Top 20 Thriller Movies of All Time and their IMDb Scores

Trying to narrow down a huge genre to just 20 films is a tough challenge. But if you love edge-of-the-seat action, twists and turns, and psychological thrillers that keep you hooked from the moment the film starts, some really do stand above the crowd. We’ve put together the list of the top 10 thriller movies and their IMDb scores – how many have you seen? These are iconic films where the acting, dialogue, action and suspense all come together to create the best thriller movies of all time.

If you’re looking for some serious action, settle in, grab some popcorn, and take a wild ride with us through the list of the scariest thriller movies ever to grace the screen, from the 1960s right through to the 2020s. If this amazing list whets your appetite, don’t worry, there are plenty more to choose from once you’ve worked your way through the top 20!

1. Pulp Fiction – 1994 (8.9)

With an almost-perfect IMDb score and a legendary cast, Pulp Fiction is quite simply the best thriller movie of all time. Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece interweaves a variety of stories including two hitmen, a boxer, a gangster and his wife and two diner bandits. The themes that run through this remarkable film elevate it beyond mere ‘thriller’, putting it in a class of its own. Starring John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson, and Bruce Willis.

2. Inception – 2010 (8.8)

One of the most complex and challenging thrillers ever made, Inception has you glued to the screen for every second of its 148-minute run-time. A thief who specialises in stealing corporate secrets by using dream-sharing technology is forced to use that same software to plant an idea into a CEO’s head. The consequences are devastating, and the story demands your undivided attention as the line between fiction and reality becomes increasingly blurred. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Elliot Page, and Ken Watanabe.

3. Seven – 1995 (8.6)

Famous for its utterly chilling ending, Seven is a nail-biting thriller that set a new standard when it comes to truly terrifying serial-killer films. Two homicide detectives, one with years of experience and the other a total rookie, hunt a serial killer that takes the concept of the seven deadly sins to a whole new level. This dark, relentless examination of the corruption of the human psyche is genuinely disturbing and worthy of a place on any list of the best thriller movies of all time. Starring Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey and Andrew Kevin Walker.

4. The Silence of the Lambs – 1991 (8.6)

There are very few films that can hold a candle to the sheer tension and mesmerising performances you’ll see in The Silence of the Lambs. This utterly chilling film won five Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Screenplay, demonstrating just how seminal it is. FBI trainee Clarice Starling has to question serial killer Hannibal Lecter, a man with a brilliant yet depraved mind, and get him to help her get inside the head of another serial killer, ‘Buffalo Bill’. The scenes between the two leads are genuinely spellbinding, and the dialogue will haunt your dreams. The Silence of the Lambs is, quite simply, a masterpiece. Starring Jodie Foster, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn and Ted Levine.

5. Parasite – 2019 (8.5)

South Korea has emerged as a major force in modern cinema and has created some of the scariest thriller movies in the last 20 years. Parasite is right up there as one of the best – a powerful and disturbing examination of the relationship between a wealthy family, the Parks, and a destitute clan called Kim determined to extract every cent they can. The way that the scheming Kim family become entangled with the Parks is genuinely chilling. But can the Parks' whip-smart housekeeper foil their plotting? Starring Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, and Choi Woo-sik.

6. The Departed – 2006 (8.5)

Life as an undercover cop is always terrifyingly tense. But when you’re trying to infiltrate one of the most violent gangs in Boston, it’s even more harrowing. The Departed is a classic thriller where exposure as a cop could mean instant death. Especially when there’s also a mole in the police department trying to figure out who the undercover cop is. A twisted rollercoaster of a film and highly recommended as one of the best thriller movies of all time. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, and Mark Wahlberg.

7. The Prestige – 2006 (8.5)

Not all thrillers are cop-based, and Prestige brings a whole new twist to the concept of the magic show. Two magicians are determined to create the ultimate stage illusion. Egos take over as they risk everything to try and outdo one another in a tense stand-off that could cost them much more than they think. Starring Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, and Sir Michael Caine.

8. Leon – 1994 (8.5)

Leon is a professional assassin who is at the top of his trade. The last thing he needs in his life is a protégée, especially when that apprentice is a 12-year-old girl. After her family is murdered, Leon finds himself as an unlikely surrogate father, and the girl’s education into the dark and dangerous life of the professional assassin begins. Starring Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, Natalie Portman, and Danny Aiello.

9. The Usual Suspects – 1995 (8.5)

When you think of spine-tingling, chilling thrillers, you immediately think of that shower scene. Psycho is a masterclass in thriller movie production, created by the true genius of the genre, Alfred Hitchcock. A young secretary embezzles money from her employers and goes on the run, ending up at the brooding Bates motel. This ultimate thriller may be over 70 years old, but it still has the power to shock you, make you jump, and get your heart racing. A must-watch in any list of the scariest thriller movies of all time. Starring Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, and John Gavin.

10. Psycho – 1960 (8.5)

What drove the Joker to become the vicious, savage lunatic that eventually haunted Gotham City? What gave him the drive and the rage to turn him into Batman’s nemesis? This film takes a long, hard look at the man behind the mask and his spiral into madness and mayhem. An outstanding performance by Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker will leave you with a deeper understanding of the man and his personal agony. Also starring Robert de Nero, Zazie Beetz and Frances Conroy.

11. Joker – 2019 (8.4)

Another South Korean offering in our list of the top 20 thriller movies, and it's a good one. Oldboy is part of the Vengeance trilogy, examining the emotional journey that leads someone to seek vengeance. After being imprisoned for 15 years, a man has just five days to find his captor and seek his revenge. But is he being played by shadowy forces yet again? Starring Choi Min-sik, Yoo Ji-tae, Kang Hye-jeong and Kim Byeong-Ok.

12. Oldboy – 2003 (8.4)

Forgetting where you put your keys is inconvenient. Forgetting what happened in the lead-up to your wife’s murder is a whole new level of darkness. Memento tells the story of a man with short-term memory loss whose last recall was of his wife’s murder. A storyline that moves back and forth wracks up the tension. Nominated for two Oscars, Memento is a powerful film with some exceptional performances from the lead actors. Starring Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, and Mark Boone Junior.

13. Memento – 2000 (8.4)

Two US Marshalls are sent to an asylum on a remote and hard-to-reach island. Their case is to investigate the disappearance of a patient. But that’s not the only mystery in this claustrophobic thriller, which twists and turns with a shocking ending. Powerful, complex, and one that will haunt you after it’s finished. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Emily Mortimer, Mark Ruffalo, and Ben Kingsley.

14. Shutter Island – 2010 (8.2)

A future that’s about as dystopian as it can get, a corrupt government and a freedom fighter known only as ‘V’ forms the basis for this seminal film. Proving that British cinema can produce a truly unique and tense thriller, this film examines what happens when people reach a breaking point and what it takes to lead them into rebellion. One of the best thriller movies of the 21st century. Starring Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman, Rupert Graves, and Stephen Rea.

15. V for Vendetta – 2005 (8.2)

A child psychologist starts working with a young boy who says that he can see and communicate with ghosts. The boy believes that his role is to help these spirits move on in their journey to the afterlife. The boy and the psychologist build a strong bond, but is everything as it seems? A film with one of the most famous ending twists in recent cinematic history, The Sixth Sense is a film you can watch again and again. Starring Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Collette and Olivia Williams.

16. The Sixth Sense – 1999 (8.2)

1950s Los Angeles and the ‘City of Angels’ is more corrupt and violent than ever before. Three cops with very different personalities investigate a parade of brutal murders, and rather than drag the perps in front of the courts they meet out their own form of ‘justice’. A powerful indictment of how corruption can lead decent people astray, even if their intentions are good. Starring Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce and Kim Basinger.

17. L.A. Confidential – 1997 (8.2)

The life of a Private Detective in 1930s LA is all about cheating spouses and sleazy liaisons. But while investigating a seamlessly 'same-old' case, PI Jake 'JJ' Gittes uncovers a web of deceit, corruption and embezzlement surrounding the plans to build a new damn to supply the city's drinking water. The identity of an unknown woman may hold the key to the whole case in a twisted thriller where corruption leads all the way to the top. Starring Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston, and Perry Lopez.

18. Chinatown – 1974 (8.2)

After a lifetime of public service as a legal counsellor, retired agent Benjamin Espósito embarks on a literary career, using the evidence of a cold case as his inspiration. But the deeper he delves into the story, the more he starts to see how the case has never truly been resolved. This powerful Argentinian film is a complex story of motivation, murder, and emotions, and while it's a lesser-known film, it definitely deserves a place on our list of the best thriller movies of all time. Starring Ricardo Darín, Soledad Villamil, Pablo Rago, and Carla Quevedo.

19. The Secret in Their Eyes – 2009 (8.2)

Our final entry into our top 20 thriller movies and their IMDb scores is a fabulous film that documents the frantic search by a distraught husband for his missing wife. However, the media spotlight is turned on the man when rumours circulate that he may have had something to do with his own wife’s disappearance. Starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, and Tyler Perry.

20. Gone Girl – 2014 (8.1)

Our final entry into our top 20 thriller movies and their IMDb scores is a fabulous film that documents the frantic search by a distraught husband for his missing wife. However, the media spotlight is turned on the man when rumours circulate that he may have had something to do with his own wife’s disappearance. Starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, and Tyler Perry.

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