Copycat crimes inspired by movies and books do exist. The tendency of getting sensational publicity by violent murders, torturing people or other criminal acts leads people to copy what is reported in the media or shown in fictional works. Here’s a list of a 15 movies/books that inspired people to commit crime. These pieces of art have turned out to be an inspiration for many copycat crimes.
In most of the crimes inspired by movies and books, it is observed that most of the people who committed such crimes saw them in the media, have suffered mental health problems or simply wanted attention. Some of them didn’t stop after committing a crime, but in fact they turned themselves into serial killers, mass murderers, rapists and violent bombers who even dared to kill the President of the United States.
From teenagers to young adults and old people, fictional work has inspired many real-life crimes and as a result, several books and movies had to be banned in different parts of the world. The insanity of criminals even led a renowned author to stop publishing his novel as people were taking inspiration from them on how to kill others.
Let’s see how these 15 books/movies inspired real-life crimes and indirectly influenced many individuals and groups, and gave them ideas of how to commit crimes.
Rage by Stephen King is a classic example of how reading a novel can change someone’s mind and make them a criminal. Of course, King didn’t write this novel to encourage people to do so, but he was very disappointed with the outcome his book brought. The famous writer had to even remove the book from print when students were inspired to shoot up their schools after reading Rage. Some of those incidents are listed here.
A student from California held his humanities class hostage and later admitted that he got the idea from Stephen King’s book. Just after a year, a 17-year old Kentucky student held his class hostage for 9 hours.
In 1996, a 14-year-old boy shot and killed his two classmates and an algebra teacher in Washington. Another 14-year old boy from Kentucky killed three as he started firing at a prayer group in school. Later, a copy of Rage was found in the student’s locker. And it was found that the book indirectly inspired these crimes.
14. Money Train
A jobless person plots to hijack and rob money in this movie, and some of those who watched the film got inspired to do the same. In 1995, soon after the movie was released, the firebombing of a New York City subway tollbooth was a result of the wrong inspiration taken from this film.
In the movie, the booth attendant was able to save his life by escaping from the location before the tollbooth burst into flames. But when the movie turned into a real life crime, a 50-year old clerk was not able to save his life and died from the burns he received.
13. The Collector
The author John Fowles didn’t expect that his first novel would become an inspiration for criminals, and many serial killers. He didn’t think that rapists would justify their crimes by showing The Collector as the basis of their crime.
In 1985, an 18-year old girl Kathy Allen was abducted by Leonard Lake and Charles Chi-Tat Ng. The duo also abducted the 19-year old Brenda O’Connor after a year. Lake was inspired by The Collector and when he was caught, he revealed his plans for using the women for housekeeping work and sex. The duo murdered at least 25 people and killed two entire families. Lake used to videotape his crimes and a diary was also found near the bunker he built in Wilseyville.
12. American Psycho
A 14-year old student Michael Hernandez attacked his classmate with a knife in the school’s bathroom. Hernandez stabbed the student 40 times and he also slit his throat, which led his friend to die on the floor. According to Hernandez, he always dreamt of becoming a serial killer and got inspiration from the character of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. Yet another book that inspired a shocking crime.
A 22-year old Elliot Rodger shot six people before committing suicide. He was trying to act out Christian Bale’s role in the film version of American Psycho when he started killing people. In a video clip, Elliot appeared to reference the movie and it appears that he took Patrick Bateman as his role model.
11. Catcher In The Rye
Since its publication, The Catcher in the Rye is known for the catchphrases, unauthorized sequel, book-banning campaigns and so much more. Above all, the book was taken as inspiration by several criminals. It is said that the murder of John Lennon was inspired by this book. When the police arrived at the murder scene, they found Mark David Chapman reading Catcher In The Rye. He bought a copy of the book and he wrote “This is my statement,” and also signed the note as Holden Caulfield.
An attempt to assassinate Ronald Reagan was also inspired by the same book and the police found a copy of The Catcher in the Rye at the house of John Hinckley Jr. who planned the assassination attempt.
10. The Town
The most shocking crimes inspired by this movie include 62 robberies done by a group of men in New York City involving US$217,000 stolen items. According to the robbers, they copied many methods including cutting the power supply, wearing headlamps, and applying bleach to vanish DNA evidences etc.
The movie inspired several other crimes including the one in which robbers disguised themselves as the actors in the movie wearing skull masks, and a woman was also caught in a nun costume.
In a robbery in New York, some robbers were so good at hiding their identity through the masks that they even switched their race by wearing life-like masks. No eye witness was able to judge that the robbers were wearing masks.
9. A Clockwork Orange
A Clockwork Orange, a dystopian novel which was later adopted into a creepy film, is said to have inspired many criminals. There are many stories about such book-inspired crimes and one of them is the story of John Ricketts who dressed up as one of the movie’s character. He attended a holiday party in December 2007 and there he assaulted a woman who was said to be dressed as Vicky Pollard, a Little Britain character.
In March 1972, a 14-year old male was accused of manslaughter, and the prosecutor in his case referred to A Clockwork Orange as inspiration for his actions. He said that the crime has relevant to the movie’s story.
8. The Matrix
One of the most popular movies of all time, The Matrix is favourite of many. But the movie also became inspiration for many criminals. Two youngsters killed their landladies after watching The Matrix. One of them told police that he’d been sucked into the Matrix. The killer was found insane. Similarly, Tonda Lynn Ansley killed her landlady claiming that she was into the Matrix, and for her, it was just like a dream.
The most heinous crimes based on The Matrix was the Washington sniper attack. A teenager by the name of Lee Boyd Malvo assisted John Allen Muhammad. He told the psychiatrist that he watched The Matrix more than 100 times and the defense was able to prepare a case by claiming that he was insane.
7. The Secret Agent
The Secret Agent is more than a hundred-year old novel by Joseph Conrad and it is said to have exceptional influence on Ted Kaczynski. Kaczynski was known for his love for the novel as he got one copy of The Secret Agent during his teenage years and kept it at his bedside ever since.
The man found himself strongly connected to the character of “the Professor.” He also advised his family to read the book so they can understand the character he was attached to. David Foster, who assisted the FBI, said that the man felt that his family couldn’t understand him if they didn’t read the novel.
Kaczynski fabricated sixteen exploding packages and detonated them in various locations. When he was caught, he revealed that he read The Secret Agent many times and it was also found that he used formulations of Conrad’s name to sign himself into many hotels.
6. The Basketball Diaries
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, The Basketball Diaries was brought into a lawsuit after the Heath High School shooting in 1997. It was claimed that the film’s plot caused a 14-year-old Michael Carneal to start attacking prayer group members. Michael told police that he was inspired by the character of Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie. However, the case was dismissed by the court, but the film again drew controversies after the Columbine High School massacre.
It was noted that there were similarities between these shooting incidents and the movie. Relatives of murder victims brought the film into a lawsuit claiming that the movie turned out to be an inspiration for many such incidents where people attacked others.
5. Queen of the Damned
A man repeatedly stabbed and beat his friend, Thomas McKendrick, to death. When asked why, he explained to the court that he killed him because “the queen of the damned” ordered him to do so. According to the accused Allan Menzies, the queen was supposed to make him immortal as a vampire as a reward for this crime.
The criminal Allan Menzies was said to have a personality disorder. According to doctors, he did not have any mental illness but there are chances that he created this story to cover his crime. Menzies said that Akasha, a character from the Anne Rice book which was turned into a film, instructed him to kill. Apparently Menzies was so obsessed with the film that he watched it over 100 times. “The more (deaths) the better,” he was supposedly heard saying.
4. Taxi Driver
An American, John Hinckley Jr. became obsessed with the the film Taxi Driver (1976) in which Travis Bickle, a disturbed protagonist plots to kill a presidential candidate. Slowly, Hinckley developed an infatuation with Jodie Foster, an actress who played a role in the film as well.
When Foster joined Yale University, the man also took writing classes in Yale and began sending messages and poems to her door and he called her repeatedly. When Hinckley failed to develop contact with Foster, he fantasized about hijacking an aircraft or committing suicide to get Forster’s attention. Finally he decided to impress her and get attention by assassinating the president. Hinckley successfully wounded Ronald Reagan with a bullet that hit him in the chest.
3. Saw (franchise)
The Jigsaw killer from the Saw movies inspired many people to commit crime. The franchise shows a psychopathic anti-hero who puts gruesome traps to target people who hurt themselves. He doesn’t kill anyone, but his plans are designed in a way that they are used to teach people the value of life. He encourages people to make choices, and if they are not willing to live, they are left with no other option than kill themselves or others.
Another movie inspired crime involves two teenage girls who got caught after a failed prank. They scared a 52-year old woman by sending a voicemail saying that a friend is hiding in her home and she has a chance to save herself or her friend, as the caller is going to release a toxic gas. The terrified woman suffered a stroke after hearing the voice message. She recovered, and the girls were charged by the court.
Meanwhile, a mother found her teenage son and his friend plotting to kidnap and murder people. The boys had detailed plans about harming several people including one policeman and two middle-school girls as well. It was revealed that the boys told police that they put cameras to record the murders, just like how Jigsaw did.
2. The Foundation Novels
Shoko Asahara, the founder of the Japanese doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo was influenced by the Foundation series of novels. The influence led him to carry out the Tokyo subway sarin attack in 1995. He was also found responsible for another sarin attack. It was revealed that Asahara was using the series of novels as a blueprint for his organization’s plans.
The Foundation series is said to have inspired Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. Some people believe that Laden got the idea of creating a small group of rebels fighting against an evil empire from the books. Under Al-Qaeda, the Foundation novel series was translated into Arabic with the title, Al-Qaeda.
1. The Dark Knight
Many criminals became influenced by The Dark Knight film and committed several copycat crimes. In 2012, a perpetrator was found shooting a gun in a movie theatre and yelling, “I am the Joker.”
In 2010, a man assaulted his girlfriend and his cousin. He dressed as the Joker and attacked the duo as they were sleeping together. In another incident inspired by the movie involved a young girl was found guilty of attacking her teacher with a razor blade. The girl’s face was painted in a similar way to the Joker.
Two teenagers were arrested in from Pembroke, VA and they admitted to creating a conspiracy to commit terrorist acts. They told police that they were influenced after watching the movie.
A man, after watching the Joker, was so inspired that he even decided to join ISIS and kill his boss. During the investigation, the police seized a clown mask and several other things including duct tape, knives, and gloves from his place.
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