The Zodiac Killer in popular culture

The Zodiac Killer in popular culture

The Zodiac Killer was a serial killer who operated in Northern California in the 1960s-1970s. His identity remains unknown. His crimes, letters, and cryptograms to police and newspapers inspired many movies, novels, television, and more.


*"Dirty Harry", starring Clint Eastwood, was filmed in San Francisco and released on December 23 1971. In the movie, which is very loosely based on the Zodiac case, the killer (played by Andrew Robinson), who calls himself "Scorpio", at certain points he sends intimidating letters, with the handwriting based on the real life killer's and kidnaps a school bus full of children and threatens to kill them all.
*"The Zodiac Killer", directed by Tom Hanson and starring Hal Reed and Bob Jones, was released on April 6, 1972.
*The "Gemini Killer" in the movie "The Exorcist III", released on August 17 1990, was also loosely based on the Zodiac killer.
*Edward James Olmos starred in " [ The Limbic Region] ", an HBO movie first shown on June 30, 1996; it is based on Robert Graysmith's 1986 book, "Zodiac".
*In 2000, a short film entitled "Disguised Killer" was produced in Vallejo; set in the present, it is based on the Lake Herman Road murders and has a Filipino cast.
*" [ Zodiac Killer] ", a digitally recorded movie by Ulli Lommel, is about a cat-and-mouse game between the real Zodiac and a young copycat in 2002 Los Angeles. It was first shown at the Fearless Tales Genre Fest in San Francisco on March 30 2005.
*"The Zodiac", directed by Alex Bulkley, is about a fictional detective in Vallejo obsessed with investigating the real Zodiac. In the United States, it opened on March 17, 2006, on 10 screens, one of which was in Vallejo, less than a mile and a half from Blue Rock Springs where Darlene Ferrin was murdered.
*"Zodiac," directed by David Fincher, is based on the two non-fiction books by Robert Graysmith: "Zodiac" and "Zodiac Unmasked: The Identity of America's Most Elusive Serial Killer". Filming locations included San Francisco and Los Angeles, and it opened in theaters nationwide on March 2 2007. It stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Graysmith, Robert Downey Jr. as Avery, Mark Ruffalo as Toschi, Brian Cox as Belli, and John Carroll Lynch as Allen.
*In one shot of the theatrical trailer for the Julie Taymor film, "Across the Universe", released October 12, 2007, one of The Zodiac Killer's codes is shown as a poster hanging on a wall.


*In the second season of the San Francisco cop show "Nash Bridges" in 1996, Don Johnson's police inspector is on the hunt for a killer copying the Zodiac murders. "The Zodiac" episode ends with the real Zodiac making a taunting phone call to Bridges.
*The killer known as Avatar in the "Millennium" episode entitled "The Mikado" is based on the Zodiac Killer. In fact, writer Michael R. Perry had intended the villain to be the Zodiac Killer, but executives at the FOX network did not allow a real killer to be incorporated, so the name was changed. Despite this, several aspects of Avatar run parallel to that of the Zodiac, from the black executioner's-type hood to the taunting of the police with cryptic letters, as well as the killer's anonymity.
*The Zodiac Killer was given a full feature episode on "America's Most Wanted" on February 25, 2007, which included full accounts of all canonical killings.
*A segment was aired on the now-syndicated show "Unsolved Mysteries", exploring a possible link between Zodiac and the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski.
*Episode 51 of "Cold Case Files", hosted by Bill Kurtis, examines the crimes of the Zodiac Killer.
*The anime series "Death Note", as well as the manga series on which it was based, center around the activities of a serial killer known as "Kira", who taunts police with messages sent to media groups in Tokyo. Several of Kira's messages contain hidden codes and anagrams remeniscient of those allegedly written by the real life Zodiac killer.
*In the American TV show "Criminal Minds" several parallels are drawn to the Zodiac killer.


There have been a number of novels either about the Zodiac Killer or based on him:
*The first was "The Zodiac Killer: Still At Large" in 1977 by Cliff Smith Jr.
*Jerry Weissman wrote "The Zodiac Killer" in 1979.
*The 1983 novel "Legion" (which was filmed as Exorcist 3, see above), by William Peter Blatty, features a killer based on the Zodiac.
*Criminal profiler Michael Kelleher wrote "Suspect Zero", a 2003 novel about the Santa Rosa coed murders, believed by some to be the work of the Zodiac.
*David Baldacci's 2004 novel "Hour Game" features a villain who bases his murders on the Zodiac killer's M.O., but claims that he isn't a copycat.
* The Canadian novel "Plagiarism" features a chapter where a character dresses as the Zodiac Killer at school. The novel is set in a fictional town in California.

Graphic novels

The Zodiac has appeared in graphic novels, comic stories, and a trading card set:
*Steven Friel wrote and illustrated "The Zodiac" in "Killer Komix", a UK publication, in 1992.
*Jack Herman and Karen Herman wrote and Ed Quinby illustrated "The Zodiac," based on Graysmith's "Zodiac"; it appeared in "Psycho Killers M.I.A. Special", Volume 1, # 2, in 1992.
*"The Zodiac Killer" was card # 83 in the 1992 trading card series, "True Crime Series Two: Serial Killers & Mass Murderers".


Popular music groups have referenced the Zodiac murders in both name and song:
*Zodiac Killers released the CD "Scorpio Rising" in 1992.
*The Zodiac Killers, a San Francisco punk band, released "The Most Thrilling Experience" in 1999.
*Hip hop artist The Zodiac (real name Brent Whiting) released two CDs featuring songs about the Zodiac Killer in 2006.
* Death metal group Macabre have a song entitled "Zodiac" on their Sinister Slaughter album, the lyrics of which are taken largely from the Zodiac letters.
*Japanese Horror-Punk band Balzac has a side project named Zodiac which is inspired by the zodiac killer and under that name they released several singles and EPs. Also the band has released a CD in Germany (2007) called "Paranoid Dream of the Zodiac"; the songs titles show connections to the Zodiac cases and murders.
* Wisconsin based industrial-metal Electric Hellfire Club have a track entitled "This is the Zodiac" on their 2002 release "Electronomicon" which makes several references to the Zodiac's letters.
* Machine Head song "Blood of the Zodiac" from their 1997 'The More Things Change' album is inspired by the Zodiac Killer
* Pleasure Forever recorded a song called "This is the Zodiac Speaking" for their 2003 album Alter on Sub Pop Records..


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