The 25 best thriller movies to send a shiver down your spine

Leonardo DiCaprio as Trooper William "Billy" Costigan Jr. undercover and sneaking next to a wall during a scene in The Departed.
(Image credit: Warner Bros)

Only the most hardened of film fans can brave the best thriller movies of all time. No other genre can make your hands grip the armrest, stiffen your back, and cause you to feel uncomfortably sweaty with tension. 

However, be it upcoming movies or classic picks; we can all agree that it’s tricky to determine the makings of a great thriller movie. Thrillers are another genre that lends itself to any scenario. The car chases link to the best action movies, the gritty encounters shock us like horrors do, and the classic whodunnit setups are all the best crime movies' bread and butter. 

But, whatever the concept, you can guarantee your nerves will shake by the end. And, while it's a tough category to nail down, we've gathered our top picks for the 25 best thriller movies you can watch right now. This lot will keep you glued to the screen and on the edge of your seat!

25. Prisoners 

Jake Gyllenhaal as Detective Loki in Prisoners, sitting in a kitchen with a worried expression on his face.

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

Year: 2013
Director: Denis Villeneuve 

As you’d expect from the director of Sicario and Blade Runner 2049, Prisoners is a film with lots of things to say. At face value, it’s a desperately bleak American crime story which taps into every parent’s fears about the responsibility of guardianship in an increasingly tumultuous world. However, while it starts like a typical thriller movie, Prisoners quickly takes several turns into the unexpected, leaving you overwhelmed within its muddied maze of suburban disturbia. 

Hugh Jackman’s antihero Keller is at the core of Prisoner’s murky morality, and there’s a powerful allegory about America’s relationship with terrorism in there. At the same time, Jake Gyllenhaal’s cop attempts to solve a kidnapping are equally entertaining, thanks to Prisoner’s brooding atmosphere, brought to life by Denis Villeneuve’s direction and Roger A. Deakins’ award-winning cinematography. It’s not an easy-going watch, but it’s an entirely compelling one from start to finish.

Read our Prisoners review for more details.

 24. Misery

Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes shaving James Caan while he is lying in bed in the '90s movie Misery

(Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

Year: 1990
Director: Rob Reiner 

Stephen King is typically known as the King of Horror, but Misery quietly tiptoes straight into thriller territory. This isn't a blood n' guts story, but a truly chilling look into the world of obsessive fandom - of which King knew a thing or two at the time he penned the original book. James Caan plays Paul Sheldon, a famous writer rescued from a snowy car crash by his number one fan: Kathy Bates' Annie Wilkes. 

As an author chained to his best-selling series of melodrama novels that Annie just loves, his desperate need to create something fresh doesn't go over well with her. Annie's off her rocker and thinks nothing of a light spot of hobbling before dinner. Her brutishness is shockingly convincing, thanks to director Rob Reiner's spot-on editing. Each scene is crafted to squeeze every bit of tension from Paul's imprisoned scenario. The film is also one of Stephen King’s favourite stories, so it’s a must-watch! 

 23. Nightcrawler

Jake Gyllenhaal as Louis Bloom holding a flashlight and crouching next to a car at night in the thriller movie Nightcrawler.

(Image credit: Entertainment One)

Year: 2014
Director: Dan Gilroy 

People tend to die a lot in thriller movies, usually as the result of a tense shootout or horrific murder. But what happens in the aftermath of the chaos? Nightcrawler poses that unconventional question before slowly peeling back the answer with a story that’s just as cynical and bone-crawling as any other L.A. Noire thriller. 

Jake Gyllenhaal’s Lou Bloom is the post-modern reincarnation of Travis Bickle, who will stop at nothing to achieve his demented concept of success. Unlike Bickle, though, Bloom gets what he wants by documenting American carnage rather than initiating it and selling the footage to any broadcasters willing to buy it. It sounds twisted, but Nightcrawler has one foot firmly placed in reality, satirising a warped industry that glamorises the public’s fascination with violence. The film’s real power lies in the biting commentary it leaves behind, designed to fester in your mind long after watching it.

Read our Nightcrawler review for more insight into Gyllenhaal’s adventures.

 22. Shutter Island

Leonardo DiCaprio as Edward "Teddy" Daniels and Mark Ruffalo as Chuck Aule walking in a prison in the thriller movie Shutter Island

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Year: 2010 
Director: Martin Scorsese

Leonardo DiCaprio’s mission to snag an Oscar started decades back, but before The Revenant earned him that golden doorstop, he delivered an awards-worthy turn in Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island. The film starts simply enough, with DiCaprio's US Marshal Teddy Daniels assigned to a sinister case at an asylum on a distant, foggy isle. Along with his new partner, Chuck, played by Mark Ruffalo (AKA The Hulk), Teddy investigates a missing persons case at the Ashecliffe Institute.  

What follows is one of Scorsese's most surprising works, packed with a twist-tastic ending that he'd previously shown little interest towards in his earlier films. That's partly down to the source material, as Dennis Lehane's novel springs to life in the creepiest of ways. The whole film is peppered with little hints here and there to make you question what the hell is happening, right along with DiCaprio. If you are after more from one of the best directors around, you can read our ranking of the best Martin Scorsese movies.

Read our Shutter Island review to learn more, if you dare.

21. Ex Machina

Alicia Vikander as the robot Ava in the movie Ex Machina touching a fake human face hanging on a white wall.

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Year: 2014 
Director: Alex Garland 

Ex Machina’s themes around artificial intelligence and what it means to be human are hardly new. But, director Alex Garland explores them within a deeply intimate and often disturbing setting, electrified by the performances of his three leads. Oscar Isaac plays the tech giant with a shaky moral code, Domhnall Gleeson is the lucky employee who gets to spend a week at his home, and Alicia Vikander dazzles as the former’s latest invention, a fully self-conscious humanoid robot.

As that synopsis suggests, Ex Machina’s got a deeply Black Mirror vibe, not afraid to dwell on the dark recesses of our fascination with technology and the dangers of playing God. As a thriller, it’s a slow burner, but the payoff for the intrepid viewer is a gleefully bleak curtain closer that’s about as dark as you’d imagine from Garland’s first directorial effort. A great thriller movie likes to keep its audience paranoid, but Ex Machina excels as a parable that’ll make you more paranoid about the world you’re living in than the one you just saw on screen. 

Still undecided? Well, read our Ex Machina review to change your mind!

20. Insomnia

Al Pacino as Will Dormer pushing Robin Williams as Walter Finch against a wall in the thriller movie Insomnia.

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

Year: 2002 
Director: Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan has made some of the best movies of all time, but one of his smartest filmmaking decisions was to cast Robin Williams and play him against type in Insomnia. It was a gambit that paid off hugely for the 2000s movie, which brought a host of new twists to the classic crime thriller template of cop versus crook. After accidentally killing his partner during a work trip, Al Pacino’s cop is haunted by guilt, unable to sleep, as he tries to hunt down Williams’ deceptively charismatic fugitive. 

The movie’s frequent comparisons to a modern-day Sleepy Hollow aren’t just a poor attempt at wordplay. Insomnia is a slow, sedated thriller dressed up in a hypnotic atmosphere of mystery. Nolan’s eerie images are a poetic reflection of Al Pacino’s increasingly hallucinatory state as he loses more hours of precious snooze time. But you’ll be far from sleepy as you watch the drama progress, instead left wide-eyed with fascination at Williams’ uncanny performance.

19. The Game

Sean Penn as Conrad "Connie" Van Orton holding up a shirt in the middle of a crowded room in the movie The Game

(Image credit: PolyGram Films)

Year: 1997 
Director: David Fincher

Michael Douglas' entire resume, when it comes to starring in the best ‘90s movies, is playing guys pissed at the status quo. In Falling Down, he chooses to riot his way through Los Angeles, whereas in The Game, he chooses to say 'yes' to new experiences. It's something he regrets, obviously. David Fincher follows up Seven with another sting-in-the-tail thriller movie about businessman Nicholas Van Orton. Bored with his vast wealth and fearful that he may turn into his father, he longs for change, so his brother Conrad (Sean Penn) gives him a voucher for a game as a birthday gift. 

It's baffling that the movie didn't do better in theatres despite a strong critical response. This is a straightforward set-up with a twist you should see coming. Heck, it's told to us often enough throughout the film, but that's the genius of Fincher, managing to construct an atmosphere of paranoia that's truly gripping.

18. Black Swan

Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers wearing a white ballet costume and standing in a pick room during the thriller movie Black Swan.

(Image credit: Searchlight Pictures)

Year: 2010
Director: Darren Aronofsky

From the first trailer for Darren Aronofsky's twisted ballet tale, it was clear that Black Swan wasn't an arthouse drama about the perils of doing a perfect plié. That one shot of Natalie Portman's ballet dancer turning around to face herself in the mirror, a messed-up impossibility, saw to that.  

The Requiem for a Dream director brings his same sharp, visual style to a story of artistic obsession that follows Portman's Nina, a hard-working perfectionist who aches for the lead in Swan Lake. That's no easy feat because if she's not battling her unhinged mom (think Carrie's mother but about a million times worse) or the sexual advances of her colleagues, she's facing a monstrous transformation. But then again, all those doppelgangers leering at her from surfaces and dark tunnels could just be hallucinations. It's not clear to Nina or to us what's real. 

Dance your way over to our Black Swan review for all the shocking details.

17. Green Room

Imogen Poots as Amber staring forward while standing in a room with green lighting during the film Green Room.

(Image credit: Picturehouse Entertainment)

Year: 2015
Director: Jeremy Saulnier

Green Room wants to candidly remind you just how scary Nazis can be. Not just ideologically but as human beings, too. Told from the perspective of a punk band who find themselves surrounded by bloodthirsty white nationalists at a skinhead bar, it’s a thriller movie where tension and dread cake the very atmosphere of every horrifying scene. Jeremy Saulnier proved he could meld black comedy, horror, and graphic violence together with 2013’s Blue Ruin, but these elements are all turned up to 11 here, to nauseating results. 

Be warned, this isn’t a film for the faint of heart, as Green Room sucks you in and violently throws you around before brazenly spitting you back out, emotionally drained by the events that just unfolded on screen. And then there’s Patrick Stewart, providing his soft-spoken tones as the neo-Nazi’s insidious ringleader. If the intense violence and unflinching focus aren’t making your heart thump at the rate of a giddy hummingbird, then his malicious whispers will be getting right under your skin. 

16. Oldboy

Choi Min-sik as Oh Dae-su staring forward and holding a yellow monkey wrench above his head in the movie Oldboy.

(Image credit: Arrow Films)

Year: 2003
Director: Park Chan-Wook

If you've yet to experience the mind-bending wonder of Park Chan-Wook's Oldboy, immediately get this on your watchlist. The middle chapter of his revenge trilogy put the Korean filmmaker's name into the spotlight, and is now a firm cult favourite, even spawning an inferior Hollywood remake a few years back. 

Nothing quite prepares businessman Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) for the events that follow a drunken night out. Tossed in jail, he calls his buddy to bail him out and is then kidnapped for 15 years. The entire time, he's left to stew in a tiny hotel room until he's mysteriously set free and given five days to track down his captor or suffer the consequences. This isn't just a whodunnit; it's a whydunnit. Dae-su's journey is a bloody, thrilling affair, full of plot twists and reveals that are jaw-dropping. It's David Lynch tossed into a blender with Quentin Tarantino. 

Read our Oldboy review to learn more about one of the best Korean movies ever made. 

15. Zodiac

Jake Gyllenhaal as Robert Graysmith and Robert Downey Jr. as Paul Avery reading over a document in the movie Zodiac.

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

Year: 2007 
Director: David Fincher

If you’ve seen a lot of whodunnits, you probably know what to expect by now. The troubled but brilliant detective puts everything on the line in pursuit of an elusive killer, but they always manage to catch the guy in the end. Every question is answered, every loose thread tied. Not so in Zodiac. As a thriller movie based on the true story of Northern California’s Zodiac Killer, it’s a film which delights in the unexplainable ambiguities of the real world. 

Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., and the rest of the San Francisco Chronicle spend years trying to track down their serial murderer, but - faithful to the real case - nothing ever comes of their efforts. There are suspects and leads, but no one is able to offer a definitive answer, and the film doesn’t even wish to lean one way or the other on any particular theory about the fugitive’s true identity. Zodiac works as a mystery thriller because it indulges in the thrills of its own mystery.

Investigate the case by checking out our Zodiac review.

14. No Country for Old Men

Javier Bardem as the hitman Anton Chigurh standing next to a tan sheriff car in the movie No Country for Old Men.

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Year: 2007
Director: Ethan Coen and Joel Coen

Dressing a thriller up in the garb of the modern Western isn’t new, but something interesting was always going to happen with that archetype when you have the Coen brothers involved. And No Country for Old Men is definitely interesting. Better yet, as a thriller, it’s downright invigorating. Right from its opening moments, the multi-tiered plot roars into gear, refusing to slow down for a single minute of its two-hour runtime. 

Structurally, it’s a film founded on old-school sentiments, with good guys (Tommy Lee Jones’ exasperated lawman) and bad guys (Javier Bardem, in a show-stopping turn as a creepy hitman), but the Coens paint shades of grey into every scene, suggesting that the glory days of the Wild West are long gone. Entire dissertations have been written on the socio-political commentary running beneath the surface of the Coen’s modern masterpiece, but the good news is that, even when enjoying it at face value, No Country for Old Men remains a joyride of a thriller.

Read our No Country for Old Men review and find out why it’s one of the best Western movies ever made. 

13. The Birds

Suzanne Pleshette as Annie Hayworth holding two children's hands as she is running from a flock of crows in the movie The Birds.

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Year: 1963 
Director: Alfred Hitchcock 

Trust Hitchcock to turn a movie about angry birds into one of the best thrillers of all time. We still don’t know why Bodega Bay’s avian inhabitants become increasingly bloodthirsty throughout the course of the director’s last great movie, and, while plenty of elaborate theories about the film’s subtext are out there, the absence of explanation is what maintains the sheer exhilaration of it all. The audience is as confused and surprised as the rest of Bodega Bay about what’s going on, meaning each cascading bird attack becomes more traumatising and exhausting.  

It’s over 50 years old, but The Birds is still as delightfully scary and nerve-wracking as it was when it first riled audiences back in 1963. You can almost hear Hitchcock giggling with delight in the background as the bubbling pot of tension slowly boils over before fizzing out into full-blown feathery mayhem. 

12. The Departed 

Leonardo DiCaprio as Trooper William "Billy" Costigan Jr. speaking into a cell phone with an angry expression during a scene in The Departed.

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

Year: 2006 
Director: Martin Scorsese

How many stars can you pack into one movie? Martin Scorsese's remake of Infernal Affairs has got 'em all, and they're mostly playing against type in this complex story of deceit in the criminal underworld. This is one of those rare occasions when the remake is just as good as the original movie. 

The whole of The Departed is played out via a simultaneous double cross: Leonardo DiCaprio's cop goes undercover with the mob, while Matt Damon's gangster infiltrates the NYPD. That scenario will never end well, especially with a huge cast of supporting characters on the sting - Jack Nicholson, Vera Farmiga, and Alec Baldwin, to name a few. But that's half of the thrill here. Scorsese drops in several visual clues about future events, letting them fester in your subconscious, but reworks some of the main twists to keep it fresh for purists.  

Avoid working with rats; read our The Departed review instead. 

11. The Usual Suspects

Benicio del Toro as Fred Fenster smiling during the line-up in the movie The Usual Suspects.

(Image credit: Rank Film Distributors)

Year: 1995
Director: Bryan Singer

A contemporary classic that arrived slap bang in the middle of the twist-obsessed '90s, The Usual Suspects brought director Bryan Singer and screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie acclaim for their fresh spin on the tired gangster genre. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, in which case, Singer and McQuarrie should be overwhelmed with it: this film's influence can still be felt in cinema to this very day. It's unlike any other movie of its time, completely confident in going out of the box with the way its story is delivered.  

If you've never seen the movie, there’s one WTF twist in the last act that's only effective if you don't know about it beforehand. Yes, it's super cool, and it's the thing that people normally talk about with the film. But don't forget that it wouldn't be so bracing if we weren't so in love with Singer's bunch of crazy crooks in the first place.

10. Rear Window

James Stewart as L. B. "Jeff" Jefferies holding a massive camera to his face in the thriller movie Rear Window

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Year: 1954
Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Hitchcock's simmering thriller, Rear Window, will make you think twice about being a nosey neighbour. James Stewart plays wheelchair-bound photographer LB Jeffries, who passes the time armed with a pair of binoculars and a healthy disrespect for other people's privacy (If this were made today, he'd be streaming live to TikTok). It’s not long before Jeffries takes an interest in his neighbour Lars Thorwalk, who he suspects has murdered his wife. 

Much has been said about Hitchcock exposing how we view cinema and how we're all voyeurs, and it's absolutely true. The reason we're sucked into Jeffries' obsession with Thorwald is because, hell, we saw the same thing he did through that window. We want to know if he did kill his wife or if it's all in Jeffries' mind. Stewart's great as the lead, but hats off to Grace Kelly as his girlfriend. It's she who's tasked with breaking into Thorwald's apartment and having a good old snoop around...right as he's coming home. Nerve-shredding stuff. 

For more juicy details, read our Rear Window review.

9. Fatal Attraction

Michael Douglas as Dan Gallagher and Glenn Close as Alex Forrest sitting together on a brown leather couch in the thriller movie Fatal Attraction.

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Year: 1987 
Director: Adrian Lyne

Fatal Attraction introduced the term 'bunny boiler' into the cultural conversation, acting as a shorthand for Glenn Close’s scorned lover turned vengeful stalker. Loads of subsequent movies latched onto that concept, but none made you feel sympathy for a womaniser quite like this late '80s thriller. Seriously, Michael Douglas is a total sleaze, embarking on an extramarital affair with Glenn Close's Alex Forrest. He soon learns he probably shouldn't have done that when she threatens him and his family. 

Director Adrien Lyne pulls a menacing performance from Close that makes an impact thanks to some truly great editing. The scene when his cute-as-a-button daughter Ellen runs toward her rabbit cage is cut together with a shot inside the house of his wife Beth approaching a boiling pot she never put on the stove. It's superb. It's heartbreaking, too, because his family is so lovely, and watching their terror is just plain awful. 

8. Heat

Robert De Niro as Neil McCauley sitting in a restaurant during the '90s thriller movie Heat.

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

Year: 1995
Director: Michael Mann

Michael Mann and Los Angeles were made for each other. In no other director’s films can you find such a harmonious confluence of setting and story, and his seminal masterpiece, Heat, remains the best example of this yet. The thrills of this crime thriller are just as palpable in the slow, brooding scenes as they are in the high-octane gunfights between the Pacino-led LAPD and Robert De Niro’s merry band of crooks. 

Your heart will race during the film’s famous bank robbery shootout, but it’s the restaurant scene shared intimately between Pacino and De Niro that’ll really send jitters down your spine. It’s rare for a thriller to rely so heavily on its dialogue to elicit such electricity, but given the calibre of the talent behind and in front of the camera, Heat easily pulls it off. Oh, and Val Kilmer has never been better. The good news is that Heat 2 may also be on the way if you’re a fan of sequels. 

7. Memento

Guy Pearce as Leonard Shelby covered in tattoos and reading a note at a table shirtless in the thriller movie Memento.

(Image credit: Pathé Distribution)

Year: 2000
Director: Christopher Nolan

Memento was the film that first showed the world what Christopher Nolan was made of, as the director contorts a heart-wrenching tale of loss into a twisted game of cat-n-mouse featuring Guy Pearce's Leonard Shelby at its heart. Shelby isn't your ordinary hero. After the brutal murder of his wife, he vows to track down her killer. The only snag? He's now suffering from short-term amnesia and is surrounded by people he's not entirely sure he can trust. He inks his body with tattoos and takes countless Polaroids to guide him on his journey.

Storywise, that's an interesting concept, and plot-wise, it's flat-out mind-boggling because the entire film is told backwards. But Nolan's not one for taking the easy route, and it's a gamble here that pays off, making the final reveal land with a weightier punch than if he'd taken the traditional narrative path. Honestly, there is a reason why Memento is always at the top of every ranking of the best Christopher Nolan movies.

Don’t be like Shelby and forget to check out our Memento review.

6. Mulholland Dr.

Naomi Watts and Laura Harring staring up at the sky in the thriller movie Mulholland Drive.

(Image credit: Pathé Distribution)

Year: 2001
Director: David Lynch

Mulholland Dr. was originally a pilot for David Lynch's return to TV. Funding fell out, and he opted to reshoot and resculpt that footage into a hallucinatory, fever dream feature. It's a cautionary tale about the perils of stardom told through the eyes of Naomi Watts' ingénue, Betty Elms, who arrives in Hollywood and is immediately thrown into a bizarre amnesiac mystery.  

Lynch is the master of disjointed narratives that don't obey the rules of your conventional Hollywood thriller movie. Each time you watch, there's another clue, a new piece to the puzzle, that then also changes with every subsequent viewing. Nothing stays fixed in Lynch's City of Angels. That's what makes Mulholland Dr. a stand-out in modern cinema; there's no explaining why your heart is racing during a simple shot of a couple of guys chatting in a diner or when a cowboy passes through the back of a room, seemingly undetected. But you know it in your gut; something is wrong. Something bad is happening.  

You can deep dive into all the surreal thrills by reading our Mulholland Dr. review.

5. North by Northwest

Cary Grant as Roger Thornhill running ahead of an aeroplane in the movie North by Northwest.

(Image credit: MGM)

Year: 1959
Director: Alfred Hitchcock

A crazy sequence on a revered US monument, an even crazier sequence involving a crop duster plane... It’s fair to say that Hitchcock went BIG on North by Northwest. Unlike his earlier thriller movies, which made recognisable, everyday locations genuinely scary, this is the equivalent of his Mission Impossible. It's still undoubtedly Hitchcock, though, with a puzzling mystery pushing forward the plot: who is Cary Grant? 

Roger Thornhill is an advertising exec happily going about his life until a case of mistaken identity finds him getting chased across the US by a shady organisation that believes he is a spy. The look of confusion on Grant's face throughout the film isn't entirely because of his superb acting skills, though - he genuinely had no clue what was happening in the movie. "We've already done a third of the picture, and I still can't make head or tail of it!” he told Hitchcock. The director decided Grant's predicament would make his character more convincing on screen, so he kept him in the dark.

4. Psycho

Vera Miles as Lila Crane screaming while in the shower during a scene in the movie Psycho.

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Year: 1960
Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Hitchcock carved out his own special place within cinema as the master of suspense. Released only a year after North by Northwest, Psycho saw him go in a new direction no one expected. Initially, his pitch was turned down by Paramount execs who weren't taken by the premise. But he pursued it anyway, stripping the original novel down to its bones and choosing to shoot on a low budget.  

While the thriller is often heralded as paving the way for some of the best slasher movies, it's far more than just that famous shower-stabbing scene. A slow-burner with great pacing, Psycho had the luck of hitting theatres at a time when audiences weren't used to being scared silly. Hitchcock builds and maintains tension from start to finish, opening with Marion Crane on the run after stealing from her bosses before taking a total U-turn into a much more sinister set-up shortly afterwards. Red herrings have been done to death since, but this is the first time it was achieved without anyone having a clue before they took their seats. 

Instead of checking into the Bates Motel, check out our Psycho review. Or you can read our list of the best Alfred Hitchcock movies of all time. 

3. The Silence of the Lambs 

Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling and Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter staring at each other in prison during the movie The Silence of the Lambs.

(Image credit: Rank Films Distributors)

Year: 1991
Director: Jonathan Demme

"You will let me know when those lambs stop screaming, won't you?" That one line, delivered by Hannibal Lecter to FBI agent Clarice Starling, inspires a large chunk of Anthony Hopkins' performance. However, while it's his cerebral portrayal as the imprisoned cannibal therapist that's at the heart of the film, he's only on screen for 16 minutes. Still, Hopkins is the perfect opposite of Jodie Foster's FBI agent. Their relationship pushes the film’s plot forward as he helps her catch another killer on the loose. 

Director Jonathan Demme slices together a chilling and repulsive film, a perfectly honed thriller movie that preys on our biggest fears. The score from Howard Shore plays a large part in upping the suspense, and it's the absolute top-notch editing job in that final showdown which really seals the deal. The thriller has a ton of jump-out moments. So many, in fact, we made a list of the creepiest moments in The Silence of the Lambs for you to read after watching the flick.

2. Seven

Brad Pitt as David Mills and Morgan Freeman as William Somerset in a police station talking on a black phone during a scene in the movie Seven.

(Image credit: Entertainment Film Distributors)

Year: 1995
Director: David Fincher

Undoubtedly, the impact of Seven's legacy has been partly a result of that infamous ending. It's a chilling conclusion to two hours dredging through the darkness of a man's psyche, a lone figure so repulsed by the world around him that he decided to... err... make it even more horrible. The thing about that ending is that it very nearly didn't happen; Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman were "accidentally" sent an earlier version that Fox execs didn't like. They loved it, with Pitt even refusing to sign on if a word of it was changed. 

And thank goodness that Fox caved to his demands because, without that final scene, everything that takes place beforehand loses its impact. Nothing readies you for the shocker, and that's saying something after we follow two cops hunting down a serial killer who probably worships Travis Bickle. The cleansing of the streets is this murderer’s favourite pastime, but this isn't a horror; this is pure thrills.

1. Vertigo

James Stewart as John "Scottie" Ferguson and Kim Novak as Madeleine Elster holding each other in the thriller Vertigo.

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Year: 1958
Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Time is vital for the true appreciation of artisanal cheeses and vintage wines, and the same applies to Hitchcock's masterpiece Vertigo. It did okay at the time of release, recouping its budget and all, but it failed to make a real impression with critics. Steadily, that consensus was duly re-evaluated, as most cinephiles now agree that this is Hitchcock's finest work.

And what's not to love about it? It's less Tom Cruise-y than North by Northwest, yet more action-packed than Psycho. Oh, and James Stewart's back after his turn in Rear Window, playing a private eye with a severe fear of heights that proves problematic when he's tasked with locating the missing wife of an old friend. 

It's a straightforward enough set-up, but handled by the suspense-meister himself, it turns into a brilliant lesson in eliciting fear through nifty shooting techniques. Need proof? Vertigo first used the dolly zoom, which is almost guaranteed to make you scared of heights and want to hurl all at once.

If you’re still looking for suspense, check out our lists of the best horror movies and the best mystery movies ever made. Or, if you are after some new streaming picks, read our round-ups of the best Netflix thrillers that you can watch right now and all the 2024 movie release dates heading our way.

Alex Avard

I'm GamesRadar's Features Writer, which makes me responsible for gracing the internet with as many of my words as possible, including reviews, previews, interviews, and more. Lucky internet! 

With contributions from