20 Underrated Psychological Horror Movies Good Enough To Drive You Mad

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Vote up the most nightmarishly good psychological horror movies.

The horror genre is filled with narratives involving an external threat resulting in the distrust of others, but not even one’s own mind and perceptions can be trusted in a psychological horror film. These underrated films revolve around the uncertainty of the psyche, questions of sanity and madness, confusion, and self-doubt. Rather than being concerned with a stalking killer, protagonists in psychological horror movies must question the accuracy of what they know and believe. And if the audience is tied to the perspective of a character whose sanity is in question, this can lead to a wonderfully disorienting cinematic experience.

It is unforgettable when psychological horror is done well, as was the case with classics like Rosemary’s Baby or The Shining. But there are many films that fail to meet that same acclaim despite an effective ability to get in the audience’s head. These underrated psychological horror movies are maddeningly good and deserve more attention.

Which of these psychological horror movies merit additional consideration? Vote up your favorites below!


  • 1
    1,366 VOTES

    The Premise: Two young brothers (Matt O'Leary and Jeremy Sumpter) are forced into an unsettling childhood when their father (Bill Paxton) suddenly announces that God has tasked him with dispatching demons disguised as humans from the Earth. The experience affects the actions and mental state of the boys when they become adults (Matthew McConaughey and Levi Kreis).

    Why It’s Underrated: Few films are as effective at keeping the audience guessing as Frailty. Among the twists and turns, there are also some effectively terrifying sequences and some of the best uses of an ax in horror since The Shining. Not only does Paxton give one of the finest performances of his career, but he also directed the film. Audiences weren't necessarily in the mood for a quiet, disconcerting thriller in April 2002, however.

    1,366 votes

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  • 2
    1,072 VOTES

    The Premise: Loosely based on the Agatha Christie mystery And Then There Were None, Identity follows 10 strangers who arrive at an isolated motel in Nevada during a rainstorm. As each guest is taken out by an unknown killer, former police officer Ed Dakota (John Cusack) searches for clues to find the culprit. There is also a parallel story involving the trial of a dangerous convict named Malcolm Rivers (Pruitt Taylor Vince), who is connected to the motel guests in an unexpected way.

    Why It’s Underrated: Identity is essentially a slasher film set within the mind of a man suffering from dissociative identity disorder, with multiple personalities as targets. Set aside the ingenuity of the premise and it is still an enjoyable horror movie, partially due to a fantastic ensemble cast that includes Ray Liotta, Rebecca De Mornay, John Hawkes, Alfred Molina, Amanda Peet, Clea DuVall, and Jake Busey.

    1,072 votes

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  • 3
    663 VOTES

    The Premise: Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins) is a Vietnam veteran plagued by visions of memories and hallucinations of imagined horrors he believes to be the cause of his PTSD. As his symptoms worsen, Singer sets out on a mission to uncover the wartime event from his past that may be causing his mental break.

    Why It’s Underrated: Although Jacob’s Ladder was only moderately successful upon its release, it has gained a cult following and influenced various other films. The final twist is among the greatest in the history of psychological horror and has often been imitated - with less success.

    663 votes

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  • The Premise: When skeptical insurance investigator John Trent (Sam Neill) is hired by publisher Jackson Harglow (Charlton Heston) to investigate the disappearance of popular horror writer Sutter Cane (Jürgen Prochnow), he initially believes it to be a marketing ploy to sell a new novel. As he digs deeper, Trent begins to question his own sanity upon discovering that Cane’s novels have the ability to alter the perceptions of the reader, which some believe will lead to the end of humanity.

    Why It’s Underrated: Not every John Carpenter film is an iconic classic like Halloween, but any horror film from the director is worth checking out. In the Mouth of Madness is the third installment in what Carpenter refers to as his "Apocalypse Trilogy," which also includes The Thing and Prince of Darkness. Although it received mixed reviews upon release, In the Mouth of Madness has earned a cult following over the years.

    478 votes

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  • 5
    504 VOTES

    The Premise: When small-time New York private investigator Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke) is hired by a man named Louis Cyphre (Robert De Niro) to track down a missing singer named Johnny Favorite, it leads him into a series of slayings in New Orleans. When Angel discovers why Cyphre chose him for the job, it leads to questions about his own sanity.

    Why It’s Underrated: Angel Heart features De Niro as Lucifer, which is reason enough for this film to get more attention. It also has a way of getting under your skin the way a good psychological horror movie should.

    504 votes

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  • 6
    790 VOTES

    The Premise: Psychotherapist Catherine Deane (Jennifer Lopez) is persuaded by FBI Agent Peter Novak (Vince Vaughn) to use an experimental virtual-reality treatment to enter the mind of comatose serial killer Carl Rudolph Stargher (Vincent D'Onofrio) to try and find the location of his last victim. As Deane becomes lost in the surreal and dark maze of Stargher’s mind, she loses sight of what is real within the dreamscape world.

    Why It’s Underrated: The Cell was the feature film debut of music video director Tarsem Singh, and it is a visual feast. Some critics complained about the similarities in plot to The Silence of the Lambs, but there are certainly worse films to draw inspiration from.

    790 votes

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