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Hannibal Lecture
"You'd like to quantify me, Officer Starling. You're so ambitious, aren't you? Do you know what you look like to me, with your good bag and your cheap shoes? You look like a rube."

Only a fool tries Perp Sweating a brainy killer. He knows all the tricks of psychology, and will turn the tables.

The creeper starts out with a few seemingly-innocent questions about the interrogator's life or even appearance — "why did you go into law enforcement instead of medicine like you wanted?" or "why aren't you married?" Then, the supposed loon asks more armor piercing questions, which turn into comments, which turn into deconstructions, which turn into declarations about how the interrogator has failed in different ways. Pretty soon, the loon is doing all the interrogating and all the answering, with the poor 'interrogator' doing nothing but nodding their assent and crying.

In the climax, the prisoner's probing becomes a full-blown Breaking Lecture. This method of 'interrogating the interrogator' is a subtype known as a Hannibal Lecture. The theme of the lecture is always the same: their captor is a sad, pathetic failure who is only holding the prisoner captive to give themselves delusions of adequacy. Frequently, the captor must admit they are Not So Different morally.

Incidentally, professional interrogators for police and other investigative agencies are trained never to answer questions. Ever. The main protagonist of The Closer is one of the few interrogators on TV who is faithful to this basic precept. Movie Nazis tend to respond with "Ve are askink ze questions here!".

Named for Dr. Hannibal Lecter of the 1988 novel The Silence of the Lambs, who set the standard for this trope when he was immortalized onscreen by Anthony Hopkins in the 1991 film adaptation. You can't spell "Lecture" without L-E-C-T-E-R!

Sub-Trope of Break Them by Talking, where you'll find examples about someone who's not being interrogated doing it.

See also: To the Pain, Talking Your Way Out, Just Between You and Me, Evil Gloating, Shut Up, Hannibal!, "The Reason You Suck" Speech, and Critical Psychoanalysis Failure. Compare And Then What? If the declarations come from simple clues, this is a form of Sherlock Scan. Compare Kirk Summation, which is where a hero boils down a villain's Evil Plan or Motive Rant. Contrast Defiant Captive.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In the Berserk manga, both Griffith and Guts do this to antagonists who have captured them, proving that they don't need any weapons to get the better of people.
  • At the end of Death Note, Light has been cornered and exposed as Kira, and instead of denying it he goes into a Motive Rant about how the world needs Kira's brand of justice, how war is ended and crime far down thanks to him, how stopping him would only cause the world to return to its former rotten state, and how Near was only chasing Light to feed his own ego and prove himself a worthy successor to L. The last accusation, at least, is clearly true, but Near bursts his bubble with "You're just a murderer", not visibly rattled in the least.

     Comic Books  
  • The graphic novel Watchmen (which pre-dates The Silence of the Lambs by two years - but is predated by Red Dragon, the first Hannibal book) has a classic "psycho prisoner out-psychs the psychiatrist" scene. The prisoner in question evades the standard psychiatric evaluation questions, giving false responses to such things as a Rorschach test. The psychiatrist is hopeful for his progress, until a few days later, when he asks the prisoner to give true statements this time... at which point, the prisoner relates the entire story of how he mentally snapped and became Rorschach, a story so horrifying that the psychiatrist is left sitting stunned in his chair long after the prisoner is led out.
  • The Fantastic Four comic book had the "hero won't fall for it but the villain is right" version. Reed captures Doom, who points out that Reed has sacrificed far more than it's worth to take him in.
  • In the last issue of his miniseries, Baron Zemo talks his would-be murderer into attempting suicide, then stops him and convinces him to join Zemo instead.
  • This was used to lethal effect in a back issue of Excalibur, as a telepath and sadist had trapped Pete Wisdom in a room flooded with an exotic bioweapon which damaged the body of an agitated person. Said telepathic sadist was probing around for things to get Pete's goat and let his own memories carve him up like a side of beef. It didn't work, as Pete had made peace with his demons some time before. Instead, the poor maniac eventually hit Pete's deliberately assembled bloc-o'-atrocity, filled with unpleasantries from his horrific earlier career so bad it started damaging the telepath. When that got going, Pete hit him with a bit of the ol' Hannibal Lecture to the effect of there being a big difference between reading minds and dealing with what you find in them.
  • Ultimate Comics: Avengers features a cloned Spider-Man kept under heavy security by SHIELD as part of a Black Ops group. According to the team leader, he can "drive a man to suicide in three or four exchanges."
  • In a 1990 story in Suicide Squad, the Israeli superteam Hayoth captures arch-villain Kobra. They assign their team AI, Dybbuk, to interrogate him... which was his goal all along. He gets the AI to wonder whether it has free will, and almost convinces it that the only way it could prove to itself that it has free will would be to do something its creators would never have wanted... like, say, launch a missile attack on the Dome of the Rock.
  • Harley Quinn's origin is a classic example: She was Joker's psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum. The frame of her origin is, in most interpretations, almost exactly identical to Silence of The Lambs.

     Fan Fiction 
  • In the Codename: Kids Next Door fan fiction Operation: There Is No Operation KND Soopreme Leader Numbuh362/Rachel Mc Kenzie and the series Big Bad Father are imprisoned together and Father uses the situation to deliver a mock-sympathizing Hannibal Lecture about how she is Not So Different from a parent like him.
    But what do kids know of strain, anyway? They don't know a thing. They just play all the time. Even their work is play. Not like your work. Your work... is work. Isn't it?
  • Dragon Age The Crown Of Thorns has the dwarven noble protagonist delivering one Chapter 5, when he is on trial and completely dominates the entire assembly, throwing Bhelen's pet nobles at each other and completing his epic Zero Approval Gambit by destroying the focus of the gathering, which means that no one ever got around to questioning exactly why he didn't try to defend the innocence he'd so vehemently proclaimed earlier that day. The reason was because he'd faked Trian's death and wanted to be seen as the murderer. Just as Planned.
  • A display of Hannibal Lecture versus Shut Up, Hannibal! is featured in the fourth chapter of A:TLAR, 'Revolution 1.' In a conversation set late in the chapter, morally ambiguous Katara is interrogating the warden of a prison for earthbenders. He attempts to perform a Lecture, it being centered on Not So Different, and she promptly tears that down. He later questions the idea of a battle-hardened warrior being troubled by death, which she responds to by describing his cruel nature at its roots (in a sort of reverse Hannibal Lecture). He does not take this well, which leads to her slashing his throat to keep him quiet.
  • In the Tamers Forever Series, DC does this to Daemon of all people, turning the monster's own threats and sadism against him:
    Daemon: You know I could kill you right now, you pitiful human...
    DC: *Psychotic Smirk* Oh, but you won't... You want to kill me, yes... but you won't do it just yet. Only after you have drained every single bit of information, and only after you have rejoiced in my screams of pain... only after you put me through the most hellish tortures... only then, you'll kill me. Oh, yes, I know you. I understand you. You're so devoured by your own hatred that you can hardly think before you act. After years of horror and solitude in this place, the only thing that keeps you alive is your hatred for those who imprisoned you here. Well, I'm sorry but I hate to tell you that I'm not one of those.
  • The Empty Cage has a rather awesome one given by Kuushou (aka Kyuubi) to Sarutobi. He explains that destroying his body is literally the worst possible thing Sarutobi could do and prior to the last time he had been sealed and the seal broke, Wind Country (a massive desert) had been a grasslands. He further rips him apart by calmly informing him that literally every death that occurred during his "attack" had been because they attacked him first.

    Film 
  • Brilliantly done in the Trope Namer. Hannibal Lecter (the cannibal lecturer) gives several little speeches during the film about human nature, and easily reduces FBI agent-in-training Clarice Starling to tears. Throughout the film he continues to control her much more effectively than her boss can. She tries to invert this trope by turning his insight against him as seen here:
    You see a lot, Doctor. But are you strong enough to point that high-powered perception at yourself? What about it? Why don't you - why don't you look at yourself and write down what you see? Or maybe you're afraid to.
    • This goes to nothing as Lecter immediately follows up with his infamous reference to eating a mans liver with "fava beans and a nice Chianti," and then contemptuously sends Clarice on her way: "You fly back to school now, little Starling."
    • Hannibal also did this to Miggs. Apparently, he told him something so psychologically devastating that he killed himself.
    • He's so good at this, he can even do it by mail, like he did in a letter to Clarice in the sequel. The letter asks her if she wonders how her - now dead - father may think of her failure, how pleased he is at how he is now on the FBI's 10 most wanted list (something he credits to her), and remarks how "fun" he believes her attempt to apprehend him will be, all in his usual Affably Evil way.
  • Gabriel Engel in the 2005 German film, Antibodies, gives a number of these to the detective trying to get information from him. The goal is to get him to start questioning his only moral convictions.
  • Manhunter.
    Lektor: You want the scent? Smell yourself.
  • The Exorcist III. The Gemini Killer, a year before The Silence of the Lambs.
  • Exploited in Hard Candy, where Jeff attempts this on Hayley, who plays along just along for the audience to think it has worked before turning around and mocking Jeff for trying. Also played straight at the end of the film where she talks him into commiting suicide.
  • In The Dark Knight, The Joker excels at this and Breaking Them By Talking in general. The scariest part is, it works about half the time.
    • Averted with Jim Gordon; The Joker tries to Hannibal Lecture him during an interrogation, and (true to proper real life procedure) Gordon ignores the Joker's probing personal questions, even brushing off a request for the time of day (though it was morbidly relevant to the question he was asked).
    • The Joker even manages to do this to Batman - who completely loses it when he finds out Rachel had been abducted along with Harvey. What began as an interrogation to find Harvey turns into a brutal beatdown as Batman desperately tries to get the Joker to tell him where she is. In fact, he was playing into Joker's hands since it was Joker's goal for Batman to beat him to death (specifically, to break his one rule: Thou Shalt Not Kill).
    Joker: (laughing) "You have nothing! Nothing to threaten me with! Nothing to do with all your strength!"
    • Batman returns fire when the people of Gotham prove unwilling to go along with the Joker's scheme and show that they are willing to die rather than become killers themselves:
    Batman: What were you trying to prove? That deep down, everyone is as ugly as you? You're alone.
  • Loki, while imprisoned in a Hulk-proof cell on the Helicarrier, delivers his sterling "Can you wipe out that much red?" lecture in the middle of The Avengers. However, Black Widow is playing him as much as he is playing her.
    Natasha: It's really not that complicated. I've got red in my ledger, I'd like to wipe it out.
    Loki: Can you? Can you wipe out that much red? Drakov's daughter, Tugenov, the hospital fire? Yes, Barton told me everything. Your ledger is dripping, it's gushing red, and you think saving a man no more virtuous than yourself will change anything? This is the basest sentimentality. This is a child at prayer... pathetic! You lie and kill in the service of liars and killers. You pretend to be separate, to have your own code, something that makes up for the horrors. But they are a part of you, and they will never go away. No, I won't touch Barton, not until I make him kill you. Slowly, intimately, in every way he knows you fear. And when he's done and you're finally dead, I'll let him wake just long enough to see his good work, and when he screams I'll split his skull! This is my bargain, you mewling quim!
  • Done in Austin Powers in Goldmember when Nigel Powers goes missing and Austin Powers goes to Dr. Evil's maximum security prison for information. Dr. Evil nudges Austin into making several dad-related-spoonerisms culminating in a flashback inducing exclamation of "Daddy didn't love me!" by Austin.
  • In From Hell Inspector Abberline has to enjoy the insane ramblings of Sir William Withey Gull as he explains his 'motives'. Then Special Branch steps in.
  • In Public Enemies, Purvis visits Dillinger's cell, and Dillinger commences with the Lecture. Purvis doesn't seem fazed much by it.
  • Sherlock Holmes: Lord Blackwood is in prison awaiting his hanging and he requests the company of Holmes.
    Lord Blackwood: "But beneath your mask of logic I sense a fragility... Steel your mind, Holmes... Three more will die and there is nothing you can do to save them. You must accept that this is beyond your control. Or by the time you realise you made all of this possible it will be the last sane thought in your head."
    • At the time, Holmes is hardly fazed. He just blandly wonders if Watson could be allowed to dissect Blackwood's brain after the hanging. The clear intent, however, was to set Holmes up to lose his cool once the things Blackwood says begin coming true.
  • Seen in Kindergarten Cop. When the gangster that the titular cop has repeatedly arrested is once again released (the witness to his current crime is too frightened to testify), he responds to the cop's vow to nail him by taunting the cop about the fact that he has no personal life, then declares that the cop wouldn't even have much of a career if it weren't for his vendetta against him.
  • Parodied in Cop Out. In that movie, unsophisticated criminal Dave drives even simpler-minded police officer Paul Hodges nuts, mostly by saying (in a number of different ways) that his wife is cheating on him.

    Literature 
  • The Silence of the Lambs as the Trope Namer.
    • In Hannibal, Hannibal's former nurse Barney speaks to a psychologist and brings up the time that he saw the same man go into the basement of the Baltimore hospital to interview Lecter. A little while later, the doctor came hurrying back along the hallway, trying to hide the fact that he was crying.
    • Not to mention how Starling ended up in the book. The ending was a lot different than it was in the movie. Long story short, he was able to make her fall in love with him/brainwash her.
  • While bound and essentially helpless, Shen-Ji Yang from the first Sid Meierís Alpha Centauri novelization calmly lectures a professional soldier who is holding him hostage into putting her gun to her own temple and shooting herself, all in a time period of less than ten minutes. The sequence was presumably made to show just what an incredible badass he is, but went, perhaps, a bit over the top... (In his defense, Yang is a master psychologist, and his entire agenda throughout the game is social experimentation.
    • As a counterpoint, it must be stated that the lecture falls flat, being two lines long and mostly about guilt-tripping the soldier about having a crush on her female commander. Yang is the person to pull this off, but the writer obviously wasn't.
  • Tobias in the Animorphs series was undergoing torture, and distracted his torturer with questions about her own past.
  • The War Against the Chtorr. Cult leader Jason Delandro has a chat with the protagonist Jim McCarthy (who used to be a member of his cult) the night before his execution. McCarthy comes off worst in the debate, but at least has the dubious satisfaction of blowing Delandro's head off the next day.
  • In Falling by Christopher Pike, the Acid Killer, Gene Banks, has a way of turning the tables on FBI agent Kelly Feinman. Even after Kelly has caught and made him a quadriplegic, she finds herself drawn to him and the revelations he provides her about her character. Pike has stated he owes a debt to Silence of the Lambs, and a character in Falling name-checks Hannibal Lecter.
  • Legacy of the Dragokin: From within her Tailor-Made Prison, Zarracka taunts Kalak about his failing marriage and attempts to seduce her way into his heart.

     Live Action TV  
  • From Star Trek: The Original Series, Khan delivers one while being interrogated by Kirk, mocking how little man has changed between the three hundred or so years between his exile and reawakening, in an attempt to justify his lust for power.
  • Veronica Mars, "Like a Virgin." Veronica interrogates a murderer who psychs her out. To complete the homage to Silence of the Lambs, Veronica is pretending to be a Southern girl, and speaks with a fake accent that resembles Jodie Foster's in the movie.
  • Inversion: in The Shield, Dutch (the station's Butt Monkey) seemingly gets verbally torn to pieces by a serial killer he is 'interrogating'; the killer tries to demoralize Dutch at every turn, deriding him as being "a lowly civil servant" who is trying to get respect he doesn't deserve; insinuating that Dutch's father lied to him about being proud that Dutch became a cop; and that not only did Dutch never get a date in high school, he's still having problems now. However, in one fell swoop, Dutch turns it around, beginning by saying that he did have girlfriends in high school, and that he also has one now, who's "hot". When the killer demands to leave, Dutch ridicules him for the fact that instead of leaving earlier when they didn't have any solid evidence, he chose "to stick around and make fun of" Dutch. Dutch and his partner then reveal that Dutch was just feeding the killer lines to buy out-of-town cops time to search the killer's aunt's house, where they find the bodies of over a dozen of his victims. With the killer arrested, Dutch leaves and finds that the entire station has been watching through the interrogation room's cameras. Impressed, they applaud him. However, true to the trope, some of the killer's barbs struck a note, and as soon as he gets into his car, Dutch breaks down in tears.
    • Done again, in season 3 when a serial rapist taunts Dutch over his initial inability to catch the rapist, leading the guy killing one of his victims before being caught. The rapist/killer informs Dutch that his by-the-book method of catching monsters like the rapist is bound to fail, because he's never killed and as such, doesn't truly know how the mind of a murderer works. Dutch then, that evening, kills a cat with his bare hands just to see how it feels to kill.
    • In season 7, Vic confronts a sociopathic hooker, who manipulates Vic and fellow officer Julian Lowe into killing her pimp by falsely claiming that he murdered one of her fellow hookers. While Vic is threatening physical violence against the hooker, the hooker arrogantly mocks Vic and the way that she manipulated him; in particular, she mocks Vic's burning need to protect women in peril as far as manipulating this aspect of Vic's personality and telling him that the only way he'll be able to prevent it from happening again is if he just cuts off his genitals.
  • Doctor Who episode "The Idiot's Lantern", the Doctor is arrested by a police inspector after he uncovers a warehouse full of faceless people who have been rounded up by the police. When the inspector tries Perp Sweating him, the Doctor casually asks why the inspector isn't actually doing any 'inspecting', and it only takes a few minutes for him to reduce the inspector to a flustered, uncertain wreck... at which point the Doctor authoritatively takes over the interrogation.
    • In "Journey's End", the Doctor and Rose are taken prisoner by the Daleks and locked in a cell to be tormented by Davros. However, rather than break down in fear, the Doctor scoffs Davros' supposed authority and says he's nothing more than the Daleks' pet.
  • In the season 4 Angel episodes "Soulless" and "Calvary", Angelus is trapped in a cage most of the time, but throughout his interrogations by the members of team Angel he disdainfully probes their points of mental or emotional weakness.
  • Supernatural has the torture/interrogation scene with Dean and Alistair. Supposedly, Dean is extracting information on "who is killing the angels," but not only does Alistair have no idea, he strings Dean along and gives him a thorough mindfuck in between bouts of being eviscerated. The power dynamic in this scene goes back and forth like no other, between Dean relishing Alistair's pain and Alistair breaking Dean down.
  • Inverted in Dexter. When Lt. LaGuerta is interrogating Neil Perry (who has confessed to being the Ice Truck Killer), he tries to psych her out by discussing the reason she received her promotion (specifically the fact that she wasn't the hero cop the press portrayed her as). This allows LaGuerta to realise that Perry (who is a computer technician) must have hacked into the precinct database, which is where he got his "proof" that he was the Ice Truck Killer. She then gets him to admit his deception, by psyching him out with a severed head.
    • Also played with in season 2, when Dexter has Doakes, who knows that Dexter is a serial killer, locked up in the Everglades. Dexter tries to convince him they're Not So Different, but it never sticks. Their conversations cause Doakes to realize that, like him, Dexter has a conscience and won't actually kill him: from there he persuades Dexter to release him and turn himself in.
  • This trope is both played straight and inverted in one episode of The Pretender. In the episode, Jarod has to interrogate a imprisoned serial killer to catch a copycat killer. The killer convinces Jarod to take him to the house of the victim. At the house, the killer talks Jarod into removing his handcuffs, after which he escapes. However, it turns out that this was all part of Jarod's plan to get the killer to lead him to the site where the copycat is dumping the bodies. It then turns out that the copycat killer is a psychiatrist writing a biography of the Serial Killer.
  • Parodied in Reno911, where a serial killer gives Jones one from his cell, and promptly gets everything wrong about Jones' "ghetto upbringing." The cops use him for computer advice.
  • An inversion of this takes place in the Firefly episode "Objects in Space," where River pulls one of these on Jubal Early, using a combination of her Psychic Powers and being on his ship the whole time to comprehensively outline just how much a sick bastard he is, and tear apart all his pretensions that "he has a code". It's monkeywrenched, as she isn't the prisoner, but her brother Simon is, and midway through, Early finally catches on — though that itself is probably part of the Lecture too, as River uses Early's realization to really turn the tables on him.
    • River is good at these. While being questioned by Badger in "Shindig," she turns around and instantly deconstructs his gangster facade, outlining just what a pathetic little thug he really is, and then casually dismisses him....in his own Cockney accent.
      Sure, I got a secret. More'n one. Don't seem like I'd tell 'em to you now, do it? Anyone off Dyton colony knows better than to talk to strangers. But you're talking loud enough for the both of us, ain't tya? I've known a dozen like you, skipped off home early, minor graft jobs here and there. Spent some time in the lockdown, but less than you claim. And you're what? Petty thief with delusions of standing? Sad little king, of a sad little hill. [to the others] ...call me when someone interesting shows up.
    • Badger is initially shaken by River's assessment, but at the end he settles down and says that "I like her."
  • Battlestar Galactica had an example when they had one of their Cylon captives aboard the Galactica. Roslin and Adama brought Starbuck in to interrogate him. He is pretty successful at getting under her skin, but, like all Cylons and Cylon collaborators must, he goes out the airlock.
  • Being a cop show that deals specifically with serial killers, Criminal Minds does this occasionally.
    • In an early season one episodes, the UnSub gave an angry analysis of each of them over the phone... and got it completely wrong. One of the agents has to stifle her laughter. It also proves to be vital in identifying him.
    • Exploited in Masterpiece, during the Rothschild/Rossi interrogation scene. Rossi starts by trying to interrogate Rothschild, discussing how pathetic and cowardly he is. Then Rothschild fires back, revealing his master plan to dump acid on The Team, to deprive Rossi of his "family" as Rossi did to him. He even walks around the room while Rossi sits, to switch the interrogator/suspect roles. Rossi panics, rushes to locate the team, sinks into a chair in disbelief as Rothschild gloats in his ear about his brilliant Evil Plan... when Rossi reveals to him that not only has this entire scene been a confession, but they already knew about the killer's plan to dump acid on them, got all the victims out safely, and that he will be there when Rothschild is executed. He even pulls a last-minute Batman Gambit by intentionally turning his back to groom himself in the one-way mirror, catching Rothschild and slamming him up against the wall as he is attacked. Yes, Rossi can manipulate you while stroking his beard.

  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, "Facets." Dax communicates with her past lives, two of whom target her. The first is a standard one that doesn't work — but it softens her up to fall for the second, unorthodox one.
    • In episode "Duet", Cardassian war criminal Gul Darhe'el savagely Lectures Major Kira, coupled with openly bragging about his mass murders. It turns out his purpose was not to break her down but keeping keep from guessing he isn't Darhe'el at all, but an innocent file clerk who wants to be convicted to embarrass Cardassia into admitting its guilt to Bajor.
  • Data is polite to his captor, Kivas Fajo, during the Next Generation episode "The Most Toys" and instead of trying to pysch him out tries to outmaneuver Kivas's demands via passive resistance. An attempted escape has resulted in the death of someone trying to help and the tables are turned when Data points a disruptor right at Fajo's face. Now the one at the other's mercy, Fajo says the following:
    Fajo: If only you could feel...rage over Varria's death... If only you could feel the need for revenge, then maybe you could fire. But you're...just an android. You can't feel anything, can you? It's just another interesting, intellectual puzzle for you - another of life's curiosities.
    • Data, however, does make the decision to shoot him, and is only stopped when the unsuspecting Enterprise crew beams him to safety just as he begins to pull the trigger.
  • LOST. Since Ben spends a lot of time as a prisoner, this is his favourite toy. It's all he did in Season 2 in the hatch, and more effectively in Episode 4.4, "Eggtown," which makes Locke explode ("Excellent, John. You're evolving!").
    Sawyer: You wanna tell me why we're keeping this guy alive?
    Locke: Because aside from his mouth, he's completely harmless.
  • Parodied in Arrested Development, when Tobias, former psychologist turned acting-hopeful, manages to accidently talk his prison bunkmate, White Power Bill, into suicide by questioning him about, "where the hate comes from."
  • Defied in the live action version of The Tick. A super-villain nearly pulls this off with his guard until a super-heroine shakes some sense into him and takes over as guard. She is then so enthusiastic about discussing every aspect of her personal life that the villain gives up in disgust.
  • Dale "The Whale" Biederbeck on Monk, after Monk's spoiled his Evil Plan for revenge and gotten his Luxury Prison Suite privileges revoked: "It's true, Adrian Monk. I may be in prison, but you're in a worse prison! You're trapped! Trapped by your own demons! You're in your own private Hell! I wouldn't trade places with you for another billion dollars!" Then turned around when Monk's response is to quietly turn around and walk away, as Dale is too obese to walk.
  • In Cracker, the various psychos that Fitz is called in to deal with have a tendency to try this on him. Given how Fitz is a first-rate professional psychologist and they usually aren't, he often ends up doing it right back to them, usually more successfully.
  • A rare Lecture duel in the Cold Case episode "The Woods". George Marks, who enjoys this trope, has Detective Lily Rush at gunpoint. Both know devastating facts about the other's past, and how it affects their psyche, and each scores powerful emotional hits against the other.
    • They also duel in his earlier episode "Mindhunters", only this time, they're refusing to respond to each other's taunts. In fact, Lily's refusal to break infuriates George so much that he very nearly confesses before pulling himself together and smugly walking out, much to Lily's frustration. Throughout the episode, the trope is played completely straight when he refuses to crack under interrogation and instead ends up taunting the detectives about painful moments in their lives—Scotty's schizophrenic girlfriend, Stillman's failed marriage and the rape of his daughter, Vera's mishandling a rape case and the death of Jeffries' wife.
  • The first episode of Sherlock. The killer almost goads Holmes into playing a game of Russian Roulette with two pills — one poisoned, the other not. He got his other victims to do the same by threatening them with a gun they did not realize was fake.
  • In Leverage, "The Experimental Job", a Breaking Speech by an interrogator is turned around into a Hannibal Lecture. A career CIA interrogator tries to break Eliot by getting him to talk about how many people Eliot has killed. It doesn't turn out to be a very effective tactic. Also doubles as a Critical Psychoanalysis Failure.
    What do you want to know? Names? Dates? Locations? You want to know what food was on their breath? Their eyes, you want to know what color their eyes were? Want to know which ones deserved it? Or better yet, which ones didn't? Want to know which ones begged? Know why I know these things? You don't know? Because I can't forget. So there's nothing you can do, no punishment you can hand out, that's worse than what I live with every day. So to answer your question, no. I never counted. I don't need to.
  • In Ashes to Ashes Season 3 Episode 6, Alex Drake Interrogates "Thordy", a career conman who is pretending to be Sam Tyler from Life On Mars. As Alex attempts to interrogate Thordy, testing him on future events to see if he really is Sam and trying to extract information on a hostage situation, Thordy thwarts Alex by playing on her doubts of Gene Hunt. Thordy eventually convinces Alex that if he is realeased, he will reveal the location of evidence against Gene Hunt. As it turns out, it was all The Plan by Alex who had Thordy tailed to find out how the hostages were being kept AND to find out if the evidence was legitimate.

    Radio 
  • Referenced in The Black Philip Show in this YouTube clip. He says, "I just had to "Hannibal Lecter, just talk this bitch till' she die," while explaining how his girlfriend's moodiness affects him.

     Video Games  
  • The prequel videos for F.E.A.R., which feature a psychologist trying to interview Alma, have an completely silent version of this, coupled with a savage series of mind rapes. By the end of it, the hapless doctor is crawling around on the floor crying, while Alma is playfully dancing around her.
  • One possible low-level monster in Improbable Island is named Hannibal Lecture, and tries this on the player. It doesn't work.

     Web Comics  
  • In Looking for Group, when Cale is taken off to be tortured, and comes back knowing the bad guys' Evil Plan.
  • Sluggy Freelance: In "Oceans Unmoving", Murdock (the weirdest of The Greys in the story) does this accidentally when interrogated about what has been going on by going into details that make the interrogators uncomfortable and generally freaking them out. In a sense inverted, since he's not so much "being interrogated by his captors" as "willingly giving a record that is being recorded by his former captors who are now prisoners to his side."
  • xkcd: The AI convinces the human that's HE'S a computer.
    Note: A Turing Test is a test to see if an AI can engage in normal conversation indistinguishable from a human being. This is done by having a human examiner chat with someone that is randomly either the AI or a human, and checking whether the examiner can reliably tell if it's a computer or not.
  • Bayn of True Villains makes his would-be torturer run out sobbing just by talking to him.
    Bayn: And I am called a villain. I would never stoop as low as you, you scum.

     Web Original  
  • Kirby gets a lot of these in There Will Be Brawl, considering he's supposed to be a parody of Hannibal himself, anyway. He even wears the mask, at one point.
  • When the heroes of the Global Guardians PBEM Universe finally captured The Confessor (a Serial-Killer Killer) they promptly pointed out to The Confessor that he, himself, was a serial killer. The Confessor then quite successfully lectured on the ineffectualness of superheroes in stopping really determined murderers, and thus the need for people like him.
  • Cherish attempts this on the Undersiders in Worm using information she'd gleaned on them with her power, only to have Tattletale turn it around on her during her interrogation.
    • Later, Skitter is cornered by the superhero Flechette and her ally Parian, with a dart of metal fused to her shoulder. Flechette intends to arrest her and take her in, and the only weapon that Skitter has is her knowledge of the heroes. She points out that the world isn't nearly as black and white as Flechette would like it, convinces Parian to turn to her side, and severely damages Flechette's faith in the heroes.

     Western Animation 
  • South Park, "Toilet Paper." Parodies Silence of the Lambs scene-for-scene. For example in "Toilet Paper" Officer Barbrady interviews Josh, who gives him a calm and pressurising lecture involving toilet paper.
  • The Assy McGee episode "Pegfinger" contains a parody of the Hannibal Lecture in The Silence of the Lambs. While walking down a corridor identical to the one in the movie, Assy warns Sanchez not to let the prisoner they're about to question "get inside his head." Pegfinger immediately does so in seconds with little more than a racist joke ("A wedding ring? How many oranges did you have to pick to pay for that?) and Sanchez goes berserk and shoots him to death.
  • In the first episode of Superman: The Animated Series, Jor-El discovers that Brainiac (the central A.I. of Krypton) has been deceiving the planetary council about the impending doomsday, and uploading himself into a satellite. When Jor-El asks why, Brainiac calmly points out that had he revealed Krypton's fate, the council would have ordered him (forcefully) to determine a way to avert it, which Brainiac knew to be impossible. He decided instead to use the remaining time to save himself. When Jor-El threatens to destroy Brainiac's mainframe, Brainiac argues that when Krypton is gone, he will be all that remains of the entirety of its culture and history, and asks if Jor-El is willing to consign Krypton to be lost and forgotten. Jor-El reluctantly lowers his gun, just before Brainiac calls the guards on him.
  • The Fillmore! episode "To Mar a Stall" is a homage to The Silence of the Lambs, including the Hannibal Lecture from the serial graffitist.
  • In Xiaolin Showdown, Hannibal Roy Bean is introduced from inside a jail cell that is inside a sealed dimension and his first line of dialogue is bluntly proving to Card-Carrying Villain Jack Spicer that he's really a Noble Demon in denial. This is not how he escapes because Jack doesn't let him out. That would be Omi because Hannibal shapeshifted into Jack and convinced him that Hannibal tricked him into letting him out. Note the reference to Hannibal in Bean's name.

     Real Life  
  • The AI-Box experiment. One person plays a trans-human AI who is contained, and wants unrestricted access to the world, the other an experimenter who wants to keep the AI in its "box". The AI has two hours, using text communication only, to convince the researcher to let it out. Both times the experiment has been run so far, the researcher has been convinced to let the AI out. More experiments have been done by various informal parties as well. Though not a perfect 100%, the results are much much higher than one would expect. Notably, all the gatekeepers are chosen specifically for their steadfast belief that they would not allow the AI out.
    • Hilariously, one site about the experiment links back to this very article.
  • Dr. Robert Hare, a specialist in psychopathy, notes that psychopaths regularly do this - having figured out their interrogators and interrogation techniques, they become horrible subjects to try to interrogate, often telling lies just to play with the interrogator. His research mainly focused on already-convicted criminals, so he and his staff already had access to the offender's background, criminal record, and any other confirmed facts. Newer researchers, who knew the person they were interviewing had been convicted of violent crimes, would still be charmed by the psychopath's initial presentation. Psychopaths are incredibly good at becoming whatever is most appealing to the person that they're with in order to meet their own goals. When caught, they'll freely admit to lying, with one psychopath stating that she always said something true so that people would believe the lies.
    • There are separate procedures for dealing with psychopaths than for other offenders, no matter the crime. In a hostage negotiation, for example, it is imperative to figure out as soon as possible whether or not the hostage-taker is a psychopath, as if so, all "standard" negotiation techniques will backfire spectacularly and prolong the incident.
  • Rumour has it that after reading Silence of the Lambs, Ted Bundy pretended to have killed people other than those whose bodies had been discovered, just so that he could invite the police into his cell and do this.


Break Them by TalkingPsychological Combat'The Reason You Suck" Speech
Grand Inquisitor SceneSpeeches and MonologuesHeroic Heelization Speech
Forced to WatchViolence TropesInsane Equals Violent
Guilty PleasuresIndex Of ShameHumble Pie
Handy CuffsJust for PunHate Sink
Guess Who I'm Marrying?Narrative DevicesHappier Home Movie
Hannibal Has a PointDialogueHead Bob

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