10 Best Thrillers Of All Time

Wednesday, February 2 by Charlie Higgins

Here are the must-see 10 best thrillers of all time. A great thriller not only makes moviegoers jump out of their seats, it does so without succumbing to cheap and obvious tricks. These films get inside us and often force us to confront the darkest evils of humanity as tensions build to an inevitable nail-biting climax.

  1. “Strangers On A Train” Hitchcock is widely considere the master of suspense, and this 1951 thriller shows the esteemed British director in top form. The film tells the story of an affluent tennis pro who inadvertently gets wrapped up in an exchange murder agreement with a man he meets on a train. "Strangers On A Train" is filled with the kind of double entendres and clever plot twists that made Hitchcock famous.
  2. “The Usual Suspects” This 1995 thriller was Kevin Spacey’s breakthrough film and won him an Oscar for his role as the cripple Verbal Klint. This gritty, violent thriller features one of the most shocking and surprising endings in cinematic history. Benicio Del Toro and Gabriel Byrne round out the film’s excellent supporting cast. 
  3. “Peeping Tom” Though this 1960 film by British director Michael Powell was extremely controversial upon its release, it is now regarded as a masterpiece. The film explores the psyche of a deranged serial killer who takes photos of young women’s faces in the act of murder. While the film does explore high art themes of voyeurism and sexual desire, it works on a visceral, plot-driven level as well.
  4. “The Conversation” Francis Ford Coppola directed this 1974 thriller between his more successful and better known films “The Godfather” and “The Godfather Part II.” Gene Hackman stars as the sound surveillance expert Harry Caul who begins to suspect foul play after being hired to spy on a young couple in San Francisco’s Union Square. The film ingeniously uses sound editing to develop the plot towards its stunning climax.
  5. “Chinatown” Widely considered one of the best thrillers of all time, Roman Polanski’s revisionist film noir classic was nominated for ten Oscars, including best picture, director, cinematography, score, actor and actress. The film stars Jack Nicholson as the smooth-talking detective Jack Gittes and Faye Dunaway as the striking but psychologically damaged dame.
  6. “Marathon Man” Director John Shlesinger of “Midnight Cowboy” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday” crafted this 1976 nail-biter. Dustin Hoffman stars as the clueless and paranoid Babe who gets kidnapped by a Nazi war criminal (played by Laurence Olivier) trying to recover a cache of stolen gems. The film is famous for the scene in which Olivier’s character tortures Babe using dental instruments.
  7. “Seven” This stylish homicide thriller staring Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt earned both critical and box-office success in 1995. Both actors play detectives investigating a series of grisly murders that each represent one of the so-called seven deadly sins. The murders becomes successively more gruesome until the film reaches its unforgettable disturbing climax.
  8. “Psycho” A film that’s become a staple of pop culture references high and low, Hitchcock’s brilliant 1960 thriller is largely to blame for the onslaught of derivative slasher films that followed. Nonetheless, it’s one of the true classics of the thriller genre and one of Hitchcock’s most commercially successful films to date. The film’s infamous shower murder scene made audiences around the world think twice about getting into the shower.
  9. “M” Released in 1931 when sound in film was still very much a novelty, this early thriller by German director Fritz Lang is considered a masterpiece of world cinema. The film stars the incomparable Peter Lorre as a sick child killer hunted down by an angry mob of underworld criminals seeking vigilante justice.
  10. “The Manchurian Candidate” This highly influential 1962 cold war satire spawned the overplayed but successful political thriller genre and features top-notch performances by Angel Lansbury, Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey. With its themes of political power and international conspiracy, the film was in many ways ahead of its time.
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