Just as the literature-inspired shooters of the 70s and 80s were probably crazy long before they picked up a copy of Catcher on the Rye, the psychos who claim a movie drove them to kill were probably psycho long before screening Psycho. (But hey, you never know.) These are six films that supposedly pushed people over the edge.
1. William Friedkin's BUG
This creepy but not entirely successful 2006 psycho-thriller about paranoia and insect infestations was directed by William Friedkin, most famous for The Exorcist. Despite dealing with a few murders and plenty of craziness in its own plot, the crime it inspired was considerably more horrific and strange. In January, blaring headlines like "Millionaire executive unhinged by horror film killed daughter" announced the tragedy, apparently trigged as stressed-out insurance executive Alberto Izaga watched Bug in a theater with his wife. (It was the only movie playing that had available seats; perhaps this tragedy could've been avoided, ironically, if the film were more popular?) Soon after, his wife would find him babbling incoherently in the middle of the night, shouting about the film, the Devil and death. Experiencing what his wife would call an "extreme and sudden" breakdown, he bludgeoned his two-year-old daughter to death while yelling "God doesn't exist! The universe doesn't exist! Humanity doesn't exist!" Judged not guilty by reason of insanity, the judge passed sentence thusly: "This is a truly agonizing case. No sentence I pass can ever match the sentence you will pass on yourself."
2. The Matrix and the Landlady Effect
The Matrix and its many sequels are deadly films. Deadly not only in terms of pacing, plot development and believability (the sequels especially), but also, strangely, to landladies. Claiming they had been "sucked into the Matrix," a Swedish exchange student, Vadim Mieseges, and an Ohio woman, Tonda Lynn Ansley, attacked their landladies in an attempt to free themselves from mind control. Both plead (and were granted) insanity, and thus liberated from the Matrix (and, one would assume, their leases), they're "free" to spend the rest of their lives in mental hospitals.
Yes, even parodies of horror movies can inspire people to kill. In fact, the list of murders attributed to this film is shockingly long and the crimes especially grotesque; this truncated version is from Crimelibrary:
A boy and his cousin in Los Angeles obsessed with the film murdered his mother by stabbing her 45 times; a man wearing the mask shot and killed a woman in Florida; a boy in France killed his parents while acting as Ghostface; and in England, a pair of boys repeatedly stabbed a third one, claiming the film had prompted them to do it.
4. The Ten Commandments
Admittedly, this isn't a film you'd expect to find on this list, nor associated with such brutal crimes. It was a more innocent time, perhaps: in 1959, a serial rapist and killer dubbed the "the Beast of the Black Forest" was striking fear into West German hearts. Caught when he carelessly took a bloodstained suit to a tailor for mending (and left behind a briefcase containing a sawed-off shotgun), under interrogation 23-year-old Heinrich Pommerencke would blame his lust crimes on Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments, especially noting a scene in which scantily-clad women dance around a golden calf. (That's when he "knew he had to kill," he said.)
5. Taxi Driver
John Hinckley, Jr., President Reagan's would-be assassin in 1981, has the rare distinction of claiming he was influenced not only by a book (Catcher in the Rye, naturally) but a film: Taxi Driver. The latter certainly has more parallels to Hinckley's crime: Robert DeNiro stars as a lonely, obsessive taxi driver who hatches a plot to kill a prominent politician, but ends up unleashing his rage on a warren of local pimps, thus saving the waifish, gold-hearted prostitute played by Jodie Foster from a life of iniquity. Hinckley got the story a little backwards, claiming that he needed to shoot Ronald Reagan in order to "impress" real-life Foster (not a prostitute), with whom he was obsessed. (Nobody said psychos were logical.)
6. Natural Born Killers
This film has the dubious distinction of having "inspired" more killings than perhaps any other; the real-life body count is likely higher than that of Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis' nihilistic killers in the film. They include a copycat Bonnie-and-Clyde style rampage which left one man dead and another woman paralyzed, a teenager's decapitation, a gang killing and two infamous school shootings -- Michael Carneal's Paducah, Kentucky rampage and Eric Harris and Dylan Kleibold's massacre at Columbine High School; the latter used the term "going NBK" in reference to their murderous plans.