Psychological thrillers are a genre of films considered to be a mix of horror and mystery. These films often have characters with deeply troubled minds playing against a backdrop of suspense, horror and tension. Psychological thrillers typically involve protagonists trying to find out the truth behind a conspiracy or dealing with a mental illness. It can be hard to categorize films as some films incorporate characteristics of several genres making them hard to pinpoint. One thing is for sure, if you’re looking for a thrilling and suspenseful flick, psychological thrillers are a great option.
One of the best psychological thrillers of recent times is ‘Gone Girl’. In this film, based on the bestselling novel by Gillian Flynn, the audience follows the suspicious disappearance of the wife of a successful New York writer who is under the microscope from the police. The film incorporates horror, suspense and even comedy elements, making it a complex and thrilling mix.
Another great psychological thriller is ‘Shutter Island’, released in 2010. This film follows the story of two US Marshals, investigating a psychiatric facility on a remote island for a missing inmate. Leonardo DiCaprio’s character is haunted by his own repression of memories and has a difficult task of uncovering the truth. Throughout the film, viewers are left chilling and questioning what really happened.
The 2012 film, ‘The Girl With The Dragoon Tattoo’ is based on the novel with the same title and is the first part of the best-selling trilogy by Stieg Larson. In this film, a hacker and an investigative journalist team up to solve the years-long unsolved murder of a prominent businessman’s niece. This crime thriller is a mix of mysterious and suspenseful elements.
Other great psychological thrillers include ‘The Sixth Sense’, ‘Memento’ and ‘The Others’. The former is a classic film starring Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment as a child psychologist trying to help a young boy who has supernatural abilities. Memento, on the other hand, is a noir-style film, starring Guy Pearce as a man attempting to track down his attacker, who also happens to have anterograde amnesia. Lastly, ‘The Others’, starring Nicole Kidman is a supernatural thriller, following an isolated family in the isolated island of Jersey whose lives take a disturbing turn when their home becomes haunted.
Stealth thrillers are a genre subclassification of psychological thrillers that are characterized as suspense-driven films focusing on suspense and tension in intense, suspenseful scenes. These films often focus on characters who struggle within their surroundings and relationships.
One of the most iconic stealth thrillers is ‘The Silence of the Lambs’, released in 1991 and based on the novel of the same name. In this stunning thriller, an FBI trainee seeks help from the notorious Dr. Hannibal Lecter, an imprisoned psychologist and cannibal in an attempt to catch another serial killer. This film is known for pushing the boundaries of the genre, leading to its overwhelming success.
Released in 2002, ‘Red Dragon’ is a thriller following the same character of Dr. Hannibal Lecter as he assists William F. Starling, an FBI agent in investigating a serial killer. This film is a prequel to its predecessor, ‘The Silence of the Lambs’, making the prequel-sequel combination of this franchise one of the most popular and successful stealth thrillers of all time.
Another great stealth thriller is 2007’s ‘Zodiac’. In this film, a cartoonist, along with a team of police officers, investigate a series of unsolved murders in the San Francisco Bay area. The investigation becomes more complicated as the police realize an unknown serial killer is involved.
Other great examples of stealth thrillers include: ‘Seven’, ‘Intacto’, and ‘The Usual Suspects’. ‘Seven’, released in 1995 follows two detectives as they hunt down a criminal who commits gruesome murders based on the seven deadly sins. ‘Intacto’, released in 2001, follows a group of survivors of a plane crash, who not only survives the crash but can also absorb luck from other people. Lastly, 1995’s ‘The Usual Suspects’ follows five criminals as they try to find out the true identity of a mysterious crime lord.
Noir thrillers are a subgenre of psychological thrillers, characterized as having a dark and sinister atmosphere filled with tension, suspense, and mysterious elements. This genre is often used to emphasize the moral ambiguity and corruption of characters in order to create a climactic atmosphere.
One of the best classical noir thrillers is Alfred Hitchcock’s classic ‘Vertigo’. This 1958 film follows a police investigator, a man suffering from vertigo, who becomes obsessed with a mysterious woman he is hired to follow. This dark and riveting storyline captures the psychedelic and shadowy mood of the noir genre, making it one of Hitchcock’s best works.
Also, ‘Chinatown’ has become an iconic noir thriller since its 1975 release. This film follows the story of a private investigator hired to unearth the dark and dangerous secrets of a society riddled with corruption and mystery. Interesting themes of power, greed, and life in a dangerous city are touched on in this film making it an engaging noir thriller.
Another great contemporary noir thriller is 2011’s ‘Drive’. In this film, a stunt driver falls in love with a girl and gets dragged into a dangerous world of criminals and mobsters, leading him to have to outwit the criminals and protect his new love. The noir atmosphere and the suspenseful soundtrack makes this film a must-watch.
Other great noir thrillers include: ‘American Psycho’, ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ and ‘The Limey’. ‘American Psycho’ is a horrifying story of a wealthy Wall Street businessman, who also happens to be a psycho killer. ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’, on the other hand, follows a petty criminal and an aspiring actress who, after getting into a whole lot of trouble end up working as P.I.s. Lastly, ‘The Limey’ follows an intense and now dangerous retired British soldier as he goes searching for answers in America.
Supernatural thrillers are another, often popular, subgenre of psychological thrillers, which are focused on supernatural elements. These films explore the boundaries between the human world and the spirit world, often taking the audience to a dark and terrifying place.
One of the greatest supernatural thrillers of all time is ‘The Exorcist’, released in 1973. This film is about a young girl possessed by a powerful demon, and a priest attempting to save her by performing an exorcism. It remains one a classic horror and supernatural thriller, being one of the scariest films of all time.
Another amazing supernatural thriller is ‘The Ring’, released in 2002. This film follows a journalist, who investigates the mysterious death of a girl and her friends. During the investigation she discovers a cursed video tape and the most frightening and shocking moments happen when the curse is unleashed.
Other great supernatural thriller films include ‘The Sixth Sense’, ‘The Shining’, and ‘The Conjuring’. The former is a classic film starring Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment as a child psychologist trying to help a young boy who has supernatural abilities. ‘The Shining’, released in 1980 and one of the most acclaimed works of Stanley Kubrick, follows the story of a family visiting a haunted hotel. Lastly, ‘The Conjuring’ follows the story of two paranormal investigators as they try to help a family who are plagued by a dark presence in their home.
Mystery thrillers are a subgenre of psychological thrillers characterized by thrillers focused on mysteries and usually involve protagonists attempting to solve a mystery. These films often follow the criminal investigations carried out by detectives.
One of the greatest mystery thrillers of all time is ‘Se7en’, released in 1995. In this film, two detectives chase a serial killer who bases his murders on the seven deadly sins. This gritty thriller is known for its brutal story, gripping suspense and powerful climax.
Another great classic is ‘The Usual Suspects’, which follows five criminals as they try to find out the true identity of a mysterious crime lord. This 1995 film, another classic of Bryan Singer, is well-known for its extended climax and its creative story, which keeps the audience guessing until the very end.
Also, ‘Memento’ is a classic noir-style thriller, starring Guy Pearce as a man attempting to track down his attacker, who also happens to have anterograde amnesia. This crime thriller is known for its unique storyline, its disorienting shots and its complex and intense storyline.
Other works of mystery thriller that are worth watching include ‘Zodiac’, ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ and ‘Gone Girl’. In ‘Zodiac’, a cartoonist, along with a team of police officers, investigate a series of unsolved murders in the San Francisco Bay area. As mentioned before, ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ follows a hacker and an investigative journalist teaming up to solve the years-long unsolved murder of a prominent businessman’s niece. Lastly, ‘Gone Girl’, based on the bestselling book by Gillian Flynn, follows the suspicious disappearance of the wife of a successful New York writer who is under the microscope from the police.
Thriller Films and Beyond
Thriller films are a mix of genres including horror, mystery, and drama. These films often combine elements of suspense, tension, and a psychological atmosphere – making them some of the most thrilling, suspenseful and intense cinematic works in the past few decades.
Besides traditional thrillers, psychological thrillers have been gaining traction in the past few years. These films are often based on psychological disorders and mental illness and they often incorporate horror, suspense, and drama elements. Some great examples of psychological thrillers are ‘Gone Girl’, ‘Shutter Island’ and ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’.
Stealth thrillers are a type of psychological thrillers, characterized as suspense-driven films, typically focusing on characters who struggle within their surroundings and relationships. A few examples of stealth thrillers include ‘The Silence of the Lambs’, ‘Red Dragon’, and ‘Zodiac’.
Noir thrillers are another subclassification of psychological thrillers, characterized as having a dark, sinister atmosphere and taking the audience to a realm of moral ambiguity and corruption. Notable noir thrillers include ‘Vertigo’, ‘Chinatown’, and ‘Drive’.
Finally, supernatural thrillers are a mix of horror and mystery genres and they often explore the boundaries between the human and spirit world. Examples of supernatural thrillers include ‘The Exorcist’, ‘The Ring’, and ‘The Sixth Sense’.