These are what we call the 'YMMV items.' Things that some people find in this work. We call them 'your mileage might vary' because not everyone sees these things in the same way. This starts discussions in the trope lists, a thing we don't want. Please use the discussion page if you'd like to discuss any of these items.
Hannibal's motivation and state of mind, especially in the films. While he denies having aFreudian Excuse and claims he ‘happened’, Hannibal and Hannibal Rising explain that he did experience the horrible trauma of his sister being murdered and eaten, but passages in Hannibal and the twist in Hannibal Rising imply that he was to an undetermined degree resentful towards her, and the act he witnessed actually inspired him by showing him how deep evil can get. He has a somewhat strange relationship with these understandings, alternating between accepting and rejecting either or both, calmly denying that he resented his sister when Clarice asks him about it near the end of Hannibal and breaks into a huge cry of despair when he is reminded that he ate his sister too in Rising.
Was Chilton really just being a jerk, or was he just throwing a fit about not being as useful to the FBI in Silence Of The Lambs as he was in Red Dragon.
Awesome Music: The hypnotic "Goodbye Horses." Silence actually wasn't the first movie it appeared in (that would be Married to the Mob), but it definitely has the most memorable use of it.
Crazy Awesome: Not all the time, but Lecter's escape in Silence of the Lambs runs on this. Disposing of the guards as mentioned above, then getting their backup to carry him out of the prison themselves by wearing his victim's clothes and mutilated face over his own.
Dr. Lecter: * showing Starling a letter* "This is about my crucifixion watch. They won't give me a patent, but they advise me to copyright the face. ... You may have noticed that in most crucifixions the hands point to, say, a quarter to three, or ten till two at the earliest, while the feet are at six. On this watch face, Jesus is on the cross, as you see there, and the arms revolve to indicate the time, just like the arms on the popular Disney watches. the feet remain at six and at the top a small second hand revolves in the halo. What do you think?"
In a bizarrely creepy way, some of Lecter's killing's. In particular, the way he strings up the disemboweled guard to look like an angel during his escape in the movie. Another one is his "bloody angel" killing from Hannibal. He splits the victim's ribs near the spine and pulls the lungs out the back, and flattens them, making them look like wings. Both are, in a very disturbing and macabre way, almost artistic.
The books hint that part of the reason Lecter does this is to distract and shock investigators, tripping them up on the horrific details and giving him more time to cover his tracks or otherwise get clear.
Fanon Discontinuity: Thomas Harris intended to stop the story with Silence, until the publisher told him either he could write more, or they'd get someone else to do it. Naturally, a lot of fans prefer to stop there.
Foe Yay: Hannibal and Clarice. Who could have guessed?
Genius Bonus: Hannibal famously said of one victim that he "ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti." Liver, fava beans, and wine all contain a substance called tyramine, which can cause a severe reaction in any person taking an MAO inhibitor drug. MAO inhibitors, in turn, are one of the first antidepressants and were a regular part of the drug regimen given to people in insane asylums before safer antidepressants became available. Thus, anyone committed to an insane asylum — such as Hannibal Lecter himself — would have been forbidden from consuming liver, fava beans, or Chianti.
Clarice thinks that Hannibal's crimes are due to some sort of Freudian Excuse; Hannibal tells her that it's foolish thinking and that she's abandoning the concepts of good and evil for behaviorism. Twenty years later, Hannibal Rising, a book detailing Hannibal's origins and motivations, was released, although it’s implied he was naturally evil to begin with, and the incidents in the book just showed him how to put it into horrifying use.
Dr. Lecter:Nothing happened to me, Officer Starling. I happened. You can't reduce me to a set of influences.
The FBI using Johns Hopkins as a source for a list of people applying for sex changes. This means the book has several people, including Lecter, talking about "Hopkins."
Jerkass Woobie: All of the serial killers, including Lecter himself. Dolarhyde was horrifically abused as a child, and Gumb has his own issues and problems; and then there is Lecter's own backstory explored in the last two books.
Les Yay: In a discussion of motivation, Hannibal tells Starling "we start by coveting the things we see every day." Starling repeats this observation to her FBI room-mate Ardelia, and they smile at each other.
"Would you fuck me? I'd fuck me. I'd fuck me hard."
Mind Game Ship: The interactions that Clarice have with Hannibal himself seems to trick the audience into thinking that they will fall in love with each other.
To be fair in the books, they do.
Nausea Fuel: Plenty. Buffalo Bill's bathtub is a good example.
The rotting corpse in the funeral home
Buffalo Bill's woman suit, seen briefly in one shot.
Nightmare Fuel: Plenty. Especially the scene with Catherine in the pit where she sees the broken fingernail.
One-Scene Wonder: Anthony Hopkins won a Best Leading Actor for only 24 minutes of screen time total.
Sequelitis: On both the page and the screen, Hannibal is commonly felt to be severely flawed, but not completely lacking in merit, while Hannibal Rising is regarded as being just flat-out terrible. Not really surprising when you consider that Harris didn't want to write either story, and only did it to prevent someone else coming along and potentially doing an even worse job.
Villain Sue: Lecter devolves into this completely throughout the course of the third book, Hannibal. Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs made a credibly realistic character of him; he was highly intelligent but by no means infallible, charismatic but still a very unsettling individual and good at taking advantage of a situation and improvising plans. By Hannibal he's a prodigy of everything, no longer reacts to pain, plans things out months in advance, and commits impossibly over-the-top murders. While Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs demonstrate that for all of his cunning and charming behavior, he is still a sociopathic murderer, Hannibal introduced a Freudian Excuse that really came across as a kind of Draco in Leather Pants justification for the character. The two examples that send this over the edge are his romantic conquest of Clarice Starling at the end and the time when the cannibal pigs respect him too much to attack him.
Clarice a bit as well, in the first half of Hannibal, after the press has smeared her for the way the way the DC drug bust went, even though she and John were the only people actually doing their job right.
Averted by Catherine, who defies Gumb at every opportunity, and is depicted less as helpless than simply overpowered. She's almost an Action Girl, and despite using Gumb's beloved poodle as a hostage against him, she quietly whispers to the dog that she'd never hurt it. She even keeps the dog in the end of the movie taking it with her into the ambulance. (How much of an aversion this is can be contested, though, as she's pretty clearly traumatized for life after all of this.)