15 Great Psychological Thrillers You Probably Haven’t Seen

Films in the psychological thriller subgenre explore the complexities of the human psyche while frequently keeping viewers on the edge of their seats. While psychological thrillers are well-known, many undiscovered masterpieces deserve more attention. An online forum explores 15 such hidden gems.

1. Coherence (2013)

Image Credit: Metrodome Distribution.

The plot develops during a routine dinner with friends. The banquet is held on a night when a comet, passing by Earth is predicted to occur – a rare cosmic event. Strange events start to tear the fabric of reality as the guests converse and laugh together over their meal. Science fiction and psychological drama are combined in this suspenseful film, which explores complex subjects and perplexes viewers with constantly developing riddles. 

2. The Secret in Their Eyes (2009)

The Secret in Their Eyes (2009)
Image Credit: Alta Classics.

This movie reveals the strength of memory, love, and the eerie nature of unsolved riddles as it dives deeply into the human psyche and it successfully juggles complicated emotions with criminal investigations. Because of this, it has earned a well-deserved place among the greatest thrillers in movie history. The film's story revolves around Ricardo Darn's character, Benjamin Espósito, a retired legal advisor. Espósito decides to pen a book based on a particularly disturbing assault and murder case he was involved in in the 1970s.

3. Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)

Martha Marcy May Marlene
Image Credit: Searchlight Pictures, 20th Century Fox.

Sean Durkin's nonlinear film blurs the lines between Martha's memories of her time in the cult and her attempts to resume everyday life with her estranged sister Lucy (played by Sarah Paulson) and her brother-in-law Ted (played by Hugh Dancy). Sean Durkin directs the film, which focuses on identity, deception, and the ongoing fight to find one's place in the world after emerging from darkness, and these themes linger with viewers after watching.

4. Stoker (2013)

Stoker (2013)
Image Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Stoker is a psychological thriller rather than a standard horror movie, relying on tension, symbolism, and ambiguity to provide an uncomfortable and engaging experience. The film holds audiences in suspense regarding the characters' true selves and the historical mysteries surrounding the Stoker family. It revolves around India Stoker, a mysterious and reclusive adolescent who recently lost her father in a car accident. Her life suddenly turns weird when her estranged uncle, Charlie, moves in to live with her and her emotionally aloof mother, Evelyn, in their large, remote estate.

5. Sound of My Voice (2011)

Sound of My Voice (2011)
Image Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures.

A suspenseful psychological thriller with themes of faith, deception, and the hazy boundaries between reality and illusion. The movie's central plot concerns a journalist's attempt to infiltrate a covert cult run by a woman who professes to be from the future. As the story develops, the movie deftly plays with the audience's perspective, making them wonder about the cult's true character and its occult leader.

6. Prisoners (2013)

Prisoners Hugh Jackman
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

It is a frightening and powerful psychological thriller directed by Denis Villeneuve that deftly combines an intriguing mystery with perplexing ethical concerns. Hugh Jackman portrays Keller Dover, a parent who undergoes a terrifying journey after his young daughter and her friend vanish on Thanksgiving Day and who becomes overtaken by obsession and despair.

7. Berberian Sound Studio (2012)

Berberian Sound Studio (2012)
Image Credit: Artificial Eye.

This is a genuinely distinctive and unnerving cinematic experience that provides spectators with an eye-opening look into sound editing, all within the spooky framework of a horror movie. The movie is notable for its unique storyline, captivating graphics, and ability to distinguish between reality and fantasy. The audience becomes painfully aware of the importance of sound in influencing our emotional reactions to movies as it investigates the frequently gory and weird techniques employed to create the horrific sounds that heighten the dread on screen.

8. Triangle (2009)

Triangle (2009)
Image Credit: Icon Film Distribution.

The story's protagonist is Jess, played by Melissa George, a single mother juggling the responsibilities of daily life and raising her autistic son. Jess decides she needs a break, so she goes sailing with friends on a lovely yacht. However, their dreamy journey turns terrifying when they run into a massive storm. Fans of mind-bending cinema must see it because of the innovative narrative structure used by director Christopher Smith, the haunting atmosphere, and superb performances.

9. Bug (2006)

Bug (2006)
Image Credit: Lionsgate.

The main characters of this story are two friends named Agnes White and Peter Evans, who are paranoid that they have bugs in their motel room that are gnawing at them and driving them crazy. The tight quarters of the motel room intensify the protagonists' and the audience's feelings of imprisonment and paranoia, building a level of almost intolerable tension.

10. The Chaser (2008)

The Chaser e1694376966106
Image Credit: IFC Films.

In this gripping psychological thriller from South Korea, Kim Yoon-seok plays a former investigator turned pimp, brilliantly. He struggles to make ends meet in the sordid underbelly of Seoul's red-light district, so his existence is anything but glamorous. But his life takes a terrifying turn when he learns that several of his girlfriends have vanished under ominous circumstances. Its masterfully designed plot, outstanding acting, and surprising turns produce tension without resorting to gratuitous gore while maintaining a consistent portrayal of violence that holds the audience's attention.

11. Hard Candy (2005)

Hard Candy (2005)
Image Credit: Lionsgate.

The film by David Slase stands out as a compelling examination of a terrifying cat-and-mouse chase between a teenager and a man who is considered an online predator. Hayley, a 14-year-old girl, has an innocent-seeming obsession with photography and online chat rooms. She is conversing online with an older man named Jeff, who persuades her to meet in person. In Jeff's beautiful, contemporary abode, a tense and psychologically compelling struggle of wits and wills ensues. As the power dynamics between the two characters constantly change, the confined environment in which most of the movie is situated heightens the psychological drama.

12. The Hunt (2012)

The Hunt Mads Mikkelsen
Image Credit: Nordisk Film.

The profoundly moving and thought-provoking Danish film, directed by Thomas Vinterberg and starring Mads Mikkelsen, examines how a lie can shatter the relationships of a tight-knit community and turn them against an innocent man. The children and their families adore their kindergarten instructor, Lucas. But after a young girl falsely accuses him of sexual molestation, his life takes a terrifying turn. Being in a difficult situation, Klara misinterprets a brief act of harmless affection from Lucas. As a result, she tells a lie that has devastating repercussions.

13. Timecrimes (2007)

Bárbara Goenaga in Timecrimes (2007)
Image Credit: Karbo Vantas Entertainment.

This movie's psychological elements emerge as Héctor struggles with his decisions and the effects of changing the past after getting caught in a time loop. The spectator is forced to consider the nature of free will, fate, and the entire idea of identity due to his acts, which set off a series of unanticipated occurrences. Viewers are dragged deeper into the psychological maze Nacho Vigalondo has created as the layers of the plot are peeled back.

14. The Invisible Guest (2016)

The Invisible Guest Movie
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Adrián, a young businessman portrayed by Mario Casas, awakens next to Laura's body, which turns his greatest dread into reality. His future is now in jeopardy as he is named the main suspect in a murder investigation. However, he has no memory of the previous evening. Until the final act clarifies the plot, this movie will keep you guessing who the culprit is. This psychological thriller does a fantastic job of confounding the more obvious assumptions, and there are enough twists to keep viewers on their toes.

15. Berlin Syndrome (2017)

Berlin Syndrome (2017)
Image Credit: Entertainment One.

A carefree Australian traveler, Clare, eager to explore and make new friends, arrives in the German city of Berlin. She spends the night at Andi's flat, a local lad played by Max Riemelt. Her nomadic journey ends due to the romantic relationship because Andi has her trapped inside and has taken her SIM card. As viewers get more engaged in Clare's fate and are reminded of their parents' advice to never talk to strangers, tension rises throughout the movie.

Source: Reddit

Amaka Chukwuma is a freelance content writer with a BA in linguistics. As a result of her insatiable curiosity, she writes in various B2C and B2B niches. Her favorite subject matter, however, is in the financial, health, and technological niches. She has contributed to publications like Buttonwood Tree and FinanceBuzz in the past and currently writes for Wealth of Geeks.