Thriller film, also known as suspense film or suspense thriller, is a broad film genre that involves excitement and suspense in the audience. The suspense element, found in most films' plots, is particularly exploited by the filmmaker in this genre. Tension is created by delaying what the audience sees as inevitable, and is built through situations that are menacing or where escape seems impossible.
The cover-up of important information from the viewer, and fight and chase scenes are common methods. Life is typically threatened in thriller film, such as when the protagonist does not realize that they are entering a dangerous situation. Thriller films' characters conflict with each other or with an outside force, which can sometimes be abstract. The protagonist is usually set against a problem, such as an escape, a mission, or a mystery.
Thriller films are typically hybridized with other genres; hybrids commonly including: action thrillers, adventure thrillers, fantasy and science fiction thrillers. Thriller films also share a close relationship with horror films, both eliciting tension. In plots about crime, thriller films focus less on the criminal or the detective and more on generating suspense. Common themes include, terrorism, political conspiracy, pursuit and romantic triangles leading to murder.
In 2001, the American Film Institute made its selection of the top 100 greatest American "heart-pounding" and "adrenaline-inducing" films of all time. The 400 nominated films had to be American-made films whose thrills have "enlivened and enriched America's film heritage". AFI also asked jurors to consider "the total adrenaline-inducing impact of a film's artistry and craft".
One of the earliest thriller films was Harold Lloyd's comedy Safety Last! (1923), with a character performing a daredevil stunt on the side of a skyscraper. Alfred Hitchcock's first thriller was his third silent film, The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1926), a suspenseful Jack the Ripper story. His next thriller was Blackmail (1929), his and Britain's first sound film. His notable 1930s thrillers include The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), The 39 Steps (1935) and The Lady Vanishes (1938), the latter two ranked among the greatest British films of the 20th century.
One of the earliest spy films was Fritz Lang's Spies (1928), the director's first independent production, with an anarchist international conspirator and criminal spy character named Haghi (Rudolf Klein-Rogge), who is pursued by good-guy Agent No. 326 (Willy Fritsch)—this film would be an inspiration for the future James Bond films. The German film M (1931), directed by Fritz Lang, starred Peter Lorre (in his first film role) as a criminal deviant who preys on children.
Hitchcock continued his suspense-thrillers, directing Foreign Correspondent (1940), the Oscar-winning Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941), Saboteur (1942) and Shadow of a Doubt (1943), which was Hitchcock's own personal favorite. Notable non-Hitchcock films of the 1940s include The Spiral Staircase (1946) and Sorry, Wrong Number (1948).
In the late 1940s, Hitchcock added Technicolor to his thrillers, now with exotic locales. Hitchcock's first Technicolor film was Rope (1948). He reached the zenith of his career with a succession of classic films such as, Strangers on a Train (1951), Dial M For Murder (1954) with Ray Milland, Rear Window (1954) and Vertigo (1958). Non-Hitchcock thrillers of the 1950s include The Night of the Hunter (1955)—Charles Laughton's only film as director—and Orson Welles's crime thriller Touch of Evil (1958).
Director Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (1960) featured Carl Boehm as a psychopathic cameraman. After Hitchcock's classic films of the 1950s, he produced Psycho (1960) about a lonely, mother-fixated motel owner and taxidermist. J. Lee Thompson's Cape Fear (1962), with Robert Mitchum, had a menacing ex-con seeking revenge. A famous thriller at the time of its release was Wait Until Dark (1967) by director Terence Young, with Audrey Hepburn as a victimized blind woman in her Manhattan apartment.
The 1970s saw an increase of violence in the thriller genre, beginning with Canadian director Ted Kotcheff's Wake in Fright (1971), which almost completely overlapped with the horror genre, and Frenzy (1972), Hitchcock's first British film in almost two decades, which was given an R rating for its vicious and explicit strangulation scene.
One of the first films about a fan's being disturbingly obsessed with their idol was Clint Eastwood's directorial debut, Play Misty for Me (1971), about a California disc jockey pursued by a disturbed female listener (Jessica Walter). John Boorman's Deliverance (1972) followed the perilous fate of four Southern businessmen during a weekend's trip. In Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation (1974), a bugging-device expert (Gene Hackman) systematically uncovered a covert murder while he himself was being spied upon.
Alan Pakula's The Parallax View (1974) told of a conspiracy, led by the Parallax Corporation, surrounding the assassination of a presidential-candidate US Senator that was witnessed by investigative reporter Joseph Frady (Warren Beatty). Peter Hyam's science fiction thriller Capricorn One (1978) proposed a government conspiracy to fake the first mission to Mars.
Brian De Palma usually had themes of guilt, voyeurism, paranoia, and obsession in his films, as well as such plot elements as killing off a main character early on, switching points of view, and dream-like sequences. His notable films include Sisters (1973); Obsession (1976), which was slightly inspired by Vertigo; Dressed to Kill (1980); and the assassination thriller Blow Out (1981).
In the early 1990s, thrillers had recurring elements of obsession and trapped protagonists who must find a way to escape the clutches of the villain—these devices influenced a number of thrillers in the following years. Rob Reiner's Misery (1990), based on a book by Stephen King, featured Kathy Bates as an unbalanced fan who terrorizes an incapacitated author (James Caan) who is in her care. Other films include Curtis Hanson's The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992) and Unlawful Entry (1992), starring Ray Liotta.
Detectives/FBI agents hunting down a serial killer was another popular motif in the 1990s. A famous example is Jonathan Demme's Best Picture–winning crime thriller The Silence of the Lambs (1991)—in which young FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) engages in a psychological conflict with a cannibalistic psychiatrist named Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) while tracking down transgender serial killer Buffalo Bill—and David Fincher's crime thriller Seven (1995), about the search for a serial killer who re-enacts the seven deadly sins.
Another notable example is Martin Scorsese's neo-noir psychological thriller Shutter Island (2010), in which a U.S. Marshal must investigate a psychiatric facility after one of the patients inexplicably disappears.
In recent years, thrillers have often overlapped with the horror genre, having more gore/sadistic violence, brutality, terror and frightening scenes. The recent films in which this has occurred include Eden Lake (2008), The Last House on the Left (2009), P2 (2007), Captivity (2007), Vacancy (2007), and A Quiet Place (2018). Action scenes have also gotten more elaborate in the thriller genre. Films such as Unknown (2011), Hostage (2005), and Cellular (2004) have crossed over into the action genre.
The thriller film genre includes the following sub-genres:
Action film is a film genre in which the protagonist or protagonists are thrust into a series of challenges that typically include violence, extended fighting, physical feats, and frantic chases. Action films tend to feature a resourceful hero struggling against incredible odds, which include life-threatening situations, a villain, or a pursuit which usually concludes in victory for the hero (though a small number of films in this genre have ended in victory for the villain instead). Advancements in CGI have made it cheaper and easier to create action sequences and other visual effects that required the efforts of professional stunt crews in the past. However, reactions to action films containing significant amounts of CGI have been mixed, as films that use computer animations to create unrealistic, highly unbelievable events are often met with criticism. While action has long been a recurring component in films, the "action film" genre began to develop in the 1970s along with the increase of stunts and special effects. Common action scenes in films are generally, but not limited to, car chases, fighting and gunplay or shootouts.
This genre is closely associated with the thriller and adventure genres, and they may also contain elements of drama and spy fiction.Comedy thriller
Comedy thrillers are a cross-genre that draw subject matter generally from comedy and thrillers. They often include a darker tone, relative to other genres, of humor. Just like regular thrillers, they often involve either organized crime or espionage.
Examples of comedy thrillers in films, plays and novels are Charade, The Thin Man, The Lady Vanishes, In Bruges, Silver Streak, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, No Way to Treat a Lady, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Kshana Kshanam, The Big Fix, Lucky Number Slevin, Deathtrap, The Ladykillers, Hopscotch, Welcome to Collinwood, The King of Comedy and A Simple Favor.Conspiracy fiction
The conspiracy thriller (or paranoid thriller) is a subgenre of thriller fiction. The protagonists of conspiracy thrillers are often journalists or amateur investigators who find themselves (often inadvertently) pulling on a small thread which unravels a vast conspiracy that ultimately goes "all the way to the top." The complexities of historical fact are recast as a morality play in which bad people cause bad events, and good people identify and defeat them. Conspiracies are often played out as "man-in-peril" (or "woman-in-peril") stories, or yield quest narratives similar to those found in whodunnits and detective stories.
A common theme in such works is that characters uncovering the conspiracy encounter difficulty ascertaining the truth amid the deceptions: rumors, lies, propaganda, and counter-propaganda build upon one another until what is conspiracy and what is coincidence become entangled. Many conspiracy fiction works also include the theme of secret history and paranoid fiction.Murder Without Tears
Murder Without Tears is a 1953 American thriller film directed by William Beaudine, starring Craig Stevens, Joyce Holden and Richard Benedict.Political thriller
A political thriller is a thriller that is set against the backdrop of a political power struggle. They usually involve various extra-legal plots, designed to give political power to someone, while his opponents try to stop him. They can involve national or international political scenarios. Political corruption, terrorism, and warfare are common themes. Political thrillers can be based on true facts such as the assassination of John F. Kennedy or the Watergate Scandal. There is a strong
overlap with the conspiracy thriller.
When reviewing the film The Interpreter, Erik Lundegaard attempted a definition:
The basic plot is an ordinary man pulling an innocent thread which leads to a mess of corruption. The corruption should be political or governmental in nature.Psychological thriller
Psychological thriller is a thriller narrative which emphasizes the unstable or delusional psychological states of its characters. In terms of context and convention, it is a subgenre of the broader ranging thriller narrative structure, with similarities to Gothic and detective fiction in the sense of sometimes having a "dissolving sense of reality". It is often told through the viewpoint of psychologically stressed characters, revealing their distorted mental perceptions and focusing on the complex and often tortured relationships between obsessive and pathological characters. Psychological thrillers often incorporate elements of mystery, drama, action, and paranoia. Not to be confused with psychological horror, which involves more terror than psychosomatic themes.Saturn Award for Best Action or Adventure Film
The Saturn Award for Best Action or Adventure Film (formerly Saturn Award for Best Action, Adventure or Thriller Film from 1994 to 2010) is an award presented to the best film in the action, adventure or thriller genres by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films.Saturn Award for Best Horror Film
The Saturn Award for Best Horror Film is an award presented to the best film in the horror genre by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films.
It was introduced in 1973 for the 1972 film year. For the 2010, 2011 and 2012 film years, it was renamed Best Horror or Thriller Film (with the Best Action, Adventure or Thriller Film category becoming Best Action or Adventure Film). In 2013 the award came back to its original form, with a new Best Thriller Film award being created.The Monk (1969 film)
The Monk is a 1969 American made-for-television crime thriller film starring George Maharis, Janet Leigh, Jack Albertson and Carl Betz. It originally premiered as the ABC Movie of the Week on October 21, 1969.The Secret (2007 film)
The Secret is a 2007 French thriller film directed by Vincent Perez and starring David Duchovny, Olivia Thirlby, and Lili Taylor. It is a remake of Yōjirō Takita's Himitsu, a 1999 Japanese film produced by Yasuhiro Mase, written by Hiroshi Saitô.Thriller
Thriller may refer to:
Thriller (genre), a broad genre of literature, film and television
Thriller film, a film genre under the general thriller genre
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