Movies are great mediums for taking us on emotionally and psychological roller coasters. Some of the best thriller movies of all time will take you even further and will mess with your head for days after you watch them.
We love thrillers because they have us on the edge of our seats as we watch in horror or excitement as the action and tension build to a breaking point. However, over the years, there have been those stand-out movies that set themselves apart for not only raising the bar in terms of tension and thrills but by messing with our heads. This is exactly why the best thriller movies of all time leave a lasting mark on our soul.
Sometimes movies have a nice killer twist at the end. Often though, the WHOLE film is the twist. Either way, you are left disorientated and may even need to watch the movie again to try and piece together how it comes to its conclusion.
Take The Sixth Sense for instance… All the way through the damn film you are led to believe that Bruce Willis’ character is chatting with the poor little boy who sees dead people until you realise at the end…BRUCE WILLIS WAS DEAD ALONG!
Undoubtedly a straightforward story, well told and played out is a great thing to behold. However, with the above in mind, we are not going to talk about those movies here. We are going to dedicate this post the best thriller movies of all time that mess with our perception, with what we believe we are seeing. The films that play out like they are letting us in on everything, only to pull the rug from out of our feet and leave us dangling off the edge of a cliff without a clue how we got there or what the hell is going on.
Before we go any further, it is worth warning you that there will be major spoilers. So proceed at your own risk. Or go and watch the best thriller movies of all time listed here and then come back and read.
The Usual Suspects
Directed By Bryan Singer
Written By Christopher McQuarrie
Kevin Spacey’s character Roger ‘Verbal’ Kint, a nervous man with a limp, is being interrogated about a drug bust and gun battle that went wrong, along with other criminals involved in the incident. Somehow, he manages to convince the officers that he is innocent with a story about Keyser Soze.
Soze is a criminal mastermind behind the whole thing. They let him go and it’s only when he leaves the police station that we see him walk away free of a limp, as the cops start to realise that the story Kint had told them was made up from names and objects around the office they interrogated him in. Kint is Soze. What. The. Hell.
The Sixth Sense
Directed by M Night Shyamalan
Written by M Night Shyamalan
The story of a child psychologist, played by Bruce Willis, called Dr. Malcolm Crowe who at the start of the film returns home with his wife after winning an award. One of his former patients is waiting in his bathroom and then shoots him before turning the gun on himself and committing suicide.
The film then time jumps to the following year and Dr. Crowe has begun work with Cole Dear, played by Hayley Joel Osment. Cole believes he can see dead people and finds social situations difficult. As he works more intensely with Cole with his ability, he becomes more withdrawn from his wife.
The kicker comes when Dr. Crowe understands what’s going on. He was killed by his patient. Cole really can see dead people, because Crowe is one of them and hasn’t been able to move on because he wants his wife to realise she was the most important thing in his life and that he can’t stop feeling responsible for not helping his patient enough. Certainly one of the best thriller movies of all time.
Directed by David Fincher
Written by Jim Uhls (Based on a novel of the same name by Chuck Palahniuk)
We shouldn’t talk about Fight Club, based on the rules…but, we are going to anyway. Ed Norton plays an anonymous office worker who is suffering from insomnia in a dead end job. He meets trailblazing Tyler Durden, played charismatically by Brad Pitt, on a flight. Durden is in the soap making business. They become friends and then start an illegal fight club and move in together in a rundown house.
On the surface, initially, at least, the film appears to be about men letting off steam in a controlled environment. That is the Fight Club becomes Project Mayhem, an organisation against corporations and capitalism. Then it gets just a little bit weirder when Norton’s character realises the truth about Durden.
Durden is Norton’s character. They are the same person, he is just a dissociation of his personality. Durden has been plotting to blow up the offices of credit card companies to destroy them. To end his madness, he shoots his face in the cheek, essentially killing Tyler (and possibly Norton too?) while watching the city crumble as Where Is My Mind? by the Pixies plays out.
The thing I find striking about the end revelation, much like other films of this kind, is when you look back at some of the events of the movie. Like…the scene where Tyler and Norton’s character fight it out! Yeah…he just straight up beat himself up!
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Written by Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan
Memento is sad…no question of that, but it is quite a roller coaster because Guy Pearce’s character, who is our guide through the story is not reliable. Leonard Shelby suffers from anterograde amnesia. This means he is unable to store or even create new memories. So, already you are uneasy ground watching it.
This is a murder mystery like no other. He is trying to track down the guy that raped and killed his wife and has to leave himself notes on post-its and on his body.
The Nolan brothers have a knack for creating these deceptive and layered pieces of cinema (See Inception, Interstellar and The Prestige) and Memento is no different. As it seems like Shelby is getting closer to finding the man responsible for ruining his life, we discover a shocking secret. One that he kept from his self. Shelby killed his wife.
These were some of the best thriller movies of all time. Do you know any other films that could fit this list? Please share your suggestions with us in the comments below.