Netflix offers a plethora of films and shows for everyone’s disposal that caters to everyone’s interests– be it horror, comedy, drama, suspense, thriller, sci-fi, or a mix of each genre.
The tricky part though is finding the best ones with stories and plotlines that not only pull you in from the get-go but also linger afterward right after the credits roll.
For the sake of genres, the psychological thrillers usually succeed in this process with its intelligent storytelling and knack for getting into your skin sans the jump shots and cheap tricks. Instead, these films use one’s mental state as a ground point for the mind-blowing twists and turns.
Netflix has a ton of these but to save you the trouble of going through all of them one by one, we have provided 17 of the best psychological thrillers you don’t want to miss.
Bird Box (2018)
This movie adaptation of the 2014 Josh Malerman novel of the same name is set in a post-apocalyptic world where unseen creatures prompt people to kill themselves on sight and in the most gruesome way possible. A group of survivors tries to avoid suicide by forcing themselves not to see these creatures.
In the process, they must rely on their other senses to stay alive, which they have done successfully until the arrival of a mentally-challenged individual who acted as an agent of these creatures and opened their eyes to their grim fate.
The rest of the film follows remaining survivors Malorie (Sandra Bullock) and two children, dubbed Girl (Vivien Lyra Blair) and Boy (Julian Edwards) as they make the dangerous journey to a sanctuary through a river and forest with their eyes blindfolded, and armed with a determination never to take their blindfolds off under any circumstance.
This edge-of-the-seat thriller relies on the anxiety of trying to survive without sight to set up the tension while strategically placed set pieces comprising of mundane sounds heighten the suspense and serve as a jolt to the senses (literally speaking).
Bird Box digs into the paranoia of dreading things that are not visible to the eyes, as much as it is a metaphor about turning our eyes away from our fears instead of facing them.
Director: Susan Bier – Screenplay: Eric Heisserer – Cast: Sandra Bullock, Trevante Rhodes, John Malkovich, Machine Gun Kelly, Vivien Lyra Blair, and Julian Edwards – Run Time: 2h 4m
Gerald's Game (2017)
A couple on the brink of a divorce tries to save their marriage with a trip to a secluded lake house and a kinky game involving handcuffs. In the middle of the game, the wife (Carla Gugino) accidentally kills her husband (Bruce Greenwood). Shackled to the bed with no hope of rescue, she starts to see things and hear voices. She also regresses to her childhood memories when she felt death’s presence.
The film shows how in a state of hysteria coupled with a feeling of helplessness, people can start to lose focus. They wrestle with their inner thoughts to try to stay in the moment. In the case of the wife, she sees physical manifestations of the negative and positive side of her thoughts: one tries to make the scenario worst while the other encourages her to find ways to escape.
In the end, she takes control of her actions when she finally escapes the metal confines of her mind and let go of a repressed childhood trauma that had unknowingly shaped her personality and influenced her marriage.
Gerald’s Game talks about acceptance and rediscovery in a thrilling manner through a woman’s solitude amid the threat of creepy visions and unwanted scary thoughts–and this does not even include the shocking ending.
Director: Mike Flanagan – Screenplay: Mike Flanagan, Jeff Howard – Cast: Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood, Henry Thomas, Carel Struycken, Kate Siegel, Chiara Aurelia – Run Time: 1h 43m
The Gift (2014)
An encounter with a former school acquaintance puts a married couple’s perfect life in a disturbing spiral. What follows is a slow and agonizing mental torment for the couple as the friend slowly unravels hidden dark secrets that ultimately destroy their marriage and everything that they hold dear.
In his directorial debut, Joel Edgerton lays the groundwork for a classic stalker movie. You have Gordo (Edgerton), the old acquaintance who slowly forces himself into the lives of Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) because of an ulterior motive.
Gordo is a bullied kid in the same school Simon goes to. When Simon returns to his hometown, old wounds resurfaced and “Gordo the Weirdo” turns into a psychotic obsessive bent on making Simon go through the same mental anguish he endured.
Beneath the nail-biting and heart-stopping moments, this movie plainly tells the story of the effects of bullying. It shows that the trauma and pain from bullying can still linger past childhood.
This film also does not depict the classic villain and hero story but allows viewers instead to choose sides based on personal experience.
Director: Joel Edgerton, Ivan Petukhov – Screenplay: Joel Edgerton, Ivan Petukhov – Cast: Joel Edgerton, Rebecca Hall, Jason Bateman – Run Time: 1h 48m
I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House (2016)
“A house with a death in it can never again be bought or sold by the living. It can only be borrowed from the ghosts that have stayed behind.” This phrase makes up the premise of the story and starts the course of the lead character’s descent to madness.
This is not your typical scary, jump-out-of-your-seat kind, but a slow-burning psychological thriller that uses dream-like narratives and dark moods to set up the eerie vibe. This film reeks of darkness that it suffocates you mentally in a skin-crawling tension, so much so, that as the story progresses you start to question your own sanity in an effort to sympathize with Lily (Ruth Wilson), a live-in nurse haunted with thoughts of the dead while she cares for a horror novelist suffering from dementia.
Despite its lackluster reviews, some of which called it boring and monotonous, this film actually leaves you with a sense of dread because it lets you question your own belief about ghosts and the history of the house you live in. After all, haunted houses do exist.
Director: Oz Perkins – Screenplay: Oz Perkins – Cast: Ruth Wilson, Lucy Boynton, Paula Prentiss, Erin Boyes, Bob Balaban – Run Time: 1h 27m
This film is not for the faint of heart because it packs gore and thriller in one. Set in 1905 London, the story follows prodigal son Thomas Richardson (Dan Stevens) on a mission to rescue his sister Andrea (Lucy Boynton) from a religious cult who has kidnapped her for ransom. He infiltrates the cult’s community, bears witness to its insane practices, and soon uncovers its dark and evil secret.
The storytelling offers mere twists and suspense in our protagonist’s search for her sister and delves into the supernatural in unraveling the secrecy surrounding the cult’s existence. Outside of the graphic grisly killings, this film falls under the classic cerebral horror genre in that it leaves you with a feeling of looming dread as you watch the hero try his best to not get caught as a non-believer amid the strict confines of the cult’s rules.
Director: Gareth Evans – Screenplay: Gareth Evans – Cast: Dan Stevens, Lucy Boynton, Bill Milner, Michael Sheen, Kristine Froseth – Run Time: 2h 9m
Cam tells the story of Alice (Madeline Brewer), an online sex-worker who goes by the name of Lola. Driven by her desire to be successful and to be at the top of her craft, she resorts to all kinds of methods to up her reputation and has done well so far until she wakes up one morning and sees that someone has hijacked her channel and pretends to be her.
Thus begins Alice’s misery as she watches in horror her doppelganger do things that she would never do and rack up the charts. She turns into a nervous wreck in her need to reclaim her online identity, which as the story seems to tell, is her only means of gaining friends and showing power and control, none of which she has in the outside world.
Director: Daniel Goldhaber – Screenplay: Isa Mazzei – Cast: Madeline Brewer, Devin Druid, Imani Hakim, Imani Hakim, Patch Darragh – Run Time: 1h 34m
Adapted from Stephen King’s novel of the same name, this slow-burning psychological thriller is set in countryside Nebraska and tells the story of murder and its repercussions.
It follows farmer and father Wilf (Thomas Jane) who conspires with his 14-year-old son Henry (Dylan Schmid) to murder his wife in exchange for an idyllic life in the farm as opposed to her desire to leave the village for an urban lifestyle.
Father and son successfully carry out their plan but their crime eventually haunts them in the most brutal way, with Henry having to pay for it first. Wilf, on the other hand, had to endure years of his guilt tormenting him into insanity.
This film draws inspiration from King’s skin-crawling imagery and symbolism to build the suspense and tension (like rats crawling and feasting on corpses).
Director: Zak Hilditch – Screenplay: Zak Hilditch – Cast: Thomas Jane, Dylan Schmid, Molly Parker, Kaitlyn Bernard – Run Time: 1h 41m
The Invitation (2015)
Old friends reunite after two years and meet up for dinner in a Hollywood Hills home. The friends have a good time except for Will (Logan Marshall-Green), who finds something strange in the behavior of his ex-wife (Tammy Blanchard) and her new husband (Michiel Huisman).
Will suspects something sinister is afoot and finds a way to prove it, much to the guests’ dismay, who starts to think that he is way in over his head. The story and piercing tension build as Will’s suspicion grows as the evening wears on.
From the onset, this film gives you that ominous feeling that something bad is about to happen. Moreover, the dark and gloomy atmosphere, add in the Herrmann-esque score, keep the suspense and mystery going until the very end.
Director: Karyn Kusama – Screenplay: Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi – Cast: Logan Marshall-Green, Tammy Blanchard, Michiel Huisman, John Carroll Lynch, Michael Doyle, Michelle Krusiec, Jay Larson, Jordi Vilasuso – Run Time: 1h 40m
10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
The film centers on three people who take refuge in a bunker to escape the dangers of the outside world. Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wakes up after a car accident inside the bunker and learns from Howard (John Goodman) that the air outside is no longer breathable.
The three strive inside but their seemingly safe and comfortable life starts to fall apart when doubts surfaced. Michelle starts to question Howard’s true nature and what she learns drives her desire to escape the bunker.
This claustrophobic, slow-burning thriller hooks you with its intelligent narrative pacing. This film relies on riddles to build up the story and mystery, with breadcrumbs of clues scattered everywhere.
Meanwhile, pops of 1960s tunes give this film a creepy nostalgia. Every tense moment leaves you gripping your seat or clenching your teeth as you watch the heroine scramble her way out to freedom.
Director: Dan Trachtenberg – Screenplay: Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken, Damien Chazelle – Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, John Gallagher Jr. – Run Time: 1h 43m
Shutter Island (2010)
The gore and brutal imagery, superb acting from the cast, the spellbinding mystery, and the intelligent storytelling are more than enough to hook the audience not of the faint of heart right from the start.
The premise is simple: it follows U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) as they investigate the disappearance of a woman from an asylum in a remote island. The narrative intertwines the past with the present to create a background story for each character. As the story progresses, viewers learn the disturbing truth about the investigation in a mindboggling and jaw-dropping revelation.
Director: Martin Scorsese – Screenplay: Laeta Kalogridis – Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer – Run Time: 2h 18m
The Ritual (2017)
College friends Dom, Luke, Phil, and Hutch reunite and decide to hike through the Scandinavian wilderness in honor of their deceased friend Rob, who was supposed to go on the trip with them. The hike goes smoothly until one man injures his leg and they lose their way.
The group sees an abandoned cabin in a forbidden part of the forest. Despite the warning signs they decide to stay in the cabin for the night to seek refuge from the cold. Strange things soon start to happen and each man experiences unimaginable horrors involving an evil entity that stalks and torments them.
This film gives a Blair Witch vibe in that it has just the right amount of horror and suspense and mixes the supernatural to tell a story about guilt, friendship, and redemption.
Director: David Bruckner – Screenplay: Joe Barton – Cast: Rafe Spall, Rob James‑Collier, Arshner Ali, Sam Troughton, Paul Reid – Run Time: 1h 34m
Gone Girl (2014)
This movie adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s 2012 novel of the same title investigates the disappearance of poster wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) and her husband, Nick (Ben Affleck), is the prime suspect. The film flashes back between the past and the present to tell a story and reveal the kind of life the couple lived.
This film basically paints a picture of a desperate wife who would go through great lengths, including murder, to save her marriage, even to the detriment of her husband and the people involved.
Director: David Fincher – Screenplay: Gillian Flynn – Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Emi – Run Time: 1h 29m
Super Dark Times (2017)
This film shows how friends can drift apart in the aftermath of a tragic accident that leaves everyone involved in a state of paranoia. It follows long-time friends Josh (Charlie Tahan) and Zach (Owen Campbell) and the internal struggles they have to cope up with after they covered up the death of a school friend.
The storytelling starts out slow and gets interesting near the middle only to tone down again to the point that it becomes slightly dreary. The build-up to the intense part comes quickly and ends abruptly. It surprisingly turns into a slasher flick at the end.
Regardless of its highs and lows, this film is spot-on in its depiction of boys’ coming-of-age and the internal conflict people face in times of trouble.
Director: Kevin Phillips – Screenplay: Luke Piotrowski, Ben Collins – Cast: Charlie Tahan, Elizabeth Cappuccino, Owen Campbell, Amy Hargreaves, Max Talisman, Sawyer Barth – Run Time: 1h 43m
The Invisible Guest/Contratiempo (2016)
Spanish businessman Adrian Doria (Mario Casas) is out on bail for the murder of his married lover Laura (Barbara Lennie) and enlists the help of famous lawyer Virginia Goodman (Ana Wagener) to clear his name. In the course of one night, he works with the attorney and walks her through the events that led to the murder, which in turn unraveled another dark secret.
This film uses flashbacks to tell a gripping and nail-biting mystery about how one wrong decision and a lie can bring about a tragedy.
Director: Oriol Paulo – Screenplay: Oriol Paulo, Lara Sendim – Cast: Mario Casas, Bárbara Lennie, Ana Wagener, San Yélamos – Run Time: 1h 46m
Black Swan (2010)
The film follows Nina (Natalie Portman), a young ballerina who is driven by her desire for perfection at the expense of her sanity. She faces a tough competition in Lily (Mila Kunis), whom she also develops a twisted friendship.
As their rivalry continues, Nina starts to battle with her inner self, thus highlights the conflict of good and evil within herself. This film packs symbolism and tackles conversations about mental health through dark yet gloriously intelligent storytelling.
Director: Darren Aronofsky – Screenplay: Andres Heinz, Mark Heyman, John J. McLaughlin – Cast: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Winona Ryder, Vincent Cassel, Benjamin Millepied, Sebastian Stan – Run Time: 1h 48m
It Follows (2014)
This entry to the Cannes Film Festival follows 19-year-old Annie (Maika Monroe), whose sexual encounter with her boyfriend Hugh (Jake Weary) leaves her in a state of paranoia. Hugh confessed that he passed down to her something evil when they had sex and that only she can see this entity.
She must now pass this curse of sorts to the next person she sleeps with or endure being haunted by the supernatural phenomenon forever. Annie must outsmart this stalker if she wants to end the curse.
It Follows is a heart-pounding horror film that leaves you with a feeling of dread afterward. After all, the idea of an unseen evil stalker or the fear of the unknown is enough to keep you looking behind your back. But what the film really is about is beyond the scope of the supernatural since it deals with the repercussions of teen sex and the horrors of sexually transmitted diseases.
Director: David Robert Mitchell – Screenplay: David Robert Mitchell – Cast: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Olivia Luccardi, Jake Weary, Lili Sepe – Run Time: 1h 34m
The Bar/El Bar (2017)
Set in Madrid, the film follows a group of different people trapped inside a bar after an unknown sniper starts shooting at random people on the street. The panic and tension build as they start to turn against each other after they realized that one of them is responsible.
Secrets start to unravel as the characters involved question each other’s motives. This premise has been done before– trap random strangers inside an enclosed space where doubts run high for the sake of survival.
However, this film also uses dark humor to hook viewers to their seats and watch as the mystery unfolds. It challenges your instincts and changes your thoughts repeatedly as each character presents a new twist to the story until you just have to give up and wait for the truth to unfold.
Director: Alex De La Iglesia – Screenplay: Álex de la Iglesia, Jorge Guerricaechevarría – Cast: Mario Casas, Blanca Suárez, Jaime Ordóñez, Carmen Machi, Terele Pávez, Alejandro Awada, Secun de la Rosa – Run Time: 1h 42m
Adam Bell is a history professor who lives a rather dull life and follows a monotonous routine. However, his quiet life is upended when he spots a film cameo actor who looks exactly like him. He becomes obsessed with finding the truth about his doppelgänger’s identity, ultimately meeting his pregnant wife and the man himself.
Their meeting sets in motion a series of events that have dire consequences. Their lives become intertwined but not in a joyous way as they become infatuated with each other’s lives.
This movie is clearly not for everyone as it is an art film and likely going to please those who want to have their brains teased. Enemy contains symbolism and parables to complement the storytelling and provide hints.
The tension in this film is piercing from the moment Adam starts his desperate search for his lookalike to the culminating scenes. This movie is dark and gives you a subliminal cinematic experience that deserves not just one but several viewings, to help make you better understand the meaning behind the symbols and figure out the story itself.
Director: Denis Villeneuve – Screenplay: Javier Gullón – Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon, Isabella Rossellini – Run Time: 1h 31m
Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)
Jake Gyllenhaal stars in this satire of the art world as Morf Vandewalt, a bisexual art critic lured into the mystery behind the sudden inexplicable deaths of his colleagues.
A supernatural force targets those involved in the marketing of a few precious paintings from a mysterious deceased artist. Those who try to cash in on his works meet their grim demise in a not-so-subtle way.
Morf takes it upon himself to dig into the man’s past to discover the truth. He puts his very life on the line in his search for answers.
This film from the same director who gave the beautifully unnerving Nightcrawler is a strange hybrid of horror, dark comedy, and psychological thriller. It also packs gore yet it’s written smartly. The underlying message clearly imparts a clear analogy of today’s culturally shallow society, one that’s filled with rich superficial people.
The only obvious downside in the storytelling is that there’s no character development since they are easily and quickly dispensed of. You don’t get to invest time and emotion in the characters’ backstory. Instead, you anticipate who meets their end next and wonder how they go about it.
Director: Dan Gilroy – Screenplay: Dan Gilroy – Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Zawe Ashton, Toni Collette, John Malkovich, Natalia Dyer –Run Time: 1h 53m
The Sixth Sense (1999)
This is one of the all-time favorites when it comes to horror with a mix of the psychological thriller. The story follows a young boy who seeks a therapist’s help regarding his secret: he can see ghosts or dead people in their various states of decomposition. They see him because they either want help with some unfinished business or just want to scare the heck out of the kid.
M. Night Shyamalan is a master when it comes to cerebral horror, one which he mixes in casually and fluidly in The Sixth Sense. The film goes beyond what you would initially think as a simple horror story with lots of jumpscares and hair-raising moments.
The story is intriguing and keeps the audience enthralled from start to finish. The characters are effective and affective in showing the real essence of what it means to be human.
Best of all, this film has a completely unexpected twist and a climax that leaves you questioning everything you just saw. You’d probably want to watch it again just to see where you missed out on the important hints.
Director: M. Night Shyamalan – Screenplay: M. Night Shyamalan – Cast: Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Collette, Olivia Williams, Donnie Wahlberg – Run Time: 1h 47m
The Good Neighbor (2016)
A pair of mischievous teenagers try to prank their old neighbor into believing that his house is haunted. They create the perfect illusion (a doorbell ringing, broken door back in working order, etc…) all the while keeping his reaction under camera surveillance.
However, they get more than they bargained for when they witness things they should not see. What begins as a harmless prank eventually leads to a series of coincidences that inevitably ends in tragedy.
The Good Neighbor is labeled under the horror genre in Netflix but it’s actually more of a psychological thriller with loads of tension and suspense. The ending leaves you speechless and absolutely emotional wreck. You just never know what to expect.
This film is also “art” and akin to a social film because it explores the reality of the dangers of pranking, despite its ability to give momentary fun and laughter. It has a simple story but has a powerful message. After you spend time watching The Good Neighbor, you might want to stop and think twice when you feel the urge to prank anyone for anything, because you just never know what will happen next.
Director: Kasra Farahani – Screenplay: Mark Bianculli, Jeff Richard – Cast: James Caan, Logan Miller, Keir Gilchrist – Run Time: 1h 38m