With so many great, award-winning shows, it’s hard to know where to start. From the wealth of Marvel and Star Wars series on Disney+, to more avant-garde comedies or thrilling dramas on Netflix and Amazon Prime. For fans of psychological thrillers, however, the options sometimes seem scarce. Many of these types of shows often fail, feeling too predictable or more like horror than anything else.
Audiences need not worry, however, as there are plenty of psychological thrillers out there that will have them cringing and cringing. The tastes of Hannibal and spirit hunter are ideal for crime buffs, while foreign shows such as Dark and Ghoul are worthy of any sci-fi fan.
ten Hannibal: bloody, mind-blowing and full of suspense
Hannibal is a massively popular show based on the novels of Thomas Harris. Following FBI criminal profiler Will Graham, Hannibal initially plays out like any other detective show, until audiences are introduced to the lively and unsettling Hannibal Lecter (played by Mads Mikkelsen). Will Graham has a unique gift for entering the minds of criminals and can explain how and why a crime was committed.
Unsurprisingly, this exposure causes trauma for Will, and Hannibal soon acts as Will’s therapist. However, Will is unaware that Hannibal is hiding his dark secrets. Hannibal is an incredibly beautiful show, with compelling writing and excellent performances throughout. The public will not know who to lean on; the charming Hannibal Lecter or the traumatized Will Graham.
9 Dark: A German Time-Traveling Mystery
by Netflix Dark is a disturbing spectacle that revolves around the disappearance of two children in a rural German village. Like many German-Scandi shows, Dark perfectly follows the line between drama and thriller, with supernatural elements and the use of time travel giving it a tasteful sci-fi touch.
Dark is a wonderful examination of the human condition alongside a mysterious plot, looking at the townspeople and the secrets they keep in order to uphold their reputation. Modern events are linked to similar incidents in 1986. Dark is a character-driven show with great performances from the cast throughout.
8 Tabula Rasa: a Dutch amnesiac must prove her innocence
tabula rasa is a nine-episode Belgian TV show that follows Annemie D’Haeze, an amnesiac who must remember everything she can to prove her innocence in a disappearance case. In the same spirit as Memento, Annemie’s amnesia is an exciting and mind-bending plot device that allows the audience to put themselves in her shoes. Viewers don’t know who is truthful and who isn’t, as Annemie herself is an unreliable narrator.
tabula rasa mostly takes place in a mental hospital, where Annemie is held until the case of the disappearance is solved. The audience is taken on a thrilling journey of lies and mistrust, as Annemie struggles to fill in the blanks in her memory while losing trust not only in herself, but also in those around her.
7 Ghoul: Indian horror takes a psychological turn
Available on Netflix, Ghoul is a Hindi series based on Arabic folklore. The show follows young interrogator Nida Rahim and her colleagues as they attempt to uncover the peculiar behavior of a new inmate. The inmate, cult leader Ali Saeed, exposes the darkest secrets of Nida and his colleagues before the truth about his condition is uncovered, making the show both introspective and moving.
Saeed is possessed by a ghoul, a creature that typically inhabits graveyards or, in some cases, the desert and wilderness. When Nida discovers the ghoul, she and her co-workers must come to terms with what his presence means to their lives.
6 Mindhunter: Investigators must cross the line between sanity and darkness
To like Hannibal, spirit hunter follows two FBI agents as they attempt to understand the psyches of serial killers and what exactly drives them to commit their gruesome crimes. Holden Ford, the younger of the two agents, finds the process particularly mentally taxing and begins to lose control of his own sanity.
Based on the 1995 true crime book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker, spirit hunter is a chilling look at the inner workings of serial killers’ minds and the violence humans are capable of inflicting on each other. The show features actors playing real-life convicted criminals such as David Berkowitz and Edmund Kemper.
5 Black Mirror: Paranoia and fear run rampant in this jaw-dropping spectacle
black mirror is perhaps one of the most popular sci-fi psychological thrillers. Audiences will no doubt be taken aback by the themes present throughout. black mirror, as the show examines the cause and effect of excessive technology in the dystopian near future. The characters grapple with the manipulative effects technology has on their lives and behaviors, with each episode commenting on society and social issues.
Throughout its five seasons, black mirror played high class actors such as Jon Hamm, Daniel Kaluuya and Bryce Dallas Howard. Miley Cyrus even made an appearance in Season 5. black mirror is a show that touches the home of many viewers, encouraging speculative thinking about the use of technology and how it affects the daily lives of audiences.
4 Twin Peaks: David Lynch’s strange style for the series
David Lynch is a legendary director known for his weird and wonderful movies, including Mulholland Drive, Eraserhead, and blue velvet. The 1990 Show twin peaks is, like much of Lynch’s work, surreal and elegant. It follows FBI agent Dale Cooper as he investigates the death of a 17-year-old girl in the town of Twin Peaks, Washington.
During his investigation, he encounters some strange townspeople and discovers that the victim, Laura Palmer, and many others are living a double life while maintaining a false facade. twin peaks has since gained a massive cult following, not just for its clever mix of genres (from supernatural to noir), but for its bizarre cinematography and storytelling. There has since been a limited series and a prequel movie, Twin Peaks: Walk with fire with me.
3 Fargo: an intriguing crime thriller set in snowy Minnesota
Adapted from the 1996 Coen Brothers black comedy, Fargo is a bizarre show based in Minnesota through different time periods. Fargo is darkly funny and gripping, with intriguing characters and an incredibly sparse landscape. As each season tackles a different era and therefore follows different characters, viewers will have no end of weird stories and mysteries to get lost in.
Fargo also features excellent actors, including Ewan McGregor and Billy Bob Thornton. Mystery buffs will love this show, as it’s primarily a crime drama, though it’s punctuated with elements of thriller and comedy.
2 Penny Dreadful: a must-have for fans of classic literature
dreadful penny began airing in 2014 and only lasts three seasons. However, it was hugely popular and continues to be a must watch for all fans of classic literature. The show follows Vanessa Ives and her companions as they battle creatures of the night in late 1800s London.
Classic characters such as Victor Frankenstein, Dorian Gray, Dr. Jekyll, and even Dracula make appearances. dreadful penny is a wonderfully dark spectacle, dripping with gothic drama and gripping audiences with its clever psychological writing. Vanessa must battle her own demons as well as those that roam the streets of London, while her companion, Ethan Chandler, must fend off his deadly murderous instincts.
1 The Haunting Of Hill House: A Terrifying Paranormal Thriller
Lately, The Haunting of Hill House is a hair-raising paranormal thriller, based on Shirley Jackson’s 1959 horror novel. The show is the first episode of The haunting anthology of shows, and is an incredibly solid start. The Haunting of Hill House follows the Crain family as they move into Hill House in order to renovate it; however, horrific events lead the family to become fractured, until they must return over twenty years later after another tragedy.
The casting is excellent, and each actor embodies his character perfectly. While The Haunting of Hill House is the most horror-like show on this list, the elements of PTSD and face-to-face trauma make for a compelling and cringe-worthy story, in addition to paranormal elements throughout.
10 psychological thrillers for those who don’t like psychological thrillers
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