The 30 Best Thrillers Streaming on Netflix [Spring 2020]
Do you love to be held in suspense, wondering what happens next? Are you always the first to guess the ending, surprising your family and friends? Netflix has a huge library of action, adventure, and horror films, but when elements from all three films come together, that’s when you end up with a thriller, something that can give you the adrenaline you desire. These thrillers that are streaming on Netflix will keep you guessing until the end. Enjoy every tense moment!
The movie starts out as a period romantic drama but transforms into a creepy thriller. It’s 1973, and Lena (Emma Watson) is a stewardess for Lufthansa. She’s involved with German-born activist Daniel (Daniel Bruhl). After a few days of blissful love and activism in Chile, the military overthrows the Allende government in Chile and Lena and Daniel they are out on the street. Daniel gets into trouble with the militia when he’s spotted trying to document their repressive activities with his camera. They are both shipped off to a soccer stadium for processing and Daniel is arrested, while Lena is let go. She learns he’s been sent South to a cult led by another German, Paul Schafer (Michael Nyquist), that functions as a prison for dissidents after the coup. Lena poses as a God-seeker and farms the land, keeping an eye out for Daniel.
Viola Davis and Jennifer Lopez star in this offering from Lifetime. Lila is a single mother in Atlanta whose world is shattered when her older son, Stephen, is killed in the crossfire of a drive-by shooting. She is at her wits’ end and unable to care for her second son, Justin, until she joins a support group for mothers whose children have also been murdered. There her sponsor, Eve, seems more interested in revenge than recovery. When they find a gun in Justin’s backpack, they decide to take matters into their own hands and track down Stephen’s killers.
In this beautifully shot, romantic Turkish thriller, adapted from the Korean film Always, Ali (Ibrahim Celikkol) is a retired boxer who lives with Hazal (Bilcin Bilgin), a blind woman. Haunted by his violent past, Ali rejects Hazal when he meets her at first, but can’t resist her for long. Hazal’s unconditional acceptance of Ali and cheerful optimism break through his walls and they fall in love. The film alternates between flashbacks to Ali’s violent past and intensely romantic present, until a shocking revelation is followed by a sacrifice that rocks their world and challenges their relationship.
Train to Busan may be unfamiliar to most Americans, but if you’re willing to dive into the world of South Korean films, this action-horror thriller is a great introduction. The film follows the passengers in a bullet train headed from Gwangmyeong Station to Busan in South Korea, with passengers including Seok-woo, a divorced fund manager taking his daughter to her mother’s house; a working-class man and his pregnant wife; a high school baseball team; and a homeless man suffering from PTSD. When the train departs, a convulsing young woman jumps on board suffering from a bite wound on her leg, and quickly becomes a zombie, transferring her virus to others on the train. The passengers will have to fight their way to safety to make it to Busan—but who will they lose along the way?
Mike Flanagan’s old-fashioned home-invasion thriller premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival before it was picked up by Netflix. Maddie (Kate Siegel) is a deaf-mute writer who lives alone in seclusion. Just outside her house, Maddie witnesses her neighbor, Sarah (Samantha Sloyan), being murdered by a crossbow-wielding maniac. When the killer discovers Maddie is deaf, he is fascinated with her and decides to have some fun. Mike Flanagan doesn’t resort to jump scares or loud music, but the film unfolds with pared-down reservation, letting the setup work for the movie, which mainly takes place without dialogue, leading to some surprises in the finale.
Written by Oriol Paulo, Spain’s highest-profile screenwriter of psychological thrillers, this high-voltage suspense thriller is packed with unexpected twists. Patricia de Lucas (Blanca Portillo) is a lawyer who’s life becomes a nightmare when her son, Victor, (Jose Coronado) disappears from school without a trace. He reappears a few hours later, claiming that a man kidnapped him and he escaped. When he identifies the kidnapper in a police lineup, the proof is insufficient and the bad guy is set free. Patricia, fearing for her son’s life, takes matters into her own hands, with unforeseen consequences. This movie is in Spanish with English subtitles.
The first Netflix project made in Korea, Pandora is a man-made-disaster film that takes place in a nuclear reactor. An engaging thriller, the film tracks the way facilities malfunction and why humans might allow it to happen. Visual effects show the anatomy of the nuclear reactor, employing grim realism that makes the meltdown impossible to look away from. Featured are the government’s inefficiency and incompetence, and the Prime Minister and cabinet’s ploys to cover up the disaster and refuse to evacuate the citizens in the vicinity. They even lock citizens up so they can’t create a mass panic. Every attempt to contain the disaster only worsens it.
The best Stephen King adaptations of the past five years also happens to be a Netflix Original film. Gerald’s Game was released in 2017 just weeks after It hit theaters, so you would be excused if you missed out on catching this film. Based on the novel of the same name, Gerald’s Game follows Jessie (Carla Gugino, Spy Kids) and Gerald (Bruce Greenwood, Star Trek), a married couple that seek out an isolated lakehouse in Alabama to work on their failing relationship. While engaging in some light bondage, during which Jessie is handcuffed to the bed, the couple devolves into an argument about their marriage. Gerald, having taken two Viagra, suffers a heart attack, falling dead on the floor of the remote lakehouse and leaving Jessie handcuffed to her bed. The film follows the psychological effects that haunt Jessie as she lays trapped in bed.
In the directorial debut of screenwriter Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Never Let Me Go, Sunshine), we’re introduced to Caleb Smith, a programmer for Blue Book, a Google-esque search engine led by mysterious, isolated CEO Nathan Bateman. When Smith wins a trip to meet the CEO of his company for a week, he finds out that Nathan lives alone, with the sole exception of his assistant, Kyoko, a robot powered by an artificial intelligence. Nathan introduces Caleb to Ava, a more-powerful robot that has passed a Turing test, with Nathan hoping Caleb will help him to understand whether Ava is thinking real thoughts and emotions. As Nathan’s narcissism and heavy drinking makes Caleb grow uncomfortable, he’ll slowly begin to turn on the CEO of the company. But when Ava turns out to be far more capable and self-sufficient than at first glance, Caleb must begin to ask: can he trust anyone, let alone himself?
Mysteries and thrillers are perfect for dark and stormy nights, and The Invitation might be the ideal film to chill you to your core. The film stars Logan Marshall-Green as Will, a divorcee who drive his girlfriend Kira to a dinner party hosted by his ex-wife at his old house in the Hollywood Hills. Will’s ex, Eden, alongside her new husband David, welcomes Will and Kira to the party, though immediately, something feels wrong. As Will continues to deal with the grief of his deceased son (the reason Eden and him split up), he begins to feel like something is wrong with his ex-wife and her husband’s motivations. The tale is dark and grim, and as the night advances, you’ll begin to put the pieces together in this thrilling tale of mystery and murder.
Based on the real-life experiment that occurred in 1971, The Stanford Prison Experiment tells the story of Stanford professor Philip Zimbardo (Billy Crudup), who conducts a controversial psychology experiment with his students in order to determine whether or not the personality traits of prisoners and guards are the chief cause of abusive behavior between them. Zimbardo selects fifteen male students to participate in a 14-day prison simulation to take roles as prisoners or guards. For their work in the experiment, they receive $15 per day (nearly $100 in 2018 money). It doesn’t take long for the proceedings to get out of hand, of course, and before you know it, both the prisoners and Zimbardo himself become abusive towards the mock-prisoners. Intense and hard to watch, The Stanford Prison Experiment is a must-see.
In this new Netflix Original film, director Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin, Green Room) follows a wolf expert named Russell Core (Jeffrey Wright), who is called to a village in Alaska to help hunt down wolves seemingly responsible for the deaths of three small children. When he arrives in Alaska, he meets with Medora Slone (Riley Keough), whose son was the third child to go missing. He learns that he husband, Vernon (Alexander Skarsgard, It), is away on military leave, while the father of the second child taken, she informs him, will not be speaking to Russell. As things begin to grow darker, Russell will have to hurry to figure out the mystery behind the disappearance of children, all while risking his own life in the process.
Fans of the 2011 action-drama Drive were thrilled when Ryan Gosling re-teamed up with Drive‘s director Nicolas Winding Refn for 2013’s Only God Forgives, a film which featured a trailer that made the entire movie look like a return to the slow-burn, visceral violence featured in Drive. That isn’t necessarily too far off base, but we’d be lying if we said Only God Forgives played like another film in the Drive canon. The film follows Julian Thompson (Gosling), a drug trafficker in Thailand whose mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) sends him on a mission to avenge the murder of his older brother, a criminal who was killed after he beat a prostitute to her death. The film was famously booed following its premiere at Cannes Film Festival (while some gave a standing ovation), and features controversial scenes of violence and sexuality. Since that premiere, the film has continued to feature a polarized reaction from both critics and audiences; even five years later, it remains a difficult watch.
The latest Netflix Original horror film, The Perfection comes from Richard Shepard (Dom Hemingway), and supplies Netflix viewers with a heavy dose of B-movie horror. The film follows Charlotte (Allison Williams, Get Out), a cellist who was forced to leave her prestigious music school in Boston to care for her ill mother. A decade later, Charlotte travels to Shanghai following the death of her mother, in order to follow Lizzie, the music student who took her place in the school. Not for the faint of heart, the film is a tough watch, filled with violence, gore, and sexual assaults. Anyone who loves vile B-horror will absolutely want to seek it out.
Directed by acclaimed Oscar-winner Bong Joon-ho (Parasite, The Host), Snowpiercer is a 2013 action film starring Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton. The film follows Curtis (Evans), a passenger aboard the Snowpiercer, a train riding throughout the now-frozen globe eternally. Curtis is pushed to his breaking point, and he, along with the others in the back of the train, plan a revolution to take out both Minister Mason (Tilda Swinton) and Wilford (Ed Harris), the inventor of the train. The film’s action is well-shot, and the class messaging is strong and delivers on clear themes. Of course, the real stars of the show here are both Evans and Swinton, who are at their best in their respective roles.
One of the best films of 2018, Burning is a South Korean psychological drama mystery adapted from “Barn Burning,” the short story by famed Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. Burning follows Lee Jong-soo, a young man working to perform odd jobs in order to make money in Paju. While working, he runs into Shin Hae-mi, a girl who used to live in his neighborhood when they were children. The two develop a connection, and Hae-mi asks Jong-soo to watch her cat while she’s out of town. When she returns from a trip to Africa, she introduces him to Ben (Steven Yeun, The Walking Dead), a man she met while on vacation. Ben seems like an average playboy at first, but slowly, a darker, mysterious nature reveals itself.
Based on the novel by Dennis Lehane (who also wrote the novel Shutter Island) and directed by Clint Eastwood, Mystic River is one of the best films of 2003, nominated for several Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor, and Best Director. The film follows Jimmy Markum (Sean Penn), an ex-con whose daughter is murdered. Jimmy is distraught to learn that two of his childhood friends, Dave (Tim Robbins) and Sean (Kevin Bacon), are involved in the murder. While Sean is the homicide detective leading the case to find the murderer, Dave was the last person to see Jimmy’s daughter alive, which eventually leads him to believe Dave is the murderer behind the case.
Quentin Tarantino’s eighth and most recent film, The Hateful Eight is a full-blown western from the legendary director, set in the post-Civil War era of the United States during a harsh blizzard outside Red Rock, Wyoming. Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a bounty hunter, is transporting three dead fugitives to the town of Red Rock when he catches a ride to town from John Ruth (Kurt Russell), a similar bounty hunter bringing in Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh). When the trio gets stuck in a blizzard, they make a beeline for Minnie’s Haberdashery, a stagecoach lodge, where they meet the other people staying at the house through the blizzard. While hostilities rise between the group, Daisy sees someone poison the coffee, leading to the death of two more characters. As a murder mystery begins to rise, the only question that remains is simple: is it more dangerous in the blizzard, or in Minnie’s Haberdashery? The film was also recently recut by Tarantino and his editor into a four-episode miniseries exclusive to Netflix, featuring all-new footage.
More of a horror-thriller than a straight-played thriller flick, there is so much to love in this film by acclaimed filmmaker Jeremy Saulnier. The film follows a punk rock band called the Ain’t Rights, on tour throughout the Pacific Northwest. When their gig is cancelled, a local radio host manages to arrange a show at a local neo-Nazi bar outside of Portland. When Pat (the late Anton Yelchin) returns to the green room after the show to grab a bandmate’s phone, he witnesses the body of a girl stabbed to death by one of the neo-Nazis. Pat contacts the police, but the bar’s employees lock them in the green room, creating a cover story for the cops to get them to stay away by having one skinhead stab another. When Gabe (Macon Blair) contacts his boss Darcy (Patrick Stewart, much more terrifying than usual) about killing them, the band will have to fight for their lives.
Cargo is a fresh spin on the zombie genre that will leave you on the edge of your seat. Part horror film, part post-apocalyptic thriller, Cargo follows a man named Andy (Martin Freeman, Black Panther, The Hobbit) who finds himself stranded in Australia with his wife and child following an outbreak of a zombie virus, which manages to take over the world in less than 48 hours. Though they originally find hope in a houseboat, Andy’s wife Kay is eventually attacked, leaving Andy alone with his one-year-old infant daughter Rosie. Stranded in rural Australia, Andy must attempt to protect his daughter from the threats surrounding them—a task that manages to grow more difficult as time progresses. Directed by Yolanda Ramke and Ben Howling, the film is based on the short of the same name created by those two filmmakers in 2013, and received positive reviews for its character-driven approach to the genre.
For over forty years, we as a culture have been obsessed with sharks attacking us. From the classic horror-adventure Jaws to newer, bigger creatures like The Meg, all the way to Discovery’s Shark Week, viewers have been following the adventures of people risking their lives around killer sharks for longer than many of us have been alive. 47 Meters Down doesn’t reinvent the genre, but it was a breakout hit in the summer of 2017 thanks to its excellent craftsmanship. The film follows young sisters Kate and Lisa, in the middle of enjoying a vacation in Mexico. The duo go diving in shark-filled waters, using a protective cage to see the sharks up close. When the cage breaks away from the boat, however, they’re stuck at the bottom of the lake with a depleting supply of oxygen, leaving them trapped and doomed unless they can figure out something quickly.
The Irishman arrived in theaters and on Netflix with a deluge of great reviews and even more controversy, as director Martin Scorsese found himself in the hot seat after delivering a critique on superhero films. Mixed press aside, nothing could stop The Irishman from becoming one of the best-reviewed films of the year, and now that it’s finally streaming on Netflix, those who didn’t get access to it in their local indie theater can finally stream it for themselves. The film follows truck driver Frank Sheeran starting in the 1950s, as he begins to work for Russell Bufalino and his crime family in Pennsylvania. Sheeran becomes one of their most reliable hitmen, and things get even more complicated when he goes to work for Jimmy Hoffa, the powerful, popular Teamster tied to organized crime. Scorsese teams up with Robert De Niro, his most frequent collaborator, along with Joe Pesci and Al Pacino.
In the late 1960s and 1970s, fear grips the city of San Francisco as a serial killer known only as the Zodiac Killer stalks its residents. Investigators (Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Edwards) and reporters (Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr.) alike become obsessed with learning the killer’s identity and bringing him to justice. Meanwhile, the Zodiac Killer claims victim after victim and taunts the authorities with cryptic messages, cyphers and menacing phone calls. Directed by David Fincher, Zodiac is one of the best films of 2007, often considered one of the best years of recent cinema, and while its length may scare some off from checking it out, it’s absolutely worth it.
Leaving Netflix Soon!
Though Drive is, in our opinion, one of the best films of the 2010s, its theatrical release was marred by controversy. After a misleading trailer advertised the film towards an action-focused crowd coming hot off the heels of films like Fast Five, Drive opened to an audience that wasn’t ready for the film’s slow, methodical pacing and quiet protagonist. Of course, if you can accept the film for what it is—a thriller-drama with several moments of intense violence—Drive can be an incredibly rewarding watch. The film follows the unnamed Driver (Ryan Gosling), a Hollywood stuntman who also works as a getaway driver for criminals. When the Driver is enlisted in a heist gone wrong, he must risk his own life to protect the lives of his neighbor and her young son. With an all-star supporting cast including Bryan Cranston, Carey Mulligan, Oscar Isaac, and Albert Brooks, Drive is a must-see film.
Based on Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 novel of the same name, The Talented Mr. Ripley was just one of many films that helped cement 1999 as a landmark year in film. The film follows Tom Ripley (Matt Damon), a Manhattan lavatory attendant who wants nothing more than to join the ranks of upper-class society. After borrowing a Princeton jacket to play piano at a garden party, Tom is offered $1,000 from Herbert Greenleaf to head to Italy, in order to convince his son Dickie (Jude Law) to return home. Once he arrives in Italy, Tom grows close to Dickie and his fiancée Marge (Gwenyth Paltrow), following along with the couple’s interests as he enjoys his life in luxury. But when Dickie begins to grow tired of Tom, he’ll do anything to keep the life he feels he’s earned.
One of the most inventive and creative blockbusters of the 2010s, Inception was director Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to The Dark Knight, as he cashed in the check from one of the most critically acclaimed superhero films ever made to make an insane big-budget thriller. The film follows Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), a thief who can enter the dreams of his marks in order to steal secrets from their subconscious. Though his skill has made him popular in the world of corporate espionage, it has cost him his family and his access to the United States. Cobb gets a chance at redemption when he is offered a seemingly impossible task: instead of stealing a secret, he has to plant an idea, making it seem as though the mark had it on their own. If he succeeds, he’ll be allowed to return to his home, but the memory of Cobb’s late wife threatens to destroy the mission.
Neil Jordan’s classic English-Irish thriller The Crying Game isn’t an easy watch, but it’s an essential piece of English cinema. The film begins at a fairground in rural Northern Ireland, when an Irish Republican Army member and volunteer Fergus (Stephen Rea), along with several other IRA members including Jude and Maguire (played by Miranda Richardson and Adrian Dunbar, respectively), kidnap Jody (Forest Whitaker), a black British soldier, after Jude seduces him. The IRA demands the British army release several IRA prisoners within three days; otherwise, Jody will be killed. While guarding Jody, Fergus begins to form a bond with the man, despite the warnings of his fellow IRA members. When Fergus promises Jody he’ll visit his girlfriend Dil (Jaye Davidson) in London if he dies, he gets more than he bargains for, finding himself in an unexpected romantic relationship.
In this Netflix Original film from director Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler), the acclaimed screenwriter and director reunites with Jake Gyllenhaal for a brand-new film set in the art world of Los Angeles. Velvet Buzzsaw follows art critic Morf Vandewalt, who works for a tough gallery owner named Rhodora Haze, a former member of the rock band the movie is named after. Morf, feeling unfulfilled with his love life and his boyfriend Ed, starts a sexual relationship with Josephina, his friend and agent. When Josephina finds a dead man named Ventril Dease in her apartment block, she’s surprised to learn he’s an artist, his home filled with paintings. However, when those paintings are added to the gallery’s collection, a supernatural force begins to kill those who have allowed greed to get in the way of art
1922 is based on the work of the same name by Stephen King, and was brought to life ad a Netflix original by Zak Hilditch. Thomas Jane stars as Wilfred James, a man who arrives at a hotel in Omaha, Nebraska to write a confession to a crime he committed on his family farm in 1922. The film flashes back to that year, where James fights with his wife Arlette, who wishes to sell the land Arlette recently inherited. While Arlette wishes to sell the land and move to Omaha to open a dress shop, Wilfred wants to stay on the farm with his wife and son, Henry. When Arlette raises divorce, Wilfred convinces his son to assist in the only plan they have left: murder. Part horror film, part thriller, this film is perfect for anyone looking for a good mix between terrifying and exhilarating.
The Gift is Joel Edgerton’s 2015 directorial debut, a psychological thriller sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. The film follows Simon and Robyn (Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall), a happily married couple who have an unexpected encounter with Gordo (Edgerton), a stranger that Simon knows from his past. As Simon continues to run into Gordo, it becomes more and more obvious that Gordo’s intentions may not be pure of heart. A number of mysterious gifts seem to be leading both Simon and Robyn to a horrifying truth that may destroy their marriage forever. The Gift was produced by Blumhouse Productions, and was critically-acclaimed when it premiered in the summer of 2015.