10 Best Thriller and Suspense Films of All Time
by Emily Keen
We all know that empty feeling when everything in life is normal? It is because, difficult times and tense moments however unwanted, arguably bring a thrill to life. It is in these moments we feel our hearts pounding like it’s racing against time. We feel alive! This is the exact thrill induced by suspense films. But how often do we come across movies that drive you at the edge of the seat or have you jumping with rug pulling twists? The combination of utterly creepy characters, mind-bending twists and a compelling plot with pace is what makes the best thrillers.
But it is definitely another huge task to choose the best thrillers from troves of available cinematic gems.
We have narrowed down the list to the 10 movies which remain the best thrillers of all time.
- Rear Window (1954)
Ever been so bored you had nothing to do but just randomly build creepy stories in mind? Imagine if that creepy story becomes reality. Scary no? That’s exactly the kind of feeling this film invokes. Rear Window is a masterpiece weaved by the legendary Alfred Hitchcock featuring James Stewart, a photojournalist who is left bound to his apartment due to a broken leg. Since, besides his nurse (Thelma Ritter) and girlfriend (Grace Kelly), the man has no interactions with the world, he resorts to peeping through the windows of the neighbors which leads to unraveling scandalous truths. But what makes this classic even more special is Hitchcock’s art of storytelling and the screenplay that does not involve any action. Just pure humor, suspense souled up by its magnetic cast.
- North by Northwest (1959)
The master of suspense, Hitchcock strikes yet again! The dashing honcho of sophisticated comedy, Cary Grant is paired up with other usual Hitchcock collaborators James Mason and Eva Marie Saint. Grant’s charm is as usual worth betting all the money on. Grant plays Roger Thornhill who is mistaken for a government agent and hunted by police and assassins. Eva Kendall protects the man and the two develop a tantalizing relationship while hunting for the real government agent. This film is a legacy that inspired numerous thrillers, only a few among which have successfully made an impact. Although not the same as this film.
- Manchurian Candidate (1962)
Based on a volatile plot unraveling secrets of underworld politics, the studio thought it was too risky to produce the film. But with support from John F. Kennedy, John Frankenheimer finally breathed life into a politically charged USSR brainwash thriller. If one wishes to witness the gruesome politics through black and white frames, this iconic film is your go-to. Frank Sinatra plays a U.S. army hero who returns to his homeland from Korea. But the fact that he has been hired by the communists to assassinate a presidential nominee is finally discovered by his buddy who sets on a quest to stop his pal from committing a felony.
- Blood Simple (1984)
Written, directed, edited and produced by Ethan and Joel Coen, this is the duo’s breakout movie. The film is a brooding crime classic from the siblings who knew nothing about film sets when they were ready to shoot this dark-humored thriller. Marty(Dan Hedaya) is a bar owner and a ruthless torturer of his wife. Frances McDormand who plays the wife ultimately resorts to cheating with one of the bartenders at Marty’s bar. Marty somehow sniffs the betrayal and hires a detective (Visser) to kill the wife and the lover. Steering moments of pure horror but keeping audiences in the know of everything, in contrast to most thriller this film binds a tale of bleak fatalism which is a recurring theme in most cinemas.
- The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
This Oscar-winning work of art became the third film in American history to sweep five major awards after It Happened One Night and One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. To date the horror film remains the only scary film to win The Best Picture Oscar. The film concocts a shrewd serial killer psychology thriller brilliantly brought to life by Jodie Foster, Jack Crawford, and Anthony Hopkins. This is one of those rare movies which has the power to keep you coming back for a re-watch even though you know what it entails. Jonathan Demme indeed crafted a gripping plot to pull the audience right inside the story.
- The Usual Suspects (1995)
“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” The iconic line from this movie by the legendary Kevin Spacey says everything about this blazing cult classic. In his Oscar-winning performance, Spacey plays a mysterious con man and plans a million dollar heist with his partners, the usual suspects in the list of police records. The planned heist fails on cosmic proportions and then comes an offer from the Devil himself. Keyser Soze is a criminal mastermind known to people only through stories of his heinous crimes but not by face. The suspects agree for they have little choice left when it comes to dealing with the mysterious face of violence.
- Se7en (1995)
The ending is blowing the minds of audiences even today. If that is not enough to get you excited about the film, David Fincher’s unparalleled obsession with weaving, edgy dark stories will. Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman play detectives looking into brutal murders symbolizing seven sins- pride, lust, gluttony, wrath, sloth, greed and envy. A vicious yet epic tale that approaches a twist of stellar proportions at the end. Se7en inspired countless storylines and revolutionized the genre of detective/thriller.
- Memento (2000)
Apart from the riveting performances by Guy Pearce and Joe Pantoliano what makes this film so great is Christopher Nolan’s flair of weaving an emotionally charged storyline with equally magnificent twists. The film is a different kind of cinematic experience altogether with reverse storylines and chronological events merge and help you connect with the soul of the character. It gets you curious and more importantly satisfies that curiosity. It reveals the end at the very start defying the fundamental norms of cinematic storytelling. What makes you stick around is just the characters and theme.
- No Country For Old Men (2007)
It’s the ‘once amateur’ siblings again! Imagine if Ethan and Joel Coen can create a masterpiece without knowing things about filmmaking, what could they do with experience? Cormac McCarthy’s novel forms the plot for this thrilling film. No exaggeration intended! It is literally thrilling. It begins with a Vietnamese veteran (Josh Brolin) discovering a huge amount of cash in the wake of a failed drug deal. He flees with the cash and invites being chased by an enigmatic killer. The crisp frames, captivating landscapes, and biblical themes elevate the effect of this ‘almost an action’ feature by the Coen Brothers.
- Prisoners (2013)
A peculiar touch of David Fincher’s dark and seedy world is the treatment that prevails the backdrop of Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners. Hugh Jackman plays a father whose 6-year-old daughter is missing and the identity of the kidnapper is the obvious mystery they have to solve. The feature is a slow burn of tension intensified with jaw-dropping twists and turns. Jake Gyllenhaal plays detective Loki who is obsessed with his job and Paul Dano is a suspect who is released due to lack of evidence. The stellar cast along with an emotionally powerful storyline makes this movie an absolute work of art.