The Best Psychological Thrillers on Netflix for Fans of ‘Sharp Objects’
HBO’s Sharp Objects has arrived, and critics are already hailing it as one of the best shows of the summer. Based on the book by Gillian Flynn, the series follows a woman, Camille Preaker, who returns to her hometown to investigate the disappearance of a young girl and the murder of another. It’s clear in the pilot episode, though, that the show will focus just as much on Camille’s damaged past as it will on the actual crime.
If Sharp Objects has gotten you in the mood for some more stories in the same vein, let’s take a look at some psychological thrillers, both films and television shows, that are available to stream on Netflix.
This British-Irish series stars The X-Files‘ Gillian Anderson as a police officer who must hunt down a serial killer. That killer is Paul Spector, played by Jamie Dornan, and the show devotes an equal amount of screen time to both characters, with the first episode showing Paul as a seemingly normal and loving family man.
Critics have praised the series as being a lot more interesting than some similar crime shows, and Gillian Anderson’s performance in it is remarkable. It’s only three seasons long, so it’s not a big commitment, although be warned that the third season received fairly mixed reviews.
In the same vein, another similar crime show on Netflix is The Killing, which aired its first three seasons on AMC but ended up streaming for its final season
Similar to Twin Peaks, the whole first season of The Killing was built around the question, “Who killed Rosie Larson?” The show ignited controversy when Season 1 ended without providing any sort of answer, although the series did eventually get there.
Also similar to Twin Peaks, critics generally feel that it went sharply downhill, though Mireille Enos’s performance was consistently praised throughout.
This David Fincher classic stars Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman as two detectives who hunt a serial killer who is choosing his victims based on the seven deadly sins.
With a premise like that, Seven could have easily descended into pulpy nonsense, but Fincher elevated it into one of the very best films of 1995. The film is shockingly brutal in places but is bolstered by great characters and an unforgettable ending that is impossible to forget.
The Sixth Sense
Speaking of unforgettable endings, The Sixth Sense is also streaming on Netflix if you’re looking for a dose of unreliable narrator stories.
Chances are, you’re familiar with the plot already, but just in case, the M. Night Shyamalan classic follows a child psychologist (Bruce Willis) who works with a young boy (Haley Joel Osment) who says he can talk to dead people.
If there’s any chance you haven’t been spoiled on the ending, you absolutely must watch the movie as soon as you possibly can, as it really is mind-blowing. And even if you have been spoiled but have never seen the film, it’s well-constructed enough to work anyway; look no further than the fact that it was actually nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.
This 2015 film from Blumhouse deserves a lot more attention. In it, Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall play a married couple, Simon and Robyn, who move to Los Angeles. They bump into an old classmate of Simon’s, and soon after, they’re made increasingly uncomfortable when he continues to drop by unannounced and present them with random gifts.
Bateman’s performance in the film is absolutely magnificent; if you like him in more serious roles like in Netflix’s Ozark, this movie is a must watch, as you’ll see him do things you never knew Bateman was even capable of. Without spoiling anything, the story certainly goes to some interesting places, too.
This 2001 film from Richard Kelly is certainly one of the strangest mainstream movies to come out in the 2000s. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a teenager who begins to see visions of a man in a rabbit suit, who leads him to believe that the world will end in 28 days.
Like some of the best psychological thrillers out there, the movie will make you feel as increasingly detached from reality as the main character, questioning the nature of absolutely everything you’re seeing by the end. If you’re in for a trippy experience, it shouldn’t disappoint, although expect to have to read some explainer articles after you finish watching.
It dominated the box office in 2017, but there was another great Stephen King adaptation last fall that you might have missed: Gerald’s Game.
Based on the King novel, in this film from Mike Flanagan, a woman travels to a lake house with her husband, and he handcuffs her to a bed during sex. But then he has a heart attack while they’re fooling around, leaving her trapped to this bed in the middle of nowhere with no clear way of escaping or getting help.
Flanagan finds a way to keep a movie about a woman trapped in a bed compelling; we’re constantly questioning whether what she’s seeing is real or not, and this leads to the film’s greatest scene. He also peppers in some flashbacks that get disturbing quite fast. Netflix has released a lot of subpar original films, but this is one of the best ever.
It’s debatable whether The Babadook should be classified as a psychological thriller or a psychological horror film, but regardless of what you label it as, it’s an utterly brilliant piece of filmmaking.
In Jennifer Kent’s debut, a single mother, Amelia, struggles to take care of her young son years after the death of her husband. After reading a pop-up book about a monster called The Babadook, the creature itself seems to come to life, and we’re left to question whether any of this is real or whether Amelia is simply going insane.
The movie definitely isn’t jump out of your seat scary, but the imagery in it is extraordinarily unsettling. Most importantly, though, it’s a phenomenal character piece about a woman dealing with grief; like some of the genre’s best films, it’s the character work that makes it all work.