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The best psychological thrillers on Netflix right now

How would we function under extraordinary stress? That's one of the biggest questions that the best psychological thrillers strive to answer. Psychological thrillers shove their characters into pressure cookers to see how they respond. Just about any film you see is going to show people in circumstances beyond the every day — if they didn't, why would we bother watching them? But while an action movie mainly focuses on the spectacle of fiction, a psychological thriller wants to show us the tension in how people react when everything is on the line. 

If that sounds like the kind of storytelling you're looking for, then there are a lot of offerings on Netflix for you to enjoy. Whether the pressure the characters endure is coming from a supernatural source, a more mundane but no less deadly threat, or is the product of the characters' imaginations, there are enough psychological thrillers on Netflix to keep you busy for a while. Here are some of the best of the psychological thrillers Netflix has to offer. 

The Fury of a Patient Man

The Spanish thriller The Fury of a Patient Man opens on a jewelry store heist gone wrong. Curro (Luis Callejo), the getaway driver, freaks out when the police show up and speeds away without his partners in crime. But the panicked Curro crashes before he gets very far and winds up in prison. Years later, not long before Curro is scheduled to be released, his wife Ana (Ruth Díaz) manages a cafe and notices her brother's new friend Jose (Antonio de la Torre) is paying extra attention to her — attention she eventually welcomes. What seems to be a romance unfolds, but when we see Jose watching footage of the heist that put Ana's husband behind bars, it becomes clear Jose's motives aren't as pure as Ana thinks.

We don't want to give away more than that because one of the most engaging aspects of the film is that for most of it, you're never quite sure where it's going or exactly what kind of movie you're watching. Suffice to say, things get a lot more interesting once Curro gets out of jail, and the story unfolds brilliantly under the direction of Raúl Arévalo. The Fury of a Patient Man (or Tarde para la ira in Spanish) is a brutal and and captivating film about revenge.

Taxi Driver

"You talkin' to me?"

Everyone knows the line. Even if you haven't seen the movie, you know the line. It's parodied too often to not know it, and its source is 1976's Taxi Driver — a film that Roger Ebert, Time Magazine and just about everyone in the business of saying these kinds of things has called one of the best films of all time. 

Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) can't sleep, and when he can't sleep he drives his cab. He has no friends and he can't connect with women. The increasingly paranoid Bickle sees nothing but hostility around him, and his reaction is to arm for war. The iconic "You talkin' to me?" line comes from Bickle admiring himself in a mirror as he tests out his new creation: a gun that he customizes to allow for it to slide in and out of his sleeve quickly. Bickle begins to plan for the assassination of the politician for whom the object of his affections (Cybill Shepherd) volunteers. His path leads him to declare war on the corruption he sees all around him, building to a climactic bloody showdown with the pimp Sport (Harvey Keitel). 

Taxi Driver is a powerful and absolutely essential film directed by Martin Scorsese, featuring early work by acclaimed actors like De Niro, Keitel, and Jodie Foster. If you haven't seen it, see it. If you've already seen it, odds are you wouldn't mind seeing it again. 

The Invitation

For most of 2016's The Invitation, you're not sure what's real and what the characters are imagining.

The film stars Logan Marshall-Green as Will, a man still traumatized by the death of his son Ty. He and his wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard) divorced after their son's death, but Will still accepts her invitation to a dinner party hosted by Eden and her new husband David (Michael Huisman), with his girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) in tow.  Will doesn't know what to make of his ex-wife's weird behavior or the other eccentric guests, but he's sure that there's more going on than just a party. 

The rest of the film unfolds completely in the dinner party, with the guests acting stranger and stranger. Old friends make shocking confessions and Will's paranoia continues to mount. Mentioning many more details would give far too much away. But we can say The Invitation is a fascinating slow-burn that plays with our social boundaries — seeing how far the hero is willing to go along with the facade before finally cutting through the party's expectations to find out what's really going on.

The Interview

Nope, this has nothing to do with Seth Rogen, James Franco, or North KoreaThe Interview we're talking about is the 1998 Australian-made thriller starring Hugo Weaving as the impoverished Eddie Rodney Fleming, who's dragged into a police interrogation room by Detectives John Steele (Tony Martin) and Wayne Prior (Aaron Jeffrey). At first, the police don't give Fleming any idea why he's there, but it slowly becomes clear they suspect him of being the culprit in a series of murders. Eventually, we learn that as much as the detectives are doing their best to keep Fleming in the dark, unbeknownst to them, they're being monitored as well.

Aside from some flashback sequences, almost all of The Interview takes place in the small, dark interrogation room in which Fleming and his interrogators find themselves. You're kept guessing until the end about whether or not Fleming is as innocent as he claims, and with the film essentially being one long and hostile conversation, the actors' intense talents get the chance to shine all on their own.

Every Time I Die

Every Time I Die may sound like the title of an autobiography by someone with claims of past life memories, but in this case it's the name of the feature film directorial debut of Robi Michael — an indie thriller about a man whose consciousness jumps to the bodies of his friends after he's murdered. 

The body-hopping murder victim is Sam (Drew Fonteiro), who experiences PTSD-induced blackouts before his death, a leftover from the trauma he suffered as a boy at the loss of his sister. After he's murdered, Sam enters the bodies of his friends and does his best to protect them from the same killer. 

The premise of Every Time I Die helps the film to become more than just an interesting thriller about revenge or justice. The events unfold fractured and out of sequence, including flashbacks to Sam's childhood. As Sam goes from one body to the next, he not only gets closer to stopping the man who murdered him, but struggles to reconcile his life. Every Time I Die is a fascinating low-budget thriller that should particularly interest fans of similar mind-bending thrillers like Christopher Nolan's Memento

1922

In 1843, Edgar Allan Poe published the short story "The Tell-Tale Heart," in which the narrator is driven mad by what he is convinced is the sound of a heart beating under the floorboards — the heart of the murder victim he has buried beneath his home. The 2017 film 1922 — based on the Stephen King novella of the same name — could easily be seen as something of a child of Poe's 19th century classic. 

Wilf (Thomas Jane) doesn't want to sell his Nebraska farm, but his wife Arlette (Molly Parker) is determined to leave it behind and move to Omaha. Wilf murders Arlette with the help of their son Henry (Dylan Schmid) and hides the body in a well. 

After the murder, Wilf's farm suffers some inexplicable calamities, including swarms of rats that just won't leave Wilf alone. Wilf begins to lose his marbles, but the question is whether it's Arlette's vengeful spirit who's driving Wilf bonkers or if it's the guilt and angst over murdering her that is forcing Wilf to see what isn't there. With Stephen King as the scribe behind 1922, you go into it knowing either possibility makes sense. It's worth your time whether you're a King fan or not, and if you're familiar with his work, then it's absolutely mandatory. 

Time Share

The Mexican thriller Time Share follows two men, Pedro (Luis Gerardo Méndez) and Andres (Miguel Rodarte), through two largely separate narratives set at the same expensive resort. At first their presence at the resort and the fact that both are desperately trying to keep their families together are all the two share in common, but their paths are destined to collide.

Andres hasn't been the same since the death of his son, and since then he's gone from being a popular entertainer to Everfield Luxury Resort's cleaning man. He wants to stop his wife from leaving him, but feels just as mired in the depression that's plagued him since his boy's death. Our other protagonist is Pedro. He and his family find themselves experiencing a literal "time share" when the resort's overbooking forces them to share their bungalow with another family. Behind both stories is Everfield's manager Tom (RJ Mitte) and his appalling schemes. 

To reveal more would be to reveal too much, but suffice to say the two protagonists' paths eventually cross and Time Share proves itself to be, as IONCINEMA's Nicholas bell calls it, "an unsettled, ruffling experience of imperfect humans trapped in a world where they seem doomed."

Calibre

In the beginning of Calibre, it's Vaughn (Jack Lowden) who seems like the "responsible one" compared to his friend Marcus (Martin McCann). The night before they go hunting it's Marcus who does coke while sleeping with a woman he just met, and Vaughn who resists the temptation of a similar one-night stand because of his pregnant fiancee at home. But the next day it's Vaughn's error that changes everything for both friends. During the friends' hunt, Vaughn aims at a deer but accidentally shoots and kills a young boy, setting a grisly series of events in motion. 

Calibre is a simple but smart film about two men who keep making all the wrong decisions. Their first mistake leads to their second and so on, until they're far beyond the point of no return. We've seen this kind of story before, but Calibre nevertheless comes at it in interesting directions, making what's old seem as fresh and gripping as it should. 

Gerald's Game

In Gerald's Game, Jessie (Carla Gugino) finds herself living in the realization of a terrible "what if" scenario. During a sex game, Jessie hesitantly allows her husband Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) to handcuff her to a bed. Before they get too far, Gerald dies of an unexpected heart attack, and Jessie is left imprisoned on the bed in a remote lake house without food, water, or any way to free herself. 

What follows is as faithful an adaptation of the Stephen King novel upon which the film is based that you could ever hope for. Jessie is terrorized by threats both real and imagined, and is rarely able to tell one from another. Even though he's dead — and his corpse is destined to suffer a whole host of indignities — visions of Gerald return to haunt and taunt Jessie as the hunger and dehydration take hold. 

Director Mike Flanagan reportedly carried around a copy of Gerald's Game for years because he'd been wanting to make a film based on the book even when he was in high school. His dedication to the source material shines through in his adaptation, though whether you've read the book or not you're likely to find it an absorbing thriller. 

The Wicker Man

Nope, this isn't the 2006 remake with Nicolas Cage — Netflix is streaming the original British-made The Wicker Man, a film the magazine Cinefantastique called "the Citizen Kane of horror movies." 

The Wicker Man is set on the fictional remote island of Summerisle, off the west coast of Scotland. A young girl has gone missing and Sergeant Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) travels to Summerisle to investigate, but he isn't prepared for what he finds. The people of the island are part of an enclosed society with pagan-inspired values, led by the eccentric Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee). Not only will no one offer any information to Howie about the missing girl; no one will go so far as to acknowledge she ever existed. Everything leads to the island's upcoming harvest celebration and an absolutely horrifying conclusion. 

The Wicker Man is a cult classic and one of the movies you should definitely make sure to see at least once, provided you're not married to the concept of happy endings. For Christopher Lee fans, it's a compulsory watch. As Alan Jones of Radio Times wrote in 2002, the late legendary actor "thinks it's one of the finest films he's ever made — and he's right."

The Most Assassinated Woman in the World

Part thriller and part murder mystery, The Most Assassinated Woman in the World is a French-made film about a woman who dies on stage every night — and we don't mean the same way a stand-up comic does. The film is set in the 1930s, when stage actress Paula Maxa (Anna Mouglalis) earns the reputation of the "the most assassinated in the world" because of the death scenes her character endures every night in the Grand Guignol Theatre of Paris. 

After the Parisian journalist Jean (Niels Schneider) visits Maxa in her dressing room for a story, it soon becomes clear that Maxa's "most assassinated" title is more literal than anyone realizes. Having been murdered on stage over 10,000 times with gory, realistic special effects, Maxa suffers the real trauma of dying every single performance. At the same time, suspicion is brewing that Maxa's performances are inspiring real life murders in Paris. 

The Most Assassinated Woman in the World is a fun and enthralling mystery about the lines blurring between reality and fantasy.

The Platform

The Spanish-made The Platform has a stronger element of science fiction than most thrillers, and conveys some powerful social messages.

Goreng (Ivan Massagué) and his cellmate Trimagasi (Zorion Eguileor) are prisoners in a terrifying gulag of dystopian design with a particularly cruel system of feeding its inmates. A platform descends through the facility, one level at a time. At the top level the platform is filled with food, but as it drops to the lower level the amount of food is never replenished. So while the prisoners at the uppermost levels are all but guaranteed their health, the further down you go, the more likely you'll be left starving. As the film continues, we see what desperate and savage measures the facility's inhabitants are willing to take to keep what they have and get what they don't.

The Platform is the kind of film you should definitely see once, but you may never want to watch again. You'll appreciate its sharp social commentary and its wickedly dark humor, but it's a brutal and bleak film, and not for the faint of heart.