- Dr. Hannibal Lecter:
Dr. Chilton: On the evening of July 8th, 1981, he complained of chest pains and was taken to the dispensary. His mouthpiece and restraints were removed for an EKG. When the nurse leaned over him, he did this to her. The doctors managed to reset her jaw, more or less. Saved one of her eyes… His pulse never got above 85, even when he ate her tongue.
- His introduction, as described by Dr. Chilton:
"What does your father do? Is he a coal miner? Does he stink of the lamp? You know how quickly the boys found you. All those tedious, sticky fumblings in the back seats of cars, while you could only dream of getting out. Getting anywhere, getting all the way to the F...B...I." Jodie Foster's shocked reaction is genuine and rightfully so. It shows that Dr. Lecter is not someone to be taken lightly and that he knows how to get inside someone's head.
- Not only is the man a known serial killer and cannibal, he's also a genius. That's not what makes him scary. What makes him scary is his Affably Evil personality. He has a charm and way of speaking to people as if he were engaging in everyday conversation with guests at a party rather than a trained FBI agent. Unlike the other inmates that Clarice encounters in the prison, Hannibal doesn't scream obscenities at her, he doesn't threaten to kill her, nothing like that. No, instead, he talks calmly to her as if she were one of his former patients or an old friend. The utter calmness yet menace in his voice shows that he is not someone you want after you.
Lecter: Did you breast-feed her yourself?Martin: Yes, I did.Lecter: Toughened your nipples, didn't it? Amputate a man's leg and he can still feel it tickling. Tell me, Mom— when your little Catherine is on the slab, where will it tickle you?
- An often-overlooked moment is Hannibal's first appearance in the film. Clarice is walking along the corridor to Hannibal's cell and the camera switches to her point of view as she approaches... and Hannibal is just standing there, perfectly straight, in the middle of his cell looking right at her from the instant she comes into his view. He was waiting for her.
- For those who aren't used to Affably Evil villains prior to watching this film, his first appearance can come off as this for another reason. The movie carefully builds up what kind of person Hannibal is— his cannibalism and how he once ate a nurse's face for no other reason than for his own sick amusement. The first prisoner Clarice passes in the corridor merely says hello to her in a sleazy manner; Miggs, the prisoner she passes next, utters a pungent, obscenely sexual taunt at her. And then we get to Hannibal— standing ramrod straight, making eye contact with her and uttering nothing more than a calm, perfunctory "Good morning", like a gentleman who is pleasantly surprised to receive a lady visitor. The dichotomy between his polite greeting and his known history of violence is incredibly disturbing before we even get to know the man.
- Lecter's sense of smell. "You use Evyan skin cream...and sometimes you wear L'air du Temps—but not today." That moment is both weirdly erotic and incredibly creepy.
- Lecter's horrendous taunts to Senator Martin in both the book and film.
- The (in)famous line "A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti", and Hopkin's improvised hiss. It's creepier in the film as Lecter makes a point of slamming the door and standing up perfectly straight before facing Clarice; in the novel, it's almost conversational.
- The scene where Hannibal beats the prison guard to death. Dr. Lecter's Nightmare Face during his escape is creepy as well. When hes bashing the guards' heads in he almost looks bored by the violence, he is truly emotionless and dead inside.◊ It's only outmatched by his brief Slasher Smile which is truly disturbing.◊ After an hour of pleasantries, winks, smiles and tears, it's unnerving to see this man, who we've heard horrible things about but haven't witnessed any of it, live up to his label of "true psychopath." It's debatable if he looks bored or if he is entranced by the killings, but it's scary either way.
- A later scene where other guards storm the prison room and find said prison guard suspended in a backlit crucifixion position with a big hole in his stomach, innards missing. Together with the music, a Revolting Moment of Awesome... The whole part was terrifying. While transporting the surviving guard (who suffered severe facial lacerations) in the elevator, blood starts dripping down and he realizes he's on the roof of the the elevator. After he ignores the warnings of the SWAT team on the floor above, they shoot him in the leg without him even flinching. As soon as they open the hatch from inside the elevator, it cuts to the ambulance, where the guard sits up and we find out Hannibal had taken his clothes, and was using his face as a mask. It's one of the most horrific examples of a Grand Theft Me ploy imaginable.
- Lecter's Off Stage Villainy is terrifying in itself- from finding out that he attacked a nurse (seemingly for no reason) and that his heartbeat remained steady even "when he ate her tongue", to learning that his cell-neighbour Miggs killed himself by swallowing his tongue solely because Lecter spent the night whispering to him. A Hannibal Lecture that killed someone.
- Also an example of Chekhov's Skill: We find out in Hannibal that he's a master at post-hypnotic suggestion.
- His last lines in the film, as he's dressed up as an innocent tourist relaxing at a restaurant, watching Dr. Chilton get off the plane.
- Buffalo Bill is also insanely creepy.
- The part with Catherine in the well, where the camera pans up and you see bloody trails and the severed fingernail from the last girl who tried to climb out and failed. The book has the added note that Catherine remembered reading about a girl's broken fingernails before that in an article about Buffalo Bill and realizes who has her. In the movie, Ted Levine's completely inhuman and mocking screams just pile on the horror. What is particularly brilliant about this scene is that it shows a terrifying situation, something horrifying, sickening and disturbing... and yet something that is instantly quotable and amusing to almost anyone who has seen it. That's scary.
- "It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again." Unless you insert inappropriate laughter.
- Agent Starling trying to find her way around in the dark, with Buffalo Bill just behind her, mockingly reaching out and not quite touching her. It's revealed in the novel that Mr. Gumb wanted Clarice's hair. Let that sink in a little. *brr*
- The moment right before that is possibly the most terrifying moment in the film. Starling stumbles upon a bathroom with a tub inside. It's filled with sludge, blood, and the 2-year old decayed remains of Mrs. Lipman (the former owner of the house. It's revealed in the book that she "disappeared" in Florida and left everything to Gumb, though in the film he states that he bought the house). Then the lights go out.
- In the novel, when Catherine Baker Martin approaches Buffalo Bill to help him load the furniture, "she noticed with distaste that his chamois shirt still had hairs on it, curly ones across the shoulders and beneath the arms." That's not chamois leather, Catherine.
- The worst part is that Buffalo Bill is based on six REAL serial killers. One of them, Ed Gein, actually did what Buffalo Bill wanted to do and murdered women so he could skin them and wear the skin.
- The creepy storage garage, in which Starling finds a man's severed, pickled head wearing makeup, inside a car under sheet wraps that was supposedly untouched for several years.
- When Starling and Crawford go to fingerprint and process the "floater." A blink-and-you'll miss it moment, but floaters are described as having The Unsmile on their faces when they're found, as a result of fish and turtles nibbling on them.
- The poster for the film itself, which is Jodie Foster's / Agent Starling's face altered into a Nightmare Face, looking directly at the viewer. Her face is abnormally pale white and partially shrouded in darkness, her eyes have a piercing, pale blood red color, and...in place of where her mouth would normally be, you instead see a large yellow/black moth with a white skull on its bodynote . It's even creepier if one notices that the skull on the butterfly, upon closer inspection, is actually seven nude women arranged to look like a skull-a extremely small version of an human arrangement that's part of a famous photograph of Salvador Dalí.
- A production example: The main cast were offered recordings of actual murder victims' deaths, to help get into character. Jodie Foster declined, while Scott Glenn listened to only a minute of the tape. Doing so traumatized him to the point that he refused to reprise his role in the sequel Hannibal.