There’s nothing wrong with action-packed flicks. But when it comes to bringing home the thrills, the movies that work best are those that mess with your head: the psychological thrillers that make you feel the unease right along with the characters and linger in your mind long after the credits roll. That’s why we rounded up the best psychological thrillers on Netflix you can stream tonight.
This month, Netflix boasts a number of suspenseful flicks for your viewing pleasure, from an abduction thriller starring Morgan Freeman to underrated gems and mind-bending imports that you need to see. So sit back, dim the lights, and queue up one of the psychological thrillers below.
Note: This article was updated on 3/10/20
After a traumatic event, Jane grew up in a foster home with no recollection of her childhood. Now as an adult with ongoing memory issues, strange coincidences and an eerily familiar farmhouse prompt her to dig into her past and try to learn the truth. When Jane learns that her entire family was brutally massacred back in 1985, she’s plagued by the horrifying suspicion that she herself might have been responsible.
Topher Grace plays Tom, a man who has been released from a mental institution after a 20-year stint. For the next 30 days, he will be placed under house arrest in the mansion he inherited from his father. As he’s trapped indoors with minimal contact from the outside world, disturbing hallucinations have Tom wondering whether he’s relapsing, or if the house is haunted by malevolent forces.
When Matthew Lane (Ryan Reynolds) picks his 9-year-old daughter Cassandra up from figure skating practice, it appears to be a day like any other. However, his world turns upside down when he leaves her alone in his truck for a moment and returns to find the passenger seat empty. A frantic search for the missing girl yields nothing, and eight years pass with no sightings of Cassandra. However, newly unearthed evidence suggests that she was kidnapped by a predator, and may still be alive.
Beneath the Leaves
Two detectives hunt down a psychopathic serial killer with the compulsive need to harvest his victims’ fingernails. The pulse-pounding case becomes a lot more personal when one of the investigators reveals that he himself came face-to-face with the killer when he was a child, and now wants to bring the sadist to justice.
Clint Eastwood directed this violent, noirish psychological thriller. Jimmy (Sean Penn), Dave (Tim Robbins), and Sean (Kevin Bacon) grew up together in Boston, where Dave survived a hellish childhood ordeal. Years later, Jimmy’s daughter is murdered, and Dave’s bizarre behavior after the fact puts him high on the list of suspects.
Along Came a Spider
Adapted from the James Patterson novel of the same name, the second Alex Cross film stars Morgan Freeman in the role of homicide investigator and forensic psychologist. After a brief retirement, Cross is back to investigate the kidnapping and ransom of a senator’s daughter. But the perpetrators of this conspiracy may be closer to home than he realizes.
Kiss the Girls
The first Alex Cross movie opens with the disappearance of Cross’s college-age niece from Durham, North Carolina. He is informed that hers is the latest in a string of kidnappings at the hands of a masked man calling himself "Casanova." When one of the kidnapped women manages to escape, her testimony proves to be the necessary break in the case to start tracking down the unstable abductor.
This historical take on the psychological thriller is loosely based on the Edgar Allan Poe short story, “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether.” Kate Beckinsdale stars as Eliza Graves, a woman who has been institutionalized at the turn of the twentieth century. When a newly hired doctor falls in love with her and begins to suspect the other staff have ulterior motives, they find themselves in unspeakable danger.
The Fury of a Patient Man
Raúl Arévalo made his directorial debut with this 2016 Spanish thriller flick. After participating in a jewelry store heist, Curro has been imprisoned for eight years. Upon his release, he anticipates reuniting with wife, Ana. But all hell breaks loose when he finds out that another man may have taken his place.
This Spanish-language film takes place at a Mexican resort, where two families find that management has accidentally overbooked their stays. Forced to share a room with complete strangers, family man Pedro can’t shake the feeling that there’s something off about this whole situation. His paranoia is only confirmed as the holiday unfolds in an increasingly odd manner.
The Talented Mr. Ripley
Matt Damon stars as the titular Ripley in this 1999 film based on the Patricia Highsmith novel. Con artist Tom Ripley befriends a wealthy Princeton dropout named Dickie. Infatuated with his new friend’s lifestyle, Ripley slowly begins to steal aspects of Dickie’s identity, until the situation spins out of his control.
This tense British thriller is set against the dark and moody backdrop of the Scottish Highlands. Two buddies in Edinburgh head out to the country for a weekend hunting trip. But when an explosive act in the woods turns their getaway into a bloody nightmare, the pair must suppress their panic and keep their mouths shut if they hope to escape.
In this mind-bending German thriller, Erik’s life in the country is rocked by the arrival of a sinister figure named Henry. Henry’s forceful ways push Erik to the limit. Soon, other figures appear, threatening harm. Erik needs to find a way out before it’s too late, but who can be trusted—and just what is real?
This cyber hostage thriller from India follows a man who soon finds himself lost in the darkest corners of the web. Aravind (Jayaprakash Radhakrishnan) is addicted to webcam voyeurism, an obsession that’s eroding his relationship with his wife. But his newest online connection has a chilling plan: the stranger intends to force Aravind to witness a live suicide.
Jeremy Saulnier’s dark crime drama packs the bloody punch of a revenge thriller with the emotional twists and turns of a tightly-constructed psychological tale. It stars Macon Blair, who plays Dwight Evans, a drifter who receives troubling news about his past. Determined, Dwight heads back to his hometown in search of resolution—and revenge.
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This psychological horror thriller follows Dr. Jane Mathis (Vinessa Shaw), a psychiatrist struggling to put her life back together after being violently attacked by a patient. She reluctantly takes on a new patient named Alex, in the hope that it will help heal her professional and personal life. As it turns out, however, Alex possesses his own troubling history.
Hold the Dark
This fresh Netflix release is the latest menacing thriller from Jeremy Saulnier, the filmmaker behind Green Room and Blue Ruin. Hold the Dark swaps out the humidity and claustrophobia of Saulnier's previous flicks for the frigid expanse of the Alaskan wilderness. In the remote village of Keelut a six-year-old boy has vanished, the third child to go missing. Wolves are suspected, and the mother of the missing boy summons naturalist Russell Core (Jeffrey Wright) to hunt down the predators. Core accepts, only to find himself tracking a mystery far darker than he could have imagined.
The Gift operates on a tried-and-true psychological thriller premise–past wounds are reopened when a creepy figure from one's past appears. In this case, the target is Simon Callem (Jason Bateman) and his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall), and the menacing figure is Gordon "Gordo" Moseley (Joel Edgerton) who starts dropping by the house. He always shows up with gifts, but his true nature begins to reveal itself as the strange “friendship” sours.
City of Tiny Lights
City of Tiny Lights stars Riz Ahmed as a private detective. Our protagonist is, of course, drawn into a mystery that is much more complex than it first appears. There’s a lot going on here, including everything from terrorism to secretive government operations. Naturally, not everyone is telling the whole truth.
It’s a bit shocking that Toby Jones hasn’t been in more psychological thrillers. Something about his presence transmits the perfect mix of pathos and psychosis. This film, written and directed by his brother, nails the growing sense of unease so necessary for a potent psychological thriller. Although it’s flown a bit under the radar, Kaleidoscope is one of the best psychological thrillers on Netflix.
Hungry for a second dose of scares? This dark psychological thriller based on a book by Stephen King is sure to do the trick. Jessie and Gerald head out to an isolated lake house in hopes of spicing up their love life. But when Gerald's sex game goes terribly wrong, Jessie is left handcuffed to the bed. Soon she begins seeing warped visions, and must confront the ghosts of the past if she hopes to survive.
The Invisible Guest
This Spanish psychological thriller is one of Netflix’s best offerings in the genre. A moody thriller with a flair for the dramatic, it takes itself seriously enough to get the viewer wrapped up and then follows through with a thrilling, satisfying ending that ties up every twisted thread.
The Interview focuses on a police interview that pits a detective against a man with nothing left to lose. Viewers are initially left in the dark as to the nature of the crime, and the claustrophobic movie contains its action almost entirely within the small interrogation room. Through dialogue and flashbacks, a clever and unexpected plot soon emerges.
A Patch of Fog
Stephen Graham stars in this creepy psychological thriller about the power of secrets. The troubling plot kicks off when a novelist and TV host, Sandy Duffy, is caught shoplifting by a security guard. Shoplifting is a habit for Duffy, but the security guard is willing to keep what he saw to himself in exchange for “friendship.” The thrills arrive soon after, as Duffy’s new “friend” turns out to be a pretty demanding and creepy guy to pal around with.
Denis Villenueve (director of Arrival and Blade Runner 2049) brings us this film about a mysterious doppelganger. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Adam, a man who meets his double. The two men discover they’re physically identical in every way, even down to a unique scar. Gyllenhaal becomes increasingly paranoid as their lives intersect, and we’re led to wonder whether his double exists at all or is a figment of his imagination. Rife with metaphors and evocative visuals, this hair-raising movie will keep you thinking long after it ends.
A man attends a dinner party hosted by his ex-wife and her new husband. That situation is stressful enough without injecting cults and paranoia into the mix. Will learns his ex has joined a lifestyle fad with cultish overtones to help her deal with the grief of losing their son, and he becomes increasingly fearful of the sinister vibes he gets from the new couple and their friends. The tension in this movie is a slow simmer, and the suspense will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Featured still from "Delirium" via Universal Pictures