10 Great Lesser Known Psychological Thrillers To Chill Your Bones and Spark Your Mind

As with any genre, fans of psychological thrillers can find themselves searching for deeper cuts in the genre after exhausting the classics. From heavy hitters of the 1990s like Se7en and The Silence of the Lambs to almost Hitchcock’s biggest hits like Vertigo and Psycho, many movies are classics of the psychological thriller genre.

But when you’ve seen all of those, you can find yourself looking for the genre’s hidden gems. So when one fan of these cerebral chillers, who has seen many of them, takes to an online film forum to ask for lesser-known movies in the genre, other film fans are more than happy to oblige with some fantastic recommendations.

1. The Guest (2014)

Scene from The Guest
Photo Credit: HanWay Films.

The Guest stars Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens as a mysterious soldier who appears at the door of a family one day, informing them that he knew their son who died in combat. This stranger possesses good looks and charisma, yet there’s an unsettling quality to him. As unusual deaths happen in the vicinity, the family’s teenage daughter begins to harbor suspicions that he may have something to do with them.

2. Enemy (2013)

Photo Credit: Entertainment One.

While director Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario and Prisoners rightfully receive much attention as some of the best thrillers of the 2010s, Enemy is often forgotten. The movie follows history professor Adam (Jake Gyllenhaal), who discovers a man who looks exactly like him and becomes obsessed with figuring out their connection to one another. It’sIt’s a riveting film full of unexpected twists and turns.

3. The Machinist (2004)

Scene from The Machinist
Photo Credit: Filmax Group.

The Machinist is an unnerving psychological thriller that centers on Trevor Reznick (Christian Bale), who has been suffering from insomnia for over a year. We observe the evident consequences of his sleep deprivation on his physical health, and as the movie progresses, we come to understand that it has similarly affected his mental state.

4. The Vanishing (Spoorloos) (1988)

Scene from The Vanishing
Photo Credit: Argos Films.

The Vanishing puts a twist on the classic mystery film. When a man’s girlfriend is abducted, his desperation to locate her takes center stage. Instead of exploring the mystery surrounding her abductor, The Vanishing promptly discloses the antagonist’s identity at the beginning of the narrative. This early revelation prompts the kidnapper to reveal himself to the distressed boyfriend, setting the stage for a tense game of cat and mouse.

5. In The Mouth of Madness (1994)

Photo Credit: Carnival Row.

Director John Carpenter is likely best known for creating the iconic Halloween franchise, but he’s made more than a dozen great films over the course of his career.

One of his best is In the Mouth of Madness, which follows an insurance investigator and a book editor as they attempt to find the author of a new book that seems to be driving people insane. The movie plays with the line between reality and fiction in fascinating and unnerving ways that will satisfy any fan of psychological thrillers.

6. Taste of Fear (1961)

Scene from Taste of Fear
Photo Credit: Hammer Films.

A personal favorite of mine that I am delighted to see receive a recommendation, Taste of Fear is a small-scale psychological thriller produced by the legendary Hammer Film Productions, best known for their Dracula films starring Christopher Lee.

Lee also appears in Taste of Fear as a possibly conniving doctor. The film follows a young woman who returns to her father’s home to find him missing and doesn’t trust her stepmother, who says he’s away on business.

7. Gaslight (1944)

Scene from Gaslight
Photo Credit: MGM.

Gaslight, adapted from the play of the same name, is the genesis of the modern psychological term meaning to convince someone they cannot trust their senses. This unsettling thriller revolves around a young woman and her recently wedded husband, who consistently plants seeds of doubt in her mind so that he can steal from her. The film’s intrigue doesn’t stem from unraveling the events or motivations but rather from whether the woman will manage to break free from this predicament.

8. Blow Out (1981)

Scene from Blow Out
Photo Credit: Filmways Pictures.

Blow Out centers on Jack Terry (John Travolta), a sound technician who collects sounds to be used for film scores, after he witnesses a deadly car crash while recording sounds. The collision caused a governor’s death, leading to questions about whether or not it was an accident, and Jack’s recording of the event becomes critical to solving the mystery of what happened.

9. A Simple Favor (2018)

Scene from A Simple Favor
Photo Credit: Lionsgate.

Another personal favorite of mine, A Simple Favor, adapts the book of the same name by Darcey Bell and offers an incredible performance from Blake Lively. The film stars Lively as Emily, the mysterious and glamorous neighbor of Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) who goes missing.

Stephanie then takes it upon herself to investigate the disappearance, but things are much more complicated than they first seem. It’s a psychological thriller that doesn’t skimp on the twists or the psychosexual tension but is also incredibly funny due to the humor of the two leads.

10. Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

Scene from Shadow of a Doubt
Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.

Hitchcock’s favorite of the films he directed, it’s somewhat shocking that  Shadow of a Doubt isn’t as widely known as some of the master of suspense’s other films.

The movie centers on a teenage girl and her relationship with her uncle, who comes to stay with her family as she begins to suspect that he may not be the wonderful man she once thought hIt’sIt’st’s a great film, with one of the most shocking, reveals in film history. 

Source: Reddit.

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Kyle Logan
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