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The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time

Updated October 7, 2020 512.7k votes 51.4k voters 3.6m views242 items

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

Here is 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, good 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 Hollywood has to offer? 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 thrilling 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. Several of these films are critically acclaimed psychological thrillers.

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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  • 1
    Seven
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    Seven

    Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow

    Released1995

    Directed byDavid Fincher

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  • 2
    The Silence of the Lambs
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    The Silence of the Lambs

    Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins

    Released1991

    Directed byJonathan Demme

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  • 3
    The Shining
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    The Shining

    Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall

    Released1980

    Directed byStanley Kubrick

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  • 4
    Misery
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    Lauren Bacall, Kathy Bates

    Released1990

    Directed byRob Reiner

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  • 5
    Shutter Island
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    Leonardo DiCaprio, Michelle Williams

    Released2010

    Directed byMartin Scorsese

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  • 6
    The Sixth Sense
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    The Sixth Sense

    Bruce Willis, Mischa Barton

    Released1999

    Directed byM. Night Shyamalan

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  • 7
    Psycho
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    Alfred Hitchcock, Janet Leigh

    Released1960

    Directed byAlfred Hitchcock

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  • 8
    Fight Club
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    Fight Club

    Brad Pitt, Jared Leto

    Released1999

    Directed byDavid Fincher

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  • 9
    The Usual Suspects
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    Kevin Spacey, Benicio del Toro

    Released1994

    Directed byBryan Singer

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  • 10
    Inception
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    Inception

    Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy

    Released2010

    Directed byChristopher Nolan

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  • 11
    The Exorcist
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    Max von Sydow, Ellen Burstyn

    Released1973

    Directed byWilliam Friedkin

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  • 12
    Gone Girl
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    Ben Affleck, Neil Patrick Harris

    Released2014

    Directed byDavid Fincher

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  • 13
    No Country for Old Men
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    Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones

    Released2007

    Directed byEthan Coen, Joel Coen

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  • 14
    Zodiac
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    Zodiac

    Robert Downey Jr., Jake Gyllenhaal

    Released2007

    Directed byDavid Fincher

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  • 15
    What Lies Beneath
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    Michelle Pfeiffer, Harrison Ford

    Released2000

    Directed byRobert Zemeckis

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  • 16
    Primal Fear
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    Edward Norton, Richard Gere

    Released1996

    Directed byGregory Hoblit

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  • 17
    Hannibal
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    Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman

    Released2001

    Directed byRidley Scott

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  • 18
    The Conjuring
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    Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson

    Released2013

    Directed byJames Wan

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  • 19
    Split
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    Released2016

    Directed byM. Night Shyamalan

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  • 20
    The Bone Collector
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    The Bone Collector

    Angelina Jolie, Denzel Washington

    Released1999

    Directed byPhillip Noyce

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  • 21
    The Devil's Advocate
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    The Devil's Advocate

    Charlize Theron, Al Pacino

    Released1997

    Directed byTaylor Hackford

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  • 22
    12 Monkeys
    3,079
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    12 Monkeys

    Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis

    Released1995

    Directed byTerry Gilliam

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  • 23
    American Psycho
    6,592
    2,647

    American Psycho

    Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe

    Released2000

    Directed byMary Harron

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  • 24
    Fargo
    1,061
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    Fargo

    Steve Buscemi, William H. Macy

    Released1996

    Directed byEthan Coen, Joel Coen

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  • 25
    Cape Fear
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    Cape Fear

    Robert De Niro, Nick Nolte

    Released1991

    Directed byMartin Scorsese

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