Not enough excitement in your life? In the mood for a little more suspense? Now that the kids have gone to bed, and you’ve got the TV all to yourself, maybe it’s time to check out something thrilling on Netflix.
Here are Ten Really Good Thrillers currently streaming on Netflix:
I love horror, I love scary movies, I love thrillers. If things creep you out and spook you? I love it. – Lana Parrilla
1. Vanilla Sky
In an English-language remake of the 1997 Spanish film Abre los Ojos (“Open Your Eyes”), director Cameron Crowe, on the heels of directing 2000’s Almost Famous, helms this 2001 genre-defying blockbuster. The film follows David Aames, played by Hollywood megastar Tom Cruise, a man charged with murder, who tells his life story from his prison cell to a court psychologist, played by a fatherly Kurt Russell.
Cruise, in his first collaboration with Crowe since 1996’s Jerry Maguire, gives a convincing performance as a wealthy bachelor whose lush lifestyle come’s to a crashing halt as a brief love affair and a sudden accident leave him disfigured. Soon after, Aames begins to loose his grip on who he is and reality itself. The film has been noted for it’s genre-bending twists, as well as it’s killer soundtrack.
2. Basic Instinct
In the thriller genre, there are good films, and there are great films. And then there is Basic Instinct. Paul Verhoeven ‘s 1992 mega-successful blockbuster set the gold standard for genre. Sharon Stone plays Catherine Tramell, a pulp novelist who is the prime suspect in a murder investigation, because the victim is killed in the exact way that she describes in her maybe-not-so-fictional book–with an ice pick, during an intense session of love-making. Did she do it? Or is she being framed? Michael Douglas plays the lead investigator who is seduced by Tramell, both by her cunning, as well as her appetite for sexual acrobatics.
The film is noirish, suspenseful, and yes, intensely thrilling. It also holds the record for the highest amount of money paid for an original screenplay sold on speculation ($3 million, to be precise). Still not interested? This is the thriller you’re after.
3. Pulp Fiction
When it comes to thrilling moments, Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 gangster classic Pulp Fiction is in a league of its own. There’s the samurai sword revenge scene, in which Bruce Willis gets even with a couple of redneck perverts. There’s a surprise, bullet-to-the-brain execution that leads to a cool lesson in crime-scene clean-up by Harvey Keitel. There’s the standoff scene, in which Samuel L. Jackson talks Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, and John Travolta all out of shooting one another in a diner stick-up gone bad. Not enough adrenaline coursing through you, yet? There’s literally an emergency adrenaline-injection scene, in which Uma Thurman get’s a needle full of epinephrine in the chest to keep her from overdosing–arguably the most intense syringe-stabbing moment ever put to film.
There’s even a dance-off scene, which, well, if not thrilling, is pretty damn impressive, in that it makes doing the twist seem cool again. (Side note: Pulp Fiction is one of the Ten Highest Rated Movies on Netflix of All Time. So there’s that.)
Few films have captured the effects of America’s war on drugs as personally and effectively as Steven Soderbergh’s 2000 release Traffic. With an all-star cast that includes Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Benicio Del Toro, Don Cheadle, Dennis Quaid, and Luis Guzmán, the movie depicts the dark world of drug trafficking, as it is experienced from the multiple perspectives of its characters: a Mexican narcotics officer (played by Del Toro), two undercover DEA officers (played by Cheadle and Guzmán), a wife of a drug lord (played by Zeta-Jones), and a chilling performance by Erika Christensen, as the daughter of an American drug-czar politician (played by Douglas), whose life falls apart as she succumbs to a drug addiction.
Both a critical and commercial success–the film went on to win several Academy Awards—Traffic is truly thrilling when one considers that much of what occurs in it is based on a dark reality that is happening every day.
What makes a solid thriller film? Is it a suspenseful plot? A chilling performance? Haunting cinematography? Well, with writer-director Dan Gilroy’s 2014 film Nightcrawler, you get all three in spades. The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal as an uber-creepy freelance journalist on the hunt for late-night crime and gore footage, which he sells to L.A. local-news stations’ highest bidders. What starts as a grim way to make a quick buck quickly spirals into a dark, unscrupulous obsession for Gyllenhaal’s character, who casts every last moral aside, all in the name of getting that perfect shot of someone else’s personal horror.
Amateur thrill-seekers beware: This movie stays with you, for days and days after you’ve watched it.
6. Fatal Attraction
Ever cheated on someone? Ever been tempted? The much talked about Fatal Attraction will make you think twice. Directed by Adrian Lyne, this 1987 classic is often regarded as a straight-up horror film, because it depicts every cheaters worst nightmare: the psycho ex-lover who “Will. Not. Be. Ignored.” Michael Douglas (can we just call him the king of the thriller genre, at this point?) plays Dan Gallagher, a rich, successful, and happily married man who makes the mistake of having an affair with a seemingly unthreatening woman, named Alex (played by Glenn Close). Notice I said seemingly unthreatening? Yeah. When Gallagher brushes off their hook-up as a one-time-only deal, Alex buys a one-way ticket to crazy town, and her obsessive stalking puts everything Gallagher ever loved in danger.
Couples planning on watching this movie together: be prepared for a frank discussion about trust and boundaries. Also, rabbits. (Don’t ask.)
7. Reservoir Dogs
Hats off to Quentin Tarantino: he made it twice to this list. 1992’s Reservoir Dogs is not only one of the writer-director’s most beloved films, it is also his feature-length film debut–and boy, it’s a doozy. Known as the heist movie that doesn’t ever show the actual heist, the movie depicts the events before and after a jewel robbery gone awry. A black-suited bunch of gangsters with color-coded code names–Mr. Pink, Mr. Orange, Mr. Blonde, etc.–have a tense meet-up in a warehouse to deal with bloody aftermath of their botched job. Turns out, one or more of them is not who they say they are, and it’ll take a violent showdown of guns, gasoline, and one cringe-inducing straight-razor torture scene done to the tune of Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck in the Middle with You” to sort things out. You don’t know your Tarantino until you’ve seen this thrilling classic.
Speaking of thrilling debuts, 1998’s Following is the first film from blockbuster writer-director Christopher Nolan (of The Dark Knight, Inception, and Memento fame). The movie follows a nameless young writer (played by Jeremy Theobald) who, in an effort to find inspiration for his novel, begins to follow random people he sees on the street. A thief, named Cobb (played by Alex Haw), catches on to the writer’s pursuit, and invites him to take his hobby further by following him onto a few of his burglaries. As he is pulled deeper and deeper in the criminal underworld, the writer soon realizes he has made a big mistake–only too late.
Fans of Nolan’s other films will spot all the trademarks of the filmmaker’s signature style: a fractured narrative, slick visuals, and one big plot twist that changes everything.
9. In Bruges
Though largely considered a pitch-black comedy, 2008’s In Bruges is, at its core, a crime thriller–albeit a darkly funny one. Two Irish hit men, played by Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, flee to Belgium after a contract killing goes horribly wrong. The two crooks engage in a little Old World sight-seeing in their touristy, storybook town of Bruges, as they await orders from their motormouthed employer, played by Ralph Feinnes (who’s clearly having a ball in the roll). Hilarity does indeed ensue, but not without the ominous threat of violence, as one final hit looms over the hitmen’s heads.
Side note: For those of you not averse to dropping F-bombs every other word, this film’s dialogue is endlessly quotable.
Don’t be fooled by the trailers for this 2014 film. Written and directed by debut feature-filmmaker Jennifer Kent, Babadook, while at times horrifying and haunting, is not a horror nor a haunted house film. It’s a psychological thriller, through and through. The film stars Essie Davis, playing a mother still reeling from the sudden death of her husband in a car wreck, and trying to raise her increasingly erratic six-year-old son, played by Noah Wiseman. Things are troubling enough for the two of them, until a mysterious book appears in their house, which tells the tale of a demonic entity known as the Babadook. There after, spookier and spookier things start to happen, which at first seems like the work of the Babadook, but may in fact be something far more terrifying.
Watch this thriller in the dark, if you dare.
The Thrills Continue . . .
So there you have it, Ten Really Good Thrillers on Netflix. Don’t have a Netflix account? Sign up for one of their free 30-day trials.
And if a movie isn’t what you are after, there are tons of Netflix original shows to watch.