The great thing about thrillers is pretty much right there in the name — these films thrill. Sometimes thrillers are outright terrifying, sometimes they’re a little funny; either way, they’re a blast, and part of the whole appeal is that they can span more granular subgenres.
If you’re looking for an easy fix, we’ve compiled a list of the 15 best thrillers on Netflix. Whether it’s a home invasion, a murder, or relations between French- and English-speaking Canadians that’s going to keep you on the edge of your seat, the offerings are rich, and rife with plot twists and cliffhangers. Your next thrill is just a click away.
Based on a novella by Stephen King, 1922 is both one of the best adaptations of the author’s work and a terrific showcase for the underrated Thomas Jane (Punisher, The Expanse). His Wilfred “Wilf” James may be the main character of the story, but Jane leans into just how much of a scoundrel he actually is. His perception of his wife Arlette (Molly Parker) as a nag — and the implicit invitation for the audience to see her the same way — gets turned on its head when it becomes clear how far Wilf is willing to go in order to keep the family living on the farm. By the time Wilf’s demons come back to haunt him, there’s no question that he deserves the retribution.
The line between what’s real and what’s not blurs in Bluebeard, which tracks the spiral of a doctor, Byun Seung-hoon (Cho Jin-woong), when his crime novel obsession coincides with the mutterings of a patient who, while under the effect of painkillers, seems to out himself as a murderer. As Seung-hoon’s imagination starts to run away with the details, director Lee Soo-yeon plays with what’s in his head and what he’s actually seeing, taking the idea of the unreliable narrator to an extreme.
Bon Cop, Bad Cop (2006)
On the funnier side of things is Bon Cop, Bad Cop, which, as suggested by its title, goes in for a little bilingual humor as two policemen — one from Ontario, one from Quebec — try to work together to find a serial killer. Colm Feore and Patrick Huard star as Martin Ward and David Bouchard, the bon cop and bad cop, respectively. Packed with as many thinly veiled allusions to the National Hockey League as instances of cultural commentary, Bon Cop, Bad Cop is a classic buddy movie with just the amount of action mixed in.
Cold in July (2014)
In Cold in July, Jim Mickle strikes a supremely delicate — and delicious — balance between hewing to expectations as to macho revenge flicks and tearing them apart. When Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall) accidentally shoots and kills a home invader, he’s commended, but the act shakes him up, as does the baggage that the would-be robber brought along with him. The dead man’s father (Sam Shepard) appears like a harbinger of doom, with the flamboyant private investigator Jim Bob Luke (Don Johnson) joining the party along the way.
The Departed (2006)
Rat or no rat, The Departed is still great. Martin Scorsese’s remake of the Hong Kong crime thriller Infernal Affairs moves the action to Boston, and stars the murderers’ row of Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, and Martin Sheen in a tale of cat and mouse — or rat and rat. There’s a mole in the police department and a mole in the Irish Mob, the reveal of which leads to a race against time as they struggle to find and outwit each other.
Gone Baby Gone (2007)
In light of his turn as Batman, it may be easy to forget that Ben Affleck has several Oscar-nominated films under his belt. Among them is Gone Baby Gone, his feature directorial debut. His little brother Casey Affleck stars as Patrick Kenzie, a private investigator whose life becomes consumed by the search for a missing girl. The film tugs at threads beyond the investigation, but the question of whether or not she ought to be returned to her seemingly neglectful mother (Amy Ryan, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her performance) if she’s found.
The home invasion movie gets a fresh spin in Hush, a lean, mean feature that centers on a deaf-mute woman’s fight against a would-be killer. Maddie (Kate Siegel, who also co-wrote the film) lives on her own in the woods, and becomes the focus of a man (John Gallagher Jr.) after he chases and kills one of her friends, discovering through Maddie’s failure to notice that she cannot hear anything. It’s a terrific modern slasher, and even got the seal of approval from Stephen King.
How good is HUSH? Up there with HALLOWEEN and--even more--WAIT UNTIL DARK. White knuckle time. On Netflix.— Stephen King (@StephenKing) April 21, 2016
The Invitation (2015)
Karyn Kusama is no stranger to dark territory (Jennifer’s Body, Destroyer) and The Invitation may just be her darkest work. The film is every dinner party guest’s worst nightmare, and a rewardingly agonizing slow burn. Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and his girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) attend a dinner party thrown by Will’s ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard). As the evening progresses, it becomes clear that there are sinister forces at work, specifically tied to the grief support group Eden is a part of, called “The Invitation.”
No Country for Old Men (2007)
The Coen brothers have always been fascinated with the Western, and No Country for Old Men serves as their contemporary take on the genre. Despite knowing better, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) takes the cash he discovers at the site of a drug deal gone bad, putting himself in the crosshairs of hitman Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem). With little music to accompany the unfolding tense chase, No Country is a sparse observation of lawmen and outlaws reckoning with a changing world, their consciences, and the idea of fate.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Anthony Hopkins won the Oscar for Best Actor at the 64th Academy Awards with only 16 minutes of screen time. His performance as Hannibal Lecter remains one of the greatest ever committed to film, and is matched beat for beat by Jodie Foster’s turn as Clarice Starling, the FBI trainee who comes into his orbit as she pursues the serial killer known as “Buffalo Bill.” The Silence of the Lambs is also one of the late director Jonathan Demme’s best (and most well-known) films, and rightfully so, as he balances the incomprehensibly horrific with startlingly tangible, human emotions.
The Sixth Sense (1999)
M. Night Shyamalan’s third film — and breakout feature — may have had its big twist spoiled by the way it’s saturated popular culture, but it’s still one of Shyamalan’s best. The film’s final twist is the type to prompt rewatching to pick out all the clues leading up to it. It also boasts a star performance from Bruce Willis, playing against the hard-boiled action hero type that he’s now primarily known for. As skeptical child psychologist Malcolm Crowe, he’s the perfect foil to the young Cole (Haley Joel Osment), who says he can commune with ghosts.
Small Crimes (2017)
In case Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s mastery of playing long-suffering scoundrels is still in question after Game of Thrones, Evan Katz’s Small Crimes seals the deal. As Joe Denton, a corrupt ex-cop who has just been released from jail and is essentially persona non grata with everyone in town, Coster-Waldau remains just this side of sympathetic, even as Denton gets roped back into unfortunate habits. The film is a little reminiscent of the Coen brothers’ oeuvre in how dense and almost laughably twisty the plot is — it just happens to be a little meaner, and a little bloodier.
Small Town Crime (2017)
John Hawkes (Deadwood) is the primary reason to catch Small Town Crime, a contemporary thriller that stars the veteran character actor as Mike Kendall, a fired police officer who invents a new identity for himself as a private investigator. When, after yet another bender, he comes across a woman who’s been left for dead, he takes justice — and his dreams of getting back on the force — into his own hands. The film can never quite settle on a tone, but Hawkes is reliably great as a leading man, holding the shaggy thriller together.
Super Dark Times (2017)
Teenagers Zach (Owen Campbell) and Josh (Charlie Tahan) are best friends, but their relationship comes under strain when a scuffle in the woods leads to a tragedy. Zach struggles to cope, while Josh seems utterly unfazed. From there, the violence — and the attendant paranoia, as well as adolescent envy — escalates. Directed by Kevin Phillips, Super Dark Times is a superbly moody piece, painting suburbia in a greyness that feels almost post-apocalyptic, and twisting a coming-of-age narrative into something distinctly grimmer.
Based on the book by Robert Graysmith (and starring Jake Gyllenhaal as the author himself), Zodiac recounts the search for the infamous “Zodiac Killer.” The film follows Graysmith as he becomes more and more obsessed with the investigation, and co-stars Mark Ruffalo as proto-Columbo Dave Toschi, and Robert Downey Jr. as the journalist Paul Avery. The real-life case remains unsolved, and the film — mildly spicy take incoming — remains David Fincher’s best film.