Classic Movies

The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked 

Ranker Film
1.1k votes 225 voters 21.7k 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.

list ordered by
1
Psycho is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
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

More Psycho 

#4 of 254 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #203 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #9 of 796 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time

2
Rear Window is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Grace Kelly, James Stewart, 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 

#283 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #352 of 803 The Greatest Chick Flicks Ever Made

3
Vertigo is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
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

More Vertigo 

#14 of 254 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #46 of 348 The Best Movies Based On Books #196 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
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 

#558 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #279 of 460 The Most Quotable Movies 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
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 

#28 of 254 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #582 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #136 of 232 The Best Black and White Movies Ever Made

6
Gaslight is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Ingrid Bergman, Angela Lansbury, Charles Boyer
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
7
Jaws is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Steven Spielberg, Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Scheider
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 

#47 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Moviesfeaturing Behind The Scenes Of Every Death In ‘Jaws’listed on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

8
Murder on the Orient Exp... is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Sean Connery, Ingrid Bergman, Lauren Bacall
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 

#67 of 591 The Best '70s Movies #389 of 582 The Greatest Film Scores of All Timelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

9
What Ever Happened to Ba... is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, 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? 

#53 of 254 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #150 of 782 The Best Horror Movies Of All Timelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

10
Suspicion is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock, Joan Fontaine
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 

#100 of 146 The Best and Scariest Psychological Thrillers of All Timefeaturing The Best Quotes About Suspicionlisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

11
Halloween is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Jamie Lee Curtis, Kyle Richards, Donald Pleasence
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 

#2 of 796 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #218 of 599 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Madefeaturing Stories About Jamie Lee Curtis From Behind The Scenes Of The Original ‘Halloween’ 

12
Wait Until Dark is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin, Robby Benson
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 

#536 of 782 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #19 of 85 The Best Movies Based on Plays

13
Cape Fear is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum, Telly Savalas
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 

#304 of 796 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #83 of 348 The Best Movies Based On Books

14
Strangers on a Train is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Alfred Hitchcock, Farley Granger, Leo G. Carroll
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 

#167 of 254 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #29 of 232 The Best Black and White Movies Ever Made

15
Double Indemnity is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson
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 

#289 of 803 The Greatest Chick Flicks Ever Made #510 of 548 The Greatest Movies for Guys

16
The Manchurian Candidate... is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury, Janet Leigh
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 

#37 of 254 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #302 of 599 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Made #294 of 460 The Most Quotable Movies of All Time

17
Rebecca is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Laurence Olivier, Alfred Hitchcock, Joan Fontaine
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 

#42 of 254 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #280 of 803 The Greatest Chick Flicks Ever Madelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

18
Notorious is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, 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 

#15 of 232 The Best Black and White Movies Ever Made #12 of 33 The Scariest Alfred Hitchcock Moviesfeaturing The Most Memorable Quotes From 'Notorious'

19
The Stepford Wives is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Tina Louise, Mary Stuart Masterson, Katharine Ross
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 

#99 of 160 The Best Dystopian And Near Future Movies #72 of 146 The Best and Scariest Psychological Thrillers of All Time

20
Carrie is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
John Travolta, Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie
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 

#20 of 796 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #69 of 348 The Best Movies Based On Booksfeaturing The Scariest Quotes From 'Carrie' Will Have You Seeing Red

21
Play Misty for Me is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Clint Eastwood, Donna Mills, Jessica Walter
Play Misty for Me is a 1971 American psychological thriller film, directed by and starring Clint Eastwood, in his directorial debut. Jessica Walter and Donna Mills co-star. The original music ...more

More Play Misty for Me 

#95 of 591 The Best '70s Movies #507 of 548 The Greatest Movies for Guys #26 of 45 The Best Movies Starring Clint Eastwood

22
Deliverance is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ned Beatty
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 

#532 of 796 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #121 of 348 The Best Movies Based On Booksfeaturing The Making Of 'Deliverance' Was Even More Horrifying Than The Film's Backwoods Locals

23
When a Stranger Calls is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Carol Kane, Charles Durning, Rachel Roberts
When a Stranger Calls is a 1979 psychological horror film. It was directed by Fred Walton and stars Carol Kane and Charles Durning. The film derives its story from the classic folk legend of ...more

More When a Stranger Calls 

#112 of 782 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #46 of 146 The Best and Scariest Psychological Thrillers of All Time

24
Charade is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Coburn
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 

#685 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #618 of 803 The Greatest Chick Flicks Ever Madelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

25
The Spiral Staircase is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Classic Thriller Movies, Ranked
Rhonda Fleming, Ethel Barrymore, Elsa Lanchester
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