There’s A Hidden Joke In Hannibal Lecter’s Iconic ‘Fava Beans’ Line From ‘The Silence Of The Lambs’

Hannibal Lecter's 'Fava Beans' Line Contains A Hidden Joke


  • The Silence of the Lambs is decidedly not a comedy, but one of its most iconic scenes features a hidden joke
  • Hannibal Lecter’s line about “fava beans and a nice chianti” has a layer most viewers don’t pick up on
  • Check out other pop culture easter eggs here

In The Silence of the Lambs (1991), the character of Dr. Hannibal Lecter, played by Anthony Hopkins, is perhaps the most iconic cannibal in history.

In the film, his most famous line is when he tells agent Clarice Starling “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.” It’s a deeply disturbing moment and one that’s accentuated by Dr. Lecter’s batshit crazy eyes and gesturing of sucking out a man’s liver.

I’ve always taken this scene at its face value, assuming it was a moment used to illustrate the depths of Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s insanity. But, it turns out, there’s a deeper meaning to this liver/fava beans/chianti reference, and it’s something only trained medical professionals (or potential FBI recruits) might pick up on.

Thanks to one astute viewer on Reddit, I now know Dr. Lecter’s was actually making a very dark joke while detailing the particular components of the meal in question:

Great line from Silence of the Lambs everyone knows. But most people don’t realise Dr Hannibal Lecter is making a medical joke.

Lecter could be treated with drugs called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). As a psychiatrist, Lecter knows this. The three things you can’t eat with MAOIs? Liver, beans, wine.

Lecter is a) cracking a joke for his own amusement, and b) saying he’s not taking his meds.

If he was taking his MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors/antidepressants) then eating liver, fava beans, and drinking wine would be the death of him. This is one of those layered jokes that goes to prove that The Silence of the Lambs is one of the greatest films ever produced.

And before any of you trained medical professionals out there hop in the comments with ‘everybody would know this,’ let me remind you that the VAST MAJORITY of the population don’t know what MAOIs are OR that they treat depression OR that they come with dietary restrictions.

That, my friends, is a deep cut.