Best Psychological Thrillers to Stream on Netflix, Prime, Hulu, and HBO Go

A creepy lone figure stands in a dimly lit, foggy alley.

There’s nothing quite like a movie or TV series that throws you for a loop after keeping you on the edge of your seat, and quality psychological thrillers check both boxes and then some.

Directors like M. Night Shyamalan have a knack for making movies that stun, shock, and mess with your head in a great way. Oftentimes, this is achieved through clever storylines and twists so perfect they’ll give you whiplash.

If you’re in search of a good movie or show that’s going to drive you crazy wondering what’s next, look no further. Here are some of the best psychological thrillers to ever grace the big—and small—screen.

 

 

Best Psychological Thrillers: Movies

 

The Sixth Sense (1999)

A boy's silhouette against an ominously glowing number 6; poster for The Sixth Sense movie.

Starring: Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Collette, Olivia Williams
Available on: Amazon Prime (rent or buy)

Perhaps the psychological thriller of all psychological thrillers, The Sixth Sense is the embodiment of everything that you could ever need from this particular genre.

The Sixth Sense follows the life of a disturbed little boy named Cole Sear (Osment). Many eerie and creepy events unfold around Cole, oftentimes landing him in trouble at school and with his mom.

Desperate to help her son, single mother Lynn (Collette) enlists the help of Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Willis), a child psychologist.  Following a series of meetings, Cole discloses his deep secret.

Director M. Night Shyamalan lays down the blueprint of what makes for an exciting and spell-binding psychological thriller, guaranteed to blow your mind.

By now, you probably know a twist or two, since the film has been spoofed a million times since its release. It’s absolutely still worth watching, however.

Rent or buy it on Amazon Prime here.

 

Shutter Island (2010)

Leonardo Dicaprio with a fearful or serious look, composite photo with mysterious island underneath. Poster for Shutter Island movie.

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Emily Mortimer
Available on: Netflix

With a stunning performance by DiCaprio and a mind-blowing twist, Shutter Island is one of Martin Scorsese’s best films in the psychological thrillers genre.

The story begins on Shutter Island in the Boston Harbor, 1954. Two U.S. Marshals, Edward “Teddy” Daniels and Chuck Aule, are at a hospital for the criminally insane to investigate a patient’s disappearance.

Due to a severe thunderstorm, the men can’t return to the mainland for days. As opposition against their investigation grows, Teddy and Chuck begin to suspect there’s far more at play here than a standard missing persons case.

Find it on Netflix here.

 

Ex Machina (2014)

Movie poster for Ex Machina, with a robotic woman staring pensively against black background.

Starring: Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson
Available on: Amazon Prime

Directed by Alex Garland, Ex Machina is a psychological thriller for the ages. In unique yet organic fashion, the film explores the world of artificial intelligence and what it means to truly be human.

Caleb Smith wins an office contest to visit the home of his CEO, Nathan Bateman.  While there, Caleb learns of Nathan’s top project: a female humanoid robot named Ava, which boasts unrivaled A.I. capabilities.

Intending to score Ava using the Turing Test (scoring a machine’s ability to imitate human intelligence and behavior convincingly), Nathan encourage Caleb to interact with Ava daily. He soon becomes attracted to her, and is convinced she reciprocates.

Riveting from start to finish, Ex Machina sticks with you long after the film is over.

Find it on Amazon Prime here.

 

Split (2016)

Actor James McAvoy staring menacingly from behind broken glass. Poster for Split movie.

Starring: James McAvoy, Betty Buckley, Anya Taylor-Joy
Available on: Amazon Prime (rent or buy), Google Play (rent or buy)

Split is a masterpiece that proves Shyamalan has not lost his touch in the least. This ingenious take on the world of mental health is an unsuspecting sequel to Unbreakable, but you don’t need to watch the first installment of the trilogy to enjoy this one.

Barry has 23 personalities—and another one on the way. “The Beast,” his most terrifying personality, wants to rid the world of anyone who hasn’t known suffering. Though Barry and other dominant personalities have kept the Beast at bay, it grows more difficult as time progresses…especially once Barry and his “horde” kidnap three teenage girls.

A classic psychological horror in many ways, the film also makes intriguing commentary on how mental health is viewed and treated in society.  A compelling narrative keeps you glued to the edge of your seat, and McAvoy’s stellar performance proves truly spellbinding.

Rent or buy it on Amazon Prime here, or on Google Play here.

 

Us (2019)

Young African American woman removing a mask of her own face while wide-eyed and shedding as single tear. Poster for the movie Us.

Starring: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex
Available on: Amazon Prime (rent or buy), Google Play (rent or buy)

As a young girl, Adelaide Wilson encountered a girl who looked just like her in a funhouse hall of mirrors. In present day, Adelaide, now an adult, has a family of her own and leads a comfortable life, despite memories of the encounter still disturbing her.

During a vacation in Santa Cruz, the family is attacked by four strangers…who look just like them and, in some ways, mimic their behavior with eerie accuracy. What transpires next is a story with all the best elements of psychological thrillers: suspense, twists, and an ending that will both shock and satisfy.

Directed by Jordan Peele, Us explores the ideas of privilege and the American dream. Moreover, the film beautifully insinuates that the consumerism benefiting our lives here may, in fact, be incredibly harmful to those on the other side of the globe.

Rent or buy it on Amazon Prime here, or on Google Play here.

 

The Perfection (2019)

A scared or serious woman with blood splattered on face and cello held over left eye, poster for The Perfection on Netflix.

Starring: Allison Williams, Logan Browning, Steven Weber
Available on: Netflix

Once a musical prodigy forced to abandon her dream, Charlotte meets up years later with the young musician who replaced her at the prestigious Bachoff conservatory.

The young woman grows incredibly ill and panicked.  From there, the film takes you on a crazy ride no summary can possibly do justice: just when you think you know which direction things will go, they take a brand-new shocking turn.

Equal parts psychological horror and thriller, The Perfection is one of those outstanding Netflix original movies that will stick with you way after the credits roll.

Find it on Netflix here.

 

Rattlesnake (2019)

Illustrative poster for Rattlesnake movie - a snake winds down through an hourglass.

Starring: Carmen Ejogo, Theo Rossi, Emma Greenwell
Available on: Netflix

On a cross-country road trip, a mother must save her daughter after she’s bitten by a rattlesnake.  A mysterious stranger provides aid just in time…but wants something heinous in return.

Find it on Netflix here.

 

Velvet Buzzsaw (2018)

A white canvas spray painted with the words Velvet Buzzsaw, with paint dripping down the frame and onto the wall like blood.

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Zawe Ashton
Available on: Netflix

This movie is a trip and an edge-of-your-seat masterpiece. Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance is fantastic, and the rest of the cast performs beautifully, too.

After three friends steal some valuable paintings from a deceased, brilliant artist, the trio becomes entangled in a horrific web of mystery, murder, and horror.

Find it on Netflix here.

 

 

Best Psychological Thrillers: TV Shows

 

Black Mirror (2011-2019)

A vague face shape in the center of a smashed mirror, poster for Black Mirror on Netflix.

Starring: Jesse Plemons, Cristin Milioti, Jimmi Simpson
Available on: Netflix

Every episode is a different trip with this show. It’s a high-quality Twilight Zone-esque mindf@#k originating from the UK.

Netflix eventually took over the anthology, but they’ve kept it going just as strongly as ever.  While the episodes are all standalone stories, you’ll want to binge every last one.

Find it on Netflix here.

 

Love, Death & Robots (2019)

Love, Death, and Robots, a series of short psychological thrillers.

Starring: Topher Grace, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Gary Cole
Available on:
Netflix

This show is a series of shorts completely unrelated to each other, similar to Black Mirror in that regard.

Each short is a dose of a different reality, without necessarily providing the audience any resolution or explanation of what they’ve just seen.

Some viewers will find this maddening, but others will adore Love, Death & Robots for its artistry and disregard for standard plotlines.

Find it on Netflix here.

 

via GIPHY

For more heart-pounding, edge-of-your-seat recommendations, check out every Black Mirror episode ranked from worst to first, the best found-footage films, or these climate-fiction (cli-fi) movies sure to crank the tension.

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