Note: This article was updated on 8/13/19.
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 a serial killer thriller starring Sigourney Weaver and Holly Hunter 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.
This 1995 serial killer thriller stars Sigourney Weaver, Holly Hunter, and Dermot Mulroney. Weaver plays Helen Hudson, an agoraphobic psychologist and serial killer expert. She joins forces with Inspector M.J. Monahan (Hunter) to get inside the mind of a deranged murderer on the loose in San Francisco and stop the slayer from striking again.
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.
This 2002 blockbuster thriller from David Fincher stars Jodie Foster, a young Kristen Stewart, Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto, and Dwight Yoakam. Foster plays Meg Altman, mother of a diabetic daughter named Sarah (Stewart). The pair moves into a lavish four-story brownstone on the Upper West Side in New York City. But when burglars descend upon the home, Altman and her daughter are forced to retreat into the brownstone’s concrete-and-steel panic room.
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?
Kristen Stewart stars in this supernatural psychological thriller set in Paris. Stewart plays Maureen, a personal shopper for a celebrity in the City of Lights. But Maureen has a secret: she’s also a medium and has taken up the job in hopes of contacting her dead twin brother, who died in the city.
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.
Related: 8 Must-Read Crime Thriller Books
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.
The Sixth Sense
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.
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.
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 "The Invitation" via Gamechanger Films