The Silence of the Lambs: Favorite Lecter Lines

“Believe me, you don’t want Hannibal Lecter inside your head.”

So said Jack Crawford to Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs (1991), the film that made Hannibal Lecter a horror icon thanks to the Oscar-winning performance of Anthony Hopkins. Hopkins’ seductive, hypnotic portrayal of the genius psychiatrist and cannibalistic psycho killer left audiences spellbound (and paved the way for numerous Hannibal parodies and impersonations), even though he’s on screen for barely a total of 16 minutes.

One of the best things about Hannibal Lecter is he gets all the good lines. Anthony Hopkins brings his Shakespearean training to the role of The Silence of the Lambs, making every word sound like music. Here are some of our favorite bits of the good doctor’s Wit and Wisdom. Ta-ta, and enjoy.

The Greatest Psyche Profile Ever:

“You know what you look like to me, with your good bag and your cheap shoes? You look like a rube. A well-scrubbed, hustling rube with a little taste. Good nutrition’s given you some length of bone, but you’re not more than one generation from poor white trash, are you, Agent Starling? And that accent you’ve tried so desperately to shed: pure West Virginia. What is your father, dear? Is he a coal miner? Does he stink of the lamp? And, oh, how quickly the boys found you… all those tedious, sticky fumblings in the back seats of cars… while you could only dream of getting out… getting anywhere… getting all the way to the F.B.I.”

Fodder For the Parodists:

“A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.”

Public Relations:

“Five foot ten, strongly built, about a hundred and eighty pounds; hair blonde, eyes pale blue. He’d be about thirty-five now. He said he lived in Philadelphia, but he may have lied. That’s all I can remember, mum, but if I think of any more, I will let you know. Oh, and Senator, just one more thing: Love your suit.”

Training the Trainee:

Hannibal Lecter: First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing ask: What is it in itself? What is its nature? What does he do, this man you seek?

Clarice Starling: He kills women…

Hannibal Lecter: No. That is incidental. What is the first and principal thing he does? What needs does he serve by killing?

Clarice Starling: Anger, um, social acceptance, and, uh, sexual frustrations, sir…

Hannibal Lecter: No! He covets. That is his nature. And how do we begin to covet, Clarice? Do we seek out things to covet? Make an effort to answer now.

Clarice Starling: No. We just…

Hannibal Lecter: No. We begin by coveting what we see every day. Don’t you feel eyes moving over your body, Clarice? And don’t your eyes seek out the things you want?

Final Words… For Now:

“I do wish we could chat longer, but… I’m having an old friend for dinner. Bye.”

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