of the Lambs

1988

Hannibal

1999

Hannibal Rising

2006

Hannibal Lecter Movies in Order of Release Date:

How to Watch the Hannibal Lecter Movies and Shows in Order (Chronologically and by Release Date) (4)

Manhunter

August 15, 1986

The Silence of the Lambs

February 14, 1991

Hannibal

February 9, 2001

Red Dragon

October 4, 2002

Hannibal Rising

February 9, 2007

Hannibal Lecter Movies in Chronological Order:

Hannibal Rising

How to Watch the Hannibal Lecter Movies and Shows in Order (Chronologically and by Release Date) (5)
Hannibal Rising (2007)

After witnessing the violent deaths of his parents at the end of World War II, young Hannibal Lecter (Gaspard Ulliel) flees to his uncle's home in Paris. He learns his uncle is dead, but the man's mysterious Japanese widow, Lady Murasaki (Gong Li) welcomes him nonetheless. An aptitude for science helps Hannibal gain acceptance to medical school, where he hones the skills he needs to exact revenge for the atrocities he witnessed.

Release Date
February 6, 2007

Director
Peter Webber
Cast
Aaran Thomas , Gaspard Ulliel , Li Gong , Helena-Lia Tachovská , Richard Leaf , Dominic West

Runtime
120

Despite being the most recent release (both in movie and book format), Hannibal Rising is the first movie to watch in the chronological Lecter timeline. Set in 1944 Lithuania, this movie serves as an origin story for Hannibal Lecter’s newfound taste for carnage… and for human flesh. Eight-year-old Lecter loses his entire family as a result of the fallout between retreating Nazi forces and a Soviet tank that has stopped at the family’s lodge.

As an adult, Lecter (the late Gaspard Ulliel) hunts down the men who held him and his younger sister captive in the days leading to his sister’s gruesome death. The movie ends with Hannibal making his way to the United States.

Manhunter

How to Watch the Hannibal Lecter Movies and Shows in Order (Chronologically and by Release Date) (6)
Manhunter

FBI criminal profiler Will Graham (William L. Petersen) is called out of early retirement to assist on a serial murder case involving a killer known as the "Tooth Fairy" (Tom Noonan). Graham enlists the help of imprisoned serial killer -- and cannibal -- Dr. Hannibal Lecktor (Brian Cox), who is thereason Graham took an early retirement. Soon, Graham and the FBI are entangled in a deadly cat-and-mouse game between the Tooth Fairy, Lecktor and an interfering journalist (Stephen Lang).

Release Date
August 14, 1986

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

Runtime
119

Manhunter follows the same plotline as Red Dragon and came out 5 years prior to Silence of the Lambs. Unfortunately, the movie did not do well at the box office and failed to gather much interest with audiences. Starring Brian Cox as Hannibal Lecktor (the spelling was changed for the movie), and William Petersen as Will Graham, the movie is now regarded as more of a cult classic because it was technically the first movie with “Hannibal the Cannibal” as the antagonist.

Red Dragon

How to Watch the Hannibal Lecter Movies and Shows in Order (Chronologically and by Release Date) (7)
Red Dragon

Ex-FBI agent Will Graham (Edward Norton) is an expert investigator who quit the Bureau after almost losing his life in the process of capturing the elusive Dr. Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). After a series of particularly grisly murders, Graham soon realizes that the best way to catch this killer, knownas the Tooth Fairy, is to find a way to get inside the killer's mind. For Graham, that means confronting his past and facing his former nemesis, the now-incarcerated Lecter.

Release Date
September 29, 2002
Director
Brett Ratner
Cast
Anthony Hopkins , Edward Norton , Ralph Fiennes , Harvey Keitel , Emily Watson , Mary-Louise Parker

Runtime
124

Red Dragon is set in 1980, and Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) is a well-established forensic psychiatrist. Ironically, he is helping FBI profiler Will Graham (Edward Norton) on a case in which a serial killer is removing parts of his victims. Graham comes to the realization that the serial killer is a cannibal, leading him to almost fall prey to Lecter himself. This lands Hannibal in a sanitorium for the criminally insane, under the constant supervision of Director Frederick Chilton (Anthony Heald).

Years later, Graham has to ask for the incarcerated Lecter’s help in tracking down a new serial killer known as “The Tooth Fairy,” played by Ralph Fiennes. Lecter, after some persuasion, agrees to assist Graham. We learn later that Hannibal was actually in contact with the killer as well, pitting both men against each other as pawns in his own sad*stic game of chess. At the end of the movie, we see Lecter approached by Chilton to inform him that he has a visitor; a young woman from the FBI.

2:04

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The Silence of the Lambs

How to Watch the Hannibal Lecter Movies and Shows in Order (Chronologically and by Release Date) (9)
Silence of the Lambs

Jodie Foster stars as Clarice Starling, a top student at the FBI's training academy. Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) wants Clarice to interview Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), a brilliant psychiatrist who is also a violent psychopath, serving life behind bars for various acts of murder and cannibalism. Crawford believes that Lecter may have insight into a case and that Starling, as an attractive young woman, may be just the bait to draw him out.

Release Date
February 1, 1991
Director
Jonathan Demme
Cast
Jodie Foster , Scott Glenn , Anthony Hopkins , Ted Levine , Brooke Smith , Anthony Heald

Runtime
118 minutes

This is easily the most famous Hannibal Lecter movie in the series, grossing $272.7 million worldwide and winning Oscars in the five major categories it was nominated for. Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is the “young woman from the FBI'' that’s mentioned at the very end of Red Dragon. She is sent to get some information from Lecter that would help find the identity and location of serial killer “Buffalo Bill,” played by Ted Levine. Lecter takes an interest in Starling but has demands of his own before he cooperates. “Quid pro quo.”

While Starling is hunting down Buffalo Bill, Lecter is busy devising a plan for his escape. After all the verbal hype from dialogue earlier in the movie, audiences finally get to see Hannibal in his element during his bloody escape. In the final scene, Starling receives a phone call from Lecter revealing that he is somewhere in the Bahamas. When Starling indicates that she won’t give up trying to find him, he ends the call saying he’s “having an old friend for dinner,” while staring hawkishly at his old jailer, Frederick Chilton. The movie was directed by Jonathan Demme, who went on to win the Academy Award for Best Director for his work on the film.

Hannibal

How to Watch the Hannibal Lecter Movies and Shows in Order (Chronologically and by Release Date) (10)
Hannibal

Living in exile, Dr. Hannibal Lecter tries to reconnect with now disgraced F.B.I. Agent Clarice Starling, and finds himself a target for revenge from a powerful victim.

Release Date
February 9, 2001
Director
Ridley Scott
Cast
Anthony Hopkins , Julianne Moore , Ray Liotta , Giancarlo Giannini , Gary Oldman

Runtime
132 minutes

This movie takes place about 10 years after the events from Silence of the Lambs. Hannibal Lecter is still at large, and Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore) receives a letter from him taunting her after she messes up on the job. She is also contacted by Mason Verger (Gary Oldman), who is the only surviving victim of Lecter. Verger, who is extremely disfigured and paralyzed, essentially uses Starling as bait in an attempt to lure Hannibal out of hiding so that he can exact his revenge. Starling attempts to interfere with Verger’s plan so that she can capture Lecter herself and turn him in, but she is shot and injured.

Hannibal could have left her to die, but instead carries her to safety. When she regains consciousness, she handcuffs herself to him to prevent him making a quick getaway as police forces grow closer. Lecter is about to sever her hand in order to flee, but once again spares her. The last time we see Hannibal, he is on a plane with a bandaged stump in place of his hand. He is eating something he has brought himself, and offers some to a young boy sitting near him. Based on this timeline, it is quite possible that Dr. Hannibal Lecter could still be alive in his mid-to-late 80s, living out his retirement years and dining exquisitely.

TV Shows

How to Watch the Hannibal Lecter Movies and Shows in Order (Chronologically and by Release Date) (11)

Hannibal (2013-2015)

This series technically takes place between the events of Hannibal Rising and Red Dragon, despite being set in modern times. Dr. Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) takes on the role of a consultant to FBI profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) as he tracks down a serial killer in Minnesota. With the emergence of multiverses in other movies, it’s possible that this could be considered as a modern-day variant of the Anthony Hopkins version of Hannibal Lecter. While fans of this show eagerly await news of a possible Season 4, it’s looking less likely with each passing year.

Watch on AMC+

Clarice (2021)

How to Watch the Hannibal Lecter Movies and Shows in Order (Chronologically and by Release Date) (12)

This show was meant to be a continuation of Clarice Starling’s (Rebecca Breeds) storyline, taking place after the events of Silence of the Lambs and before the movie Hannibal. With a gap of roughly 10 years to cover between the two films, Clarice had plenty of ground to cover. Initially, the show was greenlit for Lifetime, but was later picked up by CBS creators Alex Kurtzman and Jenny Lumet. Unfortunately, relocation negotiations with Paramount+ have so far been stymied, and it looks like Clarice will remain a one-season show.

Watch on Prime Video

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