Difference Between Surprise, Suspense and Thriller

Surprise vs Suspense vs Thriller

Surprise, suspense, and thriller are three common words in English language that have similar meanings. They are mostly used in the context of work of fiction and movies. Because of the overlap in meaning, people often use these words interchangeably. However, the elements of surprise and suspense are somewhat different from one another. Thriller also has a different usage. This article takes a closer look at these integral elements of a book of fiction in these genres to make their meaning clear to the readers.


It is a common thing for movie makers to classify their movie in a particular genre to let movie goers know in advance what they can expect inside the theater. If you cannot anticipate what is going to happen in a few minutes from now when watching a film, you call it a movie in the genre thriller as it has a lot of suspense. Audience are kept in a state of apprehension and anxiety so that they wait with excitement to know what happens next. Suspense is an integral part of our lives because of the uncertain nature of life. We wait for the outcomes of events in life and feel happy or sad depending upon the outcome. Most of the time it is an emotion of relief after the event has taken place. There are times when suspense could be too great almost killing an individual to know what is going to happen.

Movie makers and fiction writers make use of this aspect of writing to keep the readers and audience hooked to the movie or the book.


Surprise is an emotion that one experiences when he is not expecting the outcome from an event. If a lowly ranked team wins a tournament, most people are surprised. The same emotion is felt by the fans of a high ranked tennis player when he is ousted in early rounds in a tournament. In fiction and movies, surprise is used to a great effect to break the monotony of the plot. Surprise can be neutral, pleasant or even unpleasant as when the top seed loses to an underdog. Surprise becomes a shock when it lasts for too long, or it is very powerful.


Thriller is not an emotional state or a feeling. It is a term used for movies and works of fiction that have lots of suspense. It is a genre (in fiction and movies) that lets people know beforehand what they can expect when they read the book or see the movie. Such movies and books stimulate the mood of the individuals because of the suspense and the uncertainty in the plot. When you are watching a thriller, you are tensed and anxious to know what happens next, and it is this adrenaline rush that keeps you glued to your seat in the theater.

What is the difference between Surprise, Suspense and Thriller?

• Thriller is a genre of movies and fiction work that have lots of suspense in them.

• Suspense is a feeling that is integral to the outcome of events in life, fiction, and movies.

• Surprise is an emotion that one experiences when the outcome of an event is least expected. It could be pleasant or unpleasant.

• Suspense and surprise are elements of a thriller.

• You can have a thriller video game, a book, or a movie.