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Bunny Boilers: Cinematic stalkers guarantee drama

A new movie joins a long line of cinematic obsessions, says Emily Dugan

Hell hath no fury like a bunny boiler. Cinematic stalkers guarantee drama. They also promise box-office millions. As the stalker creeps its way back on to our screens with the release of Obsessed on Friday, Hollywood is showing no sign of ditching one of its most lucrative clichés.

The film, which stars Beyoncé Knowles as the wife of a stalker victim played by Idris Elba, shot to the top of the US box office in its opening weekend.

Film critic Barry Norman said: "The stalker is a splendidly menacing character and it's everybody's fear to be stalked. They do well at the box office because it's one of those nightmare scenarios that could happen to almost anyone."

Professor Mark Jancovich, head of film studies at the University of East Anglia, added: "The stalker as a character in films has a long lineage but since the 1990s people have been preoccupied with it. The rise of celebrity culture is part of that because they attract a series of obsessive fans."

Fatal Attraction 1987

Nothing quite says 'I love you' like slitting your wrists, abducting your lover's child and trying to kill his wife. The original bunny boiler film (a pet rabbit really does get the saucepan treatment) starred Glenn Close and Michael Douglas, and it was almost enough to put a whole generation of men off having affairs.

Single White Female 1992

So your new roommate copies your haircut. So far so normal. But what if she started wearing identical clothes and sleeping with your boyfriend, and threw your puppy out of the window? This classic stalker flick starring Bridget Fonda also wins the prize for best murder weapons: a stiletto heel and a screwdriver.

Misery 1990

The words 'I'm your number one fan' were never the same again. Kathy Bates gives a terrifying rendition of an obsessive fan so desperate to see her favourite romantic novels continued that she holds their author (James Caan) captive. The expression on her face alone is enough to make a grown man weep.

Obsessed 2009

The singer Beyoncé Knowles stars as the wife of The Wire's Idris Elba, whose latest temp develops a dangerous crush on him.

One Hour Photo 2002

A man whose only friend is a pet gerbil can mean just one thing in Hollywood: psychopath. Robin Williams plays a supermarket photo developer whose obsession with his job takes on new proportions when he meddles with the family whose pictures he develops. It's not long before he's in the bedroom wielding a knife.

The Hand That Rocks the Cradle 1992

It seems the Bartel family has found the perfect nanny (Rebecca De Mornay)... until she preys on schoolchildren, breastfeeds their baby and booby-traps the greenhouse in an attempt to kill the mother (Annabella Sciorra). The anti-'Mary Poppins', the film reaches a bloody climax.

Taxi Driver 1976

As first dates go, being taken to a Swedish sex education film should ring alarm bells. Robert De Niro plays an unhinged cabbie whose failed first date with a political aide prompts a barrage of attention and a mad attempt to 'save' a 12-year-old prostitute. Director Martin Scorsese keeps the tension running.

Cape Fear 1962/1991

Why is it always the pets that go first? In this thriller (so good it got made twice), it is the dog that cops it. A convicted rapist (played in the original by Robert Mitchum) returns to harass the family of the public defender who put him in the clink. Once he's bumped off the family pet he tries to get the rest of them.

Play Misty for Me 1971

Requesting a song from a radio station is not normally the behaviour of psychopaths. But when they've asked for the same track every night for as long as the DJ can remember, it's a sign that they may not be sane. Clint Eastwood's DJ makes the mistake of having a fling with Jessica Walter's serial caller.

Sleeping with the Enemy 1991

You know the marriage has gone wrong when you have to fake your own death in order to escape it. A violently possessive husband takes jealousy to a stratospheric level in this film starring Julia Roberts, beating his wife for transgressions such as 'conversation' and tracking her across the country.