9 Films and Shows That Inspired Real Crimes

The Aurora, Colo. shooting is the latest tragedy with ties to pop culture.

ByABC News
July 23, 2012, 11:00 AM

July 24, 2012 — -- intro: While the motives of accused Colorado shooter James Holmes remain a mystery, the tragedy that happened at a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colo. will always bring to mind Batman.

The 24-year-old said "I am the Joker" when arrested by police early Friday morning, and the massacre that went down inside the Century 16 theater has parallels to more than one scene from Frank Miller's 1986 Batman comic book series, "The Dark Knight Returns."

'Dark Knight Rises' Director Calls Shooting a 'Senseless Tragedy'

In that comic-book series, the Joker murders a television studio audience by deploying "smile gas." Holmes began his massacre by setting off smoke bombs in the theater. The series also features Arnold Crimp, a disturbed man who just lost his job, pulling out a handgun in an adult film theater and killing three people.

Holmes also booby-trapped his apartment, a favorite technique of the Joker.

It's not the first time a real life crime has mimicked one featured in a fictional show or film. Click through for eight more examples:

quicklist: 1title: The Towntext: Ben Affleck made robbing banks look easy in 2010's "The Town": Grab a nun's habit, a big bag, a couple of semi-automatics and you're golden.

An Illinois couple found that formula didn't quite work in real life when they tried to pull off a heist modeled on the movie in 2011, charging a suburban Chicago bank wearing nuns' habits and ghoulish rubber masks. The suspects pointed guns at the bank employees, but no shots were fired and no one was injured. They allegedly walked away with $120,000 in a Nike duffel bag.

Navahcia Edwards, who previously worked at the bank branch, was charged with robbery, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Her longtime boyfriend allegedly cased the bank the day of the robbery. media: 16839214

quicklist: 2title: Fight Clubtext: David Fincher's 1999 ode to the evils of corporate America inspired a New York City teenager to try his own revolt. Kyle Shaw, 17, set off a bomb made out of fireworks, a plastic bottle, and electrical tape outside an Upper East Side Starbucks in 2009.

Police said Shaw planned to launch his own "Project Mayhem" and mimic the plan hatched by Brad Pitt's character in "Fight Club." The teenager's fondness for the movie and book by Chuck Palahniuk was well known -- a former classmate of his told the New York Times, "He wanted to watch the movie in our English class in the 11th grade. We were discussing existentialism in class, and he suggested we watch the movie as an example. We ended up watching 'I Heart Huckabees.'"

In 2010, Shaw pled guilty to attempted arson and attempted criminal possession of a weapon, according to the New York Post. He was sentenced to three and a half years in prison and five years of probation. media: 16839434

quicklist: 3title: Twilight text: The first film in the "Twilight" saga made teens go gaga for stars Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart. It was also blamed for driving one Iowa teen batty.

After a 13-year-old girl was bitten by a male classmate, a vice principal at their school investigated and learned that the boy had bitten 10 others in one month. When contacted, the boy's father said that it was his son's love of the "Twilight" film that made him bite his fellow students, according to the Des Moines Register. The Register said the boy was referred to juvenile corrections. media: 16838120

quicklist: 4title: Dextertext: Showtime's hit drama about a serial killer has been mentioned in at least one real life murder. In 2009, 17-year-old Andrew Conley strangled his 10-year-old brother Conner with his bare hands.

"The fact is, he has said on numerous occasions he had fantasized about killing people," prosecutor Aaron Negangard told "20/20" in 2011. "He told us he was reading books about it—on serial killers. He was watching 'Dexter.'"

In fact, an hour into his first interrogation by police, Conley said, "I don't know if you've heard of it, but it's called 'Dexter,' and it's on Showtime. And I feel like him because he's a serial killer of bad people ... but I just feel like him."

Even a life sentence in prison didn't stop Conley's fascination with "Dexter." In a prison video obtained by "20/20" that recorded the visit of a family friend, Conley asks about the show's most recent plot developments, peppering the friend with questions and comments such as "Whoa, and did Dexter kill Trinity?" and "So Dexter got arrested? Dang. That's cool."media: 16837906

quicklist: 5title: Natural Born Killerstext: A real-life serial killing duo inspired the main characters in 1994's "Natural Born Killers," Mickey and Mallory Knox. In turn, the characters were accused of inspiring a number of horrific murders, including the 1999 Columbine high school shooting.

A lawyer for the Columbine victims and their families attempted to sue the production company behind the Woody Harrelson movie, along with the companies responsible for "The Basketball Diaries" and the video games "Doom" and "Mortal Kombat," saying they encouraged shooter Dylan Klebold to kill. The case was dismissed in 2001. media: 16838947

quicklist: 6title:The Matrixtext: The plot of the sci-fi hit "The Matrix" suggests that the world that we live in is merely an illusion controlled by a computer. Since the 1999 release of the first "Matrix" movie, there have been several cases involving violent crime in which attorneys have used "The Matrix defense" on behalf of their clients, saying that the accused believed they were in an alternate reality.

The most famous case was that of Lee Boyd Malvo, who was convicted of murder for his involvement in the 2002 Washington, D.C.-area sniper attacks. Malvo was said to be obsessed with the world of blurred realities and mind control portrayed in "The Matrix." In jail, Malvo's fixation continued: he wrote, "Free yourself of The Matrix" in his cell.

"The Matrix defense" worked for Vadim Mieseges, a San Francisco man who dismembered his landlady. He told police he acted after he had been "sucked into The Matrix." A judge accepted his plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.media: 16838484

quicklist: 7title: Screamtext: Though the "Scream" films turned the horror genre on its head with campy, often hilarious killing scenes, the original 1996 film inspired at least one serious crime. A 24-year-old Belgian truck driver, Thierry Jaradin, donned the "Scream" killers' signature black robe and ghoulish mask when he stabbed his 15-year-old neighbor, Alisson Cambier, 30 times in 2001. According to the Guardian, he attacked her after she turned down his romantic advances. media: 16838751

quicklist: 8title: Taxi Drivertext: The attempted assasination of then-President Ronald Regan is probably the most famous crime to have been inspired by a film. At the center of it all: John Hinckley, Jr., an aspiring songwriter with an unhealthy obsession for the female star of "Taxi Driver," Jodie Foster.

In the 1976 film, Foster plays a 12-year-old prostitute whom cabbie Travis Bickle tries to save. Later in the film, Bickle also attempts to assassinate a senator running for president.

In what he later said was an attempt to gain Foster's attention, Hinckley fired six shots at Reagan as he left a Washington, D.C. Hilton on March 30, 1981. Reagan was injured by one bullet, and his press secretary, James Brady, was hit in the head by another shot.

Hinckley, who was later found not guilty by reason of insanity, said that the shooting was "the greatest love offering in the history of the world," and that "Everybody, but everybody, knows about John and Jodie." media: 16839447