If there's one genre we're more than qualified to recommend, it's thrillers: What's more pleasurable than the feeling of edge-of-your-seat tension interspersed with action sequences and high-stakes romance? All the better if it comes in bingeable form right on Netflix.
The Best New Shows and Movies on Netflix This February
So, the next time you desire titillating thrills that won't stop just because one episode has ended, gobble up these heart-pounding thrillers on Netflix.
As one might expect, the Royalty and Specialist Protection Branch of London’s police service handles a number of dangerous missions. Following officer David Budd, portrayed by Richard Madden of Games of Thrones fame, Bodyguard documents this high-risk job, specifically in the protection of the U.K.’s Home Secretary (Keeley Hawes). In the Netflix original, although Budd must devote himself to the politician’s protection, he is still reeling from PTSD after serving in Afghanistan, and feels conflicted working for a major proponent of the war. A political thriller at its finest, Bodyguard illustrates the various costs at play in Budd’s role, from his personal views to potential attacks and developing attraction for a woman whose policies he cannot stand -- never failing to leave out the drama.
Dexter Morgan is a blood-spatter analyst in the Miami Police Department by day and moonlights as a serial killer who kills other serial killers and heinous criminals who've slipped through the justice system. With a standout first season, in Dexter's hunt for the Ice Truck Killer that ends in a devastating twist, Dexter's later seasons fell prey to mismanaged obsolescence -- how long could he keep up the bit around his coworkers, including his homocide detective sister? Still, if you’re blood thirsty, Dexter is likely the murderous thriller to satisfy all your cravings for procedural investigations, mystery, and deadly action sequences to amp up this Showtime classic.
Fauda, an action thriller about an elite team of undercover Israeli commandos working in Palestine, is perhaps the best of Netflix's recent foreign-language shows, a frantically paced and politically charged melodrama filled with sequences of white-knuckle suspense straight out of Homeland or 24. But unlike those spy dramas, Fauda spends nearly as much time on the private lives of Palestinians as it does on its gun-toting heroes. It's got a moral complexity that its more simplistic American counterparts often lack.
Jason Momoa took time out from playing Aquaman to star in this Canadian import about the 18th-century North American fur trade. It's like The Revenant starring Khal Drogo, with fur pelts draping Momoa's considerable mass as he takes on Hudson's Bay Company.
It plays loose with the facts of the FBI Unabomber investigation and it won't teach you how to remember to spell Ted Kaczynski. But sometimes you just can't stop yourself from bingeing a nicely paced true-crime dramatization with unlikely actors in the crucial roles, like we have here with Avatar's Sam Worthington (as a dogged FBI agent who uses linguistics to track down the Unabomber), Avengers: Age of Ultron's Paul Bettany (as the hermetic, manifesto-writing mad bomber), and Party Down's Jane Lynch (as Janet Reno!).
David Fincher loves serial killers. The director of Seven, Zodiac, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo launched Netflix into the world of original television when he applied his dark, brooding aesthetic to a different kind of sociopath: obscenely ambitious politician Francis Underwood, focal point of House of Cards. In Mindhunter, Fincher (who directed the first two and final two episodes) follows a young, self-assured FBI agent, Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff); his mentor, Bill Tench (Holt McCallany); and psychologist-turned-consultant Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) as they establish a division of the Bureau tasked with solving a "new kind of crime" that lacks what most law enforcers think of as rational motives. While the best moments of the show are more meditative, introspective looks at the vast range of the human psyche, there's enough crime-chasing to get your blood pumping.
Killing off your show's lead character is a daunting prospect -- even more so if viewers know it’s coming. When Eric Newman and José Padilha took over Narcos' reins for Season 2, they managed to orchestrate the demise of Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura) with suspense and a sense of inevitability. It sure helped that the show cut down on Agent Murphy's incessant narrating from Season 1, and the contrast between splashy cartel schemes and small-scale depictions of those they affected served to ground an illicit drama in humanity.
Narcos: Mexico (2018- )
And if you just can't get enough Narcos, check out the spinoff series, which focuses on -- you guessed it -- Mexican cartels. Michael Peñ a and Diego Luna star in a series that's just as high-stakes, just as violent, and just as action-packed as the original.
Amid the Homelands and Zero Dark Thirtys of the world, it's easy to forget that the United States decades-long global war on terror is just that: global. The coalition of nations that fought with America in Afghanistan included Norway, and it's in a foreign camp that the show begins, complete with a tense military operation to take out a suspected suicide bomber. Make no mistake, though: This is not a war series, but a political one, focusing on the treacherous ripples terrorism sets off through national politics. In this case, the political implications are told through the lives Erling Riiser (Aksel Hennie), who served in Afghanistan, and his wife, Johanne (Tuva Novotny), a government worker who must navigate the business interests related to Norway's involvement in the region.
The OA (2016-present)
If Stranger Things was a little too basic for you, give this wonky sci-fi series from co-creators Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij a shot. The otherworldly Marling stars as Prairie, a blind woman who returns to society after years in captivity and quickly starts a youth group with some troubled teens. It gets crazier from there. Yes, there's interpretive dance. Yes, there are weird flashbacks to Russia. Yes, it will leave you scratching your head and searching the internet for clues. But sometimes the crazy shows are the ones you love the most.
It's easy to see why early critics compared Ozark to Breaking Bad: Drug money and morally gray characters abound in both. But as Marty Byrde -- a brilliant Chicago-based financial advisor who moves his family to Missouri's Ozarks on a life-or-death deadline to wash truck loads of cash for Mexico's second biggest drug cartel -- Jason Bateman never goes full Heisenberg, even as he creeps closer and closer to that line in Season 2. His character's main motivation for doing anything is to protect his family, as he's more someone who's been stuck in this underworld for decades than someone who's trying to take it over. Laura Linney (Marty's wife), Jason Butler Harner (an undercover fed), and Julia Garner (one sketchy family's substitute don) also deliver particularly memorable turns to help make this slow-burn work wonders over its tense and dark (like, literally -- it looks so dark) 10-hour runtime. The Byrde saga might not yet be as good as its spiritual forefather, but it's better than a lot of its cousins (even Bloodline!). It'd be a mistake to not give it a shot.
This SundanceTV series explores what happens when a technicality frees a death-row inmate (Aden Young) from prison after 20 years. While some in his small Georgia town remain on his side, others believe he really did rape and kill a young woman, and the tension plays out in a slow burn that doesn't overindulge in blistering action sequences or plot twists. The show's greatest strength, at least in its first two seasons, is that it isn't entirely concerned with its main character's guilt; it's content instead to track how he (and everyone around him) copes with his new life.
A modern CW take on the yuk-yuk teen comic Archie may sound like a shot of arsenic to prestige TV binge-watchers, but with a murder mystery undercurrent, soap drama worthy of The O.C., and a sheen that looks like Twin Peaks by way of 300, Riverdale rises above everything you think you should be watching. Each young actor on the show is a discovery (OK, maybe not Arch himself, but this is why the comics always emphasized "& Friends") and the fully packed episodes earn all the twists and turns. Watch Riverdale and you'll be sifting through grocery store comic shelves in a week.
More often than not, Shonda Rhimes' political crisis management show plays like a stick of dynamite with an abnormally long fuse. Simply put: If you haven't heard Kerry Washington deliver one of Olivia Pope's blistering speeches, you haven't lived.
The Sinner (2017-present)
In the first episode of The Sinner, Jessica Biel’s character Cora Tannetti stabs a man to death in broad daylight with her family sitting nearby. Why she erupted in such a violent act is just the first mystery in this Golden Globe-nominated series about what drives average people to commit heinous crimes. As Cora awaits arraignment in court, a detective feels compelled to understand what fueled her rage, revealing an immensely troubled past. The way the series unfolds will keep you on your toes, as you’re led by an unreliable narrator into a history of events that constantly evolves from fact to fiction, while constantly remaining horrific as the truth begins to surface.
Spies of Warsaw (2013)
This British miniseries assigns a French military attaché (David Tennant) in Poland to keep tabs on German intentions in the lead-up to WW2. Spoiler alert: Germany eventually invades, but the central tension in the years before 1939 paints a complicated picture of world politics that constantly rearrange themselves, with a love triangle thrown in for good measure. You won't see much of James Bond in the quiet exploits of Tennant's Jean-Francois Mercier, but the suspense of a pre-war fuse will help you burn through the whole series in short order.
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