Watchworthy

The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked 

Ranker Film
Updated October 1, 2019 1.3k votes 241 voters 23.3k views 49 items

List Rules Vote up your favorite old thrillers that were released before 1980.

This list contains information on the best classic thriller movies, ranked from best to worst by user votes. The best classic thriller films come in many forms. Some good old thrillers follow detectives with a hot lead while other good classic thrillers feature spouses with murderous intents. Many of the best classic thrillers were directed by the Master of Suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock.

What films will you find on this top classic thrillers released before 1980 list? Psycho has to be near the top. After a young woman goes missing, her boyfriend and sister join forces to find out what happened. The mystery unfolds with white-knuckle suspense until the twist of an ending surprises all involved. The Manchurian Candidate is anther great old thriller film.

Revenge is at the heart of the thrilling plot of Cape Fear starring a terrifying Robert Mitchum. Other great classic thriller films featured on this list include Rear Window, The Thin Man, and Murder on the Orient Express.

How will we ever determine which thriller deserves the top spot on this list? Help us decide by giving your favorite films a thumbs up and please add any good movies we may have missed. And if you're a fan of these flicks, be sure to check out our list of the most suspenseful movies.

Data-driven recommendations based on voting from over 40 million monthly visits to Ranker. Try the free app
list ordered by
1
Rear Window is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Grace Kelly, James Stewart, Alfred Hitchcock

Released: 1954

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

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 

#21 of 253 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #598 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #265 of 802 The Greatest Chick Flicks Ever Made

2
Psycho is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
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 253 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #7 of 852 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #165 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies

3
Vertigo is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
James Stewart, Kim Novak, Alfred Hitchcock

Released: 1958

Directed by: 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

More Vertigo 

#35 of 253 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #551 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #255 of 599 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Made

4
North by Northwest is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock, Eva Marie Saint

Released: 1959

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

North by Northwest is a 1959 American spy thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and James Mason. The screenplay was written by Ernest Lehman, who ...more

More North by Northwest 

#70 of 253 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #610 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #231 of 581 The Greatest Film Scores of All Time

5
Dial M for Murder is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Grace Kelly, Alfred Hitchcock, Ray Milland

Released: 1954

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

This film is a 1954 3-D American thriller film in Warnercolor directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, and Robert Cummings. The screenplay and the successful stage play ...more

More Dial M for Murder 

#55 of 253 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #688 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #541 of 802 The Greatest Chick Flicks Ever Made

6
Murder on the Orient Exp... is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Sean Connery, Ingrid Bergman, Lauren Bacall

Released: 1974

Directed by: Sidney Lumet

This film is a 1974 British Technicolor mystery film directed by Sidney Lumet, starring Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot, and based on the 1934 novel of the same name by Agatha Christie.

More Murder on the Orient Express 

#1,169 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #65 of 591 The Best '70s Movieslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

7
Jaws is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Steven Spielberg, Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Scheider

Released: 1975

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Jaws is a 1975 American thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg and based on Peter Benchley's novel of the same name. The prototypical summer blockbuster, its release is regarded as a ...more

More Jaws 

Surprising Facts, Small Details, And Trivia Most People Don't Know About 'Jaws' #16 of 350 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetimelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

8
Wait Until Dark is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin, Robby Benson

Released: 1967

Directed by: Terence Young

Wait Until Dark is a suspense-thriller film directed by Terence Young and produced by Mel Ferrer. It stars Audrey Hepburn as a young blind woman, Alan Arkin as a violent criminal searching for ...more

More Wait Until Dark 

#117 of 253 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #620 of 852 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #403 of 581 The Greatest Film Scores of All Time

9
Halloween is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Jamie Lee Curtis, Kyle Richards, Donald Pleasence

Released: 1978

Directed by: John Carpenter

Halloween is a 1978 American independent slasher horror film directed and scored by John Carpenter, co-written with producer Debra Hill, and starring Donald Pleasence and Jamie Lee Curtis in her ...more

More Halloween 

Stories About Jamie Lee Curtis From Behind The Scenes Of The Original ‘Halloween’  #4 of 852 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #269 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies

10
Cape Fear is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum, Telly Savalas

Released: 1962

Directed by: J. Lee Thompson

Cape Fear is a 1962 American psychological thriller film starring Robert Mitchum, Gregory Peck, Martin Balsam and Polly Bergen. It was adapted by James R. Webb from the novel The Executioners by ...more

More Cape Fear 

#74 of 253 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #479 of 852 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #116 of 367 The Best Movies Based On Books

11
What Ever Happened to Ba... is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Robert Aldrich

Released: 1962

Directed by: Robert Aldrich

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is a 1962 American psychological thriller film produced and directed by Robert Aldrich, starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford about an actress who holds her ...more

More What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 

#80 of 253 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #120 of 852 The Best Horror Movies Of All Timelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

12
Strangers on a Train is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Alfred Hitchcock, Farley Granger, Leo G. Carroll

Released: 1951

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

Strangers on a Train is a 1951 American psychological thriller film noir produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and based on the 1950 novel Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith. It was ...more

More Strangers on a Train 

#145 of 253 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #750 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #57 of 149 The Best and Scariest Psychological Thrillers of All Time

13
Rebecca is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Laurence Olivier, Alfred Hitchcock, Joan Fontaine

Released: 1940

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

Rebecca is a 1940 American psychological thriller-drama film. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, it was his first American project, and his first film produced under contract with David O. Selznick. ...more

More Rebecca 

#87 of 253 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #297 of 367 The Best Movies Based On Bookslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

14
Gaslight is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Ingrid Bergman, Angela Lansbury, Charles Boyer

Released: 1944

Directed by: George Cukor

Gaslight is an American 1944 mystery-thriller film adapted from Patrick Hamilton's 1938 play Gas Light. It was the second version to be filmed, following the British film Gaslight, directed by ...more
15
Suspicion is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock, Joan Fontaine

Released: 1941

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

Suspicion is a romantic psychological thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and starring Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine as a married couple. It also stars Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Nigel Bruce, Dame ...more

More Suspicion 

The Best Quotes About Suspicion #740 of 802 The Greatest Chick Flicks Ever Madelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

16
Double Indemnity is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson

Released: 1944

Directed by: Billy Wilder

Double Indemnity is a 1944 film noir crime drama directed by Billy Wilder, co-written by Wilder and Raymond Chandler, based on James M. Cain's 1943 novella of the same name, which originally ...more

More Double Indemnity 

#480 of 802 The Greatest Chick Flicks Ever Made #256 of 367 The Best Movies Based On Books #390 of 548 The Greatest Movies for Guys

17
The Manchurian Candidate... is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury, Janet Leigh

Released: 1962

Directed by: John Frankenheimer

The Manchurian Candidate is a 1962 American Cold War suspense thriller directed by John Frankenheimer that stars Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey and Janet Leigh and co-stars Angela Lansbury, ...more

More The Manchurian Candidate 

#64 of 253 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #733 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #292 of 599 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Made

18
Carrie is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
John Travolta, Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie

Released: 1976

Directed by: Brian De Palma

Carrie is a 1976 American supernatural horror film based on Stephen King's first major 1974 novel of the same name. The film was directed by Brian De Palma and written by Lawrence D. Cohen. The ...more

More Carrie 

The Scariest Quotes From 'Carrie' Will Have You Seeing Red #10 of 852 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #382 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies

19
Notorious is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock

Released: 1946

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

Notorious is a 1946 American spy thriller film directed and produced by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains as three people whose lives become intimately ...more

More Notorious 

The Most Memorable Quotes From 'Notorious' #97 of 149 The Best and Scariest Psychological Thrillers of All Time #13 of 232 The Best Black and White Movies Ever Made

20
Deliverance is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ned Beatty

Released: 1972

Directed by: John Boorman

Deliverance is a 1972 American dramatic thriller film produced and directed by John Boorman, and starring Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox, with the latter two making their ...more

More Deliverance 

The Making Of 'Deliverance' Was Even More Horrifying Than The Film's Backwoods Locals #197 of 350 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime #614 of 852 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time

21
Charade is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Coburn

Released: 1963

Directed by: Stanley Donen

Charade is a 1963 Technicolor American romantic comedy/mystery film directed by Stanley Donen, written by Peter Stone and Marc Behm, and starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. The cast also ...more

More Charade 

#174 of 253 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #686 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movieslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

22
The Stepford Wives is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Tina Louise, Mary Stuart Masterson, Katharine Ross

Released: 1975

Directed by: Bryan Forbes

The Stepford Wives is a 1975 science fiction–thriller film based on the 1972 Ira Levin novel of the same name. It was directed by Bryan Forbes with a screenplay by William Goldman, and stars ...more

More The Stepford Wives 

#1,332 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #355 of 802 The Greatest Chick Flicks Ever Made #131 of 161 The Best Dystopian And Near Future Movies

23
The Spiral Staircase is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Rhonda Fleming, Ethel Barrymore, Elsa Lanchester

Released: 1946

Directed by: Robert Siodmak

The Spiral Staircase is a 1946 American psychological thriller film directed by Robert Siodmak, from a screenplay by Mel Dinelli based on Ethel Lina White's novel Some Must Watch. The novel was ...more
24
The French Connection is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider, Fernando Rey

Released: 1971

Directed by: William Friedkin

The French Connection is a 1971 American dramatic thriller film directed by William Friedkin and produced by Philip D'Antoni. It stars Gene Hackman, Fernando Rey, and Roy Scheider. The film was ...more

More The French Connection 

#23 of 591 The Best '70s Movies #94 of 367 The Best Movies Based On Bookslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

25
Three Days of the Condor... is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Max von Sydow

Released: 1975

Directed by: Sydney Pollack

Three Days of the Condor is a 1975 American political thriller film directed by Sydney Pollack and starring Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Cliff Robertson, and Max von Sydow. The screenplay by ...more

More Three Days of the Condor 

#148 of 253 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #442 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movieslisted on The Very Best Movies About Hackers