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The Top 25 Must-See Quintessential Thriller Movies  

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243 votes 41 voters 25 items

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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This film is a 1993 American action film based on the 1960s television series of the same name created by Roy Huggins. The film was directed by Andrew Davis and stars Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones. After being wrongfully convicted, Dr. Richard Kimble escapes from custody and is declared a wanted man. He sets out to prove his innocence and bring those who were responsible to justice while being pursued relentlessly by a team of U.S. Marshals, led by Deputy Samuel Gerard. ...more on Wikipedia

Actors: Julianne Moore, Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones, Jane Lynch, Sela Ward, + more

Released: 1993

Directed by: Andrew Davis

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#123 of 257 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #941 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movieslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

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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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#12 of 257 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #277 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #350 of 410 The Best Rainy Day Movies

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Blue Velvet is a 1986 American mystery thriller flm, written and directed by David Lynch. The film stars Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper and Laura Dern. The title is taken from The Clovers' 1955 song of the same name. Although initially polarising some mainstream critics, the film is now widely acclaimed as one of the greatest films of the nineteen eighties, and earned Lynch his second Academy Award nomination for Best Director. As an example of a director casting against the norm, Blue Velvet is also noted for re-launching Hopper's career and for providing Rossellini with a dramatic outlet beyond the work as a fashion model and a cosmetics spokeswoman for which she had ...more on Wikipedia

Actors: Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern, Brad Dourif, Kyle MacLachlan, + more

Released: 1986

Directed by: David Lynch

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#96 of 257 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #701 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #77 of 157 The Best Movies You Never Want to Watch Again

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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 written by Alec Coppel and Samuel A. Taylor. The film stars James Stewart as former police detective John "Scottie" Ferguson. Scottie is forced into early retirement because an incident in the line of duty has caused him to develop acrophobia and vertigo. Scottie is hired by an acquaintance, Gavin Elster, as a private investigator to follow Gavin's wife Madeleine, who is behaving strangely. The film was shot on location in San Francisco, California, and at Paramount Studios in Hollywood. It is the ...more on Wikipedia

Actors: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Alfred Hitchcock, Barbara Bel Geddes, Ellen Corby, + more

Released: 1958

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

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#14 of 257 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #262 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #308 of 410 The Best Rainy Day Movies