Essay by JaneShields September 2003

download word file, 6 pages 4.4


It is difficult to state a clear definition of a thriller because thrillers cross over many genres of filmmaking. Thrillers can be divided into countless categories; e.g., action thrillers, psychological thrillers, crime thrillers, spy thrillers, romantic thrillers, supernatural thrillers, etc. However, the single greatest characteristic of a thriller is the obvious one. It "thrills" as one watches it. The plots are scary, the characters are at great risk and the films are constructed in a manner that forces the viewer to uncover their eyes and watch.

"The Master Of Suspense" made a big impact on thriller films, Alfred Hitchcock told his stories through intelligent plots witty dialogue and a spoonful of mystery and murder. In doing so, he inspired a new generation of filmmakers and revolutionized the thriller genre, making him a legend around the world. Alfred Hitchcock's NORTH BY NORTHWEST, Thomas Harris's SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, and Ken Follett's THE EYE OF THE NEEDLE are all classic thrillers.

But the more recent thrillers such as, Alejandro Amenabar's THE OTHERS, M. Night Shyamalan's THE SIXTH SENSE and Sam Raimi's THE GIFT are quickly making their way into households everywhere.

There is no formula for a thriller other than the same good storytelling features found in a lot of good thriller films, e.g., a story that starts with a serious problem, a central character who tries to solve the problem only to find that it gets worse and worse which calls for more twists and thrills. The plot rises to a dramatic confrontation with the antagonist (who in some cases is our least suspected character), usually on the bad guy's territory of just a very isolated location, and ends with a short conclusion. But in some cases the conclusion isn't exactly complete, which is the case in the...