The Best Thrillers on Netflix Right Now

Sometimes you want Netflix to provide comfort food, and other times you want it to give you a jolt to the system. When it’s the latter, you’ll want a good thriller that may not go heavy on the blood and gore, but still manages to rattle you to your core. The streaming service has a solid selection of picks from the genre, but they’ve also got a lot of other movies labeled under “thriller” that wouldn’t be the best use of your time (looking at you, The Imitation Game; you’re a period drama, not a thriller).

If you need a bit of guidance on what thrillers you should check out, look at our recommendations below. And if you’re looking for a broader list of recommendations, check out our list of the best movies on Netflix right now.

Berlin Syndrome

Image via Vertical Entertainment

Director: Cate Shortland

Writer: Shaun Grant

Cast: Teresa Palmer, Max Riemelt,

Clare Havel (Teresa Palmer) is a young Australian photojournalist on vacation in Berlin. She’s living the dream. Taking in the sights, falling in love with a new city, and just maybe falling in love with a handsome local man, Andi (Max Riemelt), who strikes up a passionate romance with her. But after she goes back to his place for a romantic night, she wakes up to the next morning to realize he’s locked her in his apartment on his way to work, and with a slow dawning terror, she understands that he never intends to let her out. This is how we enter Berlin SyndromeCate Shortland‘s taut thriller, which takes us through every step of their courtship and Clare’s subsequent imprisonment in a slow burn portrait of psychological terror and the human capacity for survival.

Palmer is excellent in the role of a smart women in captivity, who discovers new depths of strength with each passing day, and Shaun Grant‘s script gives her great material to work with, never treating Clare like a fool. She makes clever, assertive choices the whole way through, a fact that incites you to root for her and drastically notches up the tension at the same time. Her instinct for survival is met by Andi’s capacity for cruelty, unfolding a bit each day as Clare realizes how dire her predicament truly is. Consummately tense and emotionally challenging, Berlin Syndrome kicks up a slow boil battle of the wits that constantly notches up the dread and pays off in a breathless finale. — Haleigh Foutch

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Image via Focus Features

Director: Tomas Alfredson

Writers: Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan

Cast: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Ciaran Hinds

Author John le Carre is famously tricky to adapt, but 2011’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is one of the best le Carre movie adaptations that also happens to feature some bravado filmmaking of its own. The twisty spy thriller is complicated as all get-out, as it tracks British intelligence missions and intrigue in the 1970s with a host of shadowy characters. Gary Oldman looms large as George Smiley, in a role that earned the performer his first-ever Oscar nomination. The film is incredibly taught, as director Tomas Alfredson proves his Swedish horror hit Let the Right One In was no fluke. Even if you don’t quite know exactly what’s going on all the time, the filmmaker provides a tremendous layer of tension that leads to terrific thrills. – Adam Chitwood

It Follows

Image via RADiUS

Writer/Director: David Robert Mitchell

Cast: Maika Monroe, Kier Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary, Olivia Luccardi, and Lili Sepe

Masterfully directed by David Robert Mitchell, It Follows is probably one of the best movies ever made about STDs. Granted, the STD in the case of this movie is a spectre that will come at you until you pass it on to someone else. While the rules are a little unclear at times, the basic setup is that Maika Monroe plays a young woman who has sex with a guy only to learn that it makes her the target of something that will kill her unless she passes it on to someone else. The serious moral considerations aside, With It Follows, Mitchell crafts a tense, haunting picture where nothing ever feels settled, and “it” is always inescapable. – Matt Goldberg

The Survivalist

Image via IFC Midnight

Writer/Director: Stephen Fingleton

Cast: Martin McCann, Mia Goth, Olwen Fouere

Post-apocalyptic dramas are a dime a dozen, but few have the restraint and austere honesty Stephen Fingleton‘s The SurvivalistMartin McCann stars as the titular nameless survivor, who has carved out a small space for himself in am unexplained post-apocalypse where ravagers roam the countryside, no one is to be trusted and desperation is deadly. With a small crop on his hidden land, the Survivalist maintains a meager living on his own with whatever bloodshed is required, until a beautiful young woman (Mia Goth) and her hawkish mother (Olwen Fouere) show up on his doorstep with an offer he can’t refuse.

Stark and dire, Fingleton’s vision of post-apocalyptic survivalism is a take-no-prisoners shade of depressing, but he fills the quiet moments with introspective character work and complex, shifting power dynamics. Every frame of the film with more than one person is fraught with tension because every person in the film is willing to kill at the drop of the hat, and the fluctuating loyalties, whims of nature, and misdeeds of men constantly threaten to throw a wrench in whatever peaceful moment may pass. Expertly paced with an assured tolerance for slow-burn silence, The Survivalist makes the minutes rich with suspense and punctuates the tension with blaring moments of violence and betrayal. — Haleigh Foutch

Jaws

Image via Universal Pictures

Director: Steven Spielberg

Writers: Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb

Cast: Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw, Lorraine Gray, and Murray Hamilton

Jaws is one of those movies that’s so engrained as a classic, we sometimes forget the specifics surrounding it—like the fact that Jaws isn’t just a great film, it’s a fantastic thriller. Steven Spielberg showed he was a true master behind the camera, showcasing some of that incredible framing and in-camera narrative that would become a penchant of his films to come. The mechanical shark used in filming famously would not work most of the time, but the result was an unplanned layer of tension throughout the movie. If the shark had been working, and had been onscreen as often as originally planned, Jaws wouldn’t be near as thrilling or scary as it is now. Spielberg found a workaround—using the environment, his characters, and perfectly timed moments of sheer horror to play the audience’s emotions like a conductor working an orchestra. Over 40 years later and Jaws still makes people afraid to go in the water. – Adam Chitwood

Memento

Image via Newmarket

Writer/Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Guy Pearce, Carrie Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, Harriet Sansom Harris, and Stephen Tobolowsky

Christopher Nolan’s breakthrough film gained a lot of attention for its unique narrative structure, but to dismiss it as a “gimmick” would be to misunderstand this brilliant neo-noir. Memento follows Leonard (Guy Pearce), an insurance investigator who, following an attack against him and his wife, now has no short-term memory. Although he tries to put together little tricks and tips to find the people who took his memory and ruined his life, it’s possible he’s being manipulated by everyone around him. Since the movie plays in reverse order, the audience is put firmly in Leonard’s perspective. He can’t remember what just happened, and we’re not privy to that information. It makes for a twisty, brilliant thriller that also gets to the heart of what our actions mean if he we can’t remember them. – Matt Goldberg

The Invitation

Image via Drafthouse Films

Director: Karyn Kusama

Writers: Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi

Cast: Logan Marshall-Green, Tammy Blanchard, Michiel Huisman, John Carroll Lynch, Michelle Krusiec, Mike Doyle, Jordi Vilasuso

Karyn Kusama displayed a knack for genre filmmaking with the wildly underrated teen possession pic Jennifer’s Body, but with The Invitation, she showed a more mature, refined hand for horror and sickening, stomach-churning tension. The film stars Logan Marshall-Green as Will, a man still stuck in the dregs of grief after the death of his young son when his ex-wife (Tammy Blanchard) invites him to a special dinner party, hosted at his old home. Will’s suspicions flare the moment he arrives — his ex-wife is too happy, her new lover (Michiel Huisman) is a slick creep, and their guests are acting supremely weird, but Kusama keeps you on a piano wire-taut leash wondering if Will’s grief is spinning out into paranoia or if they really are trapped in a suburban cage with a death cult.

Marshall-Green is outstanding as a man at the end of his rope, and Kusama’s eye for sinister detail pierces through even the quietest moments with a slick of cold sweat terror. Throughout the oh-so-polite dinner, she needles at social anxiety and the sickening dance of repressed aggression with precision until the persistent paranoia boils over. Sharp and smart, and occasionally downright creepy, The invitation proves it was a crime Hollywood kept Kusama in director’s jail for so long. — Haleigh Foutch

 

 

The Village

Image via Disney

Director/Writer: M. Night Shyamalan

Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, and Brendan Gleeson

There were extremely high expectations surrounding The Village when it was released, as director M. Night Shyamalan was coming off of a terrific run of The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs. Some were disappointed in how The Village played out, but revisiting it all these years later, the craft and effectiveness remain incredibly potent. The story revolves around a private village in the 18th or 19th century, where citizens are warned not to go into the woods for fear of some malevolent force that threatens their lives. Even when you know where this movie is going, Shyamalan’s choices still get your heart racing. Add in genius cinematographer Roger Deakins behind the camera, and you get a deadly cocktail of pure cinema—even if the story leaves something to be desired. – Adam Chitwood

Creep

Image via the Orchard

Director: Patrick Bice

Writers: Mark Duplass and Patrick Bice

Cast: Mark Duplass, Patrick Bice

Who knew Mark Duplass could be so damn creepy? Duplass worked with director, co-writer and co-star Patrick Bice to explore the psyche of “Josef” a mysterious and deeply unsettling man whose need for intimacy spurs him to post a Craigslist ad in search of a filmmaker to chronicle his strange story. There’s just one problem — he may or may not be a killer. Bice stars as Aaron, the young filmmaker who lands the job and once he sets foot on Josef’s turf, Aaron is immersed in an uncomfortable and unusual situation that always threatens to go off the rails. As Josef, Duplass channels the charming, disarming and freaky as hell disposition of corporate snakes and thriving sociopaths. Is he a killer or just a weirdo you can’t say no to? Bice and Duplass have fun playing with audience expectations all the way up to the finale payoff — a fantastic, earned moment that cements the tension for long after the film. And here’s even more good news: Of Creep gives you the thrills you’re looking for, the sequel is just as good.– Haleigh Foutch

The Sixth Sense

Image via Disney

Writer/Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Cast: Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Collette, and Olivia Williams

Yes, we all know the twist ending by now. And yet the power of The Sixth Sense isn’t derived solely from its twist ending. M. Night Shyamalan, before his movies became all about fooling the audience, crafts a deep and emotional story about grief and despair by following a psychologist (Bruce Willis in one of his best performances) and a young boy (Haley Joel Osment) who can see ghosts. Like all great movies with twist endings, The Sixth Sense continues to thrill and entrance because of everything that happens around that ending, from the compelling performances to the bittersweet conclusion. If you think you’ve got this one all figured out, you may want to give it another spin. – Matt Goldberg

Cheap Thrills

Image via Drafthouse Films

Writer/Director: E.L. Katz

Cast: Pat Healy, Ethan Embry, David Koechner, and Sara Paxton

Cheap Thrills follows Craig (Pat Healy), a struggling family man fallen on hard times. On the verge of eviction with a newborn at home, Craig hits rock-bottom when he loses his low-wage job and heads to the bar to drown his sorrows. There, he runs into an old acquaintance, Vince (Ethan Embry), who’s facing some economic hardships of his own. Before the pair has a chance to settle into their reunion, they meet an alluring and obscenely wealthy couple, Colin (David Koechner) and Violet, (Sara Paxton), who offer the down-on-their-luck duo the opportunity to make some quick cash. For every dare Craig and Vince fulfill, they get a handful of cold hard cash. What do Colin and Violet get out of it? The amusement of watching their new friends embarrass and hurt themselves. Good, clean family stuff. Things start off innocent, but turn towards the dark in a hurry when the ever-escalating dares reveal the extent of the couple’s deeply twisted sense of humor. As they continue to up the ante (and the pay rate), Craig and Vince have to decide how far they’re willing to bend (or maybe break) their moral code for a quick buck. Directorial debuts don’t get much better, and E.L. Katz, who knows exactly how to pace the punches as they keep rolling in, harder and harder with every hit, makes a hell of a first impression. With raw moments of physical and emotional devastation amidst hilarious chaos, Cheap Thrills is either one of the funniest horror movies or most horrific comedies ever made. – Haleigh Foutch

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