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The Ten Greatest Thriller Movies of All Time

Updated on July 2, 2009

Top Ten Thrillers

Thriller movies are fascinating to me, which is why I've put together this list of the top ten thrillers ever created. Horror movies can be scary, but thrillers offer something horror movies generally don't - a glimpse into reality.

Many thrillers are based on true events, and while most are fictitious in nature, they could happen. You won't find movies with ghosts or goblins on this list. In my view, a thriller is a movie that features human monsters and storylines that could happen in real life. Instead, you'll find only true thrillers on this list.

And yes, before you ask I've looked up each and every movie and made sure they were rated as a thriller before adding them to the list. I've also visited dozens of online forums and looked at similar lists and personally watched all of the movies.

Some of the picks are based on my personal opinion, but most of them are based on popular opinion, the longevity of each movie and how much they grossed at the box office.

Oh, and I just wanted to add that you won't find Jaws on this list. While some would classify it as a thriller, it's actually listed as a horror, so I left it off the list.

I hope you enjoy reading through my top 10 thrillers of all time list, and that you'll take a few moments to leave a comment, vote for your favourite thriller on the voting plexo below or add one I missed.

Are you ready to be scared?

Are you ready to be scared?
Are you ready to be scared?

Top Ten Thrillers: #10 - Funny Games

Funny Games
Funny Games

Two young adults ask for help from a family, only to take them hostage and terrorize them.

The family fights to stay alive, while playing the boys' 'funny games'. This film is truly terrifying. If you can stomach it, you'll enjoy it. It's an underrated thriller masterpiece.

 

Funny Games

A lot of people haven't seen this movie or haven't given it a chance. If you like thrillers, you don't get much more thrilling than Funny Games. In fact, it's downright frightening. It's creepy, disturbing and terrifying. The scariest part is that it could happen, and probably has somewhere.

It's one of the few movies that made me want to get up and leave the living room. I found myself cringing and feeling helpless for the family depicted in the actual movie. You want them to win, but their plight looks hopeless, and you're just waiting for either a miracle or for them to die.

There aren't very many movies that leave a mark on my psyche. I could count the number of movies that truly scared me or creeped me out on the fingers of one hand, but this strange, demented film certainly did that.

Funny Games Trailer

Top Ten Thrillers: #9 - The Game

The Game
The Game

The Game is a psychological thriller that came out in 1997 and stars Michael Douglas and Sean Penn. It’s basically about a clean-cut, conservative investment banker that’s given a strange gift.

He’s asked to fill out forms detailing his personal life, and finds out that those details are being used in mysterious ways. As the banker’s life begins to fall apart he desperately tries to repair the damage caused by The Game.

 

The Game

The Game is just an awesome movie. I own this one and I love every minute of it. Michael Douglas delivers a powerful performance from beginning to end.

The Game is one of those movies you either love or hate. Most people I know who have seen it love it with a passion, but I have talked to a few people who don't like it very much. However, in my opinion this movie delivers thrills, suspense and plays with your mind better than almost any other movie of its kind. It's a fun, yet thrilling rollercoaster ride that doesn't let up.

The fact that it stars Michael Douglas and Sean Penn is enough to draw most movie lovers toward it, but unlike some movies, The Game delivers a punch that you'll want to experience again and again.

The Game Trailer

Top Ten Thrillers: #8 - The Taxi Driver

Taxi Driver (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)
Taxi Driver (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)

Taxi Driver features a plethora of future stars, including Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel and Jody Foster. It was released in 1976 and was nominated for four Academy Awards.

Taxi Driver is about a Vietnam veteran who is dishonourably discharged. He settles in to New York and takes up a new career as a taxi driver. He suffers from insomnia, and gradually begins to go insane. After putting himself through a physical fitness routine, and buying illegal arms, he decides that it’s time to put a stop to the petty crime in New York.

Watching Robert De Niro become extremely unstable is extremely chilling. The Taxi Driver is a classic thriller that every thriller fan should enjoy. It’s well worth watching.

 

The Taxi Driver

I remember watching The Taxi Driver a very long time ago. Who could forget Robert De Niro looking in the mirror and asking, "You talkin' to me?" After all, that line is still used today by people who haven't even seen the movie.

The Taxi Driver is chilling. It will make your spine feel as though some threw someone ice water in there. It's also superbly written and directed, and features a lot of up and coming stars before they were truly famous.

The Taxi Driver also made this list because when I travelled around the internet and took a look at different forums and lists, The Taxi Driver was almost always mentioned at some point. It's one of the best thrillers and movie-buffs and thrill seekers as well as film critics realize this, which is why this great movie made my list of the ten best thrillers of all time.

The Taxi Driver Trailer

Top Ten Thrillers: #7 - The Shining

The Shining (Two-Disc Special Edition)
The Shining (Two-Disc Special Edition)

When Jack Nicholson is hired to look after the Overlook hotel with his wife and son, he has no idea that the hotels seedy past is about to drive him out of his mind.

His son, Danny, has special ‘powers’ which allow him to sense the danger that the Overlook Hotel poses. The entities within the hotel know that Danny poses a serious threat, and they try their best to drive Jack crazy. They’d like nothing more than for Jack to chop his unwitting family into tiny bits with an axe.

Can Danny and his mother survive Jacks mental breakdown, or will they too succumb to the terror that haunts the Overlook Hotel?

You’ll have to watch to find out. I just watched this movie a few days ago, and was amazed at Jack Nicholson’s performance once again. It’s truly an awe inspiring movie that thriller lovers will surely enjoy again and again. I know I do!

 

The Shining

Watching Jack Nicholson descend into madness is frightening as hell. He makes you believe that he's going crazy with a convincing performance unrivalled even today.

Written by horror god, Stephen King, this movie started out on the right foot. Couple Stephen King's literary genius with that of Jack Nicholson, and you're left with a timeless classic that will keep you awake at night, clutching your blankets with fear.

If you've never seen The Shining, you should seriously consider doing so. The trailer below doesn't really do the movie justice, but even so, you can probably tell by watching it that you're in for a thrill ride that you won't soon forget.

Not only am I a huge Stephen King fan and Jack Nicholson fan, which helped The Shining cement the #7 position on my top ten thriller list, but I found this movie on dozens of websites throughout the web which helped back it up.

The Shining Trailer

Top Ten Thrillers: #6 - The Manchurian Candidate

The Manchurian Candidate (Widescreen Edition)
The Manchurian Candidate (Widescreen Edition)

The Manchurian Candidate is about a platoon of soldiers who remember the heroic acts of one of their members. However, once they’re back home, they begin to suffer nightmares that are all too real. They soon begin to realize that their memories may have been tampered with, and something horrible may have happened while they thought they were on the battlefield.

The Manchurian Candidate was originally released in 1962, and starred Frank Sinatra. However, the movie was pulled from theatres because it hit too close to home. It was remade in 2004 starring Denzel Washington. Both movies are excellent and deliver enough thrills and twists to make the #6 poistion on my list of the best thrillers ever.

 

The Manchurian Candidate

The Manchurian Candidate is an excellent thriller movie. The acting is superb and the plot is intricate and chilling. The thought of being brainwashed and used against your will is something that sends shivers down my spine, that's for sure.

I enjoyed watching this movie the first time and have enjoyed watching it ever since. I love Denzel Washington, and I think he's one of the best actors out there. If you haven't seen the Manchurian Candidate, I recommend you see it as soon as possible. It's an unforgettable thriller that uses political intrigue and action to weave a spell that never quite lets go of your thoughts.

Manchurian Candidate Trailer

Top Ten Thrillers: #5 - The Sixth Sense

The Sixth Sense (Collector's Edition Series)
The Sixth Sense (Collector's Edition Series)

The Sixth Sense was nominated for six Academy Awards and helped establish M. Night Shyamalan as one of the premier thriller writers and directors of our time.

The movie is about a boy who can speak and see the dead. Bruce Willis plays a child psychologist who tries to help the boy deal with his gift. The twist ending is the best part of this movie in my opinion. However, you’ll have to watch it to see what I mean.

No spoilers here!

 

The Sixth Sense

Released in 1999, The Sixth Sense easily slides into the number five position on my list of top ten thriller flicks. It's an excellent movie that stars Bruce Willis, and even the trailer found below is disturbing.

Even though I enjoyed The Sixth Sense, it was a bit disappointing to me. I expected to be scared out of my mind when I saw the trailers, but instead I was pleasantly entertained. If I hadn't seen this movie listed in so many forums as one of the best thriller movies, I might have forgotten to include it on my list.

However, it is still a good movie. Bruce Willis delivers a powerful performance, and there are enough chilling moments to qualify it as a true thriller.

Sixth Sense Trailer

Top Ten Thrillers: #4 - Fatal Attraction

Fatal Attraction
Fatal Attraction

Fatal Attraction was released in 1987 and starred Michael Douglas, Glen Close and Anne Archer. It’s an extremely popular thriller, and received six Academy Award nominations.

It’s about a married man who has a weekend affair. He tries to end it, but the woman who he had the affair with won’t let him do so...no matter the cost.

Instead, the woman becomes obsessed with him and will do almost anything to keep him in her sick grasp.

 

Fatal Attraction

Fatal Attraction was very popular when it originally came out, and remains so to this day. I personally enjoyed this movie a great deal.

Michael Douglas was one of the best actors of the 80's and 90's. Besides the obvious star power, the plot is amazing. The watcher realizes that this movie could easily come true, which makes it an unbelievably good thriller.

Fatal attraction is a classic thriller movie that easily made my list of top ten thriller movies. Long after it was originally released, it's still being watched and enjoyed by thriller lovers worldwide.

Fatal Attraction Trailer

Top Ten Thrillers: #3 - Seven

Seven (Single Disc Edition)
Seven (Single Disc Edition)

Seven was released in 1997 and is one of the best thriller movies ever made. Brad Pitt and Morgan Freemen play two detectives who are trying to solve the case of a serial killer who kills using the seven deadly sins as a basis point for his ritualistic murders.

 

Seven

This movie has an incredible plot, and enough gore and suspense to make it a very successful thriller movie. You really can't go wrong with Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt at the helm, and the plot keeps you guessing right to the end.

In my travels around the internet, Seven was mentioned several times as being the best thriller movie of all time. While I don't really think it's the best, it is very, very good. I own Seven and watch it now and then. It never fails to make me think or raise the skin at the back of my neck. I believe it deserves the number three spot on my list, don't you?

Seven Trailer

Top Ten Thrillers: #2 - Psycho

Psycho
Psycho

Inspired by the story of serial killer, Ed Gein, Psycho is about a lady who embezzles money from her employer and then seeks out shelter at a hotel, which is run by psychopath Norman Bates. Psycho is considered one of Alfred Hitchcock’s best movies and has been scaring people for decades.

 

Psycho

Not enough can be said about Psycho. It was a successful movie when it was released in 1960, and it continues to be till this day. It's a landmark film that paved the way for every slasher flick that has been made up until the present, and although some people classify it as a horror, it's a thriller in my opinion.

And it's not just any thriller either. It's one of the highest grossing thriller movies of all time. Psycho blends suspense with an intricate plot to create one of the best movies of all time, not to mention one of the best thriller movies ever created. This movie demonstrates why Alfred Hitchcock is considered by many to be the best director of suspense films ever.

Psycho Trailer

The Best Thriller of All Time - The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs (Full Screen Edition)
The Silence of the Lambs (Full Screen Edition)

In order to catch a serial killer, FBI trainee Clarice Starling must ask the advice of one of the most notorious and dangerous serial killers on the planet, Hannibal the Cannibal.

Silence of the Lambs offers viewers a horrifying look into the mind of a dangerous yet brilliant serial killer.

 

Silence of the Lambs

Even though Psycho has grossed more money than Silence of the Lambs, it also has the benefit of being on the market longer. In my opinion, Silence of the Lambs is the best darned thriller movie of all time. Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins are absolutely amazing in this film.

Not only is the acting first rate, but Silence of the Lambs has managed to capture five Academy Awards. The very thought of having to get into the mind of a serial killer in order to capture another serial killer is horrifying. The movie does a great job of bringing serial killer Hannibal Lector to life in all his glory, and you feel as if you’re literally in the room with him.

I personally love this movie. By far it’s my favourite thriller movie on my top ten list, which is why it’s been given the number one spot. It’s also one of the most successful and talked about thriller movies of all time.

Silence of the Lambs Trailer

Leave your thoughts here!

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    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Love the sixth sense

      Thanks for sharing

    • kcsantos profile image

      kcsantos 4 years ago

      Great list! For me, Silence of the lamb is the most thrilling. Regarding Taxi Driver & Funny Games, i like de Niro and Pitt, so I think my adoration towards them overpowers the suspense feel of the movie. Maybe, I need to see Funny Games UK version.

    • profile image

      daniel-ritchie-33 4 years ago

      nice list :D but "The Secret Window" is a great that if u haven't watched..u should... and if u have seen it i strongly suggest u ad it to the list

    • profile image

      RhondaSplint 5 years ago

      What an awesome list. I've seen all of these movies and I definitely agree. Top 10 for sure. Enjoyed your lens. I need to re-watch these now:)

      editor of pregnancy symptoms week by week

    • JK Sterling profile image

      Jim Sterling 5 years ago from Franklin, Tennessee

      I love your list, seldom do you come across a list like this that you wouldn't change at all. Thanks.

    • jaredsgirl profile image

      jaredsgirl 5 years ago

      Great lens and super list! All these thrillers were amazing movies. But my all time ultimate thriller will always be The Shining. Jack Nicholas scares the crap out of me in that movie! Thanks so much for sharing.

    • girlfriendfactory profile image

      girlfriendfactory 5 years ago

      Awesome list! I haven't seen Funny Games or, oddly enough, Taxi Driver but since I love the others I'll just have to see them. This is probably my favorite genre out of any because it opens up so many philosophical "what ifs" that a conversation can go on for days.

    • WayneDave LM profile image

      WayneDave LM 5 years ago

      First of all, I really like your lens. I've seen about half of these films, my fave film of all time is Se7en, and Taxi Driver is up there too. I've never heard of The Game but it is one that I will definitely try it, it sounds really good. Thanks for sharing this list.

    • profile image

      bjhenders88 6 years ago

      In my opinion the top three movies define the genre. They contain the elements of a great thriller: talented actors, an insanity comparable to Hitler's, a prevailing sinister atmosphere, and a sense of horrific reality.

      Hitchcock mastered atmosphere and insanity. He elevated Psycho from a good thriller to a great thriller, and he did it in black and white.

      Anthony Hopkins incarnated an insane genius. Hannibal's madness permeates the movie. His acting plus that of Jodie Foster elevated this from a good thriller to a great thriller.

      The horrible murders in Seven defined the movie. Seven contained all of the elements, and had the potential of being even better. I think that Freeman's character needed a variation from his stylized version which is a bit too soft for Seven. I attribute this to the director and the writers who either made or allowed that choice. Morgan Freeman is an excellent actor and one of my favorites.

    • MamaBelle profile image

      Francis Luxford 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      I haven't seen any of these. I'll have to give them a try!

    • profile image

      Shadrosky 6 years ago

      I haven't seen all of these but Seven, Funny Games and The Game are top notch!

    • profile image

      roycollins 6 years ago

      What about the best old thriller movies? Those are my favorites!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Great stuff!! I like your lens; itâs very informative and engaging. Iâm also building a site Drinking how much is too much which is really useful for drinkers.

    • profile image

      promotional-coupons-codes 6 years ago

      You have nice list and all the movies are my favorite. I liked the presentation of the lens very much.

    • bowfishing lm profile image

      bowfishing lm 6 years ago

      The Shining is the best and scariest childhood movie that stays with me and still give me chills as I grow old. Great lens

    • dotcomboy profile image

      dotcomboy 6 years ago

      What in incredible amount of work you've put into this lens. You should see "Let the Right One In" http://www.squidoo.com/lettherightonein

    • EuroSquid LM profile image

      EuroSquid LM 6 years ago

      I don't agree with the order of the selection, but i do agree that most of these movies are amongst the top thrillers I have seen. Blessed by an Angel

    • brendonb lm profile image

      brendonb lm 6 years ago

      Just want to add Old Boy to the list...it had a huge twist in the end...earth shattering...and there is one more...Mulholland Drive...which is more of a surreal thriller....Nice Lens...I have one lens related to horror...Do visit!

    • artgoodman lm profile image

      artgoodman lm 6 years ago

      I think The Shining should be bumped to number one, I couldn't sleep for like 3 nights after watching that movie.... Heeeeeeeeeresss Johny!

    • george185 lm profile image

      george185 lm 6 years ago

      Great List. I would have to tie Seven and Silence of the Lambs for number one.

    • MikeEssex profile image

      MikeEssex 6 years ago

      Really must get around to watching the Manchurian Candidate. I've had a sealed copy for 3 years... The Ring deserves a mention (Japanese or American).

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Nice lens! Great information. Your readers might also be interested in discount luxury hotels and luxury hotels information. Feel free to visit and leave a feedback!

      Good luck!

    • profile image

      MarjorieKaye 6 years ago

      Check out the original Manchurian Candidate--the one with Lawrence Harvey, Angela Lansbury and Frank Sinatra. It's really good too.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I agree with The Silence of the Lambs as number one, almost all of these films , I have watched countless times, You never get tired of them, "Seven" is a movie you don't hear mentioned that much in lists like this.

    • kateloving profile image

      Kate Loving Shenk 6 years ago from Lancaster PA

      This lens deserves a Purple Star or LOTD, IMHO! Great work!!

    • CeleryStalker LM profile image

      CeleryStalker LM 6 years ago

      I loved funny games. Nice to see someone else liked it too, no one I've met has even heard of it.

    • italianizeyours profile image

      italianizeyours 7 years ago

      The Shining is a great film. Kubrick knew how to make a movie. Can't wait to see Funny Games. I have it in my rental queue and forgot all about that one.

    • profile image

      Julip 7 years ago

      Really? I would disagree unless you look at this top movie list http://www.filmcrave.com/list_genre_movie.php?genr...

    • Richard-H profile image

      Richard 7 years ago from Surrey, United Kingdom

      I have seen most of these thrillers, with Seven and Psycho being among my favourites. Will have to catch up on a couple on your list I haven't seen. *Blessed*

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Would have to agree these are really some of the best Thriller movies to have ever been made. Ringing my little Squid Angel bell for a blessing.

    • lasertek lm profile image

      lasertek lm 7 years ago

      Great list! I have seen most of these movies except The Shining.

    • profile image

      Obscure_Treasures 7 years ago

      Great Lens! So glad I found you! Might share some of your info on my Blog too!

    • profile image

      Julip 7 years ago

      I like all of these Yeah but I mean have you checked out http://www.filmcrave.com/list_genre_movie.php?genr... for a real list of top thrillers?

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 7 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      I really liked the Sixth Sense when it came out, and Seven was amazing but I love Kevin Spacey. Normally, I do not like horror thrillers, but the twist in the Sixth Sense made it really stand out.

    • Mickie Gee profile image

      Mickie Goad 7 years ago

      A thrilling list of wonderful movies. The only one I have not seen is "The Game". Must go and check it out.

      Blessed today by this Squid Angel. Aren't you thrilled?

    • garyrh1 profile image

      garyrh1 7 years ago

      I've seen all of them but Funny Games and The Game. I agree with KimGiancaterino on that the original Manchurian Candidate is a better version, in my opinion. The scariest of them all will always be Psycho, simply because I walked in on the movie when I was little and had nightmares for months after.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 7 years ago

      Great list. I've seen all but "Funny Games." I much prefer the original "Manchurian Candidate" to the new version. "The Shining" still scares the heck out of me, and I've seen it more than a dozen times (and have also read the book).

    • profile image

      lostinfiction 7 years ago

      this is a great compilation of thrillers! I just posted too about Stephen King on my lens page, as well as Michael Cricton. Two of my faves!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Great! I love Thrillers. My favorite one is Sand Serpents.

    • gideon43 profile image

      gideon43 8 years ago

      Excellent lens.

      I don`t agree with a lot of your choices but that's the most enjoyable thing about movies, everyone has different tastes. Funny games is an excellent movie and I couldn`t disagree with Taxi Driver. I think thrillers cover a whole range of genres and the majority of Horror films are classed as thrillers.

      Alfred Hitchcock made some classis thrillers, Vertigo, Shadow of a Doubt, Rear Window and The Birds all spring to mind

    • StrangeConversa profile image

      StrangeConversa 8 years ago

      Some great films on this list. The thriller fascinates me too, and many of my favourites are on your list. I would say thrillers and horror films go hand in hand, and while they do differ as you have suggested it's funny you should mention that no ghosts or goblins will be found on this list since Psycho, The Sixth Sense, and The Shining all feature ghosts in a subtle but nonetheless prominent way.

      The Silence of the Lambs is rightly featured at the top of your list - a brilliant performance from Anthony Hopkins. It's quite removed from his recent (and arguably best) performance in the superb World's Fastest Indian. I recommend you see that if you like lighthearted comedy dramas with a strong emotional core.

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 8 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      I'm chicken-poop, so I haven't seen any of these movies. I know, silly me. But I love the lens, and I've added it to my new one, Top 10 Lists Of Top Ten Lists Of Top Ten. :)

    • Simeyc1 profile image

      Simeyc1 8 years ago

      Pretty good list - I would have had The Shining a little higher..but agree with no.1!!!!

    • profile image

      Sojourn 8 years ago

      You nailed it! The Shining still creeps me out no matter how many times I've watched it Silence of the Lambs definitely deserves #1. Wow. Great lens!

    • drifter0658 lm profile image

      drifter0658 lm 8 years ago

      Solid list. I know I woulda kicked my brother's arse if I was M. Douglas. I'm glad to see Psycho on this list. Check out the movie Frailty.