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24 Psychological Thrillers On Netflix That Will Keep You Up At Night

From Clockwork Orange to The Killing of a Sacred Deer, these movies aren’t for the faint of heart.

COURTESY OF NETFLIX
By Bustle Editors
Updated: 
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If you like horror movies but start to get queasy when there's too much gore, psychological thrillers are the way to go. (Think less Saw and more Alfred Hitchcock or Christopher Nolan — the kind of films that mess with your mind, not your stomach.) And luckily for those looking to explore the sub-genre, they’re not hard to find: at least two dozen psychological thrillers are streaming on Netflix right now.

These flicks include everything from unsolved mysteries to serial killers to science fiction-inflected dramas — the sort of mind-benders that make it hard to distinguish between what's happening in reality and what’s just in your head, maybe even long after the credits roll. But these thrillers aren’t for the faint of heart. The movies on this list are for those times when you want to get a thrill out of scaring yourself, or maybe just want something to take you out of your element for a few hours. Fortunately, Netflix has a lot of options that’ll help you do just that — but considering there are hundreds of choices, you might want some help narrowing things down.

From Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals to Stanley Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange, here are 24 psychological thrillers to get you started. Plan your viewings wisely — you just may want to watch with a buddy, or at least put on a lighthearted sitcom as a palate cleanser after.

1. Nocturnal Animals (2016)

Fashion designer Tom Ford proved his artistic vision translates well on the screen with 2009’s A Single Man. His second directorial feature, Nocturnal Animals, is just as stylish — but much more chilling. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams, this movie features a story within a story, and blurs the lines between reality and fiction. Plus, the ending will leave you re-thinking everything you just watched.

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2. Secret Obsession (2019)

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Brenda Song is more than just a Disney Channel starlet — she’s got the acting chops to make any character believable, as she does with Secret Obsession’s amnesiac protagonist. After an accident that wipes Jennifer’s (Song) memory clean, her husband Russell (Mike Vogel) oversees her recovery to health. However, questions are soon raised about the “accident,” which we find out wasn’t really an accident at all. This Netflix Original (that’s apparently closer to a Lifetime Original) will make you question who you can trust, even those closest to you.

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3. The Perfection (2019)

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Starring Girls and Get Out breakout star Allison Williams, this 2018 movie follows a cellist named Charlotte (Williams) who's forced to drop out of music school in Boston in order to take care of her ailing mother. When Charlotte returns, she discovers she's been replaced by Lizzie (Logan Browning), leading to a horrifying sequence of events. (Be forewarned: for those who are squeamish, there is a bit of gore in this one).

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4. Gerald's Game (2017)

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Right before creating The Haunting of Hill House, Mike Flanagan directed this trippy horror film about marriage and trauma. Gerald's Game, which might just be Netflix’s “creepiest movie yet,” follows a husband (Bruce Greenwood) and wife (Carla Gugino) who go on a remote vacation to revitalize their sex life. When Gerald dies mid-coitus, his wife Jessie is handcuffed to the bed with no escape. It only gets darker after that.

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5. Unknown (2011)

Liam Neeson is a veteran of the psychological thriller genre, having also starred in the Taken films. In Unknown — another film involving a suspicious accident and forgotten memories — Dr. Martin Harris (Neeson) gets into a car accident that puts him in a four-day coma. When he wakes up, his wife Elizabeth (January Jones) seems to have no idea who he is, and his life becomes a big question mark. Weird stuff.

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6. Get In (2019)

Nope, this isn’t the Jordan Peele film. Not to be confused with Get Out, the French-language movie Get In follows Chloé (Stéphane Caillard) and Paul (Adama Niane), who return home from vacation to find their home occupied by squatters. If you're getting Mother! vibes from that description, you're not far off (except that nobody eats a dead baby in Get In).

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7. Clockwork Orange (1971)

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Clockwork Orange is just one of Stanley Kubrick’s many masterpieces. Based on Anthony Burgess’ dystopian novel of the same name, this “boys will be boys”-themed narrative is crass and deliberately uncomfortable — among the movie’s many takeaways is a commentary on men’s impunity. It may not scare you in the moment, but you’ll definitely be thinking about it long after it ends. Decades later, film buffs still can’t get it out of their heads: The movie was just recently inducted into the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry for preservation.

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8. I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives In The House (2016)

Director Osgood Perkins’ I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House is kind of like The Others meets The Haunting of Bly Manor (without the latter’s sapphic undertones). The film stars Ruth Wilson as Lily, a nurse who moves into an old house to take care of a reclusive novelist — but soon finds they're not the home’s only residents. Of course, as with many gothic supernatural thrillers, the ending will leave you reeling.

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9. Creep (2014)

Using found footage akin to the revolutionary The Blair Witch Project, Creep examines the strange relationship between videographer Aaron (Patrick Brice) and a man (comedic turned serious actor Mark Duplass) who hires him to shoot a special video for his unborn son. When Aaron travels to the man's remote cabin, things inevitably take a turn for the worse. Cue the “creep”-y music.

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10. The Platform (2019)

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Labelled as a “social science” thriller, The Platform (El hoyo) is a Spanish-language film that centers around a prison with a, um, unique feeding system. Just don't look down. The film received raves reviews after its 2019 Toronto Film Festival premiere, and received TIFF’s People’s Choice Award for Midnight Madness that same year. Sometimes, the most bone-chilling films are the best ones.

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11. The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)

With films like The Lobster, The Favourite, and Dog Tooth, Yorgos Lanthimos has earned a reputation as an off-kilter auteur. His 2017 feature The Killing of a Sacred Deer is the scariest of his filmography, relying on mind tricks (and sometimes gore) for its frights. Loosely based on the Euripides’ tragedy Iphigenia in Aulis, the film stars Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman star as a married couple who befriend a strange boy with mysterious ties to their past.

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12. The Hateful Eight (2015)

The Hateful Eight depicts a group of — you guessed it — eight suspicious strangers who converge on a Wyoming stagecoach lodge. Things turn (expectedly) violent; it’s a Quentin Tarantino movie, after all. But what sets this 2015 film apart in Tarantino’s oeuvre is its Extended Version, which is split up into four 50 minutes episodes. Both the original and Extended Version are available to stream on Netflix.

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13. Fractured (2019)

There’s nothing like a plot against your young daughter to get your blood boiling and adrenaline rushing. Fractured follows Ray (Clash of the Titans’ Sam Worthington) and Joanne (Lily Rabe), two parents who stop at a gas station with their young daughter Peri after she sustains a small injury. Things take a turn when they arrive at a hospital, where things seem off. Is it Ray’s imagination, or is something sinister afoot?

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14. Shutter Island (2010)

Leonardo DiCaprio always delivers — and his masterful Shutter Island performance is key to the film’s thrills. Set in the early ’50s, this Martin Scorsese film follows Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio), a U.S. Marshal investigating a series of puzzling events occurring in a psychiatric hospital on an island outside Boston. Both bone-chilling and mesmerizing, this movie will keep you guessing until the final, chaotic twist.

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15. Rattlesnake (2019)

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Ophidiophobes beware. After her daughter is mysteriously healed from a rattlesnake bite, Katrina (Carmen Ejogo) is informed that she must take another life by sundown in order to level the score. It’s both a mother-daughter drama and a race against the clock. With a 26% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, this isn’t the world’s most acclaimed thriller, but it will leave you rattled.

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16. Circle (2015)

Not to be confused with the hit reality show that premiered last year, this Circle is a 2015 sci-fi thriller set within the confines of a — you guessed it — circle, where 50 humans are trapped by an unknown force. Pulling inspiration from Reginald Roses’ 12 Angry Men, the group soon realizes that they’re able to vote on who lives and who dies. Keep the lights on for this one.

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17. The Son (2019)

Argentinian film The Son (El hijo) made waves when it premiered in 2019, with critics praising the film’s performances and Rosemary’s Baby-like themes (with reversed gender roles). Lorenzo (Joaquín Furriel) is a father-to-be who becomes increasingly paranoid and disillusioned about his wife Julieta’s (Martina Gusman) pregnancy, fearing something nefarious is underway. This is another film to watch with the lights on.

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18. Clinical (2017)

Clinical is not for the faint of heart. Years after being attacked by a patient, psychiatrist Dr. Jane Mathis tries to move past the trauma by taking on a new case. The only problem? He has a troubling history of his own. This Netflix Original also explores the stigmas held against PTSD and other mental health issues (in the most spine-chilling way possible).

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19. Sightless (2020)

There’s nothing more frightening than being unable to defend yourself — and terrifying film Sightless knows this well. It centers on violinist Ellen (Riverdale’s Madelaine Petsch), who is blinded in an anonymous attack. She attempts to resume her normal life, but the attacks continue, and Ellen soon realizes that these are not isolated incidents. This one has a big plot twist — but rather than at the movie’s climax, it arrives near the middle.

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20. Horse Girl (2020)

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Don’t let the cast of comedians fool you — there’s not much funny about Horse Girl. GLOW’s Alison Brie stars as Sarah, a painfully shy craft store employee still reeling from her mother’s recent death by suicide. As supernatural events begin to plague Sarah’s life, audiences are left wondering if she’s actually experiencing psychosis or if UFOs are responsible — just like her mother claimed.

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21. The Paramedic (2020)

The English-language Spanish film The Paramedic may seem like a medical thriller, but it’s more about the horrors of domestic violence. Paramedic Ángel Hernández (Mario Casas) is cruel to his patients — but even more so toward his girlfriend, Vane (Déborah François). When Ángel is ultimately left paralyzed from the waist down after an ambulance crash, his emotional and physical abuse worsens. The ending may be satisfying, but it’ll still haunt you.

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22. Lavender (2016)

Lavender takes its name from the nursery rhyme “Lavender Blue,” which is just as creepy as it sounds. Abbie Cornish stars as Jane, a woman haunted by the crime that took her family. The problem is that she has no recollection of what happened, despite being present during the murders — until her past begins to resurface, and Jane pieces together the events that left her orphaned. Lavender will make you want to hide your childhood music boxes away.

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23. Self/less (2015)

More science fiction than horror, Self/less features an all-star cast with the likes of Ryan Reynolds, Sir Ben Kingsley, and Natalie Martinez. The film offers an illusory plot, intertwining the fantastical — namely, body switching — with real-world issues, like terminal illness. Several scenes will make your pulse race — but that’s what makes it a psychological thriller.

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24. The Stepfather (2009)

A remake of the 1987 film of the same name, The Stepfather flips the “evil stepmother” stereotype on its head by reversing the gender roles. Nip/Tuck’s Dylan Walsh plays as the eponymous stepfather, who, after killing his wife and kids at the film’s start, interlopes himself into a new family. Penn Badgley and Amber Heard also star.

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