Thriller film, also known as suspense film or suspense thriller, is a broad film genre that evokes excitement and suspense 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 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 mission, 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 Action, Crime, Fantasy, Horror, Romance, Science Fiction, Slice of Life, Sports, War and Western.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 films, 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 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 Harold Lloyd's comedy Safety Last! (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), his and Britain's first sound film.His notable 1930s thrillers include The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), The 39 Steps (1935) and The Lady Vanishes (1938), the latter two ranked among the greatest British films of the 20th century.
One of the earliest spy films was Fritz Lang's 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 films. The German film M (1931), directed by Fritz Lang, starred Peter Lorre (in his first film role) as a criminal deviant who preys on children.
Hitchcock continued his suspense-thrillers, directing Foreign Correspondent (1940), the Oscar-winning Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941), 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) and Sorry, Wrong Number (1948).
In the late 1940s, Hitchcock added Technicolor to his thrillers, now with exotic locales. Hitchcock's first Technicolor film was Rope (1948). He reached the zenith of his career with a succession of classic films such as, Strangers on a Train (1951), Dial M For Murder (1954) with Ray Milland, Rear Window (1954) and Vertigo (1958). Non-Hitchcock thrillers of the 1950s include 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) featured Carl Boehm as a psychopathic cameraman. After Hitchcock's classic films of the 1950s, he produced Psycho (1960) about a lonely, mother-fixated motel owner and taxidermist. J. Lee Thompson's 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 (1967) by 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, 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); Obsession (1976), which was slightly inspired by Vertigo; 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 (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 (1992) and 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 (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), 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 (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 (2007), Eden Lake (2008), The Last House on the Left (2009), P2 (2007), Captivity (2007), Vacancy (2007), and A Quiet Place (2018). Action scenes have also gotten more elaborate in the thriller genre. Films such as Unknown (2011), Hostage (2005), and Cellular (2004) have crossed over into the action genre.
The thriller film genre includes the following sub-genres:
Action thriller is a blend of both 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 MasterDetective, Dirty Harry , Taken , The Fugitive , Snakes on a Plane , Speed , The Dark Knight , Casino Royale , The Hurt Locker , The Terminator , Battle Royale , the Die Hard series, and the Bourne series.
Comedy thriller is a genre that combines elements of humor with suspense. Such films include Silver Streak , Dr. Strangelove , Charade , Kiss Kiss Bang Bang , In Bruges , Mr. and Mrs. Smith , Grosse Point Blank , The Thin Man , The Big Fix , Pocket Listing (film) and The Lady Vanishes .
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 , Snake Eyes , The Da Vinci Code , Edge of Darkness ,Absolute Power , Marathon Man , In the Line of Fire , Capricorn One , and JFK .
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, robberies, chases, shootouts, heists, and double-crosses. Some examples of crime thrillers involving murderers are Seven ,No Country for Old Men , Heat , The Fugitive , New Jack City , The Silence Of The Lambs , Untraceable , Mindhunters , Kiss the Girls , Along Came a Spider , Collateral , and Copycat . Examples of crime thrillers involving heists or robberies are The Asphalt Jungle , The Score , Rififi , Entrapment , Heat , and The Killing .
Erotic thriller is a thriller film that has an emphasis on 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 , Basic Instinct ,Chloe , Color of Night , 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, crime fiction, 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 , Blood and Black Lace , Deep Red , The Red Queen Kills Seven Times , Don't Torture a Duckling , Tenebrae , Opera , and Sleepless .
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 , The Jury , The Client , The Lincoln Lawyer , Hostile Witness , and Silent Witness .
Pandemic thriller is a type of disaster and thriller film in which uses popularity of pandemic-themed with suspense. Example included Contagion, Deranged, Flu, and Outbreak.
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 , Notorious , The Man Who Knew Too Much , The Interpreter ,Proof of Life , State of Play , and The Ghost Writer.
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, as there is an in-depth development of realistic characters who must deal with emotional struggles.The Alfred Hitchcock films Suspicion , Shadow of a Doubt , and Strangers on a Train , as well as David Lynch's bizarre and influential Blue Velvet , are notable examples of the type, as are The Talented Mr. Ripley , The Machinist , Flightplan , Shutter Island , Secret Window , Identity , Gone Girl , Red Eye , Phone Booth , Fatal Attraction , The River Wild , Panic Room , Misery , Cape Fear , 10 Cloverfield Lane, and Funny Games.
Social thriller are a 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 , Dirty Pretty Things , Parasite , and The Constant Gardner .
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 British cinema,with leading British directors such as Alfred Hitchcock and Carol Reed making notable contributions, and many films set in the British Secret Service. Thrillers within this subgenre include Berlin Express , Spy Game , Hanna , Traitor , Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy , The Tourist , The Parallax View , The Tailor of Panama , Mission Impossible , Unknown , The Recruit , the James Bond franchise, The Debt , The Good Shepherd , and Three Days of the Condor .
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 superpowers. Examples include Fallen ,Frequency , In Dreams , Flatliners , Jacob's Ladder , The Skeleton Key , What Lies Beneath , Unbreakable , The Sixth Sense , The Gift , The Dead Zone , and 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 , Source Code , Eagle Eye , Supernova , Hackers , The Net , Futureworld , eXistenZ , and Virtuosity .
The spy film genre, also known sometimes as an espionage film, deals with the subject of fictional espionage, either in a realistic way or as a basis for fantasy. Many novels in the spy fiction genre have been adapted as films, including works by John Buchan, le Carré, Ian Fleming (Bond) and Len Deighton. It is a significant aspect of British cinema, with leading British directors such as Alfred Hitchcock and Carol Reed making notable contributions and many films set in the British Secret Service.
Action film is a film genre in which the protagonist or protagonists are thrust into a series of events that typically include violence, extended fighting, physical feats and frantic chases. Action films tend to feature a resourceful hero struggling against incredible odds, which include life-threatening situations, a villain or a pursuit which usually concludes in victory for the hero. Advancements in CGI have made it cheaper and easier to create action sequences and other visual effects that required the efforts of professional stunt crews in the past. However, reactions to action films containing significant amounts of CGI have been mixed, as films that use computer animations to create unrealistic, highly unbelievable events are often met with criticism. While action has long been a recurring component in films, the "action film" genre began to develop in the 1970s along with the increase of stunts and special effects. Common action scenes in films are generally, but not limited to, explosions, car chases, fistfights and shootouts. Action also includes various events
Crime fiction, detective story, murder mystery, mystery novel, and police novel: These terms all describe narratives that centre on criminal acts and especially on the investigation, either by an amateur or a professional detective, of a serious crime, generally a murder. It is usually distinguished from mainstream fiction and other genres such as historical fiction or science fiction, but the boundaries are indistinct. Crime fiction has multiple sub-genres, including detective fiction, courtroom drama, hard-boiled fiction, and legal thrillers. Most crime drama focuses on crime investigation and does not feature the court room. Suspense and mystery are key elements that are nearly ubiquitous to the genre.
Mystery fiction is a genre of fiction usually involving a mysterious death or a crime to be solved. Often with a closed circle of suspects, each suspect is usually provided with a credible motive and a reasonable opportunity for committing the crime. The central character will often be a detective who eventually solves the mystery by logical deduction from facts presented to the reader. Sometimes mystery books are nonfictional. "Mystery fiction" can be detective stories in which the emphasis is on the puzzle or suspense element and its logical solution such as a whodunit. Mystery fiction can be contrasted with hardboiled detective stories, which focus on action and gritty realism.
Genre fiction, also known as popular fiction, is a term used in the book-trade for fictional works written with the intent of fitting into a specific literary genre, in order to appeal to readers and fans already familiar with that genre.
Thriller is a genre of fiction, having numerous, often overlapping subgenres. Thrillers are characterized and defined by the moods they elicit, giving viewers heightened feelings of suspense, excitement, surprise, anticipation and anxiety. Successful examples of thrillers are the films of Alfred Hitchcock.
Psychological horror is a subgenre of horror and psychological fiction with a particular focus on mental, emotional, and psychological states to frighten, disturb, or unsettle its audience. The subgenre frequently overlaps with the related subgenre of psychological thriller, and it often uses mystery elements and characters with unstable, unreliable, or disturbed psychological states to enhance the suspense, drama, action, and paranoia of the setting and plot and to provide an overall unpleasant, unsettling, or distressing atmosphere.
Crime films, in the broadest sense, is a film genre inspired by and analogous to the crime fiction literary genre. Films of this genre generally involve various aspects of crime and its detection. Stylistically, the genre may overlap and combine with many other genres, such as drama or gangster film, but also include comedy, and, in turn, is divided into many sub-genres, such as mystery, suspense or noir.
Eric Clifford Ambler OBE was an English author of thrillers, in particular spy novels, who introduced a new realism to the genre. He also worked as a screenwriter. Ambler used the pseudonym Eliot Reed for books co-written with Charles Rodda.
Romance films or romance movies are romantic love stories recorded in visual media for broadcast in theaters and on TV that focus on passion, emotion, and the affectionate romantic involvement of the main characters and the journey that their love takes them through dating, courtship or marriage. Romance films make the romantic love story or the search for strong and pure love and romance the main plot focus. Occasionally, romance lovers face obstacles such as finances, physical illness, various forms of discrimination, psychological restraints or family that threaten to break their union of love. As in all quite strong, deep, and close romantic relationships, tensions of day-to-day life, temptations, and differences in compatibility enter into the plots of romantic films.
A mystery film is a genre of film that revolves around the solution of a problem or a crime. It focuses on the efforts of the detective, private investigator or amateur sleuth to solve the mysterious circumstances of an issue by means of clues, investigation, and clever deduction.
In literature, psychological fiction is a narrative genre that emphasizes interior characterization and motivation to explore the spiritual, emotional, and mental lives of the characters. The mode of narration examines the reasons for the behaviors of the character, which propel the plot and explain the story. Psychological realism is achieved with deep explorations and explanations of the mental states of the character's inner person, usually through narrative modes such as stream of consciousness and flash back.
Psychological thriller is a genre commonly used to describe movies and books that deal with psychological narratives in a thrilling setting.
Alfred Hitchcock (1899–1980) was an English director and filmmaker. Popularly known as the "Master of Suspense" for his use of innovative film techniques in thrillers, Hitchcock started his career in the British film industry as a title designer and art director for a number of silent films during the early 1920s. His directorial debut was the 1925 release The Pleasure Garden. Hitchcock followed this with The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog, his first commercial and critical success. It featured many of the thematic elements his films would be known for such as an innocent man on the run. It also featured the first of his famous cameo appearances. Two years later he directed Blackmail (1929) which was his first sound film. In 1935 Hitchcock directed The 39 Steps. Three years later he directed The Lady Vanishes, starring Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave.
Hitchcockian films are those made by various filmmakers, with the styles and themes similar to those of Alfred Hitchcock.
A Romantic thriller or a romance thriller is a narrative that involves romance and thriller. Etymology of the word thrill comes from English root meaning “to pierce”. A thrill is a sharp sensation.
The vigilante film is a film genre in which the protagonist or protagonists engage in vigilante behavior, taking the law into their own hands. Vigilante films are usually revenge films in which the legal system fails protagonists, leading them to become vigilantes.