I love psychological thrillers. I love the books AND the movies, though almost always like the books better. As usual. My friend Lisa asked for a list of ones that I like, and this is just something I get SO excited to talk to people about, I had to make a list. These are all so great for different reasons; I can’t put them in order. And I’m doing my best to avoid spoilers but to still give you a good idea of the thrill!
(note – many of these movies are intense, graphic, scary, gory, or any combination of them. please don’t watch or read any of them if this isn’t your style, or ask your parent if the rating is above your age limit.)
- Silence of the Lambs (and Hannibal and Red Dragon in the trilogy) – this is in my top 5 favorite movies, mostly for the unmatched performance of Anthony Hopkins as Doctor Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter. Contrary to popular belief, Dr. Lecter is NOT the antagonist of the film, and his part in the plot is in and of itself worth watching to appreciate. The film is one of only three films to win the top five Oscars (Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Picture and Best Screenplay (Adapted), it remains the only horror film to win an Oscar for Best Picture, and Hopkins’ performance as Lecter is the second-shortest appearance by an actor to win a Best Actor Oscar, with less than 16 minutes of screen time. Just watch it. It’s crazy.
- Shutter Island – This book is even better than the movie, and the psychological thrill of it is more intense because the ending is different. However, they are both really great. The movie is Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo, both great actors, and it’s about an island that is home to a mental institution that has somehow lost a patient. Fascinating central conflict, it gets better every time you watch it.
- The Shining – A classic portrayal of the slowly deconstructing mind of a man played by Jack Nicholson. It’s my second favorite role of his (the first is “As Good as it Gets”). There is SO much to the movie-making style and talent of Stanley Kubrick, and as you watch this film, he has integrated pieces that intentionally mess with your subconscious mind and contribute to the scariness. The scenery of the isolated, snow-covered Overlook hotel is the cherry on top.
- Carrie – Of all the Stephen King books and movies, this one is my favorite. The story is phenomenal, and one of the few where I think the movie really stands up next to the book, mostly due to the acting of the women who play Carrie and her crazy hyper-religious mother. This has forever ruined the name “Carrie” for me.
- Sybil – One of the most intense stories I have ever read, and Sally Field won an Emmy in 1977 for her performance in the movie, but the book was so intense, I just don’t think it compares. So, again, read the book. Then see the movie. In summary, it’s about a woman who suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder (previously referred to as Multiple-Personality Disorder) due to the abuse and tragedy of her childhood, and all the repercussions that had on her adult life.
- Black Swan – In all honesty, I really didn’t enjoy this movie. The over-sexualization of the relationship between the lead and supporting female characters was way over the line, in my opinion, and unnecessary for the development of the plot. However, the job that Natalie Portman did portraying this character was amazing. I was so impressed with her, and really bought into her role as the white swan dragging herself into the role of the evil counterpart.
- Misery – this is an older movie, the one that I will always see Kathy Bates in, as she plays the psychotic fan of an author (James Caan) who holds him hostage in her home to try and convince him to write his story her way. It’s so twisted and disturbing, but I consider it a classic, especially her acting.
- Memento – there are very few movies in which I have been so consistently engaged throughout. This is a VERY complicated movie, and it has taken me several times of watching it to feel like I have a real grasp of the twisting of the plot. In true Christopher Nolan fashion, those of us with average movie intelligence find it hard to keep up. I won’t even begin to describe what happens in the film, suffice it to say it’s the story of a man with amnesia, and that the movie doesn’t progress in the usual chronological fashion.
- Secret Window – In reality, I’ll unashamedly watch anything with Johnny Depp, and this role just fit him really well. The eccentric author, cooped up in his house alone, tormented by a stranger who claims his work was stolen, makes for a really enjoyable movie, and a really interesting and twisted ending.
- Butterfly Effect – this is another disturbing one, but the concept behind it is so fascinating, I find myself thinking about it often and wondering about the butterfly effect – which underlines the impact of a butterfly flapping its wings in New York on the rest of the world. Ashton Kutcher plays the part well of a young man trying to retrace and fix some mistakes of his past, and his realizations of how everything is so deeply interconnected.
- Se7en – finally, a classic commentary on the prevalence of the seven deadly sins in our culture. I thought Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt played together well, but the real winner for me is Kevin Spacey as the sadistic villain attempting to teach a lesson on the wickedness of our society. Very gross, but a fascinating ending.
- American Psycho and The Machinist – these are both movies with Christian Bale and I have heard they are both great but haven’t actually seen either. American Psycho is supposed to be his most twisted role ever, some kind of businessman by day and serial killer by night. Like Batman, but the bad version. haha. And then The Machinist is about a guy who goes crazy with insomnia, apparently. I just think Christian Bale is a great actor, I’d be interested in seeing them both, and hearing your input if you have seen either!
- Fracture – this only gets an honorable mention (instead of being on the full list) because it’s not technically the same genre as the rest of these, but it is such a good movie to watch and to enjoy Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of yet another insanely intelligent, yet twisted killer (see “Silence of the Lambs” above). Plus, the protagonist of this movie is Ryan Gosling as the high-powered lawyer who is prosecuting him. Super enjoyable movie!
And okay, you may have noticed this already, but you should probably read all the books first, before you see the movies. 🙂
What do you think? Did I forget any of your favorites?