‘This Is the Zodiac Speaking’: Films Based on the True Story of a Serial Killer

Since his reign of terror began in the late 1960s, the story of This Is the Zodiac Speaking, who murdered five people (that we know of) in Northern California and whose identity remains a mystery, has enthralled filmmakers. This is partly due to his techniques, partly due to his direct interaction with police and media investigations, and partly due to the fact that he was never apprehended.

He was never properly recognized, which means he may still be alive today for all we know. As a result, the Zodiac’s horrific past has captivated artists’ imaginations for decades, whether through literal depictions or tales and figures based on him.

In reality, it may be just a weird coincidence, but the latest film to feature a killer modeled after the Zodiac–Matt Reeves’ The Batman, in which Reeves reimagines classic Batman villain the Riddler as a psychotic yet methodical murderer who enjoys leaving coded messages–comes out exactly 15 years after director David Fincher’s epic overview of the Zodiac case.

Fincher’s picture, simply named Zodiac, was released on March 2, 2007, and served as the final big Hollywood production before Reeves’ superhero thriller to explore the legacy of California’s famed and still unsolved mystery.

However, during the previous 50 years, a number of films and TV series have made references to the Zodiac, ranging from a 1971 pornographic film called Zombie Rapist (we know, awful) to many episodes of American Horror Story, Criminal Minds, and Riverdale, to name a few.

Only a few big motion movies, including Zodiac, have truly drawn inspiration from the historical event and possibly matched the horrific essence of the original Zodiac killings themselves.

Let’s take a look at the killer’s legacy in pop culture, especially since Fincher’s film is on our thoughts and The Batman comes out this week.