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.
- When 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 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
- Jack 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
- The 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
- Young 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
- A depressed man (Edward Norton) suffering from insomnia meets a strange soap salesman named Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) and soon finds himself living in his squalid house after his perfect apartment is ...more
- After 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
- One of the most profitable horror movies ever made, this tale of an exorcism is based loosely on actual events. When young Regan (Linda Blair) starts acting odd -- levitating, speaking in tongues -- ...more
- Phoenix secretary Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), on the lam after stealing $40,000 from her employer in order to run away with her boyfriend, Sam Loomis (John Gavin), is overcome by exhaustion during a ...more
- Aspiring Florida defense lawyer Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves) accepts a high-powered position at a New York law firm headed by legal shark John Milton (Al Pacino). As Kevin moves up in the firm's ranks, ...more
- "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist," says con man Kint (Kevin Spacey), drawing a comparison to the most enigmatic criminal of all time, Keyser Soze. ...more
- Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a thief with the rare ability to enter people's dreams and steal their secrets from their subconscious. His skill has made him a hot commodity in the world of ...more
- In Carthage, Mo., former New York-based writer Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) and his glamorous wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) present a portrait of a blissful marriage to the public. However, when Amy goes ...more
- Policewoman Amelia Donaghy (Angelina Jolie) is in hot pursuit of a serial murderer whose calling card is a small shard of bone extracted from each of his victims. Unable to decipher the cryptic clues ...more
- Though Kevin (James McAvoy) has evidenced 23 personalities to his trusted psychiatrist, Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley), there remains one still submerged who is set to materialize and dominate all of ...more
- Seven years have passed since Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) escaped from custody. The doctor is now at large in Europe. Mason Verger (Gary Oldman) remembers Lecter too, and is obsessed with ...more
- "Fargo" is a reality-based crime drama set in Minnesota in 1987. Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) is a car salesman in Minneapolis who has gotten himself into debt and is so desperate for money ...more
- In 1970, paranormal investigators and demonologists Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed (Patrick Wilson) Warren are summoned to the home of Carolyn (Lili Taylor) and Roger (Ron Livingston) Perron. The ...more
- In the late 1960s and 1970s, fear grips the city of San Francisco as a serial killer called Zodiac stalks its residents. Investigators (Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Edwards) and reporters (Jake Gyllenhaal, ...more
- While out hunting, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) finds the grisly aftermath of a drug deal. Though he knows better, he cannot resist the cash left behind and takes it with him. The hunter becomes the ...more
- Defense attorney Martin Vail takes on jobs for money and prestige rather than any sense of the greater good. His latest case involves an altar boy, accused of brutally murdering the archbishop of ...more
- Ex-FBI agent Will Graham (Edward Norton) is an expert investigator who quit the Bureau after almost losing his life in the process of capturing the elusive Dr. Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). After a ...more
- College student Evan Treborn (Ashton Kutcher) is afflicted with headaches so painful that he frequently blacks out. While unconscious, Evan is able to travel back in time to difficult moments in his ...more
- In New York City in 1987, a handsome, young urban professional, Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), lives a second life as a gruesome serial killer by night. The cast is filled by the detective (Willem ...more
- Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) faces a parent's worst nightmare when his 6-year-old daughter, Anna, and her friend go missing. The only lead is an old motorhome that had been parked on their street. The ...more