Psychological Horror Films:  8 Must-See Classics of the Genre


Movies in the so-called “psychological” category of horror films are among the most disturbing (and definitely the most realistic) in the horror genre because the horror comes from the behavior and actions of human beings, not supernatural forces. Horror experts agree that the best psychological horror films often feature themes like madness, paranoia, phobias, and fanaticism. Here are just a few of the best psychological horror films that will make you double-check the locks on the doors tonight!


Psycho (1960)

Considered by many critics to be the best horror film ever, Psycho is Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece of psychological horror. A woman goes on the run after stealing $40,000 and checks into the famous Bates Motel. There she meets the strange Norman Bates, who says he lives at the motel with his mother. We soon learn much more about Norman and his interesting relationship with Mother.


A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

This fascinating South Korean entry into the psychological horror genre makes many fan and critic “best” lists. A girl named Su-mi returns from a stay in a mental hospital to the home she shares with her father, sister, and stepmother. Strange and terrifying things begin to happen and we learn the real truth about the inhabitants of the house…and Su-mi’s mental state.


Repulsion (1965)

Like Psycho, Repulsion is a classic of the genre. Roman Polanski wrote and directed this film, which stars Catherine Deneuve as a shy woman named Carol who is repulsed by men and sexuality. She lives with her sister and is disgusted by her sister’s boyfriend. When the sister and boyfriend go out of town, a series of events conspire to make Carol come unhinged and commit murder.


Kill List (2011)

Check out this enigmatic British horror film about an ex-soldier named Jay who becomes a hitman after leaving the military. He and his associate are assigned a series of seemingly symbolic kills by a mysterious client. The final assignment on the kill list brings them to a strange cult-like gathering in the woods, and leads Jay to a very dark place.


Jacob’s Ladder (1990)

Tim Robbins plays Jacob, a Vietnam veteran who is having strange flashbacks and hallucinations. Jacob is determined to understand exactly what happened to him during the war, and his investigations lead him to discover that he experienced things even more sinister and disturbing than wartime combat.


Session 9 (2001)

An asbestos removal crew go to work in an old abandoned insane asylum. The creepy atmosphere heightens tensions among the workers, especially after recordings of sessions with a woman who had multiple personalities are discovered. What’s the link between her evil personality named Simon on the session 9 tape and the men on the crew?


Absentia (2011)

This recent film is quickly becoming a favorite of horror fans. A woman’s husband goes missing for years and is presumed dead. She continues to have visions of him, and then one day he reappears…in bad shape. Her sister discovers the disturbing truth about people disappearing into a creepy tunnel, but she happens to be a drug addict, and of course nobody believes her.


Spoorloos (The Vanishing) (1988)

Skip the American remake and go right to the Dutch original for this psychological horror film. A young woman disappears while she and her boyfriend are on vacation. A man they encounter during their trip had been plotting the abduction of a woman for some time. The boyfriend continues searching for her for years, and the man finally comes forward and promises to reveal what happened…if the boyfriend accompanies him to the scene of the crime.





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