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A man with a spear stands on the side of a boat tipping into the sea while staring into the eyes of Great White Shark barring its teeth in Jaws. Image: Universal Pictures

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The 5 best thrillers to watch on Netflix and Hulu this September

Say goodbye to summer with these spine-chilling thrillers

Toussaint Egan is an associate curation editor, out to highlight the best movies, TV, anime, comics, and games. He has been writing professionally for over 8 years.

Happy September, Polygon readers!

Summer is nearly behind us, which means the fall slate of movie and television releases is nearly upon us. The spooky season is on the horizon, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait until October to enjoy the best thrillers currently streaming on Netflix and Hulu.

We’ve dived into the libraries of two of the most popular streaming platforms to bring you the best thrillers to watch as you wave goodbye to summer. From Michael Mann’s chilling neo-noir thriller Collateral and Steven Spielberg’s 1975 classic Jaws to Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer and more, here are the best thrillers to watch this month on Netflix and Hulu.

Thrillers on Netflix


Tom Cruise looks dramatically off in the distance in a nighttime shot from Collateral. Image: DreamWorks Pictures

Year: 2004
Run time: 2h
Director: Michael Mann
Cast: Tom Cruise. Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith

It’s Tom Cruise’s most terrifying role — what’s not to love?

Collateral follows Max (Jamie Foxx), a Los Angeles taxi driver who finds himself living the worst night of his life after he picks up Vincent (Cruise), a well-dressed passenger who offers him $600 to be his personal chauffeur for the night. When Vincent’s true identity as an assassin is brought to light, Max must find a way to seek help without incurring the wrath of his cold-blooded abductor.

With stunning nighttime cinematography, bracing action, and a brilliant cast of performers (including a brief performance by Javier Bardem prior to his breakout role in 2007’s No Country for Old Men), Collateral is a standout entry in the career of a consistently great filmmaker.


Roy Scheider as Martin Brody scooping chum into the ocean, unaware of the great white shark surfacing in the water in Jaws. Image: Universal Pictures

Year: 1975
Run time: 2h 4m
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss

Summer may be over, but fear of man-eating sharks is evergreen.

Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster sent shockwaves through American audiences back in 1975 by asking them one simple question: What if the greatest serial killer was nature itself? Set in the fictional New England resort town of Amity Island, Jaws centers on a police chief (Roy Scheider), a marine biologist (Richard Dreyfuss), and a professional shark hunter (Robert Shaw), who band together to take on a malicious great white shark terrorizing beachgoers over the Fourth of July weekend. Adapted from Peter Benchley’s novel of the same name, Spielberg’s film eschews the first two-thirds of the source material in favor of an original story about institutional corruption in the face of impending danger (a resonant theme with the then-recent Watergate scandal), building to the film’s climactic third act, which more strictly hews to Benchley’s book.

Arguably the quintessential summer horror blockbuster of American cinema, Jaws cemented Spielberg’s breakthrough as one of the preeminent directors of his generation, a fact that would be later proven by a string of similar era-defining movies, like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Why not see the summer off by watching one of the great summer blockbusters?


snowpiercer: back of train residents conspire as a group Image: The Weinstein Company

Year: 2013
Run time: 2h 6m
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Cast: Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Tilda Swinton

Fall is right around the corner, and what better way to brace for the chilly weather than to watch Bong Joon-ho’s dystopian climate apocalypse thriller starring Chris “America’s Ass” Evans?

Set in the not-so-distant future, Bong’s film follows the inhabitants of the Snowpiercer, a massive circumnavigational train and the last refuge for humanity following a climate catastrophe. Evans stars as Curtis Everett, a member of the Snowpiercer’s underclass, who mounts a revolt to overthrow the train’s oppressive upper class in order to create a better life for everyone else. With the help of Namgoong Minsoo (Song Kang-ho), a security specialist exiled to the back of the train, and his clairvoyant daughter Yona (Go Ah-sung), Curtis and his rebellion must battle against the train’s army of security soldiers to reach the front and kill the Snowpiercer’s conductor, Wilford (Ed Harris).

Snowpiercer is a gripping and hallucinatory sci-fi thriller, packed with exhilarating moments of action and desperation as the haves and the have-nots of humanity’s last bastion of survival duke it out for the fate of the future. With Bong’s latest sci-fi film, Mickey 17, slated to premiere next year, now is as perfect a time as any to revisit the director’s first foray into Hollywood filmmaking.

Thrillers on Hulu

How to Blow Up a Pipeline

Two people wearing gas masks work with chemicals, while one points, in How to Blow Up a Pipeline. Image: NEON

Year: 2023
Run time: 1h 44m
Director: Daniel Goldhaber
Cast: Ariela Barer, Kristine Froseth, Lukas Gage

Coming off of a summer where worldwide temperatures reached their highest on record, one marked by several climate-induced disasters including the Canadian and Hawaiian wildfires, Daniel Goldhaber’s eco-thriller based on Andreas Malm’s nonfiction book resonates even more with every passing day.

How to Blow Up a Pipeline follows a fictional group of climate activists, brought together by a mutual feeling of anger and desperation, who devise a plan to blow up an oil pipeline in West Texas. The film takes its time building up to its inevitable conclusion, exploring the lives of each of the activists and what exactly has radicalized them to take such extreme action in the fight for climate justice.

Whether it be in the form of a loved one stricken ill through environmental pollution or a home torn asunder via eminent domain of an oil conglomerate, Goldhaber’s film does something few other films are willing to do: portray the lives of activists with controversial ideologies with the same level of complexity and humanity often reserved for characters defending the status quo. No matter your takeaway from watching How to Blow Up a Pipeline, one thing is certain: It is unmistakably a reflection of its cultural moment, and a film unafraid to ask hard questions that are only becoming more pressing with each passing day.

No Exit

The image of a person standing in front of a burning building reflected in a rearview mirror. Image: 20th Century Studios

Year: 2022
Run time: 1h 35m
Director: Damien Power
Cast: Havana Rose Liu, Danny Ramirez, David Rysdahl

If you’re looking for a paranoid thriller where nobody trusts anyone and everyone is tired, No Exit is the film for you.

Bottoms’ Havana Rose Liu stars as Darby, a recovering drug addict who escapes rehab when she learns her ailing mother is in the hospital. Stranded in a blizzard, Darby pulls over at a visitors’ center filled with a group of fellow stranded strangers. Upon discovering one of the vehicles parked outside contains a kidnapped girl, Darby must devise a plan to uncover the identity of the vehicle’s owner, rescue the girl, and safely escape through the blizzard to find help. No Exit is a solid single-location thriller à la John Carpenter’s The Thing or Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, a tightly wound mystery that slowly unspools into a chaotic, violent frenzy for survival. Bundle up, make some popcorn, and settle in for this thoroughly entertaining thriller.

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