Psychological thrillers are perhaps the most exciting movies to watch because of their deeper insight into human minds.. They’re also accessible to a large audience as they all differ in style, giving everyone an opportunity to find something for themselves. But frankly, who doesn’t like a little brain teasing murder mystery or a steamy sexual encounter with lots of twists and turns. The fact of the matter is that filmmakers have forever experimented with psychological films. And that’s why we have such a variety of psychological films at our behest.
Due to the popularity of psychological thrillers, we thought of putting together a list of films that are readily available to you. There’s never a bad time for this type of entertainment, so for every Netflix-lover out there who wants the right films for a psychological marathon, here’s a list of really good psychological thriller movies on Netflix. And mind you, these movies aren’t ranked or ordered, for all of them are equally mind-boggling. You can also find many of these psychological thrillers on Amazon Prime or Hulu.
25. Circle (2015)
A movie that aptly highlights the self-centred nature of humans and what are the limits that we can breach to save our own lives while sacrificing others’ or making a scapegoat of someone innocent, ‘Circle’ is the story of fifty strangers who wake up in a strange chamber without any memory of how they arrived there and what happened prior. In a ‘Maze Runner’-like a turn of events, the strangers start getting electrocuted to death – one in every two minutes. Soon, the ones who’re remaining realize that they can collectively control the voting process of who dies next, despite knowing there’s no definitive escape from the chamber and that everyone must embrace their nemesis – sooner or later. ‘Circle’ is gut-wrenching and although weirdly premised, will keep you on the edge until you figure what’s going on.
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24. The Boy (2016)
An American woman Greta has recently gone through a terrible breakup. Distraught she moves to London and lands at a nanny job in a remote English village by the Heelshires family for their son Brahms. To her surprise and shock, Greta comes to know that she has been hired to babysit a porcelain doll named Brahms, whom the old couple treat as their only son. Greta is also given a set of instructions which are to be adhered to at all times while dealing with Brahms. As it turns out, the Heelshires are moving away for a vacation and Greta falls for a delivery boy named Malcolm. The Heelshires see their actual son’s splitting image in Brahms, who passed away 20 years ago. Soon, strange phenomena start occurring in the house – things which can be attributed to the weird porcelain doll. Or is it? ‘The Boy’ was termed both creepy and clever by many critics.
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23. Righteous Kill (2008)
A crime thriller at the outset, ‘Righteous Kill’ surrounds two seasoned NYPD detectives who go by the nicknames of Turk (Robert De Niro) and Rooster (Al Pacino). Together, they’re on the trail of a serial murderer nicknamed Poetry Boy killer, who leaves a short poem alongside the dead body of each of his victims. As the story progresses and younger detectives join in the search, it is revealed that the story was focussed on Turk because Rooster was the actual serial killer, who reveals that he did not quite like Turk’s ways of handling things and decided to take upon criminals on his own, in a unique yet almost-untraceable manner. ‘Righteous Kill’ stood out only because of its star cast and nothing else.
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22. Prodigy (2017)
‘Prodigy’ is the narrative of Dr James Fonda, a renowned psychologist who has given her consent to assist the military and a group of experts in a strange, inexplicable case of a girl named Elle. As he enters the military compound, to his utter shock, he sees a little girl strapped to a chair for no reason. As he begins his investigation and starts talking to the girl, the girl Elle, in turn, unleashes a full-scale psychological warfare on Fonda, thus rendering him speechless. Despite the desperate attempts of the girl to break his character, Fonda succeeds in getting to know some of her secrets, including the fact that Elle had murdered her own mother in cold blood. As the movie progresses, Elle reveals her telekinetic abilities, much to everyone’s surprise. ‘Prodigy’ often boasts of its pathbreaking performances and a compelling storytelling.
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21. Taking Lives (2004)
What would a list about psychological thrillers be without a pick featuring a serial killer story, ready to freeze your muscles as the tension grows? Solid and effective in its purpose, it shows us the mysterious and stunt-full investigation of FBI agent Illeana Scott (Angelina Jolie) in the pursuit of a psychopathic murderer who takes on his victim’s identity before moving on to the next one. All the plot twists, criminal patterns and stylish pacing are right on track and make this film a consistent piece of thrilling entertainment, that might catch a gasp or two from its audience, especially by the end.
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20. 1922 (2017)
The timeless genius of Stephen King and the wondrous storytelling of Zak Hilditch couldn’t get any better than ‘1922’ begins in the 1930’s when a farmer goes to a hotel room and writes about a crime he had committed in 1922. In countryside Nebraska, Wilf, Ariette, and their 14-year-old son Henry are leading an idyllic life. Wilf and Ariette have regular quarrels on the ownership of a land the latter had recently inherited. While Ariette wants to shun village life and move towards an urban style of living by selling the land and putting up a dress shop there, Wilf is of the opinion that they should stay where they are. With the help of his teenage son, Wilf plans to murder his wife and bury her in the cornfield but drops her body in the well instead. Soon, their home becomes infested with rats, Henry runs away with his girlfriend, and Wilf regrets why he did what he did. ‘1922’ is not a jump scare, but slowly and steadily takes your breath away with the thrill it brings along.
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19. The Ritual (2017)
A complicated affair, ‘The Ritual’ was called “exemplary” for its direction as opposed to its relatively weaker script. The movie begins with four men – Luke, Hutch, Phil and Dom who embark on a hiking trip in Sweden – much to the wish of their now dead friend Rob, who was also supposed to accompany them but was shot dead in a street squabble. As they begin their King’s Trail, Dom loses his ability to walk, and because of a torrential storm, they seek refuge inside an abandoned cabin for the night. Strange phenomena start taking place and all of them experience what they’ve never experienced before. A forest setting, strange phenomena and the ingrained idea of not being able to leave a place gives you enough nightmares, doesn’t it?
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18. The Bar (2017)
This very recent Spanish production by director Alex De La Iglesia has an incredibly smart and ingenious screenplay that translates into a unique movie, crafted to excellence. Spiced up with great black humour, it will leave you in awe, disgust, admiration and definitely stuck to your chair through it all. When an unknown sniper shoots a random passerby and then another, leading to the street’s total evacuation, a group of strangers sat at a local Madrid bar lock themselves inside the establishment, beginning a long, insane experience that will unravel a list of secrets and unthinkable events. It’s a movie you can’t trust, as the characters involved will change your path of thoughts over and over until you simply give up and let yourself be slapped in the face by the storytelling power present in this 5-star thriller.
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17. Gerald’s Game (2017)
Yet another Stephen King’s book adaptation on this list, ‘Gerald’s Game’ follows a married couple Jessie and Gerald who, in order to spice up their sex life, get into an isolated countryside house. To Jessie’s surprise, her husband has brought handcuffs to tie her with, while he takes two pills of viagra to add to the fervour. As they continue having sex and Jessie plays all along, Gerald falls and dies of a heart attack. Jessie soon begins to hallucinate and start seeing visions of things that aren’t there, amidst her husband’s dead body and a stray dog feasting on his flesh. Jessie unleashes her past memories, like child molestation which happened to her, along with moments of nail-biting suspense. ‘Gerald’s Game’ might be a very disturbing psychological thriller, but is worthwhile for the effort.
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16. The Invitation (2015)
At certain times, “The Invitation” will make you wonder about the sense of the plot and you will question the logic behind the main character’s actions, not to mention his strange and frustrating attitude towards the story. However, there are reasons for these blank holes and although slowly brought to the surface, the film will still manage to keep you loyal because of the piercing tension floating through the air, from beginning to end. It’s strange, mysterious and the feeling that something wicked is going on will linger throughout its 100 minutes. Long story short, it’s about Will and his girlfriend attending a dinner at his ex-wife’s Hollywood home. There will be her new husband, old friends and some past secrets taunting the harmony of the evening. Clever, effective and incredibly teasing.
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15. It Follows (2014)
Calling it a horror or a psychological thriller would essentially mean the same thing. ‘It Follows’ has perhaps one of the weirdest premises of all the movies on this list. The movie begins with Jay who is dating Hugh and they have sex on the back seat of the latter’s car. After some time, Jay finds herself strapped to a chair inside a factory with a naked woman walking towards them. Hugh explains to her that it is a supernatural phenomenon and the entity will follow her unless she has sex and passes it on to someone else, in which case the entity would kill her first. The entity often dons the form of the victims most lovable person and as the movie progresses, we witness a volley of characters to whom Jay tries to pass the “curse” to. Not a horror per se, but the fear of the unknown would keep you on your toes.
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14. The Gift (2015)
Simon and Robyn are a couple who have moved from Chicago to LA owing to Simon’s new job. There, they meet up with Gordo who is Simon’s high school classmate. Gordo, to make them feel welcome, brings unannounced gifts and also invites them to their home. When on one fine day, Simon finds Gordo’s behaviour suspicious after their dog goes missing, Robyn confronts him and he apologizes. Later, when Robyn becomes pregnant and she comes to know about Simon bullying Gordo in high school, she is taken by surprise. Meanwhile, Simon loses his job and Gordo makes a tape of the house when Robyn is unconscious, thus making Simon feel he might not be the father of the newborn child. ‘The Gift’ is an edge-of-the-seat thriller, with some outstanding performances. Easily one of the best movies on this list.
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13. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
Set in the cold-war era, ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ has George Smiley (Gary Oldman) as its central character. A while ago, Smiley, along with the British Intelligence Chief Control, were driven out of the organization after a failed Hungarian mission in which one of their colleagues was shot dead. Apparently, the secret service has been infiltrated from the top by many Russian spies and Smiley and Control need to collectively figure out who’s who, before their secrets are out without their knowledge. Considered one of the best espionage thrillers with spies with differing personas taking the centre stage, ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ went on to receive critical acclaim for the impeccable script and triumphant performances. Watch it before it’s taken off the internet.
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12. Fracture (2007)
The hairline fracture in the gathering of the evidence proves a guilty man innocent, thanks to the legal loopholes. In what can be called as Anthony Hopkins’ genius and Ryan Gosling’s compelling characterization, ‘Fracture’ is set around Ted Crawford, an aeronautical engineer who catches Jennifer, his wife and police detective Nunnally red-handed in a hotel and assumes they’re having an affair. As Jennifer arrives home, he shoots her point blank and shoots another three bullets. Nunnally arrives and arrests him and Crawford accepts all the charges. Beachum is a young attorney with an extremely high conviction rate and before he moves to a lucrative private law firm, he takes up Crawford’s case deeming of it as an open and shut one. To his surprise, Crawford chooses to defend himself and pleads not guilty and leaves a very small room for Beachum to prove his case. Terrific performances and spellbinding thrill make the most of the movie.
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11. The Interview (1998)
Eddie Fleming is a lone man who has nothing to lose, for he has already lost everything – his job, wife etc. One fine morning, the police knock his door and drag him to the police station for an interrogation. As the interrogation progresses, with everyone, including the viewers unclear of what the crime is, Eddie, demands to eat food and asks to turn off the camera. As soon as the camera is switched off, he confesses about stealing a car in question, killing the driver remorselessly and also running over a few victims. When the camera is turned back on again, he steps back and says he said so only because he wants to be freed and that he has not committed any crime. Due to lack of evidence, the police are forced let him walk free. ‘The Interview’ won several awards and accolades, including those of Best Film and Best Direction.
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10. Cube (1997)
Before the huge “Saw” franchise exploded the horror market, “Cube” had already taken a look at that style of murderous plot lines. With a particular surrealistic visual style, its meticulously designed colours and patterns in the cube-shaped room idea gives this film a plus for originality of the look. The story is simple yet very grabbing. Six people, different in gender, status, personality and strangers to each other, find themselves trapped in a maze of industrial cube-shaped-rooms that hide a variety of traps intended to kill them. From an aggressive police officer to an autistic man with calculation skills, these individuals have one goal only: to survive. However, can they work together or must they put up their shield and trust nobody? Mathematical puzzles, fast-pacing engulfment and lots of tension followed.
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9. The Devil’s Advocate (1997)
Kevin Lomax, an ace attorney who never has lost any case, and blatantly tries to defend a school teacher accused of molestation and to everyone’s shock, proves him not guilty. After he’s offered a lucrative job, Kevin and his wife Mary get settled in Manhattan after moving from Florida. The law firm’s board member John Milton promises Kevin a lot of wealth in exchange of the cases he wants him to win, like Satan, Milton feeds on his morals while back at home, Mary Ann starts having hallucinations and inches towards insanity. Soon, Kevin realises the grand scheme of things and how Milton has been trying to feed off him at the expense of his wife’s sanity, who has been declared infertile by the doctors. ‘The Devil’s Advocate’ has layered deep characters and striking thrill that will not let you move away from your seat.
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8. Ex Machina (2014)
Caleb Smith is a programmer who works for Blue Book, the largest search engine in the world. He wins a contest and gets to visit the isolated mansion of Nathan, the CEO of the company. Nathan asks Caleb to sign a contract to not to spill any beans about whatever transpires within the mansion. He reveals to Caleb that he has developed a humanoid with artificial intelligence known as Ava and he wants Caleb to determine whether Ava is closer to humanity or if not, by what extent. As Caleb and Ava converse, during a power outage, Ava tells Caleb that Nathan is a pathological liar and a cheat and he mustn’t be trusted. Caleb plans to intoxicate Nathan and help Ava escape while Nathan reveals that all this was a part of his ingenious plan. Ava locks Caleb in the sealed room she was in and stabs Nathan with a knife, before leaving the place unscathed. ‘Ex Machina’ has won countless accolades and is a visual stunner, along with being a compelling psycho-technical thriller.
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7. The Hateful Eight (2015)
Though officially ‘The Hateful Eight’ isn’t a psychological thriller, the mystery and the rough, deep characters would often make its case for being called one. ‘The Hateful Eight’ begins in the aftermath of Civil War when a stagecoach that’s hurtling down Wyoming’s snowy arena towards Red Rock with a bounty hunter John Ruth and Daisy, his prisoner who’s a murder convict. Major Marquis is another bounty hunter who’s Chris Mannix – the sheriff of Red Rock. Because of the blizzard, they seek refuge in a cabin full of strange, unwelcoming people. Soon, a quarrel erupts over a poisoned coffee, followed by a bloodied gunfight due to emerging emotions on who did what. ‘The Hateful Eight’ is Quentin Tarantino’s perfect mixture of blood, gore and shady characterizations that will get on your nerves.
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6. Mother (2009)
South Korean film director Bong Joon-ho strikes again with this masterful piece on crime and justice. You may know him from his several past hits such as “Memories of a Murder” or his latest environmental adventure “Okja” which all excelled at their storytelling purpose, a craft he manages to design once more in this striking and powerful drama. Set in a southern small town of the director’s home country, we are given a story that takes the plunge in the desperate attempt of a widowed mother to bring out the truth about a mysterious murder that has turned her world upside down. After a young teenager is found dead on a rooftop, the police quickly determine the widow’s son as guilty, a statement she denies being correct and that will lead her on a persistent hunt for the real killer. Tailored to poignant mystery and tension and with a stunning cinematography to devour, it takes the viewer into a concentrated experience worth submitting to.
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5. The Invisible Guest (2016)
A Spanish psychological thriller at the outset, ‘The Invisible Guest’ is the story of Adrian, an affluent businessman who has been accused of a murder – the murder of his lover who was found alongside him on his bed. Given his affluence, he hires a veteran lawyer, Virginia, to make for a case against the accusations on him. While narrating the story of his deceased lover Laura, who was also a photographer, Adrian explains that he suffered a car accident which Laura too was a part of and they had run over a man named Daniel, who died during the accident. When confronted, Laura persuaded Adrian to evade the crime. Virginia has to look for all the loopholes in Adrian’s case before preparing for a defence, but everything isn’t as simple as it looks. ‘The Invisible Guest’ has often been regarded as one of the greatest Spanish films given its spellbinding narrative, and layers deep characters.
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4. The Sixth Sense (1999)
Often regarded as one of the greatest movies of M. Night Shyamalan, ‘The Sixth Sense’ begins with Malcolm Crowe, a renowned child psychologist who has been honoured for his work in psychology but is greeted by an unhappy ex-patient on the same day. Crowe then works on a 9-year-old Cole’s case, who claims to see dead people all the time. Much to his family members’ disappointment, Crowe starts spending a lot of time on the case along with Cole in order to know more about his gift of sixth sense. Spoiler alert – but towards the end, Crowe realizes that he has been dead the whole time, killed by his ex-patient, Vincent. One of the most heart-pounding movies that serve you with the best of thrill, ‘The Sixth Sense’ is unmissable.
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3. V for Vendetta (2005)
The popular Guy Fawkes mask, widely associated with the hacktivist group “Anonymous”, is the face of this film’s story leader, a vigilante by the name of “V”, played by Hugo Weaving. In a futuristic dystopian world, the United Kingdom is under fascist authorities, to which V rebels against and to which he encourages others to join on a fight against the corrupt government. Evey, beautifully played by Natalie Portman, becomes involved in the situation and goes down a road we would have never foreseen. Powerfully composed, intriguing and grabbing, it’s a political thriller accomplishing some masterful plot twists and emotional thrills. A delight of suspenseful dramatic action, united against tyranny and sociopolitical issues, recommended to all.
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2. The Shining (1980)
Stanley Kubrick’s masterful venture, ‘The Shining’ is a psychological horror to be precise and less of a thriller, as you would feel your heart inside your mouth for most of the time. Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is appointed as a caretaker for The Overlook Hotel. While he was being interviewed, he is told by the manager that the previous caretaker had killed his family and eventually himself in a fit of rage, to which Jack responds nonchalantly. Jack moves to the hotel with son Danny and wife Wendy. His son Danny as a gift he calls “The Shining” i.e. he often has visions of past and future events. Apparently, at the hotel, the cook Hallorann also has a similar gift, who warns the family of room 237 – one of the most dreadful rooms of the hotel. As Danny gets visions of people who’ve died in the hotel before, Jack starts losing the sense of reality – just like the previous caretaker did. ‘The Shining’ is often regarded as a cult film and there’s no wonder why.
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1. Se7en (1995)
Perhaps one of the best ventures of David Fincher, ‘Se7en’ surrounds two detectives – William Somerset and David Mills. While Somerset is about to retire, Mills is an enviable hothead. Together, they investigate murders inspired by 7 deadly sins – gluttony, greed, sloth, lust, pride, envy and wrath. The serial killer who uses the motives is clever enough to escape at the nick of the moment, thus leading them towards the next deadly sin. As they inch closer to catching him, the unexpected happens and the serial killer had apparently played their game using their cards. ‘Se7en’ received critical acclaim and was lauded for performances, the conclusion and was regarded as one of the darkest flicks ever made by none other than Roger Ebert.
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