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thrillers The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time  

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List of the best psychological thrillers and mystery films ever made. Though a variety of definitions for the "psychological thriller" genre have been offered, there is no universally accepted set of guidelines. In general, psychological thrillers integrate personal character elements into mystery and suspense films, essentially toeing the line between a dramatic character study and the sort of plot structure you'd expect from a detective movie. Many psychological thrillers resemble traditional thrillers or suspense films, only with a personal, internal antagonist rather than a traditional movie villain. (For example, "Repulsion" or "The Conversation," in which the plot is moved forward by the main character's growing paranoia and madness.) In many films of this type, the solution to the main character's conflict comes in the form of altering their perspective or discovering some buried truth about themselves and their past, rather than winning a fight or battling an opponent.

Many psychological thrillers play around with the main character's backstory, or make use of an unreliable narrator. Films like Christopher Nolan's "Memento" present the audience with one perspective on the story, and then generate suspense by showing the ways in which "reality" contrasts to this perspective. (This sometimes, but not always, results in a "twist" or surprise ending based on the difference between the main character's perception and that of outside observers.) Several Alfred hitchcock films utilize this technique, particularly movies like "Spellbound" and "Marnie," in which the story concerns a character becoming mentally well after years of madness and confusion.

This list contains the very best films from the psychological thriller genre. It is Open and Voteranked, so be sure to vote for your favorites and add any other movies we missed at the bottom of the page.
list ordered by

193 36
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The Silence of the Lambs Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Chris Isaak

138 31
Seven is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
KirkSaw added Seven Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow, Morgan Freeman

157 45
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Memento Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano

132 38
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Kel Varnsen added The Sixth Sense Bruce Willis, Mischa Barton, Haley Joel Osment

107 25
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Rear Window Grace Kelly, James Stewart, Alfred Hitchcock

151 49
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Lon Harris added Fight Club Brad Pitt, Jared Leto, Helena Bonham Carter

110 28
The Usual Suspects is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
KirkSaw added The Usual Suspects Kevin Spacey, Benicio del Toro, Gabriel Byrne

102 26
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Vertigo James Stewart, Kim Novak, Alfred Hitchcock

74 21
Psycho is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Roger Royce added Psycho Alfred Hitchcock, Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins

123 58
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Shutter Island Leonardo DiCaprio, Michelle Williams, Mark Ruffalo

93 39
Inception is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
ScottyDykstra added inception Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard

88 39
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The Game Sean Penn, Michael Douglas, Spike Jonze

85 43
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American Psycho Reese Witherspoon, Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe

78 40
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Donnie Darko Drew Barrymore, Ashley Tisdale, Jake Gyllenhaal

The Top 25 Must-See Quintessential Psychological Thrillers

51 20
Taxi Driver is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
KirkSaw added Taxi Driver Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Martin Scorsese

62 32
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Oldboy Choi Min-sik, Yoo Ji-tae, Oh Dal-su

66 40
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Mulholland Drive Naomi Watts, Billy Ray Cyrus, Melissa George

17 2
Misery is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time
Dlje115 added Misery Lauren Bacall, Kathy Bates, James Caan

57 36
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The Machinist Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michael Ironside

59 43
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Zodiac Robert Downey Jr., Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo

17 7
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cpalmerray added Dial M for Murder Grace Kelly, Alfred Hitchcock, Ray Milland

The Best Horror Movie Remakes

37 29
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The Manchurian Candidate Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury, Janet Leigh

36 28
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KirkSaw added Black Swan Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Winona Ryder

25 17
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KirkSaw added The Talented Mr. Ripley Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon

34 27
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Rebecca Laurence Olivier, Alfred Hitchcock, Joan Fontaine

40 34
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Frailty Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Powers Boothe

30 25
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The Conversation Harrison Ford, Robert Duvall, Gene Hackman

30 25
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Marnie Sean Connery, Alfred Hitchcock, Tippi Hedren

20 Movies to Show Your Kids to Get Them into Psychological Thrillers

31 28
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Pi Mark Margolis, Ajay Naidu, Clint Mansell

29 26
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Lost Highway Richard Pryor, Gary Busey, Patricia Arquette

18 14
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KirkSaw added Play Misty for Me Clint Eastwood, Donna Mills, Jessica Walter

22 19
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KirkSaw added Fatal Attraction Glenn Close, Michael Douglas, Jane Krakowski

27 25
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Videodrome Debbie Harry, James Woods, David Cronenberg

22 22
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Spellbound Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck, Alfred Hitchcock

19 19
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Pallknowing1 added Moon Kevin Spacey, Mary Tyler Moore, Kaya Scodelario

The Best Movies That Were Originally Panned by Critics

17 17
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kaylee added Wait Until Dark Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin, Robby Benson

27 29
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Hard Candy Ellen Page, Sandra Oh, Patrick Wilson

18 19
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KirkSaw added Falling Down Robert Duvall, Michael Douglas, Tuesday Weld

1 0
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First Reformed Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried, Cedric the Entertainer

25 29
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The Vanishing Johanna ter Steege, Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, Gene Bervoets

21 25
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Les Diaboliques Simone Signoret, Michel Serrault, Paul Meurisse

17 21
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Peeping Tom Anna Massey, Michael Powell, Pamela Green

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21 26
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Straw Dogs Dustin Hoffman, David Warner, Peter Vaughan

16 20
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The Stepfather Terry O'Quinn, Shelley Hack, Jill Schoelen

11 14
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Zardoz added Seconds Rock Hudson, Will Geer, Richard Anderson

18 23
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House of Games William H. Macy, Joe Mantegna, J. T. Walsh

22 28
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Repulsion Catherine Deneuve, Roman Polanski, Ian Hendry

13 17
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The Tenant Roman Polanski, Shelley Winters, Isabelle Adjani

12 16
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Sisters Margot Kidder, Charles Durning, Olympia Dukakis

12 16
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Obsession John Lithgow, Cliff Robertson, Geneviève Bujold