When we talk of suspense movies, that means movies can have this chilling effect on us as we watch it. Mostly, these kinds of films have very formidable storylines that hook you right from the start. Basically, a great suspense movie should have a very unique idea to sell to its audience. When a movie is grounded on realism, it should make the audience feel that “this could happen to you.” Therefore, the suspense that the viewers feel should send shivers down their spine.
Another approach of suspense movies is to make them feel like they are the protagonists of the story. This relatable quality puts viewers in the same perspective of the lead characters. Therefore, it’s like a “put yourself in their shoes” type of narrative. And that could also send them some suspenseful chills.
So with these elements in mind, what do you now consider as the best suspense movies with great storylines that Hollywood has produced? Here are some suggestions for you.
1. Rear Window
Of course the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, tops this list of best suspense movies with great characters and a great storyline. From the premise alone, you’d be curious enough to know what happens next. And you’ll also start cheering with the protagonists as they try to unravel the situations.
This 1954 classic stars James Stewart as LB Jefferies, a photographer who broke his leg and had to sit still in his apartment as his cast leg heals. His apartment faces another, where he could see various people from different walks of life, through their apartment windows.
However, he also spots a neighbor that he suspects of murder. With nothing to do but observe, his keen looking revealed patterns that could lend credibility to his theory. His girlfriend, played by Grace Kelly, entertains his notions at first, attributed to his boredom. But later, they try to unravel more clues to find evidence. This slow but sure build-up of events, up to its climax, is what makes Rear Window one of the best suspense movies ever! Go watch this and find out how Hitchcock does it.
2. High Noon
One classic black and white film that needs to be on this list is High Noon. This 1952 gem stars Gary Cooper as a town marshal named Will, set during the gun-slinging era of yore. Grace Kelly plays his new wife Amy. The casting alone is worth watching, but wait ‘til you hear the concept!
The film is about the town marshal who is set to depart his town to start a family somewhere else. But just as they were planning this, the marshal’s old enemy was scheduled to arrive back in town. There should be nothing to worry about here, but for the marshal, there is. He got word that this old outlaw plans to exact revenge on him, when he arrives at high noon.
And this is where it gets better. The whole film runs in real time, meaning the time of the outlaw’s anticipated arrival is counted every minute as the film runs. During that time, the marshal tries to decide what to do best: to run or to face the avenging felon in a gun duel. And that’s why this film needs to be here in our list of best suspense movies, like ever! The build-up, the anticipation, and the eventual climax is just so worth the wait. Watch it!
3. LA Confidential
Trying to solve murders and catching the bad guys within the supposed world of the good guys are enough reasons to give you a suspenseful story. That’s what LA Confidential indeed offers its viewers.
Set during 1950s Los Angeles when Hollywood was still young but corruption is already of age, the film stars Russell Crowe as a detective quick to beat guilty people to a pulp. He clashes with a do-gooder cop played by Guy Pearce. Then there’s Danny DeVito’s sleazy sensational journalist character who squeezes his way in and out of the societal intrigues and police work for scoops.
The strength of this story lies with the formidable award-winning screenplay. The narrative is so engrossing that you’ll find yourself feeling suspenseful of uncovering cover-up after cover-up involving corrupt policemen and politicians. But it’s all set in the supposedly glitzy and glamorous world of Hollywood, which makes this very interesting. So go see this and look at why we included it here in our list of best suspense movies. It’s such a great work!
4. The Night of the Hunter
Another film from the ‘50s is included in this list, and rightfully so. The Night of the Hunter stars Robert Mitchum as a serial killer posing as a traveling preacher. He mainly circulates in the southern states, and the film is set during the 1930s.
One day, this fake preacher gets arrested not for his killings, but for driving a hot car. In jail, he meets an imprisoned bank robber who hid his stolen money with his children. The robber is executed, and the fake preacher is released. What does he do? Goes to the children of the robbers and infiltrates their life!
What kind of infiltration is this? He woos the widow mother and marries her! This is all part of his plan to uncover where the money is hidden. He has to win the trust of the two children who know the hiding place. With those elements alone, you know that this film clearly belongs here in our list of best suspense movies, ever! Go watch this timeless classic, a movie that has influenced many of today’s Hollywood filmmakers. See why!
5. Fatal Attraction
Fatal Attraction has got to be one of the best suspense movies that involve adultery. This 1987 movie stars Michael Douglas as Dan, a family man who had a short affair with Alex, played by Glenn Close. It was supposed to be just a no strings attached fling. But something got lost in translation there.
Soon, Alex begins to become ever-present in Dan’s life. Both are professionals working in New York. But this fact doesn’t stop them from having a stressful interaction. Mostly, it’s Alex who gets slowly obsessed with Dan. Realizing his infidelity mistake, Dan tries to resolve this situation quietly… until this attraction gets really, really fatal later on.
The build-up of suspense in this film is clearly laid out during the development of Alex’ irrational attraction to Dan. If anything, watch this to see just how far a fling-gone-wrong could, well, get worse!
Another Hitchcock classic should be included in this list, and we pick Rope. While Rear Window had quite an enjoyable but suspenseful ride, this one is just pure unadulterated suspense, scene after scene after scene. And it should be in this list of best suspense movies, ever!
Just like High Noon, Rope plays out in real time, as an intimate dinner party in a New York apartment ensues. The hosts of the party are the highly intelligent and upper class Harvard grads Brandon and Phillip, where they accommodate some good friends or their friends’ relatives. The guests also discuss an absent character, David, who’s supposed to be there.
Unknown to the guests, David is indeed already at a party – stashed inside a wooden chest, displayed in the middle of the apartment. Brandon and Phillip strangled David to death before the party, and hid him to see if they can get away with it. And they indeed believe that they could get away with the concept of “a perfect murder.” Interesting story, huh? Again, Hitchcock doesn’t disappoint with the suspense here. Go watch this and wait with bated breath!
7. Get Out
A modern suspense film centers on race and psychology, written within an interesting concept of a film. That film is 2017’s Get Out by Jordan Peele. At first, you’d think that this will run around the usual concept of race, since the black male photographer will be coming with his white girlfriend to visit her home.
As it turns out, it was indeed about race, but it’s not what you would expect. In the girlfriend’s estate, her all-white family has employed black servants. But the servants look like they stepped out of Stepford Wives, with glazed eyes and a mind that seemed to be controlled by someone else.
As the photographer slowly uncovers what’s really happening and what’s going on with his girlfriend’s family, the suspense just builds and builds and builds from there, never letting us off easily. And that’s why it deserves to be here in our list of best suspense movies with great storylines. Watch it and see what we mean!
What if we reverse the Fatal Attraction storyline and make the man the obsessive lover while the woman is the unfortunate object of his flawed affection? Then you get the 1996 film called Fear.
Fear stars Mark Wahlberg in the obsessive role of David. Reese Witherspoon is Nicole, the teen daughter of an upper-class family. The two meet each other, fall in love, and have a relationship. But Nicole’s father is suspicious of David from the get-go. And this is where trouble in paradise starts.
Once in a relationship, the sweet and charming David turns towards a darker persona, slowly, and destructively. And of course, this is where all hell breaks loose, as the suspense raises the bar again and again and again, towards the end. So see this one and figure out why it’s here in our list of best suspense movies.
9. Wait Until Dark
What if you’re blind, and criminals play with this fact to disadvantage you? This is primarily the concept that Wait Until Dark plays around with.
This 1967 play-turned-film stars Audrey Hepburn as the blind woman terrorized by criminals. These criminals are part of the drug ring that the blind woman and her husband unknowingly encountered at the airport on their way back home. Apparently, a woman gave the couple a doll full of drugs to hide from the police. And these criminals want to retrieve the doll from the couple.
These elements alone gives obvious reasons why this film is in our list of best suspense movies, ever! You don’t need to literally wait until dark, because the blind woman’s situation is already being manipulated by the bad guys. So go watch this to see how it turns out!
10. The Hand That Rocks The Cradle
A 1992 suburban film closes our countdown of the best suspense movies from Hollywood, ones that are well-written and have memorable characters. The Hand That Rocks The Cradle indeed has interesting characters and a chilling storyline that didn’t seem like that from the beginning.
The film is about Claire, who just gave birth to a son. They hired a nanny for the baby, but the nanny soon began breastfeeding the baby. As it turns out, this nanny is not there by accident. She applied to get the job, in order to infiltrate Claire’s family and to destroy it. And it’s intriguing to learn why.
Rebecca De Mornay gives a very chilling performance here of the psychologically and emotionally disturbed woman who becomes the nanny of an unsuspecting suburban household. Watch and see how the chills are built up, and see why it’s here in our list of greatly written suspense movies.