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film The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time  

4.1k votes 462 voters 51.6k views 73 items Embed

List of the best psychological thrillers and mystery films ever made. 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 backstory, 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.
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183 33
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The Silence of the Lambs Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Chris Isaak

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132 28
Seven is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
KirkSaw added Seven Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow, Morgan Freeman

148 40
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Memento Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano

125 33
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Kel Varnsen added The Sixth Sense Bruce Willis, Mischa Barton, Haley Joel Osment

104 24
The Usual Suspects is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
KirkSaw added The Usual Suspects Kevin Spacey, Benicio del Toro, Gabriel Byrne

99 22
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Rear Window Grace Kelly, James Stewart, Alfred Hitchcock

144 47
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Lon Harris added Fight Club Brad Pitt, Jared Leto, Helena Bonham Carter

95 25
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Vertigo James Stewart, Kim Novak, Alfred Hitchcock

91 35
inception is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
ScottyDykstra added inception

69 21
Psycho is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Roger Royce added Psycho Alfred Hitchcock, Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins

116 53
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Shutter Island Leonardo DiCaprio, Michelle Williams, Mark Ruffalo

83 35
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The Game Sean Penn, Michael Douglas, Spike Jonze

82 40
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American Psycho Reese Witherspoon, Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe

61 30
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Oldboy Choi Min-sik, Yoo Ji-tae, Oh Dal-su

72 39
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Donnie Darko Drew Barrymore, Ashley Tisdale, Jake Gyllenhaal

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45 20
Taxi Driver is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
KirkSaw added Taxi Driver Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Martin Scorsese

62 38
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Mulholland Drive Naomi Watts, Billy Ray Cyrus, Melissa George

55 33
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The Machinist Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michael Ironside

55 40
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Zodiac Robert Downey Jr., Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo

11 1
Misery is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Dlje115 added Misery Lauren Bacall, Kathy Bates, James Caan

35 27
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The Manchurian Candidate Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury, Janet Leigh

22 14
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KirkSaw added The Talented Mr. Ripley Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon

32 25
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Rebecca Laurence Olivier, Alfred Hitchcock, Joan Fontaine

31 25
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KirkSaw added Black Swan Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Winona Ryder

29 23
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Marnie Sean Connery, Alfred Hitchcock, Tippi Hedren

13 6
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cpalmerray added Dial M for Murder Grace Kelly, Alfred Hitchcock, Ray Milland

30 25
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Pi Mark Margolis, Ajay Naidu, Clint Mansell

28 23
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Lost Highway Richard Pryor, Gary Busey, Patricia Arquette

35 32
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Frailty Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Powers Boothe

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25 23
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Videodrome Debbie Harry, James Woods, David Cronenberg

16 13
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KirkSaw added Play Misty for Me Clint Eastwood, Donna Mills, Jessica Walter

25 24
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The Conversation Harrison Ford, Robert Duvall, Gene Hackman

19 18
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KirkSaw added Fatal Attraction Glenn Close, Michael Douglas, Jane Krakowski

15 15
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KirkSaw added Falling Down Robert Duvall, Michael Douglas, Tuesday Weld

20 21
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Spellbound Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck, Alfred Hitchcock

25 27
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Hard Candy Ellen Page, Sandra Oh, Patrick Wilson

14 16
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kaylee added Wait Until Dark Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin, Robby Benson

23 27
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The Vanishing Johanna ter Steege, Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, Gene Bervoets

15 18
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Pallknowing1 added Moon Kevin Spacey, Mary Tyler Moore, Kaya Scodelario

18 23
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Straw Dogs Dustin Hoffman, David Warner, Peter Vaughan

17 22
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The Parallax View Warren Beatty, Paula Prentiss, Hume Cronyn

19 25
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Repulsion Catherine Deneuve, Roman Polanski, Ian Hendry

14 19
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The Stepfather Terry O'Quinn, Shelley Hack, Jill Schoelen

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17 23
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Les Diaboliques Simone Signoret, Michel Serrault, Paul Meurisse

17 23
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Dead Again Robin Williams, Emma Thompson, Kenneth Branagh

8 12
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Zardoz added Seconds Rock Hudson, Will Geer, Richard Anderson

15 21
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House of Games William H. Macy, Joe Mantegna, J. T. Walsh

14 20
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Peeping Tom Anna Massey, Michael Powell, Pamela Green

10 15
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The Tenant Roman Polanski, Shelley Winters, Isabelle Adjani

10 15
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Sisters Margot Kidder, Charles Durning, Olympia Dukakis