Compelling stories aim to represent a vast reflection of humankind in our darkest and most inspiring moments. Psychological thrillers, in particular, tease us by introducing the missing link to a mystery first and then slowly unveils all the pieces until they fit together. Along the way, complex protagonists, anti-heroes, and villains give us an insider’s look into what it means to be human or inhuman. As we observe characters navigate mind-boggling puzzles of injustice, crime, and a distorted perception of reality, we feel like we’re in the passenger seat of a wild ride filled with twists and turns. If you love psychological thrillers, these top 5 absolute must-watch tv shows will keep you guessing from one episode to the next.
In a similar vein to Rod Serling’s science fiction show “The Twilight Zone,” the serial anthology “Black Mirror” dives deep into reality in the most mind-bending ways imaginable. Every episode is developed by a different production team and comprises of a stand-alone story starring a wide variety of actors. The series’ core thread focuses on the dependency on technology and reflects society’s addiction to the digital black mirror of computers, smartphones, and other electronic devices. Charlie Brooker, the series’ creator, maintains an elaborate attention to detail that offers fans a string of clues to connect from one unique episode to another. As characters are set in alternative present timelines or the near future, you will be led through a mental maze that’ll leave you mystified and wanting more.
Classic Hollywood director Alfred Hitchcock earned his prestigious reputation as a master of suspense with his deft ability to craft slow-burning mysteries. In his influential film “Psycho,” a motel owner Norman Bates’s split personality with his mother pushes him to commit murder. Set before the events of Hitchcock’s classic horror, “Bates Motel” is a modern-day retelling that explores the contentious and affectionate relationship between Norman and his mother as they struggle to find success with their roadside motel. Tensions run high as the duo encounter issues with the town’s residents and the two characters’ unstable mindsets clash and blend. The series’ performances by Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga will transport you on an unforgettable rollercoaster ride with their ability to capture each other’s personalities merging into one.
No amount of training can prevent a detective or police offer from dealing with the most sinister sides of humanity they’re exposed to. Left to their own devices, being exposed to a consistent stream of crimes slowly changes their behavior and personality. As is the case with Detective Chief Inspector John Luther. Ruthless, ambitious, and impulsive, Luther hunts down criminals across London. When he comes up against a charismatic psychopath and murderer Alice Morgan, Luther becomes both her predator and prey. The chemistry between the show’s leading stars Idris Elba and Ruth Wilson is electric and will keep you on the edge of your seat of who will finally get the upper-hand.
In the 1991 adaption of Thomas Harris’s novel “The Silence of the Lambs,” audiences were terrified of the notorious cannibal Hannibal Lecter played by actor Anthony Hopkins. Set decades before Lecter’s incarceration, the 2013 satirical drama “Hannibal” pairs the brilliant forensic psychiatrist with a gifted criminal profiler Will Graham. As they unravel a disturbing case for the FBI, Lecter is in the midst of his breakdown that leads him to the menacing serial killer he becomes known for. Graham’s unique ability to empathize with criminals becomes another game for Lecter to manipulate his partner and drag him to the brink of madness. The series’ dark humor, gore, and cerebral twists offer a generous helping of horror and psychological thrills.
Bored with her desk job, British intelligence officer Eve Polastri is finally whisked away to connect the dots between a string of murders across Europe. The disturbing network of clues draws her closer to an attractive and unstable assassin Villanelle, and their mutual interest in each other becomes a profound obsession. Similar to the previous picks on this list, “Killing Eve” has garnered acclaim by enthralled critics and fans. The show’s ability to weave suspense into an unforgettable cat-and-mouse chase makes it one of the most popular shows on tv and an absolute must-watch.
Psychological thrillers aren’t typically suited for the faint of heart. From slow-burning character studies to non-stop adrenaline stories, this particular mind-boggling genre makes us question the emotional and mental breadth of humanity in all its intricate flaws and mistakes. These television shows will keep you hooked from the first episode and spark excitement to dive into the genre even more.