Fight Club was met with broad critical and commercial acclaim when it was released back in 1999.
David Ansen of Newsweek said of the movie, “An outrageous mixture of brilliant technique, puerile philosophizing, trenchant satire and sensory overload, Fight Club is the most incendiary movie to come out of Hollywood in a long time.”
But it was not universally well received. One reviewer in Esquire summed up the controversy around the film by saying, “The visual storytelling is misleading and the actual satire is confusing and ineffective.”
Both of these reviewers summed up a lot of what was great about Fight Club. It is controversial and violent in the extreme, and it does, in many ways, reflect the aggressive ‘laddish’ culture of its era.
But it was also an excellent film, superbly acted, beautifully directed, and a movie which all viewers took something away from. Not too many movies can combine all of these qualities.
But if you want to find a few movies that can bring the same high-action, psychological drama and keep the quality levels insane, you’ve come to the right place. Here is our rundown on the top 15 High-Action Thrillers like Fight Club.
Based on the classic novel by Brett Easton Ellis, American Psycho tells the tale of 1980s investment banker Patrick Bateman, who lives a hedonistic yuppie lifestyle but also happens to be a serial killer.
The book, considered by many, including the author himself, to be unfilmable, has been expertly adapted by director Mary Harron who creates a compelling blend of psychological angst and brutal violence.
The film stars Christian Bale (The Batman franchise, The Fighter) as Bateman in the role that really made him as a frontline Hollywood actor.
It also stars Willem Dafoe (At Eternity’s Gate, The Lighthouse), Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club, Blade Runner 2049), Justin Theroux (Tropic Thunder, The Girl on the Train), and Chloë Sevigny (Kids, The Dead Don’t Die) among an impressive all-star cast.
Another Christian Bale (American Psycho, Batman) vehicle, The Machinist, is a powerful psychological thriller in which Bale’s character, Trevor Reznik has been unable to sleep for an entire year.
He loses a tremendous amount of weight and eventually is involved in an accident where a co-worker loses an arm. A series of bizarre events follow as Reznik descends into a state of paranoia.
There is a tremendous twist at the end, and Bale’s performance is every bit as gripping as Edward Norton’s in Fight Club. Like Norton, he is also supported by a strong ensemble cast including, Jennifer Jason Leigh (Backdraft, Anormalisa), John Sharian (Red Dwarf, Law and Order), and Anna Massey (Mad Cows, The Oxford Murders).
Another psychological drama, this time telling the tale of Lou Bloom, a petty thief who becomes a stringer, someone who makes a living recording violent incidents at night in Los Angeles and then selling them to the local news teams.
Bloom, played superbly by Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko, The Spiderman franchise), takes to the role well and begins to manipulate crimes to suit his business needs. He also blackmails a desperate TV Producer into a relationship.
Inevitably things spiral out of control with a chilling ending. Once more, this film is made by a strong storyline and an even more accomplished cast, which includes the superb Rene Russo (Get Shorty, The Thomas Crown Affair), Riz Ahmed (Star Wars, Four Lions), and Bill Paxton (Titanic, Apollo 13).
Glengarry Glen Ross
This movie is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by David Mamet of the same name and, unusually for a movie based on a play, manages to bring all the qualities of the stage show to the Big Screen.
It tells the story of two real estate salesmen who are told that all but the top two salesmen will be sacked within two weeks. They are trying to sell two developments: Glengarry Highlands and Glen Ross Farms.
The film shows the real estate industry in all its hideous glory, with swearing aplenty and all sorts of dirty and underhand tricks and psychological ploys used by the salesmen to get what they want.
It has an incredible cast including Al Pacino (Scarface, The Godfather), Jack Lemmon (Some Like it Hot, Missing), Alec Baldwin (Rust, The Aviator), Alan Arkin (Catch-22, Little Miss Sunshine), Ed Harris (A Beautiful Mind, The Truman Show), Kevin Spacey (American Beauty, Baby Driver), and Jonathan Pryce (Brazil, Pirates of the Caribbean).
Michael Douglas (The China Syndrome, Fatal Attraction) plays William Foster, a divorced engineer who has lost his job and is trying to get across LA to attend his daughter’s birthday party.
En route he encounters a series of incidents which he reacts to with increasing frustration and hostility.
The most famous scene is undoubtedly when he holds a fast-food burger shop at gunpoint because his burger looks nothing like the picture on the menu. We’ve all been there.
Douglas is fantastic as the main character who is unravelling psychologically, and Robert Duvall (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now) is also excellent as Martin Prendergast, the LA Police Officer on his last day before retirement, who is trying to track Foster down.
A powerful psychological horror film starring Tim Robbins (Shawshank Redemption, Dead Man Walking) as Jacob Singer, a Vietnam War veteran who is plagued by visions and hallucinations from his past.
As his symptoms get worse, he is contacted by a former platoon colleague who is suffering something similar. But when he is quickly killed, Jacob finds himself on a final journey to uncover his past and track down his family.
Jacob’s ladder is a cult favourite and one of the best psychological thrillers ever committed to film.
Stick with the original rather than the poor remake and enjoy impressive turns from an excellent ensemble class that includes Elizabeth Peña (Rush Hour, The Incredibles), Danny Aiello (The Godfather Part II, Once Upon a Time in America), Eric La Salle (Coming to America, ER), and Jason Alexander (Seinfeld, Coneheads).
This movie saw the renaissance of the career of Michael Keaton (The Batman franchise, Beetlejuice) in the role of Riggan Thompson, a faded Hollywood star most famous for his former role as the superhero Birdman.
He is starring in a Broadway show but struggling with his role as well as his internal voice, a manifestation of the Birdman character. He frequently visualises himself levitating or doing telekinetic acts and is also dealing with his ex-wife.
As Thompson unravels towards a devastating climax, we see his psychological make-up laid bare in an exquisite performance from Keaton.
He is well supported by the likes of Edward Norton (American History X), Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover Trilogy, Masterminds), and Andrea Riseborough (The Death of Stalin, Made in Dagenham).
Black Swan is a beautiful movie that tells the story of Nina, played by Natalie Portman (Star Wars, The Other Boleyn Girl), who gets to play the starring role of White Swan in a New York City Ballet Company production of Swan Lake.
Her rival dancer is Lily, played by Mila Kunis (Family Guy, The Book of Eli), who will dance the role of the Black Swan. But Nina hears that the company is considering switching roles and she doesn’t react well.
Her subsequent psychological unravelling is powerfully portrayed, and the film comes with a climax every bit as unnerving as Fight Club.
The supporting cast in this incredible and unnerving film includes Vincent Cassel (La Haine, Ocean’s Thirteen), Barbera Hershey (Beaches, The Portrait of a Lady), and Winona Ryder (Girl, Interrupted, Beetlejuice)
Released around the same time as Fight Club, Memento is a stylish psychological thriller with mind-bending plot lines, a complex non-linear format, and a big finish.
It stars Guy Pearce (Neighbours, LA Confidential) as Leonard Shelby, who suffers from short-term memory loss and amnesia as a result of a violent incident in which his wife was killed.
He sets out to try and find her killer using photos and tattooing clues on his body to help him remember things day-to-day. We follow his agonising journey with the structure of the movie paralleling the challenges he faces.
Memento is a beautiful and complicated movie that also stars Carrie-Anne Moss (Chocolat, Unthinkable), and Joe Pantoliano (The Goonies, Empire of the Sun), among an impressive support cast.
An extremely dark comedy starring Winona Ryder (Edward Scissorhands, The Age of Innocence) and Christian Slater (True Romance, Churchill: The Hollywood Years).
It is about four teenage girls, three of whom are called Heather, whose lives are undone by the arrival of a new student who is keen to kill the most popular students and make it look like suicide.
It is a terrific character study and looks at how the bitchiness of young teenage girls can so easily get out of hand.
It received mixed reviews at the time but is now widely regarded as a cult coming-of-age classic, and a must-watch for young people. There is plenty that fans of Fight Club will love in here too.
Donnie Darko tells the story of a US high school student, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler, Spider Man), who is told by a mysterious figure dressed in a creepy giant rabbit costume that the world is going to end in 28 days
Then part of a plane crashes through the roof of his home, forcing the family to move out. And these are just the sane parts of a movie that takes a deep dive into the character of Donnie’s psyche and finds some very disturbing things there indeed.
The movie was a big cult hit and launched the careers of both Jake and his co-star and sister Maggie Gyllenhaal (Secretary, White House Down), as well as seeing solid cameos from the likes of Patrick Swayze (Ghost, Dirty Dancing) and Seth Rogan (Knocked Up, The Green Hornet).
The Girl on the Train
In this highly regarded female-led psychological drama, Emily Blunt (Looper, Mary Poppins Returns) plays Rachel Watson, a recovering alcoholic and divorcee who still takes the commuter train every day despite losing her job.
On the journey, she spies on her ex-husband and his new partner, Megan, living the perfect life she craves. But when she spots his new partner kissing someone else, she goes to confront her.
Rachel wakes up covered in blood and learns that Megan is now missing. What unfolds from there is a tale of violence, drama, and suspense as Rachel learns the truth about what happened.
The cast includes Rebecca Ferguson (Mission Impossible, The Greatest Showman), Justin Theroux (Lady and the Tramp, American Psycho), Haley Bennett (The Equaliser, The Magnificent Seven), Luke Evans (Clash of the Titans, The Raven), Alison Janney (The West Wing, The Addams Family), and Lisa Kudrow (Friends, The Opposite of Sex).
House of Games
House of Games is another movie from the pen of David Mamet.
It tells the story of a successful psychiatrist, and author Margaret Ford, played by Lindsay Crouse (All the Presidents Men, Slap Shot), who feels unfulfilled and, through a patient, ends up falling in with a gang of confidence tricksters.
She is drawn into their world and falls for one of the con men but finds herself well out of her depth and has to delve even lower to survive.
There is a big twist ending and a great plot in this movie. The cast is relatively low-key, with William H. Macy (Fargo, Air Force One) and Joe Mantegna (Homicide, Redbelt) the only notable names. But frankly, the film is all the better for it.
Shutter Island is another Martin Scorsese classic of the psychological thriller genre.
His muse, Leonardo Di Caprio (Titanic, The Wolf of Wall Street) stars as Deputy U.S. Marshal Edward “Teddy” Daniels, a cop who is sent to a psychiatric hospital located on Shutter Island to investigate a disappearance from the hospital.
Daniels is quickly sucked into the dark secrets and mysteries that abound in this place leading to some chilling moments and hugely dramatic twists before a typically powerful conclusion.
Di Caprio is not the only star to grace this film with Mark Ruffalo (You Can Count of Me, The Avengers franchise), Max von Sydow (The Seventh Seal, The Exorcist), Sir Ben Kingsley (Gandhi, House of Sand and Fog), Emily Mortimer (Howls Moving Castle, Mary Poppins Returns), and Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea, Blue Valentine) also putting in stellar performances.
Let’s finish on an iconic and certified classic of the genre.
In Martin Scorcese’s Taxi Driver Robert De Niro (The Deer Hunter, Once Upon a Time in America) plays Travis Bickle, a lonely and depressed New York cab driver, whose spends his time looking at the filthy underside of New York City.
He hates it all and wants to change it but has no way of doing so until he meets an underage prostitute, played by Jodie Foster (Freaky Friday, The Silence of the Lambs), who he decides to rescue from her pimp.
At the same time, he wants to make things right with his obsession, Betsy, played by Cybill Shepherd (Alice, Moonlighting), who is a political advisor with the ability to make real change.
The movie features some iconic scenes and powerful psychological insights into the challenges facing people at Travis Bickle’s level of society.