10 Must-Watch Psychological Horror Movies
We can all enjoy the escapism provided by viewing movies but few can really get under our skin like psychological horrors, which really are the crème de la crème of horror.
Jump scares are excellent for a brief startle, but that psychological fear is what actually keeps people invested and makes their skin crawl. It’s one thing to sense noises in the night, but having no one believe you are hearing them is a different level of terrifying.
Psychological horror is a far more scary subcategory of the horror genre that emphasizes the darkest elements of the human psyche. The primitive fears, which the renowned Psychodynamic psychologist Carl Jung referred to as aspects of the shadow archetype, appear as lunacy, suspiciousness, mistrust, self-doubt, and particularly paranoia, and if repressed, they can result in unfathomable barbarism.
The following movies in this list do an excellent work of showcasing the idea that the innermost depths of the human psyche are incredibly unsettling. Of course, do feel free to comment below with your favourites!
Psycho continues to be the pinnacle of psychological horror even today, and it’s impossible to talk about the elements of the movie without giving away the big twist.
Few villains in horror flicks have more iconic representations than Anthony Perkins’ terrifying Norman Bates from Psycho. We’re fooled into believing he’s blameless and that his mom is the real culprit, leading up to the horrifying discovery, which is precisely what made him so unforgettable.
Notably, Psycho has themes from Sigmund Freud’s theory. The Oedipus complex, a psychoanalytic personality theory put forward by Sigmund Freud, is perhaps the most remarkable illustration.
The Shining is among the best psychological horror movies ever created. Although it was directed by Stanley Kubrick, Stephen King’s book, the maestro of terror, served as the foundation for this movie.
Jack Torrance’s steady spiral into madness and the sinister twins who persistently ask Jack’s child to come to play with them are just two of the many elements that function in the movie to give us goosebumps from the very beginning.
Arguably the most haunting psychological horror movie in cinematic history was made possible by Stanley Kubrick’s use of his untamed vision in the movie which revolves around the author Jack Torrance and his family as they spend five months living in a hotel called “The Overlook” in the remote mountainous regions of Colorado.
Danny, Jack’s son, soon discovers the hotel is plagued by the spirits of the dead family owing to a paranormal ability known as “The Shining”, which enables him to view the hotel’s shadowy past.
The flicks that have unexpected twists at the climax are our absolute favorite type. Perhaps M. Night Shyamalan is just the kind of director who enjoys presenting dramatic shocks and one of his finest works is definitely Split.
Split is a psychological horror and the second entry in Shyamalan’s “Unbreakable” movie franchise. It presents one of the most terrifying and chaotic central protagonists. Here, “Split” wrestles with a guy who struggles with dissociative identity disorder and has multiple identities (24 distinct personalities to be precise) that live inside of him.
This man kidnaps three young girls and holds them captive in a remote facility’s basement. James McAvoy, who depicts the antagonist, received a lot of accolades after the movie’s premiere. Despite some critics, who claimed that the movie stigmatized mental illness, the movie is an intriguing installment in Shyamalan’s trilogy, which was wrapped up with “Glass.”
The Silence of the Lambs
The iconic 1991 movie The Silence of the Lambs by Demme premised on Thomas Harris’s book that bears the same name tells a gripping tale of an FBI trainee’s quest to apprehend a psychopath who seeks psychological fulfillment. Clarice Starling and Dr. Hannibal Lecter are introduced as the movie’s principal characters.
Anthony Hopkins’s menacing portrayal of Hannibal Lecter makes for a suspenseful and riveting portrayal of a serial killer. The movie has received a lot of praise from critics and won several Academy Awards. It presents a frightening portrait of psychopaths and their horrific crimes.
Talented FBI trainee Clarice Starling is asked to speak with the cannibalistic murderer Hannibal Lecter. To identify Buffalo Bill, a mass murderer who kidnaps women and also skins them thereafter, she needs his insights. Lecter carries out his own evil scheme as Clarice follows the leads.
“People who are supposed to protect you from monsters, turn out to be monsters themselves.” Gerald’s Game is yet another brilliant movie in Mike Flanagan’s top-notch career. Adapted from the same-titled book by Stephen King, Gerald’s Game is about a romantic getaway gone terribly wrong and a trapped woman’s efforts to avoid death.
When Jessie Burlingame’s spouse passes away as they were enacting one of his fantasies involving rape, she is left chained to the bed. Strange things begin to unfold as time marches on. A few of these encounters are hallucinations Jessie is having, while others are entirely real. She observes as a dog approaches the room and claws a chunk from Gerald’s body. Gerald then stands up and addresses her even though she is aware he is still lying on the ground. Repressed feelings and a tragic backstory are skillfully and imaginatively used in the movie.
Within his impressive body of work, David Fincher’s masterpiece continues to be a top pick. If you’ve done any research on the Zodiac Killer, you’ll notice how accurately David Fincher has captured the genuine portrayal of a psychotic and clever serial murderer and the police determined to arrest him.
In addition to providing a fascinating glimpse into the journey of a newspaper cartoonist who unintentionally became engaged with the case and then became fixated on finding the murderer despite the threats to his private life, the movie also accurately portrays the anxiety that citizens of the SF Bay area suffered during this time.
The storyline made headlines for sending messages, ciphers, and blood-stained garments to publications to mock the public and law enforcement officials. The movie uses a minimalistic style of filmmaking, which allows for a gradual buildup of suspense.
The Night House
The Night House is a psychological horror movie with a slow-burning cinematic mystery. The movie revolves around the newly widowed Beth, who must move into the home that her spouse made after he passed away suddenly. Even though she tries to maintain her sanity, terrifying apparitions keep her awake at night. Beth discovers that the hauntingly visible signs have been completely eliminated from the house once the sunlight sheds fresh light on the evil night.
Beth tries to solve the secret behind it all since she thinks her husband may be connected to the suspected mysterious events. The findings of the search are strange and alarming. When the movie first came out, both critics and viewers appreciated it for its ominous mood and unsettling scares.
Get Out is one of the most talked about movies in recent times and it is Jordan Peele’s genre-bending work that left viewers feeling shocked. The psychologically scarring movie borrows heavily from Rosemary’s Baby, The Silence of the Lambs, The Stepford Wives, and The Shining and it demonstrates the strong influence Stanley Kubrick had on Jordan Peele. It’s a movie that one has to watch several times to grasp the complexity and the meaning behind each scene and statement. The more you play it, the clearer it gets and the more you recognize Peele’s brilliance.
With this Oscar-nominated psychological horror movie, Peele skillfully and creatively addresses significant issues concerning interracial relationships. Peele employs a fictitious allegory about an African-American guy having to meet his Caucasian partner’s parents to exemplify a range of difficulties with interracial partnerships, along with horrifyingly eerie scenes and startling turns.
The graphic eeriness and jump-scare element of other horror flicks can still be present in psychological horror movies, despite the fact that they are typically quite cerebral experiences. The Fly by David Cronenberg is one such masterpiece because it combines disturbing character development with body-horror components.
A scientist, played by the ever-enigmatic Jeff Goldblum, progressively transforms into a hideous man/fly hybrid after an experiment goes horribly wrong. It is definitely not a movie for anyone faint of heart as the transformational stages grow more and more frightening.
It is presumed that earlier psychological horror movies cannot produce the same degree of fright as more recent examples of the kind. Les Diaboliques is a wonderful example of a movie from many years ago that still has a big impact.
The protagonist of the movie had to put up with her abusive spouse for a long time and has had enough. The wife teams up with his former mistress to execute what appears to be a foolproof plan to get rid of him once and for all. The intriguing tale is laced with fear and suspicion up to the startling conclusion.
There we have it, our list of must-watch psychological horrors to check out. Did we include one of your favourites? We would love to hear your thoughts, so do let us know in the comments below!