The thriller genre can include the following sub-genres, which may include elements of other genres:
Conspiracy thriller: In which the hero confronts a large, powerful group of enemies whose true extent only he/she recognizes. The Chancellor Manuscript and The Aquitaine Progression by Robert Ludlum fall into this category, as do films such as Three Days of the Condor, Awake,Flightplan, Snake Eyes, Edge of Darkness, Absolute Power, Marathon Man, In the Line of Fire, Capricorn One, 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 emphasise action over psychological aspects. Central topics of these films include serial killers/murders, robberies, chases, shootouts, heists and double-crosses. Some examples of crime thrillers involving murderers include, Seven, A Perfect Murder, No Country for Old Men, Firewall, Hostage, Silence of the Lambs,Kiss the Girls and Copycat. Examples of crime thrillers involving heists or robberies includes The Asphalt Jungle, The Score, Rififi, Ocean's 11, Entrapment, The Killing and Reservoir Dogs.
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 Earthquake, 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, Poseidon, Knowing, Deep Impact and Twister.
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, Chloe, Color of Night, Dressed to Kill, Eyes Wide Shut, In the Cut and Lust, Caution.
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 Runaway Jury by John Grisham is a well known example of the type. Other examples include The Client, Fracture,A Time to Kill, Primal Fear, A Few Good Men, Presumed Innocent and The Juror.
Medical thriller: In which the hero/heroine are medical doctors/personnel working to solve an expanding medical problem. Robin Cook, Tess Gerritsen, Michael Crichton, and Gary Braver are well-known authors of this sub-genre. Nonfiction medical thrillers are also a subcategory, comprising works like The Hot Zone by Richard Preston. Films such as Extreme Measures, The Experiment, Anatomy, Coma and Pathology are other examples of medical thrillers.
Mystery thriller: Suspense films where characters attempt solving, or involved in, a mystery. Examples include Flightplan, Mindhunters, The Number 23, Unforgettable, Shutter Island, Secret Window, Vertigo, Identity and Memento.
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 sub-genre. Examples include, The Constant Gardener, Rendition, The Good Shepherd, Topaz, Syriana, The Interpreter, Proof of Life and The Ghost Writer.
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 are The Talented Mr. Ripley, "Orphan", House of 9, Phone Booth, Breakdown, The Collector, Panic Room, Don't Say A Word, Frailty, The Good Son, Dead Calm, Funny Games, and Misery.
Rape and Revenge films: Out of the sub-genres of exploitation film, this focuses more on the thriller elements such as suspense, tension, some action and fast-pacing rather than scares and the supernatural. Some famous rape and revenge films are The Last House on the Left, Irréversible,Thriller - A Cruel Picture, Baise-moi and I Spit on Your Grave.
Religious thriller: In which the plot is closely connected to religious objects, institutions and questions. While suspense stories have always shown a significant affinity for religion and philosophical issues (G. K. Chesterton's novel The Man Who Was Thursday has been called a "metaphysical thriller"; and Umberto Eco's novels The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum both display thriller characteristics), Dan Brown's 2003 best-seller The Da Vinci Code has led to a current boom in religiously oriented thrillers. Other examples include the film version of The Da Vinci Code, The Devil's Advocate, The Ninth Gate, Angel Heart, The Sin Eater, The Omega Code and Angels & Demons.
Supernatural thriller: In which the film brings in an otherworldly element mixed with tension, suspense and plot twists. Sometimes the hero and/or villain has some psychic ability. Examples include, Lady in the Water, Human Trace, Possession, Fallen, Frequency, In Dreams, Flatliners, Jacob's Ladder, The Skeleton Key, Signs, What Lies Beneath, Unbreakable, Rosemary's Baby, The Others, The Gift,The Dead Zone and the TV series Medium.
Techno thriller: A suspense film in which the manipulation of sophisticated technology plays a prominent part. Examples include The Thirteenth Floor; The Matrix; Jurassic Park; I, Robot; Eagle Eye; "Terminator"; Hackers; Futureworld; eXistenZ and Virtuosity.
Although most thrillers are formed in some combination of the above, there are some however that are formed with other genres, which commonly are the horror genre, spy genre and the action/adventure genre.
I have been mostly inspired by the sub-genre Crime Thriller as this creates an atmosphere where the audience is engaged to the film from the beginning. The movie Seven (Se7en) is a great example, the angles, the faded tones, the close-ups and quick cutting to intense music were all so unusual and disconcerting I was caught off guard. I immediately felt both mesmerized and at risk. And that was just during the opening credits.
The situation is formulaic, but director David Fincher contrives a stylish, intentionally ugly look that transcends the pulp narrative.