In my opinion a good movie is a movie where you’ll say this line ten minutes into watching it. These movies are mindfuck movies, or well let’s call them psychological thrillers which is more of a proper way of putting it. I decided to write about this subject because recently I’ve been watching a lot of these movies (honestly I just finished one ten minutes ago) to the point where I’ve started to question everything I’m doing. I actually think I might have to stop.
A psychological thriller is a movie where the story focuses on the (which makes sense of course) psychology of the character and their unstable emotional state. The emphasis of such a movie is on the mental state of the characters: their perceptions, thoughts, distortions, and of course the struggle to grasp reality. Often you’ll find the main characters struggling with what’s reality and what isn’t (for example the main character in ‘Memento’ or Robert Downey Jr.’s character in the movie ‘Zodiac’). Like in all movies genres you have some stock characters, ones that are used often. You can think of a hardboiled detective and a serial killer, playing some sort of ‘cat and mouse’ game. Psychological thrillers focus on the story and how the characters react to this. Other than this there is almost always a moral conflict that drives the character to fear and anxiety. You start to care for these characters, especially when you can see the changes in them. Once they start to struggle with moral conflicts and the anxiety increases, you – as an audience – will feel discomfort. You could even be a little bit scared at times. Personally I think that what I enjoy most about these movies is that you feel a part of it. Almost always you know as much as the main characters do (which is like nothing) so you feel like you’re a part of solving the mystery or conflict that’s going on. You’ll feel the anxiety they do, but also the relief if they manage to solve it.
I’ve found that a psychological thriller usually contains three key elements:
- Plot twists. Of course they have plot twists, this causes the confusion for the characters and you as a viewer. Once you feel like you don’t have a clue anymore, you’ll start to feel uncomfortable, and you will discover the movie can actually play with your mind a little.
- Unreliable narrator. Not all psychological thrillers have a narrator, but when they do it’s mostly just to support the dark feeling of the movie.
- Macguffin. Alfred Hitchcock himself came up with this. A Macguffin is a goal or item that helps to move the plot. Most of the time it’s very vague, but it helps create suspense. Try looking for it sometime!
I haven’t really watched a lot of psychological thrillers actually, but two weeks ago I felt like watching a good mindfuck movie. I’m always searching for movies like ‘Inception’ (I still don’t understand), but I had no idea there was such a thing as psychological thrillers. So, I started with ‘The Silence of the lambs’. Not really because it’s mentioned as the best psychological thriller, but because I had never seen it before and I felt like I should have. It’s sort of a classic after all. My mother actually came into my room and asked me what I was going to watch, when I told her it was ‘The Silence of the lambs’ she immediately cringed and said that the movie still gave her nightmares sometimes. I was curious why of course, so she explained me that it was the way that Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) played such a mind game with the main character Clarice (Jodie Foster). Apparently my mother had felt like he was getting inside her head too, which only made me more curious of course. I have to admit, it was a really great movie, but I wasn’t as scared. However she was right, because at some point I did feel like he got to me too, thinking that maybe he wasn’t going to (SPOILER ALERT I GUESS) kill those guards, but then he did and it actually surprised me. (NO MORE SPOILER ALERT JUST GOOD ADVICE) Anyway, for everyone who hasn’t seen it before: I only have one tip for you, please don’t try eating while watching this. Okay? Great.
After watching ‘The Silence of the lambs’ I was curious about more movies in this genre. I watched ‘Zodiac’, started watching ‘Shutter Island’ (but wow that’s really creepy) and just now I finished ‘Exam’. I really want to discuss the last one briefly. ‘Exam’ is not a recommended movie and it only has an 6.9 on IMDB, but I really enjoyed it. I was actually just scrolling through the psychological movies on Netflix and I was trying to decide which popular one I should watch first. However, I couldn’t decide so I randomly clicked this one without even knowing what it was about (except for an exam of course). It’s actually about eight people who are to take a test with one question and one answer and whoever gets it right gets to work for the company. They have eighty minutes to finish it, which seems quite long for one question, right? Of course, it isn’t this simple obviously. The piece of paper in front of them only states ‘Candidate’ followed by a number. The group has to figure out not only what the answer is, but also what the question is. Can they find it on the paper? Or is the question meant on a much deeper level? Maybe it’s just a test to see how they are in a group? Of course nothing is how it seems, but I won’t spoil anything for you. You just have to watch it for yourself!
If you would like to watch some psychological thrillers for yourself I’ve created a list of suggestions. I haven’t seen most of these, but they are highly recommended.
– ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ (1991)
– ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ (2004)
– ‘The Number 23’ (2007) (fans of Jim Carrey will see him like never before)
– ‘Memento’ (2000)
– ‘Shutter island’ (2010)
– ‘Rear window’ (1954)
– ‘Taxi driver’ (1976)
– ‘Se7en’ (1995) (Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt what more do you need?)
– ‘American Psycho’ (2000)
– ‘The game’ (1997)
– ‘Fight club’ (1999)
– ‘Black Swan’ (2010)
– ‘The Machinist’ (2004)
– ‘Identity’ (2003)
– ‘Zodiac’ (2007) (Seriously this movie has Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo)
I’m going to leave it like this because I think I could go on forever, but well the study week is coming up and I’m sure you all have something more useful to do than studying. However, if you’re taking a break and you need some distraction I highly recommend watching at least one of these.
Picture Source: theberkeleygraduate.com/ & images2.fanpop.com/