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Thriller Research

  1. A thriller’s aim is too excite, entice and shock the audience. Many thriller films are associated with other genres e.g. Psychological Thrillers
  2. Key codes and convention

Props – Key props to films can vary due to the different styles of the film due to the associated genre. The props change because the films genre may have different props from that of a thriller film with a sub-genre. Eg A psychological thriller will have props like clocks and watches, while an action thriller may include props like guns and other weapons.

Characters – The characters in thriller films can be sinister and yet not be the antagonist in the films plot. This is because the films characters can play any role in the films story, it is this ambiguity of character that makes the film a thriller and allows the story to maintain suspense throughout.

Setting – The settings for thriller films can vary depending on the films budget, a high budget film will be set across several countries as part of a thrilling chase. Also a small budget film may use a single house or small town to present the scene. Some unique films are set in the protagonists mind as part of the shock. eg Fight Club is set inside and from the mind of the unnamed character

Camera Techniques – Camera techniques used in thriller films can vary from intense close ups to show the emotions of the character eg terror or horror when facing a scene or long shots and medium shots are used to set the scene of the thriller and to establish where the character will presumably face their fate. Also tracking and unbroken shots are used to show the flowing of the scene and to build up tension. Famous and cliché shots including Dolly Zoom. This shot is used to intensify the emotions and reduce the background on the character. This shot was made famous in the Alfred Hitchcock thriller, Vertigo. Films like Jaws have also used this iconic too.

Editing Techniques – Many films have different techniques in their edit however thriller films are distinctive in their edits. Jump cut and quick edits are frequently used to make the audience scared and/or jump out of their seat. Jump cuts are paired with loud burst of noise to frighten the watching audience. Image result for terror gif

3. – Successful Thriller post 2011.

Dark Knight Rises – Christopher Nolan – 2012

Shutter Island – Martin Scorsese – 2011

Leonardo DiCaprio is frustrated - Shutter Island GIF - Frustrated Frustrating LeonardoDiCaprio GIFs

Gone Girl – David Fincher – 2014

Jason Bourne – Paul Greengrass – 2016

Nightcrawler – Dan Gilroy – 2014

Argo – Ben Affleck – 2013

The Town – Ben Affleck – 2011

Gravity – Alfonso Cuaron – 2013


Matt Damon, The Bourne Franchise – 2006 . Usually stars in action thriller most notably the Bourne films and Green Zone.

Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips – 2013, Bridge of Spies – 2015.

His character is usually an old character that has to deal with volatile situations like Captain Phillips and Sully

Ben Affleck – Gone Girl – 2014, Argo – 2013, The Town 2011.

The roles he plays in his films are usually daring eg The Town and The Accountant, while battling the emotional and confrontational prospect. While directing some of his own feature films like Argo which won best picture at the 2013 Oscars


David Fincher – Gone Girl, Zodiac, Se7en. His films are usually very well played out on screen due to the frequent collaborations with screenwriter Aaron Sorkin in films like The Social Network. The scripts he writes are very intriguing and require close attention to understand the full meaning behind the script in films like Fight Club, the twist is foreshadowed throughout. His films have a green layer over the film and sometimes will put the film with less saturation to emphasise the loneliness and emptiness of a character .

Christopher Nolan – The Dark Knight, Memento,  The Prestige. His films are very real and challenge the ideas of everyday films, in some of his works like The Dark Knight, the story challenges the conventional superhero film and introduces the heavy moral role of being a hero and the corruptness of everyday politics. His films have a blockbuster scale that dwarfs the conventional thriller scale eg Interstellar. However the real message is embedded in the small scale of human behaviour and interaction. In the Dark Knight this is shown best when the Joker exploits how corrupt and unstable regular order is with our universe.

M. Night Shymalan – The Visit, The Sixth Sense. This director has made many poor films and also some great ones, his best pieces however have been thrillers with huge twists at the end that shock the audience that have been watching throughout and has been unbeknown to them. In the sixth sense the scripts and screenplay had been masking the dramatic twist at the end, this makes the audience feel like they have been tricked by the filmmakers and actors by failing to anticipate the final dramatic moments of the film. 

Arguably, the most iconic director of thriller films is Alfred Hitchcock with Vertigo and Dial M for Murder. Both films were the first of its kind in the 1950s this set the standard for the current thriller we have today. His films are the backbones of modern thrillers and horrors. Films like Psycho created and set the standard for horror films, the addition of music at jump cuts caused the audiences to jump and thus causing the rest of the film to be suspicious and intriguing

I believe that Thrillers appeal to audiences due to the excitement they evoke and the enjoyment of the unknown. For hundreds of years people have been intrigued by thrillers and the fear that anything can happen, evidence of this can be traced back to old times when films like Frankenstein and The 39 Steps in the 1930s and has been remade several times. The idea that anything can happen and the excitement and pleasure it causes is what makes thriller films so appealing to audiences.







Burford School Media Arts