While suspense films are mainly focussed on the build-up of psychological tension, thrillers are more focussed on action and events. Thrillers are usually more fast-paced than suspense and mystery movies. However, it’s also important to note that these genres often overlap resulting in films described as mystery thrillers or suspense thrillers.
To prove our point, here are the 10 best thriller movies of all time.
Top 10 Best Thriller Movies of All Time
Rear Window (1954)
Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1958) starts off leaning more on its suspense movie tendencies. It starts off slow, carefully establishing the movie’s ingenious setting and introducing us to the interesting characters in the protagonist’s apartment building.
But don’t worry, the pace and action begin picking up when the protagonist, played by James Stewart, witnesses what he thinks is a murder. This discovery draws him (and the audience) out of his stupor and launches him into trying to take just into his own hands when people refused to believe him. Rear Window is considered one of the best thriller films.
North by Northwest (1959)
Don’t be surprised to see multiple entries from the master of the thriller and suspense genre himself, Alfred Hitchcock, on the best thriller movies list.
In North by Northwest (1959) Hitchcock directs veteran actor Cary Grant who plays a New York advertising executive falsely identified for a government agent by a spy who pursues him across the country. The film features Hitchcock’s directorial skills at its prime, producing memorable and thrilling sequences that are often copied but never surpassed by other thriller films.
Manchurian Candidate (1962)
Based on a novel of the same name, The Manchurian Candidate (1962) is one of the best suspense thriller films that perfectly captures the era’s communist paranoia.
It stars Laurence Harvey as Raymond Shaw, an army hero who has recently returned to the USA from Korea. However, it is revealed that the veteran was brainwashed and programmed by communists to assassinate a presidential candidate and to eventually aid them in their attempt to overtake the US government.
Blood Simple (1984)
Before they won an Oscar for directing the incredible Western thriller, No Country for Old Men in 2007, the Coen brothers made their directorial debut with Blood Simple (1984).
A story about infidelity, murder, and revenge, Blood Simple (1984) introduced the world to the brothers’ signature bleak and violent filmmaking. The plot follows a private investigator turned hired killer who diverts from the original plan he was hired for so that it would benefit his own interests more. Blood Simple is one of the 80’s best thriller movies.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Said to have spawned the 90s obsession with psychopath killers, The Silence of the Lambs (1991) introduced the world to the infamous cannibal serial killer with a doctorate, Dr. Hannibal Lecter.
The movie builds both fear and curiosity upon its viewers through the use of psychology and deduction which Lecter also uses for helping the police solve murders and as a murder weapon against people as well. The viewers are put in the shoes of detective Clarice Starling which is both genius and ironic as we realize how clueless we are of what things will happen next despite having the privilege of knowing more than other characters in the film. It is one of the best thriller movies ever made.
The Usual Suspects (1995)
The Usual Suspects (1995) features Kevin Spacey in an award-winning performance as a con-man attempting to pull off a million dollar heist with four other criminals.
The thrill of the film stems from the police chase that follows their heist. But the film benefits more from its mystery tendencies as the viewer realizes that everything is not as they initially seemed.
Filled with amazing plot twists and amazing performances, the film benefits from multiple viewings.
David Fincher’s best thriller movie Seven (1995) is one of those movies about psychopathic killers inspired by The Silence of the Lambs.
The film’s premise itself is enough to capture the audience attention to see it through the end. The movie title, Seven refers to the modus operandi of a serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins as a pattern for killing. It stars Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt as a duo of investigators whose main goal is to capture the elusive serial killer played by Kevin Spacey. Seven is one of the best thriller movies of all time.
Christopher Nolan’s Memento (2000) is a fantastic thriller about a man suffering from short-term memory loss trying to solve the brutal rape and killing of his wife.
It stars Guy Pearce as the lead, Leonard, whose unreliable memory and narration drive the film’s plot. Aside from its premise, another interesting thing about this thriller film is how it is presented by two different sequences of scenes: one shot in black and white and another in color.
No Country For Old Men (2007)
Dubbed as the greatest thriller film the Coen Brothers ever made, No Country for Old Men (2007) is a part neo-noir thriller, a part neo-Western film about a cat and mouse chase between a Vietnam veteran and a Texas welder in the 1980s Texas desert landscape.
The film was both a critical and commercial success upon its release taking home four Academy Awards that year including one for best director.
Topping our list of thriller films is Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958), a classic thriller film and an adaptation of the French novel, D’Entre Les Morts. Not surprised, are you?
It follows Scottie, played by James Stewart, an acrophobic detective hired by an old friend to investigate the latter’s wife. What he doesn’t know is that he is slowly being sucked into an insidious plan unknown to him at the time.
Found something you haven’t watched yet on our best thriller movies list? Send this article to your friends and round them up for a thriller movie marathon night.