The psychological thriller is a thriller narrative which emphasizes the unstable or delusional psychological states of its characters. In terms of context and convention, it comes under the category of the broader ranging thriller narration with a similar structure, with similarities to Gothic and detective fiction in the sense of sometimes having a “dissolved sense of reality”.
It is mostly expected to be described through the eyes of a psychologically stressed character(s), and it tries to reveal their distorted mental thoughts and perceptions and focusing on the complex and often tortured relationships between obsessive and pathological characters. Psychological thrillers often include elements of mystery, drama, paranoia, and action. It is thematically different from psychological horror which mostly incorporates more terror than psychosomatic themes.
Must Watch : Best Crime Thrillers on Netflix
Some of the Best Psychological Thriller Movies are Listed Below:
1. Seven(stylized as SE7EN)
An American psychological crime thriller movie, directed by David Fincher and written by Andrew Walker. It was released in 1995 and stars Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, John C. McGinley, R. Lee Ermey, and Kevin Spacey. The movie tells the story of David Mills, a detective who partners with William Somerset whose retiring, to find a serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins as a theme in murdering his victims.
The screenplay was inspired by the time, Walker spent in New York City trying to become successful as a writer. With the budget of $33 million, most of the photography took place in Los Angeles and the last scene movie in Lancaster, CA. Seven was the seventh highest grossing movie of the year 1995, grossing more than $327 million worldwide. The movie’s darkness, brutality, and motif were highly praised by the critics. The movie was nominated for Best movie Editing at the 68th Academy Awards but lost to Apollo 13.
2. The Machinist
Released in 2004, The Machinist is a psychological thriller movie written by Scott Kosar and directed by Brad Anderson. The movie stars Christian Bale and features Jennifer Jason Leigh, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, John Sharian, and Michael Ironside as supporting characters. The movie is about Trevor Reznik (Bale), a machinist whose insomnia and psychological problems lead to a serious workplace accident involving a co-worker (Ironside).
3. The Silence of the Lambs
The Silence of the lambs is a 1991 American psychological horror thriller movie directed by Jonathan Demme and written by Ted Tally, adapted from Thomas Harris’s 1988 novel of the same name. The movie stars Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Ted Levine, and Anthony Heald. In the movie, Clarice Starling who is a young FBI trainee is seen seeking the advice of the imprisoned Dr. Hannibal Lecter who is excellent psychiatrist but a cannibalistic serial killer to apprehend and track down another serial killer, known only as “Buffalo Bill”, who is known to skin his female victims’ dead bodies.
It is also the first (and only, so far) Best Picture winner which is also widely considered to be a horror movie, and one of only four such movies to be nominated in the category, along with The Exorcist (1973), Jaws (1975), and Get Out (2017). It is regularly cited by critics, movie directors, and audiences alike as one of the best and most influential movies of all time. In 2018, it was ranked number 48th by the Empire, on their list of the 500 greatest movies of all time.
The American movie Institute, ranked it as the 5th greatest and most influential thriller movie of all time while the characters Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter were ranked as the greatest movie heroine and villain respectively. The movie is considered “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant by the U.S. Library of Congress and was selected to be preserved in the National movie Registry in 2011. A sequel titled Hannibal was released in 2001, in which Hopkins reprised his role. It was also followed by two, relatively, less known prequels: Red Dragon (2002) and Hannibal Rising (2007). Stream this movie on tv using Sling.tv Free trial Offer – 7 Days!
4. Black Swan
It is a 2010 American psychological horror thriller movie directed by Darren Aronofsky and the screenplay was written by Mark Heyman, John McLaughlin, and Andres Heinz. It is based on an original story by Heinz. The movie stars Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, and Winona Ryder. The plot revolves around a production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake ballet by the prestigious New York City Ballet company.
The production needs a ballerina to play the innocent and fragile White Swan, for which the committed dancer Nina (Portman) is a perfect fit, as well as the dark and sensual Black Swan, which are qualities better embodied by the new arrival Lily (Kunis). Nina is overwhelmed by a feeling of immense pressure when she finds herself competing for the part, causing her to lose her tenuous grip on reality and descend into a living nightmare.
Usually described as a psychological horror movie, Black Swan can also be interpreted as a metaphor for achieving artistic perfection, with all of the psychological and physical challenges one might encounter, i.e. “the movie can be recognized as a poetic metaphor for the conception of an artist, which is, as a visual representation of Nina’s psychic voyage toward achieving artistic perfection and of the price to be paid for it.” Aronofsky conceived the premise by connecting his viewings of a production of Swan Lake with an unrealized screenplay about understudies and the notion of being haunted by a double, similar to the folklore surrounding doppelgangers.
The director, Aronofsky quotes Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s ‘The Double’ as another spark for the movie. The director also considered Black Swan a companion piece to his 2008 movie The Wrestler, with both movies involving demanding performances for different kinds of art. Aronofsky and Portman initially discussed the project in 2000, and after a short attachment to Universal Studios, Black Swan was produced in New York City in 2009 by the Fox Searchlight Pictures.
Portman and Kunis trained in ballet for a couple of months before the shooting began, and notable figures from the ballet world helped with movie production to shape the ballet presentation. The movie appeared as the opening movie for the 67th Venice International movie Festival on September 1, 2010. It had a limited release in the United States starting December 3, 2010 and opened in wide release on December 17.
The movie upon release was a critical and commercial success. Critics praised Portman’s performance and Aronofsky’s direction, while the movie grossed over $329 million worldwide. It received five nominations at the 83rd Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best movie Editing and winning Best Actress for Natalie Portman.
Copycat is a 1995 American psychological thriller directed by Jon Amiel and starring Sigourney Weaver, Holly Hunter, and Dermot Mulroney. The score was composed by Christopher Young. The plot goes like this: After giving a guest lecture on criminal psychology at a local university, Dr. Helen Hudson, a respected field expert on serial killers, is cornered in the restroom of the lecture hall by one of her previous subjects, Daryll Lee Cullum, who kills a police officer and brutally attacks her.
Helen becomes severely agoraphobic as a result, sealing herself inside an expensive hi-tech apartment, conducting her entire life from behind a computer screen and assisted by a friend, Andy. When a new series of murders spread terror and panic across her home city, San Francisco, Inspector M.J. Monahan, and her partner Reuben Goetz endeavor Helen’s expertise. Resistant at first, Helen soon finds herself drawn into the warped perpetrator’s game of wits.
As the murders continue, Helen realizes that the elusive criminal draws inspiration from notorious serial killers, including Albert DeSalvo, The Hillside Strangler, David Berkowitz, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Ted Bundy. When the murderer begins contacting and even stalking Helen, she and M.J. realize that he is after them, and they enlist the aid of Cullum, who tells them what he knows about the killer.
is a 2007 independent psychological thriller movie directed by Henry S. Miller and starring Willem Dafoe. Dafoe is a skilled detective names Stan Aubray. He finds out that a case he was assigned to has an exceptional similarity to one of his previous cases. The movie is based on the concept of anamorphosis which is actually a painting technique that manipulates the laws of perspective to create two competing images, drawn on a single canvas.
Dafoe turned down the role initially but reconsidered after a chance meeting with producer Marissa McMahon on a flight from Los Angeles. Mick Foley and Debbie Harry have cameos in the movie. Anamorph had its world premiere at the 2007 Milwaukee International movie Festival in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where star Willem Dafoe started out in the theater. In the same year, it was also shown at the Williamstown movie Festival in November.
Mr. Brooks is an American psychological thriller movie, released in 2007 and directed by Bruce A. Evans. It stars Demi Moore, Kevin Costner, Dane Cook, and William Hurt. The movie follows the eponymous character, a celebrated Portland businessman and serial killer (Costner) who is forced to take on a protégé (Cook) after being blackmailed and has to contend with his bloodthirsty alter ego (Hurt) who convinces him to indulge his strange “habit”. His life grows even more complicated when a driven police officer (Moore) restarts the investigation into his murders. The movie received mixed reviews and grossed $48.1 million against a $20 million budget.
8. The Brave One
It is a 2007 American psychological thriller movie directed by Neil Jordan from a screenplay written by Roderick Taylor, Bruce A. Taylor, and Cynthia Mort. The movie stars Jodie Foster and features Naveen Andrews, Terrence Howard, Nicky Katt, Zoë Kravitz, Mary Steenburgen and Luis Da Silva in supporting roles. Foster playing as Erica Bain, a New York City radio host who along with her partner, is severely beaten by thugs, leading to the latter’s death. She buys a pistol being frightened for her safety.
Flightplan is a psychological thriller mystery movie, released in 2005, directed by Robert Schwentke, written by Peter A. Dowling and Billy Ray, and starring Jodie Foster, Peter Sarsgaard, Erika Christensen, Kate Beahan, Greta Scacchi, Sean Bean, and Matt Bomer. This was also Bomer’s debut movie. A co-production of United States and Germany, the movie’s narrative follows Kyle Pratt who is a widowed aircraft engineer living in Berlin, who flies back to the U.S with her daughter and her husband’s body only to lose her daughter during the flight and must struggle to find her while proving her sanity at the same time.
The movie was distributed by Touchstone Pictures and was released worldwide theatrically on September 23, 2005. The movie received mixed reviews from critics who acclaimed the performances of its cast. However, they found the screenplay less competent. It grossed over $223 million. Stream movie using Prime video trial offer for 30 days.
10. Gone Girl
Gone girl is an American psychological thriller movie, released in 2014 directed by David Fincher and written by Gillian Flynn. It was based on her popular novel of the same title released in 2012. The movie stars Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, and Tyler Perry. The movie is set in Missouri, the story begins as a mystery that follows the events surrounding Nick Dunne (Affleck), who becomes the prime suspect in the sudden disappearance of his wife Amy (Pike).
The movie had its world premiere on the opening night of the 52nd New York movie Festival on September 26, 2014, before a nationwide theatrical release on 3rd October. The movie was received well by critics, grossing $369 million, making it the highest-grossing movie by Fincher. Rosamund Pike’s performance as Amy was particularly praised, and she received nominations for an Academy Award, BAFTA Award, Golden Globe Award, and Screen Actors Guild Award for “Best Actress”. Additional nominations included a Golden Globe Award for Best Director for Fincher and Golden Globe Award, BAFTA, and Critics’ Choice Award nominations for Flynn’s adapted screenplay, which won the Critics’ Choice.