10+ Kind Killers

A list of horror film characters that take “killing with kindness” too literally.

Who wouldn’t want a mom as kind — and deadly — as Beverly Sutphin in Serial Mom1994)?

When imagining a murderer, you may picture a scruffy and sketchy loner. While they exist, they are not the ones to be truly feared. In reality, the most dangerous murderers are the ones who hold a knife behind their backs with a smile on their faces. This list highlights well-groomed, loving, and oddly nurturing killers. They lead with the most disarming weapon of all–kindness. 

In Funny Games (2007), a family unfortunately mistakes kindness for safety–and suffers the consequences.

Kind killers are some of the most menacing. While our brains like to sort loving and killing in separate categories, they often co-exist. Many on this list work in the medical industry or have a connection to it. Those with special medical knowledge are some of the most effective killers. Proving that nurturing life and ending it are two sides of the same coin. Sometimes, both are done with equal love and care. For the same reason, you’ll find parental figures listed here. Those whose love is unmatched, yet so is their wrath. Their deceptive smiles and politeness blind the victim, softening them for slaughter. The horrific fact is that anything can be weaponized, even kindness. 

Table of Contents

Best Kind Killers 

Annie Wilkes – Misery (1990)

Adoring Kathy Bates’s portrayal in Misery, Stephen King wrote the lead of his next book “Dolores Claiborne” with her in mind. Bates eventually played “Dolores” when it was made into a film.

After crashing into a blizzard, author Paul Sheldon is saved by his biggest fan. Luckily, she is also a retired nurse. Annie uses the same patience and empathy with Paul as with the NICU babies she once cared for. Therefore, when Paul discovers the truth of what she did to those babies he knows what he’s in for. Even while shattering his bones with a sledgehammer, Annie swoons over her idol. She shops for him and feeds him home-cooked meals to eat in the bed she has confined him to. The violent outbursts that erupt from her eerily cheery demeanor cement her as one of the most unsettling villains on screen. 

Sue Ann “Ma” – Ma (2019)

Sue Ann noticing cat statues had moved is a nod to another kind killer on this list: Annie Wilkes from Misery.

A group of teenagers needs a space to party. Sue Ann needs friends to fill her empty home. Solving each other’s problems, Sue Ann allows the teens to hang out in her basement. That is, as long as she can party with them. Kindness emanates from the mild-mannered and sweet Sue Ann, who the kids begin to call “Ma”. She showers them with affection and gifts such as alcohol for their parties. However, Ma’s kindness is the bait on her hook. The teens eventually venture past the basement. Here, they discover a hidden part of the house and a hidden side to “Ma”. 

Jigsaw – Saw Franchise (2004 – 2021)

Though Tobin Bell had a prolific career with years of minor roles in film and television, it wasn’t until his role as John Kramer/Jigsaw that his career truly took off.

There is nothing more dangerous than an altruistic serial killer. Jigsaw sets humans in elaborate traps that result in a fatality or major sacrifice. To Jigsaw, these traps are the best gift a human can receive, for they offer a painful rebirth. One that is well-earned and meant to be lived with gratitude.  “Most people are so ungrateful to be alive… but not you,” Jigsaw tells a surviving victim of his trap, “not anymore.” His god complex grows with each murder. With each death representing, to him, a happier humanity. 

Howard – 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

Another film where John Goodman lives in a bunker? Matinee (1993).

Waking up in a small storage room usually means trouble. For Michelle, it means safety from the apocalypse that is allegedly raging outside. This is according to Howard, the man that either abducted or saved her from the outside world. He splits his rations and even plays board games with her and Emmett, another bunkmate in Howard’s basement shelter. As Howard cooks them dinners, Michelle and Emmett devise a plan. How will they escape this safe-haven entrapment? This bunker is a perfect representation of Howard himself. He has spent his life building a shelter of games, films, and food. Yet it also holds a barrel of acid and ammunition.

Paul and Peter – Funny Games (2007)

Michael Pitt (right) also played killer Justin Pendleton in Murder by Numbers (2002).

When two preppy well-mannered boys request to borrow eggs, Ann obliges. The eggs crack, quickly followed by bones. A sequence of random ultra-violence follows. All done with a pleasant smile from the preppy predators Peter and Paul. Despite their surroundings, they behave like polite house guests. Their well-mannered speech is shocking as they play sadistic games with the family they hold hostage. These well-mannered murderers are a reminder that perhaps politeness isn’t inherently kind. In Pauls’s own words; “So much stress for politeness’ sake.” 

Josef – Creep (2014)

Most of the film was improvised, so Mark Duplass’ Josef’s kind and unassuming demeanor was off-the-cuff.

Wanting to preserve his life for his son, the terminally ill Josef hires a videographer to record his final days. He invites videographer Aaron warmly into his home, where he has planned a full day of fun activities. He takes him out to east pancakes and leads him through his favorite hike in the woods. Josef even introduces him to Peachfuzz, his childhood alter-ego that wears a wolf mask. Aaron gets to know Peachfuzz all too well. Soon Josef’s true mask, that of a kind and ill father, is replaced with the savage wolf. Josef lovingly describes wolves in a way that perfectly mirrors his own temperament. “They love deeply, but they don’t know how to express it,” Josef tells Aaron, “they’re often very violent and murder the things that they love. Inside of the wolf is this beautiful heart.”

Greta – Greta (2018)

Isabelle Huppert also played a piano instructor in The Piano Teacher (2001).

When Frances finds a handbag on the NYC subway, she quickly returns it to its owner. This random act of kindness eventually leaves Frances trapped in Greta, the bag owner’s, home. Greta treats her hostage with care. She offers the maternal connection Frances craves. Greta seeks to be Frances’s surrogate mother, therefore forcing Frances into the role of daughter. In an attempt to recreate a family, Greta bakes cookies with her young hostage and even teaches her how to play the piano. In this film, both the protagonist’s and antagonist’s kindness leads to despair.

May Dove Canady – May (2002)

May (2002)
May failed to grab a large audience during its initial release, but it’s become a cult film that has grown in popularity.

May (Angela Bettis) just wants a friend. As a child, she was shunned because of her appearance (specifically, her “lazy eye”), and as an adult she is awkward around her peers. May is a sweet person with good intentions, but she has almost no experience interacting with people on a more than superficial level. She tries to break out of her shell, but repeated rejection from people who don’t make an effort to understand May’s shyness and awkwardness leave May feeling even more alone than before. Like her mother told her though, “if you can’t find a friend, make one.” So she does…

Miriam – Hush…..Hush Sweet Charlotte (1964)

The role of Charlotte was originally given to Joan Crawford, who was pissed to learn from tabloids that it was given to Olivia de Havilland instead.

Charlotte is threatened with losing her home and her mind all at once. Cousin Miriam comes to the rescue, reassuring Charlotte that no one will take the home. She helps Charlotte fight against the highway commissioners. She even brings a doctor to help aid her cousin’s mental health. While seeming to put Charlotte’s life back together, Miriam is actually tearing it apart. She successfully gaslights Charlotte while using familial bonds as a distraction. Bonds that broke long ago under the strain of jealousy.  

Beverly – Serial Mom (1994)

While Michael Douglas tried to talk Kathleen Turner out of the role, she ended up shining as Beverly Sutphin.

Beverly has the perfect manners and makes perfect meals. In simple terms, she is the perfect mom. This housewife takes overprotective to a new level. She kills anyone who threatens her family, even in the smallest of ways. She dotes on her kids and husband by cooking them meals and cleaning their home. She also kills whoever may cause stress in their life. To protect them from embarrassment or heartbreak, she stops a few hearts herself. Killing is the kindness she offers. To Beverly, it is a necessary cleansing. Not only for her family but also to uphold the values of the community at large.  

Jerry – The Stepfather (1987)

The film is inspired by John Emil List, a serial killer who changed his identity after killing his family. He lived under a new identity with a new family for 18 years before being discovered.

Jerry is the missing piece that completes the perfect suburban family. He is also the missing piece of his actual family. The one he slaughtered before fleeing under a new identity. He continues to move from one dysfunctional family to another. He plays the role of the perfect father, leaving a blood trail behind him. Meeting resistance from his new stepdaughter, he tries to manufacture happiness through bonding. They eventually grow closer, building a birdhouse together to symbolize the creation of a happy home. He is even there for her when she is grieving. He consoles her as she mourns her psychiatrist, who he secretly killed himself. Eventually, not even Jerry knows who he is. Though the audience knows he is a kind killer ruthlessly searching for familial bliss that, like his alter ego, does not really exist. 

Leonard – Knock at the Cabin (2023)

Dave Bautista as Leonard in Knock at the Cabin (2023).
Dave Bautista plays Leonard in Knock at the Cabin.

Knock at the Cabin is an apocalyptic psychological horror movie from M. Night Shyamalan (based on the book The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay). The film follows a couple, Eric and Andrew, and their daughter Sabrina when they become victims of a home invasion during a trip to an isolated cabin in the woods. The four people who break into the family’s cabin are led by Leonard, a man with an imposing figure but a surprisingly gentle demeanor. Without spoiling too much of the movie’s twisty premise, Leonard gently asks the family to make a sacrifice in order to save the world. With each refusal, Leonard is forced to kill, but he doesn’t want to. Leonard just wants everyone to live.

More Kind Killers 

M3GAN is an AI robot here for a little girl who needs her–but doesn’t mind taking care of anyone who gets in the way.
  • Hedy Single White Female (1992), the friendship between two roommates morphs into something more sinister when one begins to dress like the other. Hedy’s possessive obsessiveness becomes more extreme until both lives implode with dire consequences.  
  • Lori SpenglerHappy Death Day (2017), killer intentions hide behind the friendliest of faces when a college student’s day repeats itself. She relives the same day until she uncovers her murderer. 
  • M3GAN M3GAN (2022), a young girl befriends a robotic doll, who will do anything to keep her safe and happy.

Meet The Author

Kasey Rae is an artist, writer, and filmmaker, residing in the mountains of New York. Her favorite horror films are Nightmare on Elm Street and The Descent.