Sir Phillip Anthony Hopkins is cited as an acting icon due to his profound performances on both the stage and screen. He has come under the direction of many great filmmakers, such as David Lynch, Oliver Stone, and Steven Spielberg, to name just a few. With that, taking his Hollywood credentials further, Hopkins has also gone beyond acting roles by directing and producing movies to yet more success.
Throughout his acting career, Hopkins has given award-winning performances in movies of all genres and styles, establishing himself as one of the most prolific actors in the business. While most of his accolades came from the realms of drama, Hopkins helped create cinema history by winning an Oscar for his performance in Silence of the Lambs — which also became the first and only horror to win Best Picture at the prestigious event.
The Welsh actor’s appearance in the horror genre spans decades. His roles range from supernatural beings to killers with a taste for flesh, scaring and unsettling his audiences in individual scenes alone. Let’s go through the best of one of the best in the business and select the top scariest Hopkins moments.
Anthony Hopkins’ five best horror movie moments:
5. The Wolfman (Joe Johnston, 2010)
Director Joe Johnson remade George Waggner’s 1941 Universal classic The Wolfman with more blood and guts over stylised suspense. Benicio del Toro (who also produced the film) takes on the role of Lawrence, who is cursed by a Lycanthrope’s bite.
The lycanthrope responsible is revealed to be Hopkins’ Sir John, Lawrence’s father, who was bitten by a feral cursed child years ago. The two soon come to blows in a vicious supernatural creature fight, with Lawrence’s transformation being slow and painful as he rejects the change, whereas Sir John welcomes it to shed himself of any humanity. The fight is brutal and bloody. Sir John meets a gruesome end at the hands of his cub.
4. Hannibal (Ridley Scott, 2001)
Hopkins’ performance as cannibalistic killer Hannibal Lecter is a landmark in not only the horror genre, but all of American filmmaking. His second portrayal of the character, created by novelist Thomas Harris, came in the sequel to Johnathon Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs (1991), ten years after his first.
Despite the sequel falling rather flat compared to its predecessor, there are some chilling sequences to offer. One is the origin story of Mason Verger (Gary Oldman), an alleged sex offender who shares his horrific encounter with Hannibal. Flashbacks show the two engaging with substances to the point of Verger losing a solid grip of reality, which Hannibal immediately takes advantage of and tempts his companion to cut off his own face to be made into dog food. The scene’s material is almost too gruesome to stay looking at the screen and exemplifies the extreme level Hannibal Lecter goes to with his victims.
3. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Francis Ford Coppola,1992)
Hopkins experiments with some classic ’90s gothic style in Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of the classic vampire novel. He takes on the role of the infamous vampire hunter Abraham Van Hesling, who is tasked with revealing vital information to Keanu Reeves and Wynona Ryder to defeat Gary Oldman’s Count Dracula.
Hopkins’ interpretation of the character is direct and doesn’t hide from the details, no matter how unsettling they are. The scene where he explains the truth about vampires to Jonathan and Mina (Reeves and Ryder, respectively) shows his bluntness, as he lets rip at all the gory details of the Count’s acts.
2. Magic (Richard Attenborough, 1978)
This psychological thriller tells the story of Ventriloquist Charles (Hopkins), who finds himself tortured by and at the mercy of his dummy Fats (voice acted by Hopkins).
One scene where this comes through is the ‘five minutes’ sequence, an emphasis on the emotional control Charles’ dummy has over him. Charles is instructed to keep Fats silent for five minutes, something the audience prays for him to complete. Richard Attenborough’s direction leads the film to concern itself with a deafening silent tension, carried out through the dynamic of Hopkins’ two main roles. The scene comes to a tragic end as Charles fails and submits to Fats’ voice, showing he has lost his sense of self.
1. The Silence of the Lambs (Jonathon Demme, 1991)
Hopkins’ first portrayal of the cannibal in The Silence of the Lambs in the early ’90s terrified audiences and impressed the academy despite being a horror. Despite having less than an hour of screen time, Hopkins stole the show and became one of the most iconic horror villains in history as he provides FBI trainee Clarice (Jodie Foster) with information about a killer she is searching for.
The scene in which Clarice and the audience first meet Hannibal is a masterclass of horror filmmaking due to how it creates a suspenseful tone and shows every terrifying thing to know about the character. Hopkins’ performance displays the manipulation tactics Hannibal uses to gain control of the situation and strike fear into Clarice. He shows the mental workings of the character by switching from charming and sophisticated to cruel and spiteful, all done through expression and tone, setting the scene alight with a cold and dangerous atmosphere.