Behind Her Eyes, You and The Sinner - the best psychological thrillers on Netflix

If you’re looking for a psychological thriller, Netflix has a huge range of must-see shows to suit all tastes. Here’s our pick of the best.

By Katie Archer Published: 14 April 2021 - 11.33am
Drama Netflix

Thriller

Netflix You Penn Badgley, Elizabeth Lail

It’s what Netflix was made for - binge-watching a tense, twisting series that’s so completely enthralling it just has to be finished in one weekend.

Some of the streaming service’s best content is in its psychological thrillers, whether they’re quirky mysteries, stylish period pieces, or a selection of the best shows made by other broadcasters.

Here’s our round-up of the most gripping psychological thriller series that Netflix is currently streaming, guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat from the first episode to the last.

You

You Penn Badgley Netflix

Expertly toeing the line of TV that's so bad it’s good is You, an adaptation of Caroline Kepnes’ novel of the same name.

Penn Badgley plays seemingly nice guy book store owner Joe, who soon shows his rather terrifying true colours – at least to the viewer – as a stalker and serial killer.

However, the object of his affections Beck, played by Elizabeth Lail, believes him to be a safe but boring choice of boyfriend…until it’s too late.

Ridiculous characters, overblown New York high society lifestyle and outlandish plot twists collide perfectly for the ultimate guilty pleasure thriller. And if you can't get enough of it, series 2 sees Joe take his warped show on the road to a new life in LA.

Great news for You fans is that series three resumed filming in February 2021 and is expected back on Netflix imminently.

Behind Her Eyes

Behind Her Eyes Netflix

Whether it’s a part of Netflix you love or hate, there’s no denying the streaming service is unafraid to go down some very unusual plot routes that no other broadcasters would touch.

Behind Her Eyes is a prime example – it starts out as a classic psychological thriller about a rich, seemingly perfect couple whose lives are masking a terrible secret, and an unsuspecting single mum who comes crashing into their world.

Things take a very odd turn though, with the final episode’s big reveal dividing viewers as Adele (played by Eve Hewson, who happens to be U2 singer Bono’s daughter) uncovered the truth behind her strange life.

Black Mirror

Black Mirror Netflix

Charlie Brooker’s dystopian anthology series Black Mirror started out on Channel 4, but has now found a natural home at Netflix where its quirkiness has been embraced.

Each episode is as a standalone story covering concepts including political scandals, out-of-control reality TV contests, vicious packs of robodogs ruling the land, and the ultimate online dating service.

Some stories are funny, others are creepy, but all of them have the best elements of a psychological thriller at their heart as Brooker expertly unravels their strange world.

There are five series of Black Mirror available to dive into, as well as a standalone interactive film, Bandersnatch.

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Mindhunter

Minhunter Netflix

Where period drama meets psychological thriller, Mindhunter is one of Netflix’s classiest offerings in its Originals series.

Based on the true-crime book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit, it follows the creation of the bureau’s behavioural science unit in the 70s and 80s, when studying the psychology of criminals was a relatively new approach.

Over two series, Holden Ford and co conduct tense meetings with some of the US’s most notorious killers including BTK, Son of Sam, Edmund Kemper and Charles Manson as they begin their criminal profiling work.

The second series focuses on a particularly harrowing case, the Atlanta murders of 1979 to 1981 where Wayne Williams was found guilty of the murder of two adults but was never tried for the deaths of 26 children, which officially still remain unsolved.

Ratched

Ratched Netflix

Ratched, the prequel to 1975's Oscar-laden movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest - tells the origin story of McMurphy's nemesis, the dreaded Nurse Ratched.

The programme has been created by some of the team behind American Horror Story – including Sarah Paulson in the title role.

Mildred Ratched forces her way into a job at a mental institution in the 1940s, with the intention of helping her brother, a convicted serial killer of priests, to break out.

However, Ratched soon unleashes her own terrifying reign of murder and torture as she’s riled by her new colleagues and neighbours.

Ratched has the feel of an American Horror Story spin-off and is every bit as disturbing and compelling. A second series is currently on order.

Gypsy

Gypsy Netflix

What better premise for a psychological thriller than a psychiatrist abusing her patients’ trust and meddling in their lives?

Naomi Watts plays Manhattan therapist Jean Holloway, who lives an apparently perfect life but is hiding an odd secret – she forms intimate and illicit relationships with the key people in her clients’ lives.

As her professional and personal boundaries blur, Jean continues her dangerous game of a god-like influence over the psychology of the people she treats.

What/If

What/If Netflix

Neo-noir thriller What/If explores the ripple effects of what happens when acceptable people start doing unacceptable things.

Each series follows a different morality tale and the power of a single decision to change the course of an entire life.

So far, there has been one series of What/If which featured Renee Zellweger as an extremely wealthy woman offering to fund a breakthrough project for a young scientist, with one condition – that she gets to spend the night with the scientist’s former pro-athlete husband, who will never be allowed to reveal details of what they did.

The Fall

The Fall Gillian Anderson BBC

Netflix has snapped up the rights to stream one of the BBC’s most successful thriller series, The Fall, which ran for three seasons.

Starring Jamie Dornan as ruthless sex offender and murderer Paul Spector, and Gillian Anderson as DS Stella Gibson who is battling to bring him to justice, the cat-and-mouse tale is one of the creepiest in recent years.

Dornan’s character’s double life as a social worker and loving father by day and a serial killer by night, Anderson’s detective’s determination to catch him that borders on an obsession with him, and some of the most terrifying home intrusion scenes you’ll ever see combine for riveting viewing that will leave you sleeping with the lights on.

The Sinner

The Sinner Bill Pullman Netflix

Netflix does a great line in tempting Hollywood stars to sign up to small-screen series, and this psychological cop thriller starring Bill Pullman and Jessica Biel is one of its biggest triumphs.

After the first series opens with a truly shocking, bloody scene, the psychological twists and turns only increase as Pullman’s detective works through the strange case of why a young mother would be triggered to commit a violent murder in public.

Although Biel’s character only features in the first of the three series, the actress acts as an executive producer and the second and third instalments are every bit as gripping.

Pullman’s character investigates murder, kidnap, cults and car crashes, all while battling his own demons and physical injuries along the way.

Dark

Dark Netflix

Netflix offers some excellent foreign language series and German thriller Dark is well worth the concentration that reading subtitles for an hour at a time requires.

Three seasons of the drama kick off with the disappearance of a child, whose manhunt leads four families to unearth a mind-bending mystery that spans generations.

They uncover a sinister time-travel conspiracy as they realise that the town has a number of vanishing children all connected to the same strange events.

Safe

Safe Michael C Hall Netflix

Author Harlan Coben is a master at spinning a good mystery yarn, and his thrillers set against a backdrop of privileged families are perfect for TV series adaptations.

One of the first of Coben’s tales snapped up by Netflix was Safe, starring Michael C. Hall as a British surgeon widowed and bringing up his two teenage daughters alone when one of them goes missing.

Coben’s thrillers largely follow a traditional TV mystery format, but are none the worse for it, with pacy storytelling and satisfying twists.

The Stranger is another Coben must-see on Netflix, as is The Woods which was adapted in Polish; a Spanish-language version of The Innocent is set to begin streaming at the end of April 2021.

The OA

The OA Brit Marling Netflix

It’s arguably the most Netflixy series on Netflix and unlike anything else you’ll have watched before.

The OA ran for two seasons, but the first is definitely the must-see one which introduces Brit Marling as Prairie Johnson, otherwise known as Nina Azarova and The OA.

Prairie resurfaces after seven years missing, with some exceptional differences – she can now see after having been blind previously, her back is covered in strange scarring, and she’s calling herself The OA.

Finding herself a new group of friends in some teen misfits and their lonely teacher, she retells the story of her extraordinary life, the man who kept her captive and her strange life with his other abductees.

It’s unsettling, beautiful, and merges science fiction and fantasy with a kidnap storyline that somehow makes this odd series seem completely plausible.

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