thriller film


Thriller film, also known as suspense film or suspense thriller, is a broad
film genre A film genre is a Genre, stylistic or thematic category for Film, motion pictures based on similarities either in the narrative , narrative elements, aesthetic approach, or the emotional response to the film. Drawing heavily from the theories o ...
that evokes excitement and
suspense Suspense is a state of mental uncertainty Uncertainty refers to Epistemology, epistemic situations involving imperfect or unknown information. It applies to predictions of future events, to physical measurements that are already made, or to th ...
in the audience. The suspense element found in most films' plots is particularly exploited by the filmmaker in this genre. Tension is created by delaying what the audience sees as inevitable, and is built through situations that are menacing or where escape seems impossible. The
cover-up A cover-up is an attempt, whether successful or not, to evidence of wrongdoing, error, incompetence, or other information. In a passive cover-up, information is simply not provided; in an active cover-up, is used. The expression is usually ...
of important information from the viewer, and fight and chase scenes are common methods. Life is typically threatened in a thriller film, such as when the protagonist does not realize that they are entering a dangerous situation. Thriller films' characters conflict with each other or with an outside force, which can sometimes be abstract. The protagonist is usually set against a problem, such as an escape, a
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, or a mystery. Screenwriter and scholar Eric R. Williams identifies thriller films as one of eleven super-genres in his screenwriters' taxonomy, claiming that all feature length narrative films can be classified by these super-genres. The other ten super-genres are
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fantasy Fantasy is a genre Genre () is any form or type of communication in any mode (written, spoken, digital, artistic, etc.) with socially-agreed-upon conventions developed over time. In popular usage, it normally describes a Category of being, c ...
horror Horror may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Genres *Horror fiction, a genre of fiction **Japanese horror, Japanese horror fiction **Korean horror, Korean horror fiction *Horror film, a film genre *Horror comics, comic books focusing on h ...
romance Romance (from Vulgar Latin , "in the Roman language", i.e., "Latin") may refer to: Common meanings * Romance (love) Romance or Romantic love is an emotional feeling of love for, or a strong attraction towards another person, and the Court ...
science fiction Science fiction (sometimes shortened to sci-fi or SF) is a of which typically deals with and futuristic concepts such as advanced and , , , , and . It has been called the " of ", and it often explores the potential consequences of . Scien ...
, slice of life,
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, and
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. Thriller films are typically hybridized with other super-genres; hybrids commonly including: action thrillers, fantasy and science fiction thrillers. Thriller films also share a close relationship with
horror film A horror film is one that seeks to elicit fear or disgust in its audience for entertainment purposes. Initially inspired by Horror fiction, literature from authors such as Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, and Mary Shelley, horror has existed as a ...
s, both eliciting tension. In plots about crime, thriller films focus less on the criminal or the detective and more on generating suspense. Common themes include, terrorism, political conspiracy, pursuit and romantic triangles leading to murder. In 2001, the
American Film Institute The American Film Institute (AFI) is an American film A film, also called a movie, motion picture or moving picture, is a work of visual art The visual arts are art forms such as painting Painting is the practice of applying ...
made its selection of the top 100 greatest American "heart-pounding" and "adrenaline-inducing" films of all time. The 400 nominated films had to be American-made films whose thrills have "enlivened and enriched America's film heritage". AFI also asked jurors to consider "the total adrenaline-inducing impact of a film's artistry and craft".



One of the earliest thriller films was
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Harold Lloyd
's comedy ''
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'' (1923), with a character performing a daredevil stunt on the side of a skyscraper. Alfred Hitchcock's first thriller was his third silent film, ''The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog'' (1926), a suspenseful Jack the Ripper story. His next thriller was ''Blackmail (1929 film), Blackmail'' (1929), his and Britain's first sound film. His notable 1930s thrillers include ''The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934 film), The Man Who Knew Too Much'' (1934), ''The 39 Steps (1935 film), The 39 Steps'' (1935) and ''The Lady Vanishes'' (1938), the latter two ranked among the BFI Top 100 British films, greatest British films of the 20th century. One of the earliest spy films was Fritz Lang's ''Spione, Spies'' (1928), the director's first independent production, with an anarchist international conspirator and criminal spy character named Haghi (Rudolf Klein-Rogge), who is pursued by good-guy Agent No. 326 (Willy Fritsch)—this film would be an inspiration for the future James Bond in film, James Bond films. The German film ''M (1931 film), M'' (1931), directed by Fritz Lang, starred Peter Lorre (in his first film role) as a criminal deviant who child killer, preys on children.


Hitchcock continued his suspense-thrillers, directing ''Foreign Correspondent (film), Foreign Correspondent'' (1940), the Oscar-winning ''Rebecca (1940 film), Rebecca'' (1940), ''Suspicion (1941 film), Suspicion'' (1941), ''Saboteur (film), Saboteur'' (1942) and ''Shadow of a Doubt'' (1943), which was Hitchcock's own personal favorite. Notable non-Hitchcock films of the 1940s include ''The Spiral Staircase (1946 film), The Spiral Staircase'' (1946), ''Sorry, Wrong Number'' (1948), and ''The Third Man'' (1949). In the late 1940s, Hitchcock added Technicolor to his thrillers, now with exotic locales. Hitchcock's first Technicolor film was ''Rope (film), Rope'' (1948). He reached the zenith of his career with a succession of classic films such as, ''Strangers on a Train (film), Strangers on a Train'' (1951), ''Dial M For Murder'' (1954), ''Rear Window'' (1954) and ''Vertigo (film), Vertigo'' (1958). Non-Hitchcock thrillers of the 1950s include ''The Night of the Hunter (film), The Night of the Hunter'' (1955)—Charles Laughton's only film as director—and Orson Welles's crime thriller ''Touch of Evil'' (1958). Director Michael Powell's ''Peeping Tom (1960 film), Peeping Tom'' (1960) featured Karlheinz Böhm, Carl Boehm as a psychopathic cameraman. After Hitchcock's classic films of the 1950s, he produced ''Psycho (1960 film), Psycho'' (1960) about a lonely, mother-fixated motel owner and taxidermist. J. Lee Thompson's ''Cape Fear (1962 film), Cape Fear'' (1962), with Robert Mitchum, had a menacing ex-con seeking revenge. A famous thriller at the time of its release was ''Wait Until Dark (film), Wait Until Dark'' (1967) by director Terence Young (director), Terence Young, with Audrey Hepburn as a victimized blind woman in her Manhattan apartment.


The 1970s saw an increase of violence in the thriller genre, beginning with Canadian director Ted Kotcheff's ''Wake in Fright'' (1971), which almost completely overlapped with the horror genre, and ''Frenzy'' (1972), Hitchcock's first British film in almost two decades, which was given an R rating for its vicious and explicit strangulation scene. One of the first films about a fan's being disturbingly obsessed with their idol was Clint Eastwood's directorial debut, ''Play Misty for Me'' (1971), about a California disc jockey pursued by a disturbed female listener (Jessica Walter). John Boorman's ''Deliverance'' (1972) followed the perilous fate of four Southern businessmen during a weekend's trip. In Francis Ford Coppola's ''The Conversation'' (1974), a bugging-device expert (Gene Hackman) systematically uncovered a covert murder while he himself was being spied upon. Alan Pakula's ''The Parallax View'' (1974) told of a conspiracy, led by the Parallax Corporation, surrounding the assassination of a presidential-candidate US Senator that was witnessed by investigative reporter Joseph Frady (Warren Beatty). Peter Hyam's science fiction thriller ''Capricorn One'' (1978) proposed a government conspiracy to fake the first mission to Mars. Brian De Palma usually had themes of guilt (emotion), guilt, voyeurism, paranoia, and obsession in his films, as well as such plot elements as killing off a main character early on, switching points of view, and dream-like sequences. His notable films include ''Sisters (1973 film), Sisters'' (1973); ''Obsession (1976 film), Obsession'' (1976), which was slightly inspired by ''Vertigo''; ''Dressed to Kill (1980 film), Dressed to Kill'' (1980); and the assassination thriller ''Blow Out'' (1981).


In the early 1990s, thrillers had recurring elements of obsession and trapped protagonists who must find a way to escape the clutches of the villain—these devices influenced a number of thrillers in the following years. Rob Reiner's ''Misery (film), Misery'' (1990), based on a book by Stephen King, featured Kathy Bates as an unbalanced fan who terrorizes an incapacitated author (James Caan) who is in her care. Other films include Curtis Hanson's ''The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (film), The Hand That Rocks the Cradle'' (1992) and ''Unlawful Entry (film), Unlawful Entry'' (1992), starring Ray Liotta. Detectives/FBI agents hunting down a serial killer was another popular motif in the 1990s. A famous example is Jonathan Demme's Best Picture–winning crime thriller ''The Silence of the Lambs (film), The Silence of the Lambs'' (1991)—in which young FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) engages in a psychological conflict with a cannibalistic psychiatrist named Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) while tracking down serial killer Buffalo Bill—and David Fincher's crime thriller ''Seven (1995 film), Seven'' (1995), about the search for a serial killer who re-enacts the seven deadly sins. Another notable example is Martin Scorsese's neo-noir psychological thriller ''Shutter Island (film), Shutter Island'' (2010), in which a U.S. Marshal must investigate a psychiatric facility after one of the patients inexplicably disappears. In recent years, thrillers have often overlapped with the horror genre, having more gore/sadistic violence, brutality, terror and frightening scenes. The recent films in which this has occurred include ''Disturbia (film), Disturbia'' (2007), ''Eden Lake'' (2008), ''The Last House on the Left (2009 film), The Last House on the Left'' (2009), ''P2 (film), P2'' (2007), ''Captivity (film), Captivity'' (2007), ''Vacancy (film), Vacancy'' (2007), and A Quiet Place (film), A Quiet Place (2018). Action scenes have also gotten more elaborate in the thriller genre. Films such as ''Unknown (2011 film), Unknown'' (2011), ''Hostage (2005 film), Hostage'' (2005), and ''Cellular (film), Cellular'' (2004) have crossed over into the action genre.


The thriller film genre includes the following sub-genres:

Action thriller

Action film, Action thriller is a blend of both action film, action and thriller film in which the protagonist confronts dangerous adversaries, obstacles, or situations which he/she must conquer, normally in an action setting. Action thrillers usually feature a race against the clock, weapons and explosions, frequent violence, and a clear antagonist. Examples include, ''Phantom Raiders'', Nick Carter, Master Detective (film), ''Nick Carter Master'' ''Detective'', ''Dirty Harry'', ''Taken (film), Taken'', ''The Fugitive (1993 film), The Fugitive'', ''Snakes on a Plane'', ''Speed (1994 film), Speed'', ''The Dark Knight (film), The Dark Knight'', ''The Hurt Locker'', ''The Terminator'', ''Battle Royale (film), Battle Royale'', the ''Die Hard (film series), Die Hard'' series, and the ''Bourne (film series), Bourne'' series.

Comedy thriller

Comedy thriller is a genre that combines elements of humor with suspense. Such films include ''Silver Streak (film), Silver Streak'', ''Dr. Strangelove'', ''Charade (1963 film), Charade'', ''Kiss Kiss Bang Bang'', ''In Bruges'', ''Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005 film), Mr. and Mrs. Smith'', ''Grosse Point Blank'', ''The Thin Man'', ''The Big Fix (1947 film), The Big Fix'', ''Pocket Listing (film)'' and ''The Lady Vanishes (1938 film), The Lady Vanishes''.

Conspiracy thriller

Conspiracy fiction, Conspiracy thriller a genre in which the hero/heroine confronts a large, powerful group of enemies whose true extent only she/he recognizes. ''The Chancellor Manuscript'' and ''The Aquitaine Progression'' by Robert Ludlum fall into this category, as do films such as ''Awake (2007 film), Awake'', ''Snake Eyes (1998 film), Snake Eyes'', ''The Da Vinci Code (film), The Da Vinci Code'', ''Edge of Darkness (2010 film), Edge of Darkness'', ''Absolute Power (film), Absolute Power'', ''Marathon Man (film), Marathon Man'', ''In the Line of Fire'', ''Capricorn One'', and ''JFK (film), JFK''.

Crime thriller

Crime fiction, Crime thriller as an genre is a hybrid type of both crime films and thrillers, which offers a suspenseful account of a successful or failed crime or crimes. Such films often focus on the criminal(s) rather than a policeman. Central topics include serial killers/murders, robbery, robberies, chases, shootouts, heist film, heists, and Double cross (betrayal), double-crosses. Some examples of crime thrillers involving murderers are ''Seven (1995 film), Seven'', ''No Country for Old Men (film), No Country for Old Men'', ''Heat (1995 film), Heat'', ''The Fugitive (1993 film), The Fugitive'', ''New Jack City'', ''The Silence of the Lambs (film), The Silence Of The Lambs'', ''Untraceable'', ''Mindhunters'', ''Kiss the Girls (1997 film), Kiss the Girls'', ''Along Came a Spider (film), Along Came a Spider'', ''Collateral (film), Collateral'', and ''Copycat (film), Copycat''. Examples of crime thrillers involving heists or robberies are ''The Asphalt Jungle'', ''The Score (2001 film), The Score'', ''Rififi'', ''Entrapment (film), Entrapment'', ''Heat (1995 film), Heat'', and ''The Killing (film), The Killing''.

Erotic thriller

Erotic thriller is a thriller film that has an emphasis on erotica, eroticism and where a sexual relationship plays an important role in the plot. It has become popular since the 1980s and the rise of VCR market penetration. The genre includes such films as ''Sea of Love (film), Sea of Love'', ''Basic Instinct'', ''Chloe (2009 film), Chloe'', ''Color of Night'', ''Dressed to Kill (1980 film), Dressed to Kill'', ''Eyes Wide Shut'', ''In the Cut'', ''Lust, Caution'', and ''Single White Female''.


Giallo is an Italian thriller film that contains elements of mystery film, mystery, crime fiction, Slasher film, slasher, psychological thriller, and psychological horror. It deals with an unknown killer murdering people, with the protagonist having to find out who the killer is. The genre was popular during the late 1960s-late 1970s and is still being produced today, albeit less commonly. Examples include ''The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963 film), The Girl Who Knew Too Much'', ''Blood and Black Lace'', ''Deep Red'', ''The Red Queen Kills Seven Times'', ''Don't Torture a Duckling'', ''Tenebrae (film), Tenebrae'', ''Opera (1987 film), Opera '', and ''Sleepless (2001 film), Sleepless''.

Horror thriller

A subgenre involving horror film, horror.

Legal thriller

Legal thriller is a suspense film in which the major characters are lawyers and their employees. The system of justice itself is always a major part of these works, at times almost functioning as one of the characters. Examples include ''The Pelican Brief'', ''Presumed Innocent (film), Presumed Innocent'', ''A Time to Kill (1996 film), The Jury'', ''The Client (1994 film), The Client'', ''The Lincoln Lawyer'', ''Hostile Witness'', and ''Silent Witness''.

Pandemic thriller

Pandemic thriller is a type of Disaster film, disaster and thriller film in which uses popularity of pandemic-themed with suspense. Example included ''Contagion (2011 film), Contagion'', ''Deranged (2012 film), Deranged'', ''Flu (2012 fllm), Flu'', and ''Outbreak (film), Outbreak''.

Political thriller

Political thriller is a type of film in which the hero/heroine must ensure the stability of the government. The success of ''Seven Days in May'' (1962) by Fletcher Knebel, ''The Day of the Jackal'' (1971) by Frederick Forsyth, and ''The Manchurian Candidate'' (1959) by Richard Condon established this subgenre. Other examples include ''Topaz (1969 film), Topaz'', ''Notorious (1946 film), Notorious'', ''The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934 film), The Man Who Knew Too Much'', ''The Interpreter'', ''Proof of Life'', ''State of Play (film), State of Play'', and ''The Ghost Writer (film), The Ghost Writer.''

Psychological thriller

Psychological thriller film is a psychological type of film (until the often violent resolution), the conflict between the main characters is mental and emotional rather than physical. Characters, either by accident or their own curiousness, are dragged into a dangerous conflict or situation that they are not prepared to resolve. To overcome their brutish enemies characters are reliant not on physical strength but on their mental resources. This subgenre usually has elements of drama film, drama, as there is an in-depth character arc, development of realistic characters who must deal with emotional struggles. The Alfred Hitchcock films ''Suspicion (1941 film), Suspicion'', ''Shadow of a Doubt'', and ''Strangers on a Train (film), Strangers on a Train'', as well as David Lynch's bizarre and influential ''Blue Velvet (film), Blue Velvet'', are notable examples of the type, as are ''The Talented Mr. Ripley (film), The Talented Mr. Ripley'', ''The Machinist'', ''Flightplan'', ''Shutter Island (film), Shutter Island'', ''Secret Window'', ''Identity (2003 film), Identity'', ''Gone Girl (film), Gone Girl'', ''Red Eye (American film), Red Eye'', ''Phone Booth (film), Phone Booth'', ''Fatal Attraction'', ''The River Wild'', ''Panic Room (film), Panic Room'', ''Misery (film), Misery'', ''Cape Fear (1991 film), Cape Fear'', 10 Cloverfield Lane, and ''Funny Games (2007 film), Funny Games.''

Social thriller

Social thriller are a Thriller (genre), thriller that uses suspense to augment attention to abuses of power and instances of oppression in society. This new subgenre gained notoriety in 2017 with the release of ''Get Out''. Other examples include ''The Tall Man (2012 film), The Tall Man'', ''Dirty Pretty Things (film), Dirty Pretty Things'', ''Parasite (2019 film), Parasite'', and ''The Constant Gardner''.

Spy film

Spy film is a genre in which the protagonist is generally a government agent who must take violent action against agents of a rival government or (in recent years) terrorists. The subgenre often deals with the subject of espionage in a realistic way (as in the adaptations of John Le Carré's novels). It is a significant aspect of Cinema of the United Kingdom, British cinema, with leading British directors such as Alfred Hitchcock and Carol Reed making notable contributions, and many films set in the Secret Intelligence Service, British Secret Service. Thrillers within this subgenre include ''Berlin Express'', ''Spy Game'', ''Hanna (film), Hanna'', ''Traitor (film), Traitor'', ''Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (film), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy'', ''The Tourist (2010 film), The Tourist'', ''The Parallax View'', ''The Tailor of Panama'', ''Mission: Impossible (film series), Mission Impossible'', ''Unknown (2011 film), Unknown'', ''The Recruit'', the James Bond in film, James Bond franchise, ''The Debt (2011 film), The Debt'', ''The Good Shepherd (film), The Good Shepherd'', and ''Three Days of the Condor''

Supernatural thriller

Supernatural thriller films include an otherworldly element (such as fantasy or the supernatural) mixed with tension, suspense, or plot twists. Sometimes the protagonist or villain has some psychic ability and superpower (ability), superpowers. Examples include ''Fallen (1998 film), Fallen'', ''Frequency (2000 film), Frequency'', ''In Dreams (film), In Dreams'', ''Flatliners'', ''Jacob's Ladder (1990 film), Jacob's Ladder'', ''The Skeleton Key'', ''What Lies Beneath'', ''Unbreakable (film), Unbreakable'', ''The Sixth Sense'', ''The Gift (2000 film), The Gift'', ''The Dead Zone (film), The Dead Zone'', and ''Horns (film), Horns''.


Techno-thriller is a suspenseful film in which the manipulation of sophisticated technology plays a prominent part. Examples include ''The Thirteenth Floor'', ''I, Robot (film), I, Robot'', ''Source Code'', ''Eagle Eye'', ''Supernova (2000 film), Supernova'', ''Hackers (film), Hackers'', ''The Net (1995 film), The Net'', ''Futureworld'', ''eXistenZ'', and ''Virtuosity''.

See also

*AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills




Further reading

* * * * * * * {{Authority control Thrillers Thriller films, * Film genres