Whether you’re looking for an adrenaline rush or just love moody mysteries, the thriller genre has you covered in a pinch, and Netflix has no lack of thriller movies to watch. Just like any other film genre, thrillers contain multitudes – some are compelling, some send chills down your spine, and others merely get you really invested in the story. You’ll find all of that and more in our list of the best thrillers on Netflix right now, as we’ve crafted a carefully curated list of films that fit into the thriller genre but won’t leave you disappointed.
Consider this a hidden gem of sorts, but Joel Edgerton’s 2015 thriller “The Gift” is a terrific watch that may also rattled your core as it turns the hallmarks of the genre on its head. Edgerton wrote, directed and stars in the film as an awkward man who runs into an old classmate from high school, played by Jason Bateman. Bateman’s character and his wife (played by Rebecca Hall) try to shrug the stranger off, but when he sends an odd gift to their house, a guessing game begins. Bateman is particularly excellent in this one.
One of the few films in which Tom Cruise plays a full-on bad guy, Michael Mann’s “Collateral” is stylish and cool. Cruise plays a hitman who hires a cabbie (played by Jamie Foxx) to drive him around Los Angeles one night after performing a hit. Something of a cat-and-mouse game ensues as Mann captures L.A. at night like it’s never been seen before. This one’s more artful and deeper than your traditional action thriller, and Cruise and Foxx both deliver roles unlike any they played before or since.
I Care a Lot
In the mood for a thriller with a comedic twist? Check out “I Care A Lot.” Rosamund Pike stars in this 2020 film as a con artist who makes a living by gaining guardianship over elders, placing them in assisted living and reaping the benefits. But when her next mark (played by Dianne Wiest) turns out to be the mother of a notorious gangster (played by Peter Dinklage), she faces her biggest con challenge yet. Pike is absolutely biting in the lead role, and director J. Blakeson deftly navigates a bevy of tones before landing on a thematic thrust that hits you like a ton of bricks. “I Care A Lot” is equal parts fun, thrilling and unsettling.
Director Joseph Kosinski released two films in 2022: “Top Gun: Maverick,” yes, but also the nimble Netflix sci-fi thriller “Spiderhead.” The film stars Miles Teller and Jurnee Smollett as a pair of people at a remote research facility who have agreed to be experimented upon in exchange for commuted prison sentences. Chris Hemsworth’s charming tech guru runs the facility, and the drugs administered appear to induce very specific feelings in the subjects. At least, that’s what we’re led to believe. Twists abound and a surprising emotional core beats at the center of this handsomely crafted thriller.
Jake Gyllenhaal gives a powerhouse performance as a police officer-turned-9-1-1 operator in the contained thriller “The Guilty.” Reteaming with his “Southpaw” director Antoine Fuqua, the film takes place over the course of a single night as Gyllenhaal’s cocksure 9-1-1 operator receives a frantic call from a woman who has been kidnapped by her partner. He races against the clock to find them before it’s too late, all while dealing with the ramifications of his own actions that led to him being put at the 9-1-1 desk.
After wrapping up one of the best TV series in history, “Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan wrote and directed a feature film sequel in secret. Thus, “El Camino” was born. This adrenaline-fueled follow-up takes place in the immediate aftermath of the “Breaking Bad” series finale and follows Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) as he tries to get the heck out of dodge. The nail-biting tension that permeated “Breaking Bad” (and later “Better Call Saul”) is front and center in this nifty thriller that doesn’t necessarily add much to the overall story, but is entertaining nonetheless.
What if you and your significant other were about to get intimate, you were handcuffed to the bed, and then your significant other dropped dead of a heart attack? That’s how “Gerald’s Game,” an adaptation of the Stephen King novel of the same name, begins. Carla Gugino plays the chained party at a remote vacation home and must wriggle her way out, all while being haunted by demons of her past. The film was directed by “The Haunting of Hill House,” “The Haunting of Bly Manor” and “Midnight Mass” creator Mike Flanagan, and brings his signature mix of spookiness and heartache with it.
State of Play
Everybody loves a good political thriller, and “State of Play” does the trick. Based on the British TV series of the same name, the film transports the setting to America and stars Russell Crowe as a dogged journalist who starts digging into the mysterious death of a young woman connected to a prominent congressman (played by Ben Affleck), who happens to be a longtime friend of the journalist’s. Rachel McAdams plays a more junior reporter while Helen Mirren plays the editor pushing Crowe’s character to get the story. A labyrinth of intrigue abounds as the film echoes the political thrillers of the 1970s, albeit with a little more of a commercial sheen.
Hell or High Water
If you’re a fan of “Yellowstone,” you’ll want to check out creator Taylor Sheridan’s 2016 neo-Western crime thriller “Hell or High Water.” The film stars Chris Pine and Ben Foster as a pair of brothers who carry out a series of bank robberies in order to save their family ranch, and are put on the radar of two Texas Rangers played by Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham. Sheridan wrote the script that was then directed by David Mackenzie, and the film is a slow-burn crime thriller with complex characters that builds tension, inch-by-inch, until its explosive finale. The film picked up Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Screenplay and Supporting Actor for Bridges.
Can a Bond movie be considered a thriller? If it’s one of the Daniel Craig ones, absolutely. Arguably the best James Bond movie ever made, 2006’s “Casino Royale” forever changed the franchise and introduced Craig as a more vulnerable iteration of the character. It’s also a blast and a half. The film is a semi-origin story for 007 as it rebooted the series to focus on a younger and more green James Bond who is tasked with sniffing out a bankrupt terrorist financier (played by Mads Mikkelsen), and along the way he teams up with a treasury employee played by Eva Green. The film is intense but also surprisingly humanistic and sensitive, with Bond and Vesper considering the impact of actually killing another human being. And yet, given that this is a James Bond movie, it’s also suave and thrilling.
The highest-grossing James Bond movie of all time, 2012’s “Skyfall” officially set the franchise up to compete with the superhero movies that were dominating the box office. In many ways this is the ultimate James Bond film, as Daniel Craig’s character is put through the wringer with a battle against a figure from his (and M’s) past. Director Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins bring a refined sophistication to the aesthetics, and the story doubles down on the emotional and raw nature of Craig’s 007.