the silence of the lambsOrion Pictures

The unassuming Norman Bates might creep you out, and the flesh-hungry Hannibal Lecter might make your skin crawl.

But according to one group of psychiatrists, these men aren't Hollywood's most realistic psychopaths.

In fact, they may not be psychopaths at all.

Psychopathy, loosely defined, is a varying combination of cold-heartedness and violence. The most extreme psychopaths kill without remorse, mutilating victims with as much emotion as you or I might brush our teeth.

This is known as "classic" or "idiopathic" psychopathy, but sometimes the disorder is more covert, like with manipulative smooth talkers who aren't necessarily violent.

In 2014, the Belgian psychiatry professor Samuel Leistedt wanted to find out which movie characters embodied those traits best.

So, as any film buff would, Leistedt called on 10 of his friends to help him watch 400 movies over the course of three years. The films spanned nearly a century, from 1915 to 2010. When the team finished watching all the films, they'd ended up with 126 psychopathic characters, 105 of whom were male. 

Here's the breakdown they ended up with.

Most realistic psychopaths

1. Anton Chigurh, "No Country for Old Men"

No country for old men javier bardemParamount Pictures

Javier Bardem's character in "No Country for Old Men" is a classic psychopath, Leistedt and his colleagues conclude in their report. He approaches murder with an uncanny sense of normalcy, perfectly happy to empty his trademark bolt pistol without so much as a wince.

"He seems to be effectively invulnerable and resistant to any form of emotion or humanity," Leistedt writes.

2. Hans Beckert, "M"

hans beckertUFA

Peter Lorre's child-killing character in the 1931 German film "M" embodies many of the traits that would now be thought of belonging to a child predator, Leistedt and his colleagues observe. 

"Lorre portrays Beckert as an outwardly unremarkable man tormented by a compulsion to murder children ritualistically," they write. The character would most likely be diagnosed as a "pseudopsychopath," which many would more commonly refer to as a sociopath. His brutality also hints at psychosis.

3. Henry Lee Lucas, "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer"

michael rookerMaljack Productions

Loosely based on the true story of Henry Lee Lucas, a Texas man who confessed to hundreds of murders throughout the country, the 1990 film chronicles the unstable life of a grisly serial killer. 

Leistedt argues the character's inability to plan ahead, coupled with his turbulent personal life and poor family relationships, make him a textbook idiopathic psychopath.

The unrealistic 

More iconic psychopaths, including Patrick Bateman ("American Psycho"), Gordon Gekko ("Wall Street"), Norman Bates ("Psycho"), and Hannibal Lecter ("Silence of the Lambs"), may be entertaining or frightening, but Leistedt and his team argue their character traits don't quite fit the psychopath mold.

Norman Bates, for example, seems more to be more delusional — or psychotic — than psychopathic. He is at the mercy of a fantasy, not complicit in a real-world crime.

"In our specific topic of interest, it appears that psychopathy in the cinema, despite a real clinical evolution remains fictional," the authors write. "Most of the psychopathic villains in popular fiction resemble international and universal boogeyman, almost as 'villain archetypes.'"

In other words, only a minority of psychopathic characters actually deserve a diagnosis. The rest simply fit our not-so-accurate stereotype.