10/09/2012 09:14 am ET Updated Dec 09, 2012

My Movie Bucket List: Thrilled By Thrillers

Dear Thrill-Seekers,

There's a key difference between "scary movies" and "psychological thrillers": That difference is brains. The former usually pictures blood and guts to earn the typical shrieks from pre-teen audiences. The latter? Psychological thrillers force you to conceptualize, to deduce, to muddle, all the while transporting you to a place not only frightening, but dangerously realistic. Memento and American Psycho are two prime examples of such masterfully rendered thrillers.

Memento, a film based on a short story by Jonathan Nolan (brother of Christopher Nolan), features Guy Pearce as a vengeance-seeking widow with short-term memory loss. The plot of the movie is in reverse, slowly peeling back layers so the viewer can understand how the beginning of the movie (chronologically the end of the plot) comes to be. Following around the disabled protagonist, the viewer gets a skewed, affected look at all of the events -- still, the viewer watches as other characters take advantage of the confused man. This film makes you think. Everything said and done is important. If you're interested in a film that forces you to build your own conclusions while still providing intense action... watch Memento now.

American Psycho leaves even more unanswered questions. After finishing the film, I sat and contemplated the possible explanations for some time. This sort of open-endedness is a quality I love in a film -- something that makes me consider all that I just witnessed and draw my best conclusion. Of course, I'd love to know what really happened -- but that's just not an option. American Psycho stars Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman, a 1980s Wall Street 20-something who has a propensity for some questionable behavior. If you don't like blood, then be prepared to close your eyes. Although there is some violence, I failed to find the content gory or distasteful. As weird as it may sound, the more graphic scenes were filmed so artfully that I was almost subdued. I'd call this film a must-see for anyone who can handle it -- it was truly cerebral.

Do you prefer the typical, easier-to-understand scary movie or the more probing thriller? Can you handle the violence of these two well-made films? As always, thank you for any suggestions or comments! To track my progress in real time, follow me on Twitter @DeChiara.

Almost Famous
American Beauty
American Graffiti
American Psycho
An Education
As Good as It Gets
Blood Diamond
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Bringing Up Baby
Burn After Reading
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Cast Away
Crimes and Misdemeanor
Dazed and Confused
Deer Hunter
District 9
Driving Miss Daisy
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Fight Club
Forrest Gump
Four Weddings and a Funeral
Gangs of New York
Garden State
Gone with the Wind
Good Will Hunting
Hotel Rwanda
Into the Wild
Kramer vs. Kramer
LA Confidential
Leaving Las Vegas
Letters from Iwo Jima
Lost in Translation
Man on Wire
Michael Clayton
Million Dollar Baby
Mystic River
No Country for Old Men
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Panic Room
Pulp Fiction
Rain Man
Rebel Without a Cause
Risky Business
Saint Elmo's Fire
Schindler's List
Shakespeare in Love
Star Wars
Terms of Endearment
The Birdcage
The Departed
The Fighter
The Godfather Trilogy
The Hours
The Hurt Locker
The Lincoln Lawyer
The Outsiders
The Shawshank Redemption
The Shining
The Silence of the Lambs

The Sting
The Usual Suspects
The Wrestler
True Grit
Up in the Air
Winter's Bone
Working Girl