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.
A film genre is a motion-picture category based on similarities either in the narrative elements or in the emotional response to the film. Most theories of film genre are borrowed from literary-genre criticism. Each film genre is associated with "conventions, iconography, settings, narratives, characters and actors". Standard genre characters vary according to the film genre; for film noir, standard characters are the femme fatale and the "hardboiled" detective; a Western film may portray the schoolmarm and the gunfighter. Some actors acquire a reputation linked to a single genre, such as John Wayne or Fred Astaire. A film's genre will influence the use of filmmaking styles and techniques, such as the use of flashbacks and low-key lighting in film noir, tight framing in horror films, fonts that look like rough-hewn logs for the titles of Western films, or the "scrawled" title-font and credits of Se7en (1995), a film about a serial killer. As well, genres have associated film-scoring conventions, such as lush string orchestras for romantic melodramas or electronic music for science-fiction films.
Suspense is a state of mental uncertainty, anxiety, of being undecided, or of being doubtful. In a dramatic work, suspense is the anticipation of the outcome of a plot or of the solution to an uncertainty, puzzle, or mystery, particularly as it affects a character for whom one has sympathy. However, suspense is not exclusive to fiction.
The cover-up of important information from the viewer, and fight and chase scenes are common methods. Life is typically threatened in 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.
A cover-up is an attempt, whether successful or not, to conceal evidence of wrongdoing, error, incompetence or other embarrassing information. In a passive cover-up, information is simply not provided; in an active cover-up, deception is used.
A goal is an idea of the future or desired result that a person or a group of people envisions, plans and commits to achieve. People endeavor to reach goals within a finite time by setting deadlines.
Thriller films are typically hybridized with other genres; hybrids commonly including: action thrillers, adventure 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.
Action film is a film genre in which the protagonist or protagonists are thrust into a series of challenges 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, car chases, fighting and gunplay or shootouts.
Adventure films are a genre of film that typically use their action scenes to display and explore exotic locations in an energetic way.
Fantasy films are films that belong to the fantasy genre with fantastic themes, usually magic, supernatural events, mythology, folklore, or exotic fantasy worlds. The genre is considered a form of speculative fiction alongside science fiction films and horror films, although the genres do overlap. Fantasy films often have an element of magic, myth, wonder, escapism, and the extraordinary.
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".
The American Film Institute (AFI) is an American film organization that educates filmmakers and honors the heritage of the motion picture arts in the United States. AFI is supported by private funding and public membership fees.
Part of the AFI 100 Years… series, AFI's 100 Years…100 Thrills is a list of the top 100 most exciting, action-packed, suspenseful or frightening movies in American cinema. The list was unveiled by the American Film Institute on June 12, 2001, during a CBS special hosted by Harrison Ford.
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.
Harold Clayton Lloyd Sr. was an American actor, comedian, and stunt performer who appeared in many silent comedy films.
Safety Last! is a 1923 American silent romantic comedy film starring Harold Lloyd. It includes one of the most famous images from the silent film era: Lloyd clutching the hands of a large clock as he dangles from the outside of a skyscraper above moving traffic. The film was highly successful and critically hailed, and it cemented Lloyd's status as a major figure in early motion pictures. It is still popular at revivals, and it is viewed today as one of the great film comedies.
A stunt is an unusual and difficult physical feat or an act requiring a special skill, performed for artistic purposes usually on television, theatre, or cinema. Stunts are a feature of many action films. Before computer generated imagery special effects, these effects were limited to the use of models, false perspective and other in-camera effects, unless the creator could find someone willing to jump from car to car or hang from the edge of a skyscraper: the stunt performer or stunt double.
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.
Friedrich Christian Anton "Fritz" Lang was an Austrian-German-American filmmaker, screenwriter, and occasional film producer and actor. One of the best-known émigrés from Germany's school of Expressionism, he was dubbed the "Master of Darkness" by the British Film Institute.
Spione[ˈʃpi̯oːnə] is a 1928 German silent espionage thriller directed by Fritz Lang and co-written with his wife, Thea von Harbou, who also wrote a novel of the same name. The film was Lang's penultimate silent film and the first for his own production company; Fritz Lang-film GmbH. As in Lang's Mabuse films, such as Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler and The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, Rudolf Klein-Rogge plays a master criminal aiming for world domination.
M is a 1931 German drama-thriller film directed by Fritz Lang and starring Peter Lorre. The film was written by Lang and his wife Thea von Harbou and was the director's first sound film.
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:
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.
A techno-thriller is a hybrid genre drawing from science fiction, thrillers, spy fiction, action, and war novels. They include a disproportionate amount of technical details on their subject matter ; only hard science fiction tends towards a comparable level of supporting detail on the technical side. The inner workings of technology and the mechanics of various disciplines are thoroughly explored, and the plot often turns on the particulars of that exploration.This genre began to exist and establish itself in the early 20th century with further developments and focus on the genre in the mid 20th century.
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 specifically literary genre, in order to appeal to readers and fans already familiar with that genre.
Thriller is a broad genre of literature, film and television, 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 that relies on mental, emotional and psychological states to frighten, disturb, or unsettle readers, viewers, or players. 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, are a cinematic 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 influential 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.
Lionel Davidson FRSL was an English novelist who wrote spy thrillers.
Jacques Deray was a French film director and screenwriter. Deray is prominently known for directing many crime and thriller films.
Psychological thriller is a thriller narrative which emphasizes the unstable or delusional psychological states of its characters. In terms of context and convention, it is a subgenre of the broader ranging thriller narrative structure, with similarities to Gothic and detective fiction in the sense of sometimes having a "dissolving sense of reality". It is often told through the viewpoint of psychologically stressed characters, revealing their distorted mental perceptions and focusing on the complex and often tortured relationships between obsessive and pathological characters. Psychological thrillers often incorporate elements of mystery, drama, action, and paranoia. Not to be confused with psychological horror, which involves more terror than psychosomatic themes.
Poliziotteschi constitute a subgenre of crime and action films that emerged in Italy in the late 1960s and reached the height of their popularity in the 1970s. They are also known as Italo-crime, Euro-crime, poliziesco, spaghetti crime films, or simply Italian crime films. Influenced by both 1970s French crime films and gritty 1960s and 1970s American cop films and vigilante films, poliziotteschi films were made amidst an atmosphere of socio-political turmoil in Italy and increasing Italian crime rates. The films generally featured graphic and brutal violence, organized crime, car chases, vigilantism, heists, gunfights, and corruption up to the highest levels. The protagonists were generally tough working class loners, willing to act outside a corrupt or overly bureaucratic system.
Alfred Hitchcock (1899–1980) was an English filmmaker and director. 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, most of which are now lost. 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.
A social thriller is a film genre using elements of suspense and horror to augment instances of oppression in society. The genre gained notoriety in 2017 with the release of Jordan Peele's Get Out, a film highlighting instances of racial alienation, which veil a plot to abduct young African-Americans. Prior to Peele, other film actors, directors and critics had used the term to describe an emerging genre of cinema with examples from all over the globe. Many social thrillers focus on issues of race, class, gender, sexuality or nationhood, often within the format of genre films more broadly categorized as film noir, drama, horror cinema, or Bollywood musicals, among others.