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Oscar Isaac looking handsome in Triple Frontier. Photo: Melinda Sue Gordon/Netflix

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The 5 best thrillers to watch on Netflix this February

The month is shorter, but the streaming options aren’t

It’s February, Polygon readers. The weather is fickle, but your movie choices are not.

As we’ve been doing each month, we’ve picked out five great thrillers that are perfect for your February viewing and are available on Netflix. We’ve got a mix of cold-weather hits, movies with stars doing other big things, underseen 2022 gems, and more for you to dive into.

Here are the 5 best thrillers for you to watch on Netflix this February.


Arctic

A man in a red winter jacket (Mads Mikkelsen) walking away from a downed airplane surrounded by snow and mountains. Image: Bleecker Street/Netflix

Year: 2018
Run time: 1h 38m
Director: Joe Penna
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, María Thelma Smáradóttir, Tintrinai Thikhasuk

Mads Mikkelsen is the caliber of actor whose sheer magnetism, good looks, and dramatic screen presence always make for a good time, even when his characters happen to be going through what is likely the absolute worst experience of their lives. Case in point: Joe Penna’s 2018 Icelandic drama about a man trying to survive in one of the most inhospitable environments known to humanity. Mikkelsen stars as Overgård, a Danish pilot stranded in the Arctic Circle desperately trying to signal for rescue. When a nearby helicopter responds to his emergency and attempts to land only to crash, killing its pilot, Overgård rescues a young passenger (María Thelma Smáradóttir) who survives.

With the two of them lost in the Arctic wilderness and incapable of understanding one another because of a language barrier, Overgård must fight to secure rescue for both himself and his charge, all the while making several difficult choices that test his resolve. Mikkelsen commands the attention for the entirety of the film’s run time, delivering a performance that is perfectly in keeping with his penchant for stoic, sensitive, yet unquestionably capable and resourceful characters. If you’re looking for an exciting thriller with a lean and mean premise, crack open a cold one and watch Arctic. —Toussaint Egan

Triple Frontier

Garrett Hedlund, Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Pedro Pascal, and Charlie Hunnam sit around a table with beers in Triple Frontier. Photo: Melinda Sue Gordon/Netflix

Year: 2019
Run time: 2h 5m
Director: J.C. Chandor
Cast: Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Pedro Pascal

You like Oscar Isaac, right? And you like Pedro Pascal, who’s currently killing it in The Last of Us? What if I told you there was a solid heist movie starring both of them directed by the guy behind the upcoming Kraven the Hunter movie?

In Triple Frontier, a soldier pulls together a group of his former Delta Force squadmates to steal $75 million cash from a Colombian drug lord’s house. The main appeal is the cast: Isaac and Pascal are joined by Ben Affleck, Charlie Hunnam, and Garrett Hedlund, but Triple Frontier is also just a solid, by-the-numbers action thriller about sad guys doing bad things.

But at the end of the day, it’s simple math. Oscar Isaac + Pedro Pascal = a good time.

Athena

A silhouetted figure holding a flaming Molotov cocktail stands on the streets of Paris in Athena Image: Netflix

Year: 2022
Run time: 1h 39m
Director: Romain Gavras
Cast: Dali Benssalah, Sami Slimane, Anthony Bajon

No Church in the Wild” music video director Romain Gavras starts his mesmerizing thriller Athena with a showy, immersive single-take shot of a police press conference being interrupted by violence. It’s a statement of purpose — an announcement that the story ahead is going to be ambitious and stylish as well as gripping. When word spreads in a French banlieue that one of the residents, a 13-year-old Algerian-French boy named Idir, died after being beaten by police, Idir’s three brothers — a cop, a career criminal, and a furious young revolutionary — become windows into the chaotic protest that follows. As the three brothers each chase their own agendas, Gavras’ camera weaves throughout a riot in the banlieue, the police response, and individual moments of calm, often captured in those long, beautifully composed and immaculately planned takes. It’s a breathtaking achievement on a technical level, but also, from the first moments, it’s a gripping story about the relationship between police and community, and the seething anger on both sides. —Tasha Robinson

Phantom Thread

Reyolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) sizing up a dress on Alma (Vicky Krieps) in Phantom Thread. Image: Focus Features

Year: 2017
Run time: 2h 10m
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Vicky Krieps, Daniel Day-Lewis, Lesley Manville

Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread is more of a Hitchcockian mystery-drama type of thriller than a revved-up action-drama: It’s a quiet movie, where the biggest tensions are likely to be communicated in terse, hissing dialogue rather than explosions. Vicky Krieps stars as Alma, a waitress who meets and falls for fashion-empire head Reynolds (Daniel Day-Lewis), who turns out to be a selfish, arrogant womanizer. The tensions between them escalate as she refuses to back down and be sent away once he’s ready to move on from her. Phantom Thread never breaks out into the kind of showy violence that usually marks a thriller’s ending; its pleasures are all in Anderson’s rich, evocative setting, with its side characters and finely attuned details, and in the twists of Alma and Reynolds’ relationship and their jousting for the upper hand. Depending on your tastes, this is either 2017’s darkest, most caustic, most horror-tinged romance, or the perfect Valentine’s Day movie. —TR

Synchronic

Lights flash across the surface of Anthony Mackie’s face as he lies down for a brain scan. Image: Well Go USA Entertainment

Year: 2019
Run time: 1h 42m
Directors: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead
Cast: Anthony Mackie, Jamie Dornan, Katie Aselton

Before writer-directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead went to work on the Marvel Cinematic Universe series Moon Knight, they specialized in making and starring in small, innovative, genre-straddling indie movies like Resolution and The Endless. (They went back to that mode in 2022 for Something in the Dirt.) They got to work on a slightly larger scale with 2019’s Synchronic, starring the MCU’s Anthony Mackie as a paramedic who experiments with a time-travel drug in an attempt to save his missing daughter. While the film is missing some of the personal touch and texture of Benson and Moorhead’s smaller films, it’s full of unlikely twists designed to keep the audience guessing — and it keeps the surprises coming right up to the end. —TR

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