Shutter Island is one of Martin Scorsese’s best films, yet often overlooked given the quality of his canon. The great Roger Ebert described it as “[his] evocation of the delicious shuddering fear we feel when horror movies are about something and don’t release all the tension with action scenes.”
It is a psychological thriller set in a psychiatric hospital on an island called Shutter Island. It stars Scorsese’s muse, Leonardo Di Caprio, as Deputy U.S. Marshal Edward “Teddy” Daniels who arrives to investigate the disappearance but quickly gets sucked into the island’s dark secrets.
There is a stellar cast, including Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, Michelle Williams and Emily Mortimer. It also features a powerful soundtrack comprising mostly modern classical music by composers including Gustav Mahler, Krzysztof Penderecki, György Ligeti, John Cage, Ingram Marshall, and Max Richter.
Shutter Island is one of a kind, really, but if you loved it as much as we did and want to see if there are any similar psychological thrillers out there that might appeal, we’ve got you covered.
Here is our pick of the top 15 Movies similar to Shutter Island.
The classic M. Night Shyamalan movie stars Haley Joel Osment as a young boy who we quickly find out is able to see and speak with dead people.
He is being treated by a child psychologist, Malcolm Crowe, played by Bruce Willis, who is treating the child and delving into the depths of his psyche in order to find out what is going on with him.
There is horror and suspense aplenty before a bombshell finale that made The Sixth Sense one of the biggest movies of all time and set a bar so high for its creator, Shyamalan, that he has spent more than 20 years trying, and failing to scale those heights again.
An instant classic with all the qualities that Shutter Islands has to offer.
The breakthrough movie in Jake Gyllenhaal’s career, Donnie Darko sees him playing a US high school student who is told the world is going to end in 28 days by a figure dressed in a giant bunny costume.
At the same time, an aircraft part crashes into the family home, forcing them to relocate for a time. Donnie’s life is packed with weird and spooky happenings, which get more frequent and intense as the date draws closer.
The question is, are we seeing real happenings or figments of Donnie’s imagination? Donnie Darko is an intense and powerful movie that did far better than expected at the box office. It also stars Jake’s sister Maggie Gyllenhaal and Jena Malone as well as a very capable ensemble cast.
If you don’t mind movies about global pandemics in light of our recent shared experience, then 12 Monkeys is a classic of the psychological thriller genre.
Directed by Monty Python legend and controversial movie-maker Terry Gilliam, it tells the story of James Cole, a prisoner from the year 2035 who is sent back in time to try and find out the cause of a global pandemic that has almost wiped out humanity.
In the present, he is locked up in a lunatic asylum and meets Jeffrey Goines, played by Brad Pitt, a wealthy eccentric and environmental obsessive with some serious mental health issues.
Bruce Willis plays Cole, who links the outbreak to an activist group called the Army of the Twelve Monkeys. But can he stop them from unleashing a deadly plague on all humanity?
It’s a powerful and thought-provoking movie, especially given recent events, and has an all-star cast including Christopher Plummer, David Morse, Madeleine Stowe, and Jon Seda as well as Willis and Pitt.
No one does psychological movies better than David Lynch, and he brings his weird and wonderful filmmaking to its peak with Mulholland Drive.
It tells the story of Rita, played by Laura Elena Harring, who is the only survivor of a car crash who, having lost her memory, heads to a random house in LA where she meets Betty, played by Naomi Watts.
Betty tries to help Rita remember her former life. What follows is a surreal and deeply confusing and thought-provoking movie that you may well need more than one viewing to wrap your head around, much like Shutter Island.
It also stars Justin Theroux, Melissa George, and Ann Miller and is well worth a couple of hours of your time.
Be prepared for a tough time though. Mulholland Drive is a movie that makes you think. But as the Guardian summed it up, it is a “delirious masterpiece” that “is as brilliant and disquieting as anything Lynch has ever done.”
The classic American novel by Brett Easton Ellis was turned into an underrated psychological thriller starring Christian Bale as the main protagonist, Patrick Bateman.
Bateman is a New York-based investment banker with pots of money but who also leads a double life as a serial killer.
As the book did, the film blends dark humour and all-our gore but also manages to cleverly satirise the 1980’s yuppie culture that still exists in some circles to this day.
There is an incredible support cast featuring Willem Dafoe, Jared Leto, Chloë Sevigny, Justin Theroux, and Reese Witherspoon, among others and a soundtrack made up of multiple 1980’s classics.
Not one for the faint-hearted, but still an excellent movie for everyone else.
A psychological horror movie starring Tim Robbins as Jacob Singer, a Vietnam War veteran who is plagued by visions and hallucinations from his past.
As his symptoms worsen, he is contacted by a former platoon colleague who is suffering something similar, but he is quickly killed, and the event sends Jacob on a final journey to find out his past and track down his family.
Jacob’s ladder wasn’t a smash hit on its release, but it quickly developed a cult following and is now viewed as a classic of the genre. The excellent ensemble class includes Elizabeth Peña, Danny Aiello, Eric La Salle, Jason Alexander, and a whole host of other recognisable faces too.
But it is Robbins’ who steals the show with a truly masterful performance.
The Girl on the Train
This female-led psychological drama tells the story of Rachel Watson, played beautifully by Emily Blunt.
Watson is a recovering alcoholic and divorcee who still rides her commuter train every day despite losing her job. On the route, she spies on her ex-husband and his new partner, Megan, who now have the perfect life she craves.
When she spots his new partner kissing someone else, she goes to confront her but wakes up covered in blood and learns that Megan is missing. What unfolds from there is a tale of intrigue, drama, and suspense as Rachel seeks to learn the truth about what happened.
With a rock-solid cast including Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Haley Bennett, Luke Evans, and Alison Janney, Girl of the Train is suspenseful drama at its very best.
Inception is a psychological sci-fi drama from the incomparable Christopher Nolan. Its clever plot is not easy to summarise but essentially follows a group of criminals who specialise in stealing secrets from people’s subconscious.
Dom Cobb, played by Leonardo Di Caprio is the ringleader, but he is offered a chance to clear his criminal record if he can pull off the perfect job. This time, he isn’t stealing from a subconscious; he is seeking to plant information there.
But to succeed, they have to defeat a huge enemy. This is a true blockbuster movie with huge budgets, amazing special effects and a cast that includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, Marion Cotillard, Michael Caine, Pete Postlethwaite, and Dileep Rao.
Set in the late 1800s in England, The Prestige tells the tale of two magicians Alfred Borden, played by Christian Bale and Robert Angier, played by Hugh Jackman.
The two are enemies after Angier’s wife dies during a performance and are fierce rivals, often sabotaging each other’s performances.
They are both seeking to perform the ultimate illusion before the other and simultaneously reveal the other’s secrets, with dramatic and unexpected consequences.
The Prestige takes turns you would never expect and will leave you wondering what happens. The storyline is amazing and helped by an exceptional ensemble cast that includes Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine, Andy Serkis, and even David Bowie.
The classic David Fincher escapade in which Edward Norton stars as an unnamed narrator stuck in a white-collar job and hating his life.
He sets up a fight club with soap salesman Tyler Durden, played by Brad Pitt, and gets into a destructive relationship with Marla Singer, a destitute woman, played by Helena Bonham Carter.
But there is a dispute when Durden begins to seize control of the club and use it for other purposes leading to a showdown and a powerful finale.
Fight Club is a cult classic and, alongside the three leads, also features Meatloaf, Jared Leto, and an excellent ensemble cast.
The late 1990s and early 2000s were a great time for psychological thrillers and Memento was up there with the very best.
Starring Neighbours alumni Guy Pearce, it tells the story of Leonard Shelby, an insurance investigator who develops amnesia and suffers from short-term memory loss as a result of a violent incident in which his wife was killed.
He tries to find her killer by taking photos and tattooing clues on his body to help him remember. Will he succeed?
Memento is another Christopher Nolan classic and has a complex non-linear structure and black and white segments, making it both beautiful and complicated at the same time.
Alongside Pearce, the cast includes Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, and an impressive group of supporting actors.
Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan tells the story of Nina, played by the amazing Natalie Portman, who has a chance to play the White Swan in a New York City Ballet Company production of Swan Lake.
Her rival Lily, played by Mila Kunis, will portray the Black Swan. But Nina’s world turns upside down when she learns that the company is considering switching the roles.
What follows is a powerful psychological unravelling, and an ending every bit as dramatic and unexpected as Shutter Island.
It also features Winona Ryder, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, and Benjamin Millepied. Chilling and compelling in equal measure.
A slightly older movie but a cast-iron classic. Taxi Driver sees Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro come together to create Travis Bickle, a lonely and depressed New York cab driver whose job exposes him to the filthy underside of New York City at its worst.
He loathes it and wants to change it, so when he has a chance to save an underage prostitute, played by Jodie Foster, from her pimp, he sees an opportunity to clear the city of its corruption once and for all.
He also sees a chance to make things right with his obsession, Betsy, played by Cybill Shepherd, who is running a Presidential nomination campaign.
Featuring some of the most iconic scenes ever put on film (“You talkin’ to me?”), Taxi Driver is both a classic movie and psychological filmmaking at its very best.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
The novel was an international bestseller and the movie, directed by David Fincher, was a big hit too.
It stars Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander, a hacker who is recruited by journalist Mikael Blomkvist, played by Daniel Craig, who is investigating the disappearance of a girl forty years previously.
As the investigation progresses, there are massive plot twists, and the all-star cast, which features Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgård, Steven Berkoff, Robin Wright, Joely Richardson, and Donald Sumpter, bring this amazing story to life.
This Angelina Jolie vehicle is directed by Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood and tells the story of Christine Collins (Jolie), a single mother who lives in LA with her son in the 1920s.
Her son goes missing, but the police bring a different boy to her and insist it is her son. It isn’t, and she is sectioned when she tries to prove as much.
She persists and uncovers a frightening conspiracy as she tries to get close to the truth about her son.
Chillingly, this movie is based on a true story, and with the numerous plot twists and shocking revelations, it shares many qualities with Shutter Island.
The cast features John Malkovich, Jeffrey Donovan, Michael Kelly, and Colm Feore. They all add to the unsettling tension around this superb movie.