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The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time 

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Originally by Ranker Community
Updated August 8, 2020 513.1k votes 50.2k voters 3.5M views 241 items

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

A list of the best psychological thrillers of all time, ranked by fans who may or may not be trying to mess with your head! 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. With that in mind, what do you think are the best psychological thriller movies? Could some even be considered the best thriller movies ever?

Many of the top 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 movies 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 best thriller movies of all time. It is open and vote ranked, so be sure to vote for your favorites and add any other movies that may be missing at the bottom of the page. Got an opinion on great thriller movies? Vote for your favorite psychological suspense movies ever! And, if you love scary material, check out this list of the best current crime shows as well. 

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26
The Machinist is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michael Ironside

Released: 2004

Directed by: Brad Anderson

The Machinist is a 2004 English-language Spanish psychological thriller film directed by Brad Anderson and written by Scott Kosar. The film stars Christian Bale with Jennifer Jason Leigh, John ...more

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27
12 Monkeys is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
jared-telsa added Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis, Christopher Plummer

Released: 1995

Directed by: Terry Gilliam

12 Monkeys, also known as Twelve Monkeys, is a 1995 American science fiction film directed by Terry Gilliam, inspired by Chris Marker's 1962 short film La Jetée, and starring Bruce ...more

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28
Red Dragon is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
KeshanHareshu added Anthony Hopkins, Ralph Fiennes, Edward Norton

Released: 2002

Directed by: Brett Ratner

Red Dragon is a 2002 American psychological thriller film based on Thomas Harris' novel of the same name. It is a prequel to The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal. The novel was originally ...more

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29
Taxi Driver is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Martin Scorsese

Released: 1976

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Taxi Driver is a 1976 American neo-noir psychological thriller film directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Paul Schrader. Set in New York City soon after the end of the Vietnam War, the film ...more

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30
The Bone Collector is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
ImaadShahrukh added Angelina Jolie, Denzel Washington, Queen Latifah

Released: 1999

Directed by: Phillip Noyce

The Bone Collector is a 1999 psychological thriller film starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie, directed by Phillip Noyce and produced by Martin Bregman. The movie was based on the novel ...more

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31
Fatal Attraction is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Glenn Close, Michael Douglas, Jane Krakowski

Released: 1987

Directed by: Adrian Lyne

This film is a 1987 American psychological thriller film directed by Adrian Lyne and starring Michael Douglas, Glenn Close, and Anne Archer. The film centers on a married Manhattan man who has a ...more

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32
The Butterfly Effect is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
ChangesDownClub added Ashton Kutcher, Amy Smart, Logan Lerman

Released: 2004

Directed by: J. Mackye Gruber, Eric Bress

The Butterfly Effect is a 2004 American psychological thriller film that was written and directed by Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber. The title refers to the butterfly effect, a popular ...more

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33
Vertigo is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
James Stewart, Kim Novak, Alfred Hitchcock

Released: 1958

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

Vertigo is a 1958 American psychological thriller film directed and produced by Alfred Hitchcock. The story was based on the 1954 novel D'entre les morts by Boileau-Narcejac. The screenplay was ...more

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34
Secret Window is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Johnny Depp, Maria Bello, John Turturro

Released: 2004

Directed by: David Koepp

Secret Window is a 2004 American psychological thriller film starring Johnny Depp and John Turturro. It was written and directed by David Koepp, based on the novella Secret Window, Secret Garden ...more

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35
The Skeleton Key is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
harleyquinn3381 added Kate Hudson, John Hurt, Joy Bryant

Released: 2005

Directed by: Iain Softley

The Skeleton Key is a 2005 American supernatural horror film starring Kate Hudson, Gena Rowlands, John Hurt, Peter Sarsgaard, and Joy Bryant. The film centers on a young hospice nurse who ...more

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36
Requiem for a Dream is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Jennifer Connelly, Jared Leto, Ellen Burstyn

Released: 2000

Directed by: Darren Aronofsky

Requiem for a Dream is a 2000 American psychological drama film directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, and Marlon Wayans. The film is based on ...more

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37
Orphan is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Mavsc79 added Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Margo Martindale

Released: 2009

Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra

Orphan is a 2009 American psychological thriller film directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. It stars Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard and Isabelle Fuhrman. The film centers on a couple who adopt a ...more

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38
1408 is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
MeganGrothem added Samuel L. Jackson, John Cusack, Kate Walsh

Released: 2007

Directed by: Mikael Håfström

1408 is a 2007 American psychological horror film based on the Stephen King 1999 short story of the same name directed by Swedish director Mikael Håfström. The movie stars John ...more

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39
Unbreakable is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
looksharp added Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Wright

Released: 2000

Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan

Unbreakable is a 2000 American superhero drama film written, produced, and directed by M. Night Shyamalan and starring Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson. The film tells the story of ...more

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40
Stir of Echoes is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Jennifer Morrison, Kevin Bacon, Illeana Douglas

Released: 1999

Directed by: David Koepp

Stir of Echoes is a supernatural horror-thriller released in the US in 1999, starring Kevin Bacon and directed by David Koepp. The film is loosely based on the novel A Stir of Echoes by Richard ...more

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41
Insomnia is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
ChangesDownClub added Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank

Released: 2002

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Insomnia is a 2002 American thriller film directed by Christopher Nolan, and starring Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hilary Swank. It tells the story of two Los Angeles homicide detectives ...more

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42
Oldboy is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Choi Min-sik, Yoo Ji-tae, Oh Dal-su

Released: 2003

Directed by: Park Chan-wook

Oldboy is a 2003 South Korean mystery thriller neo-noir film directed by Park Chan-wook, based on the Japanese manga by Garon Tsuchiya. After being kidnapped and imprisoned for fifteen years, Oh ...more

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43
Falling Down is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Robert Duvall, Michael Douglas, Tuesday Weld

Released: 1993

Directed by: Joel Schumacher

Falling Down is a 1993 drama film directed by Joel Schumacher and written by Ebbe Roe Smith. The film stars Michael Douglas in the lead role of William Foster, a divorcé and unemployed ...more

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44
Split is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Lswood added James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley

Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan

Split is a 2016 American psychological horror thriller film directed and written by M. Night Shyamalan. After a wholesome teen birthday party, three girls are taken in broad daylight: friends ...more

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45
The Talented Mr. Ripley ... is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon

Released: 1999

Directed by: Anthony Minghella

The Talented Mr. Ripley is a 1999 American psychological thriller written for the screen and directed by Anthony Minghella. An adaptation of the 1955 Patricia Highsmith novel of the same name, ...more

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46
The Illusionist is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
looksharp added Jessica Biel, Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti

Released: 2006

Directed by: Neil Burger

The Illusionist is a 2006 American period drama film written and directed by Neil Burger and starring Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti, and Jessica Biel. It is based loosely on Steven Millhauser's ...more

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47
Jacob's Ladder is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Macaulay Culkin, Tim Robbins, Jason Alexander

Released: 1990

Directed by: Adrian Lyne

Jacob's Ladder is a 1990 American psychological horror film directed by Adrian Lyne, written and produced by Bruce Joel Rubin and starring Tim Robbins, Elizabeth Peña and Danny Aiello. ...more

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48
The Girl with the Dragon... is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
carolyn-branan added Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Robin Wright

Released: 2011

Directed by: David Fincher

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a 2011 Swedish-American mystery thriller film based on the novel of the same name by Stieg Larsson. This film adaptation was directed by David Fincher and ...more

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49
Law Abiding Citizen is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
JulianAndresBeltran added Gerard Butler, Jamie Foxx, Viola Davis

Released: 2009

Directed by: F. Gary Gray

Law Abiding Citizen is a 2009 American thriller film directed by F. Gary Gray from a screenplay written by Kurt Wimmer and stars Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler. Law Abiding Citizen was released ...more
50
Fracture is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Ryan Gosling, Anthony Hopkins, Rosamund Pike

Released: 2007

Directed by: Gregory Hoblit

Fracture is a 2007 American-German mystery thriller film, directed by Gregory Hoblit and starring Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling. It tells the story of a man accused of an attempt on his wife ...more

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