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The Silence of the Lambs (1991)


Average Rating: 8.4/10
Reviews Counted: 71
Fresh: 67
Rotten: 4

Critics Consensus: Director Jonathan Demme's smart, taut thriller teeters on the edge between psychological study and all-out horror, and benefits greatly from stellar performances by Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster.

Average Rating: 7.4/10
Reviews Counted: 20
Fresh: 17
Rotten: 3

Critics Consensus: Director Jonathan Demme's smart, taut thriller teeters on the edge between psychological study and all-out horror, and benefits greatly from stellar performances by Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster.


Average Rating: 4.1/5
User Ratings: 839,466



Movie Info

In this multiple Oscar-winning thriller, Jodie Foster stars as Clarice Starling, a top student at the FBI's training academy whose shrewd analyses of serial killers lands her a special assignment: the FBI is investigating a vicious murderer nicknamed Buffalo Bill, who kills young women and then removes the skin from their bodies. Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) wants Clarice to interview Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), a brilliant psychiatrist who is also a violent psychopath, serving life … More

R (adult situations/language)
Mystery & Suspense , Horror
Directed By:
Written By:
Ted Tally
In Theaters:
Jul 1, 1998
Orion Pictures Corporation


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Critic Reviews for The Silence of the Lambs

All Critics (71) | Top Critics (20) | Fresh (67) | Rotten (4) | DVD (43)

Jonathan Demme's hypnotic adaptation of the Thomas Harris novel has a seriousness and intensity that's been entirely lacking in horror movies lately.

Full Review… | August 12, 2013
Seattle Times
Top Critic

Hopkins' cumulative screen image is one of civility and decency, and the association adds to the withering, macabre effect of his murderer. It is a remarkably lucid portrait of lunacy.

Full Review… | August 12, 2013
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic

Demme comes at Harris' material from another angle: His movie may deal with madness, but his perspective is mercifully sane.

Full Review… | August 12, 2013
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic

It's a gnarled, brutal, highly manipulative film that, at its center, seems morally indefensible.

Full Review… | August 12, 2013
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

Jonathan Demme's thriller is artful pulp -- tabloid material treated with intelligence and care and a weird kind of sensitivity.

Full Review… | August 12, 2013
New Yorker
Top Critic

Hopkins' performance may be the film's bravura showpiece, but Foster's goes the whole distance, steadfast, controlled, heartbreakingly insightful, a fine addition to her gallery of characterizations.

Full Review… | February 22, 2013
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

As Lecter, Anthony Hopkins gives an astounding performance -- eery, menacing, creepy, believable.

Full Review… | August 12, 2013
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

The confrontations between Foster and Hopkins -- facing her from an ultrasecure cell -- are models of chilling intensity.

Full Review… | August 12, 2013
People Magazine

Has any horror movie equalled it in the past 22 years? Perhaps. But if only one super-gory flick is ever considered worthy enough for the Academy's top prize, I'm fine with this being it.

Full Review… | July 23, 2013

This multi-Oscar-winning classic, adapted from Thomas Harris's bestseller, was responsible for giving cinematic serial killers a better image, thanks to Anthony Hopkins's enthralling portrayal of Hannibal Lecter.

Full Review… | February 22, 2013
Radio Times

n exceptionally good film, perhaps this fine director's best, in which the horror genre is elevated into the kind of cinema that can at least be argued about as a treatise for its unsettling times.

Full Review… | February 22, 2013

Jonathan Demme's astute adaptation of Thomas Harris' last good book entwines the horror and detective genres to enduringly shocking effect.

Full Review… | October 9, 2012
Total Film

[VIDEO ESSAY] "Hannibal the Cannibal" is the ultimate anti-hero.

Full Review… | April 16, 2012

Thriller that made the serial killer a superstar.

Full Review… | December 15, 2010
Common Sense Media

The odd psychological interplay between the gutsy, but green, Starling and the deranged, yet fascinating, Lecter provides the basic tone for Jonathan Demme's well-made, insidious shocker.

Full Review… | July 6, 2010

Not a second of this two-hour flick, which redefined the term 'thriller' and spawned a host of clones, I can find error with.

Full Review… | July 6, 2010
Dark Horizons

Screenwriters and directors can turn to this classic film for a primer on how to create incredible tension and horror far in excess of what we actually see onscreen.

Full Review… | April 27, 2009
Apollo Guide

All of its most enduring aesthetic qualities and themes%u2014essentially what sets it apart from so many imitators and established it almost immediately as a canonical film%u2014are contained in its riveting first 20 minutes, which draw you in like a stee

Full Review… | March 18, 2009
Q Network Film Desk

It has maintained its reputation as a chilling drama after all these years...

Full Review… | February 23, 2009
Screen It!

Audience Reviews for The Silence of the Lambs

A taut thriller, 'Silence of the Lambs' is one of the most gripping cinematic experiences out there. With the help of a devilishly good performance from Hopkins, a kinetic pace, and a potent script, 'Lambs' has easily crafted its place in cinematic history, as well as tapped into crime thriller gold.

Kase Vollebregt
Kase Vollebregt

Super Reviewer


The Silence Of The Lambs is a film that builds nail biting tension from each and every insignificant plot point and effortlessly managed to sustain my interest for the full 118 minutes it lasted. There's only a small number of horror thrillers that can pull that off. But this is endlessly frightening. From the anti-hero (fantastically portrayed by Anthony Hopkins) to the tracking down of the unnamed serial killer which at it's climax is the most terrifying scene in the film. Many unpredictable twists and turns occur to great effect to the point where your not sure what your scared of. Also the make up effects and corpse set pieces i'll add are sorely barf inducing and are all these great elements are held together nicely by a great performance from Jodie Foster as a consistently likable and interesting heroine and masterfully mesmeric direction by Jonathon Demme at the top of his game. It's part psychological character study and part horror thriller. Both of them have always been closely related in cinema history but sitting there watching this, personally it isolated me as much as the psychologically traumitised and emotionally fragile heroine played by Foster. It's not as deep in it's subject matter as it thinks it is, but I thought it was a brilliantly executed thriller that ties itself up nicely and ended on a monumentally worrying and epically eery note. Highly recommended as a member of the minimally slight group of movies raved at the Oscars damn deserving of it's reputation.

Directors Cat
Directors Cat

Super Reviewer

So far, only two other films besides this one have the distinction of winning all five of the major categories at the Oscars (picture, director, actor, actress, and screenplay). This also has a reputation for being one of the all time best thrillers in general.

And all that claim and praise is quite justified, Based on the best selling novel by Thomas Harris, this is the story of Clarice Starling, a young and talented FBI trainee who, despite her lack of experience, is deemed talented enough to help the bureau out with an investigation concerning a killer nicknamed Buffalo Bill who has a penchant for kidnapping and killing women, then skinning their bodies. Starling is tasked with interviewing the brilliant psychologist Dr. Hannibal Lecter who also happens to be a psychopath serving a life sentence due to various acts of murder and cannibalism. It is believed that he could give valuable insight into the FBI's investigation, and would be willing to cooperate with Starling given that she's an attractive yet tough female that he could find intriguing and trustworthy.

Lecter is indeed enthralled with Starling, and is willing to help, but his services come with a price In exchange for case related help and information, Starling has to provide Lecter with her own life, and let him get in her head and poke around, something that just might be more dangerous than going after Buffalo Bill.

While there are some grisly visceral thrills here, this is primarily an intense and complex character study of multiple people that are all quite fascinating. This is quite deep, intelligent, and engrossing stuff, and despite having less than twenty minutes of screen time, Anthony Hopkins cemented himself into cinematic and pop culture with his supremely chilling and memorable turn as Lecter. In fact, it was because of this movie that the Academy now makes it mandatory that a performer has to have more than twenty minutes of screen time to be considered a lead role.

He absolutely knocks it out of the park, and, despite how little screen time he has, he makes his presence felt throughout the whole film, which is a truly impressive feat. Foster gives one of her absolute best performances, and she truly shines as the multifaceted Starling. She easily sells the various layers of the character, and holds her own against not one, but two of the creepiest screen antagonists ever. Ted Levine, playing Buffalo Bill, is a real force to be reckoned with. He's a guy that you don't want to lower you guard around, and the climax of the film is one of the most gripping, suspenseful, and absolutely scary sequences ever. The film is a horror film in a sense, but is mainly a psychological suspense thriller.

That ending though, is truly one of the few sequences that I feel could be deemed horrific, and it certainly something not easily forgotten.

This movie has been the subject of countless parodies imitations, and ripoffs, and that's a shame since it seems that these things tend to cheapen the original product. It is also to the credit of screenwriter Ted Tally and director Jonathan Demme that they were able to take material that could easily be construed as high grade lurid pulp and turn it into a high brow intelligent masterpiece that appeals to both thinkers and fans of the gruesome alike.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

Its understandable why this is such a shocking yet superb masterpiece. With iconic performances and highly recognised lines and scenarios.Jodie Foster plays as the determined Clarice Starling. At the same time, the sophisticated Anthony Hopkins is Hannibal "the Cannibal" Lector. Finally, Ted Levine portrays the gut wrenching 'Buffalo Bill'. While it misses out the side stories, this is a very strong adaptation of Thomas Harris' novel. This is possibly the best serial killer movie in film history.

Samuel Riley
Samuel Riley

Super Reviewer

The Silence of the Lambs Quotes

Jame "Buffalo Bill" Gumb:
It puts the lotion on it's skin, or else it gets the hose again.
– Submitted by Jacob M (18 months ago)
Dr. Hannibal Lecter:
A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.
– Submitted by Dutch E (19 months ago)
Dr. Hannibal Lecter:
Plum Island Animal Disease Research Facility. Sounds charming.
– Submitted by Taedius M (24 months ago)
Dr. Hannibal Lecter:
I ate his liver with some fava beans.
– Submitted by Willie J (2 years ago)
Dr. Hannibal Lecter:
Why do you think he removes their skins, Agent Starling? Enthrall me with your acumen.
Clarice Starling:
It excites him. Most serial killers keep some sort of trophies from their victims.
Dr. Hannibal Lecter:
I didn't.
Clarice Starling:
No. No, you ate yours.
– Submitted by Eytan D (2 years ago)
Jame "Buffalo Bill" Gumb:
Just put the shampoo in the basket.
Catherine Martin:
Please let me out.
– Submitted by Jorge Eduardo S (2 years ago)

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