Best thriller movies are those that keep you in suspense and in constant expectation of danger.
Although horror movies come close to doing what the best thrillers do, they focus more on the external expression of danger such as showing lots of blood and gore.
Thrillers, on the other hand, focus on taking your guts out through your brain in a psychological scruffle to confuse you, scare you, frighten you, and most of all to awe you. Named among the nation’s favourite movie genres, crime and psychological thrillers will put you on edge of your seat.
In the following piece, I will list the best thriller movies that will keep you in suspense feeling every muscle and nerve. If that’s not enough, be sure to check our 17 best thrillers on Netflix.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Director: Jonathan Demme
Writers: Thomas Harris (novel), Ted Tally (screenplay)
Stars: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Lawrence A. Bonney |
When the talk goes about the best thriller movies, the silence of the lambs cannot but be on the list. The movie is a literal definition of a thriller genre. It has some of the best dialogue any movie should have apart from the other features.
The plot is about an FBI agent who in the process of understanding and finding a serial killer (Buffalo Bill) comes in contact with another psychopath cannibalistic serial killer, (Hannibal Lector) to understand the other one better.
Keeping the suspense and the mystery the movie picks you up at the first scene and never lets you go. The acting in this movie is brilliant that one can’t help but be made to wonder if Anthony Hopkins is a real cannibal.
A quick note, he is not!
This 1992 thriller movie is simply one of the most suspenseful movies of all time.
You Were Never Really Here (2017)
Director: Lynne Ramsay
Writers: Lynne Ramsay (screenplay by), Jonathan Ames (based on the book by)
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Judith Roberts, Ekaterina Samsonov |
You watch the trailer and see all the acclaim, awards and say to yourself, why have I not heard about this brilliant crime thriller movie of 2018.
The performance of the main actor Joaquin Phoenix is magnificent, so great that he probably should have won an oscar for it, although he did win Canne Palme d’or which is like the second-best award there is after Oscars.
He plays a brutal assassin, who attempts to rescue a teenage girl when she goes missing. However, he discovers unexpected troubles and unpleasantries to put it nicely.
If normal thriller movies were like rock music, this movie would be like heavy metal, the ultimate meta-type of thrillers. You don’t know if the band is crazy like this all the time, or is it just the stage act.
You need to prepare yourself for the meta heavy rock of thriller movies before coming.
Director: David Fincher
Writer: Andrew Kevin Walker
Stars: Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey |
You put Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman together in any movie together, you are sure to get something incredible. Make the movie genre thriller and add Kevin Spacey as the antagonist, you get Seven, which is one of the best thriller movies of all time.
Although the villain of the movie is revealed a bit later in the movie, it does little to ruin the movie’s plot or its suspense.
It is about a serial killer who goes about killing people following seven deadly sins. Though there is so much to talk about, I rather you watch it yourself and enjoy this one incredibly mysterious, suspenseful crime thriller of all time.
Let us not start on Fincher 😉
Director: Dan Gilroy
Writer: Dan Gilroy
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton
The movies mentioned above all included one of the most talented actors of all time, so does this one.
All those were thriller movies that each defined and redefined the genre, so did this one.
They all had psychological elements combined with mystery making up for one heck of a good suspenseful movie, so does this one.
It is hard to identify which one of them will come first in the list of best thriller movies of all time for they all have their solid fan base and people who think their corresponding movie is the best.
In this crime thriller with Jake Gyllenhaal, he chooses to be a participant rather than an observer of crime reporting which causes the film’s psychological debate.
It is certainly one of the best performances from this incredible actor, and the movie is definitely the best thriller of 2014.
47 Meters Down (2019)
Director: Johannes Roberts
Writers: Ernest Riera, Johannes Roberts
Stars: Sophie Nélisse, Corinne Foxx, Brianne Tju
This movie is about four teenage girls who go to explore a Mayan City underwater. Which happens to be the hunting waters of great white sharks.
As a movie, this is not your best movie with so much character and hero’s journey type of thing, as a good thriller movie, it will keep you at the edge from the very start.
Thriller movies can be good only if it is able to give you the chills and feels unexpected and expected in such a way that your heart skips a beat.
This is the thing about Hollywood thriller movies, that it will, for the most part, keep the audience entertained even though it could come at the cost of other important aspects of the movie.
Ex Machina (2014)
Director: Alex Garland
Writer: Alex Garland
Stars: Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac
This thriller movie is the type that makes you think a lot, like to think about the distance between Man and God vs Man and AI.
The movie had a very positive reaction to it from the beginning thus still keeps its rating as one of the best thriller movies.
The movie features a young programmer who gets to assess Artificial Intelligence by interacting with it as a part of an experiment that billionaire internet Moghul puts him up.
Ex Machina impresses the audience in a much different yet intuitively expected way, on the same level as the best thriller movies of 2014.
Director: Mike Flanagan
Writers: Mike Flanagan, Kate Siegel
Stars: John Gallagher Jr., Kate Siegel, Michael Trucco
Horror/Thriller movie about a deaf writer in the woods who has to fight off a masked intruder that appears at her door in the night.
The concept alone reads all kinds of scary and horrific right, imagine if you were to retreat to woods then all of a sudden this guy texts you and appears. Anyone would have probably been scared pants wet.
Suspense is so real in this movie if you watched the trailer of the movie. Then you are going to start the movie on the edge already before you even start the movie off.
This is a kind of suspense that the best thriller films should have.
Ironically named “Hush” is the movie that is going to absolutely flabbergasts anyone who watches it.
The Perfection (2018)
Director: Richard Shepard
Writers: Eric C. Charmelo (as Eric Charmelo), Richard Shepard
Stars: Allison Williams, Alaina Huffman, Logan Browning
Perfection is anything but perfect for many people, however, as a horror/thriller movie it features enough blood, gore, and incitement, deterrence, that it is easily one of the best suspense movies I have watched for a while.
The movie’s plot is totally bonkers, full of twists and turns and it is really hard not to root for the characters that are getting their hands sliced. Well, let us stop at no more spoilers.
As long as you come with low expectations from this movie, you are sure to be blown away, and impressed by the acting and the plot of the movie.
Director: Jordan Peele
Writer: Jordan Peele
Stars: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss
Among the thriller movies, the one that gave me the most chills at the time was this very movie. It could probably be because I saw it in a movie theater as I am a huge fan of Jordan Peele, and was expecting something like the “get out”.
Although the premise is absolutely different in this film, it is about the underworld clones of everyday human beings.
The story unfolds when a family travels to their beachfront house where the mother of the family grew up. Then, suddenly four strangers with masks attack the house.
The movie is so great that it made me think it was definitely going to win an Oscar or at least be nominated for it.
It certainly takes a special place in my heart as one of the best thriller movies.
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Christopher Nolan (screenplay), Jonathan Nolan (short story “Memento Mori”)
Stars: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano
Even after 20 years, this movie is still in the list of best thriller movies to watch, just that it is, is actually quite impressive.
The plot revolves around a guy who has a medical condition whereas he cannot make new memories, except he remembers his wife being murdered.
The movie must sound fun and exciting already from this very point of view, as it was for me when my friends recommended that I watch it.
What makes this movie a great thriller/mystery movie to watch is its original screenplay, with crafted quality. Also, the fact that it was made by Christopher Nolan, in fact, it is one of the movies that gave him the public eye.
No Country For Old Men (2007)
Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Writers: Joel Coen (screenplay), Ethan Coen (screenplay)
Stars: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin
This contemporary noir “No country for old men” is one of the best suspense and tension movies without any doubt.
The movie has the best coin flip practices of all time, fitting the mystery/thriller plot like a raspberry topping on an ice-cream, and just like the topping there still could be some people who might not like it.
However, the way it is filmed, there is not much to say to prove it is one of the best thriller films ever.
Javier Bardem’s performance is spotless and so top-level that it was truly Oscar-worthy.
Director: David Fincher
Writers: James Vanderbilt (screenplay), Robert Graysmith (book)
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo
Zodiac is more on the mystery side than a thriller, however, there are scenes that seem otherwise.
Although this movie did not receive the praise it deserved at the beginning, it is one of the best thriller movies David Fincher has ever made.
Saying one of the best thriller/mystery movies of the best director who is known for making thriller/horror movies is already a lot.
The fact that this is not an adapted screenplay makes it all the scarier and thrilling. Because if you watched the Seven by the same director, you know it is not real.
You might enjoy the movie about a scripted and well-imagined serial killer, you know is not real.
But a movie based on a real serial killer will bear its psychological load on any sane mind.
This fact alone gives me chills and after watching, I was maniacally obsessed with information about the Zodiac killer… what happened, what is happening, and how close we are to finding him.
You know how close or far we are to find him if you watched the movie because it is certain that anyone who watches the movie cannot get over it without a bit of obsession.
I Saw the Devil (2010)
Director: Jee-woon Kim (as Kim Jee-woon)
Writers: Jee-woon Kim (adaptation), Hoon-jung Park (screenplay)
Stars: Byung-hun Lee, Min-sik Choi, Joon-hyuk Lee
Korean cinematography only got praise and respect now, however, it was far longer than that since they have been making brilliant, and incredible movies.
One example of such a great film is “I Saw the Devil”. It is a good thriller movie, of course, about a man who after losing his fiance goes on a hunt to find the killer.
Revenge-story is well told and lit with incredible production that the movie surprises you with such good qualities and of course occasional unexpectedness. It certainly is the best thriller movie ever made by Korean Cinematography so far.
Gone Girl (2014)
Director: David Fincher
Writers: Gillian Flynn (screenplay), Gillian Flynn (novel)
Stars: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris
Did we just casually mention that David Fincher was one of the best thriller movie makers in previous paragraphs?
It is true that he is, and Gone Girl is a testament to that statement.
What would you do if your wife disappeared suddenly on your fifth anniversary?
Of course, the movie does a good job of setting them up as not a normal couple, but in any case, whatever will happen, whether similar or not would have made for a great movie in each instance.
In this very instance, it makes up for one of the best thriller movies with the main actress winning an Oscar for her role.
The Invitation (2015)
Director: Karyn Kusama
Writers: Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi
Stars: Logan Marshall-Green, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Michiel Huisman
This horror-thriller movie comes from a director relatively unknown among the people on our list. The movie despite not winning any awards or being made on a huge budget still packs a huge psychological thriller punch.
There are some hiccups here and there in the plot of the film like when the couple doesn’t leave after watching someone die on screen and feel very much uncomfortable. Most people would have definitely left the party as soon as they are in discomfort.
Of the most impressive parts of the movie is the fact that the movie was made on a $1 million budget, and made almost $355 million, which only speaks highly of its success not only as one of the best thriller/horror movies of all time but as a movie in general.
Green Room (2015)
Director: François Truffaut
Writers: François Truffaut (screenplay), Jean Gruault (screenplay)
Stars: François Truffaut, Nathalie Baye, Jean Dasté
A Patrick Steward as a villain is something that most of his fans were expecting for a long time, and perhaps we will wait some more.
Despite its lack of getting the most out of the main cast and plot, it excels at bringing the suspense to the audience, who knows maybe that was their goal all along.
It is a slasher, horror/thriller movie that people with weak reactions to violence should not watch.
Because of its ability to keep suspense and tension high at all times, it is easily the thriller movie to watch, even though sometimes it does it through the most cliche ways possible.
The Handmaiden (2016)
Director: Chan-wook Park
Writers: Sarah Waters (inspired by the novel “Fingersmith” by), Seo-kyeong Jeong (screenplay)
Stars: Min-hee Kim, Jung-woo Ha, Jin-woong Cho
This movie also comes from Korea. If you only got to know about Korea and Korean movie-making through “Parasite” only, you are very late to enjoy the whole new world of filmmaking.
One genre they shine like the rising stars from the East is Thriller. Handmaiden is an exemplary showcase of how good thriller movies can be made in Korea.
You really need to be good at making movies to make a that is both romantic and thriller at the same time. And boy did they succeed in this regard with this film, making it one of the best romantic thriller movies of all time.
Director: Rob Reiner
Writers: Stephen King (novel), William Goldman (screenplay)
Stars: James Caan, Kathy Bates, Richard Farnsworth
Book adaptation of movies has not always been this great before, with the exception of a few films including this one. A thriller based on Stephen King’s novel by the same name.
The plot is based on a successful writer who crashed by accident and rescued by one of his hardcore fans, and he realized he is anything but rescued when he is kept hostage.
There is more to it than just that so you will have to discover it by watching it.
It is easily the best thriller movie of the 90s without any doubt. It has been 30 years that the movie still books a spot in posts like these about the best thriller movies to watch.
Shutter Island (2010)
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writers: Laeta Kalogridis (screenplay), Dennis Lehane (novel)
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Emily Mortimer, Mark Ruffalo
When we are talking about movies, it is hard to go by without mentioning any one of the movies of Martin Scorsese, combining it with top-notch acting of Oscar-winning Leonardo Di Caprio.
In this psychological thriller, the movie did not win as many awards as it probably should have, just like some other movies of Di Caprio.
The reason this listicle was not in numerical order or anything of importance is because of movies like this, which is incredibly difficult to rate not first when it just seems like the best thriller suspense movie of all time.
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Jonathan Nolan (screenplay), Christopher Nolan (screenplay)
Stars: Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson
When I watched the movie as a child, I could not understand much of the plot, however, after revisiting the movie again, I just feel like I need to revisit the movie yet another time. It is simply one of the best mystery/thriller movies of all time.
I know I have been saying “of all time” in regards to many of the movies, but it is just that those are truly the best thriller movies that anyone could enjoy.
This thriller is made by Christopher Nolan and features one of his favorite actors “Christian Bale” and in any movie where you would encounter these two professionals, you know you are in for a good treat.
Get Out (2017)
Director: Jordan Peele
Writer: Jordan Peele
Stars: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford
Get out was already mentioned in this article for its excellence. Now it is time to truly give it the place it deserves on this piece among the best of thriller movies.
To have 98% of people like your movie on Rotten Tomatoes is definitely a feat that I have not seen anyone else accomplish in my long lifetime of 28 years 😉.
It is even harder to imagine that this was made by a director who never directed a movie, yet ends up winning Oscar for best original score and a whole bunch of other awards.
Jordan Peele deserves all the praise he has been getting. He did show that there is so much more he can do than Key and Peele comedy sketches.
To sum it up
When we talk about the best thriller movies, there is a whole bunch more that can be included here, however, whichever list, or blog you read, you are sure to encounter most of those movies.
They are like the antiques of the old world which are still valuable in a sense no matter how much time passes they will always be the best thriller movies.
Get ready for a suspenseful hour or two and grab some snacks and binge watch the best thriller movies.