The 10 Best Movies Inspired by Jack the Ripper, Ranked

Here are some of the best filmic takes on Jack the Ripper, the most famous serial killer whose identity remains unknown to this day.
The 10 Best Movies Inspired by Jack the Ripper, Ranked

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Not many people can claim the top spot of anything in the world, but Jack the Ripper can—as the most renowned serial killer in history. And he was only active for four months! Plus, never caught.

Indeed, the identity of Jack the Ripper was never discovered. The mystery of his name, motive, and subsequent whereabouts have fascinated the public ever since his last (known) murder in 1888, capping off his spree of mutilating prostitutes in the East End of London.

Papers and cartoons ridiculed the incompetence of police and drew attention to the poor conditions of Whitechapel. Fake confessions flooded Scotland Yard, including the infamous "Saucy Jack" and "From Hell" letters.

Over the years, more than a hundred men have been suspected as Jack the Ripper. So mythical is he that the legendary figure of Victorian Britain has made his way into the London Dungeons, fright nights, stage plays, Ripper Walks, books, and, of course, movies.

Here are my picks for the best movies inspired by Jack the Ripper, from comedic modern spins to experimental horrors from decades ago.

10. Shanghai Knights (2003)

Directed by David Dobkin

Starring Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Fann Wong

Action, Adventure, Comedy (1h 54m)

6.2 on IMDb66% on RT

Most can agree that Shanghai Noon is a B-list version of Rush Hour, complete with a white dude instead of Chris Tucker. But it's still a funny two hours to indulge yourself in.

Three years later, we got a sequel in Shanghai Knights, which isn't as good as Shanghai Noon but stands out for having several clever nods to real historical figures, including Jack the Ripper.

Away from the desert plains of Nevada, director David Dobkin reintroduces us to Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson as the bumbling, crime-fighting duo—this time in Victorian England.

There, we meet Charlie Chaplin, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Queen Victoria, and Jack the Ripper himself (though admittedly only as a cameo, played by Oliver Cotton). Did you manage to spot him?

9. Hands of the Ripper (1971)

Directed by Peter Sasdy

Starring Eric Porter, Angharad Rees, Jane Merrow

Horror (1h 25m)

6.2 on IMDb88% on RT

Have you ever considered that Jack the Ripper might have been a woman? Jackie Ripper, perhaps? What if...

Well, no, because what little evidence Scotland Yard did manage to scrape together all point firmly to a white guy, likely between the ages of 25 and 40. However, in Hands of the Ripper, Peter Sasdy's artistry proposes that Jack the Ripper might've had a daughter!

After witnessing her mother's murder at just two years old, Anna (played by Angharad Rees) grows up understandably disturbed—and ends up continuing her father's legacy.

Because Anna's murder sprees happen in a trance-like state, Dr. John Pritchard (played by Eric Porter) believes he can cure her condition. Hands of the Ripper is a gory Gothic tale from the heyday of British horror company Hammer Film Productions.

8. Jack's Back (1988)

Directed by Rowdy Herrington

Starring James Spader, Cynthia Gibb, Jim Haynie

Crime, Horror, Mystery (1h 37m)

5.8 on IMDb71% on RT

To celebrate—if that can even be the right word for it—the 100th anniversary of Jack the Ripper, Rowdy Herrington directed a very 80s horror for his feature debut.

In Jack's Back, a copycat killer is on the loose in Los Angeles, commemorating a century since the original Whitechapel murders.

James Spader is at the center of it all as the twin Wesford brothers, one of whom is a suspect and the other claiming to see visions that prove his innocence. But you would say that about your brother, wouldn't you?

Not just a little bit tacky, Jack's Back also has way too much fun playing with its plot twist. But when a film loves exploring its narrative possibilities as much as this one does, you can't help but enjoy watching!

7. Time After Time (1979)

Directed by Nicholas Meyer

Starring Malcolm McDowell, Mary Steenburgen, David Warner

Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi (1h 52m)

7.1 on IMDb88% on RT

There are several common themes that regularly come up in Jack the Ripper films. They're usually somewhat trashy, very much slashy, and incorporate other famous historical figures.

That last part is presumably done to fill out the gaping holes in Leather Apron's historicity, and the last thing we need is yet another recounting of the few facts we do know. That's what makes Time After Time so unique as far as these kinds of films go.

Described as a "manhunt through time," this lesser-known sci-fi flick brings time travel and H. G. Wells to the table for a fun take on this not-so-fun historical event.

Malcolm McDowell plays a British author who pursues Jacky (played by David Warner) from 1893 to 1979. In some ways, Time After Time is essentially Back to the Future meets The Time Machine!

6. Edge of Sanity (1989)

Directed by Gérard Kikoïne

Starring Anthony Perkins, Glynis Barber, Sarah Maur Ward

Drama, Horror, Thriller (1h 30m)

5.3 on IMDb33% on RT

Edge of Sanity is another example of a crossover between Jack the Ripper and another known figure, this one featuring Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in a surrealist horror that errs on the experimental.

Anthony Perkins plays both the 19th century doctor and his madman counterpart—"twins of terror" according to the trailer—who kills prostitutes while high on ether and cocaine.

Clearly a deviation from the classic novella by Robert Louis Stevenson (rumors say it was written during a six-day bender), Edge of Sanity isn't supposed to be a serious horror but rather another piece of macabre creative imagination that toys with Jack's identity.

5. Batman: Gotham By Gaslight (2018)

Directed by Sam Liu

Starring Bruce Greenwood, Jennifer Carpenter, Anthony Head

Animation, Action, Adventure (1h 18m)

6.7 on IMDb75% on RT

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse proved how far animation could go in bringing comic books to life in dazzling ways.

Overshadowed by Miles Morales's web-swinging was Batman: Gotham By Gaslight, which was released in the same year and ranked fairly highly in the DC Animated Universe... even if only DC fans have heard of it.

Authentic to the standalone source material by Brian Augustyn and Mike Mignola, Sam Liu presents us with a surprisingly unique depiction of Gotham City that's set during the Victorian period.

Batman has always caught flak from Gotham residents, so they naturally assume he's the killer when The Ripper breaks loose. And, as usual, it's up to Batman (voiced by Bruce Greenwood) to prove them all wrong.

4. The Lodger (1944)

Directed by John Brahm

Starring Laird Cregar, Merle Oberon, George Sanders

Crime, Horror, Mystery (1h 24m)

7.1 on IMDbN/A on RT

Marie Belloc Lowndes's short story, titled The Lodger, was first published in 1911. Since then, it has been adapted to the big screen numerous times, including in 1927, 1932, 1944, 1953, 1967, 2009... and that doesn't even include television or radio!

John Brahm's revision is one of the better takes, starring Laird Cregar as Mr. Slade, an oddball tenant whose eccentricities become concerning in the face of Jack the Ripper headlines.

In growing close to the landlord's daughter—whose profile overlaps with The Ripper's mounting victims—Mr. Slade eventually becomes the prime suspect of Whitechapel.

The Lodger isn't quite the bone-chilling horror it sets out to be, trapped by the melodramatics of 1940s cinema, but the framing is gorgeously haunting and Cregar's performance is creepy, to say the least!

3. From Hell (2001)

Directed by Albert Hughes and Allen Hughes

Starring Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Ian Holm

Horror, Mystery, Thriller (2h 2m)

6.7 on IMDb57% on RT

The title of From Hell refers to the "Lusk Letter" that was sent to the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee alongside a pickled human kidney. Claiming to be signed by Jack the Ripper, it was one of the few (likely hoax) letters that Ripperology has taken seriously.

Based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, From Hell fictionalizes the events of the East End, zooming in on one of Jack's most famous victims: Mary Kelly (played by Heather Graham).

Johnny Depp makes From Hell the most well-known Ripper flick around, playing the central junkie detective who's investigating Saucy Jack and happens to inconveniently fall for Kelly along the way.

2. Murder By Decree (1979)

Directed by Bob Clark

Starring Christopher Plummer, James Mason, David Hemmings

Crime, Mystery, Thriller (2h 4m)

6.8 on IMDb86% on RT

Literally hundreds of theories have been put forward as to who Jack the Ripper really was, from Queen Victoria's grandson Prince Albert Victor to the homicidal Russian doctor Michael Ostrog.

The attraction of Ripperology lies in its wide-open possibilities, giving filmmakers full rein to imagine the many potential identities.

Murder By Decree takes its idea of Freemasonry involvement from Stephen Knight's (since disproved) Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution, but has Sherlock Holmes presenting it. If anyone's going to untangle the Ripper clues, it's Sherlock Holmes—even if he's made up!

In Murder By Decree, Christopher Plummer gives us a sophisticated rendition of the Victorian "consulting detective," with James Mason playing his doctor-sidekick John Watson.

1. The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927)

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Starring Marie Ault, Arthur Chesney, June Tripp

Crime, Drama, Mystery (1h 32m)

7.3 on IMDb96% on RT

The best film adaptation of Lowndes's short story is also my top pick. Why? Because it's by Alfred Hitchcock! And not only that, it was his first-ever thriller, sparking a domino effect that would establish Hitchcock as not just a cinematic legend but the father of thrillers.

You could also view The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog as Hitchcock's true directorial debut because his previous attempt was a flop. This one was a resounding success, filling viewers with such unease that their nerve endings were tingling—even without any sound!

The still image of Ivor Novello standing in a smoky doorway is disquieting even today, and the cinematography was unmatched for its time, especially the transparent ceiling scene.

Regarded as the first modern thriller, it's lucky that Hitchcock never rebooted The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog like he wanted to!