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Classic Psychological Movies - The Best 22 Ever

The Best Psychological Movies Ever

If you're anything like me then your favorite type of movie is the one that really gets into your head, bores into your grey matter and stays there, or in other words the psychological movie. There are literally tonnes of lists of thriller, suspense and psychological movies online, as well as lists for every other genre of movie but here I've tried to create the very best list there is!.

Spattered among the classics you'd probably expect to see in a list of psychological movies, I've got some goodies here that aren't on anyone elses lists - forgotten fantastic movies that will totally twist your mind, make you think and should have pride of place in your DVD or Blu Ray collection (most of the oldies are now available in blu ray format and have been remastered so they look even better than the originals).

A good psychological movie can come from any genre - the important factors are that it gets those neurons excited, is completely absorbing and will be unforgettable. You'll see movies here that would fall into the categories of love story, horror, action, war, thriller, sci-fi and there's even one bordering on comedy, but each one has the essential elements that also allow it to be described as "psychological".

Freaky as Hell - The Twins from The Shining Scare the S**t Out of Me

Freaky as Hell - The Twins from The Shining Scare the S**t Out of Me

Just in case there are movies here you haven't seen I'm not going to give away the plots in the descriptions as that would spoil all your fun, but I will give a little overview of the type of movie it is and hopefully provide a flavor of what to expect.

So in no particular order, the best 25 psychological movies of all time.....

1. The Hitcher

Without doubt The Hitcher is Rutger Hauer's best movie. He is absolutely suited to the role of maniac hitchhiker and plays it with aplomb. This is a movie with many twists and turns with a plot that will bore into your brain and stay there. An unforgettable thriller with plenty of suspense and little bit of horror as well.

P.S. Don't get confused and buy the Sean Bean remake - it's nowhere near as good as the original.

2. The Wicker Man

The Wicker Man may be old (1975) but it's a classic thriller that will rock your world. The re-make is no where near as good as the original, so my advice is don't bother with it. Buy the original version and enjoy Edward Woodward at his finest moment as well as Brit Ekland looking absolutely stunning. A cult classic!

3. The Shining

One of the best horrors ever made, The Shining is the kind of movie that you shouldn't watch alone. Stanley Kubrick creates a movie that is intense and suspenseful with fantastic acting and a brilliant story line - this is a keeper and a movie that all lovers of the psychological movie should have in their collection. A psychological horror that will keep you on the edge of your seat and have you hiding behind your cushion!

4. Jacob's Ladder

Jacob's Ladder is one of those psychological movies that you need to watch at least three times before you get it (at least I did!). A movie on the horrors of war and its after effects, with some definite twists.

Beautifully done, the acting from Tim Robbins is superb. A cult classic!

5. Psycho

Psycho is another horror classic created by the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. So many film makers have tried to emulate this "masterpiece of the macabre", most have failed. Psycho is unique and despite its age will always be a psychological movie classic.

Unusually for a movie with three sequels each sequel is good in it's own right and all add to our understanding of the twisted Norman Bates. Well worth watching!

6. The Game

I don't usually like Michael Douglas movies, but The Game is a corker. The story line is totally unique and delivers a true roller coaster ride. Best watched without knowing anything of what's going to happen (so close your eyes when it comes to the reviews). A masterful psychological thriller that will engage you from beginning to end.

7. 2001 - A Space Odyssey

Another powerful psychological movie, but this time in the sci-fi genre, from the master of twisted films, Stanley Kubrick. Beautiful and visually stunning, 2001 is a movie that is still ahead of its time 50 years on. Buy the blu-ray version of 2001 if you haven't already - the remastering takes this already fabulous movie to another level.

8. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

A movie that is scary on a fundamentally human level, One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, is the classic psychological movie that can be enjoyed over and over and my personal favorite of all time. Every aspect of good movie making comes together perfectly in this film and the intensity and range of emotions it generates is unmatched. One that will definitely stick with you!

9. Magnolia

One of the best movies of all time, Magnolia is a psychological drama that seeks to take you on a journey and make you think, and does it exceptionally well. This is a masterpiece of story telling via visual means and the characters lives are beautifully woven together to create a powerful movie. The amazing soundtrack by Aimee Mann works perfectly with the script and was certainly an inspired decision. For those that enjoy the pure psychological movie sans blood and guts Tom Cruise has his finest hour in this one.

10. Fight Club

I don't usually like watching extreme violence but in this movie it's a necessary and welcome part of story line. Another one to get those synapses firing rapidly and completely do your brain in, the movie Fight Club, is a genius creation from controversial director David Fincher. Brad Pitt's acting is phenomenal as is the supporting casts. An imaginative and philosophical psychological drama that is a must have in your DVD collection.

11. Carrie

Not all of Stephen King's books have translated well on screen but Carrie definitely cannot be put into that category. The novel Carrie was the one that propelled him to fame 70's and the movie was also deservedly a hit. A tragic psychological drama with elements of horror, Carrie is an unforgettable movie that will chill you to the core. A must have classic!

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12. Misery

Another classic suspense movie from the master of story telling, Stephen King. Misery is a chilling psychological thriller that is brought to vivid life through the brilliant acting of James Caan and Kathy Bates.

A significant movie in the psychological genre that deserves to be described as a classic. Brilliant!

13. Falling Down

Here's another powerful movie that really gets into your head. Falling Down featuring Michael Douglas, has a unique story line that will have you rooting for the bad guy because we can all identify with him. While I'm not a fan of Michael Douglas (yes he did star in one of my other recommendations above) he should have got an Oscar for his perfect portrayal of the crazy guy in this memorable psychological movie.

14. Salem's Lot

Salem's Lot (which is another adaptation from a Stephen King novel), is a movie to haunt your imagination and definitely not for the faint hearted. When I first saw it, it scared the bejesus out of me and continued to do so for many months afterwards. This psychological movie in the vampire genre has an eerie intensity that draws you in and keeps you there. A must have for horror and vampire fans.

15. Memento

Memento, starring Guy Pierce, is basically an action movie come thriller with a "mind bending script". It keeps you thinking, wondering and questioning all the way through and also keeps you firmly on the edge of your seat which is just what lovers of the psychological movie want! Guy Pierce does a wonderful job in this role and is without doubt his, as well as the director's, (Chris Nolan of Inception) best movie.

16. No Country for Old Men

No Country for Old Men is an action thriller that is creepy, thought provoking and downright weird. Javier Bardem's performance is stunning as he plays the ultimate bad guy who is as scary as hell. You definitely wouldn't want to meet him in your local gas station! One to buy if you haven't got it already. A fantastic whacked movie that gets your pulse racing!

17. Inception

It is a close race between which Chris Nolan movie is the better, Memento or Inception. Both are memorable, screw with your mind and are perfectly executed. Inception is clever and a psychological movie that is a definite inclusion to the list of the best of. Certainly one to keep for lovers of this type of movie.

18. Vanilla Sky

Vanilla Sky is a great movie that is essentially a love story with a very large twist. It can really play on your mind and get the watcher asking some very fundamental questions about life, love and reality - which is what we love, right? Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz both provide wonderful performances and the cinematography is spectacular. Definitely one to watch!

19. Don Juan DeMarco

Don Juan DeMarco never received the acclaim is deserved and it was only by chance that I happened to watch it late one night on TV - I'm glad I did because it's a glorious movie that explores some very relevant questions. Johnny Depp, Marlon Brando and Faye Dunaway all deliver superb performances in this psychological movie that combines elements of comedy, drama and fantasy so well. An intriguing and captivating story line that will make you think.

20. The Fisher King

The Fisher King is a psychological drama, that also borders on comedy and involves the fantasies of the psychotic. A twisted tale that may take several viewings before it's fully understood, this is a movie whose quality seems to have been forgotten in the midsts of time for some reason. The acting from Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges is fabulous and they manage to pull off a sense of the realistically insane with ease. 100% recommend this classic.

21. Sybil

A psychological drama in the true sense of the word, Sybil takes us into the insane world of multiple personality disorder. Based on a true story, this movie gives us a shock realization at the lengths our minds will go to avoid the pain of trauma. A powerful and engrossing movie that should be in everyone's collection.

22. Pacific Heights

A superb psychological thriller from the 1990s that didn't get as much attention as it deserved. Brilliantly suspenseful, Pacific Heights manages to keep you totally engrossed and wondering what the hell is going to happen next. Great performances from Michael Keaton (as the loonie) and Melanie Griffith bring this thriller to life.


The Best Psychological Movies of All Time?

So there we have it - 22 of the best psychological movies ever made that now well deserve their place in the classics aisle.

If you've got any thoughts on other movies that should be here let me know.


Sajeewa Ranasinghe from Colombo, Sri Lanka on August 20, 2017:

Great list. Big fan of psychological thrillers. There are a few movies here that I have not watched. Thanks!

Sajeewa Ranasinghe from Colombo, Sri Lanka on August 20, 2017:

This is a great list. Found some new stuff to watch!! Thanks

nick hoyt on August 29, 2015:

sixty sence, unbreakable, beautiful mind, perfect getaway, 12 monkeys

Cynthia B Turner from Georgia on August 29, 2015:

This is a great list. The Haunting of Hill House made my list. It's a psychological thriller made in the late sixties with the kind of twists and subtlety to it that make you wonder if everything was only in the mind of the heroine or did all the creepy things the characters seemed to be experiencing really happen. There was a remake a few years back that didn't come close to the original in scare factor - too many obvious special effects. Thanks for letting us in on your list.

Take care.

MikeSyrSutton from An uncharted galaxy on March 08, 2015:

Wow! Great list. Some of those made my best 101 of all times.

You are a great hubber!

Mackenzie Sage Wright on September 15, 2013:

Thank you! I've seen most of these but now I have 3 to put into my Netflix queue. One of my favorite psychological thrillers is The Perfect Host. If you have not seen it, you should check it out because if you liked all these movies you'll probably enjoy it.

Carlo Giovannetti from Puerto Rico on July 04, 2013:

This is a solid list of films. If anything, I would say that I prefer the original Abre los Ojos over the remake, Vanilla Sky. But lots of good films there.

Jack Morris on March 29, 2013:

Triangle (2009). Wow!... What a mind-twister. Don't blame me if you can't think of anything else for days after watching it.

Susana Smith (author) from UK on February 03, 2013:

Have never heard of Requiem for a Dream - thanks for the movie tip!

M Carnahan from Nevada on February 02, 2013:

Wow - great list. I'm a huge movie person. Jacob's Ladder was definitely great, and you're right, you need to watch it at least twice to truly appreciate its depth and complexity. Another movie I really like is Requiem for a Dream - depressing, yet thought provoking and inspirational on a very dark level. And you cannot forget about A Clockwork Orange - a definite classic, though not for everyone.

alpha5280 from Missouri on September 06, 2012:

Great hub. I love most of the movies on this list. You chose well. :-)

I think it is great that other commenters weighed in on what they like, but I wish they wouldn't try to tell an author what belongs on a list of the author's favorite! Grrr!

Set on June 09, 2012:

Try "Waking Life" , words cant describe it and no other movie is like it.

Pepperella on April 11, 2012:

Good list, I like a lot of them. I LOVE psychological movies too and in fact just wrote a hub of my own top 30. I've seen all on your list but Jacob's Ladder (not sure how I missed that one) so I'm going to watch it tonight. So glad to find a movie in this genre I haven't seen! Thanks =)

rainy on March 24, 2012:

I love to see these movies titles, but why dont you put the Butterfly effect as the one of them?

b'jesus on February 19, 2012:

Thanks for the list!

While David Fincher did a great job with Fight Club, and Brad Pitt's performance was phenomenal, I think the original book's author (Chuck Palahniuk) and the star of the film (Edward Norton) merrit at least as much credit.

ms. unknown on December 17, 2011:

why dont u add the frayed :(

Dexter Haven on December 03, 2011:

An older movie: Don't Look Now. Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland try to escape the memory of their drowned daughter on a business trip to Venice. It's 90 minutes of increasing tension as the story of a serial killer and the memory of their daughter come together in the final scene. A completely seamless movie.

Amy DeMarco from Chicago on October 10, 2011:

This is a great list. I love this genre and I'm always looking for new movies. I've seen most of these except for a few. Sybil seems like my kind of movie. Hopefully I can stream it on netflix. Rated up, useful, interesting and awesome.

Thilak on September 27, 2011:

You can try to watch the movie of PERFUME, its good psychological movie.

You can enjoy

mets on September 19, 2011:

nice list!!

but u gotta add Butterfly Effect...easily top ten.

take care, good job

ruffridyer from Dayton, ohio on July 28, 2011:

I was surpised so many stephen king movies were on the list. Maybe that explains his popularity. personally I haven't read any of his work since misery. I hated The Shining, book and movie, but enjoyed Carrie and adored Salem's Lot but wouldn't consider them Psychological thrillers.

A good love story for the list would be The Night Porter. The Gathring starring Christi Ricci is also quite good with a religious twist.

Sean on July 14, 2011:

I completely agree with your list but you did miss a few in my opinion like;

Shutter Island ( i know someone already mentioned, but it does belong on the list)

The Butterfly Effect


Requiem For a Dream

Leaving Las Vegas

Taxi Driver

Amelie Poulain (definitely not a thriller, but funny)

Black Swan

A Beautifull Mind

Donnie Darko

Those are all pretty psychological movies except maybe Amelie Poulain.., but that one is pretty funny though.

Hope you will consider them ; P

Jennifer Vasconcelos from Cyberspace and My Own World on May 27, 2011:

I agree with most of your selections. I particularly favor Jacobs Ladder. I love when a movie can keep me guessing throughout!

funmontrealgirl from Montreal on March 22, 2011:

I love psychological thrillers too and I've watched all the film adaptations of Stephen King's novels included in your list. They really are great.

Chris on January 22, 2011:

Donnie Darko...Enough said

pmccray on October 22, 2010:

You've compiled an excellent list. To this day I make sure all doors are locked before getting in the shower if I'm alone at home due to Psycho. No one can tell me Jack Nickelson is not really nuts!! Voted up, marked useful, awesome and shared.

nathanaelig from Burlingame, CA on October 16, 2010:

I love "Sybil." It's so well done even for an older film and really shows mental illness well. What do you think of "The Three Faces of Eve?" I like that one a lot too...

Ryan from Louisiana, USA on October 14, 2010:

Inception is such a great movie. Its ideas and plot were so original. Great hub.

Sweetsusieg from Michigan on October 13, 2010:

I can't pick just one out of this list! I love movies that make you think. One that stands out that 1 member of my family didn't 'get' was "Powder". Now that isn't a 'thriller' but a good 'thinker' movie along with 'A Beautiful Mind'... I really liked those 2 movies as well...

Some great choices you have here!

Susana Smith (author) from UK on October 13, 2010:

I'm with your there Lorlie. I sometimes like a bit of action or even a good war film, but my favorite genre is the thriller/psychological.

Let me know which ones you rent out and what you think of them :)

Laurel Rogers from Bishop, Ca on October 12, 2010:

Psychological films are the sh*t, Susana! I rarely watch anything else.

I've printed this hub in order to rent those few I haven't seen-thanks so much!

Susana Smith (author) from UK on October 12, 2010:

Hey Jezula - Thanks a lot for those recommendations! Have seen Seven but not the other two.

Gameboy - Yet more for me to check out - Cheers!

Susana Smith (author) from UK on October 12, 2010:

Hi Jewels - Yes, I've seen Devil's Advocat but it was so long ago I can't remember much of the story line. I will have to watch it over :)

Gameboy70 from Santa Monica, California on October 10, 2010:

"Audition" is pretty hardcore. I love Japanese thriller and horror films. Miike's "Gozu" is even more of a mind****.

Jezula on October 10, 2010:

Loving your list...I must suggest you watch Takashi Miike's AUDITION. Also, add SEVEN and THE USUAL SUSPECTS to your list...all these movies will mess you up!

Jewels from Australia on October 10, 2010:

Great list, I've watched most of them. I'd add Devils Advocate to it - where you think you know what's right until you perhaps find what you thought was right is not! Although it's not a thriller, it seriously makes you think.

Susana Smith (author) from UK on October 10, 2010:

Hi liljen - Oh you should love The Shining if you like a weird movie. I think it's one of the freakiest and most scary movies ever made. Enjoy!

Susana Smith (author) from UK on October 10, 2010:

Hi izetti - Yeah I saw Shutter Island recently too. I kind of enjoyed it up until the end. It left me feeling rather disappointed.

Silence of the Lambs is a good one - lots of suspense. (I've also put that one on the second hub - still not published though :)

Jennifer Crowder from Shreveport,LA on October 09, 2010:

This is a great list of movies and most of these movies scare the piss out of me.. LOL.. I will have to say they are very weird but you want to look at them. I am looking at "The Shining" now..

L Izett from The Great Northwest on October 09, 2010:

I recently saw "Shutter Island". That's a spooky psych thriller. My favorite all time is "Silence of The Lambs". Gives me shivers thinking about it.

Susana Smith (author) from UK on October 09, 2010:

Thanks for the feedback on those movies gameboy :) You inspired me to add a poll to the hub on what people consider a "psychological movie" to be, as it seems there are some different perceptions and I want to make sure I reach the right audience.

I watched a dud last night. It's called "Dorothy". Set in Ireland, it's about a girl with multiple personality disorder. Don't bother with it if you come across it!

I was tempted to get "Dogtooth" - have you (or anyone else) seen it?

Gameboy70 from Santa Monica, California on October 09, 2010:

Magnolia is one of my favorites, even though I have friends who absolutely hated it. Either way, you won't be bored.

"Let Me In" was a very pleasant surprise. It's probably the best remake of any film ever. I was wondering when anyone would even bother to remake "Let the Right One In", but the new version is almost better than the original.

Susana Smith (author) from UK on October 09, 2010:

Hey Sky - I hope you enjoy Magnolia, it's really an epic movie!

Susana Smith (author) from UK on October 09, 2010:

Hi Gameboy - Well you've given me some movies there that I have never heard of, thanks very much! I will check them out a.s.a.p.

Susana Smith (author) from UK on October 09, 2010:

Hi MWNP - A Clockwork Orange is a goodie, in fact it's first on the list for the second article which I might get done today with any luck! Thanks for visiting :)

skyfire on October 09, 2010:

My favorite movies- Fight Club & Inception. I haven't seen magnolia, so added to stack. :)

Voted up.

Gameboy70 from Santa Monica, California on October 08, 2010:

There are other types of movies that I would consider more "psychological" than sci-fi, thriller and horror films (Bermang, Fellini, Altman, Von Trier, Herzog), but in the spirit of your great list, I'd like to add "Primer", which was a great indie time travel flick from a few years ago.

Tonight I'm seeing "Let Me In", the American remake of another great film to add to the list, "Let the Right One In".

TheManWithNoPants from Tucson, Az. on October 08, 2010:

This list complete I think. Number twenty six might be "Clockwork Orange" for me.

Thanks for the hard work in putting this together for us!


Susana Smith (author) from UK on October 08, 2010:

Hi Austinstar - I haven't seen that one! Now I will be adding it to my "must watch" movies :)

Lela from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on October 08, 2010:

You got most of my favorites. I would like to add Paranormal Activity. I was amazed at how engaging this movie was. I thought it would be lame, but it was one of the best made "home movies" ever.

Susana Smith (author) from UK on October 08, 2010:

Hi Green Lotus, thanks for stopping by. I actually sold my copy of Magnolia and then hastily regretted it - I must buy myself a new copy! If you're looking for psychological movies to watch, hopefully once you've got through this list my other hub on the topic will be published and you'll have a whiole lot more to add to the queue!

Hillary from Atlanta, GA on October 07, 2010:

These are great Susana! I've only seen about half and my Netflix queue is sorely lacking so thanks for the suggestions and reviews. I'm glad you included "Magnolia" in the mix - one of my favorite films..and you're right, one of Tom Cruise's best performances.

Susana Smith (author) from UK on October 07, 2010:

Hi rdland - hope you enjoy them!

Hey drbj - thanks :) Yeh he's defnitely a scary dude - it's the complete lack of emotion in him that I think is creepy. I watched the movie for the second time the other night and loved it all over again.

drbj and sherry from south Florida on October 07, 2010:

An excellent list, Susana, of provocative psych films. If I had to rate just one as number one I would choose "No Country for Old Men." Javier Bardem with his ridiculous Prince Valiant haircut and flat affect is the creepiest!

R D Langr from Minnesota on October 07, 2010:

Thank you, I love psychological thrillers, but haven't seen most of these. Now i'll have to check them out!

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