Watchworthy

The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time 

Ranker Community
Originally by Ranker Community
Updated May 23, 2020 501.9k votes 49.4k voters 3.5M views 250 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. 

Data-driven recommendations based on voting from over 40 million monthly visits to Ranker. Try the free app
list ordered by
1
Seven is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow, Morgan Freeman

Released: 1995

Directed by: David Fincher

Seven is a 1995 American psychological thriller film directed by David Fincher. The film stars Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, with Gwyneth Paltrow, R. Lee Ermey, John C. McGinley, and Kevin ...more

More Seven 

#80 of 349 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime #3 of 24 The Best Movies with Twist Endings #93 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies

2
The Silence of the Lambs... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Chris Isaak

Released: 1991

Directed by: Jonathan Demme

The Silence of the Lambs is a 1991 American thriller film that blends elements of the crime and horror genres. Directed by Jonathan Demme and starring Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, and Scott ...more

More The Silence of the Lambs 

You've Been Watching Silence Of The Lambs Wrong For Years: It's A Comedy #23 of 349 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetimelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

3
The Shining is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Scatman Crothers

Released: 1980

Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

The Shining is a 1980 British-American psychological horror film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick, co-written with novelist Diane Johnson, and starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, ...more

More The Shining 

The Making Of 'The Shining' Was A Bigger Nightmare Than The Film's Story A Timeline Of The Beef Between Stephen King And Stanley Kubrick Over 'The Shining' #50 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked

4
Shutter Island is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Leonardo DiCaprio, Michelle Williams, Mark Ruffalo

Released: 2010

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Shutter Island is a 2010 American psychological thriller film directed by Martin Scorsese. The film is based on Dennis Lehane's 2003 novel of the same name. Production started in March 2008. ...more

More Shutter Island 

#74 of 366 The Best Movies Based On Books #237 of 410 The Best Rainy Day Movies #178 of 388 The Best Movies to Watch While Stoned

5
The Sixth Sense is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Bruce Willis, Mischa Barton, Haley Joel Osment

Released: 1999

Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan

The Sixth Sense is a 1999 American supernatural thriller film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. The film tells the story of Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), a troubled, isolated boy who ...more

More The Sixth Sense 

#1 of 24 The Best Movies with Twist Endings #30 of 847 The Best Horror Movies Of All Timelisted on The 50 Highest Grossing '90s Movies, Ranked

6
Misery is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Lauren Bacall, Kathy Bates, James Caan

Released: 1990

Directed by: Rob Reiner

Misery is a 1990 American psychological thriller film based on Stephen King's 1987 novel of the same name and starring James Caan, Kathy Bates, Lauren Bacall, Richard Farnsworth, and Frances ...more

More Misery 

Behind The Scenes Of Annie Wilkes Hobbling Paul Sheldon In 'Misery' #69 of 349 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetimelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

7
Fight Club is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Brad Pitt, Jared Leto, Helena Bonham Carter

Released: 1999

Directed by: David Fincher

Fight Club is a 1999 film based on the 1996 novel of the same name by Chuck Palahniuk. The film was directed by David Fincher, and stars Brad Pitt, Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter. Norton ...more

More Fight Club 

20 Surprising Facts You Didn't Know About Fight Club 'Fight Club' Fan Theories That Just Might Be True #65 of 182 The Greatest Movie Quotes of All Time

8
Psycho is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Alfred Hitchcock, Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins

Released: 1960

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

Psycho is a 1960 American horror film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The film centers on an encounter between a secretary, Marion Crane, who ends up at a secluded motel after taking money from ...more

More Psycho 

#8 of 24 The Best Movies with Twist Endings #7 of 847 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #165 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies

9
Inception is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard

Released: 2010

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Inception is a 2010 science fiction thriller film written, produced, and directed by Christopher Nolan. The film stars a large ensemble cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph ...more

More Inception 

List of Movies Like Inception #19 of 163 The Best Science Fiction Action Movies #194 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies

10
The Usual Suspects is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Kevin Spacey, Benicio del Toro, Gabriel Byrne

Released: 1994

Directed by: Bryan Singer

The Usual Suspects is a 1995 German-American neo-noir crime thriller film directed by Bryan Singer and written by Christopher McQuarrie. It stars Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Benicio del ...more

More The Usual Suspects 

#2 of 24 The Best Movies with Twist Endings #168 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movieslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

11
Gone Girl is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
ryanmcw added Ben Affleck, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry

Released: 2014

Directed by: David Fincher

Gone Girl is a 2014 American psychological thriller film directed by David Fincher and adapted by Gillian Flynn from her 2012 novel of the same name. It stars Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. Set ...more

More Gone Girl 

#280 of 410 The Best Rainy Day Movies #35 of 70 The Best Mindf*ck Movies #12 of 15 Bartenders In Movies, Ranked By Whether You'd Want Them To Pour You Another One

12
Memento is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano

Released: 2000

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Memento is a 2000 American neo-noir psychological thriller film directed by Christopher Nolan. The screenplay was written by Nolan based on his younger brother Jonathan Nolan's short story ...more

More Memento 

#11 of 24 The Best Movies with Twist Endings #638 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #209 of 599 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Made

13
No Country for Old Men ... is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones, Woody Harrelson

Released: 2007

Directed by: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

No Country for Old Men is a 2007 American neo-western neo-noir thriller film directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy. Mayhem ensue after a hunter (Josh Brolin) ...more

More No Country for Old Men 

#139 of 599 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Made #41 of 548 The Greatest Movies for Guyslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

14
American Psycho is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe, Jared Leto

Released: 2000

Directed by: Mary Harron

American Psycho is a 2000 American neo-noir satirical psychological horror film directed by Mary Harron, based on the 1991 novel by Bret Easton Ellis. Wealthy New York City investment banking ...more

More American Psycho 

#18 of 24 The Best Movies with Twist Endings #507 of 1,027 The All-Time Greatest Comedy Films #522 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies

15
The Exorcist is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Max von Sydow, Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair

Released: 1973

Directed by: William Friedkin

The Exorcist is a 1973 American supernatural horror film directed by William Friedkin, adapted by William Peter Blatty from his 1971 novel of the same name. The book, inspired by the 1949 ...more

More The Exorcist 

Did A Malevolent Spirit Actually Curse 'The Exorcist' From The Get-Go? #1 of 847 The Best Horror Movies Of All Timelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

16
Primal Fear is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Edward Norton, Richard Gere, Laura Linney

Released: 1996

Directed by: Gregory Hoblit

Primal Fear is a 1996 American neo-noir thriller film, based on William Diehl's 1993 novel of the same name and directed by Gregory Hoblit. The film tells the story of Chicago defense attorney ...more

More Primal Fear 

#5 of 24 The Best Movies with Twist Endings #223 of 366 The Best Movies Based On Books #6 of 23 The Very Best Courtroom Thriller Movies

17
Zodiac is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Robert Downey Jr., Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo

Released: 2007

Directed by: David Fincher

Zodiac is a 2007 American mystery thriller film directed by David Fincher, based on the 1986 non-fiction book by Robert Graysmith. In the late 1960s/early 1970s, a San Francisco cartoonist (Jake ...more

More Zodiac 

#1,127 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #10 of 242 The Best Movies Based on True Stories #21 of 56 Every Movie Coming To Netflix In June 2020

18
Identity is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
ChangesDownClub added Amanda Peet, John Cusack, Alfred Molina

Released: 2003

Directed by: James Mangold

Identity is a 2003 American psychological thriller film directed by James Mangold from a screenplay written by Michael Cooney. The film stars John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet, Alfred Molina, ...more

More Identity 

#245 of 847 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #432 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #354 of 410 The Best Rainy Day Movies

19
Black Swan is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Winona Ryder

Released: 2010

Directed by: Darren Aronofsky

Black Swan is a 2010 American psychological thriller-horror film directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, and Mila Kunis. The plot revolves around a production ...more

More Black Swan 

#311 of 377 The Best Musical Movies of All Time #671 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #13 of 157 The Best Movies You Never Want to Watch Again

20
Mystic River is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
AndrewW.Curley added Emmy Rossum, Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon

Released: 2003

Directed by: Clint Eastwood

Mystic River is a 2003 American mystery drama film directed and scored by Clint Eastwood. It stars Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden, and Laura Linney. ...more

More Mystic River 

#330 of 548 The Greatest Movies for Guys #446 of 581 The Greatest Film Scores of All Timelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

21
The Game is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Sean Penn, Michael Douglas, Spike Jonze

Released: 1997

Directed by: David Fincher, Pedro Coutinho

The Game is a 1997 American mystery thriller film directed by David Fincher, starring Michael Douglas and Sean Penn, and produced by Propaganda Films and PolyGram Filmed Entertainment. It tells ...more

More The Game 

#15 of 24 The Best Movies with Twist Endings #27 of 147 The Best and Scariest Psychological Thrillers of All Time #14 of 70 The Best Mindf*ck Movies

22
Cape Fear is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Robert De Niro, Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange

Released: 1991

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Cape Fear is a 1991 American psychological thriller film directed by Martin Scorsese and a remake of the 1962 film of the same name. It stars Robert De Niro, Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange and ...more

More Cape Fear 

Behind The Scenes Of 'Cape Fear,' Robert De Niro's Most Unsettling Role #7 of 56 Every Movie Coming To Netflix In June 2020 #123 of 366 The Best Movies Based On Books

23
Rear Window is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Grace Kelly, James Stewart, Alfred Hitchcock

Released: 1954

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

And be sure to check out our list of the best myster thriller movies.

Rear Window is a 1954 American mystery thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and written by John Michael Hayes based on Cornell Woolrich's 1942 short story. Originally released by Paramount ...more

More Rear Window 

#605 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #265 of 804 The Greatest Chick Flicks Ever Made #304 of 410 The Best Rainy Day Movies

24
Hannibal is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman, Anthony Hopkins

Released: 2001

Directed by: Ridley Scott

Hannibal is a 2001 American thriller film directed by Ridley Scott, adapted from the novel of the same name by Thomas Harris. It is the sequel to the 1991 Academy Award-winning film The Silence ...more

More Hannibal 

#401 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #226 of 599 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Made #379 of 624 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies

25
The Machinist is listed (or ranked) 25 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

More The Machinist 

#33 of 157 The Best Movies You Never Want to Watch Again #407 of 581 The Greatest Film Scores of All Time #43 of 147 The Best and Scariest Psychological Thrillers of All Time