Psychological thriller movies are all about psychological tension and suspense. They’re psychological because the “thriller” part of it may or may not happen; it can be psychological and all in the mind. Psychological thrillers try to get under the viewer’s skin and into their psyche by showing something that wouldn’t usually be there: a tense atmosphere created by the sounds and visuals.
This type of film is characterised by unusual plots featuring disturbing subject matter, twist endings, and psychological themes such as paranoia, anxiety disorders, and clinical mental illness. Psychological thrillers aren’t for everyone – they’re best watched on your own, so you don’t have to feel embarrassed when you scream during an intense scene! These movies also often contain strong language and high levels of violence.
So, if you like being scared out of your mind and enjoying a good twist ending, then these are the best psychological thriller movies for you!
Here are some of the best psychological thriller movies around:
This psychological thriller stars Natalie Portman as a ballerina whose life whirls out of control after being cast in Swan Lake’s lead role. The psychological thriller culminates in a shocking twist, with her sanity spiralling out of control.
I must admit, this is one of my favourite films ever and not just because I used to do ballet.
This psychological thriller stars Christian Bale as Trevor, a machinist whose psychological anxiety manifests itself in the psychological disorder of insomnia. When he looks at people, he sees their worst possible selves and can’t stop thinking about how to destroy them. This psychological thriller is a mind trip that will take hold until you see the very end. Even then, your head might be spinning from all that’s going on!
Another classic psychological thriller starring Leonardo Dicaprio, this movie takes place during the 1950s at an asylum for mentally unwell patients located on an island off Cape Cod. In charge of investigating what appears to be a missing patient, Dicaprio’s character soon realises that all is not as it seems on the island. Shutter Island will keep you guessing until the very end with its twist ending.
This psychological thriller stars Guy Pearce as Leonard Shelby, a man suffering from anterograde amnesia, which causes him to remember everything prior to the day his wife was killed. Unable to make new memories, Leonard relies on Polaroids and tattoos to remind himself of who he is and what he needs to do to find her killer. This psychological thriller is told in two parts: one told in reverse chronological order and the other told conventionally. It’s one of the cleverest films around in how it was told.
Starring Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale, The Prestige tells the story of two rival magicians in turn-of-the-century London. With its twist ending, psychological tension, and themes of obsession and rivalry, The Prestige is one psychological thriller film that you won’t want to miss. Again, a film I love because I love magic tricks!
This psychological thriller from South Korea is about Oh Dae-su, a man who is inexplicably kidnapped and imprisoned in a hotel room for 15 years. When he is finally released, he sets out on a quest for revenge that will take him all over the world. With its shocking plot twist, Oldboy is one psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the very end.
One of the most well-known psychological thrillers of all time, The Shining is about the Torrance family who move into the Overlook Hotel to take care of it during the winter. When the father (Jack Nicholson) starts to have psychological problems, things quickly spiral out of control. With its creepy setting and psychological tension, The Shining will send shivers down your spine.
This psychological thriller stars Tim Robbins as Jacob, a Vietnam veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. When strange events start happening to him, Jacob questions his sanity and whether he is actually still alive. With its disturbing plot and trippy visuals, Jacob’s Ladder will leave you feeling uneasy long after you’ve finished watching it.
Another cult classic psychological thriller movie starring Christian Bale, this is about Patrick Bateman, a wealthy investment banker in the late 1980s during the height of Wall Street boom. Likened to a modern-day version of Jekyll and Hyde, Bateman has two personas, with one being an intelligent yet narcissistic investment banker and the other being a psychopathic killer. With its psychological tension, disturbing violence, and role reversal between good vs evil, American Psycho will shock you until the very end.
The psychological thriller movie Saw tells the story of two men who are chained up in an industrial bathroom where they are informed that one needs to kill for both to survive or else they will both die. With its gory violence, psychological tension, and mind-bending plot twists, Saw will turn your stomach inside out.
Psychological thriller movies that use psychological tension and suspense often thrill and entertain viewers. These types of films can be extremely suspenseful, making the audience feel anxious and tense as they try to figure out what is going to happen next. Which still makes us wonder why people love thrillers so much.
Nonetheless, if you’re a fan, make sure you tick all these movies off your list.
If you enjoy psychological thrillers, why not read my book THE TENS, which is about a woman trying to find her missing husband when the whole world seems to be conspiring against her.