For audiences who love intellectually gripping thrillers or mind-bending mysteries, in 2010 Shutter Island solidified its status as a staple in the genre and as a favorite among fans. Since the film's release, few have successfully managed to execute a story as captivating as U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels’ quest through a grim psychiatric facility to locate a missing patient. Martin Scorsese and Leonardo Dicaprio hit the jackpot when they worked together to create a classic that would stand the test of time and objectively remain one of the best psychological thrillers of this century. This masterpiece is a story that’ll surely give you goosebumps, but the plot twist in the final act is what has haunted audiences for over a decade. Although Shutter Island is a tough act to follow, here are seven more thrilling mysteries that twist, turn and leave you guessing at every corner.
Donnie Darko (2001)
In one of his first movies ever, Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Donnie Darko, a troubled teenager who becomes relentlessly haunted by a man in a frightening bunny costume once Donnie dodges a near death experience. Attending regularly scheduled therapy sessions due to frequent delusions, we learn that Donnie struggles with more than not fitting in at school.
We view everything through the gaze of an unreliable narrator, making it impossible to differentiate between truth and fiction. Are Donnie’s hallucinations real? Or is his schizophrenia tricking us into believing they are? Is he really following orders from a man in a bunny suit named Frank? Or is Donnie responsible for this treachery all on his own? Donnie Darko is an artful, angsty, and devious execution of a complicated and oddly scientific story we don’t fully understand until the climax of the film. And even then… we still can’t help but pose more than a few questions.
Jake Gyllenhaal as Donnie Darko and Jena Malone as Gretchen Ross in Donnie Darko.
Get Out (2017)
You thought your in-laws were bad?
Like Shutter Island, Jordan Peele’s Get Out was an instant classic upon release. When Chris visits his girlfriend’s house to meet her family for the first time, he soon discovers they have darker plans for the weekend than drinking tea and getting to know each other. When meeting more relatives and guests over the weekend at the family’s plantation house, Daniel Kaluuya’s character Chris finds his fleeting moments of discomfort and paranoia are only the beginning.
In classic psychological horror fashion, Get Out uses the same ‘there’s-something-weird-going-on-here’ story model to keep us guessing throughout the film and refuses to waver until it delivers its cleverly premeditated twist. This film sinks hooks deep into its viewers and does not let go until the big reveal.
As well as being nominated for three other Academy Awards, Peele walked away with an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay after the film’s release. This, along with acclaim that hoisted Peele’s directorial career up to new heights, is a bold indicator of this story’s originality, genius and ability to strike a modern sort of fear into people all while commentating on sociopolitical issues like racism, privilege and slavery. The performances in this film are unnerving. Not only will you find yourself puzzled more times than you can count, but how the antagonists gaslight Chris will ignite a fury in you that will have everyone in the room shouting at the screen.
Daniel Kaluuya as Chris Washington in Get Out.
The Prestige (2006)
This movie is a non-stop series of tricks as we witness two rival magicians face off in 1890’s London during their peaks of fame. Directed by Christopher Nolan (famous for The Dark Knight Trilogy), Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman play brilliant adversaries Alfred Borden and Robert Angier. Both magicians compete in an elaborate battle of wit in order to acquire the other’s tricks and secrets, particularly the truth about an elusive maneuver called ‘The Transported Man’.
After Borden sabotages one of Angier’s shows, ending in the jaw-dropping death of his one true love, it becomes clear that both performers are willing to do anything in order to be the better trickster. Just when the story simmers and one of them seems to be favored, they’re outsmarted by the other. This movie is designed to keep you on your toes, constantly entertained and guessing what’ll come next. By the time the credits roll, you can't help but ask yourself: How did I not see that coming?
This movie is the personification of the phrase “a magician never reveals his secrets” and shows us a daunting example of what people are willing to sacrifice in order to achieve greatness and prestige. Overflowing with curveballs and shocking reveals, this is sure to keep your heart racing and your brain speculating until the very last moment.
Christian Bale as Alfred Borden and Hugh Jackman as Robert Angier in The Prestige.
If you think you’ve ever suffered from serious deja vu, this movie definitely shows a worse case of it.
Melissa George as Jess in Triangle.
Although in good company, Triangle is by far the most methodical and calculative entry on this list. This mind-bending thriller follows Jess who, while sailing through the Bermuda Triangle with a group of friends, is caught in a terrible storm. When an ocean liner passes their shipwreck, the group leaps onto the boat thinking they’ve been saved. But once they board… Jess and the others are hunted down by a masked killer. As if this isn’t stressful enough, Jess discovers that the boat exists within a time loop… trapping them all on board with the killer to die over and over unless they find a way to break free.
Watching this, you’ll realize that everything you see is a clue. Triangle is a puzzle, never revealing the complete picture until we’re given the final clue. There’s also a number of careful details, like the phantom ship’s name ‘Aeolus’. Aeolus was the Greek god of wind, who after cheating death was punished by the gods to repeat the same day of torture over and over. This movie does not waver in its ability to shed its skin again once you thought you’d finally figured it all out.
Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (famous for Dune and Blade Runner 2049) brings us a mystery crime drama whose genre and tone are most like Shutter Island out of all entries on this list. Hugh Jackman plays Keller Dover, a father who will do anything to find his daughter when she’s kidnapped. Unhappy with the work of the police force spearheaded by Detective Loki, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, Dover takes the law into his own hands.
This movie feels like a true crime mystery we are all a part of. If you enjoy crime thrillers where a shining hero transitions from benign to wicked, becoming as conniving as the villains themselves… this is the movie for you.
Dark, gritty and cold, Prisoners uses themes of vengeance and sin to tell a story where everyone is a prisoner in some way. Jackman and Gyllenhaal deliver powerhouse performances as two men who are haunted by this case; while Dover cannot rest until his daughter is rescued, Loki cannot rest until the case is solved… both of them stuck in a shadowy mystery that spirals deeper and deeper. On your next rainy day off, immerse yourself in a frightening and elaborate game of cat and mouse by clicking play on this mystery.
Paul Dano as Alex Jones and Jake Gyllenhaal as Detective Loki in Prisoners.
The Invisible Man (2020)
Although Universal had originally greenlit a glamorous monster-verse featuring household names like Javier Bardem as ‘Frankenstein’s Monster’ and Johnny Depp as ‘The Invisible Man’, they decided to go in a different direction after the 2017 release of The Mummy failed to break even at the box office.
Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale) stars in The Invisible Man, a chilling commentary on women trapped in abusive relationships whose camerawork capitalizes on that spine-tingling sensation you feel when being watched by somebody who isn’t there.
The movie opens with a nail biting sequence where Cecilia Kass narrowly breaks out of her boyfriend’s house in the middle of the night after executing a meticulously rehearsed escape plan. This expert sequence sets the bar in terms of suspense for the rest of the film. No words are spoken and no ‘pipe’ is laid, but we know exactly what’s going on. Weeks after finally escaping her controlling boyfriend Adrian, Cecilia finds out he killed himself… or did he?
Directed by Leigh Whannell (famous for Saw and Insidious), Cecilia competes against a psychotic master manipulator who toys with his prey before trying to cage her forever. How do you run from somebody you can’t see? Cecilia is forced to use her wit and intelligence alone to outsmart The Invisible Man… who will do anything to control her again. This thriller is full of surprises.
Elizabeth Moss as Cecilia Kass in The Invisible Man.
From the mind that gave us Black Swan, Oscar nominated director Darren Aronofsky uses a horrific blend of cinema, lore and poetry to teach mankind a lesson in mother!. Aronofsky is no stranger to directing thought provoking movies, but there’s truly no movie like this. Starring Jennifer Lawrence in one of her most compelling performances yet, this is a movie for audiences who love a good riddle.
A poet and his wife reluctantly host entitled houseguests in their dream home once they turn out to be big fans. To say they overstay their welcome is an understatement. Needless to say, mother! is a pertinent example of what movies are made for. It expertly elicits anger for Jennifer Lawrence’s character from audiences, who see her struggle against a series of unfortunate events that never seem to end. While watching, remember: this movie is meant to be a commentary on something bigger.
Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem in mother!