52 Psychological Horror Movies That Will Seriously Mess With Your Head

52 Psychological Horror Movies That Will Seriously Mess With Your Head

Lost Highway (1997)

David Lynch’s Lost Highway is—much like his other movies—very, very David Lynch-y. But where most of his other projects find their dread in aesthetics and vibes that feel almost like a sick, twisted, version of an idyllic ’50s life, Lost Highway leans hard into a ’90s mood for its weird, twisted mystery. The cast is led by Bill Pullman and Patricia Arquette, and by the end of the movie you may be questioning everything you just saw—but will be happy that you pressed play.

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Beau Is Afraid (2023)

While Ari Aster’s first two feature films are pretty straight (and very messed up!) horror, the director’s latest film, Beau Is Afraid leans much more into something that we all deal with from time to time: anxiety and dread. As we follow the titular Beau—the most anxious man alive—he goes on a hero’s journey… to his mom’s house. Joaquin Phoenix leads an impressive cast that also includes perhaps the most outrageous sex scene you’ll ever see.

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Take Shelter (2011)

Speaking of dread, there aren’t many movies that capture the horrible feeling that something is coming than Take Shelter. A man whose family has a history of serious mental illness (Michael Shannon) begins to wonder whether the bizarre, apocalyptic visions he’s been having are a sign of dark things to come—or a sign of his own decline. An early-career Jessica Chastain and Shea Whigham also star.

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Talk To Me (2023)

A24 has another horror hit on its hands with Talk To Me, an Australian movie from brothers Danny and Michael Philippou about teenagers who find a passage to people lingering in the afterlife—and begin to abuse it for recreation. A fairly obvious drug metaphor? Yes. A lot of fun? Yes! You’ll be terrified, entranced, and questioning everything all at the same time.

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X (2022)

X is a loving tribute to the grindhouse horror of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre from writer/director Ti West, but it’s also one of the best slashers and horror character studies to come out in recent years. This thrillingly-made flick does something that a lot of movies. in this space often doesn’t: slow down for a little bit and let us get to know these people (before, you know, killing them). The cast is led by Mia Goth, but supporting players Brittany Snow, Jenna Ortega, Martin Henderson, and Kid Cudi all show up at their very best. And there’s a special bonus for fans of X: there’s already a prequel (read below!) with a third film well underway.

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Pearl (2022)

Surprise! Not only did X turn out to be one of the most intriguing and fun slashers in recent years, but writer/director Ti West came ready to go with a prequel, as Mia Goth—who co-wrote the film and reprised her role as a younger Pearl—was ready to play her most iconic character to date. If X pays tribute to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, then you can say Pearl pays tribute to Mary Poppins… if it was about 1,000 times more twisted. This isn’t a fast-paced horror film by any means, but rather a story of how the titular character could possibly go from an idealistic hopeful to the villain we saw in the first film. It’s a blast.

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The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

The Silence of the Lambs wasn’t the first adaptation of writer Thomas Harris’ work featuring Hannibal Lecter, but it’s certainly the most notable. The movie is basically a perfect thriller from start to finish, but with enough truly depraved crime and violence to land a spot on this list. You know this, but Anthony Hopkins’ take on Lecter is absolutely incredible—he won the Academy Award for Best Actor despite only about 15 minutes of screen time in the movie. Hopkins and Jodie Foster are the headliners, but its Ted Levine’s Buffalo Bill who might scare you the very most. It puts the lotion on its skin…

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The Shining (1980)

Based on Stephen King‘s legendary 1977 novel of the same name but with some key differences, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is considered one of the greatest horror films of all time. Each shot is expertly crafted, and Jack Nicholson brilliantly plays one of the most compelling and terrifying lead characters in the history of the genre. Watching him slowly but surely lose his mind, and embrace his very worst tendencies, is a treat for anyone looking for terror.

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Doctor Sleep (2019)

While Doctor Sleep is more a sequel to Stephen King’s The Shining book than Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 masterpiece (there are some major differences), it’s nonetheless one of the biggest scale horror films we’ve seen in recent years. Ewan McGregor (!!) plays a grown-up version of Danny Torrance, who finds a young girl with similar powers to himself. A cult gets involved, and things get wild.

Mike Flanagan (The Haunting of Hill House, The Haunting of Bly Manor, Gerald’s Game) is becoming a horror master in his own right, and HBO Max subscribers have the option of checking out the theatrical version of Doctor Sleep or the Director’s Cut. Both are worth your time.

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The Night House (2021)

Rebecca Hall stars in The Night House, which tells the story of a woman mourning her late husband—when mysterious things at the house he built begin to happen. This is one of those movies that’s better if you know as little as possible—but know that the visuals are stunning, and you’ll probably find your mind blown by any of the numerous twists in the story.

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The Power of the Dog (2021)

The Power of the Dog, which won Jane Campion the Oscar for Best Director at 2022’s Academy Awards, is not a traditional “horror” movie in any way. But the movie, especially in its latter half, ups the tension in a major way—thanks significantly to Jonny Greenwood’s score. You’ll need to make sure you’re at full attention, but the movie is one of the best versions of finding terror in ordinary people and situations.

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Shiva Baby (2021)

Maybe another unorthodox pick for the list, but Shiva Baby is the kind of horror that we can all relate with—that of unrelenting social anxiety and awkwardness. Rachel Sennott went on to also star in a more traditional horror film (2022’s Bodies Bodies Bodies), but she proved her bonafides in Shiva Baby, which plays like Uncut Gems meets A Serious Man meets just pure unfiltered tension.

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Nope (2022)

Jordan Peele’s latest is more along the lines of Jaws or Cloverfield than Us or Get Out, but it’s still a thinking man’s horror movie at its very best. From the moment this movie ends, you’ll want to watch it again. And again. And again. Shall I go on?

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Nightmare Alley (2021)

Director Guillermo Del Toro made a big-scale slow-burn epic with Nightmare Alley, which follows a scheming carny (Bradley Cooper) who works his way through society—until he meets his potential scheming match (Cate Blanchett). The production value is fantastic, and supporting turns from Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe and Richard Jenkins are great as usual.

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Titane (2021)

Honestly, this movie is so weird, and creepy, and disturbing…just know that it involves a car. And blood that resembles motor oil. And a lot more stuff along those lines. Not for those with an easily upset stomach!

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The Game (1997)

The Game, which stars Michael Douglas as a high-powered businessman who gets caught up in a confusing, scary, and disturbing game outside of his own control, is one of David Fincher’s more underrated movies, but that doesn’t make it not entertaining. If you’re looking for a twisty and turny road that has a few twists and a couple scares along the way, look no further.

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Zodiac (2007)

Who says true crime can’t be scary? Well, literally no one with a functioning brain would say that, and Zodiac—which tells the true story of the Zodiac Killer who terrorized the Bay Area in the ’70s and the relentless hunt for his identity—is some prime proof that our scariest horrors are sometimes the real ones. This might just be David Fincher’s masterpiece—though he’s certainly got plenty of other contenders.

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Se7en (1996)

David Fincher’s Se7en, which stars Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, is one of the most grounded and terrifying horror movies you’ll ever see. Pair this one with Silence of the Lambs for one fucked up double feature.

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Last Night In Soho (2021)

After dabbling with horror early on (with Shaun of the Dead), director Edgar Wright went full-speed ahead at the psychological horror subgenre with the creepy, moody Last Night In Soho. With dueling storylines that eventually intersect and a mystery at its core, Soho is an entertaining couple of hours with a great cast (including Anya Taylor-Joy, Thomasin McKenzie, and Matt Smith), memorable music, and stunning visuals.

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Mullholland Drive

Mullholland Drive is the most David Lynch-y of David Lynch-y things—and if you’re looking for a psychological horror, there’s absolutely no better. Don’t go into this movie expecting a coherent narrative, but rather just the feeling of a weird, untethered nightmare. You won’t forget it.

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Evan Romano

Evan is the culture editor for Men’s Health, with bylines in The New York Times, MTV News, Brooklyn Magazine, and VICE. He loves weird movies, watches too much TV, and listens to music more often than he doesn’t.

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