Note: This article was updated on 1/25/19.
There’s nothing wrong with action-packed flicks. But when it comes to really bringing home the thrills, the movies that work best are the ones that get in your head: The psychological thrillers that make you feel the unease and suspense right along with the characters and linger in your mind long after the credits roll. That’s why we're celebrating some of the genre’s best offerings right now—and since we know you’re going to ask, we’re focusing right off the bat on the best psychological thrillers that you can watch on Netflix right now.
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.
The Sixth Sense
Just in time for Halloween! M. Night Shyamalan's paranormal horror thriller wowed audiences when it hit theaters in 1999, thanks in no small part to powerful performances from Bruce Willis, a young Haley Joel Osment, and the film's now-classic twist ending. Years later, it still delivers—even if you already know the surprise reveal that awaits. Queue it up, dim the lights, and relive the nightmare.
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.
Moon is a science-fiction movie that begins quietly–more psychological than thriller, perhaps. But as it builds ominously towards its climax, it begins to feel more and more like a thriller after all. Marked by scientific realism and a paranoid claustrophobia that makes it feel part-thriller, part-horror, Moon is a film that everyone should see at least once.
The Ones Below
This British thriller plays of the paranoias of parenthood. Our protagonist is a mother who lives with her husband in an apartment building. Her downstairs neighbors are strange, to say the least: They are jealous first of her pregnancy and then of her child. Their jealously soon becomes too insistent to ignore.
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.
Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman co-star as detectives on the hunt for a brutal killer (Kevin Spacey) who has a haunting message to share about moral decay. Each of the victims are murdered sadistically as punishment for a wrong they’ve committed, and the killer won’t stop until he’s represented all 7 deadly sins. But the closer the detectives get to catching the criminal, the further they’re drawn into his deranged game. The star-studded cast is at its best in this haunting film about the depths of pure evil.
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 "Hold the Dark" via Addictive Pictures