Psychological Thrillers to Amp Up Your Spooky Season

Psychological thrillers help us explore the pockets of our imagination that we didn’t know existed or are too afraid to dive into. Through films, we’re offered themes and narratives that make us question our perceptions of reality, and they often exceed the boundaries convoluted by linear space and time. It is for these reasons that the psycho-thriller genre is among my favorites. The stimulating plot lines keep me on the edge of my seat and the end of a film is always followed by exhaustive research and confusion. The thought provoking nature achieved through the genre is wonderful. Here are some of my favorite psychological thrillers, which are sure to leave you stunned.

  1. 1. Get Out

    This Jordan Peele mystery is certainly worthy of being declared a crowd favorite. In short, Get Out explores the story of a young black man who travels to visit the parents of his white girlfriend. The symbolic and metaphorical innuendos depicted throughout the film draw on themes of race relations that continue to circulate in society, especially in North America. The clever shots and suspense building make this film brilliant and unforgettable. 

  2. 2. Shutter Island 

    Director Martin Scorsese certainly leaves you at a loss for words at the end of this film. Academy Award winner Leonardo Dicaprio plays a U.S. Marshal investigating a psychiatric institution when a patient goes missing. The journey is confusing, increasingly theatrical, and will definitely have you questioning your own sanity.

  3. 3. Gone Girl

    Based on the best selling novel written by Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl very possibly depicts the most disturbing revenge story plot that I have ever seen. Amy Dunne mysteriously goes missing on a quiet afternoon while her husband, Nick, is out. As the investigation unfolds and certain truths are revealed, a concerned Nick is deemed to be the prime suspect in the case of his missing wife. I am continuously impressed with how beautifully and intricately illustrated the plot line of this story is, which is why it will continue to remain one of my favorites. 

  4. 4. Ex Machina

    This futuristic narrative explores the relationship between an artificial intelligence robot and an average human being. A renowned software programmer invites one lucky office executive into his personal laboratory to test out and interact with his very human-looking intelligence robot. When the robot and the study associate begin to develop a real emotional relationship, manipulation and dominance begin to take hold . The scariest thing about this film is that it is truly a look into the future and how the human condition will be shaped by technology. Will technology ever overpower human beings? Stay tuned to find out!

  5. 5. Seven

    Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt? Did someone say “dream team?” These two act as a pair of detectives following an inept serial killer as he continues on a spree of  calculated murders. He leads the detectives on a seemingly endless scavenger hunt that no stream of psychologists can begin to understand. The end of this film comes together like icing on a cake. After you experience the same frustration and anxiety as the characters, the ending will come together perfectly.

  6. 6.  Looper

    Time travel confuses me and Looper’s illustration of time travel is no exception. However, once you can wrap your head around it, oh man, is it satisfying! Joseph Gordan-Levitt, known and loved for his performances in (500) Days of Summer and 50/50, acts as a hired gunman who works in the future where time travel is only available on the black market. It is his job to execute people in the past so that they are, essentially, erased forever in the future. Confusing? I know, but trust me when I say this is worth the watch. It is an exploration of dignity that is unlike any other movie I know.

These films don’t exactly scream “spooky,” like the typical haunted horror movie. What makes these films scary is how much we can relate to them on both a personal and societal level. They make us critically question our existence, which is not exactly something everyone is up for. Self reflection can be scary and what better way to do that than through a riveting movie plot? Happy Halloween! 


Other psychological thriller films to explore: 


Arrival (2016)

Fight Club (1999)

The Machinist (2004)

The Prestige (2006)

American Psycho (2000) 

The Gift (2015)