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Scary Movie Halloween Series Part 2

Top 30 Suspense Thrillers


The Intellectual's
Horror Film




By Laura Dawn Lewis

Alfred Hitchcock is the undisputed King of Suspense and I’ve included several of his movies in our list.  A new Hitchcock is on the horizon though, and he’s made his talent and presence known through The Sixth Sense and Signs.
M. Night Shyamalan shows Hitchcock’s uncanny ability to combine psychology, spirituality and intrigue into hair-raising, spine-chilling stories that tap into our deepest fears while peppering the plot with humor and common sense humanity.  Both of these movies made our list and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next. Some movies are missing such as Die Hard, Terminator Two, and the Tom Clancy films.  Though these can also be considered Thrillers, I’m saving them for the Action, Adventure and Science Fiction sections.  There are of course the classic blood and gore films including the SAW series and others.  These are found under our list of the Top 20 Violent Horror Films. Others like The Shinning, Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist I set aside for the Horror section under films that inspire terror.

Below are our picks for the Best Suspense Thrillers of All Time that couples will enjoy watching together based upon storyline (does it keep you guessing?), believability and the old fashion white-knuckle effect.  Many of these are Academy Award® Winners.  All are at least 4 star movies and you will love, (or be scared) by every one of them.

TOP 30 SUSPENSE THRILLERS #1-12 

1) THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE

Manchurian Candidate #1PG-13: 1962. Starring: Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh. Director: John Frankenheimer. Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller. Awards (6) including: Golden Globe Best Supporting Actress and PGA Hall of Fame Motion Pictures. Running Time: 126 min.

DESCRIPTION: Surprise!  Why The Manchurian Candidate for number one? Numerous reasons, the most notable is this is the most unusual suspense thriller you will ever see and by far Frank Sinatra's best on screen work. How many movies are so convincing that they have to be pulled out of the theaters because what they cover not only could happen but also does?
 Released in 1962 and retracted after the Kennedy Assassination (one month later) not to be seen again until 1986, The Manchurian Candidate is the ultimate political thriller encompassing brainwashing, communism, treason, assassins, politics and the most powerful man in the world. This is one movie you have to watch from beginning to end and you will not be able to take your eyes off the screen.  You also will not know the ending until 90 seconds before the movie completes.  It’s smart, sexy, frightening, eerie, bone chilling and one hell of a wild ride.  Angela Lansbury was nominated for the Academy Award® for her portrayal of the anti-hero Raymond Shaw’s (Lawrence Harvey) mother (in real life she and Harvey are only a two years apart).

BUY The Manchurian Candidate Now: Available in DVD and Blu-Ray

2) THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS

Silence of the LambsR: 1991. Starring: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn. Director: Jonthan Demme. Genre: Drama, Adventure, Thriller. Awards (40) including the Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Screenplay. Running Time: 118 min

DESCRIPTION: Anthony Hopkins, "Hello Clarice" rolls off his tongue with such lascivious evil the words will ring through your head like a rendition of Small World until the day you die. 
This is a psychological crime thriller in which FBI candidate Clarice Starling (Foster) is put on the trail of unknown serial killer called Buffalo Bill with an unusual fixation for  murdering large size young women and carving their skin in patterns.  To create a psychological profile of this killer, Starling must consult with psychopathic psychiatrist and convict serial killer Dr "Hannibal The Cannibal" Lecter. 
What follows is a tit-for-tat quid-pro-quo of mutual psychoanalysis as the killer continues to abduct women and Starling attempts to probe Hannibal's brain for the identity of the killer.  A nail-biter right to the end, this film has received accolades from the film industry and condemnation from the homosexual community due to Buffalo Bill's transgender identity. Films in this series include Red Dragon and Hannibal as well. 

Some scenes are pretty gory, be warned.  Try not to eat rare meat before consuming this classic.

BUY or RENT Silence of the Lambs Now: Available for Streaming or Immediate Download.

3) NORTH BY NORTHWEST

North by NorthwestNR: 1959. Starring: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Genre: Drama, Adventure, Thriller. Awards (5) including Edgar Allen Poe Best Picture. Running Time: 131 min

DESCRIPTION: North by Northwest follows the ultimate spy-thriller  of intrigue and conspiracy where an Advertising Executive (Grant) through happenstance acquires the identity of a fictional agent.  His life spins out of control as he attempts to understand what is happening and escape the spies chasing him.  The end of the movie occurs on the face of Mt. Rushmore. As is Hitchcock's trademark, symbolism and metaphors guide the story throughout the film.

BUY or RENT North by Northwest Now: Available for Streaming or Immediate Download.

4) JAWS

JawsR: 1975. Starring: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dryfus. Director: Steven Spielberg. Genre: Adventure, Thriller. Awards (12) including Academy Awards for Best Film Editing and Best Sound. Outstanding Film of 1975 by Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films. Running Time: 124 min

DESCRIPTION: Number four on our countdown is JAWS, the film that made beaches all over the world ghost towns in 1975 and launched Spielberg into stardom.
 JAWS the book is inspired by the real life shark attacks on the eastern coast of the US in 1916, which claimed five lives over the course of two weeks. What makes this movie great is the story. It's not about a shark that eats people; as in the great story of Moby Dick,
 JAWS is about men, friendship and ultimately testing man's ability to fight and control nature and the demons within himself. 


Our favorite scene takes place midway through the movie when Scheider, Shaw and Dreyfus do a little male bonding by comparing past injuries, each trying to out do the other with a more disastrous scar. It reminds us that men never do grow up and ingratiates each of us to the characters.  This film spawned two sequels and a few other monster fish movies including Orca from 1977.

BUY  Jaws Now: Available in DVD and Blu-Ray

5) REBECCA

RebeccaNR: 1940. Starring: Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Genre: Drama, Romance, Thriller. Awards (2) Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Cinematography.  Running Time: 130 min

DESCRIPTION: Rebecca is Alfred Hitchcock's first American film and deserves to be recognized apart from his other work.  It is the haunting story of a marriage of convenience and void of love between a young woman (Fontaine) and the emotionally unavailable rich widower (Olivier). 
The young wife becomes consumed with the sheltered secrets and questionable death of his first wife, Rebecca. Trying to fit in, Fontaine's character must run the gauntlet of contempt and vicious sabotage orchestrated by Olivier's vindictive housekeeper (Anderson).  Classic film noír this film climaxes in a ball of fire and the destruction of myth. The images of Rebecca will haunt you for a lifetime.

BUY Rebecca Now: Available in DVD and Blu-Ray

6) MATRIX TRILOGY

Matrix TrilogyPG-13: 1999, 2003. Starring: Keanu Reeves, Lawrence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss. Directors: Andy & Lana Wachowski. Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller. Awards (38) including Academy Awards for Best Effects, Editing and Sound. Running Time: 136 min, 138 min. 129 min.

DESCRIPTION: The Matrix Trilogy is by far the most cerebral entry on this list. Younger audiences will appreciate the action, thrills and special effects. Intellectuals however, love the underlying meaning of this film series which is actually biblical.  Like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkin, The Matrix Trilogy plays upon various themes in the bible, the spiritual warfare, good versus evil, faith.  It uses symbolism to convey the messages.  It's an amazing trip though the New and Old Testaments in a Sci-fi format with profound meanings and lessons. This series you need to watch several times.  Once just to enjoy it and additional viewings to understand it. It is profound, entertaining and an amazing thrill ride.

BUY or RENT The Matrix Now: Available in Streaming or Immediate Download

7) INCEPTION

InceptionPG-13: 2010. Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Leveitt, Ellen Page. Director: Christopher Nolan. Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller. Awards (79) including the Academy Awards for Cinematography, Sound and Visual Effects. Running Time: 148 min.

DESCRIPTION: Every once in awhile a novel film comes along, something that makes you stop and say, ‘Wow!  What a cool idea.’ Inception is that kind of movie.  It’s a brain suspense thriller, with lots of action and very cool,  mind-bending special effects.  The general storyline is that group of super agents get into peoples dreams and intercept their thoughts whilst planting new ones. They refer to it as dream invasion and it creates one of the most unique films ever brought to the silver screen.  

BUY Inception Now: Available in DVD and Blu-Ray

8) WAIT UNTIL DARK

Wait until DarkNR: 1967. Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin, Richard Crenna. Director: Terence Young. Genre: Drama, Crime, Thriller. Awards (1) Laurel Award for Female Dramatic Performance Running Time: 108 min

DESCRIPTION: Directed by Terence Young (Dr. No and From Russia With Love), a blind woman (Hepburn), unknowingly acquires a child's doll filled with heroin. Three con men (Arkin, Crenna and Weston) scheme to locate the doll in her apartment.
Playing on the universal fear of being alone in the dark whilst only being able to hear what is happening, the suspense grows to one terrifying moment of confrontation when Hepburn must defend and defeat the threesome foe she cannot see.  Men will enjoy the vulnerability of a woman they want to protect and women will applaud her cunning and inner strength.

BUY or RENT Wait Until Dark Now: Available for Streaming or Immediate Download.

9) FATAL ATTRACTION

FATAL ATTRACTIONR: 1987. Starring: Michael Douglas, Glenn Close, Ann Archer. Director: Adrian Lyne. Genre: Drama, Thriller. Awards (4) including: Saturn Award for Best Writing, BAFTA Best Editing. Running Time: 119 min

DESCRIPTION: Men often call this movie a horror film, and if 63% of all men cheat on their wives, then Glen Close's character Alex is every philanderers worse nightmare!
Explicit in its exploration of  obsession and raw lust, the story builds as Alex falls further and further into unrequited lust bridging insanity.  Michael Douglas becomes the sympathetic victim, which normally a cheating husband would not be.  Nominated for 6 Academy Awards® in 1987 including Best Picture and Best Actress. If you've ever thought of cheating on your spouse, you won't after seeing this thriller!

BUY or RENT Fatal Attraction Now: Available for Streaming or Immediate Download.

10) PLAY MISTY FOR ME

Play Misty for MeR: 1971. Starring: Clint Eastwood, Jessica Walter, Donna Mills. Director: Clint Eastwood. Genre: Drama, Romance, Thriller. Awards: None. Running Time: 102 min

DESCRIPTION: Before Fatal Attraction, there was Play Misty For Me with the original psychotic girlfriend  Evelyn, (Walter) who is every man's worst nightmare in curves as she stalks San Francisco DJ David played by Clint Eastwood. 
A nail biter to the end, this film includes one of the most sensual and romantic love scenes between Eastwood and Mills ever seen on film, played out to the love song "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face". You may have to pause the film; the scene is that steamy!

BUY or RENT Play Misty for Me Now: Available for Streaming or Immediate Download.

11) THE FRENCH CONNECTION

The French ConnectionR: 1971. Starring: Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider, Fernando Rey. Director: William Friedkin. Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller. Awards (20) including the Academy Awards for Best Actor, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Picture, Best Writing. Running Time: 104 min

DESCRIPTION: Based on the true story of two New York City narcotics officers who collar the largest heroin smuggling crew in history.  Popeye Doyle (Hackman) holds no bars, even coercion or violence to make a bust.  Cloudy (Scheider) his partner balances out the team.
The French Connection is the ultimate cat and mouse game and contains the most famous car chase ever filmed.  This is the film gritty television shows like NYPD Blue and Hill Street Blues took lessons from and even decades later it is still as fresh and relevant as the day it was filmed.

BUY or RENT The French Connection Now: Available for Streaming or Immediate Download.

12) THE USUAL SUSPECTS

The Usual SuspectsR: 1995. Starring: Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne, Chazz Palminteri. Director: Bryan Singer. Genre: Crime, Mystery, Thriller. Awards (24) including Academy Awards for Best Actor and Best Screenplay. Running Time: 106 min

DESCRIPTION: "Who is Keyser Söze?" If I told you, you'd miss the entire point of the movie.  Got to love Kevin Spacey.  I first became a fan of his in the late '80s TV show Wiseguy. In this film he's even more demented! Spacey plays a club-footed con man who recounts the criminal bedtime story of Hungarian mobster Keyser Söze. Gabriel Byrne plays the quiet intellectual criminal to a T and the rest of the cast is incredible.
The overriding story line is Who is Keyser Söze?  Then again, maybe this story is a red herring.  Underlining the Keyser theme is the planned heist of an entire shipment of cocaine.  Here's the twist.  Blink and you'll miss the plot; the clues and the point of the movie because there are several plots and subplots moving about.  I had to watch it twice to get it and a third time to really love it, (watching it sober helps too)!  This is a movie you'll need to think through and the ending, like The Manchurian Candidate won't be known until the last minute of the film.  Worth the time and the investment, this is storytelling at its finest.

BUY or RENT The Usual Suspects Now: Available for Streaming or Immediate Download.

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