An anonymous castaway is plucked from stormy seas. He suffers from amnesia and has a clue embedded in his hip that leads to a numbered bank account in Zurich. Before this mystery man can learn his identity – Jason Bourne – he's targeted for assassination The pursuit is on, pulsing across Europe and America, each breathless step bringing Bourne closer to the conspiracy that controls his identity and his future.

If mysteries are the mind, thrillers are the body. A thriller is visceral, powered by action and violence. Thrillers may reveal the villains and their devilish plans on page one. Catastrophe looms in the margins – a nuclear device is programmed to go off in Las Vegas, terrorists have occupied the White House, a sniper gang of Russian mobsters rampages through America's streets. It's going to take a different breed of hero than a sullen, cerebral alcoholic detective to save the day. The best thriller movies and novels feature bigger than life heroes: think Jason Bourne, Jack Reacher, art restorer and master spy Gabriel Allon, knifethrowing, globetrotting mercenary Vanessa Michael Monroe. The villains range from baroque monsters like Hannibal Lecter, to Kevin Spacey's eerily calm John Doe in Seven and Nazi dentist Dr. Christian Szell, who famously tortured Dustin Hoffman in "Marathon Man" with the enigmatic question "is it safe?"

Thrillers often cut between locations around the globe: Delhi, 12:55; Shanghai, 1:02; Washington D.C., 8:17, Situation Room, National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. Thrillers generate suspense with multiple points of view – one moment we're in the killer's mind, the next we're with the fear-crazed victim; cut again, and we're with the hero as she sharpens her Krav-Maga skills and uses a skinimplanted GPS to track her prey.

The thriller genre has multiplied into sub-genres such as techno-thrillers, medical thrillers and supernatural thrillers.

The good news for feature screenwriters is that the thriller is still one of the most popular international movie genres: a well-crafted, original thriller is always in demand.

Recent big screen critical or commercial hits in the thriller genre include Sicario, Nightcrawler, Jack Reacher, London Has Fallen, The Equalizer, the Bourne series, the Mission Impossible films and the annual revenge actioners starring Liam Neeson.


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