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14 Thrilling Suspense Movies To Binge-Watch, As Per IMDb Ratings

Suspense movies
Suspense movies

Suspense, as the word suggests, is basically the art of keeping the audience in a constant state of anticipation and uncertainty. As such, nearly all the best suspense movies can be placed within the wider thriller genre. But they can also be part of action-adventure films.

Irrespective of which broader genre it is part of, suspense movies excel in creating a palpable sense of tension, drawing viewers into a world where danger lurks around every corner and the threat of the unknown looms large.

This particular feature makes suspense different from horror. While the former relies on building anxiety through the gradual unravelling of mysterious events, the latter thrives on the sense of fear, dread and even disgust in the minds of the audiences.

It is difficult to separate suspense and crime-thrillers into two distinct genres. While all crime thrillers are suspense films, all suspense films may not be crime thrillers. An example is how suspense films can be different from something like detective films. While suspense is a necessary element in all detective films, the latter is centred on (and primarily defined by) two features — a crime and a crime solver. On the other hand, the best suspense movies may not even have a ‘crime,’ and even if it involves one, it does not necessarily focus on the crime itself but on how a sinister event puts the lives of everyday people in jeopardy.

Moreover, the treatment of a story can also define whether it falls into suspense or any other genre. For instance, both Alien (1979) and The Thing (1982) are science-fiction movies about a group of people whose lives are in danger because of an extraterrestrial threat. But while Alien is a horror film with particularly gruesome action, The Thing creates an atmosphere of suspense through its human characters who suspect each other of being an alien.

Alfred Hitchcock is perhaps the greatest master of suspense and his iconic films exemplify the genre’s ability to captivate and hold audiences on the edge of their seats. The protagonists of nearly all of his movies are seemingly normal characters who find themselves in precarious situations. Some of the prime examples are Rear Window (1954) and North by Northwest (1959).

Best suspense
An iconic scene from North by Northwest. (Image: Courtesy of © 1959 Warner Bros. Ent. All Rights Reserved/IMDb)

Some suspense movies may also feature unreliable narrators, adding an extra layer of intrigue and ambiguity. Memento (2000) by Christopher Nolan is an example of this type. The film makes viewers question the sanity of the protagonist as the lines between reality and hallucination become blurred.

With the ability to captivate, disorient and provoke thought through uncertainty and danger, suspense movies remain a timeless and popular genre.

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Suspense movies guaranteed to keep viewers on the edge of their seats

1 /14

Prisoners (2013)

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Melissa Leo, Viola Davis

IMDb rating: 8.1

Synopsis: When his six-year-old daughter goes missing, Keller Dover (Jackman) is forced to take matters into his own hands after the police, led by Detective Loki (Gyllenhaal), fail to find evidence against the only suspect, a driver named Alex (Dano).

2 /14

A Wednesday! (2008)

Director: Neeraj Pandey

Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Anupam Kher, Aamir Bashir, Jimmy Shergill, Deepal Shaw

IMDb rating: 8.1

Synopsis: A senior Mumbai Police chief who is about to retire recalls a particular Wednesday when he faced one of the strangest cases of his career — a mysterious caller who threatened multiple blasts if four terrorists were not released.

3 /14

Jaws (1975)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Murray Hamilton, Lorraine Gary

IMDb rating: 8.1

Synopsis: Residents of Amity Island, a tourist town in New England, are terrorised by a great white shark which has killed some sea-goers. However, the mayor, Larry Vaughn (Hamilton), is unwilling to call off an upcoming festival despite the threat. Now it is up to the local sheriff Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), an Ichthyologist Matt Hooper (Dreyfuss) and a roughneck boat captain named Quint (Shaw) to hunt the shark down before more people die.

Awards won: Oscars for Best Film Editing, Best Original Dramatic Score and Best Sound

4 /14

Rebecca (1940)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Cast: Joan Fontaine, Laurence Olivier, Judith Anderson

IMDb rating:  8.1

Awards won: Oscars for Best Picture and Best Cinematography – Black and White

Synopsis: A young woman (Fontaine) marries the widower Maxim De Winter (Olivier) and starts living with him in his aristocratic mansion. As the new wife, she has to deal with the cold, intimidating housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Anderson) and the fact that her husband is still obsessed with his deceased first wife, Rebecca.

5 /14

Shutter Island (2010)

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, Max von Sydow

IMDb rating: 8.2

Synopsis: Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio), a young US Marshal, is sent to Ashecliffe Hospital, an asylum of the criminally insane, located on a remote island off Boston to investigate the disappearance of a patient. As Teddy gets hints of terrible deeds inflicted on the inmates, he also finds himself tormented by his inner demons.

6 /14

The Thing (1982)

Director: John Carpenter

Cast: Kurt Russell, A. Wilford Brimley, Keith David, T.K. Carter, David Clennon

IMDb rating: 8.2

Synopsis: A team of American research scientists in a remote part of Antarctica find themselves fighting for life against a shape-shifting alien who emerged from a UFO that crashed on Earth thousands of years ago.

7 /14

The Sixth Sense (1999)

Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Cast: Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment

IMDb rating: 8.2

Synopsis: Cole Sear (Osment) is a young boy who can see ghosts. The apparitions that appear before him are those who have unresolved problems and need help. The mystery behind his gift and the consequences of it are revealed when child psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Willis) starts treating him.

8 /14

Chinatown (1974)

Director: Roman Polanski

Cast: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway

IMDb rating: 8.2

Synopsis: In the 1930s, a Los Angeles-based private detective J.J. “Jake” Gittes (Nicholson) is hired by a woman named Evelyn Mulwray to find out if her husband is having an extramarital affair. As the investigation deepens, Jake finds himself in the middle of a massive conspiracy at the centre of which is a mysterious woman who claims she is the real Evelyn Mulwray (Dunaway).

Award won: Oscar for Best Writing, Original Screenplay

9 /14

North by Northwest (1959)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Cast: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason

IMDb rating: 8.3

Synopsis: New York City ad executive Roger O. Thornhill (Grant) is forced to go on the run after he is mistaken for a government agent by a group of spies. He meets the beautiful Eve Kendall (Saint) while escaping his pursuers across the US. But Eve’s mysterious ways force Roger to start suspecting her.

10 /14

Double Indemnity (1944)

Director: Billy Wilder

Cast: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson

IMDb rating: 8.3

Synopsis: Attracted to Phyllis Dietrichson (Stanwyck), a Los Angeles insurance salesman, Walter Neff (MacMurray) agrees to the murder of her husband and commits insurance fraud with a double indemnity clause. Everything seems to be going fine till insurance investigator Barton Keyes (Robinson) senses the fraud.

11 /14

Memento (2000)

Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano

IMDb rating: 8.4

Synopsis: A man, Leonard Shelby (Pearce), suffering from short-term memory loss is searching for his wife’s murderer. It seems almost impossible since he cannot recollect anything that happened 15 minutes ago. But he remembers his life before the incident that led to his memory loss.

12 /14

Psycho (1960)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Cast: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles

IMDb rating: 8.5

Synopsis: Marion Crane (Leigh) checks into Bates Motel in a remote location while on the run after stealing USD 40,000 from her employer. There she meets the motel’s proprietor Norman Bates (Perkins), who seems to be having a difficult relationship with his dominating mother.

13 /14

Rear Window (1954)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Cast:  James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter, Wendell Corey

IMDb rating: 8.5

Synopsis: Jeff (Stewart), a photographer in a wheelchair because of a broken leg, passes time by observing his neighbours from his apartment window in Greenwich Village. One day, he sees what he thinks is a murder. Determined to solve the crime, he seeks the help of his brave and intelligent fashion-model girlfriend, Lisa (Kelly), and his smart nurse, Stella (Ritter).

14 /14

Se7en (1995)

Director: David Fincher

Cast:  Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Spacey

IMDb rating: 8.6

Synopsis: New detective David Mills (Pitt), whose wife, Tracy (Paltrow), is pregnant, joins retiring detective William Somerset (Freeman) on the latter’s final case — to track down a serial killer who commits crimes using the seven deadly sins as his motive.