The Best Psychological Thrillers On Netflix

It’s movie night. Sometimes, you want to bawl about thwarted love over a bowl of popcorn. Other times, you want to laugh so hard you spill the popcorn. And then there are nights when you want an adrenaline rush so severe, you lose your appetite for popcorn.

In those instances, you must call upon the psychological thriller genre to sate your craving for mind-blowing twists, unreliable narrators, and intelligent scares. Unlike normal thrillers, films in the “psychological thriller” category don’t rely on cheap tricks and jump shots to get under the viewer’s skin. Instead, they use protagonists’ unstable mental states as a landscape for twists and turns. Characters’ crumbling senses of reality make for topsy-turvy, intriguing worlds.

Have we convinced you to abandon your Friday night plans and succumb to the unstable mental states of movie characters? Prepare to get “Inceptioned” with each of these Netflix movies.

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Cube (1997)

A group of strangers wakes up inside a cube structure, without knowing how or why they got there. Seemingly, there's no way out but through. The strangers proceed through other cube-like rooms, some with fatal booby traps. This is more a thriller, but it's interesting to see the psychological effects such a terrible, Kafka-esque situation has on people.
The Sixth Sense (1999)

Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) sees dead people. What's your special talent? The only person Cole confides in is his child psychologist, Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis). If this movie has already been spoiled for you, then you know that their relationship isn't quite that simple. If this movie hasn't been spoiled for you, watch it quickly, before it inevitably is.
Dementia (2015)

George (Gene Jones), a Vietnam vet, has a stroke and is diagnosed with dementia. As a result of his new condition, the hospital sends him a nurse (Kristina Klebe). She seems nice at first. Then, she starts exerting her total control over him in horrifying ways — and no one can stop it.
The Perfect Host (2010)

After robbing a bank, John Taylor (Clayne Crawford) is on the run from the cops. Claiming that he was mugged, John manages to be let into a stranger named Warwick's (David Hyde Pierce) house. But Warwick isn't who he seems to be. He drugs John, and keeps him as a plaything for the duration of a wild party he's hosting that evening. Warwick's parties are legendary for their peculiar forms of entertainment, and John's on the wrong side of it.
Backtrack (2015)

Backtrack is the psychologist's version of The Sixth Sense. In this movie, Peter Bower (Adrien Brody) is a psychologist who finds out his patients are all actually ghosts. How does one proceed from that kind of discovery? Peter realizes that all of his patients had died within a day of each other — and he might have had something to do with it.
I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016)

Time and time again, we see perfectly friendly people devolve when put in an isolated, creaky house for too long. Somehow, these stories work even more effectively when the stories are set in the Victorian era and individuals are wearing pouffy gowns. In this creepy tale, told in a mind-bending circular fashion, a nurse Lily (Ruth Wilson) moves into an old house to take care of a reclusive novelist — and soon finds they're not alone.
They Look Like People (2015)

But are they people? That's the question our unstable protagonist, Wyatt (MacLeod Andrews), wrestles with after he receives calls detailing the impending apocalypse by way of demon invasion. As the voices become more insistent, Wyatt is sure spawn are going to take over the world. If his visions are real, should he help save his friend, who's dating the locus of all evil? Or are his visions unfounded, and should Christian (Evan Dumouchel) be saving Wyatt?
Funny Games (2007)

To be honest, this disturbing movie is really a horror film laced with the qualities of a psychological thriller. The gist is simple: a family vacation is disrupted by two sadistic men, who decide to play some games. They are not funny.
Laura (1944)

Detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) is assigned to investigate the murder of a beautiful, successful, and popular ad exec, Laura Hunt. As he continues to delve deeper into Laura's legacy, McPherseon develops an eerily strong emotional attachment to Laura.
The Two Faces of January (2014)

In 1962, a tour guide (Oscar Isaac) in Greece becomes enamored with his wealthy clients' luxurious lifestyle. After the man in the couple, Chester McFarland (Viggo Mortenson), kills a detective searching for him, the tour guide is pulled in too deep to escape from their world of luxury and danger.
The Prestige (2006)

Two magicians — played by Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale — try to figure out each other's tricks in this dark Christopher Nolan drama. These guys are the Criss Angels of the 19th Century, and it's awesome. In the process of messing with each other's heads, they'll mess with yours.
Memento (2001)

When Leonard Pierce wakes up, he can only remember one thing: That he can't remember a thing at all.

The ultimate psychological thriller, Memento is about an amnesic man on a mission to track down the man who killed his wife. With extreme short-term memory loss, Leonard gets important clues and mementos tattooed. As if a mystery solved by an amnesiac weren't confusing enough, Memento is told with two storylines: One that goes forward in time, and the other backwards.
Basic Instinct (1992)

If Detective Nick Curran (Michael Douglas) were really committed to solving who killed a famous rock star, he probably wouldn’t be sleeping with the case’s prime suspect. But how can he resist the rock star’s ex-girlfriend, the crime novelist Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone). Tension from the cat-and-mouse game turned love-affair continues throughout the movie. You’ll be strung out on suspense and sexual tension by the time the violent film’s over.
The Shining (1980)

There are good ideas, like eating ice cream. And there are bad ideas, like moving your family to a Colorado ski hotel cut off from the world in the winter season. Of The Shining’s many scares, which are born from the mind of Jack Torrance, and which are products of the hotel’s supernatural sheen? Proceed to room 237 your own risk.
Queen Of Earth (2015)

For the second year in a row, two childhood friends retreat to a lake house a few miles outside of New York City. But in the week that ensues, Catherine and Virginia realize their differences run deep. Following the death of her father, a famous painter, Catherine’s fragile and on the brink of insanity. The rural setting unleashes her inner demons.
We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011)

Try as she might, Eva (Tilda Swinton) has never gotten along with her firstborn son, Kevin (Ezra Miller). And in this gripping drama with a shocking event at its core, we soon find out why. Through exploring Eva and Kevin’s 15-year relationship, the movie brings up uncomfortable questions of nature and nurture. Can Eva be blamed for her son’s horrific actions? Can a person be born evil?
The Babadook (2014)

Books are known to unleash new worlds. In The Babadook, books also unleash monsters. In this terrifying Australian film, a troubled widow discovers her son might be telling the truth when he says the mysterious book on their doorstep welcomed a monster into their dark house. As with all good psychological thrillers, The Babadook keeps the audience guessing over how much is reality and how much is imagined.
Rear Window (1954)

All of these psychological thrillers have Hitchcock to thank for pioneering the genre of character-driven instability. In Rear Window, a wheelchair-bound photographer spies on his neighbors — and becomes convinced that one committed a murder. To be taken seriously, Jeff Jeffries has to convince his girlfriend, a nurse, and and the police that he isn’t making these claims up. It’s been over 50 years since Rear Window was made, but we doubt whether there’s been a film as suspenseful since.
Sun Choke (2015)

In this drawn-out character study, Janie is trapped under the stifling care and wellness regimen of her nanny and caretaker. After Janie seems a bit better, Irma relaxes her grip and lets Janie out of the house. That’s when Janie meets — and becomes obsessed with — Savannah, a charismatic stranger. But the appeal of Sun Choke isn’t in the narrative. Rather, it’s in the disorienting editing, pervasive mood, and character development that builds throughout the film.
The Invitation (2015)

Will hasn’t seen his ex-wife Eden in years, especially since she spent the last few years traipsing around Mexico. Out of the blue, Will receives an ornate invitation for a dinner party intended to reunite Will and Eden's old friend group. He goes reluctantly.

While the festivities proceed in the beautiful California mansion, Will can’t shake the feeling that there’s something sinister at this dinner party, no matter how normally everyone else is acting.
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