15 of the best mind-blowing thriller movies

If you're not that into horror, a twisty psychological thriller is guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat.

I don’t know about you, but I like my thrillers with a little bit of substance. Not that there’s anything wrong with straight-up action flicks. In fact, they’re ideal for when you need to lay back and give your brain an entertaining break for a couple of hours. Otherwise, there’s nothing quite like a solid thriller of the psychological variety, one that will mess with your mind in exciting and unexpected ways.

But what makes a good thriller? Compelling protagonists? A copious dose of suspense? A few mind-bending twists? We vote all of the above. And with so many titles out there waiting to be streamed, why settle? We’ve gathered some of the best thriller movies out there, so your weekend is already sorted. Proceed with caution as some of these are not recommended for the faint of heart.


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1. Inception

Inception centres on a thief with a rare and in-demand ability to infiltrate someone’s dreams and extract information from their subconscious. While this makes him sought-after in the world of corporate espionage, it also causes him to lose pretty much everything he loves most. So when he gets a chance at redemption, he clings to it. Too bad it involves doing something that hasn’t been done before: planting an idea into someone’s mind.

Innovative and fascinating, Inception became a hit upon its release back in 2010, proving once again that thrillers don’t have to dumb things down to appeal to a large variety of viewers. The movie’s fast pace and captivating premise should be more than enough to keep you glued to the screen, with the stunning visuals a nice bonus.

2. Donnie Darko

During the late 80s, a teenager sleepwalks out of his house one night and meets a giant, scary looking rabbit who tells him the world will end in 28 days. When the teenager, named Donnie, returns back home, he discovers that a jet engine has crashed into his bedroom.

Is Donnie fighting some inner demons, or is the world really coming to an end? I guess you’ll just have to find out. This movie is more than worthy of your time, boasting a remarkable performance from Jake Gyllenhaal and juggling some daring and original ideas. You might even need to watch Donnie Darko more than once to truly appreciate its brilliance.

3. The Machinist

The Machinist is an uncomfortable movie, to say the least. It centres on Trevor, a factory worker who suffers from a severe case of insomnia that causes him to lose a concerning amount of weight and also severely affects his mental health. When Trevor causes an accident that injures a coworker, his condition gets even worse, escalating into full-on paranoia.

While the movie became popular due to Christian Bale’s extreme physical transformation for the role, it’s also important to note that the actor offers a brilliant performance, one that will stay with you for a long time. The Machinist is the kind of movie you admire more than enjoy. However, we guarantee that you won’t forget this trip into Trevor’s nightmarish reality anytime soon.

4. The Usual Suspects

The Usual Suspects is, like The Sixth Sense, the type of movie that everyone loves to spoil, so you might be familiar with the big twist already. But if you somehow made it this far without 1) seeing the movie and 2) learning the ending, rejoice! You can bask in its glory without a pre-blown mind.

A massive explosion leaves 27 men dead and millions of dollars’ worth of cocaine missing. The movie follows the interrogation of Kint, a small-time con man who spins a convoluted tale about the days before the explosion. Although The Usual Suspects seems like a pretty straightforward whodunit at first glance, it turns into much more as Kint’s story progresses. Suspenseful and entertaining, the movie serves plenty of fun twists along the way, building up to a truly satisfying ending. You can’t go wrong with this one.

5. Identity

Identity offers an intriguing but somewhat unoriginal premise. 10 strangers find themselves together at a motel during extreme weather and start to get murdered one by one. Don’t be fooled, though. Thanks to a fabulous twist, Identity is far from conventional. While the story isn’t perfect, the movie is so captivating that the occasional plot hole won’t bother you one bit. Plus, there’s some great acting involved, with John Cusack, in particular, being worthy of praise.

At the end of the day, this movie will leave you either completely mesmerised, or utterly exasperated. There’s no in between. For the record, our money is on option one.

6. The Others

This spooky thriller centres on Grace, a mother of two who moves her family to the English coast during World War II. While awaiting word from her missing husband, Grace does her best to protect her kids from a rare photosensitivity disease. When her daughter claims that she can see ghosts, Grace believes that the servants are playing tricks. However, she soon discovers that supernatural occurrences are not quite out of the question.

Chilling and creepy, The Others is the kind of movie that doesn’t need special effects to give viewers goosebumps. Elegant and beautifully shot, it relies on mood and suspense instead of jump scares and masked serial killers. If you’re into that type of thing, you’ll be hooked from the first scene.

7. Black Swan

Who would have thought that a ballerina’s life could take such a dark turn? And yet, that’s the idea behind this highly acclaimed movie, starring Natalie Portman in the role of a lifetime. She plays Nina, a ballerina whose passion for dance borderlines on obsession. So when a rivalry with a newcomer dancer takes shape, Nina becomes willing to go to dangerous lengths to see her dreams come true.

Dark and twisty, Black Swan‘s sheer intensity is enough to make you hold your breath at regular intervals. The movie offers just enough melodrama to keep things interesting, but ultimately delivers an effective portrayal of the sacrifices one is willing to make to achieve success. It will give you a lot to think about.

8. Source Code

Source Code‘s premise is outlandish, but the movie flawlessly pulls it off. It centres on Colter, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, a soldier who is part of a top-secret military operation. As such, he is enrolled in an experiment called the Source Code, a program which enables him to cross over into another man’s identity in the last eight minutes of his life. Colter wakes up in the body of a man who died in a commuter-train explosion and must learn the identity of the bomber in order to prevent another similar catastrophe. All before he runs out of time.

Source Code offers tons of great action, a brisk pace and some underlying emotion that gives it just the right amount of depth. It’s fun and compelling to the point where you’ll forget all about how silly the premise is, sit back and enjoy the ride.

9. Edge of Tomorrow

Live. Die. Repeat. That’s the motto at the core of Edge of Tomorrow, a clever and entertaining thriller starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. The movie takes place in a reality where Earth is under attack from seemingly invincible aliens. Major William Cage is assigned a suicide mission, but within moments of being killed, he is thrown into a time loop, reliving the same brutal fight over and over again. With each encore, he gets closer to defeating the invaders and gains a powerful ally along the way.

Edge of Tomorrow is a fun mix of action and sci-fi, giving Cruise another opportunity to play a role that he excels in every single time – the flawed, but likeable hero. The outstanding special effects don’t hurt either.

10. Looper

Looper’s premise is mind-blowing enough, but the movie ups the ante with some fine acting and exciting action scenes. In a future society, time travel is possible. There’s a catch, though – it’s illegal and only available to those with the means to pay for such sought-after black market shenanigans. For instance, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, they send their target 30 years into the past, where a hired gun known as a looper lays in wait to mop up. All goes well until one day, when the mob sends the looper’s future self back in time for assassination.

Starring Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Looper is thrilling, smart, fast-paced and riveting. It may suffer from the occasional plot hole, but the movie’s got enough going on to keep you on the edge of your seat.

11. Mulholland Drive

Written and directed by David Lynch and starring Naomi Watts and Laura Harring, this neo-noir mystery thriller will delight, excite and confuse you, often at the same time. Mulholland Drive centres on an aspiring actress, Betty, who finds that another woman has taken refuge in her apartment. She was left amnesiac after a car crash. Together, the two attempt to solve the mystery of the amnesiac’s true identity.

This is the kind of movie that’s meant to be savoured. It’s hypnotic and haunting, to the point where you can’t be sure what exactly is going on, but you find yourself highly entertained nonetheless. Mulholland Drive is just as glamorous as Los Angeles, the city it celebrates.

12. 10 Cloverfield Lane

After surviving a car accident, a young woman wakes up in an underground bunker with a man who insists that the air is now unbreathable and their only hope at survival is to remain inside. Uncertain what to believe, the woman soon determines that she has to escape at any cost and find out for herself whether the world outside is truly uninhabitable.

Tense and suspenseful, the movie is excellently shot, making the most of its confined setting. The less you know about this one, the better, so we won’t spoil the fun by giving any extra details. Just know that you’ll be in for a treat.

13. Split

Coming from the twisted mind of M Night Shyamalan, Split revolves around the abduction of three teenage girls. They’re held captive by a man with 23 personalities and must find a way to escape before a dangerous 24th reveals itself.

James McAvoy is perfectly cast in the role of the deranged abductor, manifesting unique physical attributes for each of his multiple personalities. Captivating and tense, the movie is the best kind of disturbing, proving that the famed Shyamalan, also responsible for The Sixth Sense, is back in top form following a series of mediocre flicks. This one is worthy of your undivided attention.

14. Enemy

If you couldn’t already tell by skimming our list, Jake Gyllenhaal is a treasure when it comes to thrillers. Enemy is no exception. This time, he portrays a college professor who finds out that he looks just like an actor. He decides to track the man down and, as a result, their lives become bizarrely intertwined.

Enemy is spooky and unpredictable, adding even more weirdness to the whole “double” trope. And with Gyllenhaal playing both the professor and his doppelgänger, things only get better (and more peculiar) as the movie progresses. You won’t see the ending coming, I’m sure of that.

15. Take Shelter

Take Shelter centres on Curtis, a man who lives in a small town with his happy family – a loving wife and a hearing-impaired daughter. But when Curtis starts to have dreams about an impending apocalypse, he decides to build a storm shelter in the backyard instead of confiding in his wife. Not only that, but his behaviour becomes weirder and weirder, causing tension in his family and community.

Michael Shannon gives a powerhouse performance as Curtis, a man whose growing anxiety becomes difficult to manage. Plus, Take Shelter is a seamless blend of drama and terror, hinting that there’s a much more complex story bubbling just under the surface. You’ll just have to wait to find out just how complicated the narrative really is.

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