The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time Films
Ultimate List
108  items 28,688 votes 3,622 voters 721,324 views more info

The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time

List Criteria: Vote up and add any movies that send chills down your spine leave you on the edge of your seat until the very end.

Though a variety of definitions for the "psychological thriller" genre have been offered, there is no universally accepted set of guidelines. In general, psychological thrillers integrate personal character elements into mystery and suspense films, essentially toeing the line between a dramatic character study and the sort of plot structure you'd expect from a detective movie. Many psychological thrillers resemble traditional thrillers or suspense films, only with a personal, internal antagonist rather than a traditional movie villain. (For example, Repulsion or The Conversation, in which the plot is moved forward by the main character's growing paranoia and madness.) In many films of this type, the solution to the main character's conflict comes in the form of altering their perspective or discovering some buried truth about themselves and their past, rather than winning a fight or battling an opponent.

Many psychological thrillers play around with the main character's back story, or make use of an unreliable narrator. Films like Christopher Nolan's Memento present the audience with one perspective on the story, and then generate suspense by showing the ways in which "reality" contrasts to this perspective. (This sometimes, but not always, results in a "twist" or surprise ending based on the difference between the main character's perception and that of outside observers.) Several Alfred Hitchcock films utilize this technique, particularly movies like Spellbound and Marnie, in which the story concerns a character becoming mentally well after years of madness and confusion.

This list contains the very best films from the psychological thriller genre. It is open and voteranked, so be sure to vote for your favorites and add any other movies we missed at the bottom of the page.
  • 25 ReRanks
    • Women
    • Men
    • Age
    • Region
  • See list ranked by
The List
Comment
Embed
Options
rerank list
  1. 1
    Up 1382
    Down 187

    the people's #1 Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Chris Isaak

    open
  2. 2
    Up 1097
    Down 185

    Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow, Morgan Freeman

    open
  3. 3
    Up 833
    Down 232

    most listed Carrie-Anne Moss, Guy Pearce, Jorja Fox

    open
  4. 4
    Up 846
    Down 221

    Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Mischa Barton

    open
  5. 5
    Up 611
    Down 140

    Alfred Hitchcock, Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh

    open
  6. 6
    Up 625
    Down 153

    Kevin Spacey, Benicio del Toro, Gabriel Byrne

    open
  7. 7
    Up 982
    Down 241

    Leonardo DiCaprio, Michelle Williams, Mark Ruffalo

    open
  8. 8
    Up 873
    Down 213

    Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Jared Leto

    open
  9. 9
    Up 604
    Down 100

    Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Scatman Crothers

    open
  10. 10
    Up 488
    Down 208

    often listed Reese Witherspoon, Christian Bale, Jared Leto

    open
  11. 11
    Up 400
    Down 133

    Grace Kelly, James Stewart, Alfred Hitchcock

    open
  12. 12
    Up 364
    Down 127

    often listed & ranked high on reranks James Stewart, Kim Novak, Alfred Hitchcock

    open
  13. 13
    Up 443
    Down 90

    Misery

    open
  14. 14
    Up 431
    Down 87

    added by wiabux Scarlett Johansson, David Bowie, Hugh Jackman

    open
  15. 15
    Up 528
    Down 103

    Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

    open
  16. 16
    Up 479
    Down 158

    Sean Penn, Michael Douglas, Spike Jonze

    open
  17. 17
    Up 455
    Down 213

    Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Winona Ryder

    open
  18. 18
    Up 329
    Down 138

    Jodie Foster, Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese

    open
  19. 19
    Up 397
    Down 136

    Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michael Ironside

    open
  20. 20
    Up 256
    Down 125

    Michael Douglas, Glenn Close, Jane Krakowski

    open
  21. 21
    Up 471
    Down 181

    Drew Barrymore, Ashley Tisdale, Jake Gyllenhaal

    open
  22. 22
    Up 247
    Down 112

    Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon

    open
  23. 23
    Up 242
    Down 92

    added by AndrewW.Curley Emmy Rossum, Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon

    open
  24. 24
    Up 166
    Down 76

    Grace Kelly, Alfred Hitchcock, Ray Milland

    open
  25. 25
    Up 323
    Down 149

    Robert Downey Jr., Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo

    open
  26. 26
    Up 294
    Down 74

    ranked low on reranks & added by KeshanHareshu Jennifer Connelly, Russell Crowe, Ron Howard

    open
  27. 27
    Up 192
    Down 95

    Michael Douglas, Robert Duvall, Tuesday Weld

    open
  28. 28
    Up 155
    Down 115

    Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury, Janet Leigh

    open
  29. 29
    Up 245
    Down 131

    Kang Hye-jung, Choi Min-sik, Oh Dal-su

    open
  30. 30
    Up 225
    Down 150

    Naomi Watts, Billy Ray Cyrus, Melissa George

    open
  31. 31
    Up 118
    Down 110

    often listed & ranked high on reranks Laurence Olivier, Alfred Hitchcock, Joan Fontaine

    open
  32. 32
    Up 134
    Down 52

    Edward Norton, Richard Gere, Laura Linney

    open
  33. 33
    Up 179
    Down 142

    added by AndrewW.Curley Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Abigail Breslin

    open
  34. 34
    Up 120
    Down 57

    added by ChangesDownClub Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank

    open
  35. 35
    Up 230
    Down 57

    ranked low on reranks & added by ChangesDownClub Ashton Kutcher, Amy Smart, Logan Lerman

    open
  36. 36
    Up 113
    Down 91

    Clint Eastwood, Donna Mills, Jessica Walter

    open
  37. 37
    Up 93
    Down 107

    often listed & ranked high on reranks Harrison Ford, Robert Duvall, Gene Hackman

    open
  38. 38
    Up 178
    Down 60

    ranked low on reranks Robert De Niro, Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange

    open
  39. 39
    Up 125
    Down 72

    often listed & ranked high on reranks Jennifer Morrison, Kevin Bacon, Illeana Douglas

    open
  40. 40
    Up 100
    Down 96

    often listed & ranked high on reranks Mary Tyler Moore, Kevin Spacey, Kaya Scodelario

    open
  41. 41
    Up 192
    Down 68

    ranked low on reranks & added by ChangesDownClub Amanda Peet, John Cusack, Ray Liotta

    open
  42. 42
    Up 86
    Down 45

    often listed & ranked high on reranks Demi Moore, Kevin Costner, Dane Cook

    open
  43. 43
    Up 199
    Down 44

    ranked low on reranks & added by KeshanHareshu Edward Norton, Anthony Hopkins, Ralph Fiennes

    open
  44. 44
    Up 165
    Down 35

    ranked low on reranks & added by ShaundaPetty Malcolm McDowell, Steven Berkoff, Warren Clarke

    open
  45. 45
    Up 128
    Down 108

    Ajay Naidu, Mark Margolis, Clint Mansell

    open
  46. 46
    Up 91
    Down 48

    added by ChangesDownClub Nicole Kidman, Kristen Stewart, Jodie Foster

    open
  47. 47
    Up 114
    Down 83

    Ryan Gosling, Anthony Hopkins, Rosamund Pike

    open
  48. 48
    Up 143
    Down 102

    Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Powers Boothe

    open
  49. 49
    Up 107
    Down 26

    ranked low on reranks & added by ShaundaPetty Stanley Kubrick, Adam Baldwin, Vincent D'Onofrio

    open
  50. 50
    Up 107
    Down 61

    added by Mavsc79 Vera Farmiga, Margo Martindale, Peter Sarsgaard

    open
109 +

Something missing? Add it!

think you can do better?

Rerank This List

got a blog or website?

embed this list

viewers of this list also saw...

more popular lists