Watchworthy
51.8k voters

The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time

Updated October 7, 2020 519.7k votes 51.8k 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.

Photo:
...more
  • Seven1
    16,334
    3,071

    Seven

    Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow

    Released1995

    Directed byDavid Fincher

    Amazon_watch buy button

    More Seven 

    Behind The Scenes Stories From The Making Of 'Se7en'#91 of 1,540 The Most Rewatchable Movies

  • The Silence of the Lambs2
    18,091
    3,402

    The Silence of the Lambs

    Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins

    Released1991

    Directed byJonathan Demme

    Amazon_watch buy button

    More The Silence of the Lambs 

    Small Details And Trivia From 'The Silence Of The Lambs' That Left Us Hungry For MoreYou've Been Watching Silence Of The Lambs Wrong For Years: It's A Comedy

  • The Shining3
    11,425
    2,811

    The Shining

    Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall

    Released1980

    Directed byStanley Kubrick

    Amazon_watch buy button

    More The Shining 

    Fan Theories About 'The Shining' We Can't Stop Thinking AboutThe Making Of 'The Shining' Was A Bigger Nightmare Than The Film's Story

  • Misery4
    8,160
    2,087

    Misery

    Lauren Bacall, Kathy Bates

    Released1990

    Directed byRob Reiner

    Amazon_watch buy button

    More Misery 

    Behind The Scenes Of Annie Wilkes Hobbling Paul Sheldon In 'Misery'#503 of 1,189 Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

  • Shutter Island5
    14,793
    3,931

    Shutter Island

    Leonardo DiCaprio, Michelle Williams

    Released2010

    Directed byMartin Scorsese

    Amazon_watch buy button

    More Shutter Island 

    #46 of 170 The Most Utterly Depressing Movies Ever Made#15 of 62 The Best Movies Where the Bad Guy Wins

  • The Sixth Sense6
    13,409
    3,579

    The Sixth Sense

    Bruce Willis, Mischa Barton

    Released1999

    Directed byM. Night Shyamalan

    Amazon_watch buy button

    More The Sixth Sense 

    #11 of 50 The 50 Highest Grossing '90s Movies, Ranked#92 of 277 The Top Tearjerker Movies That Make Men Cry

  • Psycho7
    8,766
    2,698

    Psycho

    Alfred Hitchcock, Janet Leigh

    Released1960

    Directed byAlfred Hitchcock

    Amazon_watch buy button
  • Fight Club8
    11,936
    3,792

    Fight Club

    Brad Pitt, Jared Leto

    Released1999

    Directed byDavid Fincher

    Amazon_watch buy button

    More Fight Club 

    'Fight Club' Fan Theories That Just Might Be True20 Surprising Facts You Didn't Know About Fight Club

  • The Usual Suspects9
    7,770
    2,599

    The Usual Suspects

    Kevin Spacey, Benicio del Toro

    Released1994

    Directed byBryan Singer

    Amazon_watch buy button
  • Inception10
    10,004
    3,375

    Inception

    Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy

    Released2010

    Directed byChristopher Nolan

    Amazon_watch buy button

    More Inception 

    20 Small 'Inception' Details That Prove It's Time For A RewatchList of Movies Like Inception

  • The Exorcist11
    4,756
    1,256

    The Exorcist

    Max von Sydow, Ellen Burstyn

    Released1973

    Directed byWilliam Friedkin

    Amazon_watch buy button

    More The Exorcist 

    The Story Of Roland Doe Inspired The Exorcist – But It's Way More Terrifying Than The MovieDid A Malevolent Spirit Actually Curse 'The Exorcist' From The Get-Go?

  • Gone Girl12
    7,378
    2,407

    Gone Girl

    Ben Affleck, Neil Patrick Harris

    Released2014

    Directed byDavid Fincher

    Amazon_watch buy button

    More Gone Girl 

    #251 of 369 The Best Movies Based On Books#336 of 355 The Best Rainy Day Movies

  • No Country for Old Men13
    5,058
    1,907

    No Country for Old Men

    Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones

    Released2007

    Directed byEthan Coen, Joel Coen

    Amazon_watch buy button
  • Zodiac14
    5,430
    2,054

    Zodiac

    Robert Downey Jr., Jake Gyllenhaal

    Released2007

    Directed byDavid Fincher

    Amazon_watch buy button
  • Primal Fear15
    4,244
    1,615

    Primal Fear

    Edward Norton, Richard Gere

    Released1996

    Directed byGregory Hoblit

    Amazon_watch buy button
  • What Lies Beneath16
    1,118
    364

    What Lies Beneath

    Michelle Pfeiffer, Harrison Ford

    Released2000

    Directed byRobert Zemeckis

    Amazon_watch buy button

    More What Lies Beneath 

    #548 of 836 The Greatest Chick Flicks Ever Made#14 of 32 Blockbusters With No Cultural Impact Whatsoever, Ranked

  • The Conjuring17
    1,048
    299

    The Conjuring

    Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson

    Released2013

    Directed byJames Wan

    Amazon_watch buy button

    More The Conjuring 

    Why Do People Stop Watching 'The Conjuring' At The Moment Lorraine Falls Through The Floor?#13 of 720 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time

  • Hannibal18
    3,643
    1,117

    Hannibal

    Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman

    Released2001

    Directed byRidley Scott

    Amazon_watch buy button
  • Split19
    1,968
    570

    Split

    James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy

    Released2016

    Directed byM. Night Shyamalan

    Amazon_watch buy button

    More Split 

    #53 of 105 The Best Horror Movie Sequels#14 of 97 The Best Movies of 2017, Ranked

  • The Bone Collector20
    2,919
    899

    The Bone Collector

    Angelina Jolie, Denzel Washington

    Released1999

    Directed byPhillip Noyce

    Amazon_watch buy button

    More The Bone Collector 

    #19 of 280 The Best Whodunit Movies#27 of 144 The Best and Scariest Psychological Thrillers of All Time

  • Fargo21
    1,121
    373

    Fargo

    Steve Buscemi, William H. Macy

    Released1996

    Directed byEthan Coen, Joel Coen

    Amazon_watch buy button

    More Fargo 

    Small Details, Trivia, And Interesting Tidbits About 'Fargo' That Made Us Say 'You Betcha!'Theories About Why The Coen Bros. Had Marge Gunderson Go On A Date In Fargo

  • The Devil's Advocate22
    1,139
    268

    The Devil's Advocate

    Charlize Theron, Al Pacino

    Released1997

    Directed byTaylor Hackford

    Amazon_watch buy button
  • Cape Fear23
    3,450
    1,318

    Cape Fear

    Robert De Niro, Nick Nolte

    Released1991

    Directed byMartin Scorsese

    Amazon_watch buy button

    More Cape Fear 

    Behind The Scenes Of 'Cape Fear,' Robert De Niro's Most Unsettling Role#10 of 37 The Best Martin Scorsese Movies

  • Red Dragon24
    3,275
    1,171

    Red Dragon

    Anthony Hopkins, Ralph Fiennes

    Released2002

    Directed byBrett Ratner

    Amazon_watch buy button
  • American Psycho25
    6,677
    2,677

    American Psycho

    Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe

    Released2000

    Directed byMary Harron

    Amazon_watch buy button