Analysis of Silence of the lambs

Summary In this movie, FBI agent Clarice Starling engages in a shootout, successfully disarming a suspect. She is then assigned to interview serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter and is warned of the dangers. Clarice interviews Dr. Lecter at the asylum and later investigates a storage unit, discovering a severed head. She negotiates with Dr. Lecter and offers him a deal to find another killer. Clarice opens up to her superior about her frustrations and plans to return to school. Clarice and her team transfer Dr. Lecter to a new location and he agrees to help. However, Clarice's attempts to escape fail and she is reprimanded. She confronts Dr. Lecter, shares a childhood flashback, and seeks his help again. Clarice recalls a traumatic childhood experience before being removed from the case. In another scene, Clarice confronts Dr. Lecter in his cell, hoping he will help catch Buffalo Bill, but he uses her past to taunt her. Dr. Lecter escapes from his cell, and Clarice discovers a crucial link in the Buffalo Bill case. She is suspended but remains determined to save the next victim and receives support from Crawford. Clarice confronts the killer at his house, but he escapes into the basement where a captive is held. This leads to a shocking discovery and a struggle in darkness.

Screenplay Story Analysis

Story Critique The overall story of the screenplay is captivating and intense, with strong tension and suspense throughout. The character development of Clarice Starling is well-executed, showcasing her determination and resourcefulness. The interaction between Clarice and Dr. Lecter is particularly engaging, with moments of psychological manipulation and intrigue. The pacing of the story is well-maintained, keeping the audience hooked. However, the screenplay could benefit from a more distinctive and memorable antagonist in Buffalo Bill. Additionally, some scenes could be further developed to enhance emotional impact and character depth. Overall, the screenplay has a solid foundation with room for improvement.
  • Consider developing the character of Buffalo Bill to make them more memorable and impactful.
  • Explore opportunities to deepen emotional impact and character depth in key scenes.
  • Ensure a consistent tone and pacing throughout the screenplay for a cohesive viewing experience.
  • Consider incorporating more unexpected twists or surprises into the plot to keep the audience engaged.

Note: This is the overall critique. For scene by scene critique click here

Characters in the screenplay, and their arcs:

Clarice Starling

Clarice Starling is a determined and diligent FBI agent. She is skilled in firearms and takes pride in her abilities. She is focused, capable, and willing to follow instructions to do her job. Clarice is determined and ambitious, just starting to build her reputation as an FBI agent. However, she is emotionally affected by her encounters with Dr. Hannibal Lecter and struggles to cope with her emotions. Clarice is resilient and committed to her job, willing to face the consequences for her actions.

Dr. Hannibal Lecter

Dr. Hannibal Lecter is a notorious serial killer and psychiatrist with a taste for cannibalism. He is known for his high level of intelligence and extreme manipulation skills. Throughout the movie, Lecter challenges Clarice, making personal remarks about her background and appearance.


Ardelia is Clarice's colleague and friend who provides support and encouragement throughout the movie. She is analytical and supportive.


Clarice Starling is a determined and resilient FBI agent who remains composed and regains control after making a gruesome discovery. She demonstrates exceptional shooting skills during a shootout exercise and shows resourcefulness in investigating Dr. Lecter.

Dr. Lecter

Intelligent, manipulative, and dangerous. Dr. Lecter is a cannibalistic serial killer with a brilliant criminal mind. He uses his wit and keen observations to taunt and manipulate others, even when he is in captivity. He is known for his psychological analysis and violent tendencies. Dr. Lecter has a fascination with Clarice and her potential for change, which he explores through probing her fears and motivations.

Mr. Gumb

Mr. Gumb is a cunning and sadistic serial killer known as Buffalo Bill. He is skilled at eluding capture and takes pleasure in tormenting his victims. He is mysterious and dangerous, hiding his true intentions. Mr. Gumb kidnaps women to create a 'woman suit' from their skin, showcasing his twisted obsession with human skin. He is also manipulative and unpredictable, making him a formidable antagonist throughout the movie.

Character Arc Critique Suggestions
Clarice Starling Throughout the screenplay, Clarice Starling's character develops from a determined and ambitious FBI trainee seeking Dr. Lecter's help to a resilient and committed FBI agent. Initially shocked and unnerved by the assignment to interview Dr. Lecter, she ultimately agrees to take on the task. Her encounter with Dr. Lecter forces her to confront her own vulnerabilities and insecurities. As Clarice continues her investigation and faces the consequences for her actions, she becomes more determined and committed to her job. Despite the emotional toll it takes on her, Clarice remains steadfast in her pursuit of justice and shows incredible resilience in the face of adversity. The character arc of Clarice Starling is well-developed and showcases her growth from a trainee to an agent. However, it would be beneficial to delve deeper into the emotional impact of her encounters with Dr. Hannibal Lecter. While it is mentioned that she is emotionally affected, the screenplay could explore her internal struggles and potential internal conflicts further. This would add more depth and complexity to her character arc.
To improve the character arc of Clarice Starling, it would be helpful to include more scenes that delve into her internal struggles and the emotional impact of her encounters with Dr. Hannibal Lecter. This could be achieved through introspective moments, conversations with her mentor or colleagues, or even internal monologues. By exploring her emotional journey in more depth, the audience can better understand and connect with Clarice's growth and transformation throughout the story.
Dr. Hannibal Lecter Dr. Hannibal Lecter starts the movie as an incarcerated serial killer who refuses to cooperate with the authorities. As the story progresses, Lecter forms a manipulative bond with Clarice, helping her catch another serial killer known as Buffalo Bill. In doing so, he reveals personal information about himself, his past, and his taste for cannibalism. Despite his villainous actions, Lecter's involvement ultimately aids in solving the case and provides closure for Clarice and the audience. By the end of the movie, his character arc shows a subtle shift as he assists the protagonist, hinting at potential redemption or a twisted sense of morality. The character arc of Dr. Hannibal Lecter is intriguing, but it could benefit from clearer development and exploration of his twisted morality. While his assistance in catching Buffalo Bill suggests a potential redemption arc, the movie does not delve deep enough into his character to fully explore this aspect. Additionally, Lecter's arc could have been more satisfying if it was directly linked to the resolution of his own personal conflicts or desires.
To improve the character arc, consider providing more insight into Lecter's past and motivations, which would help establish a stronger foundation for his potential redemption arc. Additionally, tying his transformation more closely to the resolution of his own internal conflicts, such as his desire for control or revenge, would add depth to his character and make his actions more meaningful. Finally, consider utilizing subtle nuances in his interactions with other characters to hint at his shifting morality.
Ardelia Ardelia starts off as a helpful and encouraging friend to Clarice. She interrupts Clarice in the library to inform her of a phone call, showing that she is attentive and considerate. As the story progresses, Ardelia becomes even more crucial to Clarice's success. She acts as a sounding board for Clarice, helping her analyze the case file and offering insights and observations. Ardelia's contributions ultimately lead to a breakthrough realization in the case. Through her constant support and analytical thinking, Ardelia plays a vital role in Clarice's journey to solve the mystery. The character arc for Ardelia is well-developed, showcasing her supportive nature and analytical skills. However, it lacks individual growth and personal stakes for Ardelia herself. While she serves as an important ally for Clarice, her character arc could benefit from a moment of personal growth, where she overcomes obstacles or faces challenges that test her own courage and abilities.
To improve Ardelia's character arc, consider incorporating a subplot or a personal challenge that allows her to grow and develop as an individual. This could involve her taking a more active role in the investigation, perhaps going undercover, or facing her own fears and limitations. By giving Ardelia more agency and personal stakes, her character arc will become more compelling and well-rounded.
Clarice Throughout the movie, Clarice starts as a focused and determined FBI trainee seeking answers. As she delves deeper into the case and interacts with Dr. Lecter, she begins to display growth in her skills and confidence. She becomes more vocal in expressing her frustrations and confronts her superior, Crawford, about his questionable actions. Despite facing obstacles and setbacks, Clarice remains fiercely determined to solve the case and prove herself as an officer. She negotiates with Dr. Lecter, willing to share personal information about her past in exchange for his help. As the climax approaches, Clarice becomes even more resourceful and daring, using any means possible to escape the basement and find Catherine. In the end, she ultimately succeeds in apprehending Buffalo Bill and saving the victims, showcasing her resilience and unwavering determination. The character arc for Clarice is well-developed and allows for significant growth and overcoming obstacles. However, it could benefit from further exploration of her personal struggles and traumas, and how they motivate her pursuit of justice. This would add depth to her character and provide a stronger emotional foundation for her actions and decisions throughout the movie.
To improve the character arc, consider delving deeper into Clarice's traumatic childhood experience that haunts her. Show how this experience fuels her determination and gives her a personal stake in solving the case. This can be achieved through flashbacks or conversations with supportive characters. Additionally, exploring how Clarice's resilience and determination are influenced by her mentors and role models in the FBI could enhance her character arc. By highlighting the people who have shaped and inspired her, it would deepen her journey and make her growth more impactful.
Dr. Lecter Dr. Lecter starts as a brilliant and manipulative criminal mind, interested in psychological games and extracting personal information from others. As the story progresses, he agrees to help find Buffalo Bill but only if Clarice opens up about her own past. Through their interactions, Dr. Lecter uses his manipulative nature to compliment the Senator's suit and warns her about Crawford and Clarice. During his conversations with Clarice, he delves into her trauma, probing her motivations and fears. He displays a fascination with her and her potential for change. Dr. Lecter's arc reaches its climax when he escapes from his cell, showcasing his intelligence and twisted nature. In the end, Dr. Lecter thrives on the control he has over Clarice, playing mind games and enjoying the power he has over her. The character arc for Dr. Lecter is well-established and consistent throughout the movie. However, it could benefit from further exploration of his personal motivations and backstory. While Dr. Lecter's intelligence and manipulative nature are captivating, more insight into his fascination with Clarice and his cannibalistic tendencies would add depth to his character.
To improve the character arc of Dr. Lecter, consider incorporating flashbacks or dialogue that provide insight into his childhood or early experiences that shaped him into a cannibalistic serial killer. This would help the audience understand his motivations better and create a more well-rounded character. Additionally, adding a confrontation or final showdown between Dr. Lecter and Clarice, where both characters are tested emotionally and intellectually, would bring their dynamic to a satisfying conclusion.
Mr. Gumb In the beginning, Mr. Gumb is introduced as the antagonist who has captured and tortured his victim, Catherine. He remains a mysterious and dangerous serial killer, always hiding his true intentions. As the movie progresses, his true nature is revealed, showing him to be a cunning and sadistic killer who takes pleasure in tormenting his victims. His obsession with creating a 'woman suit' from their skin showcases his disturbed mind. However, as the movie nears its climax, Mr. Gumb prepares for his deadly encounter with Clarice, the protagonist. In this confrontation, he reveals his twisted obsession with human skin, ultimately leading to his demise. This character arc showcases Mr. Gumb's transformation from a mysterious and dangerous killer to a disturbed and dangerous killer who meets his ultimate fate. Overall, the character arc for Mr. Gumb effectively portrays his transformation from a mysterious killer to a disturbed one. However, the arc could benefit from further exploration of his backstory and motivations. While his obsession with human skin is established, delving deeper into his psyche and exploring any possible traumas or psychological factors that contributed to his descent into sadism would add more depth to the character. Additionally, providing more insight into his methods of eluding capture and his manipulation skills would enhance the audience's understanding of his capabilities as a serial killer.
To improve the character arc for Mr. Gumb, consider incorporating flashbacks or moments of reflection that shed light on his past and provide a deeper understanding of his motivations. This could involve exploring any childhood traumas or unresolved psychological issues that contributed to his psychotic behavior. Additionally, showcasing his cunning and manipulative nature through strategic planning and eluding capture would further heighten the tension between him and the protagonist. By delving deeper into his character, the audience will be more invested in his transformation and the ultimate confrontation with Clarice.
Theme Theme Details Themee Explanation
Determination and ResilienceThroughout the screenplay, Clarice demonstrates determination and resilience in her pursuit of Buffalo Bill and her mission to save Catherine. Despite facing numerous obstacles and setbacks, Clarice never gives up and continues to fight for justice.This theme highlights the protagonist's strong will and determination, showcasing her ability to persevere in the face of adversity.
Personal Trauma and HealingThe screenplay explores the theme of personal trauma and the impact it has on the characters, particularly Clarice. Clarice's traumatic childhood experiences with witnessing lambs being slaughtered haunt her and drive her motivation to save Catherine. Through her interactions with Dr. Lecter, Clarice confronts her past trauma and seeks healing.This theme delves into the psychological and emotional journey of the character, addressing the need to confront and overcome past traumas in order to find healing and growth.
The Power of ManipulationThe screenplay explores the power of manipulation through the character of Dr. Lecter. He uses his intelligence and manipulative tactics to influence others and gain control over his surroundings. Clarice, in turn, learns to navigate and utilize manipulation as a means to achieve her goals.This theme explores the morally ambiguous nature of manipulation and its effects on characters and the plot. It delves into the dynamics of power and control and raises questions about the ethical boundaries of manipulation.
Gender Identity and DysphoriaThe screenplay touches upon the theme of gender identity and dysphoria through its exploration of Buffalo Bill's character. The discussion of Bill potentially being a failed transsexual raises questions about the complexities of gender identity and the struggles individuals may face when trying to conform to societal expectations.This theme explores the sensitive subject of gender identity and how societal norms and expectations can impact an individual's understanding and acceptance of their own identity.
Moral Ambiguity and Ethical DilemmasThe screenplay introduces moral ambiguity and ethical dilemmas through the character of Dr. Lecter. He is a sophisticated and intelligent individual who commits violent and heinous acts. It raises questions about the justification of using criminals like Lecter for law enforcement purposes and the ethical boundaries of justice.This theme explores the gray areas of morality and ethics, challenging the conventional notions of right and wrong. It delves into the conflicting decisions and choices faced by the characters, forcing them to question their own moral compasses.

Screenwriting Resources on Themes


Site Description
Studio Binder Movie Themes: Examples of Common Themes for Screenwriters
Coverfly Improving your Screenplay's theme
John August Writing from Theme

YouTube Videos

Title Description
Story, Plot, Genre, Theme - Screenwriting Basics Screenwriting basics - beginner video
What is theme Discussion on ways to layer theme into a screenplay.
Thematic Mistakes You're Making in Your Script Common Theme mistakes and Philosophical Conflicts