Movies enchant us even when they project disturbing realities of the human world. Our deepest fears and anxieties are brought to life with cinematic retellings and we seek solace in these depictions of our existence that would otherwise haunt us with gore and gloom. Psychological thriller movies, in particular, has this enduring effect on the whole of human mind and transports us to a parallel reality of an ingrained sense that subdues our psyche. Check out these 15 best psychological thriller movies of all times that will thrill you with their subdued yet provoking content.
Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank
Undoubtedly a master piece from one of the most terrific of filmmakers, Insomnia is a film about two detectives on a murder case who ‘survive’ a close brush with the culprit. With the leads getting dangerous and the sentiments intense, stability and sanity are up for a toss in this movie that seems surprisingly relatable despite the crime plot.
INLAND EMPIRE (2006)
Director: David Lynch
Cast: Laura Dern, Jeremy Irons, Justin Theroux
Inland Empire plays with your mind more than your senses to be touted as one of the most effective psychological thriller movies. At the behest of her possessive husband, the protagonist Nikki finds herself starring in a project which, horrifyingly, had witnessed murders of the earlier lead actors. As her co star is warned by her husband to keep his hands off her, there is a stark truth staring at them, but one that is not so obvious, with an under twist that seriously serves to rev up a pulsating head beat.
ANGEL HEART (1987)
Director: Alan Parker
Cast: Mickey Rourke, Robert DeNiro
A private investigator in the heart of a murder mystery solving spree of a famous singer finds himself in a fix when all his interviewed witnesses are murdered soon thereafter. Not only horror and thrill exemplified by a brilliant casting to give you the spins, but you will find yourself in the midst of a seriously haunting mind game with the intellectual strike and intense atmosphere generated by this masterclass among the psychological thriller movies.
THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES (2009)
Director: Juan José Campanella
Cast: Ricardo Darin, Solledad Villami, Guillermo Francella
Emotion plays with the human psyche with the deeply unsettling drama that this film unravels. The brutal rape and murder of a young woman is up for investigation, which sees two innocent men convicted of the crime. However, in a classic case of human empathy, the person assigned to the unrevealing of the story behind the mystery reopens the case in pursuit of true justice and what leads to the climax is a vortex of highly engaging, suspense generating motive that teases your every sense.
Director: David Cronenberg
Cast: James Woods, Debbie Harry
A film that unveils the underlying tones of a world as wide and fleecing as broadcasting, Videodrome seeks to chronicle the president of a TV channel out there forever in search of a monumental exalt into fame. Courtesy a purportedly Asian television show airing brutal torture and snuff TV, the protagonist reaches into the dark depths of a world of diplomacy and mind regulation, violence and gore and hallucinations that terrifyingly interfere with the mind’s pursuits.
I HEART HUCKABEES (2004)
Director: David O Rusell
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Naomi Watts, Jude Law
Comedy is very much an emotion and the way it plays upon your senses without even giving you the realization of something hackneyed poring into your innate senses is perhaps what gives it more credibility as an instrument of psychological thrill. I Heart Huckabees is one such movie, that is deep and grey, even while exploring the realm of comic reliefs.
The interrelationship between man and the world he inhabits along with emotions of love and compulsions of the pleasure of basking in a veritable bed of solitude and affection will penetrate your minds to such depths that you can’t fathom from one of those psychological thriller movies.
Director: Robert Aldrich
Cast: Bette Davis, Joan Crawford
Occult and dark, striking hard on the psychology with an innately spooky touch, this hard hitting drama sees a role reversal of sorts between a famous child artiste and her lesser known sibling. However, stardom proved to be harsh for the once meek child with her sister trying to overrule her fortune, even ‘accidentally’ maiming the latter, while resorting to ‘caring’ for her with sheer torture under the illusion of a out of bounds world of dreams.
Essentially catering to the ‘demands’ of a fallen persona, Baby Jane will set you up for some true mind pursuits in its somewhat extraordinary foray into the realms of psychological thriller movies.
THE CONVERSATION (1974)
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Cast: Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Harrison Ford
A paranoid surveillance expert who finds his world occupied with a serious dilemma, struggles to hold his life and brain intact as he stumbles on a young couple whose life may be ruined by one wrong step of his. Deliriously misleading and infinitely woven thrills to send shivers with its every move, The Conversation is a brilliant take on life ethics while exploring the realm of thrills woven in the expanse of those psychological thriller movies.
HOUR OF THE WOLF (1968)
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Cast: Max Von Sydow, Liv Ullman
An insomnia afflicted patient’s past leads to numerous stumbling blocks of truths and horrifying realities in this gothic horror story that projects the pathos of death and disease and how it plays upon the delirious human mind. Despite the psychological torment revealed so poignantly by the projections in this gem among all psychological thriller movies, Hour of the Wolf is one beautiful yet deeply unsettling take on the futility of life.
THE PRINCE OF TIDES (1991)
Director: Barbara Streisand
Cast: Barbara Streisand, Nick Nolte, Blythe Danner
Romance and gaiety making up a film that has serious implications for the human psychology is a rarity. Maybe, that’s precisely the reason why The Prince of Tides will tug at your heart as the somewhat blurred yet quintessentially romantic drama even with its take on solitude and melodrama. Certainly a thriller with a difference and one that is guaranteed to enthrall your senses.
THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991)
Director: Jonathan Demme
Cast: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn
The elements that guides the devilish mind of a serial killer comes to the fore in this widely acclaimed of psychological thriller movies that mixes horror with another greater fear- the well being or otherwise of the human mind. Delving into your mind as well as goading into your sights, The Silence of the Lambs is undoubtedly one classic offering that baffles your spirits with its every telling.
THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY (1999)
Director: Anthony Mighella
Cast: Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow
What happens when a person gets obsessive about grooving in the life of another person that he desires and even envies? Ripley could not have been any creepier, what with his compulsive urge to live the life of his devotional ‘deity’. Obsession is never healthy, and it even gets haunting in this one of those psychological thriller which drives us to the real picture of an infatuated human’s psychology.
BLACK SWAN (2010)
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis
Emotions and music provide the somewhat ‘perfect’ backdrop for this ballet horror drama that insinuates your senses for its credibility as being amongst the best of psychological thriller movies. The hysterics of the protagonist dwells somewhere in the realm of the surreal, as she struggles to achieve perfection in what turns out to be a nightmarish ride of desires and urges taking center stage.
Also, the fact that something as soft as a ballet setup could be turned into one of the most fascinating psychological thriller movies ever speaks volumes of the exploits of the film’s crew and cast.
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: James Stewart, Tom Helmore, Barbara Bel Geddes
Perhaps the forbearer of the genre of psychological thriller movies, this ultimate piece of cinematic beauty deals with a vertigo afflicted detective who comes out of a self induced retirement to follow the case of the possessed wife of one of his friends. Weighing down on the issues of recuperating from a bad case of a disease while struggling to hold your peace intact catapults this movie into the league of a masterpiece thriller.
BREAKING THE WAVES (1996)
Director: Lars Von Trier
Cast: Emily Watson, Stellan Skarsgard, Katrin Cartlidge
Psychological thriller movies belong to a genre that anyway transcends the understanding of a layman, and when it’s something as intricate as limitless love, there are very few who can actually connect to it despite the theme being seemingly universal.
Love has always been glorified and when you uncover a kind of love that actually makes you reckless, to the extent that affection becomes a shock and not an yearning, you begin to fear the ‘trauma’ it can generate to your being, while impacting every setting in your psychological confines. And Breaking the Waves is one total thriller to the extent that it will whiff away your every sense before you even know it.