A genre that can be tricky to define, thriller movies have the ability to satisfy that horror-film urge without the risk of losing sleep. With gory, horrifying, and potentially scarring movies like Evil Dead Rise out there, it’s good to have a list of movies that get the blood pumping in a much milder sense. While some are high-tension, competent action dramas, others on this list display some more horror-esque qualities that don’t push the envelope too far. With the existence of multiple sub-genres of thriller movies, the majority of them are accounted for in this list of the 12 best thriller movies on Netflix.
Whatever a viewer may be looking for in a movie, a good thriller movie will have a little bit of something for everyone. You can also check out our list of the best Netflix movies for a wider range of genres.
Possibly Hitchcock’s most popular and influential movie of his career, Psycho is responsible for some revolutionary film tactics that would go on to be replicated and referenced for in some of the best horror movies for decades. On the run from her recent embezzling crime, Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) checks into the Bates Motel and discovers a troubling dynamic within the Bates family. While this is technically one of Hitchcock’s horror movies, it’s dated enough to be considered a mild scare on the horror scale.
See our list of the best horror movies on Netflix for more like this.
One of the more modern thrillers on the list is The Devil All the Time is an eerily chilling drama that tells multiple horror stories all surrounding one town. Born of a local family with an aggressive, war veteran father, Arvin (Tom Holland) attempts to stay morally true while the evil-doers of the town start making waves. While this movie treads into horror territory from time to time, the brilliant performances from the actors in this movie make it worth the watch.
Read our review of The Devil All the Time.
A gripping espionage movie set in the years preceding World War II, Munich: The Edge of War delivers as an honorable rendition to the international bestseller by Robert Harris. Facing the imminent Nazi-German invasion of Czechoslovakia, Munich hosts an emergency conference where the British insurgent Hugh Lestrat (George MacKay) gets caught in the political crossfire. With the help from some brilliant acting by the lead roles, this film keeps its audience in suspense throughout.
See our list of the best WWII movies for more like this.
Tiptoeing a bit closer to the horror genre for its graphic imagery, The Platform is a gritty and original social commentary about wealth, class, and society overall. Set in a dystopian future prison, inmates live on separate but open floors where the only available food is lowered for all to share–with the lowest-floor inmates getting the worst of it. While the film properly communicates its message in a bearable way, the overall aesthetic is hard to swallow for some.
Another of Hitchock’s beloved classics–yet lesser so than the other two on this list–is Marnie, one of his psychologically darker and more cerebral films. Plagued with psychological issues and exceptionally sticky fingers, Marnie (Tippi Hedren) is blackmailed into marriage with the conflicted and smitten Mark Rutland (Sean Connery) after attempting to steal from him. Though this may not have aged well when it comes to gender equality, it remains a Hitchcock classic that keeps the viewer enticed as the psychological thriller it is.
Brimming with superb acting performances from the leads and supporting roles, Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners is an intense, on your seat crime thriller from start to finish. When his daughter is kidnapped and the only suspect is released on account of no evidence found, Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) harrasses Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) and eventually takes matters into his own hands. While this is one of Villeneuve’s less supernatural recent films, the consistently bleak and tense tone of the film is enough to haunt anyone.
Read our review of Prisoners.
Based on the Stephen King book of the same name, The Mist is a supernatural thriller that plays into the psychology of human desperation under pressure. Suddenly surrounded by a thick, mysterious mist, a group of townspeople are trapped inside of a grocery store where they face unknown creatures outside and spiritual fanatics inside. The scares and tension are all presented masterfully by the thrill-master Frank Darabont, only slightly brought down by a few unsatisfying performances.
A successful reiteration of the 1930 classic of the same name, All Quiet on the Western Front is a visual masterpiece of harrowing survival in World War I. After arriving on the front lines of the westernmost German forces, Paul Baümer (Felix Kammerer) discovers the violent, ruthless tradgedies of war fighting in the trenches. What qualifies this as a thriller is how well the film does to put the audience in the hero’s soggy boots, only made more succinct by Volker Bertelmann’s Oscar-winning original score.
Read our review of All Quiet on the Western Front.
An imaginitive and resourceful independent film with horror attributes, Level 16 is a dystopian, Handmaid’s Tale-esque thriller that packs a punch. Trapped in a regimented, prison-like boarding school with a handful of other young women, Vivien (Katie Douglas) teams up with some fellow inmates and discovers the horrible truth about their situation. Though the narrative type feels a bit familiar, the creative use of color and framing creates a claustrophobic atmosphere to keep this derivative plot going.
One of the Hitchcock classics that has become more comical over the years due to its dated practical effects, The Birds still introduces a terrifying concept that is crisply communicated by the film-master himself. As Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) goes about her life and finds a new romance, a series of strange happenings with birds begin to terrorize the town. Since most of the film is a slow and steady build-up to the climax, the perpetual fear of whats to come drives this film home to its more horrific conclusion.
In a sequel that properly replicates the look and feel of the original, Red Dragon is a bone-chilling thriller that delivers more of the similar twists and turns. After nearly losing his life during the Dr. Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) investigation years prior, Will Graham (Edward Norton) must face his past nemesis to gain an advantage in his newest serial killer case. Despite feeling a bit lackluster in terms of originality, Hopkins’ performance is truly and unsurprisingly incredible to the point where missing it would be a crime.
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