17 Best Psychological Thrillers So Mind-Bending You Can't Stop Watching

These movies will give you every ending except for the one you expect.

The human psyche is infinitely complex. There are our innermost thoughts, our deepest desires, and our surface-level hopes and dreams. The best psychological thrillers explore all of that and more.

Each of these picks will take what you expect from the story and twist it on its side, run with it, and then throw it out the window to serve up something completely new. Because let's face it, if you don't finish the movie thinking, "What did I just watch?!" then it wasn't one of the best psychological thrillers ever made.

Shutter Island (2010)

$9, buy now on amazon.com

Based off Dennis Lehane's 2003 novel of the same name, this 2010 Martin Scorsese blockbuster became the director's highest grossing box-office opening to date. Shutter Island tells the tale of U.S. Marshal Edward "Teddy" Daniels, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, as he is brought to Shutter Island, a mental institution, to investigate a missing patient. As Daniels and his partner, portrayed by Mark Ruffalolook deeper and deeper into the bowels of the institution, they uncover much more than they bargained for. Not to mention, the missing patient they thought they were looking for might not be so missing after all.

Gone Girl (2014)

$7, buy now on amazon.com

Rosamund Pike earned rave reviews, as well as Best Actress nominations at each award show that season, for her flawless portrayal of the luring Amy Dunne. Gone Girl follows Amy and her husband, Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, as they paint the picture of a perfect marriage. When Amy disappears and a media circus ensues, Nick becomes the prime suspect in his wife's disappearance. It's a film full of twists and turns that will have you second-guessing every seemingly blissful relationship.

Inception (2010)

$8, buy now on amazon.com

This 2010 psychological thriller stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Dominic Cobb, a professional thief who steals corporate secrets by infiltrating the subconscious with dream-sharing technology. The film explores the concept of lucid dreaming and the limits of the unconscious mind. By the time the credits roll, you'll suspicious of both.

Mystic River (2003)

$12, buy now on amazon.com

Sean Penn took home the 2004 Golden Globe for Best Actor for his performance in this Clint Eastwood-directed mystery. The film follows three boys whose lives are forever changed when one of them is abducted and subjected to sexual abuse before he escapes after four days. Fast forward 25 years, when one of the men's daughters is murdered. The trio reunites to determine what happened.

Black Swan (2010)

$14, buy now on amazon.com

Ballet stars Nina (Natalie Portman) and Lily (Mila Kunis) find themselves frenemies as they compete for the lead role in their ballet company's production of Swan Lake. The rivalry spirals out of control and Nina struggles to keep her sanity as she becomes obsessed with the evil black swan.

The Prestige (2006)

$17, buy now on amazon.com

In this Christopher Nolan film, two rival magicians spend their lives trying to outdo one another to accomplish the ultimate magic trick: teleportation. They each figure out wildly different ways to accomplish this feat and drive themselves nearly insane in the process.

The Butterfly Effect (2004)

$14, buy now on amazon.com

Evan Treborn, played by Ashton Kutcher, has blackout flashbacks where he can travel through time to past moments in his life. But when he does that, it sets the future on a different path. If you've ever wished you could go back in time, The Butterfly Effect will change your mind.

The Village (2004)

$17, buy now on amazon.com

In this thriller, a community that is seemingly cut off from civilization lives in fear of the nameless creatures in its surrounding woods. When townsman Lucius Hunt, played by Joaquin Phoenix, leaves the village to procure medical supplies from neighboring towns, viewers learn that these "creatures" aren't what they expect.

Secret Window (2004)

$13, buy now on amazon.com

Writer Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp) moves to a cabin in the woods to cope with his pending divorce, when a mysterious man to shows up at his door and accuses him of stealing his work. Over the next few days, as he's trying to defend his story, he comes closer and closer to losing his grip on reality.

The Shining (1980)

$8, buy now on amazon.com

A family inherits a creepy hotel with a rich past of unsavory happenings, and very quickly, things start to go wrong. An evil spiritual presence pushes the father (Jack Nicholson) into violence, while Danny, his son, possesses "the shining," a psychic ability to see pieces of the hotel's violent history.

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

$14, buy now on amazon.com

Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) is a master manipulator in this psychological thriller. Ripley, a young man struggling to make a life for himself in New York, pretends to be a Princeton alum, which lands him a mission to Italy to persuade another young Princeton alum to return home at his father's wishes. Once there, Ripley continues to manipulate those around him and pretends to be someone he is absolutely not.

Psycho (1960)

$14, buy now on amazon.com

One of the most legendary psychological thrillers if there ever was one, this Alfred Hitchcock film is now considered one of his best. When secretary Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) steals $40,000 from her work and finds herself on the run from the law, she stops for a quick rest at the Bates Motel. The unassuming place is run by a young man named Norman (Anthony Perkins), whose mentally ill mother forbids him from leading a normal life. The film reaches its climax with the iconic shower murder of everyone's nightmares.

Premonition (2007)

$6, buy now on amazon.com

Linda Hanson (Sandra Bullock) learns that her husband has been killed in a car accident. But before she has time to mourn, she wakes up the next morning to find him safe in bed. She quickly figures out that she's living her days out of order.

The Sixth Sense (1999)

$14, buy now on amazon.com

Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) is a scared young boy who "sees dead people." His mom sends him to child psychiatrist Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) to help. While they work together to understand why Cole can see what other people can't, they realize the unfortunate outcome of an altercation between Crowe and one of his former patients.

Donnie Darko (2001)

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Donnie Darko, a disturbed teenager who believes the world is coming to an end because a giant rabbit named Frank told him so. The rabbit leads Donnie down a path of destruction and violence while they catapult toward the end of the world, and Donnie grows closer and closer to insanity.

Se7en (1995)

$15, buy now on amazon.com

Two homicide detectives are challenged with finding a serial killer whose inspiration is the seven deadly sins. They follow the killer (Kevin Spacey) from murder to murder, collecting bodies along the way while desperately trying to put an end to the madness. What they find in the end is something neither of them expected.

Ex Machina (2014)

$8, buy now on amazon.com

Domhnall Gleeson plays Caleb Smith, a young programmer who works for a prominent tech company. When Caleb is invited to spend a week with the company's CEO at his isolated vacation home, he meets the boss's pet project: A humanoid robot named Ava that runs on artificial intelligence. Of course, the technology isn't perfect and Caleb begins to feel attracted to the robot. The film explores the idea of a dystopian future in which man and machine must fight for power.

Hedy Phillips
Hedy is a freelance writer with years of experience covering buzzy food trends, wellness, and weight loss. Read more
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