‘Thriller’ is the singular highest grossing genre spanning films, television, and literature. A psychoanalyst’s reading of the same can probably infer that human beings enjoy experiencing excitement while retaining control; a fact which can probably stem from the otherwise monotonous nature of the daily human life. It is probably due to this that horror films often end up being the highest grossers of the year — we love getting scared watching ‘The Exorcist’ on-screen, with the presupposition of it being a film. Like a superhero film, it is almost like a dream machine; an escape into an unknown, unrelatable, yet exciting world. We do not want to belong there, yet we relish seeing it. Combining several sub-genres under its arch, a ‘thriller’ is essentially designed to keep the audience at the ‘edge of their seats’, working towards an eventual climax — a ‘Prestige’ if you may. Extensive use of literary devices such as red herrings, plot twists and cliffhangers are major characteristics of the ‘thriller’ genre.
While speaking about thriller movies, it would be close-about criminal to not mention the undisputed ‘master of suspense’, Alfred Hitchcock. Initially, it was through films of Hitchcock that thriller movies made a lasting impact on a worldwide scale. Since its inception in films, the genre has come a long, long way, creating fascinating pieces of cinematic art in the process, and presently holds an indelible part in popular culture.
Writer of the world famous erotica ‘Lolita’, Vladimir Nabokov, in his lectures at Cornell University, said: “In an Anglo-Saxon thriller, the villain is generally punished, and the strong silent man generally wins the weak babbling girl, but there is no governmental law in Western countries to ban a story that does not comply with a fond tradition, so that we always hope that the wicked but romantic fellow will escape scot-free and the good but dull chap will be finally snubbed by the moody heroine.” With all that said, here’s the list of some of the best thrillers of all time. You can watch several of these movies on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.
20. I Saw the Devil (2010)
The crowning jewel in director Kim Jee-woon’s filmography, ‘I Saw the Devil’ is a fascinating South Korean action-horror thriller film which had its premiere in the United States at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Written by Jee-woon and celebrated Korean screenwriter/directed Park Hoon-Jung, the film follows NIS agent Kim Soo-hyun, in his quest to avenge his brutally murdered fiancee. The overbearing violent content of the film resulted in the Korean Media Rating assigning a “Restricted” rating twice, curbing its release in theaters and home videos, leaving director Jee-woon no choice but to re-edit the film.
19. Tell No One (2006)