6 Brilliant Psychological Thrillers That Define The Genre

6 Brilliant Psychological Thrillers That Define The Genre
Image credit: Tartan Films, CJ Entertainment, Legion-Media

These stories will never leave your head.

The rom-coms, the dramas, the comedies, and the sci-fi shows – all of these genres give you chills. When the couple in the romance story kisses for the first time, you go "aawwww," when a character makes a joke, you laugh, and when a mad scientist reveals the secret of the universe, you gasp.

But all those emotions only hold you for five seconds and no more. There's no way you're going to overthink a TV love story or over-analyze a fictional scientific concept. But there is one genre in movies and TV that, once you dive in, you become a different person, and that's the psychological thriller.

Over the years, many different films have been created by legendary directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese and others, and these six films are the ones that define the genre.

1. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

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There was no way we could start our list with anything other than Jonathan Demme's hit movie. This bone-chilling film has it all, starting with an extraordinary performance by the one and only Anthony Hopkins and finishing with a powerful story that will keep you invested until the very end, even if your eyes are already closed.

At the heart of the movie is a story that unravels the psyche of the characters step by step, focusing on the horrible truth of serial killers. The film even won an Academy Award. And now, more than 30 years later, it remains one of the most horrifying psychological thrillers ever made.

2. Psycho (1960)

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Another old gem of the genre is this 1960 Alfred Hitchcock movie. The film begins with a young secretary who steals a lot of money from her job and goes on the run. Little did she know that $40,000 would take her to a place she wished she had never been to – right into the hands of a creepy young man.

The movie combines all aspects of what makes a perfect psycho thriller: horrifying images, creepy settings and behavior, absolutely shocking plot twists that leave you wondering what's real. Even though many viewers consider the movie a pure horror, some fans still find themselves binging it again and again.

3. Zodiac (2007)

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A lot was said about this movie over the years, but it feels like it’s never enough though. David Fincher’s thriller with Jake Gyllenhaal as the main star, along with Mark Fuffalo and Robert Downey Jr. was released in 2007 and since then remains one of the greatest unsolved mysteries.

The movie focuses on the story of a serial killer whose real name we never got to know. At the center of the story is an obsessed journalist who wants to find out who was the one who terrorized the city for so long. This gripping movie is a mix of crime and drama, and what makes it even more terrifying is the fact that it's based on a true story.

“If you know all about the Zodiac mystery like I did, then there's not much to be spoiled, but what really amazed me was how realistic they made it, every single detail was covered, and covered flawlessly at that. They also got the sets, clothes etc. right, which I think is excruciatingly difficult,” Redditor Heisemburg25 said.

4. Oldboy (2003)

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Of course, the list wouldn't be complete without this South Korean film, which is one of Quentin Tarantino 's all-time favorites. Directed by Park Chan-wook, the movie is about a man named Oh Dae-Su. One day he was on his way home to his wife and kids when he was kidnapped and that's how it all started.

Oh Dae-Su was kept in a dirty room with a TV and dumplings for every meal for 15 years. After that he was released and given the task to find out why he was kept in captivity. Will he be able to figure it out? And what awaits him if he fails?

5. Vertigo (1958)

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Another masterpiece created by Alfred Hitchcock is Vertigo. Despite the fact that the movie is soon to be 70 years old, it is still considered to be one of the best things the genre of psychological thriller can offer you.

It stars Kim Novak and James Stewart and focuses on a former San Francisco police officer who becomes obsessed with a beautiful woman he has been hired to trail. The movie is really haunting and keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole time.

6. Parasite (2019)

The comparatively new film that changed the world of the Academy Awards forever when it became the only foreign film to win the Oscar for Best Picture. This has never happened in the 92-year history of the award, but anything is possible when it comes to Bong Joon-ho.

His movie Parasite is about two families: The Kims and the Parks. The former is a struggling family and tries to do anything to reach the level of wealth of the Parks. So they decide to plan a way to work with the Parks and manage to do so. But then after a while something terrible started happening to them that will make them regret everything.