This list includes not only direct adaptations, but also works of fiction in which Leopold or Loeb appear as characters in someone else’s story or where the story/antagonists were inspired by the case.
These are organized by the date they were released, from oldest to newest.
For a full list of the fiction inspired by this case see this page, which includes plays, songs, short stories, novels and more.
Columbo Goes to College
This episode of the popular Columbo detective series was the first of the show’s tenth season, aired in 1990 and centers around the murder of a college Criminology professor. The killers, Cooper and Justin, are students in the professor’s class, who show immense interest in Columbo’s detective work, trying to toy with him and throw him off their trail. Because of Columbo’s sloppy clothes and bumbling attitude, they discredit and mock him, believing him too stupid to ever catch onto them. In the end, of course, they are proven wrong.
Though their motive for the murder was to prevent the professor from kicking them out of school, Justin tells Columbo as they are being arrested: “We did it because we knew how to do it.” Frederick Keller, one of the writers for the episode, acknowledged that he had been inspired by his time in a prestigious college, and wanted to show Columbo going against rich, snobby, Leopold-Loeb-type killers.
Law and Order SVU; Uncivilized
This episode of the popular true crime show aired on November 15th, 1999, episode seven of its first season. It opens with the murder of Ryan Davis, an 8-year-old boy who was assaulted, strangled and buried in a park. The obvious suspect is an adult sex offender who lives nearby and frequently rode his bike in the park where Ryan was killed. When his alibi checks out, the team brings in two eyewitnesses who led the police to this suspect earlier, teenagers named Mike D. and Jimmy G.. They tell conflicting stories about what they’d seen and once the murder weapon and the victim’s glasses are found with Jimmy’s fingerprints on them, the police begin to grill the boys.
Mike, the smarter of the two and the one with a conscience, takes the conventional Leopold role, as someone who was led astray by a sociopathic partner. The boys say the murder was not premeditated, but when Jimmy started sexually assaulting Ryan he began screaming and they strangled him with the bike chain to silence him. Jimmy, in the Loeb role, is remorseless and doesn’t care about the life he’s taken while his partner cries with guilt in the next room, unable to understand how things could have gone so wrong.
Murdoch Mysteries: Big Murderer On Campus
This Canadian mystery show, which focuses on the life and career of detective William Murdoch, aired an episode based on the Leopold and Loeb case in 2009. The episode begins with the murder of college professor Samuel Bennett and another professor who had a heated relationship with the victim is immediately considered the most likely suspect. Two brilliant students, Robert Perry and James Gillies, who attended the classes of both professors, are quick to give Murdoch insight into the accused professor’s personality and possible motives. They are given permission to observe the police until Robert’s handwriting is matched to a note connected to the murder.
Murdoch works to make the boys, who are implied to be lovers, turn on each other, and the police’s efforts focus on Robert, the less composed of the two. Robert eventually confesses to the murder in exchange for a lighter sentence and both are arrested in their classroom. They returned in later seasons where it is revealed that James escaped prison, sawed Robert’s head off and then began to tease and torment Murdoch. He died in the show’s seventh season after jumping from a bridge.
Criminal Minds; True Genius
In season 7 episode 11 of the TV show Criminal Minds, the team is faced with a copycat Zodiac killer, a man who turns out to be a man named Caleb Rossmore. Caleb, the Leopold character, is desperate to regain the friendship of Harvey Morell Jr, his Loeb, a man he was close to in high school, who is now getting married. Both are highly intelligent, though Harvey is successful and Caleb is stuck in a menial job. It is heavily implied that Caleb has romantic feelings for his friend, giving a speech near the beginning saying “your soul mate is standing before you” in reference to himself. He weaves an intricate map of clues for his friend to follow, hoping to bring him back to the closeness they shared when they were teenagers and killed a young boy together. The episode, while playing with location and specifics, carries the underlying themes of superiority, one-sided affection and folie a deux often seen in other adaptations and creates an interesting world in which the Leopold and Loeb characters got away with their initial murder only to get caught as middle-aged adults.