The most faithful film depiction of psychopathy according to the FBI

(Credit: Paramount Pictures)


Psychopaths are everywhere so please beware! Aside from being a passable album title, there’s also more than a grain of truth to that line, even the FBI are asserting it. In fact, there is a scientific certainty that a psychopath has read this very article. Perhaps it’s even you. After all, a lot of leading psychologists estimate that one in 20 people can be classified as a psychopath. The good thing is, if you’re emotionally intelligent enough to be questioning yourself right now, then the likelihood is that you’re fine. 

Although estimates vary wildly, and that one in 20 figure is disputed, the most accepted bassline put forward by Oxford University states that 1% of the western populous are psychopaths. That’s one in a hundred. That’s at least one on your street, at least one in your average office and a plethora of the bastards in government. In fact, a lot about society actually happens to reward these looneys so you see the concentration increase in a lot of high-ranking positions. 

Contrary to the blood guts and mayhem of deranged nutjobs in slasher movies, real-life psychopathy sports a much more multifaceted front. The standard notion of measuring psychopathy is a checklist of twenty categories first devised by legendary psychologist Dr Robert D. Hare. 

You can see the list of points, below. And it might be worth measuring yourself and those you know against the factors that make up the uncaring villains:

• Glib and superficial charm.
• Grandiose (exaggeratedly high) estimation of self.
• Need for stimulation.
• Pathological lying.
• Cunning and manipulativeness.
• Lack of remorse or guilt.
• Shallow affect (superficial emotional responsiveness).
• Callousness and lack of empathy.
• Parasitic lifestyle.
• Poor behavioural controls.
• Sexual promiscuity.
• Early behaviour problems.
• Lack of realistic long-term goals.
• Impulsivity.
• Irresponsibility.
• Failure to accept responsibility for own actions.
• Many short-term marital relationships.
• Juvenile delinquency.
• Revocation of conditional release.
• Criminal versatility.

FBI profilers use these points to score a suspect or criminal on their scale of psychological assessment. If this is the measure for real-life psychopaths, how do the silver screen’s most unsettled characters stack up on the scales? Fortunately, we don’t have to wonder because as part of the Channel 4 documentary, Psychopath Night, the very same FBI profilers who deal with real-world threats to society delved into the dark world of movie fiction to do a spot of rather less consequential analysing.

According to their result, the most realistic psychopath in movie history is a clown who wages war on a bat. Pithiness aside, the beauty of Christopher Nolan’s epic Dark Knight saga was that it transposed the comic book genre onto a thriller as opposed to the other way around, creating a costumed allegory of real-world criminology. As the experts reveal, if you take away the obvious fiction, you are left with a perfectly psychopathic result.

The first scene alone depicts the Joker with all of his check-listed evil on full display. The heist style in question is referred to by the FBI as ‘a takeover robbery’, with all the fireworks and thrills that psychopaths love (need for stimulation). The FBI opine that this approach is actually entirely unnecessary when it comes to getting the job done, displaying poor behavioural controls on the part of the perpetrators. 

Then to ram the point of this clown’s psychopathy home further, he kills his associates without a single jot of remorse, but neither does he relish the act, it is a simple lack of emotional response that we see. To cap it all off, he is rattling off puns like fellow psycho James Bond in a fine display of superficial charm. In fact, his make-up even displays this in a clever literal sense. 

The Joker has no fear about anything, no bones about killing, and a patently apparent lust for thrills. Thankfully with it being fiction, his insatiable sensation-seeking provides more than enough popcorn thrills for audiences to devour. But I temper this with a note of caution: if The Joker is the most true to life psycho in movies and 1% of everybody out there shares the same make-up, then best to approach shady streets like a midget at a urinal, on your toes. 

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