Within the ‘Thriller’ film genre there exists many sub-genres or ‘hybrids’:
• Action thriller - In which the work often features a race against the clock, contains lots of
violence, and an obvious antagonist. These films usually contain large amounts of guns,
explosions, and large elaborate set pieces for the action to take place. These films often
have elements of mystery films and crime films but these elements take a backseat to action.
Notable examples are the James Bond films, The Transporter, and the Jason Bourne novels
• Conspiracy thriller - In which the hero/heroine confronts a large, powerful group of enemies
whose true extent only he/she recognizes. The Chancellor Manuscript and The Aquitane
Progression by Robert Ludlum fall into this category, as do films such as Three Days of the
Condor and JFK.
• Crime thriller - This particular genre is a hybrid type of both crime films and thrillers that
offers a suspenseful account of a successful or failed crime or crimes. These films often
focus on the criminal(s) rather than a policeman. Crime thrillers usually emphasize action
over psychological aspects. Central topics of these films include murders, robberies, chases,
shootouts, and double-crosses are central ingredients. Some examples include The Killing,
Seven, The Godfather, Reservoir Dogs, Inside Man, and The Asphalt Jungle.
• Disaster thriller - In which the main conflict is due to some sort of natural or artificial
disaster, such as floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanoes, etc., or nuclear disasters as an
artificial disaster. Examples include Stormy Weather by Carl Hiaasen, Tremor by Winston
Graham, and the 1974 film Earthquake.
• Drama thriller - In which the story consists of the elements of a thriller and drama film.
These films are usually slower paced and involves a great deal of character development
along with plot twists. Examples include The Illusionist, The Interpreter and The Prestige.
• Eco-thriller - In which the protagonist must avert or rectify an environmental or biological
calamity - often in addition to dealing with the usual types of enemies or obstacles present in
other thriller genres. This environmental component often forms a central message or theme
of the story. Examples include Nicholas Evans's The Loop, C. George Muller's Echoes in the
Blue, and Wilbur Smith's Elephant Song, all of which highlight real-life environmental issues.
Futuristic Eco-thrillers are of the Science Fiction genre that propose ideas that will or may
occur and include such works as Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy and Ian Irvine's
Human Rites Trilogy and Dasavathaaram.
• Erotic thriller - In which it consists of erotica and thriller. It has become popular since the
1980s and the rise of VCR market penetration. The genre includes such films as Basic
Instinct, Fatal Attraction, Looking for Mr. Goodbar, and In the Cut.
• Horror thriller - In which conflict between the main characters are mental, emotional, and
physical. Two recent examples of this include the Saw series of films and the Danny Boyle's
28 Days Later. What sets the horror thriller apart is the main element of fear throughout the
story. The main character(s) is not only up against a superior force, but they are or will soon
become the victims themselves and directly feel the fear that comes by attracting the
monster's attention. Other well-known examples are Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho and Thomas
Harris's The Silence of the Lambs.
• Legal thriller - In which the lawyer-heroes/heroines confront enemies outside, as well as
inside, the courtroom and are in danger of losing not only their cases but their lives. The
Innocent Man by John Grisham is a well known example of the type.
• Medical thriller - In which the hero/heroine are doctors or medical personnels working to
solve an expanding medical problem. Robin Cook, Tess Gerritsen, Michael Crichton, and
Gary Braver are well-known authors of this subgenre. Nonfiction medical thrillers are also a
subcategory, comprising works like The Hot Zone by Richard Preston. Films such as Awake
are other examples of medical thrillers.
• Political thriller - In which the hero/heroine must ensure the stability of the government that
employs him. The success of Seven Days in May (1962) by Fletcher Knebel, The Day of the
Jackal (1971) by Frederick Forsyth, and The Manchurian Candidate (1959) by Richard
Condon established this subgenre. A more recent example is the 1980 film "Agency".
• Psychological thriller - In which (until the often violent resolution) the conflict between the
main characters is mental and emotional, rather than physical. The Alfred Hitchcock films
Suspicion, Shadow of a Doubt, and Strangers on a Train and David Lynch's bizarre and
influential Blue Velvet are notable examples of the type, as is The Sixth Sense by M. Night
Shyamalan and The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (who also wrote Strangers).
• Spy thriller (also a subgenre of spy fiction) - In which the hero is generally a government
agent who must take violent action against agents of a rival government or (in recent years)
terrorists. Examples include From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming, The Bourne Identity by
Robert Ludlum, and television series such as Mission: Impossible and 24 (the latter
demonstrating a break from the norm by Robert Ludlum, as it is as much a psychological
thriller as a spy thriller.)
• Supernatural thriller - In which the conflict is between main characters, usually one of which
has supernatural powers. Carrie by Stephen King and Unbreakable by M. Night Shyamalan
and Torchwood are notable examples of this genre. This type of thriller combines tension of
the regular thriller with such basic horror oriented ingredients as ghosts, the occult, and
psychic phenomenon; the supernatural thriller combines these with a frightening but often
restrained film. They also generally eschew the more graphic elements of the horror film in
favor of sustaining a mood of menace and unpredictability; supernatural thrillers often find
the protagonists either battling a malevolent paranormal force or trapped in a situation
seemingly influenced or controlled by an other-worldly entity beyond their comprehension.
• Techno-thriller - A work that usually focuses upon military action, in which technology
(usually military technology) is described in detail and made essential to the reader's/viewer's
understanding of the plot. Tom Clancy defined and popularized the genre with his The Hunt
for Red October, and is considered to be the "Father of the Technothriller."