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.
The main character in this movie is named "Joe Braven" and he's played by Jason Momoa. That simple fact alone should convince you to watch this scrappy, low-budget action movie about a logger tasked with fighting off a heavily armed gang of drug dealers who stash some primo shit in his log cabin. If the protagonist had a less goofy name, the movie would still be effective—the director is a former stunt coordinator and he knows how to properly stage all the gunfights, bow-and-arrow deaths, and snowmobile chases—but the stupid grin that you get on your face every time someone says "Joe Braven" really elevates this throwback outdoors thriller. Momoa has the sturdy, low-key charisma of the best '80s action heroes, and it's a shame that the the laws of modern blockbuster-dom mean he'll likely spend more time starring in CG monster throw-downs like Justice League when he could be snapping necks in gruff B-movies like Braven. In a just world, the Braven-verse would be rapidly expanding every year.
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.
Robert Towne's Chinatown script is often cited as one of, if not the greatest of all time. (And not just because of that iconic line.) As a struggling private eye in 1930s Los Angeles, Jack Nicholson dives headfirst into a mystery that turns into a maelstrom of corruption. The result is an engrossing noir tale, equal parts maddening and pleasurable, that still lives up to its reputation.
The Clovehitch Killer (2018)
Movies about kids and teens who find themselves on a dark adventure, left to confront something horrible, are a dime a dozen. This indie is one of those, but a rock-solid chiller that burns slowly with a grim atmosphere. It's about a kid who slowly becomes convinced that his father is an infamous serial killer who escaped justice years earlier. Strong performances from Charlie Plummer and Dylan McDermott and a smart screenplay by Christopher Ford keep this potentially familiar tale from ever becoming obvious or redundant.
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.
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.
The Game (1997)
Michael Douglas gives great thriller face. With his slicked-back hair, wrinkled brow, and penetrating eyes, the actor excels at playing rich, entitled white guys who are either losing their cool or getting their comeuppance. In The Game, director David Fincher's fiendishly clever mouse-trap of a movie about an investment banker thrust into a possibly dangerous ARG, Douglas must react to a Kafkaesque scenario where every element of existence might be part of a vast conspiracy. Luckily, the Oscar-winner is up to the task, grounding the occasional ludicrous twists with subtle emotional responses and a brittle sense of humor. Functioning as both a satirical take on '90s corporate America and a Hitchcockian roller coaster ride, the film is a masterful showcase for Douglas's oily charms.
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.
Good Time (2017)
In this greasy, cruel thriller from Uncut Gems directors the Safdie brothers, Robert Pattinson stars as Connie, a bank robber who races through Queens to find enough money to bail out his mentally disabled brother, who's locked up for their last botched job. Each suffocating second of Good Time, blistered by the neon backgrounds of Queens, New York and propelled by warped heartbeat of Oneothrix Point Never's synth score, finds Connie evading authorities by tripping into an even stickier situation.
The Guest (2014)
After writer-director Adam Wingard notched a semi-sleeper horror hit with 2011's You're Next, he'd earned a certain degree of goodwill among genre faithful and, apparently, with studio brass. How else to explain distribution for his atypical thriller The Guest through Time Warner subsidiary Picturehouse? Headlined by Dan Stevens and kindred flick It Follows' lead scream queen Maika Monroe, The Guest introduces itself as a subtextual impostor drama, abruptly spins through a blender of '80s teen tropes, and ultimately reveals its true identity as an expertly self-conscious straight-to-video shoot 'em up, before finally circling back on itself with a well-earned wink. To say anymore about the hell that Stevens' "David" unleashes on a small New Mexico town would not only spoil the fun, but possibly get you killed.
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 Am Mother (2019)
Artificial intelligence continues to inspire contemporary sci-fi, maybe even at an increasing rate as it becomes more and more integrated into daily life. I Am Mother finds a teenage girl (Clara Rugaard) raised in a post-apocalyptic underground shelter by a robot known as Mother (voiced by Rose Byrne), who's built to nurture a new generation and eventually send them back up to the surface, where much of humankind has been wiped out. But when a woman, played by Hilary Swank, arrives out of nowhere at their facility, the girl must reconsider all everything she knows, including her trust of Mother. It's a simple set-up, but exceedingly ominous in the sci-fi genre's tried and true trope of warning us of our dependence on technology.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
There's something off about Martin (Barry Keoghan), the surviving son of a man who died under the knife of surgeon Steve Murphy (Colin Farrell). At the beginning of spine-tingling Sacred Deer, Steve steps up to be a father figure to Martin, gauche and puzzling and bubbling with darkness. The relationship eventually sours, and it's from there that director Yorgos Lanthimos, known for bitter strains of magical realism, finds footing for an ice-cold rumination on regret and responsibility. Farrell is gifted unprecedented complexity in his Sophie's Choice, Nicole Kidman challenges him with every move, and Keoghan gives a performance that echoes Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. It's a maddening and exhilarating time at the movies.
Mad Max (1979)
Before Tom Hardy was grunting his way through the desert and crushing tiny two-headed reptiles as Max Rockatansky, there was Mel Gibson. George Miller's 1979 original introduces the iconic character and paints the maximum force of his dystopian mythology in a somewhat more grounded light—Australian police factions, communities, and glimmers of hope still in existence. Badass homemade vehicles and chase scenes abound in this taut, 88-minute romp. It's aged just fine.
Miss Sloane (2016)
The world of lobbyists doesn't seem like the sexiest fodder for a movie, but this political thriller manages to make it so. Jessica Chastain plays the titular Miss Sloane, a fierce gun control lobbyist who tends to call the shots in DC, until a major misstep makes the opposition, and then all of the Senate, call her practices into question. Chastain is the real draw here—her fast-talking, tough, and morally obsessed character verbally obliterating anyone who stands in her way, even if it means compromising her values. It's more of a character study than anything, but makes political corruption and intrigue feel as tense as ever.
Mystic River (2003)
In the early 2000s, director Clint Eastwood was cranking out Oscar bait like it was his job, which it was, and Mystic River actually delivers the goods (not to mention actual Oscars for Sean Penn and Tim Robbins). Part mystery, part revenge narrative, part meditation on grief and trauma, Mystic River's complexity remains accessible as an exploration of the unbreakable links between childhood and adulthood. Even Sean Penn haters will be moved.
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.
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.
The Pelican Brief (1993)
The Pelican Brief is a legal thriller with an ambitious scope, incorporating Supreme Court Justice assassinations, a scheming president looking to reshape the court, and an environmental conspiracy involving an evil oil tycoon. It's also completely bizarre—Julia Roberts plays a law student who writes a paper with a theory about the assassinations that falls into the wrong hands—but the glossy execution, with a brightly lit and oddly soft-spoken paranoid style courtesy of All the President's Men director Alan J. Pakula, makes it compelling even in its many dull stretches.
Shot Caller (2017)
Sometimes the consequences of a split-second mistake unfold into a series of events that change your life forever. That's exactly what happens to Jacob Harlon, played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister from Game of Thrones!), after he unintentionally runs a red light, killing a friend who was riding in the car with him. After taking a plea deal for manslaughter, Harlon finds himself caught up in kill-or-be-killed prison gang violence, ultimately getting sucked into the Aryan Brotherhood, where this former family man must make decisions he never would have considered possible in his previous life. Director Ric Roman Waugh (Angel Has Fallen) brings a sensitive touch to this sturdy prison drama of bloodshed and redemption.
Shutter Island (2010)
In his haunted adaptation of Dennis Lehane's pulpy gothic novel, director Martin Scorsese uses visceral horror imagery to convey despair. Leonardo DiCaprio's terrified mug is the film's spookiest special effect. With every grimace, furrowed brow, and anguished sob, he brings you into the tortured psyche of Edward Daniels, a man who cannot escape his past no matter how hard he tries. It's a carefully modulated performance that helps sell the film's occasionally wonky twists. While Shutter Island is more of a psychological thriller than a horrifying spook, DiCaprio will have you feeling as if you're thrown right into Daniels' mind—which is just as scary. More than anything, it makes you wish DiCaprio will return to the horror genre in the future.
Small Crimes (2017)
It's always a little discombobulating to see your favorite Game of Thrones actors in movies that don't call on them to fight dragons, swing swords, or at least wear some armor. But that shouldn't stop you from checking out Small Crimes, 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. Despite the lack of dragons.
State of Play (2009)
Do you find yourself engrossed by political thrillers uncovering ploys that go all the way to the top? Then this movie should keep you engrossed. Inspired by '70s movies that shaped the genre, like All the President's Men and Three Days of the Condor, State of Play follows a journalistic probe into the assassination of a charming congressman's mistress, which leads to deep-state and corporate conspiracy theories. The cast is rounded out by a handful of big names, like Ben Affleck as the new hot shot in DC and Russell Crowe as an old school reporter, who also happens to be (unconvincingly) college buddies with Affleck, as well as Rachel McAdams, Helen Mirren, Jason Bateman, and others. Its portrayal of newsrooms may not be totally realistic, painting it like a dangerous form of espionage, but you'll be enthralled by their investigation nevertheless.
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.
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.
Uncut Gems (2019)
In Uncut Gems, the immersive crime film from sibling director duo Josh and Benny Safdie, gambling is a matter of faith. Whether he's placing a bet on the Boston Celtics, attempting to rig an auction, or outrunning debt-collecting goons at his daughter's high school play, the movie's jeweler protagonist Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) believes in his ability to beat the odds. Every financial setback, emotional humbling, and spiritual humiliation he suffers gets interpreted by Howard as a sign that his circumstances might be turning around. After all, a big score could be right around the corner.
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.