The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
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.
- Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth PaltrowWhen retiring police Detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) tackles a final case with the aid of newly transferred David Mills (Brad Pitt), they discover a number of elaborate and grizzly ...more
- Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott GlennJodie Foster stars as Clarice Starling, a top student at the FBI's training academy. Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) wants Clarice to interview Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), a brilliant ...more
- James Caan, Kathy Bates, Frances SternhagenAfter a serious car crash, novelist Paul Sheldon (James Caan) is rescued by former nurse Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates), who claims to be his biggest fan. Annie brings him to her remote cabin to recover, ...more
- Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny LloydJack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) becomes winter caretaker at the isolated Overlook Hotel in Colorado, hoping to cure his writer's block. He settles in along with his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and ...more
- Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni ColletteYoung Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) is haunted by a dark secret: he is visited by ghosts. Cole is frightened by visitations from those with unresolved problems who appear from the shadows. He is too ...more
- Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben KingsleyThe implausible escape of a brilliant murderess brings U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his new partner (Mark Ruffalo) to Ashecliffe Hospital, a fortress-like insane asylum located ...more