At the beginning of our Cinematic Movement and Poetry Class, we watched 3 films that would traditionally be considered a part of the Psychological Thriller Genre: Strangers on a Train, House Hunting and Skeleton Key.

For the purpose of this blog, we have decided upon these general rules to define our genre:

You Know it’s a Psychological Thriller if it Has:


First of all, a psychological thriller has to begin with a sense of mystery. The audience has to be left wanting answers for unexplained circumstances. We have to be hooked.


Psychological Journey:

The director has to provide the viewer with a feeling that they are going through a process of realisation. We have to be left baffled by the narrative without becoming bored or fed up.


Engages with audience in non-traditional ways:

A good psychological thriller has to challenge the audience in a more direct and demanding way than other films. A more active participation is required of the audience. The audience is forced to guess and try to work out what the key to the mystery is.


Never definite:

The end of psychological thrillers usually end on a note of uncertainty. Although the endings are usually ‘satisfactory’ the entire mystery is not entirely explained.

Plot Plot Plot:

Psychological Thrillers are plot driven. Audiences engage with characters only as far as they are driving the plot. Once a character is irrelevant to driving the story, they can be easily forgotten (i.e. McGuffins)



There is almost always a twist: a moment when the audience goes “Ohhhhhh”.