Are you looking for something exciting to watch? Something puzzling that will leave you on the edge of your seat? Might I suggest checking out a thriller! Thriller is a genre that brings tension and suspense. Whether it’s about crime, politics, or espionage, you can always count on a good thriller to keep you captivated amongst all the twists and turns, dying to find out how things will end. But what makes a story a thriller?
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I break down the various types of thrillers below and provide examples of thriller screenplays for your reading pleasure.
What makes a thriller?
Thrillers are films that utilize excitement, attention, and suspense to evoke a reaction from the audience. Thrillers often play with the reveal of information, teasing along how much the audience knows or is aware of. Thrillers often narrow down to one main character who comes up against a challenge such as a mystery they need to solve.
Notable master of all things horrifying and suspenseful, Alfred Hitchcock directed some of the most well-known and beloved thrillers. “Dial M for Murder,” “Rear Window,” and “Vertigo” are just some of Hitchcock’s groundbreaking thrillers that he, along with his cowriters, would create to help to define the genre. His use of psychology, voyeuristic shots, and twist endings still provide the blueprint and inspiration for thrillers today.
Thriller Subgenres and Example Screenplays
The thriller genre is one of those that is rife for riffing off of and meshing with other genres. Some subgenres of thrillers include:
- Action Thriller
Action thrillers include a mixture of action and thriller, which often has the main character face off against dangerous, action-packed obstacles.
Examples include “The Hurt Locker” (screenplay by Mark Boal) and “Taken” (screenplay by Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen).
- Crime Thriller
Crime thrillers feature a suspenseful telling of a crime such as a robbery, shootouts, heists, or murders.
Examples include “No Country for Old Men” (screenplay by Joel and Ethan Coen) and “The Silence Of The Lambs” (screenplay by Ted Tally).
- Spy Movies
Spy movies are usually realistic films focused on a spy engaged in a mission against a rival government or terroristic threat.
Examples include “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” (screenplay by Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughn) and the “James Bond” franchise.
- Pyschological Thriller
A psychological thriller focuses on the mental and emotional states of the characters.
Examples include “Gone Girl” (screenplay by Gillian Flynn) and “Blue Velvet” (screenplay by David Lynch).
- Horror Thriller
These stories mix thriller and horror elements and sometimes include supernatural elements.
Examples include “The Sixth Sense” (screenplay by M. Night Shyamalan) and “The Invisible Man” (screenplay by Leigh Whannell).
There are many great classic thrillers, but as a genre, the thriller is just as exciting and thriving now than it was during Hitchcock’s heyday. We see thrillers continue to bend genre and push conventions like the tense, unpredictable ride that was “Uncut Gems,” written by Ronald Bronstein, Josh Safdie, and Benny Safdie. We’re also seeing thrillers making their presence known on TV, with shows like “Killing Eve,” created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
Are you interested in reading some examples of thriller screenplays now? Check out these thrilling options below, and then get to reading!
Examples of Thriller Screenplays:
Screenplay by Alec Coppel and Samuel A. Taylor
When a former police detective is forced into retirement following an incidence of vertigo, he finds private investigatory work following a woman behaving oddly. Read the screenplay for "Vertigo" here.
- Uncut Gems
Screenplay by Ronald Bronstein, Josh Safdie, and Benny Safdie
The story of a gambling-addicted jeweler in New York City who needs to acquire an expensive gem to pay off his debts. Read the screenplay for "Uncut Gems" here.
- Blue Velvet
Screenplay by David Lynch
When a student home from college discovers a severed ear, it leads him to an entanglement with a mysterious lounge singer and the discovery of a criminal conspiracy. Read the screenplay for "Blue Velvet" here.
- The Sixth Sense
Screenplay by M. Night Shyamalan
A child psychologist must counsel a young boy who communicates with the dead. Read the screenplay for "The Sixth Sense" here.
- Killing Eve (Pilot Script)
Created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge
A British intelligence agent is tasked with stopping an insane assassin, but the pair soon find themselves inextricably connected. Read the pilot script for "Killing Eve" here.
- Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Screenplay by Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughn
During the Cold War, British intelligence operatives must uncover a Soviet double agent. Read the screenplay for "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" here.
- Gone Girl
Screenplay by Gillian Flynn
When his wife goes missing, a Missouri man finds himself the prime suspect in her disappearance. Read the screenplay for "Gone Girl" here.
- Basic Instinct
Screenplay by Joe Eszterhas
A detective investigating a brutal murder finds himself in an illicit relationship with the prime suspect. Read the screenplay for "Basic Instinct" here.
- No Country for Old Men
Screenplay by Joel and Ethan Coen
The hunter becomes the hunted when a man stumbles across a drug deal gone wrong and takes money left behind, only to find himself being pursued by a ruthless killer. Read the screenplay for "No Country for Old Men" here.
- Homeland (Pilot Script)
Created by Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon
A brilliant but troubled CIA operative is convinced that a rescued prisoner of war has been turned and poses a terroristic threat to the United States of America. Read the pilot script for "Homeland" here.