Best ’90s Psychological Thrillers To Watch With A Strong Female Lead

The 1990s brought movie fans a lot of great movies and some that should probably be swept under the theoretical rug. When it comes to a certain genre the 1990s got right — for the most part — it was psychological thrillers, with women driving a lot of them. This doesn’t necessarily mean they were the hero of the movie, but had roles that made an impact and boosted their stardom and the films.

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There’s nothing like a good film with a strong female lead that shows the audience just how powerful and important characters can be; whether they are a hero or a villain, there are highly-rated films from the 1990s with excellent female characters that shaped certain psychological thrillers into what they are today.

10 Sleeping With The Enemy – 6.3 (1991)

Since her role as Vivian in Pretty Woman, Julia Roberts had a huge spike of success in the 1990s. Overall she’s played some remarkable characters, but one that specifically sticks out is her role as Laura Burney in Sleeping with the Enemy. Laura and her husband Martin seem to have it all — the house, the great marriage, and incredible success; but this is only a painted picture because what goes on in private is much different.

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Martin is a very abusive husband, who wants to keep tabs on Laura all the time. Laura lives her life in constant fear, finally making a drastic change in her life where she can be someone else, away from her horrible husband. Roberts played her part well in Sleeping With the Enemy and it should be considered among one of her best.

9 Pacific Heights – 6.4 (1990)

Three People In A Heated Argument With Eachother

When an upper-class couple decides to buy a large home in an exclusive San Francisco neighborhood, they think they’ve struck gold. They decide to renovate and rent out two apartments on the first floor to cover costs. When a normal-seeming man named Carter Hayes approached them about a room, they decide to give him a chance but realize shortly how wrong they were.

Carter, played by Michael Keaton, makes everyone’s lives miserable and has more sinister plans for his newly rented apartment. Melanie Griffith plays Patty Palmer, the woman who owns the home with her partner and takes risks to find out more about Carter after her husband is thrown in jail.

8 Double Jeopardy – 6.5 (1999)

Woman Looking Off Into The Distance With Hand On Railing

Double Jeopardy is exactly what it sounds like and the drama and mystery surrounding this movie has a lot to do with Ashley Judd’s part in it. She plays a married woman named Libby, a woman who is tried and convicted of murdering her husband. Although this isn’t true, she’s thrown in prison for six years, let out, and paroled.

It’s then when she sets out on a revenge mission to find her son and get back at her husband that is living another life, under a completely different persona. Not everything is that easy, though, as her parole officer (Tommy Lee Jones) is in hot pursuit to bring her back. Even though Double Jeopardy highlights Judd’s performance, it should be considered one of Tommy Lee Jones’s best movies as well.

7 The Hand That Rocks The Cradle – 6.6 (1992)

Woman Looking Up At Scared Man

The Hand That Rocks the Cradle is a film starring Rebecca De Mornay, who plays a pregnant wife of a Seattle obstetrician. He’s accused of sexual misconduct and in fear of the backlash, takes his own life, and leaves his wife to fend for herself. She ends up losing her child and thus begins a string of events as she tries to get back at one of her husband’s accusers.

She snags a position as this family’s nanny and slowly starts to take over their lives and their newborn baby. Even though De Mornay played a despicable role in this film, she brings it to life and ensures the audience hates her until the very end.

6 Kiss The Girls – 6.6 (1997)

Woman And Man Talking To Another Man With Back To The Camera

When it comes to strong female roles in the 1990s, a lot of them were a success due to Ashley Judd’s performances. Based on the 1995 novel, Kiss the Girls, director Gary Fleder brought this film to life on the big screen in 1997 with an A-list cast of Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, and Cary Elwes. When a Washington D.C. cop named Alex Cross (Freeman) has gotten word his niece is missing in North Carolina, he rushes to the state to offer his expertise.

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Police think she’s one of the victims of a well-known serial killer named Cassanova and after a woman named Kate (Judd) escapes Cassanova’s grasp, she vows to help Alex Cross find this man and stop him from doing any more harm. Ashley Judd plays a resilient woman who not only revisits the horrors of her captor but goes in headfirst to capture him.

5 The Bone Collector – 6.7 (1999)

Woman Reaching Towards Man In Hospital Bed

The Bone Collector starts out with quadriplegic ex-cop Lincon Rhyme (Denzel Washington), who has chosen to end his life by assisted suicide until he learns of a particularly brutal case of a serial killer. With time ticking from each kill to another, Rhyme asks Amelia Donaghy (Angelina Jolie) to assist him with this crime.

Although Amelia has dark demons of her own, she reluctantly decides to help. Anyone that is a fan of Jolie knows she always nails her roles with her toughness and stellar acting skills; when it comes to The Bone Collector, Jolie’s performance was amazing from start to finish.

4 To Die For – 6.8 (1995)

Woman Walking Past Teenagers

Based on a novel by Joyce Maynard, To Die For follows the ever-persistent Suzanne Stone (Nicole Kidman) as she makes her way to her dream job: a television newscaster. Suzanne will do anything to get what she wants in life and decides to do a bit on teenagers called “Teens Speak Out.” After securing the job she’s always wanted, her husband wants her to settle down and have children and Suzanne knows that’s not going to happen.

With the help of her amateur documentary stars, she puts a plan in place to get rid of her husband and secure the future she’s always wanted. To Die For is without a doubt one of Kidman’s best performances and to prove it, she even won a Global Globe for her stellar performance.

3 Basic Instinct – 7.0 (1992)

Basic Instinct follows a San Francisco cop named Nick Curran (Michael Douglas) who is investigating the brutal murder of a well-known rockstar. Things become more complicated when Nick finds himself entangled with the prime suspect, Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone). Catherine is a crime writer and will do anything to prove her innocence.

RELATED: Sharon Stone’s 5 Best & 5 Worst Movies, According To IMDb

This is, without a doubt, one of Sharon Stone’s best roles in her career and most memorable for the storyline and risque scenes throughout the movie. Even though she plays the villain, she easily stole the spotlight of this film.

2 Misery – 7.8 (1990)

Woman Standing With A Hammer In Her Hands

Misery is an iconic film directed by Rob Reiner and is based on Stephen King’s 1987 novel of the same name. Misery stars James Caan and Kathy Bates and tells the story of a famous writer named Paul Sheldon (Caan), who is rescued after getting into a car crash. Paul, soon enough he finds out that he’s been rescued by a super fan of his novels and her name is Annie Wilkes. Annie (Kathy Bates) is a former nurse that believes she can bring him back to good health without or without his consent.

It’s also very evident that Annie is completely unhinged when she takes her anger out on Paul after he killed off one of her favorite characters in her favorite novel of his. Even though Bates is the obvious villain in Misery, her iconic role is one of the most recognizable and best of her lengthy acting career.

1 The Silence Of The Lambs – 8.6 (1991)

Small Woman In An Elevator Full Of Men

One of the most well-known and iconic films of the 1990s is definitely The Silence of the Lambs. There is nothing quite like it and one of the reasons is because of Jodi Foster. Foster plays the determined and tough FBI rookie Clarice Starling, who is asked to help with a case that involves a missing woman. After figuring out who took the woman, Clarice is sent on a road trip for key information.

Knowing a brilliant and incarcerated cannibal named Dr. Hannibal Lecter has intel on this madman, Clarice meets with Lecter, where she goes down the rabbit hole of the sinister world of crime while forming an odd friendship with the cannibal. Without a doubt, this role is one of the best in a physiological thriller from the 1990s.

NEXT: 10 Of The Best Serial Killer Movies From The 1990s, Ranked By IMDb


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Updated: November 8, 2020 — 11:00 pm

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