Psychological thrillers are in a completely different league altogether—it’s creepy, terrifying, and goes beyond the typical ghost-that-jumps-out-at-the-screen to scare the living hell out of you type.
It can be equally spine-tingling—or even more so, because you can actually picture it happening in real life. Psychological thrillers really tap into warped human psyches and often goes down the human rabbit hole of crazy and deranged.
If you’d like to wrap your minds around some for Halloween, here are 21 psycho thrillers on Netflix to give you the serious chills. Warning: watching it alone can result in nightmares and sleepless nights.
1. In The Tall Grass
In this adaptation of Stephen King and Joe Hill’s novel of the same name, this supernatural horror film is about trapped people in a vast, endless, disorientating field tall grass. Definitely not your average unassuming, innocuous grass.
The film’s main character Becky hears a little boy shouting for help in the tall grass when she’s driving enroute with her brother, and together they both venture into the grass to help him. Cue creepy, strange happenings.
Cam is an unsettling personality identity thriller which centers around the life of a cam girl Alice Ackerman—who goes by her online alias Lola—and is trying to boost her rankings online on broadcasting website Free Girls Live and earn some serious moolah from it.
The film reveals that Alice is confident and talented in plotting her climb to online fam, playing smartly to people’s desire for the extreme with bloody stunts—until things start heating up as she accedes to fan requests which start infringing into her private life. One day, she finds that someone has creepily replaced her on her own account and that someone looks just like her.
3. It Comes at Night
Set in a desolate home in a world ravaged by a grotesque disease, this end-of-the-world apocalypse is something we are all too familiar with in The Walking Dead and other zombie movies. But this one’s not about gruesome zombies and night-eating creatures.
Instead, the film explores isolation, paranoia, grief—all of which are very real human emotions. Tiny spoiler: “It” isn’t some sort of monster that comes at night, or anything physical at all. The movie is proof that what’s unseen can be just as terrifying as anything that actually jumps out at you on screen.
4. Raising Cain
In this old 1992 horror classic, prominent child psychologist Carter Nix seems to be the perfect husband to his wife Jenny and dad to their young daughter Amy. But the cracks to his personality begin to appear. Beneath his calm exterior is a man suffering from severe personality disorder, a result of childhood abuse inflicted upon him by his own father—also a renowned child psychologist. Carter now obsesses over their child’s development as his own scientific experiment.
5. Gerald’s Game
An adaptation from Stephen King’s novel, the film is about a kinky sexual escapade gone wrong. The film’s main character Jessie Burlingame finds herself chained to the bed when her husband suffers a heart attack mid-sex and dies. There is a focus on internal monologue and the mind, as Jessie’s anxiety takes the form of an angel (a more confident version of herself, perhaps what she aspires to be) motivating her to survive, and devil (her condescending, sneering husband), telling her she can’t.
Jessie also sees a creepy figure in the shadows whom she calls the Moonlight Man whenever her mind slips into delirium, and the mangy human-eating dog also adds to the thrills of the film.
6. The Shining
Another horror classic in the 1980s, The Shining is based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name. Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is the hired caretaker of the dilapidated Overlook Hotel, hoping to take the time to write and get past his writer’s block. The isolation and supernatural forces at the hotel start his slow descent into madness—from a clean-shaven to scruffy face punctuated by that terrifying grin.
7. The Platform
A psychological experimental jail (read: hell), The Platform involves a literal platform of food descending a tower with over 300 levels. Making a pit stop at each level, inmates on each floor take turns to eat ravage the same platform of food. The ones at the upper levels get the privilege of feasting first, and the ones at the lower levels are subject to starvation… and survival.
8. The Silence of the Lambs
This classic 90s movie is one of the psychological thrillers of all time. The film stars Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) as a young FBI trainee who is trying to apprehend a serial killer, known as “Buffalo Bill” who skins his female victims’ corpses. To do this, she seeks the advice of another serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter, also brilliant, cannibalistic psychiatrist.
9. The Perfection
This thriller features a once-elite cellist named Charlotte meets the music prodigy who succeeded her and they quickly become rivals and then lovers. The plot is filled with twists and horror that will leave you gobsmacked at the edge of your couch.
10. In the Shadow of the Moon
Netflix’s thriller is a time travel twister for us to piece together on our own. The film’s palpable anxiety and tension builds as the detective pursues a female time-travelling serial killer every 9 years.
This true criminal psychological thriller film follows the hunt for notorious Bay Area serial killer in the 1960s and 70s, based on true events associated with the Zodiac. The two-hour-and-38-minute film stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr.
A single mom named Katrina is on a road trip with her daughter Clara, when her daughter gets bitten by a rattlesnake. Desperate, she accepts the help of a mysterious woman and goes on to make an unfathomable deal with the devil to repay her.
This psychological thriller centers on a family going on a road trip for Thanksgiving. When his young daughter becomes injured, Ray takes the family to the nearest hospital. But after his wife and daughter disappear from the emergency room, Ray conducts a panicked search and slowly begin to find that something was going on with the hospital.
14. The Invitation
A gathering of friends, an innocuous dinner party. Getting an invitation to the dinner party at a swanky mansion turns into a deadly affair in this chilling thriller, which unravels to become a cult-inspired killing spree.
15. Bird Box
In this dystopian thriller, a woman (Sandra Bullock) and her children travel blindfolded as an unseen force stalks them on the journey.
A science fiction horror film that follows biologist Lena (Natalie Portman) joining an expedition into The Shimmer, a mysterious, anomalous region that emerged from a meteor which is gradually expanding its boundaries. When Lena’s husband Kane vanishes during his secret mission and returns a year later as the sole survivor—only to collapse and be taken into intensive care—Lena joins the new scientific expedition to uncover the mysteries of what happened to her husband.
The film is also adapted from Stephen King novella and follows a farmer named Wilf to Nebraska, where he writes a confession for murdering his wife. But the murder is only the beginning; Wilf slowly falls apart.
18. The Devil’s Advocate
A supernatural horror film focusing on the eternal struggle between power and weakness, temptation and surrdener, good and evil. The film follows a young attorney recruited to the firm of a charismatic lawyer, who gradually reveals sinister intent.
19. The Killing of a Sacred Deer
The marriage of a couple (Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell) starts falling apart after inviting an orphaned boy into their home. Fun fact: this psychological thriller film won best screenplay at Cannes.
Hush is an intense thriller which follows a deaf woman who lives in a secluded house in the woods. She has to fight for her life in silence as a masked killer appears. A more terrifying version of A Quiet Place, we would say.
21. Secret Obsession
When Jennifer (Brenda Song) wakes up with amnesia after a traumatic attack and a husband she cannot remember, she remains in danger as she returns to a life she has no memory of. It’s been said to be a creepier version of Netflix’s hit thriller series “You”.
So are you game for some spine-tingling thrillers this Halloween weekend? Tip: Bookmark this page (the tiny star icon at your browser) to save our secret Netflix list so you can keep coming back to it for your stay-in movie nights! Have a deliciously spooky Halloween week ahead, you guys.