Like the old quote about pornography, it’s tough to define a psychological thriller, but you know it when you see it. An expansive genre that straddles the line between horror and drama, the psychological thriller has enjoyed many moments in the sun and produced some classic titles.
At its worst, the genre can provide an excuse for pretentious guff, a chance for writers and directors to show off all the research they’ve done about the intricacies of the mind and the conclusions they’ve drawn.
At their best, though, psychological thrillers can provide some of the most evocative and downright disturbing content a film can offer. The intent is to burrow deep into the mind of the viewer, to fire those synapses in wild and troubling ways, and to generate a reaction in both the head and gut of the audience.
The films in this list are great for all manner of reasons, but most impressive is how they manage to make us so uneasy, whether through concept, execution, or both. They play our emotions like a fiddle, and we love them for it.