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30 Best Thriller Movies You Shouldn’t Watch Alone

Hold on to your popcorn! You're in for twists and turns with the best thriller movies ever created.

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Hold on to your seat

They may not offer the gore or jump scares of horror movies, but the best thriller movies still set your heart racing. Think of ’em as part drama movie, part action movie with suspense turned up to ten. They can be quietly disconcerting, uncomfortably real, and packed with twists and turns that keep you guessing until the very end.

Each of the movies on our list brings thrills, chills, and gut-clenching suspense. You’ll find Oscar winners, cult classics, recently released gems, and films that took pop culture by storm. Our list of the best thriller movies is filled with iconic performances, heady mysteries, twist endings, heists, and car chases. Some of these films defined the genre when they came out, changing audiences forever.

Whether you love a slow-burn psychological shocker or action-filled adventure, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for. Not your cup of tea—or, should we say, bucket of popcorn? Press play on one of the best movies of all time or a romantic movie that’ll get your heart racing for a totally different reason.

The Sixth SenseVia Amazon.com

1. The Sixth Sense

Released: 1999

Rated: PG-13

Director: M. Night Shyamalan

“I see dead people.” Everyone felt a chill down their spine when a young Haley Joel Osment whispered the famous line. Bruce Willis plays the child psychologist sent to help him deal with his ghostly visions. M. Night Shyamalan earned his rep as the king of twist endings after he pulled a fast one with this flick—the shocking finale is part of what made The Sixth Sense a blockbuster. Add these family movies to your must-see list for something a little less chilling.

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Primal FearVia Hulu.com

2. Primal Fear

Released: 1996

Rated: R

Director: Gregory Hoblit

Edward Norton earned rave reviews for his performance as a sweet, mentally ill man accused of murder. He suffers from multiple personality disorder, so lawyer Richard Gere goes for an insanity plea. The audience gets pulled along for twists and turns that are absolutely chilling. When you’re in the mood for a great courtroom thriller with an ending that turns the story on its head, this is the flick to pick. If this movie’s too tense for your liking, lighten the mood with one of these laugh-out-loud funny comedy movies.

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No Way OutVia Amazon.com

3. No Way Out

Released: 1987

Rated: R

Director: Roger Donaldson

In one of the best thriller movies from the ’80s, Kevin Costner plays Tom Farrell, a young naval officer who’s hunting a KGB mole named Yuri. The taut story melds intrigue with romance: While spying on the secretary of defense (played by Gene Hackman), Farrell falls in love with the man’s girlfriend. Come for the mystery and stay for the shocking twist ending. The film was based on the classic 1946 noir novel The Big Clock. Check out more great books made into movies.

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The VillageVia Amazon.com

4. The Village

Released: 2004

Rated: PG-13

Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Prepare for another shocker courtesy of M. Night Shyamalan, a director famous for twist endings that change everything you thought you knew about the film. This one takes place in an old-timey forest village where residents are terrified of a mysterious monster living in the woods. William Hurt plays the chief elder, and he dissuades anyone from straying too far or looking for nearby towns lest they become monster meat. But everything is not as it seems. If this puts you in the mood for sci-fi, don’t miss our ranking of Star Wars movies.

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The Usual SuspectsVia Amazon.com

5. The Usual Suspects

Released: 1995

Rated: R

Director: Bryan Singer

Who is Keyser Söze? The Usual Suspects poses the question early on but doesn’t answer it until the very last moment—a climax that shocked audiences with its brilliance. The film mixes the present-day testimony of a low-level crook, who’s sharing his story with a detective played by Chazz Palminteri, with flashbacks focused on the gang of criminals he runs around with and the mythic tales of the master kingpin, Keyser Söze. Prepare for a twisted path of bad guy mayhem. This thriller took the ’90s by storm, winning a slew of awards, including two Oscars. Looking for something totally different? Try one of these movie musicals instead.

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PsychoVia Amazon.com

6. Psycho

Released: 1960

Rated: R

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock turned up the creep factor in this classic that ends with a huge surprise. As far as suspense movies go, Psycho was groundbreaking, giving rise to the modern slasher genre. The infamous shower scene is a marvel of editing that will freak you out even in black and white. If you’re a fan of the dark and disturbing, pick up one of the best horror books and satisfy your dark side.

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The OthersVia Vudu.com

7. The Others

Released: 2001

Rated: PG-13

Director: Alejandro Amenábar

Nicole Kidman stars in this atmospheric thriller about a widow living in a creepy old mansion with her two kids, who happen to be allergic to light. After odd events occur, the woman begins to suspect her house is haunted by ghosts she calls “the others.” Tragic, scary, and a total surprise ending, this is one of the best thriller movies for anyone who loves artsy camera work and gorgeously off-kilter art design. If you need a good time of year to watch the flick, it’s the perfect Halloween movie.

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The GameVia Amazon.com

8. The Game

Released: 1997

Rated: R

Director: David Fincher

In this noir thriller, Michael Douglas and Sean Penn play estranged brothers with a tragic past. After one of the brothers gives the other an elaborate “game” for his birthday, his life goes off the rails. His house gets vandalized, and his TV starts talking to him. More freaky hijinks await around every corner as his life veers into total destruction on the way to a crazy twist that you won’t see coming. If you love movies about celebrations, check out the best New Year’s Eve movies.

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Shutter Island Via Netflix.com

9. Shutter Island

Released: 2010

Rated: R

Director: Martin Scorsese

Based on the mystery novel by Dennis Lehane, Shutter Island is the psychological thriller to watch on a dark and stormy night. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as a cop who travels to a mental hospital on an island off the coast of Boston to investigate a patient who went missing. All manner of craziness ensues when a storm traps him on the isolated island. The atmospheric dive into psychological mayhem culminates with a shocking climax that’ll have you hitting rewind to make sure you caught the twist.

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Soylent GreenVia Amazon.com

10. Soylent Green

Released: 1973

Rated: PG

Director: Richard Fleischer

In this sci-fi cult classic, life is bleak in a dystopian future where people eat green wafers made of ocean plankton that are supposed to be totally healthy. The food is a hot commodity in this apocalyptic thriller set in 2022 in a world beset by climate disaster. The twist ending underscores the grim future predicted in the film. Never seen the film? You’ve probably heard a quote from this movie or seen a reference without even knowing it.

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The Crying GameVia Amazon.com

11. The Crying Game

Released: 1992

Rated: R

Director: Neil Jordan

Stephen Rea plays Fergus, an IRA member who helps kidnap a man named Jody (Forest Whitaker) for ransom. Jody begs Fergus to find his girlfriend, Dil, if something should happen to him. Fergus does find her—and he falls in love. Audiences at the time went crazy over the gender-bending twist. This was a critically acclaimed film that brought trans representation to the mainstream in the early ’90s. Here are more LGBTQ movies to watch.

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Fight ClubVia Amazon.com

12. Fight Club

Released: 1999

Rated: R

Director: David Fincher

The first rule of Fight Club is you don’t talk about Fight Club. But we’ll spill the (spoiler-free) beans for you. Edward Norton plays a depressed office worker whose life spins into violence when he meets Tyler Durden, a madcap extrovert played by Brad Pitt. The pair move in together and embark on a series of pranks and mayhem. Then they start a small army of mischief-makers intent on destroying capitalist culture. This is an end-of-millennium cult classic that captured the despair of white collar work.

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ParasiteVia Hulu.com

13. Parasite

Released: 2019

Rated: R

Director: Bong Joon-ho

This Best Picture Oscar winner from 2019 pulls you in and doesn’t let go. Beautifully shot and set in a modern mansion, the film portrays rising tensions between an upper-class family and its servants. The story plays out with masterful suspense that’s chilling and thematic.

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Set It OffVia Amazon.com

14. Set It Off

Released: 1996

Rated: R

Director: F. Gary Gray

Four women working as janitors fed up with a world in which they see no other options choose to become bank robbers. Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Vivica A. Fox, and Kimberly Elise give riveting performances as the kind of thieves you end up rooting for. This stylish thriller was a ’90s hit that breathed new life into the heist genre.

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Queen And SlimVia Amazon.com

15. Queen & Slim

Released: 2019

Rated: R

Director: Melina Matsoukas

If you love road movies, this stylish action thriller takes you on the lam with a couple on the run. Queen and Slim are on a date when fate deals a fatal blow, and they spend the film trying to escape insurmountable odds. You’ll be on the edge of your seat, rooting for them to get away. Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith give stunning performances in this recent critical hit. Bonus: Queen & Slim has a great movie soundtrack.

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Inside ManVia Hulu.com

16. Inside Man

Released: 2006

Rated: R

Director: Spike Lee

Denzel Washington amps up the charm as a detective interviewing hostages in the aftermath of a bank robbery. Go ahead and attempt to figure out what went down and why—trying to solve the crime is part of the fun.

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Train To BusanVia Amazon.com

17. Train to Busan

Released: 2016

Rated: NR

Director: Yeon Sang-ho

The premise of this 2016 hit is a little bit like the action film Snakes on a Plane, except it’s zombies on a train. It’s always thrilling when a threat infiltrates an enclosed space. Get ready for a suspenseful, action-oriented family drama about a father and his daughter as zombies take over the world. This one has a heart at its center. If that sounds up your alley, try these great romantic movies on Netflix.

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ContagionVia Amazon.com

18. Contagion

Released: 2011

Rated: PG-13

Director: Steven Soderbergh

This pandemic drama from 2011 became a popular rewatch over the past couple of years. The star-packed cast (Kate Winslet, Matt Damon, and Laurence Fishburne star alongside other big names) makes sense of a global virus as the scientists search for a cure in this nail-biting, terrifying thriller. Be warned: With COVID-19, it might hit a little too close to home.

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WidowsVia Amazon.com

19. Widows

Released: 2018

Rated: R

Director: Steve McQueen

After a team of bank robbers meets its end, the widows the crew left behind band together to grieve and take up the gangster mantle. You’ll find a suspenseful thriller filled with twists and turns that’ll make your jaw drop. Viola Davis leads an all-star cast and gives a riveting performance as a woman who gets to know who her husband really was in the aftermath of his demise. Follow this action-packed ride with a film that’ll have you going “aww” all night long—namely, one of these dog movies.

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BoundVia Amazon.com

20. Bound

Released: 1996

Rated: R

Director: Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski

Before the Wachowskis teamed up for the Matrix series, they made the gangster film Bound, offering a redux of the popular genre with women at the center. You’ll find Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly as women who buck gender conventions and the conventions of the crime genre in this tense movie about double-crossing mobsters.

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The HandmaidenVia Amazon.com

21. The Handmaiden

Released: 2016

Rated: NR

Director: Park Chan-wook

Set in the 1930s, this sumptuous thriller follows an heiress whose husband schemes with the woman’s maid to steal her inheritance. Historical details are gorgeously rendered as the plot twists and turns through backstabbing and betrayal with a love story at its center. Also worth a watch: These sad movies that’ll have you saying, “Pass the tissues, please.”

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Get OutVia Amazon.com

22. Get Out

Released: 2017

Rated: R

Director: Jordan Peele

In an innovative thriller that’s already a classic, writer and director Jordan Peele delivers a chilling take on the meet-the-parents scenario. When Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) spends the weekend at the rural estate of his new girlfriend’s wealthy parents, things take a turn for the surreal and tragic. You’ll be guessing what’s really going on until the very end. This film speaks to the Black experience in America, as do these great Black history movies.

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Skyscraper Via Amazon.com

23. Skyscraper

Released: 2018

Rated: PG-13

Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson imparts dazzling humor and zest in all of his action thrillers. In the preposterous yet entertaining Skyscraper, he plays a retired FBI agent hired to secure a new state-of-the-art tower. When things go south, he’s thrust into terrorist conflicts and must save his family—and the world. If you like disaster thrillers and stunts that even Spider-Man would be scared to try, Skyscraper hits the mark with a combo of thrills and Johnson’s trademark charm.

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The RoadVia Amazon.com

24. The Road

Released: 2009

Rated: R

Director: John Hillcoat

Watch this moody, atmospheric chiller if you’re in the mood for a post-apocalyptic horror with a poetic center in the midst of despair. Viggo Mortensen’s performance as a father trying to protect his son gives the proceedings a powerful heart. It’s adapted from one of the all-time greatest fiction books, Cormac McCarthy’s page-turner of the same name.

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I Care A LotVia Netflix.com

25. I Care a Lot

Released: 2020

Rated: R

Director: J Blakeson

Rosamund Pike’s chilling performance centers this psychological thriller, which is set in the world of eldercare. Dianne Weist plays a wealthy woman who becomes a target for scammers who gain power of attorney over her estate through nefarious means. Pike plays the scheming villainess who promises to care, but steals instead. This one boasts a great cast and twisty surprises that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat.

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The Wages Of FearVia Amazon.com

26. The Wages of Fear

Released: 1953

Rated: NR

Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot

The tension is palpable in The Wages of Fear, which had a huge influence on the road film genre. In it, four men are hired to transfer explosives across a treacherously bumpy road, along which they encounter cliffs, tropics, and nonstop danger. The prolonged suspense alone makes this one of the best thriller movies of all time, and it’ll have you anxiously hoping the car doesn’t go boom. It’s in French with English subtitles, but don’t let that deter you. It’s packed with thrills as the men must get out of insurmountable scrapes under a strict, life-or-death deadline.

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Picnic At Hanging RockVia Hbomax.com

27. Picnic at Hanging Rock

Released: 1975

Rated: PG

Director: Peter Weir

This classic Australian film offers slow-burn suspense as a small town deals with the disappearance of teen girls during a school field trip to the outback. You’ll be enraptured by the mystery, told in an atmospheric style that ratchets up the tension. If you love the 1975 classic, check out the television miniseries, which stars Natalie Dormer. It may not be one of the best TV series of all time, but it’s an entertaining pick for thriller lovers.

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Rear WindowVia Amazon.com

28. Rear Window

Released: 1954

Rated: PG

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Rear Window is one of the most influential thrillers because it captures a sense of dread and paralysis. Like Jimmy Stewart’s character, who’s bound by a full leg cast and wheelchair as he recuperates from an injury, viewers are trapped as observers with no power to intervene when they witness a murder.

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NightcrawlerVia Amazon.com

29. Nightcrawler

Released: 2014

Rated: R

Director: Dan Gilroy

Jake Gyllenhaal steals his scenes as an ambitious workaholic in this noir thriller that critiques news broadcasts which sensationalize violence. He crawls through the dark underbelly of Los Angeles searching out crimes, wrecks, and mayhem to film and sell the footage. Sucked into the shady dealings, he’s soon masterminding his own crime scenes. This is the one to watch for fans of all things true crime.

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Promising Young WomanVia Hulu.com

30. Promising Young Woman

Released: 2020

Rated: R

Director: Emerald Fennell

Carey Mulligan gives a stellar performance as Cassandra, a pleasant young barista who shows men the error of their ways when they try to take advantage. You’ll feel caught up in a feminist plot that shows what it’s like to live with trauma from sexual assault that’s systemic and overwhelming.

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Molly Pennington, PhD
Molly is a writer and professional astrologer with a PhD in Critical and Cultural Studies from the University of Pittsburgh. She covers the zodiac, books, movies, TV, and culture for RD.com. She loves puns, puzzles, people, the planet Mars, and philosophizing.