Thriller conventions ( with thanks, to Longroadmedia who posted this originally on their blog.)
Obviously, many thrillers these days are hybrids ie. they draw from more than 1 set of conventions. However, it is still possible to create a list of thriller conventions. Consider the list below in your analysis and technical construction of a thriller:
Thriller Generic Characteristics
The narrative centres around a crime eg. a theft or a murder.
The protagonist is fallible and has an 'Achilles heel' that is exploited by the antagonist.
The title of the thriller may relate to this weakness eg Vertigo and Insomnia.
The protagonist will be seen 'in peril' in one or more scenes before the resolution.
The antagonist ensnares the protagonist in an increasingly complex web, until the protagonist feels isolated and helpless.
The narrative presents ordinary situations in which extraordinary things happen.
Micro elements combine in a build up of suspense. ( Micro means film elements like camerawork, sound, narrative, genre, mise-en-scene, lighting, costumes, actors and facial expressions, etc.)
Themes of identity are common: mistaken identity, doubling/doppelgangers, amnesia.
Themes of seeing, reflection and mirroring. Manipulation of perspectives, visual McGuffins, and optical illusions are common.
The audience of a thriller is placed in the ambiguous position of voyeur. Voyeurism can also be a theme and the objectification of female characters is common especially in earlier thrillers.
A series of/ one important enigma(s) are/is set up in the opening sequence of the film, is further complicated during the first part of the film and only resolved at the very end.