Criminal Minds has been killing off unsuspecting people in horrendous ways for 14 seasons, totaling what is more than 300 episodes now. Sometimes the serial killers stick to pretty normal ways of murder, like stabbing someone or shooting them. Quick and easy stuff, you know? Others… well, others have found a way to stay with us long after their episode(s) has aired, whether it was because of how they tracked their victims, what they did to them afterward or who it was specifically they decided to torture.
Since no one likes to suffer alone, TV Guide has gone back through the gnarliest and most haunting of Criminal Minds‘ case files and picked the 14 most memorable unsubs the show has ever produced. Maybe get a bucket before you read this, because it’s going to be rough.
14 Nathan Harris (Anton Yelchin)
The first unsub on our list didn’t actually kill anyone, he just really wanted to. Anton Yelchin guest-starred in Season 2 as Nathan Harris, a disturbed young man who realized he was showing all the signs of an evolving killer and wanted to stop himself before he actually killed his first victim. The torment of trying to stop his urges led him to try and kill himself, but Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler) was able to save him in time. He was institutionalized in order to try and curb his urges to a manageable level, but his potential to become a monster left an indelible impression.
13. Benjamin Cyrus (Luke Perry)
Some of the unsubs on this list made it because of the people playing them rather than their impact on the show or plotlines. Enter ’90s heartthrob Luke Perry, who played a David Koresh kind of religious cult leader. Perry’s episode felt like a huge event, with Prentiss (Paget Brewster) and Reid being stuck inside the compound trying to capture Benjamin, only to see the whole thing blown to bits after he was shot by the FBI. The cult leader left such an impression that Criminal Minds weaved him into their 300th episode a decade after his original appearance.
12. Jeffrey Charles (Cameron Monaghan)
Long before he started breaking hearts on Shameless or taking on the Joker mantle for Gotham, Cameron Monaghan played a baby serial killer on Criminal Minds. Oh, sorry, you thought you only had to worry about adult strangers bludgeoning you to death? That’s cute. Kids also kill kids. Life is a nightmare and this show wants you to never forget.
11. Tobias Hankel (James Van Der Beek)
Reid has managed to get kidnapped about every other season of Criminal Minds but the most memorable of his tormentors is Tobias Hankel, played by James Van Der Beek. Tobias kept Reid tied up in his barn for days, beating him and drugging him. The team was eventually able to rescue Reid, but the trauma led Reid to have a substance abuse problem, which was tragic to watch for several episodes.
10. Dr. Stanley Howard (Michael O’Keefe)
Hey, what’s your worst fear? What if your therapist was actually a demented serial killer who charmed you into telling him what it was and then used that as his method to kill you? Most unsubs on Criminal Minds have a weird logic to their choices in murdering, but Stanley here was just a sadist who was determined to make your phobias haunt you on the next level. Spiders are already the freaking worst, Stan, I don’t need to think about them eating me alive. I hate you, Stan. I hate you SO MUCH.
9. Robert (Erik Sunquist) and Linda Reimann (Frieda Jane)
Female unsubs are pretty uncommon, but when they do appear, they are next level cray-cray. Linda Reimann was abused so badly by her husband she had a miscarriage. So she naturally decided to help him kidnap young girls and force them into having babies for the demented couple. If they gave birth to a boy, Linda kept him and called him Michael after her dead baby. If the girls gave birth to other girls, they were killed and their baby given up for adoption. So, it was kind of like a childbirth coin toss of death. Yeah, I would have to decline the invite to that baby shower.
8. Roger (Bud Court) and Anita Roycewood (Beth Grant)
If you thought the child torture was over you were gravely mistaken. Blame Roger and Anita Roycewood, who kidnapped a dozen children and pretended they were their own. Oh, until that kid misbehaved and the Roycewoods killed the kid and cremated them in their funeral home. Hahahaha, it’s fine. I’m fine. Everything is fine. (It’s not fine. Can someone hold me now?)
7. Frank Breitkopf (Keith Carradine)
Of course the most prolific killer of the entire series had to make the list. Frank Breitkopf killed more than 175 people. He was never actually caught by the BAU, choosing to kill himself and the love of his life by jumping in front of oncoming train instead of letting Gideon (Mandy Patinkin) take him in. Frank’s psychological torture of Gideon and the murder of Gideon’s girlfriend led the original leader of the BAU to resign, which was the first major shakeup for our favorite FBI agents.
6. Billy Flynn (Tim Curry)
It’s so fun when childhood heroes decide to guest star on Criminal Minds as despicable monsters. If you want to never look at the beloved Tim Curry again, just check him out as Billy Flynn, a serial rapist and spree killer. In case you hadn’t noticed, nothing on Criminal Minds is sacred, even your love of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
5. Adam Rain (Brad Dourif)
Move over clowns! Marionettes have taken over as the allegedly fun childhood thing that is actually made of the worst nightmare potential! Especially when those creepy AF puppets are actually humans that have been strung up to perform shows for unknowing audiences. Yes, Adam Rain took his victims and turned them into puppets to perform shows FOR THE PUBLIC. Imagine being forced to dance via string as a crowd watches but being unable to scream for help. This article is officially giving me PTSD.
4. Floyd Feylinn Ferell (Jamie Kennedy)
Do you worry that all meat served at public barbecues is actually human meat? If you do, it’s probably because of Floyd Feylinn Ferell, the most terrifying cannibal to exist in the Criminal Minds universe. He hunted his victims, turned them into chili and then fed them to the volunteers looking for the missing girls. Seriously, this guy ruined chili and deserves to burn in hell.
3. Lucas Turner (Paul Rae)
When it comes to horrifying ways to get rid of your victims’ bodies, Lucas Turner takes the cake. The seemingly mild-mannered pig farmer in Ontario kidnapped and tortured his victims until they died. Then he dismembered their bodies and fed them to his pigs so that all that was left of them was a pile of shoes. There were so many it was impossible to tell how many people had been killed over the years and, we repeat, fed to pigs. UGH.
2. Scratch (Bodhi Elfman)
When it comes to psychological warfare, there are few that can compete with Peter Lewis, aka Mr. Scratch. The man orchestrated framing Reid for murder and actually did kill Stephen Walker (Damon Gupton). He wasn’t a fancy killer, but he caused a lot of deep, personal damage to the team and thus sticks out as one of their most memorable adversaries, just because we know he can get to them unlike any other killer.
1. The Reaper (C. Thomas Howell)
The Reaper wasn’t creative with his M.O., preferring a quick and easy gun shot, but he has to top the list because of the psychological effect he had on the BAU, Hotch (Thomas Gibson) in particular. Not only did he evade capture for several episodes, but his final task was hunting down Hotch’s family and killing his wife (Meredith Monroe). The image of Hotch hearing his wife being murdered over the phone while he sits helplessly in his car is seared into our memories forever.
Criminal Minds airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on CBS.
(Full disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS.)