So you've cleared up for the night, curled up on the couch, popped the popcorn, and got your hands on the remote. The doors are locked, and the blinds are drawn, and if you're really brave (or completely round the bend), you've switched off the lights too. This is how a true blue fan of psychological thrillers indulges. Me, not so much. Should I get my act together, all the lights are on, and not just for the duration―I sleep with them on for a week after, the covers drawn over my head. I'm not quite sure what it is, the sane part of my head knows that it's play acting, the portrayal, however brilliant, a figment of someone's often overactive imagination. The other part of my brain, isn't so much insane, as influenced―maybe it's the background score? Maybe it's the movie maker's point to mess with my mind? And maybe, just maybe, there truly do exist, some of the things that so far have just come to life in celluloid. Just the thought gives me the heebie jeebies.
I'm pretty certain a good deal of the credit goes to the creator of the background score of a psychological thriller. It builds, it dwindles, it scares the daylights out of you, and adds dimension to the scene in a way that nothing quite else can rival. Also, movies of this kind focus more on a plot, than a muscle flexing action hero, which appeals, I'm sure, to the intellectual in me, and maybe in you. The best psychological thrillers truly pack the punches with the suspense, and elements of mystery, drama, and deception thrown in for good measure, till you haven't the foggiest what the outcome is going to be―that's the part that throws you. The twists in the tale can take you from complete comprehension to complete befuddlement―and some great thriller movies do that and more, in style. So to get started, these are some of my picks for the best thrillers of all time. Let the disagreeing begin.
Master of the genre, Alfred Hitchcock gained critical acclaim for his film adaptation of the book of the same name, by Robert Bloch. Psycho is as riveting as it is horrifying, and the story will stay with you long after the credits have rolled. Anthony Perkins' portrayal of Norman Bates made him a household name post the release of this movie, and it remains, undisputed as one of the best thrillers of all time.
Directed by David Fincher and written by Andrew Kevin Walker, Se7en stars Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman as two homicide detectives on the trail of a sadistic serial killer inspired by the seven deadly sins. Seven has all the trademarks that good psychological thrillers do, it's full of suspense and twists with a particularly diabolical ending.
Wait Until Dark
Audrey Hepburn stars as the young Suzy Hendrix, recently blinded in a car crash, in this brilliant film, one of the must watch movies of all time. The story, adapted from a stage play of the same name, has one of the best climaxes ever shot in motion picture history, and if you haven't watched this movie, you really ain't seen nothing yet.
Based on Daphne Du Maurier's novel of the same name, Rebecca is another of Alfred Hitchcock's top-notch creations, starring Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, and Judith Anderson. It's a masterpiece of suspense, drama, and mystery, with all the elements that make for a good psychological thriller.
The Sixth Sense
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, and starring Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment, The Sixth Sense garnered critical acclaim upon its release. With a stunning twist in the end, this is another sure fire entry to any list of psychological thrillers.
Apart from the five listed above, the following are a few more movies of this genre that are more than just worth a watch:
- Rear Window
- Anatomy of a Murder
- The Talented Mr. Ripley
- Shutter Island
- The Others
- The Shining
- Eyes Wide Shut
- Les Diaboliques
- Dial M for Murder
- The Butterfly Effect
- The Mothman Prophecies
- Mulholland Drive
- Primal Fear
- Straw Dogs
- The Blair Witch Project
Whether you're a fan of the genre, or a reluctant admirer like myself, there's no escaping that these movies certainly are gripping. While you blink in the light of day, and kid yourself into believing that it's all just make believe, it's not half as convincing when a stair board creaks or a curtain shimmers in the dark stillness of the night. Keep the lights on.