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The 15 Best Thrillers Streaming on Netflix

From Scorsese to Fincher, Netflix's thriller offerings contain something for everyone.

"Uncut Gems"

“Uncut Gems”

A24

As the world around us gets increasingly dark, sometimes the only way to relax is to watch something even darker. As political division, climate change, and war consume the news cycle, pop culture continues to be dominated by serial killers, murderous spouses, and other macabre subject matter about the darkness of the human psyche. Call it cathartic or deeply unhealthy, but watching dark thrillers is undeniably fun.

If you’re looking for something new to stream, Netflix has you covered. From classics like “Taxi Driver” to more recent indie films like “I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore,” the streaming service has plenty of tense thrillers sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. Keep reading for 15 of our favorites.

15. “Margin Call”

J.C. Chandor’s directorial debut may take place within a Wall Street office during the 2008 financial crisis, but it is every bit as thrilling as flashier films on this list. The movie follows a group of investment bankers for 24 hours as they make dangerous choices while their world begins to collapse. The film maintains wire to wire tension, keeping even financial newbies on the edge of their seats. As a bonus, “Margin Call” is widely regarded as one of the most factually accurate films about finance, so you might even learn something from it too.

14. “The Town”

Ben Affleck’s second film as a director, and the first in which he cast himself, is a quintessential Boston crime thriller. The procedural follows a group of criminals who plan a high-stakes robbery of Fenway Park, and Affleck handles both the tense dramatic scenes and the larger action portions with an extremely steady hand. He also leads an excellent cast that also features Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, and Blake Lively. After years of Hollywood exile, “The Town” made it clear that Ben Affleck’s comeback was firmly underway.

13. “I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore”

Macon Blair’s directorial debut is equal parts thriller and pitch-black comedy, never shying away from looking directly at the darkest aspects of human nature. Melanie Lynskey stars as a woman who laments the fact that, in her words, “everybody is an asshole,” but overcomes her nihilism by attempting to track down a group of men who robbed her. The unflinching film took the top prize at the 2017 Sundance Film festival.

12. “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile”

At first glance, the casting of Zac Efron as Ted Bundy seemed like an indulgence of all of the worst parts of mainstream true crime culture. As America’s fascination with serial killers continued to skyrocket, bringing in a former Disney star to play a brutal serial killer could have been a shameless attempt to cash in on the trend. But Efron delivers an excellent performance in a nuanced film that does nothing to glamorize the murderer, choosing instead to break down the cult of personality surrounding Bundy at every turn.

11. “Argo”

If “The Town” established Ben Affleck as one of Hollywood’s most exciting directors, “Argo” erased all doubts. His third feature behind the camera tells the story of a CIA agent who performs a complicated hostage extraction by posing as a Hollywood producer scouting film locations. “Argo” is as competently-directed of a thriller as you’re likely to find anywhere, with perfect pacing and an all-star supporting cast who give excellent performances without ever overshadowing each other. Affleck was controversially snubbed in the Best Director category at the Oscars, but the film holds up as one of the most deserving Best Picture winners in recent memory.

10. “Donnie Brasco”

It is a testament to Al Pacino’s storied career that “Donnie Brasco” does not top the list of the best crime movies he appeared in. This Mafia drama stars Johnny Depp as an FBI agent who goes undercover in the Bonanno crime family and develops a close relationship with an aging hitman played by Pacino. The film does an excellent job of illustrating the way undercover agents blur the line between business and personal relationships, avoiding crime drama cliches while maintaining suspense at every turn.

DONNIE BRASCO, from left: Johnny Depp, Al Pacino, 1997. © Sony Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

“Donnie Brasco”

©Sony Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

9. “Gerald’s Game”

Stephen King’s chilling tale of bondage sex gone wrong was long thought to be unfilmable, due to so much of the novel “Gerald’s Game” taking place inside the mind of a woman who is chained to her bed. But “The Haunting of Hill House” creator Mike Flanagan found a way, turning the story into a chilling two-hander starring Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood that remains faithful to the novel while still thrilling viewers.

8. “Secret Window”

David Koepp has built a career as one of Hollywood’s most in-demand screenwriters, collaborating with the likes of Steven Spielberg and Brian De Palma for over 30 years. But he went behind the camera for this thriller starring Johnny Depp and John Turturro, providing competent direction to this story about an author confronting a stalker who accuses him of plagiarism. Writers often make themselves the subjects of thrillers (see: “Misery”), but this movie reinvents those tropes in a way that’s just interesting enough to merit a rewatch.

7. “Chloe”

This erotic thriller, a remake of the 2003 French film “Nathalie,” tells the story of a pitch-black love triangle between a gynecologist, her cheating husband, and the escort she hires to test his faithfulness. Julianne Moore gives an excellent performance as the suspicious wife, and Amanda Seyfried matches her in every way as the titular character in this tense, sexy film from director Atom Egoyan.

6. “Nocturnal Animals”

After establishing himself as a talented filmmaker with the LGBT drama “A Single Man,” legendary fashion designer Tom Ford chose a very different direction for his second film. “Nocturnal Animals” stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams as a divorced couple whose lives intersect again when he writes a novel that borrows from the darkest aspects of their relationship. The film utilizes a unique storytelling device, alternating between the real world and the world of the novel, with Gyllenhaal playing both the author and the story’s protagonist. The film is just as visually stunning as “A Single Man,” with Adams and Gyllenhaal both delivering excellent performances that help drive the film toward its thrilling conclusion.

“Nocturnal Animals”

Merrick Morton/Focus Features

5. “Bonnie and Clyde”

One of the best recent additions to Netflix’s classic film catalog is “Bonnie and Clyde,” Arthur Penn’s iconic 1967 film that starred Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as the infamous bank robber couple. The film was groundbreaking for its unapologetic portrayals of violence, including one of the most memorable death sequences in cinema. What could have been a stuffy period piece ended up being an essential counterculture film, imagining the titular antiheroes as members of disaffected youth in which a generation of rebellious cinephiles found inspiration. “Bonnie and Clyde” is widely credited with ushering in the “New Hollywood” era, influencing films like “The Godfather,” “Chinatown,” and “Taxi Driver.” It’s an essential piece of Hollywood history and a great film in its own right. 

4. “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”

After receiving critical acclaim for “The Lobster,” Yorgos Lanthimos and Colin Farrell teamed up again for this horrifying thriller about a doctor who introduces a mysterious young boy to his family with deadly consequences. “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” is one of the more difficult viewing experiences on this list, but it’s an essential work of cinema from one of the most interesting voices currently working in the medium.

3. “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig star in David Fincher’s ultra-violent adaptation of the bestselling Scandinavian crime novel. While Stieg Larsson’s book was made into a Swedish film in 2009, the Hollywood remake managed to contribute something new to the story while still honoring the source material. Oscar-winning screenwriter Steven Zaillian spent three months analyzing the novel before he began writing the script, and his meticulousness combined with Fincher’s famous attention to detail brought new depth to the story of a journalist teaming up with a computer hacker to investigate a woman’s disappearance.

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, Rooney Mara, 2011. ph: Baldur Bragason/©Columbia Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

©Columbia Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

2. “Taxi Driver”

Martin Scorsese’s unflinching look at the grimy underside of New York City in the early 1970s is one of the most iconic thrillers of all time. Robert De Niro stars as Travis Bickle, a Vietnam War veteran working as a taxi driver who experiences a mental breakdown as he attempts to impress a young campaign worker played by Cybill Shepherd. In addition to being an excellent character study, the film does a masterful job of creating the morally bankrupt world of ’70s Manhattan and illustrating how it gives Travis an existential crisis that leads him towards violence.

1. “Uncut Gems

The Safdie Brothers followed the breakout success of “Good Time” with “Uncut Gems,” an indie blockbuster that definitively proved Adam Sandler can be a good actor when he feels like it. The fast-paced thriller, set in the equally sleazy worlds of sports gambling and diamond dealing, also stars Julia Fox, Lakeith Stanfield, and former NBA star Kevin Garnett in a surprisingly compelling performance as himself. You know a movie is good when it can keep audiences on the edge of their seats awaiting the outcome of a real basketball game that everyone knew the outcome of in advance.

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