Follow TV Tropes


Film / Monster

Go To

Monster (2003) is a biographical crime drama about serial killer Aileen Wuornos, a former prostitute who was executed in 2002 for killing seven men in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Wuornos was played by Charlize Theron, and her lover, Selby Wall, was played by Christina Ricci (Wuornos' lover's name was actually Tyria Moore, but her character's name, age, and appearance in the film were changed for legal reasons). The film was written and directed by Patty Jenkins.

This movie has no connection with the anime and manga Monster (though that work does focus on a serial killer just like the film), the young adult novel Monster and its 2021 film adaptation, the sci-fi film Monsters, the 1925 film The Monster, the 1999 film Monster! (1999), the 2016 film The Monster, the 2018 film Monster, or Monster (2023).

This movie provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Aileen tells a male victim that her father beat her up for confessing that she was being raped by his best friend. To add insult to injury, her father continued to allow his best friend to rape Aileen when she was a child.
  • Adaptational Timespan Change: Aileen and Tyria lived together for years before Aileen committed her first murder. In the film, Aileen and Tyria (here renamed "Selby") first meet only days before it.
  • Am I Just a Toy to You?: After returning to their motel room, Aileen sees Selby desperately trying to remove her arm cast and Selby questions their relationship and Aileen's loyalty to her due to her foster parents' skepticism of her "using people". The fight is enough to cause Aileen to confess that she hasn't been working people because she killed someone.
    Selby: 'Cause you're using me! 'Cause you're fucking using me!
    Aileen: 'Cause because I fucking killed someone, all right?
  • Asshole Victim: Let's face it, Aileen's first victim had it coming. The rest... didn't.
  • Beauty Inversion:
    • Charlize Theron gained between 20 and 30 pounds and shaved her eyebrows to play Wuornos. With all the press for a young beautiful actress with that kind of dedication, she got the Best Actress Oscar in a walk.
    • Christina Ricci also gained 20 pounds for the role and both actresses dressed in very un-glamourous clothing.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: In a very meta sense. In the opening narration, Aileen says she always wanted to be in the movies.
    Aileen: (narrating) I always wanted to be in the movies.
  • BFG: Aileen in the film uses an unrealistically massive long barrel revolver, not quite the weapon expected for a petite woman, in Real Life half a head shorter than Charlize Theron herself. It's actually a Smith & Wesson 617, a training revolver in .22LR caliber built on the same frame as large-caliber models, to give the same feeling in hand. Her Real Life counterpart used a much smaller gun in the same .22 caliber.
  • Broken Bird: Very, very broken. To say nothing of her real-life childhood (the film begins in 1989), she is raped and commits her first murder in self-defense, tries but fails to get out of prostitution when no one will hire her, suffers from schizophrenia, and things only go further downhill when she starts to kill again.
  • Bifauxnen and Lad-ette: Both Selby and Aileen are slightly masculine in style and mannerisms.
  • Butch Lesbian: Downplayed with Selby who's a soft butch. Zig-Zagged with Aileen. Both women dress very androgynously and are unkempt in appearance. Aileen has long hair as oppose to short haircuts. Aileen also takes up the role of "the man" in her relationship with Selby, calling her affectionate nicknames and being the bread-winner of financial support for her girlfriend. Albeit through prostitution.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Remember the scene where Selby accidentally rams a red car (where it was stolen by Aileen beforehand) into an elderly couple's yard? The couple noticed the looks of Aileen and Selby, as well as their suspicious activity. Once the news of the murders kicks in, the couple immediately recognize the two, making Aileen and Selby the prime suspects.
  • Closet Key: Selby for Aileen.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Several, but Aileen's failed job interview at the hands of a very smug lawyer deserves mention.
    Lawyer: I see you're from Daytona Beach, all of that looks great, it must be wonderful. But can I tell you something? When the beach party is over, you don't get to say, "You know what? Now I think I'd like to have what everybody else has worked their entire life for." It doesn't work that way.
    Aileen: (beat) Fuck you, man. Yeah, fuck you! YOU DON'T FUCKIN' KNOW ME!
    Lawyer: Okay, great. That's great. See, now I'm so sorry I didn't hire you before. Leslie, could you please escort Miss... I don't even know her name because of course she doesn't have a resume... out.
    Aileen: I don't need a fuckin' escort, you piece of shit! What, you think I'm a fuckin' retard? Take your fuckin' job and fuckin' shove it!
    (Leslie hesitantly tries to escort her out of the building)
    Aileen: Fuck you, Leslie!
  • Cure Your Gays: Selby's biological dad believes he "can save her soul" from lesbianism.
  • Dance of Romance: Aileen and Selby share their first one on roller skates.
  • Desperately Craves Affection: Selby who grew up in an extremely homophobic household, looks for any excuse to spend time with Aileen or talk to her let alone anyone. She even allows Aileen to sleep in the same bed as her (platonically) just because she was never allowed at friend's sleepovers and asks if she could touch her face.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: Subverted. The first victim (Vincent Corey, played by Lee Tergesen) tries to turn Aileen into this but she kills him.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Aileen goes from murdering an abusive john who sexually assaults her to murdering guys just for indulging in prostitution to murdering men just because she's pissed and they're there.
  • Doomed by Canon: Well, doomed by real life. After killing her first victim, Aileen makes a desperate attempt to quit prostitution and find some other means of earning a living. It... doesn't go well.
  • Downer Ending: Aileen and Selby are forced to go their separate ways once mugshots of them are identified, and Aileen is soon found, arrested and sentenced to death row before being executed 12 years later
  • Driven to Suicide: Aileen was fully intending to kill herself prior to meeting Selby.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • Aileen and Selby's sex scene, although this is probably intentional (yet it is also played in a rather sweet manner).
    • Also, the scene with Aileen glancing at her naked, bloodstained body in the bathroom mirror.
    • Aileen furiously masturbating a male client against his will during a deal.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: The victim played by Scott Wilson offers to let Aileen stay at his home to get back on her feet with no ulterior motive. She promptly murders him for no reason at all.
  • Gayngst: Selby makes it clear to Aileen during their first meeting that she doesn't like being at home with her foster parents. Being a closeted lesbian, her foster parents are religious zealots and her biological parents disowned her for being gay.
    Selby: I'm just trying to have one decent night out. You know, just talk to someone before I have to go back to my parent's closet.
  • Happily Failed Suicide: After meeting Selby, Aileen is happy she didn't go through with her original plan to kill herself.
  • Historical Beauty Upgrade: Tyria Moore, Wuornos' real-life girlfriend, looked like this. Selby Wall, on the other hand, is played by Christina Ricci.
  • Historical Domain Character: Aileen Wuornos was a real serial killer and the POV protagonist of the film (released one year after her death). Her girlfriend Selby Wall is a No Historical Figures Were Harmed version of Tyria Moore with her name, age and appearance changed for legal reasons.
  • Historical Villain Downgrade: Aileen is portrayed more sympathetically than she was in real life. While the real Aileen also had a tragic backstory she was far more cruel and ruthless. In one interview she straight up admitted she felt no remorse for murdering those people.
  • Honey Trap: Aileen lures her victims away to a secluded area for sex, only to kill them and take their money afterwards.
  • Howl of Sorrow: When one of her victims starts crying and begging for his life, Aileen snaps and shoots him dead while letting out one of these (although it's more like a Howl Of Rage).
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Aileen towers over Selby.
  • If It's You, It's Okay: Aileen doesn't consider herself gay, but enters into a loving relationship with Selby.
Selby: (after kissing Aileen, laughes) I thought you didn't like girls.
Aileen Wuornos: I didn't like anyone really. But I like you.
  • I Have a Family: One of Aileen's victims tries this very shortly before she pulls the trigger on him.
  • Innocent Bigot: Selby's religious foster mother claims she's not a racist but can't resist dropping the N-word when describing colored patrons.
    Donna: You know I'm not a racist.
  • Internal Reveal: The audience knows by now that Aileen killed her first victim — her rapist. Selby only finds out about it through the second half of the film.
  • Jerkass:
    • Good luck trying to find a moment in the movie where Aileen herself isn't a bitch.
    • The lawyer Aileen launches a Cluster F-Bomb against, and the cop who picks her up while she's jobhunting.
  • Lady Swears-a-Lot: Aileen loves her swearing. This slips after the first half hour in the film where the dangerously-psychotic in Real Life Aileen after a few scenes of hysterical antics appears rather absurdly funny.
  • Large Ham: Most of the main characters play everything like this, even the most innocuous scene. This contributes to the absurdly-funny atmosphere despite the tragedy of the events.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Part of Aileen's motivation for the murders is so she can rob her victims afterwards to support herself and Selby.
  • Misanthrope Supreme: Aileen, as demonstrated by this exchange:
    Selby: We can be as different as we wanna be, but you can't kill people!
    Aileen: SAYS WHO?! I'm good with the Lord. I'm fine with him. And I know how you were raised, alright? And I know how people fuckin' think out there, and fuck, it's gotta be that way. They've gotta tell you that 'Thou shall not kill' shit and all of that. But that's not the way the world works, Selby. Cuz I'm out there every fuckin' day living it. Who the fuck knows what God wants? People kill each other every day and for what? Hm? For politics, for religion, and THEY'RE HEROES! No, no... there's a lot of shit I can't do anymore, but killing's not one of them. And letting those fucking bastards go out and rape someone else isn't either!
  • Nice Guy: Aileen's victim played by Scott Wilson offers to let her stay at his home and help her get back on her feet with no ulterior motive, and his only reaction to seeing that she has a gun is to ask if she’s in trouble. She promptly murders him.
  • Oh, Crap!: Aileen, when she finds one victim's badge.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Aileen is mostly referred to as "Lee" throughout the film.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Aileen kills her first victim after he rapes and brutalises her. With all her later victims, however, she believes that she is paying evil unto evil, when, in all actuality, they didn't deserve it.
  • Pedo Hunt: Aileen kills her second victim when she mistakes his "daddy kink" for him being a pedophile.
  • Pet the Dog: Aileen spares one of her intended victims out of pity, after it turns out he's never hired a prostitute before and is extremely nervous. Of course, she immediately follows this act of mercy by murdering an innocent man who just wanted to help her get home.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Apart from her murderous hatred of men, Aileen also throws the word "retard" around during her job interview.
  • Psycho Lesbian / Depraved Bisexual: Aileen, who seduces and kills numerous men out of hate, money and her love for her girlfriend Selby.
  • Rape as Backstory: Aileen tells one of her victims what happened to her as a child just before murdering him.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: If anyone, for any reason, wrote a crime novel based on the Real Life Aileen Wuornos (daughter of a teenage mother and a violent child molester lunatic who killed himself in prison, raised in a violent abusive household, raped and gave birth just after she hit puberty, ran away and lived in the woods - in Michigan winters,her mental illness progressively got worse after enduring a lot of maltreatment on the streets and so on...) nobody would have believed it. People dismiss such stories as pornographic fantasy. Yet most of it happened and only got into the public eye because of her trial.
  • Roman à Clef: This is what happened to Tyria Moore in the film who was not only given a different name but her age and appearance were changed at the behest of Moore's lawyer.
  • Predatory Prostitute: Reconstructed in the Dramatization of Aileen Wuornos, who kills her first client in genuine self-defense, but then jumps off the slippery slope and starts killing clients to steal their money and avenge what she sees as the injuries against her.
  • Promiscuity After Rape: After being raped as a child, Aileen devoted herself to prostitution.
  • Revenge Against Men: Aileen goes on a killing spree against men in general, believing they are responsible for the terrible state of her life.
  • Serial Killer: Aileen Wuornos is perhaps the most infamous female serial killer in United States history.
  • Sexual Karma: Selby and Aileen's first time is portrayed as romantic and tender, in contrast to the other sex scenes in the film, most non-consensual.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Thomas hints at being this, during his conversation with Aileen. "What you're feeling right now is guilt, over something you had absolutely no control over. Do you know how many of us came back from the war, and almost killed ourselves because we felt exactly the same way?"
  • Shout-Out: "Gassenhauer" is played, an obvious homage to Badlands.
  • Shower of Angst: Aileen takes one after killing her first and second male victims to wash off the blood.
  • Shown Their Work: The way the movie portrays what happened to Aileen was probably very close to the truth. She killed her first victim out of self defense, and her rising schizophrenia likely helped her jump to some unusual conclusions that led her to continue. The director also personally met with Wuornos to get the film as accurate as possible.
  • Society Is to Blame: Aileen had been forced into prostitution and ended up being raped, leading her to kill in self-defense. Which led to her committing more murders. Indeed, her real life final words were to this very effect.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Justified. After being raped by the man who turns out to be her first victim, Aileen escapes, grabs his gun, blasts him several times, continues firing into his corpse and does not stop until she's completely emptied the clip. Shortly after, she starts beating his corpse with the gun whilst punctuating each beat with rage-filled insults. Of course Aileen follows up this act of self-defense with a string of cold-blooded murders, all while still using the justification of self-defense.
  • Villain Protagonist: Aileen Wuornos, the titular serial killer.
  • Violently Protective Girlfriend: Aileen shoves a restaurant patron for not allowing Selby to smoke a cigarette inside.
  • Where Everybody Knows Your Flame: Aileen and Selby first meet up in a gay bar. Selby knows its a gay bar but Aileen doesn't as she was looking for the closest bar around.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Aileen may have been depraved, but damn if she hadn't been given an awful deck of cards.

Statler: So how did you like the movie Monster?
Waldorf: Like it? I married one!
Both: Do-ho-ho-ho-hoh!