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Film / American Psycho

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"I like to dissect girls. Did you know I'm utterly insane?"

"I have to return some videotapes."
Patrick Bateman, throughout the film

American Psycho is a 2000 satirical black comedy film directed by Mary Harron and co-written by her and Guinevere Turner, adapted from Bret Easton Ellis' 1991 novel of the same name and starring Christian Bale.

Like the book, the film follows Patrick Bateman (Bale), a handsome, charming, and wealthy investment banker based in New York City during the late 1980s. Unbeknownst to his circle of fancy associates, including his girlfriend Evelyn (Reese Witherspoon), Bateman is also a psychotic Serial Killer.

Bateman's murder of his coworker Paul Allen (Jared Leto) sparks an inquiry by private investigator Donald Kimball (Willem Dafoe), which kicks off a chain of events that might just lead to his undoing... assuming there was anything to undo.

The film also stars Chloë Sevigny, Josh Lucas, Justin Theroux, Matt Ross, Bill Sage, Anthony Lemke, and Samantha Mathis. The soundtrack is loaded with '80s music, including songs by David Bowie, Phil Collins, New Order, The Cure and — of courseHuey Lewis and the News.

A movie sequel In Name Only starring Mila Kunis was released in 2002; tropes related to it can be found here.

In 2023, Sumerian Comics published a comic book series that serves as a sequel to the film, with two intertwining plots about Bateman and a millennial killer named Charlene "Charlie" Carruthers.

I have to return some tropes.

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  • 20 Minutes into the Past: The film came out in 2000 and is set during the tail end of the Ronald Reagan era in the late '80s. The original novel was even closer to its setting, being published in 1991, but satirized the era so specifically that it resulted in the filmmakers choosing to make the movie a period piece.
  • The '80s: The story is set in the late 1980s with a substantial focus on the fashion, music, and lifestyle of the decade's yuppie culture.
  • Adaptational Context Change: In the novel, Bateman's diatribes about the popular music of the day were streams-of-consciousness narration. In the film, he says them out loud to people before he kills them.
  • Adaptational Timespan Change: While the film takes place over the course of several months, the novel takes place over the course of two years.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Paul Owen, Timothy Price, Evelyn Richards, and Marcus Halberstam in the novel become Paul Allen, Timothy Bryce, Evelyn Williams, and Marcus Halberstram in the film.
  • Adapted Out: Bateman's favourite talk show The Patty Winters Show is omitted, as are his brother Sean and his friend Paul Denton, the main characters of Ellis' previous novel The Rules of Attraction. The film omits the cameos from Tom Cruise and Bono.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Paul Allen gets drunk enough during his lunch meeting with Patrick that he's easily convinced to return with Patrick to his apartment without ever suspecting his ulterior motive to kill him.
  • All Just a Dream: There is the possibility that the murders and other events recounted by Bateman only take place inside his head. According to a DVD commentary track for the movie version, when the two co-writers were writing the film they thought of it as having every single murder in the story really taking place in some fashion or other but never in exactly the way Bateman hallucinates/lies about/misremembers it.
  • All There in the Manual: As part of an advertising campaign for the film, there were several e-mails written from Patrick Bateman to his therapist. These emails depict several events after the film/book, acting as a sequel (such as Patrick being married, then divorcing Jean). These were written by one of the film's writers and approved by Ellis.
  • Always Someone Better: Patrick is driven to kill Paul Allen because Paul's own successes make Patrick feel deeply inadequate.
  • Ambiguous Ending: What will happen to Patrick? Is he really a murderer, or is just crazy? We do not get an answer.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: In an early scene of dialogue, Bateman plays devil's advocate for political correctness when he calls out a colleague for claiming that a business rival is Jewish and was "spinning a menorah" in his office.
  • Art Imitates Art: Before filming, the entire cast and crew reportedly watched Mario Bava's Hatchet for the Honeymoon for additional cinematic inspiration. Consequentially, its influence on adapting Bret Easton Ellis's source material is practically omnipresent in everything from cinematography (including numerous Homage Shots), acting performances, the inclusion of voiceover narration from the main character, and more.
  • Ascetic Aesthetic: Patrick's stark white apartment. The production notes asked for the surfaces in Bateman's kitchen to be covered in stainless steel, like a morgue.
  • Asshole Victim: Paul Allen was a colossal prick and Evelyn (not killed but definitely emotionally devastated) was a pretty horrid individual.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: Patrick stomps a dog to death that belonged to a homeless man he previously stabbed.
  • Beneath the Mask: Publicly, Patrick is charming, mild-mannered, and likable to those in his circle of friends. Privately, Patrick is a violent sadist incapable of empathy, remorse, or compassion. He explicitly refers to his friendly facade as his "Mask of Sanity".
  • Berserk Button: Anything that gives Bateman the idea that he has/gets less than the absolute best or that there is someone in his social circles that might be better than him. For instance, the very thought that Patrick will not get a good table at a restaurant is enough to put him "on the verge of tears". Also (in the movie), as much as he despises Luis, it's the fact that Luis had business cards that Patrick thinks are better than his own that drives him to attempt to murder Luis almost immediately.
  • Black Comedy: Much of the violence and morbidity is punctuated by humor derived from Bateman's (and/or his peers) shallowness and materialism, like Bateman attempting to dispose of a dead body stuffed in an overnight bag, and Luis only wondering who designed the bag.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Patrick Bateman's first on-screen victim in the film is a homeless black man.
  • Blood Is the New Black: Bateman killing Paul Allen just as he finishes lecturing him about Huey Lewis and the News. Then, with his face covered in blood, he takes off the raincoat that was keeping his suit clean and casually sits down in a chair facing the co-worker's hacked-up corpse to smoke a cigar.
  • Bloody Horror: Patrick Bateman kills Paul Allen which results in his face being covered in blood. Then he takes off his raincoat that was keeping his suit clean, sits down at the desk facing the coworker's corpse, and smokes a cigar.
  • Bond One-Liner: "Try getting a reservation at Dorsia now, you fucking stupid bastard! You... fucking bastard!"
  • Boring Insult: At the end, Patrick Bateman confesses several crimes to his lawyer, Harold Carnes, who mistakes his client for someone else and believes his list of audacious killing sprees to be a hilarious joke that was otherwise undermined by the fact that the perpetrator was "Patrick Bateman", whom he views as being too much of a dorky, boring and spineless lightweight to commit murder. Adding insult to injury, Harold goes on to say that the "joke" would have been perfect had the perpetrator instead been Timothy Bryce or Craig McDermott, both of whom are part of Patrick's friend group. Patrick is visibly bothered by Harold's remark that was obliviously aimed towards him.
    Harold Carnes: Davis, I'm not one to badmouth anyone. Your joke was amusing, but come on, man. You had one fatal flaw: Bateman is such a dork. Such a boring, spineless lightweight. Now if you said Bryce or McDermott... Otherwise, it was amusing. Now if you'll excuse me, I really must be going.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: In part of the work's satire in shaping Bateman as a product of 1980's American culture and values, as molded by its media and most prominent political figures, Patrick appropriates other popular phrases of the era for himself. Most notably, Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No."
  • Break the Cutie: Jean, who seems to have a crush on Patrick, is subjected to his cold personality and a sour date. In the end of the film, she also finds his journal depicting murder and rape of women.
  • Broken Ace: Patrick outwardly appears wealthy, handsome, and successful, but Beneath the Mask he's a soulless, deeply disturbed man with an empty life.
  • Call-Back: Patrick shows Paul Allen Fore! and asks him if he likes Huey Lewis and the News. After Allen has said "They're okay." Patrick rambles about the band like a fan. Later, while interviewing Patrick about Allen, Detective Kimball shows Patrick a copy of the album and asks if he has heard it. Patrick says no and adds Huey's too "black-sounding" for him.
  • Can't Get in Trouble for Nuthin': No one suspects Patrick of anything, even after he confesses everything. The worst he gets is being brushed aside as an unfunny idiot when he confronts his lawyer.
  • Capitalism Is Bad: Patrick's and his associates' entire existences revolve around being shallow consumers of high class commercial products like designer clothes, expensive watches, fancy electronics, and getting reservations in highly fashionable restaurants. For Patrick, this emphasis on commercial consumption not only compels him to murder people out of jealousy for having more or better stuff than he does, like Paul Allen, but also causes him to see other people as products for his personal consumption, first realized through his penchant for prostitutes and escorts and later taken to a metaphorical extreme when he turns to cannibalism.
  • Cassandra Truth: There are times when Bateman openly confesses his crimes to people, who either don't believe him, mishear him, or think he's joking.
  • Change the Uncomfortable Subject: Whenever anybody around Patrick is speaking about something that puts him at unease (or if he is feeling uneasy about things on his own mind), Patrick frequently evokes his idol Donald Trump (or his first wife, Ivana) in efforts to put himself back in control.
    • When meeting Paul Allen for lunch, as Paul complains about the restaurant being nearly empty and Patrick is on edge knowing he hopes to convince Paul to come back to his apartment, Patrick exclaims he sees Ivana Trump in the restaurant with them.
    • During a limo ride with his mistress Courtney, Patrick tries to ignore Courtney's drugged state while wondering aloud if Donald Trump's limo is beside theirs in traffic.
  • Character Catchphrase: Patrick loves saying "I have to return some videotapes."
  • Color Motifs: Bateman's apartment is coloured white. This was a deliberate choice in order to make it look like a morgue.
  • Composite Character:
    • A young, successful businessman named Montgomery from the book is merged with Paul Allen for the business card scene in the film.
    • Daisy (the character who had sorbet at Bateman's apartment) is combined with Jean.
  • Conspicuous Consumption: Espace, the high priced seafood bar/restaurant, has metal menus with the text of the food items stamped into it.
    Timothy Bryce: The menu's in braille!
  • Conversation Casualty: Patrick Bateman certainly contemplates taking a nail gun to Jean's head.
  • Costume Porn: Played straight, unlike the novel.
  • Crapsack World: Almost every character, with the exception of Jean, is an absolutely odious, shallow, and self-centered individual, lacking in anything even remotely like a redeeming feature. They pretend to be conscious of tragic news stories and global crises (murders, drugs, mafia, nazis, AIDS, homelessness, Sri Lanka, et. al.) but don't really care about any issues strongly enough to do anything to fix them.
  • Creator Cameo: The film's co-screenwriter, Guinevere Turner, plays Elizabeth, Patrick's (supposed) friend whom he drugs and convinces to engage in a threesome with "Christie" and himself, before Patrick kills them both.
  • Creepy Souvenir: Patrick takes home a random model he meets at a club, but isn't shown killing her. Instead, her death is implied because in the next scene Patrick is playing with a strand of blonde hair he presumably ripped from her head.
  • Damned By a Fool's Praise: The music Bateman talks about is an example of this. Ellis didn't like any of the music Bateman liked; he used it because "it seemed to reflect a certain kind of mass-taste" Bateman wanted to be a part of. He later came to regret associating Huey Lewis and the News with Bateman.
  • Diegetic Switch: Inverted in the scene which begins as an exterior view of Patrick's workplace and then cuts to interior. During this time, the song played ("Walking on Sunshine" by Katrina and the Waves) is Background Music. However, When Patrick is shown walking on a hallway, it is revealed he's listening to the song on his Walkman.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: Patrick torments and kills “Christie" and refers to killing other “escort girls” when confessing to his lawyer on the phone. This shapes how Patrick sees other people as products for his personal consumption that he can violently "discard" when he is through with them.
  • Disposable Vagrant: Bateman also targets homeless people just as often as prostitutes. A beggar named Al, in particular, is presented to the audience as Patrick's first victim.
  • Distracted by My Own Sexy: During the Home Porn Movie he films with two prostitutes, Patrick Bateman spends more time looking at himself in a mirror and flexing his biceps than he does looking at either of the naked girls.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Several of Bateman's victims, Paul Allen in particular, are killed out of jealousy or vengeance over incredibly petty grievances.
  • Environmental Symbolism:
    • In the film, the door to Paul Allen's apartment (where Bateman accumulates most of his kills) is lettered "B".
    • Bateman's kitchen is largely made of gray steel, making it resemble a morgue.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: At one point, Patrick shoots at a police car, which promptly explodes. Patrick then looks at the gun, confused as to how he managed to do that.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Three characters who Bateman does not kill are Evelyn, his fiancee; Jean, his secretary; and Luis, his gay associate, all of whom are in love with him. Notable, as Bateman finds Evelyn incredibly annoying, but never considers murdering her, and he was actually about to kill Luis, until he revealed he was gay and in love with Bateman. Even though Bateman is disgusted by this he still does not kill Luis.
  • Everyone Has Standards: After laughing at overtly misogynistic banter that can't even be said to qualify as jokes, Bateman's buddies awkwardly stop laughing when he obliviously brings up the thoughts of Ed Gein, Serial Killer.
  • Evidence Dungeon: Patrick Bateman uses both his apartment and appropriates Paul Allen's apartment after killing him to commit most of his murders. In his apartment, there is a head in the fridge and numerous implements of murder and torture. In Paul Allen's apartment, there are two bodies hanging on hooks in a closet, another on the bathroom floor and a room with 'Die Yuppie Scum' scrawled on the walls. Subverted as the ending implies that Bateman may be having psychotic delusions about his murders. As he is an incredibly unreliable narrator, it calls into question everything we've seen and whether the 'evidence' was really there. Another hint to this is that the state of decomposition of Patrick's victims doesn't make sense. Patrick has nearly a dozen bodies strewn about Paul Allen's apartment, not kept in storage like the head in the fridge, yet none of them are rotting and all appear to be freshly killed.
  • Evil Is Petty: Patrick kills people for such things as having fancier business cards than he does.
  • Extra-Strength Masquerade: Bateman could be caught, but no one cares to catch him.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • When Bateman is running around with nothing but shoes and socks on... and a chainsaw intended for another murder.
    • Also, the sex scenes really aren't that sexy, and very intentionally so. (The scene with the streetwalker and the call girl should be sexy, since all three actors are very attractive, but Bateman's overwhelming egoism and gross instructions to the girls make it most unsexy indeed.)
  • The Film of the Book
  • Foreshadowing:
    • After killing Paul and visiting his apartment, Patrick records a message on his dead colleague's answering machine while impersonating as Paul Allen and saying he's in London. When Bateman is ready to confess his crimes to his lawyer, Harold Carnes, his murder of Paul being among them, the lawyer rebuts his claims by saying that he had dinner with Paul in London, twice, just ten days ago.
    • Bateman watches a porn film featuring a threesome and ends up doing that later. He also watches The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) film and then kills a woman with a chainsaw.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Watch carefully during the business card scene and you'll notice that 1) Bateman's card lacks a space between the "&" and second "Pierce" that's present on the others, 2) all four guys have the same job title of "Vice President" (nothing else specified), 3) Paul Allen's card doesn't actually have a watermark, and 4) all four cards misspell the word "acquisitions" as "aquisitions". Luis Carruther's card (shown later in the film) has the same error.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: With a chainsaw.
  • Funny Background Event: While Patrick is on the phone with Courtney, he keeps a lesbian porno on in the background, with the obnoxiously fake moaning just audible over the conversation.

  • Gag Penis: While chasing Christie with a chainsaw, Bateman positions it at crotch-level and at an angle resembling a cartoonishly massive erection, adding a tone of Black Comedy to the scene.
  • Girl on Girl Is Hot: Patrick has an extreme hatred for gay men (whom he derides as "faggots") yet is deeply aroused by lesbian sex. If he's not going to lengths to pay prostitutes and/or drug women just to watch them get it on, he's often seeking it out in pornographic videos.
  • Girls Love Stuffed Animals: Courtney keeps a stuffed teddy bear in her bed, much to Patrick's annoyance when he rolls off of Courtney, after sex, and lands on top of the teddy.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: One scene ends with a vapid model accompanying Bateman back to his home. Her apparent murder takes place offscreen, but in the next scene Bateman is quietly passing the time in his office, clutching a piece of hair which he apparently pulled from the model's head.
  • Goth: Vanden's and Stash's style of dress and fashion during the dinner at Espace.
  • Hate Sink: Patrick's coworkers, given that they spend their entire pagetime talking about superficial nonsense while spewing sexist remarks. This especially applies to Patrick himself.
  • Haute Cuisine Is Weird: Many of the dishes Patrick and his friends order at fancy restaurants feature strange or exotic ingredients, bizarre combinations, and even outright inedible materials, like "Swordfish Meatloaf," "Squid Ravioli," or "Mud Soup with Charcoal Arugula."
  • Hide the Evidence: Bateman does so little, if any, productive work at his office, and when Detective Kimball visits him at work and remarks, "I know how busy you guys can get," Patrick suddenly notices his still-running Walkman on top of a small stack of skin mags on his desk, which he quickly tries to slip into his top drawer.
  • Hookers and Blow: Part of Patrick's exceptionally decadent lifestyle.
  • Housepet Pig: Evelyn shows off an adorable pot-bellied pig named "Snowball" at her Christmas party and comments that they make "great household pets." Evelyn shows nothing but adoring affection for the pig, but her boyfriend, Patrick Bateman, is not particularly charmed by it and only scowls in disgust.
  • Hypocrite:
    • Early in the narrative, Bateman publicly puts forth to his peers that it is on themselves to work towards solving social crises, such as providing food and shelter for the homeless, opposing racial discrimination, supporting civil rights and equal rights for women, and return to traditional moral values. However, privately, Bateman is an ardent bigot without ethics who only feels disgust for the poor.
    • Patrick shows open disdain for people who smoke cigarettes, while he himself enjoys smoking cigars. He disallows one of the prostitutes from smoking in his apartment after she takes out a cigarette, but Patrick lights a cigar in the exact same room after murdering Paul Allen.
  • I Need to Go Iron My Dog:
    • Bateman typically excuses himself by saying that "I have to return some videotapes."
    • Bateman excuses himself when speaking with Detective Kimball by explaining he's got to run to a lunch date with Cliff Huxtable.
  • I'd Tell You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You: Paul Allen says this when Bateman asks him how he got the Fisher account.
  • Identical Stranger: Almost everyone who works at Pierce & Pierce is a glasses-wearing late-20s white male in a nice dark suit with a generically Anglo Preppy Name, which means everyone is constantly mixing each other up. This ends up playing into the ambiguity surrounding whether or not Bateman is actually a serial killer, with his lawyer's statement about having had dinner in London with Paul Allen, who Bateman seemingly murdered in New York, being posited as something that may or may not have been another mix-up.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Eating people's brains is one of the things Patrick confesses to his lawyer.
  • In-Universe Factoid Failure: As much as Bateman tries to present himself as possessing immense knowledge and informed opinions in appreciation of pop culture, music, movies, TV, and other trivia, he does occasionally get things wrong, although this isn't always made glaringly obvious:
    • In all adaptations, there's a scene where Bateman references a quote which he attributes to infamous murderer Ed Gein. In actuality, the quote in question was said by another serial killer, Edmund Kemper.
    • Patrick says Huey Lewis and the News' Fore! was released in '87, although in reality, it came out in 1986. He also says that Huey Lewis has "a far more bitter, cynical sense of humor" than Elvis Costello; this is like saying that MC Hammer has grittier, more violent lyrics than Nas.
    • Patrick also claims to Allen that the song "Hip to be Square" is about "the pleasures of conformity and the importance of trends." Huey Lewis actually wrote the song from the perspective of a Bourgeois Bohemian who "dropped back in" and laments how much of a conformist he's become.
    • Bateman says Whitney Houston's debut album had four number one singles on it when it only had three.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Luis Carruthers is in love with Bateman, who is not only straight but a virulent homophobe as well.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Bateman stays at the murdered Paul's apartment with two hookers, with one of them, Elizabeth, saying it's better than his other apartment (Bateman's actual apartment), not realizing she's implying Paul has better things than Patrick, something the latter is insecure about.
  • Insistent Terminology: Patrick and his peers refer to women who meet their standard of objectified physical beauty as "hardbodies".
  • Ironic Hell: Assuming Patrick really is a murderer, he'll likely never be caught. But that doesn't matter, because his life is already punishment enough. He's surrounded by people he hates, but doesn't know how to live away from them; he can't get anyone to stop him, because nobody hears what he says; even killing people isn't any fun, because everyone is so interchangeable that when one of them dies, nobody notices - and what's the point of a murder nobody knows about?
  • It Was Here, I Swear!: Inverted with Bateman's return to the torture chamber he set up in Paul Allen's apartment, which has inexplicably been repainted from top to bottom, erasing any trace that he was ever there.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Bateman says he attended Harvard.
  • Jerkass: Every person Patrick surrounds himself with, except Jean, is every bit as shallow, self-centered, and materialistic as he is. His male associates, especially, are frequently sexist, casually racist, or both.
  • Japan Takes Over the World: In the last scene, Bateman's lawyer discusses how Japan will bypass the US.
    Carnes: Face it, the Japanese will own most of this country by the end of the 90s.
  • Karma Houdini: Patrick actually confesses (earnestly) all the horrible things he's done to his lawyer, and still nothing comes of it. Of course, that's assuming he did do all the things he describes.
  • Kill the Poor: Patrick feels nothing but ill will and contempt for the lower classes, as do his friends, although they, unlike Patrick, don't go out and stab them for fun.
  • Known by the Postal Address: Patrick Bateman lives at 55 West 81st Street, Upper West Side on the 11th floor of the American Gardens.
  • Lack of Imagination: Patrick Bateman has no imagination to speak of. Much of the reason he fails to stand out from a crowd and resorts to murder to try to define himself is that the murder is (probably) the only thing he does that nobody in his social circle does; they all wear the same clothes, go to the same restaurants, watch the same movies, listen to the same music, and really seem to have no hobbies or ambitions apart from keeping up with the latest fad.
  • Lighter and Softer: The film is much, much tamer than the book, featuring only Gory Discretion Shots instead of the chapter-long, extreme, graphic descriptions of what Bateman does to his victims. The explicit sexual content of the book is also toned down.
  • Literally Laughable Question: Patrick tries to get same-day Friday night reservations at Dorsia. The maître d' laughs uncontrollably and hangs up on him.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Patrick Bateman is engaged to wed Evelyn Williams, who is believed to be having an affair with Patrick's best friend, Timothy Bryce. Meanwhile, Patrick is having an affair with Evelyn's best friend, Courtney Rawlinson, who is engaged to Patrick's business associate, Luis Carruthers, who is also secretly in love with Patrick.

  • Meaningful Background Event: When Paul Allen mistakenly calls Patrick "Marcus" at Evelyn's Christmas party, the real Marcus Halberstram seen in the business card scene can be spotted standing behind Patrick, in the middle of a separate conversation, and momentarily turned around wondering who called out his name.
  • Meaningless Villain Victory: By the end of the story, it's clear that all of Patrick's evil and depravity have afforded him nothing. He's still as lonely and miserable and empty as he was at the beginning, and no one gives a shit about him.
  • Mind Screw: Since he's an Unreliable Narrator, it's very hard to tell just how much of Patrick's actions were real, if any.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Bateman is about to kill his associate, Luis, by strangling him from behind, but Luis mistakes this as Bateman coming onto him, causing him to reveal that he's gay and in love with Bateman.
  • Mistaken Identity: Throughout the story, characters address each other by the wrong name. Bateman himself is called Marcus Halberstam, MacLoy, Davis, Smith and Paul Allen, among others. This is a part of the social commentary in the story; these yuppies are so self-centered they can't even remember each others' names. Or, more to the point, they all look exactly like one another and engage in the exact same activities to a point where everyone is interchangeable, no one else can tell anybody apart from anybody else, and no one can even realize when one of their own associates and so-called "friends" is murdered...maybe.
  • Mood Whiplash: Done quite brilliantly— the film opens with an extremely dark monologue by Patrick describing his sociopathic tendencies, only for the scene to switch to the sounds of "Walking On Sunshine".
  • Moonwalk Dance: Bateman does this while carrying an axe out of his bathroom, hiding it behind the side facing away from Paul Allen, immediately before killing the guy. Bret Easton Ellis, who wrote the source novel, said this was one of the only problems he had with the adaptation, as he felt it was out of character.
  • The Movie Buff: Bateman is an avid fan of horror films and gory B-movies, which he often rents on VHS. He is seen watching The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) in the film.
  • Mr. Fanservice:
  • My Card: Early on, there's a scene where several stockbrokers compare business cards.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Many of the pictures in Patrick's journal are illustrations of murders from the book that were cut.
    • He also mentions some victims (his girlfriend Bethany, the gay man with a dog) that are only present in the book during his confession scene.
    • A sign reading "this is not an exit" can be spotted in the background during the ending scene; the novel ends with Bateman pointing it out, seeing it as a metaphor for his dissatisfying lack of comeuppance and catharsis.
  • Nepotism: Bateman's father "practically owns" P&P. See One-Hour Work Week.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Patrick and his associates are absolutely horrible to waiters and other people who do services for them (dry cleaners, housemaids, etc.).
    Waiter: Would you like to hear today's specials?
    Patrick: Not if you want to keep your spleen.
  • No Fame, No Wealth, No Service: Patrick and his peers have trouble getting reservations at Dorsia, presumably because it's always booked up by those even richer and more connected. When Patrick tries to book a table for the same day without dropping his name (or any name), he is simply laughed at.
  • Nobody Poops: Bathroom stalls at nightclubs and restaurants are seemingly used exclusively for snorting lines of cocaine and nothing else.
    Club Patron: [Leaning over adjacent bathroom stall] Will you keep it down? I'm trying to do drugs!
  • Noodle Implements: Bateman's drawer full of "sex toys" which he uses on the prostitutes. This is one of those times when you really don't want to picture how they're used. This includes knives, shears, a coat hanger, and a hole puncher. What did he do with all that? The fact that Christie says she had to go to the emergency room and might need surgery gives you some clue.
  • Not in the Face!: At one point in the film, Patrick Bateman chases a hooker through an apartment and tries to eat her leg. She kicks him in the face and, being a self-absorbed yuppie, he screams at her, "Not the face! Not the fucking face, you piece of bitch trash graagh (unintelligible)!"
  • Not Listening to Me, Are You?: Patrick often confesses his sociopathic tendencies to friends and associates. They are either not listening or don't care.
  • Oblivious Mockery: Harold Carnes mistakes Bateman for someone named Davis, and tells him that Patrick Bateman is "a boring, spineless lightweight."
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Happens during Patrick's date with Jean. During the whole date Patrick is going back and forth if he should kill Jean, ultimately he uses an unexpected phone call from Evelyn as an excuse to send Jean on her way. He tells Jean that he can't control himself and that he might hurt Jean. Jean thinks he's talking about them having sex and him hurting her emotionally by returning to Evelyn. To the audience it's clear he will kill her if she stays.
  • One-Hour Work Week: Patrick's job is very high-paying, with a cushy office, but he doesn't seem to do any actual work there and has a lot of free time on his hands. He frequently arrives late to his office, cuts out early, or does both, while he prioritizes shopping errands, lunch meetings, or feeding his more personal obsessions back at his apartment. Whenever Patrick actually is at his office, his time is still spent watching TV, listening to music on his walkman, doing crossword puzzles, and doing any number of other unrelated activities. Famously, when Patrick and all his associates attend a business meeting, the entire time is spent showing off their business cards, and later, when Patrick attempts to look busy when visited by Detective Kimball, all Patrick can think to do is pick up his phone receiver and ramble on about men's fashion and proper tipping etiquette, rather than pretend to actually be in the middle of business. When his secretary looks through his day planner, it's almost empty save for lunch dates and lurid doodles. It's mentioned that it's his dad's company. In his review of the film, Roger Ebert mused that Patrick's spree might have been averted if he'd been put to work hitting nails with a hammer, which is about the only task he's qualified for.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Prostitutes "Christie" and "Sabrina" are given their names by Patrick with instruction to only answer to those names when in his presence.
  • Only Sane Man: Jean is the only character to show little to no regard for material desires and actually seems to care about the people around her.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Christian Bale's Welsh accent can be briefly heard during the scene where Bateman confesses to the murders over the phone to his lawyer.
  • Overly-Nervous Flop Sweat: Patrick does this a lot when under pressure or when coming close to getting caught in a lie. According to Mary Harron, Christian Bale was so talented an actor that when doing repeated takes of the famous business card scene, he was capable of sweating on cue.
  • The Peeping Tom: Implied. Gathering from Patrick's deviant behaviors and morbid pastimes, it would be highly doubtful that he would be using the telescope seen inside his apartment for stargazing. The telescope's presence may also be a subtle nod to the movie Body Double, referenced several times in the novel, where the main character takes interest in a neighbor whom he regularly watches through a telescope.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Apart from being a sadistic Serial Killer, Patrick is also racist, antisemitic, misogynistic, elitist and homophobic (though so are most of his associates, except the serial killer part).
  • Pop-Cultured Badass: Deconstructed. In place of an authentic, cultivated human personality, Patrick Bateman constantly strives to be recognized by his peers (as well as the reader/audience) for his knowledge and appreciation of music, art, and pop culture, but his grasp and understanding of the art and media that he consumes is reduced to what material is made the most appealing to the widest audiences and Lowest Common Denominatornote , such as dismissing early Genesis albums with Peter Gabriel (and his "lame solo career") as being "too artsy, too intellectual" and favoring the more commercially-driven direction of the group after Phil Collins became the group's frontman (or at least after Steve Hackett left the group). All of this only serves to further demonstrate Patrick's emptiness, shallowness, and delusions about having "good taste."
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: If you watch the film without reading the book, it's obvious that a lot of the content has been excised without detriment to the narrative. The horrible gorn is reduced to quick cuts and off-screen violence (especially the nigh-unfilmable rat scene, which is thankfully removed altogether). Bateman's interminable lectures about boring '80s pop music is rendered on-screen as him babbling to guests at his apartment, and moreover serve as a hint to the audience since he always recounts them before committing violence.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "Hey, Paul!"
  • Pretty in Mink: Evelyn wears a lynx coat.
  • Quality by Popular Vote: In-Universe. Patrick and his yuppie friends' appreciation of music, art, and culture is so far driven by popularity and mainstream appeal that the early, more radical, avant-garde work made by their favorite artists before they became commercialized is generally discarded for not fitting with their norms. Most significantly, Patrick dismisses the early progressive rock albums by Genesis as "too artsy, too intellectual," and he couldn't begin to appreciate their music until after Phil Collins became a greater presence and took the band in a different direction, and Huey Lewis and the News was "too new wave" for Patrick's liking until the release of their third album, Sports, found greater commercial appeal.
  • Raincoat of Horror: Patrick Bateman wears a clear plastic raincoat over his suit, to prevent it from being stained with blood.
  • The Rich Have White Stuff: Patrick's apartment, while luxurious, is also almost all white (except for the bathtub). The whiteness gives it an alienating quality. Interestingly, fellow yuppie Paul Allen's apartment has more natural earth tones, showing him as more human.
  • Room Full of Crazy: In the film, the goriest room in Bateman's lair is decorated with the words "DIE YUPPIE SCUM" on the wall.

  • Sarcastic Confession: Bateman confesses his murders openly to a lot of people, but nobody takes him seriously. Sometimes, his confessions aren't really sarcastic; he actually wants people to believe him, but they never do. More to the point, all the Stepford Yuppies he reveals himself to are too self-involved to hear him correctly. They aren't even hearing or caring enough to not take him seriously. When he declares himself to work in "murders and executions", the conversation goes on about mergers and acquisitions. And when he tries to break up with Evelyn over lunch, his declaration that his need to commit murder on a massive scale was out of control zings right through her hair. Of course, as noted, it's possible that this might not all be real.
  • Serial Killer:
    • Patrick Bateman. Probably.
    • Patrick is obsessed with real serial killers like Ted Bundy or Ed Gein, to the point that his friends complain that he always brings them up in conversations.
  • Serious Business: Things that most people would find irrelevant or trivial are blown out of proportion all over; for example, Paul Allen is murdered over a business deal that nobody even knows the details of (as well as for having a better business card than Bateman's and for being able to get a reservation at a popular restaurant).
  • Sex in a Shared Room: After Patrick gets bored of watching the two women make out, he starts having sex with his society friend Elizabeth while Christie the Streetwalker watches...and then starts doing something else to Elizabeth. This also serves to help Christie get a running start when Patrick comes after her with a chainsaw.
  • Sexy Secretary: What Patrick wants Jean to be. In her first appearance, Patrick dislikes her clothes so much that he tells her to never wear them again, insisting that she wear dresses or skirts with high heels.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Patrick becomes increasingly insane and homicidal and a lot of people die at his hands, culminating in him confessing to his lawyer... but in the end, no one believes him, and the book and film end as they begin, with him making boring small talk with boring, self-absorbed people. Patrick himself even concludes, "There has been no reason for me to tell you any of this. This confession has meant nothing..."
  • Shout-Out:
    • The the movie ends with Bateman in front of a sign that says "This is not an Exit"—a reference to No Exit.
    • All interpretations of the work include references to the Broadway production of Les Misérables. Significantly, Patrick's secretary, Jean, being the most "normal" and moral of all the story's characters, shares her name with Jean Valjean, the redeeming moral protagonist of Les Mis. However, the play itself is repeatedly referenced to establish it as yet another popular commercial product and extension of the consumerist and self-centered lifestyle to which Patrick adheres, irrespective of the work's intended artistic message (which paints a contrast with the wealth, immorality, and emptiness exhibited by Patrick and his peers). Worth noting that the original Broadway run of Les Mis through the late 1980's was so popular and tickets were in such high demand that theatergoers had to pay several hundred—even several thousand—dollars to get in to see it, making the show most accessible to a wealthy clientele who can afford to spend excessive cash (and vie for seats just like other characters in American Psycho itself would try to get a table at Dorsia). In the film, a framed poster for the musical hangs in Bateman's bathroom, above his toilet, which Patrick is shown staring deeply into and finding his own reflection in the glass casing.
    • The pot-bellied pig that Evelyn shows off at her Christmas party is named "Snowball," a reference to one of the pigs in Animal Farm who lead the initial animal uprising against the human farmers.
  • Sinister Nudity: Patrick Bateman is very prone to going around his apartment in various stages of undress, usually while contemplating horrible things. Over time, these scenes become progressively less alluring and more unsettling as Bateman's Mask of Sanity slips further - until he finally ends up pursuing one of his victims through the apartment with only a pair of sneakers and a strategically placed chainsaw between him and total nudity. He's also partially covered in blood because he killed another victim just moments before.
  • Slashers Prefer Blondes: So do Patrick's presumably non-murderous friends.
  • Sleep Mask: The ever-posh Courtney Rawlinson is seen wearing one in the movie.
  • Slipping a Mickey: Patrick spikes a wine bottle with an unknown drug to help convince Elizabeth and prostitute Christie to have sex with each other.
  • The Sociopath: Patrick Bateman's entire personality is a sham to look good in front of other self-absorbed yuppies, which he achieves by obsessive grooming and droning on about superficial claptrap. On the inside, he's a sadist who hates everybody, especially himself, and brutally murders people for fun. Even with the implication that none of the murders are happening, all it changes is that he has incredibly graphic fantasies instead of outright deeds.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: One of the more famous uses of this trope in modern film; Bateman axe-murders Paul Allen while screaming his head off as Huey Lewis and the News' "Hip to be Square" plays off his sound system.
  • Source Music:
    • All licensed music in the film is established as being played over an audio source present in the scene; Bateman's walkman or home stereo, a car radio, a nightclub's sound system, etc.
    • When Bateman listens to his Walkman, the music is played like he hears it: it comes in stereo when he has both headphones on, only through one channel when he has only one on (e.g. right channel when he only wears a headphone only on his right ear), and no music is played when his headphones are off.
  • Stab the Salad:
    • During Bateman's last killing spree, he seems certain to pull a gun on the security guard in his office — but whips out a pen instead.
    • The opening credits have what seems to be blood dripping all over, but then is turns out to be some sort of red sauce being drizzled on a plate.
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: While Patrick is superficial and phony, no one notices how facile his persona is. Even his obsessive grooming habits go unnoticed, since he blends right in with the rest of the self-absorbed yuppie crowd. In fact, Patrick is constantly mistaken for other people in his circle.
  • Three-Way Sex: Patrick does it with call girls several times.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: Patrick Bateman is clearly insane and has bizarre hallucinations (an ATM machine ordering him, "FEED ME A STRAY CAT") which he believes to be true. It's also ambiguous whether he committed the brutal (and, occasionally, preposterous) murders that occur. Right at the end, another character insists that Paul Allen is alive.
  • Too Important to Remember You: A Running Gag throughout the film is how the cast of fabulously wealthy and fabulously petty Wall Street yuppies constantly mix each other up, not helped by the cookie-cutter getups and lifestyles caused by their endless one-upmanship. In particular, Paul Allen confuses Patrick Bateman for Marcus Halbestram, something Bateman exploits to establish an alibi when he murders Allen. This gets Played for Drama in the final scene when Bateman's lawyer Harold Carnes mistakes him for another employee named Davis and thinks that Bateman's confession was a prank. Harold says it's impossible Allen is dead because he met him for lunch in London ten days prior. It's left ambiguous as to whether Bateman imagined the murder or Harold mistook another yuppie for Allen.
  • Torture Cellar: Properly, Torture Apartment. He uses Paul Allen's place for this after killing him.
  • The Unsmile: Bale's used car salesman grin becomes even more comical when he's agitated.
  • Unreliable Narrator: It's difficult to take Patrick at his word when he obviously experiences surreal hallucinations, occasionally sees his own actions and behaviors as if they are occurring in a work of fiction he might regularly enjoy (in the book), and other characters even dispute his accounts of events.
  • Villain Protagonist: The story is told from the perspective of a deranged, Ax-Crazy Serial Killer. Even if a reader/audience believes Patrick is just imagining his crimes, he is still unlikeable, self-centered, elitist, racist, and shallow.
  • Villainous Breakdown: When Patrick confesses his crimes to his lawyer, Harold Carnes, only to find out that he thinks it's a joke, even mistaking his client for someone else while unknowingly trashing him right in front of his face, he grows increasingly frustrated at Harold's defiance as he tries to convince him that his confession is genuine. Patrick then makes one final attempt by telling him that he killed Paul and liked it, only for Harold to say that that's impossible, with Bateman reaching his boiling point demanding to know why. Harold tells him it's because he had dinner with him twice ten days earlier, leaving Bateman in stunned shock as he's left alone while quietly going back to his friend group.
  • Visible Boom Mic: One casts a reflection off of a CD case in Bateman's office during his second meeting with Detective Kimball.
  • Watering Down: Tim Bryce complains about how the cocaine they've been sold is "a fucking milligram of sweetener."
  • Wham Line: Two instances:
    Real estate agent: There was no ad in the Times. I think you should go now.
    • Then a little later...
    Patrick: Why isn't it possible?
    Carnes: It's just not.
    Patrick: Why not, you stupid bastard?
    Carnes: ...I had dinner with Paul Allen... twice... in London... just ten days ago.
  • Wicked Pretentious: Patrick has an incessant habit — in narrative and dialogue — of describing something at length and then haughtily opining on it, even though the things he fixates on are usually deeply banal, and his opinions or conclusions are dull, misinformed, and bigoted. In some ways this is his supreme ego talking, making him think he's above everyone, and thus the ultimate arbiter of taste or judge of human nature; in other ways, it's how he feigns having a human personality — pretending he always knows what the hell he's talking about, just like everyone else around him. The one thing he seems to know well enough to speak genuinely eloquently on is what a monster he is.
  • Yuppie: Patrick Bateman is the archetypal affluent yuppie. He's rich, works on Wall Street, has a pretty girlfriend, and spends most of his life in trendy restaurants and clubs.

But even after admitting this, there is no catharsis. My punishment continues to elude me and I gain no deeper knowledge of myself. No new knowledge can be extracted from my telling. This confession has meant...nothing.


Video Example(s):


Patrick Bateman

Patrick Bateman is a high-ranking employee at Pierce & Pierce. He gets rich doing nothing but exercising his Conspicuous Consumption whenever he can, is almost identical to his scumbag co-workers and also happens to be a serial killer.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (18 votes)

Example of:

Main / Yuppie

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