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The Top 25 Must-See Quintessential Thriller Movies  

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List Rules Vote up the thriller movies that define the genre and should be required viewing for beginners in an Intro to Thrillers class.

Where would American cinema be without people like Alfred Hitchcock? Probably a lot less scared, but who wants to live in a world like that? Thrillers are a mix of adrenaline, suspense, and - most vital - contemplation on the human psyche. Anyone can scare someone, but making an audience think while they scream is an artistic acheivment. Only the truly essential thriller movies make us question all our preconceived notions about humanity while we try to solve a mystery or murder. If you're a fan of simultaneously philosophizing and wincing, these thriller movies for beginners will help! 

Some of the most famous thriller films out there include commentary on human nature and contemporary society. While these films proved popular to mainstream audiences, they're not your average Hollywood blockbusters filled with cheap ploys and clichés to spark an easy emotional reaction. These thrillers really delve deep. The charming and ever-quotable Hannibal Lecter makes us wonder if evil is born or made. Psycho's Norman Bates questions how responsbile an individual is for their wrongdoings when not in their right mind. American Psycho muses on how corporate greed and toxic masculinity impact American society. These are films everyone should watch, regardless of whether you're a fan of the morbid and macabre. 

If you're new to the genre, you can consider this list an intro to thriller movies. Check out these must-see thrillers below and then vote your favorites to the top of the list. 

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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 her employer, and the motel's owner-manager, Norman Bates, and its aftermath. ...more on Wikipedia

Actors: Alfred Hitchcock, Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, Martin Balsam, + more

Released: 1960

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

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The Silence of the Lambs is a 1991 American thriller film that blends elements of the crime and horror genres. Directed by Jonathan Demme and starring Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, and Scott Glenn, the film is based on Thomas Harris' 1988 novel of the same name, his second to feature Hannibal Lecter, a brilliant psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer. In the film, Clarice Starling, a young U.S. FBI trainee, seeks the advice of the imprisoned Dr. Lecter to apprehend another serial killer, known only as "Buffalo Bill". The Silence of the Lambs was released on February 14, 1991, and grossed $272.7 million worldwide against its $19 million budget. It was only the third film, the other two ...more on Wikipedia

Actors: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Chris Isaak, George A. Romero, Roger Corman, + more

Released: 1991

Directed by: Jonathan Demme

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Shutter Island is a 2010 American psychological thriller film directed by Martin Scorsese. The film is based on Dennis Lehane's 2003 novel of the same name. Production started in March 2008. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as U.S. Marshal Edward "Teddy" Daniels, who is investigating a psychiatric facility on Shutter Island. Positively cited by movie reviewers, the film grossed over $128 million in its initial domestic theater release, as well as an additional $166 million internationally. Shutter Island was originally slated to be released on October 2, 2009, but Paramount Pictures pushed the release date to February 19, 2010. In August 2014, Paramount Television and HBO were reported to be ...more on Wikipedia

Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Michelle Williams, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Emily Mortimer, + more

Released: 2010

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

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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 Pictures, the film stars James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter and Raymond Burr. It was screened at the 1954 Venice Film Festival. The film is considered by many filmgoers, critics and scholars to be one of Hitchcock's best and one of the greatest movies ever made. ...more on Wikipedia

Actors: Grace Kelly, James Stewart, Alfred Hitchcock, Gig Young, Raymond Burr, + more

Released: 1954

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

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