Best Psychological Thrillers to Watch Right Now | List of Top Psychological Thriller Movies
We all love Cinema. But what if we get fucked by it? Well, Psychological thrillers are something that we love as they give the most dramatic experience that we anticipate. Being the synonym for drama, they explore the human psyche, the behavioral patterns and keep us enthralled with the stories of either a serial killer, a guy frenzy on the killing, a girl next door who went insane etc. It’s only until the climax, we don’t know what exactly is happening inside the person’s head. While everything looks so absolutely normal on the surface; we either see the fetishes of a housewife that you haven’t imagined even in your nightmare, the little child indulged in delusions that take you beyond infinity or a father who wants to kill their own family in an abandoned house. After all, these are the thoughts that drive the story as well as our experience.
As human behavior has several aspects to explore right from sexual fantasies to personality disorders and obsessive traits; there are few things that you should be witnessing as the brain goes beyond the boundaries by transcending into unknown realms. This list is one of the best lists that you should keep as it contains Top 10 Psychological Thrillers which you might want to keep for a lifetime.
Top 10 Psychological Thrillers – Twisted and Brilliant:
- Directed by: David Fincher
- Written by: Andrew Kevin Walker
- Cast: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, Gwyneth Paltrow, John C. McGinley
- Genre: Neo-Noir Crime Thriller.
- Release Year: 1995
- Run Time: 127 minutes
Seven is a neo-noir crime thriller, one of a kind, directed by David Fincher. Fincher has been known for directing thrillers for a while now and it stars Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey and Morgan Freeman in the main roles. It narrates the story of David Mills, a young detective partnering with a retiring one to track a serial killer down. The screenplay of se7en has been influenced by the time the writer spent in the New York and therefore the principal photography took in the same place.
William Somerset, played by Morgan Freeman gets partnered with the idealistic David Mills, a short-tempered guy who recently moves to the city with his wife, Tracy. Tracy lets Somerset know that she’s pregnant and yet to reveal the news to Mills as she is unhappy with the new city and somehow feels that it is not a safer place to have a kid. Sympathizing with her because of the similar incident that happened with her ex-girlfriend; Somerset advice her to only tell the news to Mills if she wants to keep the child. Later, both sets on the journey of investigating the murders that are inspired by the 7 sins of the Bible and towards the end they have to identify a John Doe who gets personal with Mills life.
2. THE SILENCE OF LAMBS:
- Directed by: Jonathan Demme
- Written by: Ted Telly
- Cast: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Ted Levin, Scott Glenn etc.
- Genre: Horror Thriller
- Release Year: 1991
- Run Time: 118 minutes
The Silence of the Lambs is listed under the horror thriller. It stars Jodie Foster in the main role and is directed by Jonathan Demme. The story has been adapted by Ted Tally who wrote the screenplay based on the novel of the same name, written by Thomas Harris back in 1988. The novel is the second one to introduce us to the character of Dr. Hannibal Lecter; a cannibal. Being the brilliant psychiatrist, he’s also a serial killer preceding the story of a Manhunter back in 1986. The film also contains Clarice Starling an FBI trainee who on the advice of the imprisoned Lecter tries to catch another killer, “Buffalo Bill”.
FBI trainee gets pulled off from her training at Quantico by Jack Crawford, the Behavioral Science Unit in FBI. She gets assigned to interview Hannibal Lecter, an imprisoned psychiatrist whose insights might help the people to put an end to the serial killer, “Buffalo Bills” who is on the verge of skinning the females after killing them. As a result, she goes to the Baltimore State Hospital where she meets Dr. Frederick Chilton. Although, the meeting is initially pleasant; Lecter becomes impatient for her attempts to explore him but later empathizes with her and helps her in finding the Buffalo Bill.
3. OLD BOY:
- Directed by: Park Chan Wook
- Written by: Hwang Jo Yoon
- Cast: Jodie Choi Min Sik, Yoo Ji Tae, Kang Hye Jung etc.
- Genre: Neo-Noir Mystery Thriller
- Release Year: 2003
- Run Time: 120 minutes
Oldboy is a South Korean thriller, directed by the infamous Park Chan Wook. It is actually based on the Japanese manga that got released with the same name by Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi. Oldboy is the second movie of The Vengeance Trilogy with the first film Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and later followed by the third film, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. The film has been critically acclaimed by many and even won the award for the best film at 2004 Cannes Film Festival. Quentin Tarantino is one of the people who highly praised the film saying that
“powerful film not because of what it depicts, but because of the depths of the human heart which it strips bare”.
The film actually revolves around the story of Oh Dae-Su. He stays imprisoned in a hotel room for more than 15 years without having the slightest idea of who captivated him and what are his captor’s motives. When finally released, he finds himself trapped in the unknown and strange web of violence and conspiracy. As a result, he starts his quest for vengeance and in the process, falls in love with a sushi chef. Over the period, we see how he manages to seek his revenge.
Also, watch Top 10 Korean Movies for a similar cinematic experience.
4. NOCTURNAL ANIMALS:
- Directed by: Tom Ford
- Written by: Tom Ford
- Cast: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon etc.
- Genre: Neo-Noir Psychological Thriller
- Release Year: 2016
- Run Time: 116 minutes
Nocturnal Animals, written, directed and produced by Tom Ford is actually based on the novel ‘Tony and Susan’ written by Austin Wright in 1993. The film has Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal playing the main roles with Aaron Taylor Johnson, Michael Shannon, Armie Hammer, Laura Linney and Isla Fisher playing the supporting roles. The plot revolves around a divorced woman that owns an art gallery who reads the new novel of her ex-husband to find similarities of it with her former relation.
The movie contains two narratives: The Real World and the Novel.
The Real World: Susan Marrow, is the owner of the Angeleon Art Gallery who gets divorced with her estranged husband Edward Sheffield. However, she receives the manuscript of the novel written by him along with a dinner invitation as he is visiting Los Angeles. However, her marriage gets deteriorated because of her relationship with Hutton Morrow; Susan comes to read the novel named as Nocturnal Animals, as she realizes that it is dedicated to her.
The Novel: Tony Hastings is a peaceful man who makes afoul of the local troublemakers, Lou, Turk, and Ray. Forced off the road, he gets powerless to stop Turk and Ray from kidnapping his wife and their daughter. Tony somehow manages to evade Lou and Ray and goes to the police to save his wife and daughter, India. Detective Bobby Andes gets assigned to the case where Tony finds out Laura and India both dead near a shack. After identifying that they have been murdered after being raped, Tony wrecks with guilt.
Later, both of these plots interweave leaving you unexpected of how brilliant the writing has been.
5. BLACK SWAN:
- Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
- Written by: Mark Heyman
- Cast: Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis etc.
- Genre: Psychological Horror
- Release Year: 2010
- Run Time: 108 minutes
Black Swan, listed as the psychological horror film is directed by Darren Aronofsky. The plot revolves around Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake and its theatre play by New York ballet company. The production house is in the need of a ballerina who can efficiently play both fragile and innocent White Swan as well as the sensual and dark Black Swan. Nina, being the most prominent ballerina in the house is a perfect fit for the white swan but not the black as the qualities are embodied better by the new ballerina, Lily.
As a result, Nina gets overwhelmed by the pressure because she finds herself losing to Lily with the tenuous grip on the reality and starts descending into her own nightmare which ends up killing her. Black Swan, despite the plot, can be seen as a metaphor where people strive for the artistic perfection with physical and psychological challenges. The film also explores the abusive relationship with Nina and her mother, the lesbian relationship with Lily and Nina and the adultery between Nina and her coach; all of them leading ultimately to her instability.
“the film can be perceived as a poetic metaphor for the birth of an artist, that is, as a visual representation of Nina’s psychic odyssey toward achieving artistic perfection and of the price to be paid for it.
6. THE SHINING:
- Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
- Written by: Stanley Kubrick
- Cast: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Llyod.
- Genre: Psychological Horror
- Release Year: 1980
- Run Time: 146 minutes
The Shining is a masterpiece made by Stanley Kubrick. If you ask me it is possibly the only time that I have been scared s shit. Co-written by Diane Johnson, a novelist; this film is highly based on The Shining novel written by Stephen King in 1977. The Shining is actually about Jack Torrance, a recovering alcoholic and an aspiring writer who is a financial crisis. As a result, he accepts the position of an off-season guard for the Overlook Hotel, a hotel with history isolated in Colorado Rockies.
During the winters, the hotel gets closed and as a result, Jack has to stay in it along with his wife Wendy Torrance and his kid son Danny Torrance. Danny is a child who has ‘the shining’, a psychic ability which allows him to see the horrific history of the hotel. Dick Halloran, the cook of the hotel also shares the same ability and as a result, can telepathically talk with Danny. However, the hotel had a caretaker before who goes crazy and kills his own wife along with the two daughters and later kills himself. As the winter arrives, Jack loses his sanity because of the supernatural elements in the house and places his own wife and son in danger.
7. LOST HIGHWAY:
- Directed by: David Lynch
- Written by: David Lynch
- Cast: Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette, Robert Blake, Baltazhar Gette.
- Genre: Neo-Noir Psychological Horror
- Release Year: 1997
- Run Time: 134 minutes
Lost Highway is a French neo-noir film, written and also directed by the infamous David Lynch. It has Bill Pullman, Robert Blake, Patricia Arquette and Balthazar Getty in the major roles. The movie has the last film appearances of Blake, Richard Pryor, and Jack Nance and it is also the acting debut for Marilyn Manson. The movie follows the story of a man who gets convicted of killing his wife but after that, he inexplicably changes into a young mechanic and starts a new life. The screenplay has been written by both Lynch and Barry Gifford who also helped Lynch previously for his film Wild at Heart. Despite receiving critical reviews, Lost Highway had a cult following and is indeed called as a prominent film by critics. The film was later adapted as an opera in the year 2003.
Fred Madison, a saxophonist gets a message on the intercom saying that Dick Laurent has been dead. During the break, he calls his home and his wife doesn’t answer. On arriving the home later, Fred finds Renee sleeping peacefully in the bed. Early in the morning, Renee finds a videotape on their porch containing a videotape of the house. After having sex, Fred finds Renee as a pale old man and tells her about the dream telling that he had been dreaming about her being attacked. As the days start passing, more videotapes start showing up on the porch showing the interiors of the house including the shots where the pair are asleep. Fred and Renee together call the police but no one offers help. One day, Fred and Renee decide to attend a party of Andy, Renee’s friend. At the party, Fred gets confronted by the man whom he has been dreaming about and says that he is actually at Fred’s house and answers the phone when Fred calls it. Next day, Fred receives a tape where he is hovering over Renee’s body and that he got sentenced for her murder. From here, the plot takes several twists and turns leaving you dumbstruck.
8. TAXI DRIVER:
- Directed by: Martin Scorsese
- Written by: Paul Schrader
- Cast: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Albert Brooks, Harvey Keitel etc.
- Genre: Neo-Noir Psychological Thriller
- Release Year: 1976
- Run Time: 113 minutes
Taxi Driver, a 1976 film, is written by Paul Schrader and directed by Martin Scorsese. The film is set in New York City post the Vietnam War and narrates the story of Travis Bickle, played by Robert De Niro. The film has been critically acclaimed soon after it is released and is actually nominated for a total of four Academy Awards including the Best Picture. It has won the Palmed’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, 1976. The film inspired many filmmakers and is often cited by people as one of the greatest films that have been ever made. In the year 2012, it has been named as the 31st best film by Sight & Sound and is usually spelled to be the culturally, aesthetically and historically significant film by the US Library of Congress. It is also selected to be preserved by the National Film Registry.
Travis Bickle is an honorably discharged Marine in the Vietnam War. After returning from the war, he turns out to be a depressed young man living alone in the New York City. Because of his chronic insomnia, he takes the job of a taxi driver and drives passengers around the city during the night. He also spends most of his time in the porn theatres and writes a diary where he attempts to use aphorisms like “You’re only as mentally healthy as you feel”. Later he gets infatuated with Betsy who campaigns for Charles Palantine. He starts taking out for coffee and after one date, he takes her to porn film which offends her. Failing to reconcile with her, he berates her and later he turns violent and lets his frustrations out by being a killer.
- Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
- Written by: Alec Coppel, Samuel Taylor.
- Cast: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes etc.
- Genre: Film Noir Psychological Thriller
- Release Year: 1958
- Run Time: 128 minutes
Vertigo is one of the best thrillers that we have gotten from the God of Thrillers, Alfred Hitchcock. Produced by the same, the film is loosely based on the D’entre Les Morts, translated to ‘From Among the Dead’ written by Boileau Narcejac, back in 1954. The screenplay for the film is written by Samuel A. Taylor and Alec Coppel. The film stars James Steward who plays the role of an ex-police detective, John Ferguson. He is forced into an early retirement because of an incident that happens during the line of duty which causes him Vertigo and as well as Acrophobia. However, Scottie gets hired by Gavin Elster, as an investigator to follow his wife Madeleine who starts behaving strangely.
The film has been shot in San Francisco and parts of it at Paramount Studios. A thing about the film is that it is the first film to use the dolly zoom, a camera effect which distorts the perspective and causes disorientation to depict the acrophobia. As a result, this camera effect has become famous as the ‘Vertigo effect’ in the film industry. During the initial release, the film had mixed reviews but later on, it became a classic Hitchcock film as I mentioned earlier. It actually replaced the Citizen Kane as the best film that has been ever made and in the year 1996, the film faced restoration to create new DTS soundtrack and the 70mm print. Altogether, the film is known to be one of the best films, even marked by the American Film Institute because of what it holds.
- Directed by: Jeremiah S. Chechick.
- Written by: Henry Georges Clouzot, Don Roos.
- Cast: Sharon Stone, Isabella Adjani, Chazz Palminteri etc.
- Genre: Psychological Thriller
- Release Year: 1996
- Run Time: 107 minutes
Diabolique is an American thriller, written by Henri Georges Clouzot and directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik. The film is actually a remake of Les Diaboliques (1955) French film which was directed by Clouzot himself. The film is originally based on Celle qui n’était plus, written by Thomas Narcejac and Pierre Boileau. The film stars Isabelle Adjani, Sharon Stone, Kathy Bates and Chazz Palminteri. The filming of the movie has taken place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Coming to the plot, the wife and the mistress of a schoolmaster collaborate carefully to murder him. As the plan is drafted perfectly, the plan goes well until the body that has been strategically dumped goes missing. The strain of this event puts both the women in so much of stress and as a result, the retired investigator who is concerned about the disappearance begins to think that these women are somehow involved in the event. Complications start arising when the victim is alive and seen by people in the school. Most of the film has the original movie’s plot where the mistress along with the husband tries to scare the rich wife to give her a heart attack so that they can inherit all the money. The climax where the husband rises out of the bathtub scares the wife as she sees him. However, the director made changes to the adaption to make it even more interesting.
That being said, all the Top 10 Psychological Thrillers here are worth watching not once, but repetitive times. Grab some popcorn and get set for a marathon altogether this weekend. However, don’t binge watch them as there is a higher possibility that they will fuck you up.