Thrillers are some of the hardest films to pin down: Their versatility is at once a strength and a bit of a conundrum. This genre has been known to encompass many others, from the legal and political to the psychological and historical. At their core, thrillers create a sense of anxiety, excitement, or urgency that engages us as much as it unnerves us.
Sometimes this is done with action sequences, or by exposing a world of crime or espionage. Other times, thrills are orchestrated more subtly: The tension arises within one’s own psyche, or manifests in the relationships between characters. Whatever it is that creates that apprehension, however, it’s unmistakable to true thrill-seekers — and it’s a core part of these 98 films in one way or another.
Updated on July 29, 2021: Given audiences’ insatiable thirst for adventure and excitement, the entertainment industry continues to produce a number of incredible thrillers each year. Occasionally, a film comes along that is compelling enough to crack the top 98 — and even unseat a former pick in the process. As the genre continues to evolve, so, too, will our catalogue of the best thrillers of all time (while always paying respect to its riveting roots).