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The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time  

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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. 

list ordered by
1
The Silence of the Lambs is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Chris Isaak
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
2
Seven is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow, Morgan Freeman
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
3
The Sixth Sense is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Bruce Willis, Mischa Barton, Haley Joel Osment
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
4
Shutter Island is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Leonardo DiCaprio, Michelle Williams, Mark Ruffalo
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
5
The Shining is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Scatman Crothers
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
6
Psycho is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Alfred Hitchcock, Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins
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
7
Memento is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano
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
8
Fight Club is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Brad Pitt, Jared Leto, Helena Bonham Carter
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
9
The Usual Suspects is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Kevin Spacey, Benicio del Toro, Gabriel Byrne
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
10
Misery is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Lauren Bacall, Kathy Bates, James Caan
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
11
Inception is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard
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
12
Rear Window is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Grace Kelly, James Stewart, 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
13
American Psycho is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe, Jared Leto
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
14
Vertigo is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
James Stewart, Kim Novak, 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
15
Taxi Driver is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, 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
16
The Game is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Sean Penn, Michael Douglas, Spike Jonze
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
17
Gone Girl is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
ryanmcw added Ben Affleck, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry
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
18
No Country for Old Men is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones, Woody Harrelson
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
19
Fatal Attraction is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Glenn Close, Michael Douglas, Jane Krakowski
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
20
Primal Fear is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Edward Norton, Richard Gere, Laura Linney
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
21
The Others is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
drkaramaniac added Nicole Kidman, Christopher Eccleston, Michelle Fairley
The Others is a 2001 horror-thriller film written, directed and scored by Alejandro Amenábar. It stars Nicole Kidman and Fionnula Flanagan. It won eight Goya Awards, including awards for ...more
22
Black Swan is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Winona Ryder
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
23
Zodiac is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Robert Downey Jr., Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo
Zodiac is a 2007 American mystery-thriller film directed by David Fincher and based on Robert Graysmith's non-fiction book of the same name. Zodiac tells the story of the manhunt for a person ...more
24
The Exorcist is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Max von Sydow, Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair
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
25
Mystic River is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
AndrewW.Curley added Emmy Rossum, Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon
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