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The Criagslist Killer – Movie Review

Scene from The Craigslist Killer

The Craigslist Killer (2011) is a crime thriller film based on the true story of Philip Markoff.  The film is directed by Stephen Kay and is an adaptation of the true crime book A Date with Death: The Secret Life of the Accused “Craigslist Killer”, written by Michele McPhee. The story explores the charming medical student, Philip Markoff (Jake McDorman) who hunted for his victims on Craigslist and was eventually charged of first degree murder.

Streaming on Netflix.

The Craigslist Killer- Movie Review

2022 is the year of true crime series and movies. Having released the likes of Inventing Anna and Bad Vegan, Netflix continued on this trajectory by bringing in this 2011 film in June 2022. As The Craigslist Killer is based on a true criminal, it is sure to ignite a sense of curiosity among Netflix’s viewers.

Premise & Plot

The Craigslist Killer had a great premise. Philip Markoff is a charming, excellent medical student with a bright future and a beautiful fiancée. It was a shock to the community and authorities at the time, that he was behind some attacks on women and even a murder. The problem with this movie is poor writing of the plot and underwhelming execution. 

Throughout the film, the entire plot did not seem to flow and various scenes were shown without any proper explanation to them. For example, the first 40 minutes of the film was spent on building the outsider perception of Philip. His success, brilliance and charm were convincingly conveyed. Even his relationship with Megan was portrayed to be beautiful. However, out of a sudden, Philip was seen looking for exotic masseuse on Craigslist. We were left wondering if this was a habit he had from the beginning or if that was the first time he did it. 

The climax was also, sadly to say, anti-climatic. The police car chase scene seemed pretty straight forward and Philip showed almost no resistance to his capture. Perhaps the writer wanted to stay true to the original incident, and the real Philip’s arrest was indeed quite simple. Nevertheless, the build up and character background gave the audience close to no connection to the character nor the story. Plus, there did not seem to be any “brilliant” strategy on Philip’s end to cover his tracks, other than hiding his gun in his medical book. This made the eventual arrest fell flat.

Scene from The Craigslist Killer
Philip Markoff arrested by the police after a chase

Cast Performances

Jake McDorman played the confident top scorer in school really well. He was convincingly a charming man with everything going well for him. However, his persona as a criminal is not believable in the least. Victims were describing Philip’s character as dominating, someone who likes to shame woman, and that he must have done this a lot of times. However, the Philip we see on screen was scared, not very confident, and paranoid of people following him around. the portrayal of Philip the criminal completely contradicts how he was described.


Perhaps the fault of the performance was partially due to a character whose motivation was not properly fleshed out. Even after finishing the film, we did not get a solid idea on Philip’s true identity. Was he sick in the head? Was he battling some internal urges? When and why did he start doing all this to random women? No hypothesis was given in any of the aspects to explain Philip’s character. He died after writing his Megan’s name on the wall. However, even such a powerful scene, we are still left confused as to who he is and his regard of Megan in his life.

Scene from The Craigslist Killer
Philip woke up in the middle of the night to hunt for victims on Craigslist


Skip it. Not worth the watch.

4/ 10

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