The human mind is a very interesting subject and filmmakers agree. The psychological thriller has remained a popular subgenre of thriller films over the years and it’s not hard to see why. From books to real life experiences, there’s plenty of material to be found and turned into a movie. Here are 10 of the best psychological thriller movies ranked and reviewed.
10 Best Psychological Thriller Movies of All Time
Black Swan (2010)
Some critics often dub Darren Aronofsky’s psychological thriller Black Swan (2010) as the female version of Fight Club. But that may be an oversimplification since the film is a great piece of thriller on its own.
It tells the story of a mentally disturbed and dependent ballerina Nina, played by Natalie Portman, who suffers from a mental breakdown due to the pressures of being cast in the lead role of her company’s production of the ballet Swan Lake. The film is a superb study of an artist’s obsession with perfecting their art to the point of self-destruction.
Fight Club (1996)
Speaking of Fight Club here’s, well, Fight Club.
Based on a novel by Chuck Palahniuk, the film is a psychological thriller movie about a man who’s unknowingly suffering from a mental illness called dissociative personality disorder which led him to create an alter ego [SPOILER ALERT] in the character of Tyler Durden, played by Brad Pitt.
In the film, we see the man live a double life as he and a group of other men plan and set out to the exact night of anarchist destruction.
In Christopher Nolan’s thriller film Memento (2000), we follow the story of a man suffering from short-term memory loss as he tries to solve the brutal rape and killing of his wife.
He suffers from a rare and untreatable condition wherein he can only remember the past 15 minutes of his life making it extra difficult to fulfill his mission of tracking down his wife’s murderer.
One unique thing about the film is that it presents the story in a split-screen format with one side shot in color and the other in black and white.
The Sixth Sense (1999)
The film that put director M Night Shyamalan on the map, The Sixth Sense (1999), stars Bruce Willis as a psychologist going through a strange patch in life. His wife won’t talk to him and he meets a boy patient who’s apparently disturbed by visions of dead people.
Nominated for a couple of Academy awards on the year of its release, the film is also famous for being the first to feature Shyamalan’s signature affinity for twist endings.
Rear Window (1954)
One of Alfred Hitchcock’s tightest thriller films, Rear Window (1958) starts off leaning more on its suspense movie tendencies. Starting off slow, it carefully establishes the movie’s ingenious setting and introduces us to the interesting characters in the protagonist’s apartment building complex.
Don’t worry though, the film’s pace and the action pick up eventually when the protagonist, played by James Stewart, witnesses what he thinks is a murder of one of his neighbors. This horrifying discovery draws him (and, us, the audience) out of his stupor, launching him onto action when people refuse to believe his eye witness account.
Gone Girl (2014)
Think your former girlfriend was a total wacko? Then you’ve clearly haven’t watched (or read) Gone Girl (2014). An adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s thriller mystery novel of the same name, the film tells the story of how Nick Dunne becomes primary suspect in the mysterious disappearance of his wife, Amy.
Throughout the film’s first part, we are led to doubt Nick and his innocence but later on slapped with the unbelievable truth— Amy planned her own disappearance to frame her cheating husband. And if that isn’t crazy enough for you, just you wait. We’re pretty sure you’ll go ‘WTF?’ by the end of the film.
We’re all aware of the dangers of obsession. This film is a portrayal of a worst-case type of scenario wherein a fan holds an author captive just so he could write another book in her favorite book series.
An adaptation of the Stephen King novel of the same name, the film stars Kathy Bates as a fan who happens to take in her favorite author after he gets into a car accident near her home.
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
Another adaptation of a book, The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) stars Matt Damon as the titular Mr. Ripley a man whose desire for the high life would make him go to great lengths to steal the life of his rich friend Dickie Greenleaf, played by Jude Law.
The title pertains to Ripley’s numerous ‘talents’ which includes lie weaving, forgery, and impersonation. After being mistaken to be a fellow Princeton student, he is hired by a rich man to bring back his son Dickie, who’s in Italy with his girlfriend, to America.
Taxi Driver (1976)
In Martin Scorsese’s thriller classic Taxi Driver (1976), we Travis, an insomniac ex-Marine turned taxi driver played by Robert DeNiro, as he prowls the streets of New York at night.
His neurosis and restlessness reach their peak after meeting and being rejected by a beautiful woman who works for a local politician’s election campaign and meeting a 12-year-old prostitute. Later on, he would plan to assassinate the politician along with a teenage prostitute’s pimp.
At its core, the film is a succinct depiction of an individual’s descent into psychosis.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
The Silence of the Lambs (1991) is the film that introduced the world to the infamous cannibal serial killer slash genius, Dr. Hannibal Lecter.
It tells the story of a young FBI agent’s attempt to get into the mind of Lecter in order to figure out how a serial killer’s mind works. Based on a novel of the same name by Thomas Harris, the film is the first of the adaptations of Harris’s series on Lecter.
Did your favorite films make it onto our list of the best psychological thriller movies? Tell us in the comments below!