Do you like your movies and TV shows to be a little titillating? The psychosexual thriller genre in movies and TV is a complex, yet fascinating genre that explores the darker side of relationships.

These stories often involve sexual tension, psychological manipulation, and danger. They are designed to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. They are closely aligned with psychological thrillers as well. 

Some of the most popular and iconic films and TV shows of the past few decades like Fatal Attraction, Gone Girl, and YOU have been psychosexual thrillers.

In this article, we will define the psychosexual thriller genre in movies and TV, and explore some of the key themes and tropes that make these stories so compelling. We will also look at examples of some of the most notable films and TV shows in this genre to give you a better understanding of what makes a great psychosexual thriller.

Strap in because things are about to get hot up in here.

Defining the Psychosexual Thriller Genre in Movies and TV (With Examples)'Basic Instinct'Credit: TriStar Pictures

Defining the Psychosexual Thriller Genre in Movies and TV (with Examples)

What makes psychosexual thrillers exciting is their ability to tap into our primal fears and desires. These stories often explore themes of obsession, manipulation, and power dynamics, which can be both exhilarating and terrifying.

Additionally, the sexual tension between characters in these films and TV shows adds another layer of complexity and intrigue to the story.

Psychosexual Thriller Definition 

The psychosexual thriller genre in movies and TV typically involves a story that combines elements of psychological suspense, sexual tension, and danger. These stories often explore the darker side of human relationships, particularly those involving power dynamics and sexual attraction.

These movies and TV shows feature main characters that are often involved in complex, manipulative relationships that are driven by sexual desire and obsession. The storylines frequently involve psychological gamesmanship, as characters try to gain the upper hand over one another.

Psychosexual Thriller Themes

Themes in psychosexual thrillers can include sexual exploitation, emotional manipulation, sexual violence, and sexual identity. The genre often includes elements of mystery, as the audience is often left guessing about the true intentions and motivations of the characters. 

Defining the Psychosexual Thriller Genre in Movies and TV (With Examples)Penn Badgley and Charlie Barnett in ‘YOU’Credit: Netflix

Psychosexual Thriller Tropes 

Psychosexual thrillers also keep us on the edge of our seats with their unpredictable twists and turns. The tension and suspense created by these stories can be incredibly thrilling, making it difficult to look away or stop watching.

What are some tropes that build this genre? Let's break them down:

  1. Power dynamics: These films often explore power imbalances in relationships, where one character may be trying to exert control over another. This can manifest as a boss and employee relationship, a teacher and student relationship, or even a romantic relationship.

  2. Manipulation: Characters in psychosexual thrillers are often manipulative and use their charm, wit, and sexual prowess to get what they want from others. They may use lies, deceit, and even violence to achieve their goals.

  3. Obsession: Characters in these films often become obsessed with one another, either sexually or emotionally. This can lead to stalking, violence, and even murder.

  4. Dual identities: Many psychosexual thrillers feature characters with dual identities, such as serial killers who are also respected members of society. This adds an element of suspense and mystery to the story.

  5. Sexuality: Sexuality is a key theme in psychosexual thrillers, and characters may use their sexuality to manipulate others. Sexual tension is often a major part of the story as characters use sex as a weapon or a means of control. Typically, stock characters like a femme fatale are used to ensnare their lovers in deadly traps.

  6. Unreliable narration: These films often play with the audience's perceptions of reality, using unreliable narration and unexpected plot twists to keep viewers on the edge of their seats.

  7. Psychological trauma: Many psychosexual thrillers feature characters who have experienced some form of psychological trauma, which may be driving their behavior. This trauma can be linked to past sexual abuse, childhood trauma, or other traumatic experiences.

Defining the Psychosexual Thriller Genre in Movies and TV (With Examples)'Fatal Attraction'Credit: Paramount Pictures

Why Should We Care About The Psychosexual Thriller Genre?

The psychosexual thriller genre is important for several reasons. First, it provides a space for exploring the complex and often taboo subjects related to sexuality and power dynamics. These themes are not always easy to discuss in real life, but psychosexual thrillers offer a way to examine them in a controlled and safe environment.

Second, psychosexual thrillers challenge our assumptions and perceptions about human relationships. They force us to confront uncomfortable truths about ourselves and the people around us, and they can serve as a cautionary tale about the dangers of obsession, manipulation, and violence.

Finally, the psychosexual thriller genre is simply a fascinating and engaging genre of storytelling. It provides a unique blend of suspense, mystery, and sexual tension, making for a thrilling and often unpredictable viewing experience. Whether we're watching a classic film or a modern TV show, we can't help but be drawn into the complex and seductive world of the psychosexual thriller.

Defining the Psychosexual Thriller Genre in Movies and TV (With Examples)'Big Little Lies'Credit: Warner Bros. Television Distribution

Psychosexual Thriller TV Examples 

This genre often involves complex and morally ambiguous characters, which can be both compelling and thought-provoking. These characters are not always easy to understand or sympathize with, but they offer a glimpse into the darker aspects of human behavior and relationships.

What better place to explore them than TV? 

  1. YOU - This Netflix original series follows a charming bookstore manager named Joe Goldberg who becomes obsessed with a woman named Beck. As Joe's infatuation turns into a dangerous obsession, he becomes willing to do whatever it takes to get what he wants.
  2. Big Little Lies - This HBO series is a psychological thriller that explores the lives of a group of mothers in a wealthy California town. The show delves into themes of infidelity, domestic abuse, and power dynamics.
  3. The Affair- This Showtime series follows the complicated relationship between a writer and a waitress, as well as the aftermath of an extramarital affair. The show examines the emotional and psychological toll that infidelity can have on a marriage.
  4. Hannibal - This NBC series is a prequel to the iconic Silence of the Lambs film. It follows FBI special investigator Will Graham as he works to catch a serial killer, aided by the psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter. The show explores themes of violence, manipulation, and power dynamics.
  5. Killing Eve - This BBC America series follows an MI5 officer named Eve Polastri who becomes obsessed with a talented assassin named Villanelle. The show delves into themes of obsession, manipulation, and identity, and features a complex and intriguing central relationship.

A woman holding a knife to another woman's heart.'Killing Eve'Credit: IMG

Psychosexual Thriller Movie Examples

What makes psychosexual thrillers so exciting is their ability to captivate and challenge viewers, drawing us into a world of intrigue, suspense, and danger. All of these thematics and ideals are fun to explore in movies. 

  1. Fatal Attraction- This classic 1980s film stars Michael Douglas as a married man who has a brief affair with a woman named Alex (Glenn Close). When he tries to break things off, Alex becomes obsessed with him and begins stalking him and his family.
  2. Basic Instinct - This 1992 film stars Sharon Stone as a seductive crime novelist who becomes the prime suspect in a murder investigation. The film explores themes of sexuality, power dynamics, and manipulation.
  3. Black Swan - This 2010 psychological thriller follows a ballerina named Nina (Natalie Portman), who becomes increasingly obsessed with perfection as she prepares for a lead role in Swan Lake. As her mental state deteriorates, she begins to lose touch with reality.
  4. Gone Girl- This 2014 film is based on the bestselling novel by Gillian Flynn. It follows the disappearance of a woman named Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) and the subsequent investigation that reveals a web of lies, manipulation, and obsession.
  5. The Handmaiden - This 2016 South Korean film from Park Chan-wook is a psychological thriller set in the 1930s. It follows a young woman named Sook-hee who is hired as a handmaiden to a wealthy Japanese heiress named Lady Hideko. As the two women grow closer, they become embroiled in a plot to steal Lady Hideko's inheritance. The film explores themes of sexuality, power dynamics, and psychological manipulation.    

Defining the Psychosexual Thriller Genre in Movies and TV (With Examples)'Black Swan'Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Summing Up The Psychosexual Thriller Genre in Film and TV

The psychosexual thriller genre is a unique and fascinating genre that continues to captivate audiences around the world.

With its exploration of power dynamics, manipulation, obsession, and sexuality, this genre delves into some of the most complex and taboo aspects of the human mind and relationships.

Whether you're a fan of classic films like Basic Instinct or newer TV shows like You, there is no denying the enduring appeal of the psychosexual thriller. By understanding the key themes and tropes of this genre, viewers can gain a deeper appreciation for the artistry and complexity of these compelling stories.  

What are some of your favorite psychosexual thrillers? Let us know in the comments!