If you’re a fan of heart-pumping suspense and mind-bending plot twists, then psychological thrillers are the movies for you. The 2000s saw a resurgence of the genre, with films that kept audiences on the edge of their seats and toyed with their minds. So, if you’re in the mood for a movie night that will keep you guessing until the very end, I’ve got you covered.
I’ve rounded up the 10 best psychological thriller movies from the last 20 years that you simply can’t miss. Get ready to experience the thrill of a lifetime with these cinematic masterpieces that showcase powerful storytelling, unforgettable performances, and thought-provoking themes.
Directed by Christopher Nolan, Memento tells the story of Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce), a man suffering from anterograde amnesia who is unable to form new memories. Determined to solve the mystery of his wife’s murder, Leonard relies on polaroid photographs and tattoos to guide him through his investigation.
Memento was a ground-breaking film that challenged conventional storytelling by presenting its narrative in reverse chronological order. The unique structure captivated audiences and demonstrated Nolan’s mastery of the psychological thriller genre, paving the way for his future success in the 2000s. You can watch it on HBOMax and Amazon Prime Video.
Nocturnal Animals (2016)
Nocturnal Animals is a mesmerising psychological thriller that immerses viewers in a chilling and thought-provoking narrative. Directed by Tom Ford, the film masterfully intertwines two parallel stories — one following a successful art gallery owner haunted by her past, and the other portraying a dark and violent manuscript written by her ex-husband.
Through tense performances and a skilful exploration of guilt, revenge, and psychological turmoil, Nocturnal Animals captivates and leaves a lasting impact, solidifying its status as an excellent psychological thriller. It is available on Netflix.
The Departed (2006)
Directed by Martin Scorsese, The Departed is a thriller set in Boston, where undercover cop Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) infiltrates the city’s Irish mob. Meanwhile, mob boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) plants his own mole within the police force, creating a tense game of deception and betrayal.
The Departed’s intricate plot, intense performances, and thrilling suspense led to its widespread acclaim and earned Scorsese his first Academy Award for Best Director. It’s available to watch on HBOMax.
Black Swan (2010)
In Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, ballet dancer Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) is cast as the lead in a production of Swan Lake. As she struggles to embody the dual roles of the White Swan and the Black Swan, Nina’s grip on reality begins to unravel, leading her down a dark and twisted path.
Black Swan’s intense character study and surreal visuals captivated audiences and critics alike and earned Natalie Portman an Oscar for Best Actress. You can stream it on Amazon Prime Video and Hulu.
The Prestige (2006)
Another Christopher Nolan masterpiece, The Prestige follows rival magicians Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) as they engage in a bitter feud. As their obsession with besting one another grows, the line between reality and illusion becomes increasingly blurred.
The Prestige’s compelling characters and stunning visuals made it a standout psychological thriller. You can watch it on Amazon Prime Video.
Mulholland Drive (2001)
In David Lynch’s enigmatic Mulholland Drive, aspiring actor Betty Elms (Naomi Watts) befriends an amnesiac woman (Laura Harring) in Los Angeles. As the two women try to uncover the truth behind the amnesiac’s identity, they are drawn into a surreal and nightmarish world.
Mulholland Drive’s dreamlike atmosphere, nonlinear narrative, and haunting visuals defied conventional storytelling, leaving a lasting effect on audiences. You can stream it on Amazon Prime Video.
Shutter Island (2010)
Martin Scorsese masterfully delivers a chilling tale set on a remote island in Shutter Island. Leonardo DiCaprio delivers a riveting performance as a US Marshal investigating the disappearance of a patient from a mental institution.
The film unfolds as a mind-bending puzzle, twisting the audience’s perception and challenging their understanding of reality. It’s available for your viewing pleasure on Netflix.
Christopher Nolan’s Inception takes audiences on a dark journey into the realm of dreams and subconsciousness. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, the film delves into the high-stakes world of corporate espionage, where skilled thieves infiltrate dreams to extract valuable information.
With its superb storytelling and intense exploration of the human mind, Inception became an instant classic, especially since the end left you with more questions and simply wanting more minutes in the movie. You can stream it on Netflix.
Based on the iconic novel by Daphne du Maurier, Ben Wheatley’s Rebecca presents a contemporary adaptation of the psychological thriller. The film follows a newlywed woman who finds herself haunted by the memory of her husband’s deceased first wife, Rebecca.
Anchored by stellar performances from Lily James, Armie Hammer, and Kristin Scott Thomas, Rebecca explores themes of obsession, manipulation, and the lingering presence of the past. Being a Netflix original movie, it can be viewed there.
Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite stands as a ground-breaking South Korean psychological thriller that made history by winning the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and, subsequently, four Academy Awards. Blending social commentary with suspense, the film centres on the symbiotic relationship between two families from different socioeconomic backgrounds, leading to unexpected and harrowing consequences. You can steam it now on HBOMax.