The Best Thrillers Currently on Netflix
These movies deliver the dosage of suspense you require right now.
What could be more thrilling than sitting at home, safely plopped on your couch, staring at a screen? Watching a thriller, obviously. The best entries in the movie genre will get your blood pumping, dilate your pupils, and cause your palms to sweat, all without the subjecting yourself to the threat of actual bodily harm like the characters in them. That's the beauty of these good thrillers on Netflix: You get to watch the pros play out psychological and physical drama, while you kick back after a long day or week of work. In short: You're going to love these thrillers on Netflix, so settle in.
For his follow-up to his two action epics, The Raid and The Raid 2, director Gareth Evans dials back the hand-to-hand combat but still keeps a few buckets of blood handy in this grisly supernatural horror tale. Dan Stevens stars as Thomas Richardson, an early 20th century opium addict traveling to a cloudy island controlled by a secretive cult that's fallen on hard times. The zealous religious group is led by a bearded scold named Father Malcolm (Michael Sheen) who may or may not be leading his people astray. Beyond a few bursts of kinetic violence and some crank-filled torture sequences, Evans plays this story relatively down-the-middle, allowing the performances, the lofty themes, and the windswept vistas to do the talking. It's a cult movie that earns your devotion slowly, then all at once.
The Beguiled (2017)
This Sofia Coppola remake of the 1971 Clint Eastwood-Geraldine Page drama returns to the Farnsworth seminary, a haven for proper young women avoiding the corruption of Civil War. Tucked away in the mist-swept backwoods of Virginia, the disciples of Miss Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman) live regimented days, a strain of well-intentioned repression eventually imploded by the arrival of John McBurney (Colin Farrell), an injured Union corporal. Hospitable to a fault, Farnsworth and her girls tend to the soldier, who draws out their carnal hunger (no one can resist Farrell's chest hair) before lashing out with his own animal instincts. Simple, stylish, and threaded together from the quirks of female and male behavior, The Beguiled is a sexual Southern Gothic fairy tale that is wisely more humid than hot.
More than two men going on a vacation together in a horror film is never a good idea. Calibre, a horror tale that follows two childhood friends on a hunting trip in the Scottish Highlands, is a clever and tense entry in this long tradition of male bonding gone haywire. Father-to-be Vaughn (Jack Lowden) and his gruffer buddy Marcus (Martin McCann) aren't as close as they used to be, but the trip loosens them up and rekindles their friendship. After a tragic accident occurs in the woods, Marcus makes a decision that the more reserved, contemplative Vaughn regrets. Director Matt Palmer finds psychological nuance in this well-trodden material, making a familiar hike feel like a brand new journey into the unknown.
Unlike the Unfriended films or the indie hit Searching, this web thriller from director Daniel Goldhaber and screenwriter Isa Mazzei isn't locked into the visual confines of a computer screen. Though there's plenty of online screen time, allowing for subtle bits of commentary and satire, but the looser style allows the filmmakers to really explore the life and work conditions of their protagonist, rising cam girl Alice (Madeline Brewer) who logs online one day to find her identity stolen. Immersing ourselves in her life IRL and online, we follow the young woman on a terrifying, pop-art-like hunt for who or what is taking over not just her viewers, but her entire life.
The Departed (2006)
Don't let your annoying college roommate's affection for The Departed ruin the movie for you—it's an enormously entertaining crime film. Leonardo DiCaprio's expert slow-boil performance as undercover cop Billy Costigan is a big reason for that and marked a major career step forward; he stood tall against the Martin Scorsese film's many big-name scenery chewers and kept his Boston accent under control. Just try to forgive the little rat at the end.
One of the most terrifying and depressing outbreak apocalypse movies ever made, Steven Soderbergh's Contagion gained a strange second life at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the lightning fast spread of an unknown virus, the movie bounces between several different narratives—an epidemiologist working to create a vaccine, a conspiracy theorist vlogger's attempt at fame by claiming to have an unlikely cure, a father's fight to protect his teen daughter from a rapidly deteriorating outside world—to tell a cohesive tale of a world brought nearly to its knees by the tiniest of invaders. It's frightening because it's never too heightened, never spilling into melodrama, and, now that we've lived through our own version, closer to reality than we'd ever care to admit.
Donnie Brasco (1997)
If you love mob classics like Goodfellas and The Godfather, we'd be amiss not to suggest you check mafia movie Donnie Brasco, as well. Held down by the lead performances of Johnny Depp and Al Pacino, the gang movie tells the true story of FBI agent Joe Pistone (Depp) who went undercover as "Donnie Brasco" in '70s NYC to buddy up with hitman Lefty Ruggiero (Pacino) in order to infiltrate the mob. The film places you on the receiving end of Pistone's wire, closely and carefully documenting the ins and outs of crime life and the relationships that make it the unconventional "family" that it is. Fuhgetaboutit, this is a mob thriller must-see.
Tossing aside Thor's massive hammer and trimming his gnarly beard, after Avengers: Endgame Chris Hemsworth picked up an assault rifle and got to work in Extraction, a Netflix shoot-em-up that re-teams the Australian actor with his former Marvel filmmaking buddies Joe and Anthony Russo. While Hemsworth's gun-toting commando protagonist Tyler Rake—yes, that's his name—lacks comic-book superpowers and Norse god strength, he can take a beating and keep fighting. At one point in the film's big show-stopping chase sequence, Rake gets slammed by a speeding car. His solution? Locate a bigger vehicle, preferably a large truck, and hit the bad guy back. That type of strategic thinking should give you a sense of Rake's tactical prowess and of the movie's blunt-force approach to action filmmaking.
If you didn't watch this in your high school biology class, now's the time. In the future, human life is driven by eugenics, with only the strongest and least disease-prone are allowed to have well-paying jobs and reproduce. Conceived outside the genetics program attempting to perfect the human body, Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke) secretly takes on the identity of another man in order to achieve his dream of becoming an astronaut, a job reserved for only the most genetically perfect candidates.
Gerald's Game (2017)
Mike Flanagan's Stephen King adaptation of Gerald's Game wrings big scares from a small location. Sticking close to the grisly plot details of King's seemingly "unfilmable" novel, the movie chronicles the painstaking struggles of Jessie Burlingame (Carla Gugino) after she finds herself handcuffed to a bed in an isolated vacation home when her husband, the titular Gerald, dies from a heart attack while enacting his kinky sexual fantasies. She's trapped—and that's it. The premise is clearly challenging to sustain for a whole movie, but Flanagan and Gugino turn the potentially one-note set-up into a forceful, thoughtful meditation on trauma, memory, and resilience in the face of near-certain doom.
The Gift (2015)
In less daring hands, this psychological thriller may have telegraphed its legitimately disturbing ending and devolved into another direct-to-VOD movie you will never watch. But Australian writer-star-director Joel Edgerton goes all in with this tale about an alpha yuppie (Jason Bateman, exuding impish charm in a non-comedic role) struggling to deal with his forlorn wife (Rebecca Hall) and the relentless friendliness of a long-lost schoolmate (Edgerton).
Martin Scorsese's classic take on Nicholas Pileggi's Wiseguy unfolds like Alice in Wonderland, with youngster Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) plummeting down the mafia rabbit hole into a hell he could never have imagined. Performances by Robert de Niro and Joe Pesci are notorious, but it's the way that Scorsese's coked-up camerawork weaves through history that makes Goodfellas frightening, delirious, and darkly funny. What do you mean I'm funny?
The Hateful Eight (2015)
Quentin Tarantino has something to say about race, violence, and American life and it's going to ruffle feathers. Like Django Unchained, the writer/director reflects modern times on the Old West, but with more scalpel-sliced dialogue, profane poetry, and gore. Stewed from bits of Agatha Christie, David Mamet, and Sam Peckinpah, The Hateful Eight traps a cast of blowhards (including Samuel L. Jackson as a Civil War veteran, Kurt Russell as a bounty hunter known as "The Hangman," and Jennifer Jason Leigh as a psychopathic gang member) in a blizzard-enveloped supply station. Tarantino ups the tension by shooting his suffocating space in "glorious 70mm." Treachery and moral compromise never looked so good.
Hush is undeniable proof that a movie need not be startlingly unique or densely plotted to be a damn good time. In many ways we've heard this story before—a solitary young woman must fend off a persistent stalker who is skulking around outside—but thanks to director Mike Flanagan, a master of "home invasion" tropes, Hush turns out to be a slick, quick, and remarkable suspenseful tale.
I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017)
In this maniacal mystery, Ruth (Melanie Lynskey), a nurse, and her rattail-sporting, weapon-obsessed neighbor Tony (Elijah Wood) hunt down a local burglar. Part Cormac McCarthy thriller, part wacky, Will Ferrell-esque comedy, I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore is a cathartic neo-noir about everyday troubles. Director Macon Blair's not the first person to find existential enlightenment at the end of an amateur detective tale, but he might be the first to piece one together from cussing octogenarians, ninja stars, Google montages, gallons of Big Red soda, upper-deckers, friendly raccoons, exploding body parts, and the idiocy of humanity.
Riffing on the Agatha Christie novel And Then There Were None, the delightfully strange thriller Identity packs a bunch of characters in a Nevada motel for some good old fashioned sleuthing and time-shifting tension-building. While John Cusack anchors the movie as an ex-cop limo driver, actors like Ray Liotta, John Hawkes, Amanda Peet, and John C. McGinley ping off of him with winning intensity. Director James Mangold (Logan) soaks the performers in rain and lets the mystery build to one of those ludicrous yet memorable endings that will either leave you scratching your head or giggling that they actually pulled it off.
Lost Bullet (2020)
Alban Lenoir, the star and co-writer of this proudly sturdy French thriller, has a rugged-yet-droll Statham-like quality, that rogue-like charisma that never reads as desperation. He plays Lino, a hapless thief who turns into an unlikely car mechanic for the police, and he spends most of the movie attempting to clear his name for a murder he didn't commit. (Tracking down the lost bullet of the title is easier said than done.) The best scene in the movie, a police station beatdown where Lino escapes from an interrogation room and fends off a number of officers with all available objects, occurs relatively early on, but Lenoir keeps you engaged as the plot plays itself out. Each head-denting, eyebrow-singing stunt gives him another opportunity to keep his cool.
Margin Call (2011)
The mathematical headache of the 2008 financial crisis makes for profane drama in this steely debut feature from writer and director J.C. Chandor (A Most Violent Year). With a cast including Jeremy Irons, Demi Moore, Stanley Tucci, and Zachary Quinto, the movie goes for the talky, put-down-filled tone of David Mamet's classic Glengarry Glen Ross, turning a world of spreadsheets, mortgages, and neckties into a verbal bloodbath. Sometimes it plays like comedy. But, mostly, it feels like a horror movie.
Michael Clayton (2007)
George Clooney made a career out of playing gray knights, and his work as the title character in this icy New York thriller might be the pinnacle of his work. Clayton is a super-cynical, debt-ravaged "fixer," stuck doing damage control amid a massive class-action lawsuit. (Think Olivia Pope from Scandal, but somehow more intense.) He also plays poker, drives cars that explode, and does his best impression of Shiva, god of death. Tony Gilroy's Oscar-winning legal drama is addictive fun in that way complex conspiracy yarns can be, and it has a handful of memorable exchanges to boot—wait till you see the final confrontation with Tilda Swinton.
Molly's Game (2017)
Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) made his directorial debut with the true story of Molly Bloom (played by Jessica Chastain), a failed Olympic skier who became one of the most cunning operators of high-stakes, celeb-filled, backroom poker games in the country. Bouncing between Molly's rise in LA's Viper Room to her fight against legal investigation and total bankruptcy, the drama shuffles language like a deck of cards, the staccato sentences of his poker-playing spitfires punctuated by the witty English equivalent of flops, turns, and rivers. Though probing male ego and the addictive qualities of living an "all in" life, the movie is a forge that holds Chastain's fire—she gets the lines, she gets the moments, she gets the beats that could have easily been Pacino's in the '80s. But in Molly's Game they're all hers, and she slays them.
Charlize Theron delivered an Oscar-winning performance in Patty Jenkins' directorial debut, portraying real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos in a drama that chronicles her killing spree and relationship with her girlfriend (played by Christina Ricci). Theron underwent an immense physical transformation in order to inhabit Wuornos, but it's not just her looks that stand out—down to her body language and the cadence of her Southern drawl, she encompasses the character in a way that makes you both frightened of her and emphasize with her, considering how emotionally damaged and abused she was before turning to murder.
The Net (1995)
In this high-concept thriller, Sandra Bullock plays Angela Bennett, a quiet computer analyst who spends her days and nights hunting for bugs in software, logging on to order pizza and revealing way too much information about herself in chat rooms. Her fairly lonely existence gets turned upside down after her employer FedExes her a floppy disk that provides backdoor access to classified information she should not be looking at. Very quickly, Angela's colleague is killed, an attempt is made on her life, and her identity is stolen, so she has no choice but to go on the run to clear her name. From the writers of The Game, the cyber action-thriller is weirder than you might recall, but you'll be so glad you logged on to revel in this '90s nightmare of the internet.
Jake Gyllenhaal gives a career-best performance in this nocturnal noir, playing the haunted, single-minded Lou Bloom, a scavenger of human suffering whose motives are as twisted and opaque as the seedy LA underworld he inhabits. That is, as a cameraman documenting crime scenes for a local news station—but that’s media for you! It’s a twisted thriller, testing how much you can take as you go on an after hours high-speed chase, and it’s all set against writer-director Dan Gilroy’s pitch-black vision of sunny California that forces you to see the City of Angels in a whole new light.
The Nightingale (2019)
The Nightingale is a harrowing watch—a piece of art that's unblinking in its depictions of the trauma its protagonist Clare (Aisling Franciosi), an Irish convict in Australia in 1825, suffers. In the early minutes of the nearly two and a half hour movie, Clare is assaulted and her husband and child are killed in front of her eyes by Hawkins (Sam Claflin), the British soldier to whom she is essentially enslaved, and his gang of followers. Her experience sets her off of a path of retribution, following Hawkins through the untouched Tasmanian land alongside Billy (Baykali Ganambarr), an Aboriginal guide, who she treats cruelly until they start to better understand the cycles of abuse they have both endured at the hands of their British colonizers.
Nocturnal Animals (2016)
Seven years after A Single Man, his directorial debut, fashion designer Tom Ford stepped back behind the camera to construct a relationship thriller that rings of Cormac McCarthy. Only Ford could put together a movie this stylish and gritty about a woman (Amy Adams) haunted by her ex-husband's (Jake Gyllenhaal) latest revenge novel that unfolds on the screen with every page turn. It'll leave you wondering, "What the hell did I just watch?" in the best way possible.
This wild ride, written and directed by Bong Joon-ho (Parasite, Snowpiercer), is part action heist, part Miyazaki-like travelogue, and part scathing satire. It's fueled by fairy tale whimsy—but the Grimm kind, where there are smiles and spilled blood. Ahn Seo-hyun plays Mija, the young keeper of a "super-pig," bred by a food manufacturer to be the next step in human-consumption evolution. When the corporate overlords come for her roly-poly pal, Mija hightails it from the farm to the big city to break him out, crossing environmental terrorists, a zany Steve Irwin-type (Jake Gyllenhaal), and the icy psychos at the top of the food chain (including Swinton's childlike CEO) along the way. Okja won't pluck your heartstrings like E.T., but there's grandeur in its frenzy, and the film's cross-species friendship will strike up every other emotion with its empathetic, eco-friendly, and eccentric observations.
The Old Guard (2020)
Gina Prince-Bythewood's adaptation of Greg Rucka's comic series is a superhero movie with a soul. It stars Charlize Theron as Andy, aka Andromache, a warrior who has lived for six millennia and doesn't really see the point anymore. But she and her team of fellow immortals are drawn back into conflict when they start being hunted by a pharmaceutical brat who wants to use them as test subjects. At the same time, a new member joins their ranks, Nile (KiKi Layne), who survives a throat-slitting and is inducted into this strange club. Prince-Bythewood melds immensely fun fight sequences—it's a joy to watch Theron throw a punch—with groundbreaking moments of quietude, including a gay romance that's like nothing you've seen before in an action movie.
Olympus Has Fallen (2013)
The White House siege movie Olympus Has Fallen is not a great movie. It's not even the best action movie about machine-gun-wielding bad guys taking over the White House released in 2013. (That honor goes to the Jamie Fox and Channing Tatum Die Hard ripoff White House Down.) So, what makes Olympus Has Fallen worth watching? It's an essential introduction to Mike Banning, a ferocious Secret Service Agent played by Gerard Butler who appears in the sequels London Has Fallen and Angel Has Fallen, and the movie is key, in all its goofy brutality, to understanding Butler's mid-career resurgence as an action star. The Banning-verse starts here.
Director David Fincher has a thing for serial killers. The man who helmed Zodiac and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, got his first taste with Se7en, about two detectives (Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman) on the hunt for a murderer obsessed with punishing those he perceives to embody the seven deadly sins. The famous final murder scene ("What's in the box?!") grabs all the attention, but it's a payoff that's earned by the dark, brooding character studies that Fincher builds over the course of the film, a style that would become a hallmark of his later work.
Small Crimes (2017)
Small Crimes is a carefully paced thriller starring the Kingslayer Jaime Lannister himself, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. As Joe Denton, a crooked cop turned ex-con, Coster-Waldau plays yet another character with a twisted moral compass, but here he's not part of some mythical narrative. He's just another conniving, scheming dirtbag in director E.L. Katz's Coen brothers-like moral universe. While some of the plot details are confusing—Katz and co-writer Macon Blair skimp on the exposition so much that some of the dialogue can feel incomprehensible—the mood of Midwestern dread and Coster-Waldau's patient, lived-in performance make this one worth checking out.
Directing duo Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead have a very distinct style: weird stuff in the sky, complicated brotherly relationships between men, new and fascinating conceptions of the nature of time. Synchronic is another dive into the depths of what the fabric of the universe is woven from, spinning a wild tale of death, drugs, and time travel amidst the dim, sinister backdrop of nighttime New Orleans. Jamie Dornan and Anthony Mackie play a pair of EMTs cruising the NOLA nights responding to emergency distress calls. On a few of these calls, they come across a number of people who have either mysteriously disappeared or somehow wound up dead, each incident having to do with a new drug called "Synchronic." When Dornan's daughter goes missing, his friend must figure out how to use the killer drug to find her.
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
Can you really trust Matt Damon? That's the question driving this tasty soufflé of a psychological thriller adapted from a novel by Patricia Highsmith. The eternally boyish actor was especially innocent and naive here, fresh off the success of Good Will Hunting and Saving Private Ryan, but his Tom Ripley is a monster capable of manipulating Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow with sociopathic ease. Like super-spy Jason Bourne, Ripley is the perfect role for Damon: You never quite know what's lurking under the surface.
Taxi Driver (1976)
Travis Bickle (a young Robert De Niro) comes back from the Vietnam War and, having some trouble acclimating to daily life, slowly unravels while fending off brutal insomnia by picking up work as a... taxi driver... in NYC. Eventually he snaps, shaves his hair into a mohawk and goes on a murderous rampage while still managing to squeeze in one of the most New York lines ever captured on film ("You talkin' to me?"). It's not exactly a heart-warmer—Jodie Foster plays a 12-year-old sex worker—but Martin Scorsese's 1976 Taxi Driver is a movie in the cinematic canon that you'd be legitimately missing out on if you didn't watch.
Time to Hunt (2020)
Unrelenting in its pursuit of scenarios where guys point big guns at each other in sparsely lit empty hallways, Time to Hunt is a South Korean thriller that knows exactly what stylistic register it's playing in. A group of four friends, including Choi Woo-shik (Parasite, Train to Busan), knock over a gambling house, stealing a hefty bag of money and a set of even more valuable hard-drives, and then find themselves targeted by a ruthless contract killer (Park Hae-soo) who moves like the T-1000 and shoots like a henchmen in a Michael Mann movie. There are dystopian elements to the world—protests play out in the streets, the police wage a tech-savvy war on citizens, automatic rifles are readily available to all potential buyers—but they all serve the simmering tension and elevate the pounding set-pieces instead of feeling like unnecessary allegorical padding. Time to Hunt uses its elongated runtime to build sequences in a meticulous, considerate way that should appeal to viewers who have seen Heat, Collateral, and Miami Vice too many times to count.
Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)
Netflix's "ludicrously fun and gory art-world satire" sees director and screenwriter Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler) team up with Jake Gyllenhaal in a thriller that rips apart the effete LA art world. While pricey auctions and pretentious collectors are relatively low-hanging fruit, Gilroy, Gyllenhaal, and Rene Russo bring a fast-paced humor that makes the plot—an outsider artist's haunted work starts killing people—more tolerable than you might think. Oh, and names like Morf, Rhodora, and Ventril elevate the film's self-aware kitschiness, which makes the satire even more cutting.