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. Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)
A Netflix original horror/thriller, ‘Velvet Buzzsaw‘ serves as a critique of the modern art scene and how it has become nothing more than a hollow multi-million dollar business. The central character of this film is an art critic called Morf Vandewalt (Jake Gyllenhaal) who holds such an influence on the art scene that one bad review from him can ruin the career of an artist forever. One of Morf’s friends, Josephina, one day comes across the paintings of an unknown painter called Vetril Dease and immediately realizes that these paintings can be worth millions in the market. As the story progresses, we get to realize that these paintings carry a special curse. Anyone who tries to measure the value of art in monetary terms meets a horrible fate. The film always carries an ominous tone in each scene, which culminates towards the end steadily. The performances, especially those of Gyllenhaal and John Malkovich, certainly deserve praise.
24. The Box (2009)
James Marsden and Cameron Diaz star in this psychological thriller as a couple who have been given a rather difficult choice to make. They receive a gift where, if you press one single button, you will come across $1 million. But the problem is that as soon as they open the box, one random person will be killed. The couple only have 24 hours to make up their minds, but they also have to live with the consequences of their actions forever. Now the question is pretty simple- are you ready to indirectly take the life of an innocent man in order to be happy yourself? This film has an intense plot which will keep you hooked till the very end. It also presents a moral dilemma for the audience where they will have to come to terms with their own moral core depending on which option they want to couple in question to choose.
23. The River Wild (1994)
This Hitchcockian psychological thriller directed by Curtis Hanson (‘L.A. Confidential’, ”The Hand That Rocked The Cradle’) stars Meryl Streep and Kevin Bacon in the leading roles. Streep’s character Gail is a history teacher who used to formerly serve as a river guide. With their married life in a complete mess, Gail decides to take their son on a rafting trip on the Salmon River. During their trip, they meet two strangers whom Gail helps in crossing the river. While on their raft, the mother-son duo comes to know a dark and disturbing secret of these two strangers with them. Now it is upto Gail to save her own and her son’s life from these two men while also guiding their raft to safety. The film is full of tension and boasts of solid performances from the likes of Streep and Bacon. However, it remains somewhat hollow over all, and does not match the brilliance of a similar 1972 film called ‘Deliverance’.
22. In The Shadow Of The Moon (2019)
Serial killer films have always had a special place in the hearts of the audiences simply based on the fact that the derangement of these characters is extremely fascinating to watch. Over the years, a number of serial killer films have been made across the world, and it was no wonder that Netflix too would venture into this territory. This is what they did with the 2019 film ‘In The Shadow of The Moon‘. The story of this film centers around a police officer who is eager to be promoted to the post of a detective. When a case of serial killing comes to him, he believes that this is the way to finally make a name for himself and jumps head-on into the case. As he investigates, a staggering detail about the murderer’s modus operandi comes to light. Apparently, the murderer in question resurfaces every nine years, commits a number of murders, and then goes back into hiding. How this is possible, and how the murders can be carried out in such a meticulous manner with such a huge gap between each spree keeps the police shocked. When the answer to this question is revealed, our reactions can be polarized. But what we must admit is the fact that this film has taken a rather fresh approach to the genre. The cinematography of ‘In The Shadow Of The Moon’ surely deserves a special mention.
21. Secret Obsession (2019)
A Netflix original film, ‘Secret Obsession‘ is directed by Peter Sullivan and stars Brenda Song, Mike Vogel, and Dennis Haysbert. Song here plays the role of a woman called Jennifer who gets into a serious accident and ends up losing all her memories. The only respite for Jennifer is the fact that her doting husband is always ready to care for her and look after all her needs. Parallel to Jennifer, we get to see the story of one Detective Frank Page (Dennis Haysbert). While investigating his daughter’s kidnapping and also Jennifer’s accident, he comes across some information which makes it clear to us that Jennifer’s husband is not the person we think he is. Though the performances in this film are quite brilliant, it is quite lacking in terms of plotting and structure.
20. 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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19. Fractured (2019)
Starring Sam Worthington, ‘Fractured‘ is one of the best Netflix original movies of 2019. The film is set around a family of three- Ryan, his wife Joanne, and their daughter Peri. During a vacation that the three of them take, Peri has to be admitted to a hospital because of an accident. Her parents immediately take her to a local hospital where Ryan passes out in the waiting area due to exhaustion while Joanne takes Peri inside for a checkup. However, on waking up, Ryan fails to locate his wife and child. He asks around in the hospital, but nobody can tell him anything about them. The hospital staff even refuse to acknowledge that anybody looking either like Joanne or Peri was there that day. Ryan realizes that a sinister conspiracy is at work here and multiple people working at the hospital might be involved. The film works nicely as an intense thriller but fails to move away from the beaten track to provide viewers with something fresh and original.
18. Cam (2018)
A brilliant psychological thriller from Netflix, ‘Cam’ centers around the life of a girl who works as a camgirl for a streaming website. Her job is to stream erotic content and attract as many viewers as possible. As she tries to establish a name for herself in this business, this girl in question, Alice, realizes that she needs to do something totally different from what viewers are used to seeing. Thus, she films a fake suicide and streams it on her channel. This attracts interest from a number of viewers and soon her popularity starts skyrocketing. However, Alice security soon goes for a toss when she realizes that someone looking exactly like her is gaining more traction on the website. Who that person is, or how has that person managed to look exactly like her completely baffles Alice. ‘Cam’ takes us to the darkest places of the internet where our identities and securities can go for a toss anytime.
17. 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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16. 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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15. 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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14. 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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13. 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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12. 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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11. 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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10. 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 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 a lack of evidence, the police are forced to let him walk free. ‘The Interview’ won several awards and accolades, including those of Best Film and Best Direction.
9. Bird Box (2018)
This Netflix original psychological thriller stars Sandra Bullock in the leading role as a woman who has to guide her two children through a tumultuous land where strange entities are causing the death of numerous people. These entities themselves do not attack anyone, but one look at one of them can make you lose your mind and commit suicide. In such a perilous situation, Bullock’s character, Malorie Hayes, blindfolds herself and the two children, and takes them to a place where they will be free from the influence of these creatures.
8. Shimmer Lake (2017)
The structure of this film is what makes it stand apart from the rest. ‘Shimmer Lake’, written and directed by Oren Uziel, is a story spanning the length of a week and chronicles the efforts of a small-town sheriff who wishes to catch the three people responsible for a bank heist. Interestingly enough, one of the three criminals in question is his own brother. The film has been written brilliantly, with the story being told in reverse. We have seen this reverse structure in the Gaspar Noe’s ‘Irreversible’, but here Oren Uziel brings in a fresh take to the format by making a psychological crime thriller.
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. Clinical (2017)
Writer-director Alistair Legrand’s Netflix original film ‘Clinical’ is a film about a psychiatrist who has gone through a terrible experience whereone of her patients tries to commit suicide right in front of her. The psychiatrist in question, Dr. Jane Mathis (Vinessa Shaw), develops sleep paralysis and PTSD and takes a lot of time to get back to her feet once again. However, once she does recover, Jane gets a patient with a disfigured face and a troubled mind. But hardly does she realize that this patient is more troubled than anyone she has ever encountered. The film has some brilliant moments, but overall lacks a certain appeal which would place it among the finest psychological thrillers on Netflix.
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 Son (2019)
This Argentine film is one of the best psychological thrillers you will come across on Netflix. The story of the film centers around a character called Lorenzo who is a painter who has recently married and wants to rebuild his life with his new wife. While pregnant with their first child, his new wife starts behaving in a strange manner. She becomes unnaturally obsessive and manipulative, causing a lot of tension between her and Lorenzo. Their relationship further takes a turn towards danger and hostility on the birth of the child. The film stands on the shoulder of the lead actor’s performance, who portrays the shock and despair at his wife’s behavior brilliantly.
3. American Psycho (2000)
Directed by Mary Harron, ‘American Psycho‘ is the film which pushed Christian Bale into international stardom and showed the world how powerful an actor he actually is. Bale plays the character of a Wall Street investment banker in this film called Patrick Bateman who is rather successful in his professional life. While he appears to be a talented and fun-loving guy to his colleagues and friends, no one really knows the other side of Bateman. At night, he goes out as a maniacal killer whose bloodlust is unmatched. The film is a fine blend of horror and humor while keeping the fear factor in it intact. ‘American Psycho’ can be seen as a critique of the 80s’ market-oriented younger generation.
2. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
One of the greatest psychological thriller/horror films of all time, ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ is a film by Roman Polanski which helped the director solidify his position in Hollywood after already earning acclaims in Europe. The film starts with the story of a couple who have recently moved into an apartment building. The wife, Rosemary, is pregnant, and gets a lot of help from her older next-door neighbors who at times seem to be a bit overtly friendly. However, her husband doesn’t mind this and welcomes this family wholeheartedly. On the other hand, Rosemary starts doubting the intentions of this elderly couple. Certain events keep happening which solidifies the doubt Rosemary has. There comes a point of time when she cannot even be sure of the intentions of her own husband. The performance of Mia Farrow and the brilliant direction of Roman Polanski are the two highlights of this film. Polanski manages to brilliantly hold the tension while shooting in a rather confined space.
1. Taxi Driver (1976)
Martin Scorsese’s swansong, ‘Taxi Driver‘ is a story about one single character and his descent into an unstable mental space. The character in question, Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) is a Vietnam veteran who has been discharged from duty. Now he has taken up a job as a taxi driver, and he mostly drives around at night in and around New York City. As he picks up all sorts of people in his car, Travis gets to witness the down and dirty side of New York from rather close quarters. We understand that slowly he is figuring out that nothing in the city will ever happen the way he wants it to turn out. Travis gets rejected by a girl when he takes her to watch a porno movie on their first date. He also gets disgusted when he sees an underage prostitute being treated rather cruelly by her pimp. All this invokes in him a desire to go against society and launch an all-out attack. Scorsese’s brilliant direction and De Niro’s historic performance makes ‘Taxi Driver’ a cerebral thiller, and one of the best character studies in film history.
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