Escapism through movie watching is something that we can all appreciate. Are you feeling down? Play a playful romantic comedy. In search of nostalgia? Consider watching a vintage Disney film. But, whether we like to admit it or not, sometimes toying with our own minds is the finest sort of entertainment, and psychological thrillers are the cream of the crop when it comes to frightening. From classics like The Sixth Sense to contemporary mind-benders like Shutter Island, we’ve prepared a list of the greatest heart-pounding psychological thrillers that are more terrifying than horror films.
5. The Sixth Sense
Even if you haven’t watched The Sixth Sense, you’ve probably heard one of the film’s main characters, Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), says, “I see dead people.” Sear’s bizarre allegations prompt psychologist Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) to intervene, but during their sessions, Crowe learns more about himself than he could have anticipated.
4. Gerald’s Game
A lot of Stephen King’s novels have been adapted into films, but Gerald’s Game is one that we’ve returned to again and again for spine-chilling thrills. Jessie (Carla Gugino) and Gerald (Bruce Greenwood), a husband and woman, plan to spend quality time in a remote lake house in Alabama. The two dash to the bedroom, where Gerald uses handcuffs to bind Jessie to the bed in an attempt to spice things up. Jessie grows uneasy and asks Gerald to take them off, but Gerald has a heart attack and dies within minutes, leaving Jessie to fend for herself while shackled to the bed. Jessie begins hallucinating and finally descends into nightmarish nightmares.
3. Shutter Island
When U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) is assigned to investigate the disappearance of a killer at Ashecliffe Hospital, a mental institution on an isolated island, he teams up with investigator Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) to move the inquiry ahead. Daniels gradually realizes that in order to survive, he must look inside.
2. The Shining
Another thriller inspired by a Stephen King novel, The Shining follows a devoted writer (Jack Nicholson) who chooses to bring his family to the Overlook Hotel, where he takes on the role of caretaker in an effort to alleviate his writer’s block. It isn’t long before Jack finds the hotel’s terrible history, as his son, Danny, begins to have unsettling visions that may reveal some terrifying secrets.
1. Silence of the Lambs
If you want jump-out-at-you horror but also desire the complexity of a psychological thriller, Silence of the Lambs by Jonathan Demme is for you. The cinematic version of Thomas Harris’ novel of the same name follows Clarice (Jodie Foster), a young FBI trainee on the trail of a serial murderer dubbed Buffalo Bill. In order to gain a clear understanding of the murderer’s inner workings, she seeks help from another (imprisoned) serial killer, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, with surprisingly grave repercussions.