Netflix can serve as a source of solace when you need it, or a wake-up call when you need it. The latter situation calls for a solid thriller that, while light on the gore, nonetheless manages to send shivers down your spine. The streaming service offers a good number of films that fit the bill, but they also have a lot of other movies that could be filed under the heading “thriller” but aren’t as good of a use of your time, so we’ve compiled an up-to-date list of the greatest thriller films available on Netflix.
If you need a bit of guidance on what thrillers you should check out, look at our recommendations below.
Chris Hemsworth (The Avengers) and Joe Russo (The Gray Man) and Sam Hargrave (Extraction) all come back for Extraction 2 as the black ops mercenary Tyler Rake. In the beginning of the film, Rake is enjoying his retirement in Austria. However, his peace is short-lived when a mysterious stranger approaches him and asks him to help free a mother and her two daughters from a Georgian prison. The film is a spectacular ride full of violent action and exciting chases that have your heart racing all during this risky escort operation, as would be expected from a partnership between Russo and Hargrave, who previously worked together on multiple MCU films.
This 2014 horror movie is one of those rare examples in which a basic premise is taken to terrifying new heights. The film chronicles what happens after Jay (Maika Monroe) gets a curse from having s*x. Now that she is the target of an unknown group, Jay and the audience are led on a voyage of paranoia in which every new person they see could be a possible danger to her. Fans of the horror genre and those interested in suspense films should not miss It Follows, which features a breakout performance by Maika Monroe.
The Pale Blue Eye
Without the work of the great American author Edgar Allan Poe, the mystery and thriller genres would be far less robust. Although it shares its title with a Louis Bayard novel, The Pale Blue Eye is not an adaptation of one of Poe’s stories; rather, it is a fictional detective story that just so happens to be set during Poe’s gloomy time at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. The film’s tale unfolds when a cadet at the academy is discovered hanging from a tree; it is a period piece with elements of horror and mystery. Perhaps this was a suicide attempt. Except that someone had removed his heart from his lifeless chest and cut it out. A crusty old investigator (Christian Bale) is brought in, but he quickly realizes that he will need the assistance of a promising young cadet (Harry Melling’s Edgar Allan Poe) if he is to learn the academy’s secrets. Bale is as good as ever and gives one of his best performances of the year, but the real star of this dark and unsettling tale is Harry Melling. The picture unfolds with the deliberate horror of an uncoiling serpent, exposing new secrets at every turn and never letting you rest easy until the very end. Whether or whether you’re a fan of Poe, The Pale Blue Eye is a must-see for any enthusiast of gothic mystery.
Top Gun: Maverick, Joseph Kosinski’s 2022 film, was a huge success, but his Netflix thriller, Spiderhead, is every bit as exciting. Chris Hemsworth acts as a mysterious scientist conducting chemical experiments on inmates at a private research facility/prison in this action thriller. One of the inmates, played by Miles Teller, begins to question the point of the experiments they are undergoing. The tension builds steadily throughout the film, culminating in a surprising climax. Teller and Hemsworth have great chemistry, and Jurnee Smollett gives a nuanced and appealing portrayal. Spiderhead is one of the best movies that Netflix has released this year because of the fantastic performances and exciting story. The fact that the film’s premise has a good chance of being true in the near future just adds to its impact.
When you want something that will burn slowly yet steadily, this is it. 1922, adapted from a novella by Stephen King, draws you in with its sluggish, foreboding pace. It doesn’t rely excessively on blood and guts, but nevertheless gives the audience chills. A farmer named Wilfred “Wilf” James (Thomas Jane) plans to murder his wife, Arlette (Molly Parker), and he narrates the story. Sounds easy enough. But what happens next is a tale of fine people undone by their own greed. It’s creepy, horrific, and on par with Edgar Allan Poe’s darkest works. When it comes to Netflix’s selection of thrillers, this is among the best.
In Operation Mincemeat, Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen play intelligence operatives who devise a plan to use a dead body to divert attention from the Allies’ attack on Sicily; the film is based on real events and is a tense historical war drama about one of the most daring deceptions that won World War II. While Operation Mincemeat may not be as exciting as some of the other items on this list, it still has plenty of unexpected turns. Over the course of preparing for and carrying out the operation, a wide variety of unexpected and anticipated challenges will arise. However, the elements of spy drama are tempered by character development and an intriguing examination of the connections that evolve among the people participating in the scheme.
Rosamund Pike’s performance as a cold-hearted con artist who targets the elderly in this black comedy film set for release in 2020 won her a Golden Globe. In I Care a Lot, Pike plays Marla Grayson, a court-appointed guardian who abuses her position to steal from her wards. Her latest prey, a woman calling herself Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest), turns out to be linked to a violent gangster, played by the legendary Peter Dinklage, and her sleazy scheme hits a roadblock. I Care a Lot is a wild ride of a thriller with a lot of dark comedy, sarcasm, and suspense.
The Platform is a fantastic cross-genre high-concept thriller in which the inhabitants of an impossible-looking skyscraper experience both plenty and famine depending on the floor they happen to be living on. Every day, a huge table is loaded with food and slowly lowered through the building, one floor at a time, with the people at the top living in gluttony while those far below them starve to death. However, there’s a catch: every so often, the inhabitants are gassed, reshuffled, and they never know which floor they’re going to wake up on next. The setup takes a while, but the story it tells is fantastic, both in terms of the societal issues it raises and the constant tension created by the prospect of discovering what lies behind the closed doors.
Alexandre Aja has directed some of the most persistently intense films of the 21st century, including High Tension and The Hills Have Eyes to Crawl. The director takes a (slight) break from horror for his 2021 Netflix original Oxygen, which follows a woman (Mélanie Laurent) who awakens in a cryogenic pod with no recollection of who she is, how she got there, or — her biggest problem — what to do about her rapidly depleting supply of oxygen. Aja doesn’t completely abandon his horror flair, and the occasional flourishes of body horror only serve to increase the tension. Oxygen’s twists don’t always hit before you realize them, but when the director is as good at turning up the pressure as Aja is, your stomach will end up in your throat regardless of how well you anticipate the next drop in the track. Foutch, Haleigh
Nocturnal Animals is an underrated thriller that boasts a stellar ensemble cast, a complex storyline, and a beautiful visual style. The story centers on an art gallery owner (Amy Adams) who is reading a novel written by her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal) in Tom Ford’s second directorial effort after the critically praised A Single Man. As she reads, the novel’s events are acted out on screen, and you begin to see connections between the gallery owner’s real life and the novel’s events, as well as the reason her marriage ended. “- Adam Chitwood
One of the most unsettling and engrossing novels by Stephen King is the novella Gerald’s Game. The story of one woman’s seemingly impossible struggle to survive a very slow, silent death while tending to the pain she has buried deep inside herself is the epitome of a page-turner; it will keep you glued to the next word. The entire story is told from the female protagonist’s point of view as she lies tied to the bed in a remote cottage after her husband dies suddenly during a tryst. Mike Flanagan’s 2017 adaptation was a passionate but oh-so-horrifying picture that was authentic to King’s writing in all the right ways, but for a long time it was believed unfilmable. Frightened of the sight of blood? Gerald’s Game is, at its heart, a beautiful picture about overcoming adversity; nevertheless, it is also a violent survival story, and the film’s climax is so intense that it caused the loudest audience freak-out I’ve ever witnessed. Author: Haleigh Foutch
If you like Nightcrawler, writer/director Dan Gilroy’s other Netflix film, Velvet Buzzsaw, might be up your alley. The film, which is both a thriller and a slasher, is set in the realm of contemporary art and follows the discovery of a cache of artworks by a mysterious and recently deceased artist. As soon as it becomes on display, people start dying in horrific ways. Gilroy goes for the jugular in terms of the art world, and the picture has a lot of dark humor and Jake Gyllenhaal offers a wonderfully colorful performance. “- Adam Chitwood
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