Psychological Crime Thrillers: Psychological films are usually brilliant and fascinating to watch as they stimulate the audience’s minds, leaving them amazed as the plot unfolds. These films become even more enjoyable when combined with crime or horror elements. However, due to these twists’ complex and intricate nature, viewers may need to re-watch them to comprehend the sequence of events. Sometimes, despite their intriguing nature, these films can be arduous to watch or challenging to understand.
Whether they are easy or painstaking to watch, most psychological films hold the audience captive, never letting go until the very end of the movie. Mind games are a hallmark of psychological thrillers, and it is not only the audience’s psyche being manipulated but also the characters. Through flashbacks and disturbing imagery, the audience is drawn into the distorted world of the characters, allowing them to delve into their innermost thoughts and emotions.
For lovers of psychological thrillers, the shocking endings and twists undoubtedly make a movie worth watching. While some films attempt to achieve this level of suspense, others have surpassed expectations and have become iconic in the psychological thriller genre. To fully appreciate the following movies, one must be patient to enjoy the twists and intriguing plots. Now let’s look at some of the brilliant psychological crime thrillers with shocking plot twists.
1. Diabolique (1955)
“Diabolique” is considered one of the greatest psychological crime thrillers ever, renowned for its twist ending and masterful storytelling. Thus, this list wouldn’t be complete without it. Directed by Henri-Georges Cluozot, this French Psychological thriller revolves around the plot to murder a cruel and abusive husband. What starts as a straightforward plot takes unexpected turns as the protagonist, Christina, and the audience begin questioning their own sanity.
With its masterful storytelling, well-built tension, and shocking revelations, this psychological thriller stands out as one of the most compelling of its kind. Its impact was so profound that it influenced Hitchcock’s legendary “Psycho.” The music and carefully crafted plot are nothing short of a masterpiece, leaving viewers on edge and questioning their own perceptions of what they have just watched. This film stands the test of time as a true classic in the genre of psychological thrillers.
2. Possession (1981)
Over the years, this classic horror film has amassed a significant following thanks to its powerful performances, haunting and surreal visuals, twisty plotline, and unforgettable finale. “Possession” expertly weaves together themes of love and possession as Anna (played by Isabelle Adjani) and Mark (Sam Neill) grapple with both marital and supernatural issues.
Anna wants a divorce, and Mark is devastated as he tries to come to terms with this unexpected decision. However, as the story unfolds and Anna becomes increasingly erratic, it becomes evident that she’s not herself, and Mark must go down a dark path to figure out what must have possessed his wife. No one saw this supernatural angle from the film’s beginning, and this is where the twist and beauty lie.
3. The Vanishing (1988)
This Dutch-French film explores the themes of love, loss, and the unknown as it tells the story of a man’s obsessive search for his girlfriend after she goes missing during a vacation. “The Vanishing” is considered one of the most chilling and suspenseful films ever made. The film’s director, George Sluizer, expertly crafts a tale of mystery and intrigue, slowly revealing clues about the girlfriend’s disappearance while building tension and suspense.
Snippets of Rex Hofman’s obsession and his deteriorating mental state, the enigmatic Raymond Lemorne, whom he suspects to be responsible for the disappearance of his girlfriend, and clips from the past all combine to draw viewers into the mysterious happenings in this film. Due to how brilliant and shocking this film was, it was remade in America in 1993, solidifying its place as a classic of the suspense genre.
4. Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
“Jacob’s Ladder” is a thought-provoking psychological crime thriller directed by Adrian Lyne. The story follows Vietnam veteran Jacob Singer who experiences hallucinations and a mental breakdown after returning home after the war. Jacob isn’t the only one who is desperate to find answers as his nightmares continue to plague him. This intriguing and shocking storyline also grips viewers as the tension builds, desperate to know what is true and what isn’t.
In “Jacob’s Ladder,” the line between reality and illusion is blurred, making it challenging to distinguish Jacob’s actual adversaries from his imaginary ones. The movie cleverly presents snippets of Jacob’s past, including his strained relationship with his wife and his suspicion that she may be involved in a government conspiracy. With its well-crafted scares and haunting imagery, “Jacob’s Ladder” is a tormenting experience for Jacob and the viewers, who are eager to unravel the mysteries of his troubled psyche.
5. The Sixth Sense (1999)
This list of films with the most iconic ending and masterful storylines wouldn’t be complete without this gem in the psychological horror genre directed by M.Night Shyamalan. It may be more than 20 years since the movie was first released, but there’s no denying that it is unforgettable. “Sixth Sense” manages to mix both psychological and supernatural horror to deliver a unique and powerful story. The haunting and atmospheric effects, the unexpected twists, and the brilliant performances from the actors are all truly remarkable.
The story follows Cole Sear, who communicates with the dead, and a child psychologist battling his demons. The story builds slowly, giving viewers bits and pieces of the puzzle until the shocking end when the truth about Malcolm’s relationship with Cole and the true nature of Cole’s ability is revealed. Psychological films with shocking twists can’t get any better than this. “The Sixth Sense” set the pace for many others to come and has grounded itself as one of the greatest Supernatural Thrillers of all time.
6. Unbreakable (2000)
M.Night Shyamalan delivers yet another Psychological thriller that centers around an alleged American Superhero who survives a horrific train crash that kills everyone on board and soon realizes he has unique abilities. “Unbreakable” may seem like another Superhero movie. However, its plot twist ending elevates it to more than just this.
With its slow-burn, suspenseful pace as it reveals the character’s true nature and motivation, M.Night Shyamalan masterfully crafts a thriller that keeps the audience guessing every step of the way. The intense focus on the psychological aspects of the characters, particularly David and Elijah, helps to build the tension in this film as the mystery unfolds. With a fine combination of Bruce Willis and Samuel L Jackson, “Unbreakable” remains one of the most suspenseful films with a twist ending.
Recommended Read: Every M. Night Shyamalan Movie Ranked
7. Memento (2000)
Just like most twisty psychological crime thrillers, “Memento” is riddled with suspense and tension as it plays mind games on both characters and the audience. It begins with Leonard Shelby’s obsession to find his wife’s murderer, but his short-term memory loss makes it hard for him to accomplish this task. To rectify this issue, he writes down every critical piece of information on his body. However, instead of this to help him find his wife’s killers, it only leads down a twisted path where he no longer knows the difference between the real and the imagined.
The visual style, the mind games, the unreliable narrator, dark themes of murder and betrayal all combine perfectly to present one of the most thrilling psychological thrillers. “Memento” is one of those movies where no one ever sees the ending coming, even though we all are part of the protagonist’s journey. It is undoubtedly one of the top movies with mind-blowing plot twists.
Also, Read: Every Christopher Nolan Film Ranked
8. Mulholland Drive (2001)
Psychological crime thrillers have always been popular with audiences because of the unexpected twists and turns that leave viewers on the edge of their seats until the end. “Mulholland Drive” is a perfect example of this genre, as it masterfully weaves a complex web of deception, mind games, and suspense that keeps viewers engrossed from start to finish. Like most psychological thrillers, “Mulholland” features a complex character, Betty Elms, who draws viewers into her distorted reality. The thrills, suspense, mind games, and shocking ending solidifies this neo-noir psychological thriller directed by David Lynch as one of the best in the genre.
It begins with Betty getting involved in an investigation about a woman who survived a car accident. However, nothing is what it seems as the film takes a dramatic and surreal turn, leaving viewers with unanswered questions. Through its surreal and dreamlike atmosphere, “Mulholland Drive” blurs the line between reality and imagination as Betty’s dreams and aspirations mingle with her investigation, creating a powerful twisty film.
Also, Read: The Anatomy of David Lynch
9. The Others (2001)
Written and directed by Alejandro Amenabar, this supernatural horror film follows the story of Grace Stewart (Nicole Kidman), who lives in an isolated mansion with her two children, who suffer from a rare photosensitivity issue. When strange things begin to happen in their home, Grace begins to suspect that their house may be haunted. The tension and fear escalate as Grace becomes increasingly worried about intruders in her home. The actual shock hits both characters and the audience when the true nature of their haunting is revealed.
One of the most memorable and effective films in modern horror cinema, “The Others” is renowned for its twisty ending, suspenseful atmosphere, and exceptional writing. The film’s music and cinematography are masterfully crafted, adding to the chilling and unique nature of the story, and Nicole Kidman’s outstanding performance as Grace Stewart has been highly acclaimed. “The Others” is a testament to the power of storytelling, as it seamlessly blends horror and psychological thriller elements to create an unforgettable cinematic experience.
10. Oldboy (2003)
“Oldboy” is surely one of the most twisty films ever made. As it explores the themes of revenge, redemption, and consequences of one’s actions, it tells a thought-provoking and unforgettable story. This Park Chan-Wook-directed psychological crime thriller excels at using mind tricks on the viewer. The shocking ending offers looks perfect for this devastating story. It undoubtedly challenges the moral and ethical boundaries of the audience with its dark and twisted plot.
It may have started out as just a story about Dae-su’s kidnap and his challenges during this isolation that lasted for many years. However, as the story unfolds and Dae-su tries to piece together the events that led to his captivity, a shocking revelation comes to light. It certainly has a way of grabbing viewers’ attention from the start and keeping them invested until the end. “Oldboy” is also known for its stylish cinematography and uncompromising delivery of its plot.
11. The Prestige (2006)
Through the use of multiple timelines and perspectives, “The Prestige” slowly reveals the complex and intertwined nature of the two magicians’ lives. Starring Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman as the two rival magicians who engage in a fierce battle to create the ultimate trick, this mystery thriller tells a shocking story. “The Prestige” is known for its intricate plot, brilliant performances from its talented cast, and stylish and atmospheric cinematography that adds to the beauty of the story.
Christopher Nolan certainly creates a magical tale with unbelievable twists that makes the two hours spent watching it well worth it. It is pretty commendable how Nolan often comes up with original ideas and turns them into great movies. With its exceptional story-telling, the combination of Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale makes “Prestige” a top-tier story.
12. Triangle (2009)
This psychological horror movie is full of twists and turns as Jess struggles to find a way out of the loop after boarding a mysterious ocean liner that appears out of nowhere. The story begins with her going on a Yacht trip with her friends to clear her head, but things take a mysterious turn when she and the others are entrapped in a never-ending loop.
“Triangle” may have started as another story about a girls’ trip, but it became more than that as the story progresses, showcasing Jess’s troubles and her desire to break the never-ending cycle and be free. The shocking ending offers an even more sublime ending to this thought-provoking psychological piece. It is definitely a mind-blowing movie that leaves many trying to piece together the puzzle after it ends.
13. Shutter Island (2010)
Martin Scorsese delivers yet another brilliant film that delves into themes of trauma and guilt, deception and manipulation, and the blurry lines between reality and perception through the story of U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels. To fully understand this movie, there is a need for complete attention to detail to figure out the hidden clues.
Shutter Island is a psychological thriller with shocking twists. The film follows U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) as he investigates the disappearance of a patient from a mental institution located on a remote island. As the investigation progresses, Teddy begins to experience strange and surreal hallucinations, and the truth about his own past is gradually revealed. The film is known for its twist ending, shocking and surprising audiences since its release in 2010.
14. Hereditary (2018)
Directed by Ari Aster, this horror film follows the Graham family, who begin to experience strange and horrifying occurrences after the death of their secretive and reclusive grandmother, Ellen. As the family becomes increasingly consumed by these events, Annie discovers that her mother is involved in a sinister cult and that Ellen has been grooming Charlie to be the cult’s new host. The cult soon targets the family, and their attempts to survive and overcome the sinister forces threatening them lead to shocking and disturbing revelations about their own family history.
“Hereditary” delivers the most chilling effect without having to rely on jump scares, filling viewers with dread and anxiety. It certainly gets scarier as the idea of the story dawns on you and still haunts you whenever you think about it. That’s how good a horror movie Hereditary is. The ending of this horror film will undoubtedly leave many yearning for some sort of explanation.
15. Midsommar (2019)
Ari Aster presents yet another visually stunning and disturbing horror movie that has gained critical acclaim for its unique approach to the genre. The film follows a group of friends from America who travel to a remote village in Sweden to participate in a midsummer festival. That particular year is also unique because they can witness a ritual that only occurs once every 90 years. The trip is intended to be a relaxing vacation for the group, but things take a dark turn as they discover the strange and disturbing rituals of the village.
As the days pass, the group is slowly pulled into the village’s sinister and ancient traditions, including a disturbing fertility ritual. Midsommar is undoubtedly classified as a psychological thriller with elements of horror. It explores themes of grief, trauma, codependency, and psychological manipulation through its colorful cinematography, unique storyline, and great acting from its cast. The film builds tension and unease throughout, leading to a shocking and unsettling climax.