Best Psychological Thrillers of all times
written by Souranath Banerjee
Before we hunt down the Best Psychological Thrillers of our times, let’s find out what exactly do we mean by a ‘psychological’ thriller? And how is it different from a regular suspense thriller?
Well, in any ordinary thriller, you either have to guess the killer or experience a tense cat and mouse chase sequence, or reveal a conspiracy – but whatever excitement happens, it happen in real time, with real people in real situations.
But in case of the twisted genre of psychological thrillers, these films maneuver the facts in such a way that they make you believe into something/someone that/who actually may not exist at all! These movies deliberately play tricks with the audience’s imagination and successfully blurs their perception of reality.
And finally, here are some of the Best Psychological Thrillers ever made in the history of Cinema.
Let the countdown begin!
20. Frailty (2001)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mW6TlPMHXgk
This film is all about a man’s confession of a series of murders that his religious fanatic father forced him and his brother to be a part of.
Directed by Bill Paxton, a thriller at its best, with a few unexpected plot twists.
Superb performances, specially by the child actors, Bill Paxton himself and Matthew McConaughey.
19. The Skin I Live In (2011)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EolQSTTTpI4
A weird tale of a plastic surgeon and his muse, a scientist and his experiment, an inventor and his creation.
Brilliant performances by Antonio Banderas and Elena Anaya and a twisted tale of passion and revenge.
Directed by renowned Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar, this is one of the best psychological thrillers that will keep you guessing till the end.
18. Goodnight Mommy (2014)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hisSd7qyY40
In an isolated countryside, nine-year-old twins wait for their mother’s return, but when she finally comes back she seems to be a completely different person.
Her face bandaged due to some surgery, it’s hard to tell if she is indeed their mother or are they both really her children!
Directed by Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz, this is one disturbing thriller for sure.
17. The Sixth Sense (1999)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VG9AGf66tXM
A child psychologist (Bruce Willis) meets a boy (Haley Joel Osment) who has a sixth sense, who can communicate with spirits and claims to ‘see dead people’ all around him!
A film that is as impressive as the twist in the plot.
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, a film that successfully fools the audience from the very beginning!
16. Lost Highway (1997)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nKjO9QCSic
A world owned by David Lynch, who is the master of psychological thrillers.
Framed for the murder of his wife a man mysteriously escapes from the jail being morphed into another person – yes, one of the most weird story plot ever in film history.
And the best part is that the film (according to me) has no specific ending that explains it all!
15. Angel Heart (1987)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vp0LXxkx7yA
Alan Parker directed this intense thriller starring Mickey Rourke and Robert De Niro.
A private investigator is hired by a mysterious man who wants him to track down a particular singer.
Though at first it all seemed like regular business but soon things turn nasty and people keep dying in strange circumstances. A mystery that holds up till the end.
14. A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anF5XiN8QY8
As the title suggests, it’s the story of two sisters who returns home from the mental institution and desperately struggles to cope up with their lives.
A superbly intense film by Kim Jee-woon – suspense, horror or simply a nail-biting thriller, this one serves all your cravings.
This South Korean film will creep you out for sure.
13. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PewtQsgN5uo
Be aware: a new apartment always comes with mysterious neighbors.
A young couple moves to a new place and soon the wife becomes pregnant. Though the neighbors seem to be too caring, but the mother (Mia Farrow) fears about the safety of her unborn child.
Extreme paranoia that only a director of Roman Polanski‘s calibre can deliver!
12. Hour of the Wolf (1968)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7PWFiLkKG4
Ingmar Bergman‘s one and only psychological horror film, and undoubtedly a classic.
An artist shares his deepest desires and the most painful nightmares with his wife at the darkest hours of the night – ‘the hour of the wolf’.
His life turns out to be drowning in the very brink of dreams and reality, a state so surreal and dangerous and bizarre. A must watch.
11. The Shining (1980)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Cb3ik6zP2I
Welcome Stanley Kubrick and that too on the first spot!
A film that set new bar in this genre, the chilling transformation of a hotel-caretaker (Jack Nicholson‘s character), the haunting isolation of the palatial hotel and the eerie never-ending maze. And also a kid who has the special talent of ‘Shining’!
Unique and scary, psychotic and intense, a film you will never forget.
10. Videodrome (1983)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFHey3utk0I
One sleazy cable-TV programmer (James Woods) discovers a sick TV show and soon enough his life turns upside down.
He soon finds out that the show may look like an ordinary one but it is a clue to some sinister global conspiracy.
Director David Cronenberg is the master of psychologically twisted films but this particular one really takes the cake!
9. The Wicker Man (1973)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FdV-O8o7ok
The story revolves around a police sergeant (Edward Woodward) who lands on a Scottish Island village in search of a missing girl.
He soon realizes that the village people doesn’t want him to investigate and more to his surprise they deny the very existence of such a missing girl!
Directed by Robin Hardy, a superb psychological thriller.
8. The Machinist (2004)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRoYCwUvBPc
Arguably Christian Bale‘s best performance and undoubtedly his best physical transformation for a role till date.
A film so twisted and insane that I bet you won’t sleep for a year, well, the super-slim version of Bale convinces you that it is possible!
Gripping, disturbing and mind boggling; director Brad Anderson‘s brilliant thriller is a must watch!
7. Don’t Look Now (1973)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUWB-Kw4FiM
Nicolas Roeg‘s innovative, nerve wrecking film, this one is considered as one of the most horrifying thrillers made till date.
A grieving couple (Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland), visits Venice for a change of mood but soon things get more complicated than they could ever imagined!
Chilling suspense and exceptional plot twists that makes the film so special.
6. The Tenant (1976)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmhIMbdecEU
Roman Polanski and his endless list of psychological thrillers grabs the attention of every film buff.
And in this particular one, he himself is THE tenant who shifts to a new apartment that earlier belonged to a girl who died.
In Polanski’s apartment trilogy this one is my favorite; psychotic paranoias, obsessions and delusions get a new definition in this film.
5. Open Your Eyes (1997)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBtnPuB0x3U
Love finds a handsome man but soon luck disfigures his face in a tragic accident. He tries surgery in a quest to rebuilt his face but finds out that he has lost his sanity too.
Brilliant performance by Eduardo Noriega, and Penélope Cruz is simply gorgeous!
A Spanish film from the acclaimed director Alejandro Amenábar that will trip your mind for sure.
4. Black Swan (2010)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jaI1XOB-bs
One of the best thrillers of recent times, which won Natalie Portman an Oscar in the ‘Actress in a Leading Role’ category.
Master director Darren Aronofsky creates this disturbing psychological drama based on the famous play ‘The Black Swan’.
What is real and what’s not – the whole film has a bizarre feel that keeps you guessing till the end!
3. Memento (2000)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vS0E9bBSL0
We can never complete this list without mentioning Christopher Nolan‘s Memento.
A guy (Guy Pearce) in search of the murderer of his wife but short-term memory-loss makes him doubt everybody and everything around him.
Never sure whom to trust other than a few notes and some polaroids, and of course his unique tattoos!
2. Fight Club (1999)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUXWAEX2jlg
Brad Pitt and Edward Norton and their infamous creation of a ‘fight club’.
An underground club that channels primal male aggression but it soon grows and evolves into something much more than its original purpose.
Acclaimed director David Fincher‘s unique film, definitely the most popular psychological thriller of recent times.
1. Psycho (1960)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NG3-GlvKPcg
Alfred Hitchcock demands the first position on this list.
His other films Vertigo, Rebecca, Rear Window, Rope also could have been included here but then it would be a separate Hitchcock list altogether!
But the sinister Bates Motel, the iconic shower scene, the stuffed birds, the final confrontation with ‘mother’ – yes, that’s enough for this movie to become the best psychological thriller of all times. Please nod if you agree with me.
and (The ‘+1′ film is not necessarily the best but certainly the most innovative one. A must watch)
+1. Mulholland Drive (2001)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2_a5_BlM5k
Hollywood being the backdrop, this one is a spooky tale of two women (Naomi Watts and Laura Harring) who tries to solve the weird mysteries in their lives.
Director David Lynch in his unique way blurs the lines between dreams and reality, often entering the world of surreal.
A complex film to comprehend, here are at least ten ways to interpret the film. Take a pick!
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