Beyond Leatherface and Hannibal: Six Other Memorable Movie Cannibals

While it was once prevalent in ancient cultures as both a religious ceremony and legitimate survival tactic, cannibalism has since become a long-running staple of the horror genre. Sure, there are the occasional real-world tragedies like the crimes of José Luis Calva or the infamous Donner Party incident, but there is certainly no shortage of horror flicks depicting ravenous antagonists with a hunger for human flesh.

And with the recent return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise, which arguably features the most recognizable cannibal family in all of popular culture, we thought that this might be a good time to shine a light on some of the less celebrated but equally memorable man-eaters of fiction. That’s why we’ve come up with this list of six underappreciated cinematic cannibals!

After all, everyone is aware of Hannibal, Sweeney Todd and Leatherface, but there are quite a few accomplished people-eaters that have been overlooked in favor of their more popular brethren. With that in mind, we’ll be focusing on cannibals that don’t quite get the love (or hate) that they deserve, regardless of the overall quality of the movies they appear in.

Storytellers have been fascinated with the consumption of human flesh since time immemorial, so there are obviously many more fictional cannibals where these came from, so don’t forget to comment below with your own favorites if you think we missed a good one.

Now, onto the list…

6. Clapet – Delicatessen (1991)

Cannibalism and stories about the downfall of civilized society go hand-in-hand like beer and barbecue. However, Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s strange little black comedy cannibal movie surprises audiences by telling a post-apocalyptic love story. While Delicatessen focuses on the relationship between ex-clown Louison and the well-intentioned Julie Clapet, it’s Julie’s father who earns a place on this list as a distinguished people-eater.

The ruthless owner of an apartment building and butcher for the titular delicatessen, Clapet believes that it’s a dog-eat-dog world, so he has no qualms about serving human meat to his clientele. Brought to life through a truly memorable performance by Jean-Claude Dreyfus, Clapet also serves as an over-the-top critique of real-life landlords, offering up a bit of social commentary alongside his cannibalistic shenanigans.

5. Alferd Packer – Cannibal! The Musical (1993)

Trey Parker is probably best known for being one half of the duo behind South Park, but this controversial comedian has also written, directed and starred in a bizarre micro-budget musical about Cannibalism. Aptly titled Cannibal! The Musical, the film satirizes the real-world case of Alferd Packer, a prospector who was accused of eating fellow members of his 1874 mining expedition.

While this Troma-approved musical isn’t for the faint of heart, I’d highly recommend it to fans of Trey’s patented brand of crude humor due to his ridiculous portrayal of the Colorado Cannibal. Packer’s casual demeanor makes it all the more absurd when characters break out into song and dance, and I particularly love how Trey is listed in the credits as Juan Schwartz, which was the real Packer’s alias when he was on the run from the law.

4. Three-Finger – Wrong Turn (2003)

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2003’s Wrong Turn was a pretty decent slasher flick even if it was an obvious retread of the Hills Have Eyes formula (minus the desert setting). Even so, its exaggerated ensemble of mutated Hill-Folk is undeniably charming, with Julian Richings’s portrayal of Three-Finger standing out as one of the film’s highlights.

While it’s Joe Lynch’s direct-to-video sequel that really gave this backwoods murderer a chance to shine with that incredible opening kill, the character has become a staple of the franchise with his irreverent demeanor and extremely cruel modus operandi. Unfortunately, it’s rare to see the killer brought up when discussing popular human flesh eaters, and that’s why Three-Finger makes it onto the list as a memorable cannibal that deserves more attention.

3. Jack – He Never Died (2015)

Henry Rollins is a certified badass. That alone would justify his entry on this list, but He Never Died also happens to be a surprisingly solid horror-comedy with a compelling cannibal protagonist. In this underseen gem, Rollins takes on the role of Jack, an immortal loner who’s cursed to consume human flesh as he tries to avoid trouble in the modern world.

While the film is basically a retelling of the sad vampire trope, it does this while sticking to a more primitive (not to mention brutal) version of the mythology, eventually revealing that Jack is the biblical “Cain” from the Cain and Abel story. This clever twist combined with Rollins’ compelling performance make Jack a uniquely lovable cannibal that should have appeared in more movies.

2. Kevin – Sin City (2005)

Sin City may not be a horror flick, but an homage to the pulpy thrills of Film Noir wouldn’t be complete without at least a little bit of horrific depravity. That’s why one of the film’s segments focuses on a terrifying serial killer with an insatiable hunger for the flesh of unsuspecting prostitutes.

Played by an angel-faced Elijah Wood in one of the most memorable roles of his career, Kevin is depicted as a near-supernatural force of nature, with his scenes serving as some of the film’s highlights. I’ll never forget the genuine fear in Carla Gugino’s voice as she quietly explains that “He… Eats… People,” and that lingering shot of Wood’s serene face as his mutilated body is devoured by dogs is more disturbing than most actual horror flicks.

1. Colonel Ives – Ravenous (1999)

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Antonia Bird’s Ravenous is undoubtedly a strange picture. And one of the best cannibal movies of all. Plagued by a troubled production and several strange creative decisions behind the scenes, the film miraculously turned out to be an inventive horror-comedy with a lot to say about American culture. It’s also one of the most interesting cinematic depictions of the Wendigo myth, which deals with the supernatural consequences of cannibalism.

In this chilling period piece, Robert Carlyle turns in a masterful performance as Colonel Ives, the sole survivor of an ill-fated wagon train who is soon revealed to possess extraordinary powers gained from consuming human flesh. Equally funny and terrifying with his sick sense of humor and downright evil interpretation of Manifest Destiny, Carlisle makes for one hell of an entertaining antagonist and a great foil for Guy Pearce’s cowardly John Boyd.

In a perfect world, Ives would be remembered alongside Hannibal Lecter as one of the most charming people-eaters in all of fiction, and that’s why he’s number one on this list of underappreciated cannibals.

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