Thriller is a broad genre of literature, film and television, having numerous, often overlapping subgenres. Thrillers are characterized and defined by the moods they elicit, giving viewers heightened feelings of suspense, excitement, surprise, anticipation and anxiety. Successful examples of thrillers are the films of Alfred Hitchcock.
Thrillers generally keep the audience on the "edge of their seats" as the plot builds towards a climax. The cover-up of important information is a common element. Literary devices such as red herrings, plot twists, and cliffhangers are used extensively. A thriller is usually a villain-driven plot, whereby he or she presents obstacles that the protagonist must overcome.
Writer Vladimir Nabokov, in his lectures at Cornell University, said: "In an Anglo-Saxon thriller, the villain is generally punished, and the strong silent man generally wins the weak babbling girl, but there is no governmental law in Western countries to ban a story that does not comply with a fond tradition, so that we always hope that the wicked but romantic fellow will escape scot-free and the good but dull chap will be finally snubbed by the moody heroine."
Thrillers may be defined by the primary mood that they elicit: suspenseful excitement. In short, if it "thrills", it is a thriller. As the introduction to a major anthology argues:
...Thrillers provide such a rich literary feast. There are all kinds. The legal thriller, spy thriller, action-adventure thriller, medical thriller, police thriller, romantic thriller, historical thriller, political thriller, religious thriller, high-tech thriller, military thriller. The list goes on and on, with new variations constantly being invented. In fact, this openness to expansion is one of the genre's most enduring characteristics. But what gives the variety of thrillers a common ground is the intensity of emotions they create, particularly those of apprehension and exhilaration, of excitement and breathlessness, all designed to generate that all-important thrill. By definition, if a thriller doesn't thrill, it's not doing its job.
Suspense is a crucial characteristic of the thriller genre. It gives the viewer a feeling of pleasurable fascination and excitement mixed with apprehension, anticipation and tension. These develop from unpredictable, mysterious and rousing events during the narrative, which makes the viewer or reader think about the outcome of certain actions. Suspense builds in order to make those final moments, no matter how short, the most memorable. The suspense in a story keeps the person hooked to reading or watching more until the climax is reached.
In terms of narrative expectations, it may be contrasted with curiosity and surprise. The objective is to deliver a story with sustained tension, surprise, and a constant sense of impending doom. As described by film director Alfred Hitchcock, an audience experiences suspense when they expect something bad to happen and have (or believe they have) a superior perspective on events in the drama's hierarchy of knowledge, yet they are powerless to intervene to prevent it from happening.
Suspense in thrillers is often intertwined with hope and anxiety, which are treated as two emotions aroused in anticipation of the conclusion - the hope that things will turn out all right for the appropriate characters in the story, and the fear that they may not. The second type of suspense is the "...anticipation wherein we either know or else are fairly certain about what is going to happen but are still aroused in anticipation of its actual occurrence."
Thriller music has been shown to create a distrust and ominous uncertainty between the viewer of a film and the character on screen at the time when the music is playing.
Common methods and themes in crime and action thrillers are mainly ransoms, captivities, heists, revenge, kidnappings. Common in mystery thrillers are investigations and the whodunit technique. Common elements in dramatic and psychological thrillers include plot twists, psychology, obsession and mind games. Common elements of science-fiction thrillers are killing robots, machines or aliens, mad scientists and experiments. Common in horror thrillers are serial killers, stalking, deathtraps and horror-of-personality. Elements such as fringe theories, false accusations and paranoia are common in paranoid thrillers. Threats to entire countries, spies, espionage, conspiracies, assassins and electronic surveillance are common in spy thrillers.
Characters may include criminals, stalkers, assassins, innocent victims (often on the run), menaced women, psychotic individuals, spree killers, sociopaths, agents, terrorists, cops and escaped cons, private eyes, people involved in twisted relationships, world-weary men and women, psycho-fiends, and more. The themes frequently include terrorism, political conspiracy, pursuit, or romantic triangles leading to murder. Plots of thrillers involve characters which come into conflict with each other or with outside forces.
The protagonist of these films is set against a problem. No matter what subgenre a thriller film falls into, it will emphasize the danger that the protagonist faces. The protagonists are frequently ordinary citizens unaccustomed to danger, although commonly in crime and action thrillers, they may also be "hard men" accustomed to danger such as police officers and detectives. While protagonists of thrillers have traditionally been men, women lead characters are increasingly common. In psychological thrillers, the protagonists are reliant on their mental resources, whether it be by battling wits with the antagonist or by battling for equilibrium in the character's own mind. The suspense often comes from two or more characters preying upon one another's minds, either by playing deceptive games with the other or by merely trying to demolish the other's mental state.
An atmosphere of menace and sudden violence, such as crime and murder, characterize thrillers. The tension usually arises when the character(s) is placed in a dangerous situation, or a trap from which escaping seems impossible. Life is threatened, usually because the principal character is unsuspectingly or unknowingly involved in a dangerous or potentially deadly situation.
Hitchcock's films often placed an innocent victim (an average, responsible person) into a strange, life-threatening or terrorizing situation, in a case of mistaken identity or wrongful accusation.
Thrillers take place mostly in ordinary suburbs and cities, although sometimes they may take place wholly or partly in exotic settings such as foreign cities, deserts, polar regions, or the high seas. These usually tough, resourceful, but essentially ordinary heroes are pitted against villains determined to destroy them, their country, or the stability of the free world. Often in a thriller movie, the protagonist is faced with what seem to be insurmountable problems in his mission, carried out against a ticking clock, the stakes are high and although resourceful, they face personal dilemmas along the way forcing them to make sacrifices for others.
Ancient epic poems such as the Epic of Gilgamesh, Homer's Odyssey and the Mahābhārata use similar narrative techniques as modern thrillers. In the Odyssey, the hero Odysseus makes a perilous voyage home after the Trojan War, battling extraordinary hardships in order to be reunited with his wife Penelope. He has to contend with villains such as the Cyclops, a one-eyed giant, and the Sirens, whose sweet singing lures sailors to their doom. In most cases, Odysseus uses cunning instead of brute force to overcome his adversaries.
Little Red Riding Hood (1697), an early example of a psycho-stalker story, is a fairy tale about a girl who walks through the woods to deliver food to her sick grandmother. A wolf wants to eat the girl but is afraid to do so in public. He approaches Little Red Riding Hood and she naively tells him where she is going. He suggests the girl pick some flowers, which she does. In the meantime, he goes to the grandmother's house and gains entry by pretending to be the girl. He swallows the grandmother whole (in some stories, he locks her in the closet) and waits for the girl, disguised as the grandma.
The Three Apples, a tale in the One Thousand and One Nights (Arabian Nights), is the earliest known murder mystery and suspense thriller with multiple plot twists and detective fiction elements. In this tale, a fisherman discovers a heavy locked chest along the Tigris river and he sells it to the Abbasid Caliph, Harun al-Rashid, who then has the chest broken open only to find inside it the dead body of a young woman who was cut into pieces. Harun orders his vizier, Ja'far ibn Yahya, to solve the crime and find the murderer within three days. This whodunit mystery may be considered an archetype for detective fiction.
The Count of Monte Cristo (1844) is a swashbuckling revenge thriller about a man named Edmond Dantès who is betrayed by his friends and sent to languish in the notorious Château d'If. His only companion is an old man who teaches him everything from philosophy to mathematics to swordplay. Just before the old man dies, he reveals to Dantès the secret location of a great treasure. Shortly after, Dantès engineers a daring escape and uses the treasure to reinvent himself as the Count of Monte Cristo. Thirsting for vengeance, he sets out to punish those who destroyed his life.
The Riddle of the Sands (1903) is "the first modern thriller", according to Ken Follett, who described it as "an open-air adventure thriller about two young men who stumble upon a German armada preparing to invade England".
Heart of Darkness (1903) is a first-person within a first-person account about a man named Marlow who travels up the Congo River in search of an enigmatic Belgian trader named Kurtz. Layer by layer, the atrocities of the human soul and man's inhumanity to man are peeled away. Marlow finds it increasingly difficult to tell where civilization ends and where barbarism begins. Today this might be described as a psychological thriller.
The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915) is an early thriller by John Buchan, in which an innocent man becomes the prime suspect in a murder case and finds himself on the run from both the police and enemy spies.
The Manchurian Candidate (1959) by Richard Condon is a classic of Cold War paranoia. A squad of American soldiers is kidnapped and brainwashed by Communists. False memories are implanted, along with a subconscious trigger that turns them into assassins at a moment's notice. They are soon reintegrated into American society as sleeper agents. One of them, Major Bennett Marco, senses that not all is right, setting him on a collision course with his former comrade Sergeant Raymond Shaw, who has been activated as an assassin.
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963) by John le Carré is set in the world of Cold War espionage and helped to usher in an era of more realistic thriller fiction, based around professional spies and the battle of wits between rival spymasters.
The Bourne Identity (1980) is one of the first thrillers to be written in the modern style that we know today. A man with gunshot wounds is found floating unconscious in the Mediterranean Sea. Brought ashore and nursed back to health, he wakes up with amnesia. Fiercely determined to uncover the secrets of his past, he embarks on a quest that sends him spiraling into a web of violence and deceit. He is astounded to learn that knowledge of hand-to-hand combat, firearms, and trade craft seem to come naturally to him.
There have been at least two television series called simply Thriller, one made in the U.S. in the 1960s and one made in the UK in the 1970s. Although in no way linked, both series consisted of one-off dramas, each utilising the familiar motifs of the genre.
The Twilight Zone consists of suspenseful unrelated dramas depicting characters dealing with paranormal, futuristic, supernatural, or otherwise disturbing or unusual events. Characters who find themselves dealing with these strange, sometimes inexplicable happenings are said to have crossed over into "The Twilight Zone". Each story typically features a moral and a surprise ending.
24 is a fast-paced television series with a premise inspired by the War on Terror. Each season takes place over the course of twenty-four hours, with each episode happening in "real time". Featuring a split-screen technique and a ticking onscreen clock, 24 follows the exploits of federal agent Jack Bauer as he races to foil terrorist threats.
Lost, which deals with the survivors of a plane crash, sees the castaways on the island forced to deal with a monstrous being that appears as a cloud of black smoke, a conspiracy of "Others" who have kidnapped or killed their fellow castaways at various points, a shadowy past of the island itself that they are trying to understand, polar bears, and the fight against these and other elements as they struggle simply to stay alive and get off of the island.
Prison Break follows Michael Scofield, an engineer who has himself incarcerated in a maximum-security prison in order to break out his brother, who is on death row for a crime he did not commit. In the first season Michael must deal with the hazards of prison life, the other inmates and prison staff, and executing his elaborate escape plan, while outside the prison Michael's allies investigate the conspiracy that led to Lincoln being framed. In the second season, Michael, his brother and several other inmates escape the prison and must evade the nationwide manhunt for their re-capture, as well as those who want them dead.
The Fugitive was a television series in which Dr. Richard Kimble was on the run from authorities while trying to find the man whom he claimed murdered his wife.
A Painted House is a 2001 novel by American author John Grisham. It was made into a television film in 2003, starring Scott Glenn and Logan Lerman.
Inspired by his childhood in Arkansas, it is Grisham's first major work outside the legal thriller genre in which he established himself. Set in the late summer and early fall of 1952, its story is told through the eyes of seven-year-old Luke Chandler, the youngest in a family of cotton farmers struggling to harvest their crop and earn enough to settle their debts. The novel portrays the experiences that bring him from a world of innocence into one of harsh reality.Barbet Schroeder
Barbet Schroeder (born 26 August 1941) is an Iranian-born Swiss film director and producer who started his career in French cinema in the 1960s, working together with directors such as Jean-Luc Godard and Jacques Rivette. Since the late 1980s, he has directed many big budget Hollywood films, often mixing melodrama with the thriller genre in films like Single White Female, Kiss of Death, and Murder by Numbers. He has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director, and for the Palme d'Or for his 1987 film Barfly.David Fincher filmography
David Fincher is an American director and producer who has worked on feature films, television series, and music videos. His works have been nominated for Academy Awards, Golden Globes, BAFTAs, Grammys and Emmy Awards, among other accolades. He received Academy Award for Best Director nominations for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) and The Social Network (2010).
He made his directorial debut in 1992 with the science-fiction horror film Alien 3. Since then, he has gone on to direct several films in the thriller genre, including Seven (1995), The Game (1997), Fight Club (1999), Panic Room (2002), Zodiac (2007), The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011), and Gone Girl (2014). He has also produced three television series for Netflix: House of Cards (2013–2018), Mindhunter (2017–present), and Love, Death and Robots (2019).
Outside of feature films, Fincher has directed music videos for artists including The Rolling Stones, Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z—for which he won two Grammy Awards for Best Music Video—Nine Inch Nails, Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Rick Springfield, among others.Erotic thriller
An erotic thriller is a film subgenre defined as a thriller with a thematic basis in illicit romance or erotic fantasy. Most erotic thrillers contain scenes of softcore sex and nudity, but the frequency and explicitness of those scenes varies.Though similar films appeared as early as the 1960s, erotic thrillers emerged as a distinct genre in the late 1980s, bolstered by the popular success of Adrian Lyne's Fatal Attraction in 1987 and a quickly expanding domestic and international market for softcore adult entertainment on cable television and home video. The genre had a classic period of growth and expansion in the 1990s, but by the early 2000s declined in production and popular appeal.The potent combination of danger and romance, catering to both male and female audiences simultaneously, was the primary selling point for erotic thriller films during their classic period. The half-naked bodies displayed on posters, newspaper ads, and video box covers were accompanied by log lines that capture the unmistakable duality of the erotic thriller film:
If you think you can handle her, you're dead wrong. —Body Chemistry 3: Point of Seduction
He was hired to watch. Now he's tempted to touch. —Night Eyes
Twin sisters cross the line into a deadly erotic fantasy land. —Mirror Images
In all, over 300 erotic thriller films were produced in the 1990s, which is comparable to the number of thriller films made in the noir decade of the 1940s. The total number of films in the erotic thriller genre from 1985 to 2005 may number as high as over 500. Like film noir, the genre has evolved and modernized, and new films continue to be made that are influenced by the classic style.Hamraaz
Hamraaz (English: Confidant) is a 1967 Hindi film of the suspense thriller genre, produced and directed by B. R. Chopra, and written by Akhtar ul Iman. The film stars Sunil Dutt, Raaj Kumar, Mumtaz, Vimi, Sarika, Madan Puri, Iftekhar, Balraj Sahni, Jeevan and Helen. The film's music is by Ravi, while the lyrics were penned by Sahir Ludhianvi. The film was a super hit at box office.Harold Becker
Harold Becker (born September 25, 1928) is an American film and television director, producer, and photographer from New York, associated with the New Hollywood movement and best known for his work in the thriller genre. His body of work includes films like The Onion Field, Taps, The Boost, Sea of Love, Malice, City Hall and Mercury Rising.High Crime
High Crime (Italian: La polizia incrimina la legge assolve, Spanish: La policía detiene, la ley juzga) is a 1973 Italian-Spanish poliziottesco film directed by Enzo G. Castellari. The film stars Franco Nero, James Whitmore, Delia Boccardo and Fernando Rey. High Crime was a big success at the time of its release, and helped popularize the Italian cop thriller genre.John Harlow (director)
John Harlow (19 August 1896 – 1977) was an English film director, active from the 1930s to the 1950s. Harlow worked for smaller studios, mainly in crime/thriller genre potboilers, with his better known films including Candles at Nine (1944), the Sexton Blake thrillers Meet Sexton Blake and The Echo Murders (both 1945), and the 1947 reincarnation drama While I Live. He also directed two late entries in the popular, if critically unappreciated, Old Mother Riley series.My Dear Killer
My Dear Killer (Italian: Mio caro assassino) is a 1972 giallo film directed by Tonino Valerii. The film was referred as "one of the best films in the thriller genre" and as "one of the best, most vibrant and well designed products of Italian giallo". It co-starred George Hilton, Patty Shepard, William Berger and Helga Line.Pierre David
Pierre David (born May 17, 1944) is a Canadian film producer and film financier.
David is best known for executive-producing iconic films directed by David Cronenberg, such as Scanners, Videodrome, and The Brood. He is also credited as "production executive" on the Academy Award-winning film Platoon, directed by Oliver Stone. He has since produced dozens of independent films, mainly in the thriller genre, and is still actively producing.Premada Kanike
Premada Kanike (English: A Token of Love) is a 1976 Indian Kannada thriller film directed by V. Somashekhar and produced by Jayadevi. The film starred Rajkumar, Aarathi and Jayamala in the lead roles. The songs composed by Upendra Kumar were received extremely well and considered as evergreen hits. The story of the movie was written by Salim-Javed The film upon release was declared a blockbuster hit at the box-office and established a cult status for all the crime-thriller genre films.The movie is noted for merging romantic story with thriller genre.The movie saw a theatrical run of 25 weeks. It went on to win multiple awards and accolades including the Karnataka State Film Award for Best Film.
The story is about a teacher and her nephew hired by rich family to teach their daughter. One day she witness a murder in a train and discovers that the murderer is the father of her student. The girl who plays student, Poornima, is the real-life daughter of Rajkumar. It also features his youngest son Puneeth Rajkumar in a minor role of an infant. It was remade in Tamil in 1980 as Polladhavan starring Rajinikanth and in Hindi in 1981 as Raaz starring Raj Babbar.Ransom (Duncan novel)
Ransom (reprinted under the title Five Were Missing) is a 1966 thriller novel by Lois Duncan. Its plot follows a group of children who are kidnapped and held hostage on a school bus. It marked Duncan's first foray into the suspense and thriller genre, and was nominated for an Edgar Allan Poe Award.Ruth Rendell
Ruth Barbara Rendell, Baroness Rendell of Babergh, (née Grasemann; 17 February 1930 – 2 May 2015), was an English author of thrillers and psychological murder mysteries.Rendell's best-known creation, Chief Inspector Wexford, was the hero of many popular police stories, some of them successfully adapted for TV. But Rendell also wrote a second type of crime novel that deeply explored the psychological background of criminals and their victims, many of them mentally afflicted or otherwise socially isolated. This theme was developed further in a third series of novels, published under a pseudonym - Barbara Vine.S. N. Swamy
S. N. Swamy is an Indian screenwriter who works in Malayalam cinema. Particularly known for scripting films in the thriller genre, he has scripted some of the biggest hits in Malayalam film history including the CBI film series (Oru CBI Diary Kurippu, Jagratha, Sethurama Iyer CBI and Nerariyan CBI), Koodum Thedi, Irupatham Noottandu, Moonnam Mura, August 1, Naduvazhikal, Adikkurippu, Parampara, Dhruvam, and Nariman. Though he is best known for the association with directors K. Madhu and Joshiy, he has also associated with other major directors in a few films. Recently, he appeared in a movie with Mammootty. He played the role of a layman in the A.K. Sajan movie named 'Puthiya Niyamam'.
Swamy is the creator of some of the well-known fictional characters in Malayalam cinema including the most famous Sethurama Iyer (portrayed by Mammootty) and Sagar Alias Jacky (portrayed by Mohanlal). Sethurama Iyer, a CBI officer and the protagonist of the CBI film series, was based on a real-life police officer called Radhavinod Raju who retired as Chief of India's National Investigative Agency. The four time portrayal of the same character by the same actor (Mammootty) under the same director-writer team (K. Madhu and S. N. Swamy) was a first in Indian cinema. Sagar Alias Jacky, a notorious gold smuggler, was the protagonist in Irupatham Noottandu and the eponymous Sagar alias Jacky Reloaded. The characters Tharadas (originally created by John Paul for the 1984 blockbuster Athirathram) and Inspector Balram (created by T. Damodaran for the 1986 blockbuster Aavanazhi), both portrayed by Mammootty, came together in Balram vs. Tharadas through his script. DySP Perumal, another cop enacted by Mammootty, appeared in two films: 1 August and its sequel 15 August. Another character which has a cult following is Ali Imran, a cop played by Mohanlal in Moonnam Mura.
His Total films (Scripts) 42, Mammootty played 26 films, Mohanlal played 10 films, Mammootty and Mohanlal jointly acted 2 films, Suresh Gopi acted in 8 films.
In 2019, he was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award, at Movie Street Film Awards.Saturn Award for Best Thriller Film
The Saturn Award for Best Thriller Film is an award presented to the best film in the thriller genre by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films.The Saturn Awards originally recognized thriller films with the Best Action, Adventure or Thriller Film award from 1994 to 2010, and then with the award for Best Horror or Thriller Film. When Best Horror or Thriller Film was reverted to its previous form as Best Horror Film in 2013, the award for Best Thriller Film was created.The Driver's Seat (novel)
The Driver's Seat is a novella by Muriel Spark. Published in 1970, it was advertised as "a metaphysical shocker". It is indeed in the psychological thriller genre, dealing with themes of alienation, isolation and loss of spiritual values.
It was filmed in 1974 starring Elizabeth Taylor and featuring Andy Warhol. In the U.S the film was renamed Identikit. Spark described it as one of her favourite novels.
The Driver's Seat was, on 26 March 2010, one of six novels to be nominated for “Lost Man Booker Prize” of 1970, "a contest delayed by 40 years because a reshuffling of the fledgeling competition’s rules that year disqualified nearly a year’s worth of high-quality fiction from consideration."In 2015, it was adapted for the stage for the first time by Laurie Sansom for a National Theatre of Scotland production which premiered at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh.The Last Frontier (novel)
The Last Frontier is a novel written by Scottish author Alistair MacLean, and was first published in 1959. It was released in the United States under the title The Secret Ways. This novel marks MacLean's first foray into the espionage thriller genre, and was inspired by the events surrounding the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.
Writing in the third person narrative, MacLean described the physical and political surroundings with more attention than he has in previous novels, and there are moments when MacLean purposely slows the action down to build character development.Thriller
Thriller may refer to:
Thriller (genre), a broad genre of literature, film and television
Thriller film, a film genre under the general thriller genreWeb of Passion
Web of Passion (also released as Leda, original French title: À double tour) is a 1959 French suspense thriller film directed by Claude Chabrol and based on the novel The Key to Nicholas Street by American writer Stanley Ellin. It was Chabrol's first film in the thriller genre, which would be his genre of choice for the rest of his career. The film had a total of 1,445,587 admissions in France.