Every Portrayal Of Jeffrey Dahmer Ranked Worst To Best

What compels a person to commit the heinous crimes of someone like Jeffrey Dahmer? That's the question that keeps audiences returning again and again to the story of one of America's most notorious serial killers, and what any actor must address when taking on the Dahmer role. Arrested in 1991 and sentenced to 16 life sentences for killing, dismembering, and eating some remains of 17 young men and boys, Dahmer was himself murdered in prison in 1994 by another inmate (via Biography).

Since the Dahmer story broke, a number of true-crime documentary films, shows, books, and articles have been written, along with a half-dozen fictionalized accounts of the killings. The first dramatized movie was released one year before Dahmer was killed, and among the most recent is the 10-part Netflix series "Dahmer –- Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story," starring Evan Peters (pictured) in the lead role (via IMDb). From future stars of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to actors perhaps most well-known as Dahmer, here's every portrayal of Milwaukee's notorious serial killer, ranked from worst to best.

'Raising Jeffrey Dahmer,' Rusty Sneary, 2006

Though Rusty Sneary, who took on the role of Dahmer in 2006 went on to appear in a few feature films such as 2008's "Suspension," he is perhaps most known for his take on adult Dahmer in the movie "Raising Jeffrey Dahmer." The movie examines the childhood of the infamous serial killer, as it searches for answers for what in Dahmer's family life — if anything — could have predicted the monster the boy would one day become (via IMDb). It also stars Scott Cordes as Dahmer's father, Lionel Dahmer.

The relationship between a young Dahmer and his father is where the film's largely focused (per IMDb). Putting the father's experience second to the perspective of Dahmer never let Sneary fully inhabit the role, and the acting overall, including Sneary's portrayal, gets roundly panned. So, too, does the script, as it relies too heavily on flashbacks and focuses too much on Dahmer's childhood rather than the crimes he would go on to commit. The film never made it to mainstream theaters but in 2008 it was released straight to DVD. The acting is terrible, and the script is even worse.–

'The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer,' Carl Crew, 1993

The first dramatized retelling of the Dahmer murders, "The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer," came out in 1993, after Dahmer was sentenced — but one year before he was killed in prison (via IMDb). Starring Carl Crew in the lead role — who also wrote the script but never really went on to take on any other film roles of note — the film faithfully recreates the story of the Dahmer murders, how Dahmer committed his crimes and met his victims, and what the inside of his apartment was like when he was finally caught.

The movie is dated with '90s-era production values and a shaky script, but many point toward Crew's performance as a high point, and his performance alone justified where we placed it in our ranking. Though admirable and the best part of the movie according to many reviewers, Crew's performance alone can't save a movie considered such a dud. Put up with the over-the-top performances from some Dahmer victims, though, and you may find yourself asking what happened to Crew, and why his career didn't seem to last longer.

'My Friend Dahmer' Ross Lynch, 2017

Based on the 2012 nonfiction graphic novel "My Friend Dahmer" by John "Derf" Backderf, who was friends with Dahmer in high school, former Disney Channel star Ross Lynch's portrayal of Dahmer is largely confined to the killer's teenage years (via IMDb). As a result, the 2017 movie "My Friend Dahmer" never covers Dahmer's killings, leaving Lynch playing a teenage social misfit rather than what he would one day become. Set in the late `70s, the overall script is strong, though, and so, too, are the performances, as Lynch brings a mix of desperation and dread to the role (per IMDb).

Dahmer's teenage interest in roadkill and killing and dissolving animals in acid, as Dahmer would do to his adult victims, are depicted in "My Friend Dahmer," but otherwise, some found the interiority of the Dahmer character to be lacking, It all amounts to a well-done, though creepy, coming of age story rather than an examination of Dahmer's murders. Lynch does nail the serial killer's posture and movements, as his dysfunctional family takes most of the blame for not seeing the troubling signs sooner. As the movie ends where Dahmer's murders begin, one wonders what Lynch could be capable of if the storyline were allowed to continue.

'Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story' Evan Peters 2022

With Dahmer played by Evan Peters ("X-Men," "WandaVision") the 2022 10-part Netflix documentary series, "Dahmer –- Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story" covers Dahmer's crimes from the perspective of the victims, as well as the alleged incompetency of law enforcement some blame for not stopping Dahmer's killing spree sooner (via IMDb). As far as Peter's performance, everything is covered from his childhood trauma to what made Dahmer capable of such a horrific crime spree.

Just like Dahmer, Peters confesses everything he did in detail, and audiences plainly see that if mental help were there sooner, or if law enforcement had paid more attention to reports of Dahmer's crimes, then lives could have been saved. Peters' performance is nuanced as he recreates the flat affect Dahmer was known for. It starts with Dahmer's 1991 arrest, and though the performances are overall strong, Dahmer himself is only one-half of what the show is about. The rest focuses on police procedural drama and the victims' experiences — who were largely ignored as they turned to law enforcement for help (per IMDb).

'Dahmer,' Jeremy Renner, 2002

In 2002, Jeremy Renner ("The Hurt Locker") — who would go on to play MCU superhero Hawkeye on film and TV — took on the role of Dahmer in a faithful biopic of the killer and his crimes. According to some viewers, the film didn't delve far enough into Dahmer's psychology, but Renner's performance is real and absorbing, helped by a script that largely steers clear of blood and gore and focuses instead on the troubling and lonely lifestyle Dahmer led in the midst of his killing spree (via IMDb).

Some call Renner's performance as Dahmer a little too likable for their tastes, but in many regards, it's the best reason to see the film. He plays Dahmer as a soft-spoken misfit, electric and intense when he needs to be, with the piercing eyes Renner is known for, as he plays Dahmer both as an adult and as a teenager (per IMDb). A more humanized — but far from sympathetic — take on one of the most brutal serial killers in history, with a strong script and even better performance from Renner, 2002's "Dahmer" is without a doubt the best portrayal of the serial killer to date.