Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of Hannibal Lecter in Silence of The Lambs made the character famous, but some say Hannibal star Mads Mikkelsen bests him. Hannibal began life in a popular series of novels by author Thomas Harris, but unsurprisingly, it’s the movie and TV versions of the cannibalistic character that the majority of people recognize. Book lovers may not like that, but it’s the truth, as it’s easier to fit a movie or episode into the average person’s busy life than it is to find time to read a novel.
It’s not really debatable that when most hear the name Hannibal Lecter, the image that pops into their head is Hopkins’ rendition of the not so good doctor. The Silence of the Lambs was a critical and commercial smash, cleaned up at the Oscars, and is arguably one of the greatest films ever made. Hopkins is a big factor in that success, despite not really being in the film that long, as he makes every second count.
When a Hannibal TV show was announced, many fans scoffed at the idea that Hopkins could be replaced in the role, at least until they saw Mads Mikkelsen’s mesmerizing take. So, once and for all, it’s time to determine who played Hannibal better, Hopkins or Mikkelsen?
Who Was A Better Hannibal? Anthony Hopkins Vs. Mads Mikkelsen
It’s important to note right away that this is not a battle of who’s most iconic. For the reasons mentioned above, Anthony Hopkins easily wins that race. However, part of the reason so many fans came to love Mads Mikkelsen’s Hannibal performance is just how differently he plays it than Hopkins. Mikkelsen is much more understated in the role, and also speaks with a thick accent that more closely fits Hannibal’s roots in eastern Europe. While Hopkins always seems like a viper waiting to strike, albeit a charmingly sophisticated one, it’s hard to imagine how he was able to pass as normal for so long before being caught. Mikkelsen’s Hannibal is more subtly manipulative, and calmer, all while being no less dangerous.
This difference can’t just be chalked up to Hopkins’ Hannibal being locked up and Mikkelsen’s being free, and for the first two seasons, uncaught, either. When Hopkins’ Hannibal is living freely in Italy in the 2001 Hannibal movie, there still always seems to be something off about him, especially in the way he looks at people like a hungry shark. Mikkelsen’s Hannibal, even once caught and caged, still mostly maintains his calm demeanor, and calculating way of getting into people’s heads. In a bizarre way, it’s not hard to see why both men and women seem to become infatuated with him so quickly, even if the occasional red flag emerges alluding to his secret life.
However, while Mikkelsen’s Hannibal is probably creepier and more seductive, Hopkins’ Hannibal is scarier, in the sense that when he becomes enraged, all bets are off and he will absolutely go berserk. His rampage at the end of Silence of the Lambs is legendary for good reason. It’s a close call, but we feel Mikkelsen just barely edges out Hopkins in overall performance, also excelling when called upon to be menacing. Still, both performances are great in their own ways, and fans can’t go wrong with either.