19 Gripping Psychological Thrillers On HBO MAX

Psychological thrillers are character-driven and delve deep into the human psyche. The plot deals with spies, criminals, a commoner with extraordinary nerve, and more. 

The ’80s and 90’s thrillers focused on relationships and love crimes. Psychological thrillers have evolved with the advent of technology, using themes of sci-fi, fantasy, comedy, and crime dramas as the mixed genre. 

Some of the most gripping psychological thrillers are streaming on HBO MAX. From twisted love stories to hate crimes, movies in this genre showcase the twisted side of human nature with a shock element. 

Kimi(2022)

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Kimi is a reflective movie that deals with the themes of isolation. The film is directed by Steven Soderbergh and stars Zoe Kravitz. The movie is a thriller that depicts the use of technology to commit a crime and find a solution. 

The paradoxical nature and the original plot about the crimes committed by Bradly, the company C.E.O. who created the Kimi app, are fascinating to watch. Angela, played by Zoe, is agoraphobic and is in a relationship with Terry, who lives across the street. 

Most of the film is shot inside the apartment. Angela has peculiar habits, but her eye for minute details of the crime is heightened when she discovers recordings indicating murder. She does the job of correcting errors on the software called Kimi.

There might be a lot of similarities between Kimi and the Panic Room starring Jodi Foster. But Kimi is done with an artistic style. The movie is completed with sharp edits in 90 minutes. 

39 Steps(1935)

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One of the masterpieces directed by Alfred Hitchcock from the ’30s. Richard Hanny becomes the prime suspect in the murder of a stranger woman called Smith, who attends theatre and introduces herself as a spy. 

The movie is based on a book by John Buchan of the same name. He is embroiled in murder and scandal of being the prime suspect of a glamorous spy who is a part of an espionage organization. 

This story has been remade numerous times, but the classic cult masterpiece of Alfred Hitchcock is no match. Instead, Hanny is the reluctant hero who has to prove his innocence through grueling experiences for crimes he never committed. 

The thriller instills a sense of patriotism. But, unfortunately, it also creates a template for a chaotic love story.

One of the ‘pure’ psychological thrillers tests the nerve of the characters and puts them through fatal experiences that lead to twisted situations, which makes it riveting.

The Maltese Falcon(1941)

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A 1941 film noir thriller based on the book of the same name. The story is about the murder of one of the investigating detectives. Sam Space and Miles Archer are private investigators living in San Francisco. They now have a new client, Ruth, but Space learns that Archer has been murdered.

Ruth’s sister’s lover, Thursby, whom Archer had agreed to meet the very night, is also murdered.

Sam now has to investigate two murders and does not trust the story of Ruth. The 1941 film provides a better characterization compared to its predecessors. This movie was made twice before the 1941 release.

The movie has pioneered the subgenre of film noir with violent chases, which interlude the rest of the plot.

It depicts themes of loyalty and rising for the occasion gripped in the mire. The film is made with literary elements and symbolism, which is evident throughout the movie. 

Don’t Worry Darling (2022)

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A 2022 American psychological thriller starring Florence Plug and Harry Styles. The movie takes place in the 50s era when Alice and Jack live in an idyllic neighborhood in California. The wives are not allowed to question the whereabouts of their husbands. 

They spend their time at home cooking, cleaning, and relaxing. They do not even venture into the neighborhood. The movie is styled in retro chic of the 50s and gives a glimpse of the life of Alice and Jack. 

With soirees and dinner parties, everything looks shiny and ideal, but scandalous secrets are hidden within that neighborhood’s walls. 

The movie depicts tyranny and patriarchy camouflaged with domestic joy and contentment. But as days pass, her anxiety about Alice increases, and she starts getting paranoid and suspicious. She discovers the disturbing and perplexing reality of everything going on. 

One of the most gripping psychological thrillers of 2022 that make you question everything even after you watch the movie. The visuals are tastefully done. The performances of the actors are convincing. 

Dark Places (2015)

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A 2015-released psychological thriller starring Charlize Theron, who plays the character Libby. As an 8-year-old child, Libby goes through the most traumatic experience of her family’s massacre. She witnesses her brother Ben kill her family and turns him in. 

For years she has been living off strangers’ kindness and charity, not earning for herself but also playing the victim. She then gets an opportunity to speak about her past for a paycheck with the hope of finding the murderers. 

Dark Places might seem like a narrative similar to Gone Girl in a few instances and has sinister themes of satanic rituals. However, the movie has a lot of twists and unpredictable instances with surprise elements that are challenging to guess. 

Old (2021)

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Old is a 2021-released American psychological thriller produced and directed by Night Shyamalan. It is based on a French graphic novel by the name Sandcastle. It has an ensemble cast. 

A family with two children vacations on an island. It is a perfect setting. But the staff shows them to a private beach island, where all the problem arises. They age by two years every two hours on the beach.

Two families are trapped on this beach island with supernatural elements and a fight for survival. The film has a twisted ending made in the typical Night Shyamalan style.

Prisca and Guy go on a vacation with their kids, not knowing what events await them. Though they are headed for divorce, they grow closer to each other, fighting for survival on the beach island. 

Along with them trapped is a surgeon named Charles with his wife, who has a mental breakdown because of rapid aging.

The dreary landscape, where most things are buried in sand, makes the escape difficult. The movie has an original narrative and survival themes, making it a worthy watch. 

Death On The Nile (2022)

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A 2022-released American thriller film based on the novel by Agatha Christie of the same name.

It is set in World War I and is about a detective Hercule Poirot who is set to uncover a series of murders in Egypt. Linnet(Gal Gadot) and Simon Doyle(Armie Hammer) are set on a cruise to Egypt. 

Jackie is engaged to poor Simon. She is a friend of Linnet, a wealthy heiress. She asks Linnet to find a job for her poor fiance. Simon falls for Linnet, breaking their engagement. Simon and Linnet marry and set off on vacation to Egypt.

Linnet is unhappy to see Jackie board the ship, and Linnet is murdered. Simon and Jackie are prime suspects.

There is the very little characterization of the characters involved. Even through Poirot’s questioning, we learn very little about them. The plot has many twists, making it hard to guess the intentions of the guests and the suspects. 

In a setting of glossy, luxury, and the 50’s template, this is a well-directed, gripping psychological thriller and a murder mystery. 

Promising Young Woman (2020)

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A 2020-released American psychological thriller film about a woman named Cassie, played by Carey Mulligan. Cassie has traumatic experiences and dallies between her present and traumatic past, seeking vengeance.

During her school, her best friend Nina is raped by A.I., who gets away with the rape of her best friend. She uses numerous acts to trap him and seeks vengeance.  

Cassie is a med school dropout and is working at a coffee shop. She uses men to seek their denial pretending to be intoxicated. She resents men because of the incident with her best friend. 

Every day she is reminded of the loss of her friend though her life with her parents is happy. She has unresolved issues about these incidents and wants to seek revenge and justice for her best friend, who dies committing suicide. 

Cassie is a strong, resolute, and beautiful woman fighting the system with A.I. getting away with rape. An intense film that has dark humor. Carey’s performance is phenomenal. The movie makes you think instead of dissipating into oblivion. 

The Little Things (2021)

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A 2021 neo-noir psychological crime thriller about a killer terrorizing the city. Rami Malek and Denzel Washington play the cop and are electrifying together. Baxter(Rami) and Deacon(Washington) are investigating a case of serial murders. 

They are searching for a serial killer, and Sparma(Jared Leto) is the prime suspect. The movie does not conclude by showing who the real killer is for the audience to guess. 

The movie has a few twists and a plot similar to Insomnia starring Al Pacino.

There is enough tension created in the movie with Washington and Rami’s top performances. A true detective thriller that leaves you guessing, providing no resolution. 

Us (2019)

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A 2019 American psychological horror thriller where a family battles with doppelgangers. Adelaine Wilson goes to a funhouse as a teen and is swapped with her doppelganger, Red. Red is the woman we see throughout the entire movie. 

A battle between the real people and their doppelgangers creates enough chaos and confusion for the audience to stay glued to the plot till the end. 

A unique plot with enough suspense and a great cast. A few images could be unsettling. The visual style in which the movie is shot is delightful and unnerving. The movie is allegorical and gives a lot to mull over. 

Unfaithful (2002)

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An erotic, psychological thriller starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane. Edward(Richard) and Connie(Diane) are in a monotonous marriage.

Connie meets Paul, and they start a whirlwind affair only to realize he is a serial womanizer. Connie leaves Paul, which is the beginning of the twist that creates chaos in their life.  

It shows how two reasonable individuals get into a sticky situation to beat boredom leading to chaos and murder. The movie is set in the suburbia of New York, with all the material happiness but void on the inside. 

It deals with themes of crimes of passion and illicit affairs. Most marriages start to fail because they lack spark.

Erotic thrillers were a fad in the early 21st century. This movie is made with all the condiments that make it a worthwhile watch. 

The Beguiled (2017)

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An American gothic thriller based on a novel of the same name. It stars Nichole Kidman, Kristen Dunst, Colin Farrell, and Elle Fanning. Sofia Coppola won the best director award for this movie.

McBurney(Colin) is a war veteran and injured found in the forest where the girls go to pick mushrooms.

They get him to the school for healing. However, he instead has an affair with one of the teen girls, which infuriates Martha(Nichole), and they plot to punish and kill him. 

The movie has gothic visuals, which add an eerie effect. Most teen girls are suddenly dressing up at the sight of McBurney. They are excited to see a handsome man in an all-girls school. 

Every bond he forms with Edwina(Kristen) and other girls incites trouble. McBurney comes across as a different person to every girl.

He is sometimes friendly and sometimes flirty. Martha is intense, and Edwina is elegant and funny. 

The film has melodrama and depicts how the women are ready to fight to get the attention of the only man in the school. 

Mulholland Drive (2001)

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A neo-noir thriller and a David Lynch movie have all the condiments to make for a gripping plot.

The film is about two aspiring actresses, one has amnesia, and the other is trying to figure out the origins of Rita with amnesia. 

Betty and Rita are trying to piece their lives back together. Rita does not even remember her real name.

The movie has sticky situations where one thing leads to another, and the plot only gets murkier. 

The movie symbolizes Freudian theories in the dream sequences. It gives you a peek into the mental and emotional states of the characters and how they connote their realities. 

The Invisible Man (2020)

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A 2020 psychological horror thriller starring Elizebeth Moss. Cecilia Kass(Moss) is in an abusive relationship with a wealthy businessman Adrain Griffin.

She drugs her boyfriend to escape from his highly secure home. He later commits suicide and leaves a few million in her name. 

She still feels his presence because of a few strange incidents. Adrain is a scientist who builds an invisible suit and torments Cecilia. The movie has many eerie and curious moments that make it an interesting plot to watch.  

The movie puts the audience through a psychological dread with twists. The movie is based on H.G Wells’s novel of the same name. 

The Book Of Henry (2017)

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The movie stars Naomi Watts as Susan. She is a single mother raising two boys, Henry and Peter. Henry is an 11-year-old genius suffering from a chronic disease.

Henry has a crush on Christina and witnesses her being abused by her stepfather. He makes a detailed plan in his notebook to kill her father, Glenn. Henry dies of a tumor and asks Peter to give the book to Christina. 

The movie depicts Henry as a deeply caring genius with a protective streak. Though dying, he still wants to help Christina and protect her.

The movie is a negative tale but depicts innocence against planning a homicide to protect his crush. 

Henry is desperate to protect Christina, even if it means making a plan to kill her stepfather.

It shows the emotions of a young genius who is so moved by what he observes every day through his window that he plans to do something about it. 

Jacob’s Ladder (1990)

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A 90’s psychological horror thriller starring Tim Robbins. It is a perspective of what goes inside a man’s mind before death. Jacob is a soldier fighting against Vietnam and wounded in his stomach.

In his unconscious state, he has visions of the afterlife and does not believe that he could be dead. It shows how Jacob perceives his death in his afterlife, coming to terms with it eventually. 

In his visions, he sees visions of people from his life, along with demon-like people. He is slowly getting detached from his past life while he is resisting death. 

In his unconscious state, the demons are messing with his mind attempting to erase all memories. The movie has a biblical take on the afterlife with religious symbolism and depicts a dark theme with moral values. 

A Perfect Murder (1998)

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The 90’s psychological crime thriller stars Micheal Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow.

A remake of Dial M for murder. Steven(Douglas) is married to Emily(Paltrow), who is twenty years younger than him. Emily is having an affair with painter David. 

Steven tries to bribe David into killing Emily unsuccessfully. The movie depicts the dark side of every character.

Steven is driven with rage to discover Emily’s affair. Douglas plays the cold and calculative Wall Street financier, Steven.

He plays the nice guy and the victim seeking revenge. Paltrow plays the meek woman who is not happy with her marriage.

The movie’s better characterization shows the dark side of them living a good life in a swanky apartment.

Dreamcatcher (2003)

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The movie is based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name and stars Morgan Freeman.

The movie has themes of telepathy and alien invasion. Four friends share a telepathic gift. They protect a boy being bullied with their gift.

They soon realize that the retarded kid they rescued was taken over by aliens leaving him in that condition.

They develop a bond with him only to realize twenty-five years later that he is the key to protection from alien invasion. 

The movie generates a shock value with its scattered plot. With crisp performances, this is one of the most bizarre monster movies based on Stephan King’s novels. 

Doctor Sleep(2019)

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A supernatural, psychological horror thriller based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name. The movie is a sequel to The Shining movie. Ewan McGregor plays Danny Torrance. 

Dan develops psychic abilities as an adult but is still traumatized by his tragic childhood memories from the Overlook hotel. 

He moves to New Hamshire, cures himself of being an alcoholic, and joins a hospice providing emotional and spiritual support to dying patients and is nicknamed ‘Doctor Sleep.’

Another psychic group, the True Knots, survives only by torturing and killing those with healing powers or the shining.

A psychic girl Abra alerts Dan of these occurrences telepathically. Dan battles with the True Knots. The movie is an eerie blend of the emotional and supernatural states of the characters, which makes it an interesting watch. 

Ma (2019)

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A 2019 psychological horror thriller starring Octavia Spencer. A group of teenagers befriends a middle-aged woman and party in her basement, only to be terrorized by her. 

Sue Ann, aka Ma, is played by Octavia. She invites a group of teenagers to party and anonymously reports them to school as well.

It shows Ma as psychologically twisted because she seduces a teenager, Ben, and assaults him. 

Ma depicts enough horror but lacks the switch between intrigue and terror. The plot lacks orientation but has an original villain, Ma.

The female villain in a devious plot is a novel characterization of a female villain makes it a curious watch. 

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