For as long as I can remember, I have loved watching thriller movies, especially those from top movie lists. The darker the story, and twisted the plot the better.
What I really love about watching thriller movies is that many of them deal with the darker side of our psyche. Top thriller movies will use human nature and dysfunctional traits to enhance and embellish an already complicated story.
Here are some of my favourite top thriller movies:
1. HIDE AND SEEK (2005)
Robert De Niro
A story of a doctor called Callaway who has moved to New York with his daughter Emily after his wife committed suicide. Things start going wrong in their new home, and Emily blames her new imaginary friend called Charlie.
When Callaway’s new girlfriend is killed by ‘Charlie,’ it becomes clear that Callaway is suffering from a dissociative identity disorder and he is Charlie. Callaway suffered a breakdown when he saw his wife cheating on him and killed her. Charlie now has full control over Callaway and Emily is in grave danger.
2. PRIMAL FEAR (1996)
Martin Vail is a narcissistic defence lawyer that loves media attention. He revels in getting high-profile defendants off on technicalities in court.
Aaron Stampler is a young altar boy, accused of brutally murdering an esteemed priest. Vail takes on Stampler’s case pro bono and motive is revealed when tapes emerge of his abuse at the hands of the priest.
Stampler begins to display signs of a multiple personality disorder and turns into a violent psychopath called ‘Roy’ who admits to murdering the priest. Vail uses a technicality to get him off and visits him in prison to tell him he is free. Stampler cannot resist but tell Vail that he was faking and there never was an ‘Aaron’, he was always Roy.
3. MELANCHOLIA (2011)
This is one of my favourite top thriller movies for the way that it deals with depression. Justine is one of two sisters getting married but is deeply depressed.
Her family members each represent an ugly trait of humanity from hubris to jealousy. No one asks her about the depression, instead, they praise her beauty. Justine runs away from her wedding night and afterwards descends into a catatonic state.
Meanwhile, a rogue gas giant planet has entered our solar system and is on a trajectory to Earth. Everyone is hysterical and panics as the planet approaches, except Justine, who, due to the depression, has lived with her world ending every day. Justine awakes from her state and accepts the inevitable.
4. JACOB’S LADDER (1990)
In 1971, Jacob is a soldier in Vietnam where his unit comes under attack. Many of his friends are killed, but as Jacob escapes into the jungle he is bayonetted and left to die.
Flash forward to 1975, and Jacob is now working a menial job and lives in a grubby apartment with his girlfriend. Before he went to war, he was married with three children and he misses them, especially the youngest who died in a car crash.
Jacob begins to have terrifying flashbacks and hallucinations and speaks to old army comrades who are suffering the same. Believing they have been part of a military experiment, they hire a lawyer to investigate where it transpires they were never in Vietnam. He is abducted and ends up in a derelict hospital where he passes grotesque looking patients.
A friend rescues him and tells him to ‘let go of life’. Jacob learns that his unit was secretly given a drug called ‘the Ladder’ which increases violence. The drug turned his unit into crazed killers who slaughtered each other, but the military covered it up. We find out that all along, Jacob has been fighting for his life in a medic tent in 1971, where he dies peacefully, after learning the truth.
5. THEY LOOK LIKE PEOPLE (2015)
This film deals with two friends, Wyatt and Christian, who are both coping with hardships. While Christian puts all his energies into bodybuilding, Wyatt appears to fall deeper into depression and there are signs he could be schizophrenic.
Wyatt has recurring hallucinations that a demonic apocalypse is imminent, and becomes increasingly distrustful of all around him, including Christian. Wyatt is fearful that Christian is a demon so Christian agrees to be bound and gagged in case he is possessed. Wyatt’s hallucinations worsen and he is just about to kill Christian when he realises he is hallucinating and frees him instead.
6. THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY (1999)
Set in the late 1950s in New York, Tom Ripley is a sociopath who makes his living by telling lies, forgery and impersonating people. He is approached by wealthy shipbuilder who mistakenly believes he went to Princeton with his son, Dickie Greenleaf. He is hired to bring back his spoiled son from a holiday in Italy. On the way, Ripley meets a socialite who mistakes him for Dickie.
Once in Italy, he charms his way into Dickie’s life, at the same time becoming obsessed and increasingly jealous of the pair. Dickie soon bores of him and moves onto another friend, Freddie. But he has a secret that Ripley knows about and this allows him back into the fold.
On a boat trip, they argue and Ripley kills him. Ripley continues to impersonate him and kills anyone that turns up from Dickie’s life. Dickie’s father is convinced that Dickie is dead and bequeaths his trust fund to Ripley. Free and wealthy, Ripley carries on his life as Dickie.
7. WAKING LIFE (2001)
This film explores the difference between dreams and reality. In Waking Life, our protagonist is wandering through dreamlike scenarios where he meets people from all walks of life. He discusses topics such as consciousness, free will, the meaning of life, lucid dreaming and more.
Eventually, the protagonist realises he is in a perpetual dreaming state, with brief periods where he is awake. He begins to despair that he’ll never escape the dream.
In his final conversation, he is told that perhaps reality is a single instant that we think is life, but it is our dreams can provide a look into what really constitutes reality. This ‘life’ we lead is an illusion and simply our rejection of God’s invitation to become part of the universe. To fully live, we should accept God.
8. THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (2004)
Two war veterans’ lives have taken very different paths after leaving the army. One is Shaw, a successful US congressman, who was awarded the Medal of Honour for bravery. The other, Marco, is suffering from disturbing memories and dreams that depict him and Shaw, murdering their fellow soldiers during an experiment.
Marco discovers that he and Shaw have a small implant in their back and traces them back to a powerful firm called Manchurian Global. Meantime, Shaw and another candidate Jordan are running for the position of Vice President.
Marco takes his findings to Jordan who asks Shaw to bow out of the campaign. Shaw’s mother, Eleanor, an FBI agent all along, ‘activates’ Shaw, using deeply established mind control to kill Jordan.
Eleanor then instructs Marco to assassinate the president. Shaw finally gets control of his mind back, realises what is at stake and gives Marco the nod to kill him and his mother.
Do you have suggestions for your top thriller movies? Let us know and why!
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