Finding a great thriller can be harder than it seems, in part because the genre does not have a firm definition. Its boundaries are fluid, and that means that you could argue that a wide number of vastly different movies are all thrillers of one sort or another. It’s not the same as something like an action movie or a horror movie, which has pretty clear conventions and rules that it generally abides by.
In 1964, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart infamously said of pornography, “I know it when I see it” — and perhaps the same is true for thrillers. There are definitely some defining through-lines, including murder, lying, and plenty of sex. Ultimately, though, the thriller is really defined by how it makes the viewer feel, which makes choosing the best thriller movies a bit difficult.
The best thriller movies help us better understand what a thriller actually is. By looking at them, we can begin to understand what makes a thriller a thriller, and what makes the best ones so great.
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