The Best Thrillers on Netflix Right Now

Last Updated: August 2nd

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.

The Dark Knight

Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writer: Jonathan Nolan

Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine

One of the best superhero movies ever made, full-stop, The Dark Knight is a masterpiece. Christopher Nolan successfully introduced the world to the idea of a “gritty reboot” with Batman Begins, but for the follow-up he crafted an epic, surprising, and downright thrilling story of escalation. Heath Ledger’s take on The Joker is iconic, offering up an enigmatic villain who consistently throws Christian Bale’s Batman for a loop. Then you have Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent, as The Dark Knight crafts a meaty, fulfilling, and heartbreaking arc for this Bruce Wayne foil. On top of all of that, Nolan is essentially making a film about the post-9/11 world—one in which fighting “the bad guys” only leads to bigger and more severe devastation. How do you confront an enemy that just wants to watch the world burn? There’s a reason The Dark Knight has lingered in the public consciousness for a decade, and it still holds up as the best of the best in the face of the bevy of superhero movies that soon followed. – Adam Chitwood

The Departed

Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Martin Scorsese

Writer: William Monahan

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Vera Farmiga, Alec Baldwin, and Jack Nicholson

Remakes tend not to be better than the original, but Martin Scorsese finally won Best Director for his superior adaptation of the 2002 film Infernal Affairs. The electric story follows Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), a dirty cop working for the mob, and Billy (Leonardo DiCaprio), a cop who goes undercover in that very same mob. With both men forced to hide their true identities, the movie becomes a ticking time bomb of fractured loyalties and brutal backstabbings. While it’s not Scorsese’s best movie (no one is going to say The Departed is better than Goodfellas), it’s an immensely entertaining and shocking picture with excellent performances from the entire cast. – Matt Goldberg

L.A. Confidential

Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Curtis Hanson

Writers: Brian Helgeland & Curtis Hanson

Cast: Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kim Basinger, James Cromwell, and Danny DeVito

Curtis Hanson took a book that was billed as “unadaptable” and actually improved upon James Ellroy’s unwieldy and sometimes comically macabre source material. The story follows three detectives in 1950s L.A.—Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey), Bud White (Russell Crowe), and Ed Exley (Guy Pearce)—as they investigate corruption and a series of murders. It’s a terrific modern noir with outstanding performances from the entire cast (Kim Basinger took home the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award). If you’ve never seen L.A. Confidential or if you haven’t seen it in a while, give it a spin. It’s arguably Hanson’s best movie, and a terrific film noir to boot. – Matt Goldberg

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

Se7en

Image via New Line Cinema

Director: David Fincher

Writer: Andrew Kevin Walker

Cast: Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Kevin Spacey

The movie that put David Fincher on the map, Se7en remains a taut, twisted thriller. The story follows detectives Somerset (Morgan Freeman) and Mills (Brad Pitt) as they hunt a serial killer who uses the Seven Deadly Sins as inspiration for his killings. The movie has everyone involved playing at the top of their game in a movie that doesn’t shy away from bleakness or the darkness in humanity. The movie also shows that even with his second film, Fincher was already a master on the rise of cinema, and it’s remarkable to see how far he’s come when Se7en is already such an assured, confident picture. – Matt Goldberg

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

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

 

 

Jurassic Park

Image via Universal Pictures

Director: Steven Spielberg

Writers: Michael Crichton and David Koepp

Cast: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, B.D. Wong, Samuel L. Jackson, Joseph Mazzello, Ariana Richards, and Wayne Knight

If you haven’t seen Jurassic Park, A. What’s your deal? and B. You are in for a treat. Simply put, this is one of Steven Spielberg’s masterpieces, from one of the greatest directors of all time. It’s a story of man’s hubris gone wrong—a tale as old as time, but with dinosaurs. Spielberg’s handle on tone and tension here is masterful, as the film opens by previewing the terror to come before settling the audience into the comfort and wonder of Jurassic Park. Then all hell breaks loose, Laura Dern is a badass, and Jeff Goldblum is unforgettably strange. It’s one of those great films that’s not only perfect, it’s highly rewatchable. So whether it’s your first time or your 50th, you’re guaranteed to enjoy Jurassic Park. – Adam Chitwood

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

The Game

Image via Polygram

Director: David Fincher

Writers: John Brancato and Michael Ferris

Cast: Michael Douglas, Deborah Kara Unger, Sean Penn, James Rebhorn

The Game is a very weird movie, but if you’ve never seen it, it’s a really fun ride. The 1997 film marked director David Fincher’s follow-up to Se7en, and he decided to tell a mystery that’s all about stringing your audience along. Michael Douglas plays a wealthy investment banker who is given a gift for his birthday from his brother: a real-world “game” that offers the experience of a lifetime. As the story unfolds, the audience (and Douglas’s character) is unsure as to whether what’s happening is part of the game, or actually real. Your repeat viewing mileage may vary as it’s a film that you can only be surprised by once, but there’s some great filmmaking on display from Fincher and Douglas gives a swell performance. This one’s fun. – 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

Heat

Image via Warner Bros.

Directed/Written by: Michael Mann

Cast: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Amy Brenneman, Tom Sizemore, Ashley Judd, Wes Studi, Jon Voight, Ted Levine, and Natalie Portman

Filmmaker Michael Mann’s crime epic Heat is a must-watch classic, through and through. The film largely influenced Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, as it’s a crime thriller in which the city is as much a character as the various people. Robert De Niro plays a career criminal whose crew gets in hot water after a heist goes wrong. Al Pacino plays the LAPD lieutenant hunting him down. And since this is a Michael Mann movie, there are various other character-rich plot threads going on at the same time. De Niro and Pacino famously only have one scene together, but boy does Mann make it count. – Adam Chitwood

Inside Man

Image via Universal Pictures

Director: Spike Lee

Writer: Russell Gewirtz

Cast: Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, Christopher Plummer, Willem Dafoe, and Chiwetel Ejiofor

While Spike Lee has made a number of extraordinary films over the course of his career, his 2006 crime thriller Inside Man might still be his most purely entertaining feature. The story follows a bank heist from the perspective of both the perpetrators and the authorities outside, which is really nothing new. But Lee elevates the clichéd plot device through compelling storytelling devices and a series of twists and turns that keep the viewer guessing. Denzel Washington is dependably solid as the protagonist cop, but it’s Clive Owen as the bank robber that gets the most intrigue. This is a popcorn flick by way of Spike Lee, which in and of itself should be reason enough to add this to your queue. – Adam Chitwood

Latest Feed

Follow Us