10 Psychological Thrillers That Will Mess with Your Head

Movies that will blow your mind and have your eyes glued to the screen


(SPOT.ph) Half the fun of watching a psychological thriller is trying to guess if it’s all in the protagonist’s head...or wondering what the hell is going on. The other half is having your mind blown with a plot twist or two. We’ve seen films like Psycho, A Clockwork Orange, and The Silence of the Lambs pull this off brilliantly. They’re not alone. There are plenty of other movies that had us scratching our heads, watching in awe, and avidly dissecting it long after the credits rolled.



And so, without any spoilers, here are 10 thrillers that will mess with your head-one way or another.


This list is not ranked.




This Christopher Nolan film features a fractured narrative that begins at the end of its story. Nolan allows his audience to join the memory-deficient Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) as he retraces his steps trying to unravel the mystery behind his wife’s death. The movie switches back and forth between timelines with clues and plot twists that will keep viewers guessing until the last possible moment when everything finally comes together.

Why you should see it: It’s the kind of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it film that demands your undivided attention and holds it with every shocking reveal.





Alfred Hitchcock’s cinematic classic Vertigo is widely regarded as one of his finest films. Detective Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart) is forced into early retirement when his vertigo causes the death of another officer. Scottie, now a private investigator, is hired to follow a troubled woman named Madeleine (Kim Novak), whom he falls in love with. Her sudden death sends him into a downward spiral, causing him to frequent the places Madeleine visited and often imagining that he sees her. When he stumbles upon Judy Barton (also Novak), a woman who bears a striking resemblance to Madeleine, his obsession descends into madness.


Why you should see it: The film’s second half is a medley of plot twists that changes the audience’s preconceptions of the story and its characters.




Black Swan

Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis star as rival ballerinas vying for the lead in a Swan Lake adaptation. The movie doesn’t shy away from portraying the competitive side of ballet, which starts to consume and destroy Nina (Portman). She starts having vivid hallucinations, coupled with bizarre incidents that make her (and the viewer) question her sanity.

Why you should see it: It’s a dark and terrifying journey into the psyche of a young ballerina, heightened by the bold and technically masterful directing of Darren Aronofsky.




Shutter Island

Federal marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his new partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo) are assigned to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a patient admitted to Shutter Island, an asylum for the criminally insane. Teddy quickly realizes that the authorities may not entirely be telling the truth, all while he struggles with his own creeping madness.


Why you should see it: Martin Scorcese conjures an effectively ominous and visually stunning atmosphere, a chilling backdrop to an intense mystery thriller with a mind-twisting ending.




Donnie Darko

Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal), a bright yet troubled teenager, is visited by a monstrous six-foot rabbit named Frank. The latter tells him the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds. As the date draws closer with each passing day, his search for answers leads him to ponder the possibility of time travel.

Why you should see it: Donnie Darko is one of those complex movies whose plot and revealing ending are still heavily discussed and debated today. Was it time travel? Or was it all in his head? Maybe you should do a rewatch.




Detectives David Mills (Brad Pitt) and William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) are hot on the trail of a methodical serial killer who stages his elaborate murders to represent the Seven Deadly Sins. Just how disturbing is it, you ask? For one, an obese man is forced to eat until his stomach ruptures to illustrate gluttony. They soon realize that the man they’re after is sending a much bigger message.


Why you should see it: Director David Fincher holds nothing back in terms of gore, skillfully setting the grisly stage for the film’s shocking and haunting finale.



Gone Baby Gone

Ben Affleck directs and writes this film adaptation of the novel by Dennis Lehane (who also wrote Mystic River and Shutter Island). The movie stars the brilliant Casey Affleck as Patrick Kenzie who investigates the kidnapping of a four-year-old girl. He and his partner (Michelle Monaghan) soon uncover a frightening chain of lies and corruption within their beloved city of Boston.

Why you should see it: Gone Baby Gone is an intense and gripping thriller that goes beyond a typical police procedural. It’s a labyrinth of twists and turns all leading to a thought-provoking ending.





For inexplicable reasons, Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) finds himself locked in a prison cell where he is given food through a small slot in the door. Occasionally, he hears a little tune and a gas fills the room, knocking him out. When he awakens, his clothes have been changed and his room is clean. This routine goes on for 15 years. He learns through a TV screen that his wife has been killed, and he has been framed for the murder. Upon his sudden release from behind bars, his quest for vengeance tangles him in a web of deceit.


Why you should see it: Park Chan-wook’s brutal and powerful film takes us through Oh Dae-su’s violent journey from an alcoholic father to a man consumed by rage and a thirst for revenge. Sit back and enjoy the visceral ride.





We say hello to Jake Gyllenhaal once again, this time as Detective Loki, who investigates the disappearance of two children. The only clue is a dilapidated RV parked on the street. He arrests its driver (Paul Dano), but a frustrating lack of evidence forces the latter’s release. Kellen Dover (Hugh Jackman), a father to one of the missing children, is frantic. He knows full well that time is running out and he has no choice but to take matters into his own hands.

Why you should see it: All the usual elements in a top-notch kidnapping plot are present, but what sets this film apart is its visual exploration of torture, morality, and desperation in times of necessity. Whether or not you are able to sit through its graphic scenes, we urge you to watch until the very end. You’ll see why.





Mulholland Drive

A young aspiring actress (Naomi Watts) travels to Hollywood with dreams of making it big. She gets caught in the middle of a conspiracy involving a woman with amnesia (Laura Harring), a hotshot director (Justin Theroux), and a mysterious night club.

Why you should see it: You think you have the mystery all figured out, but wait until the second half when director David Lynch creates a mind-bending jigsaw puzzle. It’s a film that gets inside your head, coaxing you to piece the clues together and give your own interpretation.

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