Last Updated: January 9th
“Thriller” is kind of a catch-all term for movies that bleed into multiple genres. It can describe films rich with drama, action, crime, and quite possibly horror. That’s why its Netflix category is such a hodgepodge of entries, varying in tone, subject matter, and quality. A good thriller, though, is going to be suspenseful for any number of reasons. An unstoppable killer. An unsolvable mystery. A gripping world that draws viewers into it. A sympathetic character fighting for survival. Something that can keep an audience on the edge of its seats. And based on that, here are the 15 best thrillers on Netflix right now.
15. Personal Shopper (2016)
Run Time: 105 min | IMDb: 6.2/10
This supernatural psychological thriller from director Olivier Assayas stars Kristen Stewart as a young woman named Maureen. Maureen is an American living in Paris and working as a personal shopper for a celebrity model named Kyra. Her twin brother Lewis recently died of a heart condition which they shared, prompting Maureen to begin communicating with the spirit world, hoping for a sign from her brother from the beyond. Strange happenings begin to occur, all revolving around Maureen, who eventually flees the city but can never truly escape the hauntings. It’s a ghost story, sure, but there’s real depth in Stewart’s performance with an earnest look at how grief affects people.
14. Zodiac (2007)
Run Time: 157 min | IMDb: 7.7/10
Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., and Mark Ruffalo star in this mystery crime thriller directed by David Fincher. The manhunt for the Zodiac killer — a criminal who committed several murders in the Bay area in the late ’60s and early ’70s — has spawned decades and garnered plenty of media attention, but the film dives deeper into the cost of the search, particularly the toll it’s taken on the men and women reporting on it. Gyllenhaal plays a newspaper cartoonist who becomes obsessed with the case, decoding ciphers sent by the killer and targeting a man he believes could be the Zodiac. Downey Jr. plays a crime reporter who partners with Gyllenhaal on the case and leaks information to the police. It’s a thrilling game of cat-and-mouse fueled by some gripping performances by its male leads.
13. Under The Skin (2007)
Run Time: 108 min | IMDb: 6.3/10
Scarlett Johansson stars in this sci-fi thriller about an other-worldly woman with a dark agenda. The film sees Johansson using her sex appeal to lure unsuspecting men to their watery doom while beginning to contemplate her own existence with every new partner she seduces. It’s a subtle reverse of rape culture, with themes of race and immigration mixed in, but if all of that goes over your head, you’ll at least enjoy seeing Johansson off a bunch of frat bros and rapists.
12. Enemy (2019)
Run Time: 91 min | IMDb: 6.9/10
Jake Gyllenhaal stars in this complete mindf*ck from director Denis Villeneuve about a man who goes in search in his doppelganger after spotting him in a movie and uncovering sinister secrets about himself in the process. Gyllenhaal plays both Adam, a quiet professor, and Anthony, an outspoken actor, who eventually meet and disrupt each other’s lives, but whether both men exist or whether they’re just figments of the same man’s consciousness is up to you to figure out.
11. It Comes At Night (2017)
Run Time: 86 min | IMDb: 7.4/10
Writer/director Trey Edward Shults followed up his unnerving family portrait in 2015’s Krisha with a look at another family under the most desperate of circumstances. After an unknown illness has wiped out most of civilization, a number of threats — both seen and unseen — come for a family held up in their home out in the wilderness. It’s a subtle, dream-like tale that stars Joel Edgerton and Christopher Abbot as two patriarchs intent on keeping their families safe, no matter the cost.
10. Panic Room (2002)
Run Time: 112 min | IMDb: 6.8/10
Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart play a mother-daughter duo stuck in a terrifying situation in this dramatic thriller. Foster’s Meg Altman is a recently divorced mother to a diabetic young daughter named Sarah (Stewart). The two move into a new home following the family split but have the most horrific of housewarmings when three men break into their home looking for a hidden fortune forcing them to lock themselves inside the home’s panic room.
9. Blue Ruin (2013)
Run Time: 90 min | IMDb: 7.1/10
Macon Blair stars in this crime thriller about a man who returns to his hometown to carry out an act of vengeance and discovers he’s in over his head. Blair plays Dwight Evans, a vagabond who learns his parents’ murderer is being released from prison and returns home to kill him. He succeeds but ends up starting a blood feud with the guy’s family that doesn’t end how you expect.
8. Bird Box (2018)
Run Time: 124 min | IMDb: 6.7/10
Sandra Bullock’s apocalyptic sci-fi saga has spawned more than just a ridiculous internet challenge, it’s also renewed our love for monster-driven thrillers. Sure, we never actually see the otherworldly beings that cause people to commit suicide if they open their eyes, but the danger they pose and the fear they instill is still viscerally real. Bullock plays a mother trying to protect her two young children and survive amidst a group of strangers with their own agendas and issues. The supporting cast in this one — Trevante Rhodes, John Malkovich, Sarah Paulson, and Tom Hollander — are fantastic which distracts from some of the more questionable story choices.
7. Drive (2011)
Run Time: 100 min | IMDb: 7.8/10
A stone-faced Ryan Gosling steers us through the criminal underworld created by director Nicolas Winding Refn in this high-speed thriller. Gosling plays a near-silent stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway man. When he gets involved with his next-door neighbor and her young son, his carefully cultivated life is thrown into chaos, forcing him to align with criminals and take on risky jobs to protect the pair and keep a firm grip on the wheel.
6. Green Room (2015)
Run Time: 95 min | IMDb: 7/10
When a punk rock group accidentally witnesses the aftermath of a murder, they are forced to fight for their lives by the owner of a Nazi bar (Patrick Stewart) and his team. It’s an extremely brutal and violent story, much like the first two features from director Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin and Murder Party), but this one is made even tenser by its claustrophobic cat-and-cornered-mouse nature. Once the impending danger kicks in, it doesn’t let up until the very end, driven heavily by Stewart playing against type as a harsh, unforgiving, violent character.
5. The Invitation (2016)
Run Time: 100 min | IMDb: 6.7/10
After back-to-back big studio bombs, Karyn Kusama returned to her scrappy indie roots with this contained, brilliantly suspenseful study of the darkness that can arise when people don’t allow themselves to feel. The Invitation isn’t a perfect film, but Kusama does a lot with the scant resources she had to play with here, and you have to appreciate her willingness to tackle grief so directly in a genre that tends to have little time for genuine human emotion.
4. The Invisible Guest (2016)
Run Time: 106 min | IMDb: 8.1/10
This Spanish crime thriller follows a successful businessman framed for the murder of his married lover. A seemingly straightforward plot, until a car accident, a dead body, fake witnesses, and a family out for revenge is thrown into the mix. Mario Casas stars as the man in question, a young husband and father with a bright future who takes part in a terrible crime and is forced to pay for it in the most twisted of ways. You won’t figure this thing out until the end, we guarantee it.
3. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
Run Time: 139 min | IMDb: 7.4/10
Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jude Law star in this mind-bending thriller about a con-man who weasels his way into an inheritance through deception, manipulation, and, of course, murder. Damon plays the young criminal, Tom Ripley, a forger and impersonator struggling to make it in ’50s era New York. He nabs a job from a wealthy shipping magnate, retrieving the man’s son from Italy in exchange for a cash reward. While there, he befriends the heir (Law) and his fiance (Paltrow), imitating his mannerisms, wearing his clothes, and running in his elite circles before his con is discovered, and he’s forced to take drastic measures to secure the future he wants for himself.
2. Burning (2018)
Run Time: 148 min | IMDb: 7.6/10
Walking Dead alum Steven Yeun stars this psychological thriller from South Korean filmmaker Lee Chang-dong. Yeun plays Ben, a rich millennial with a mysterious job who connects with a woman named Shin Hae-mi on a trip to Africa. The two journey back home together where Ben meets Shin’s friend/lover Lee Jong-su. The three hang-out regularly, with Lee growing more jealous of Ben’s wealth and privilege while he’s forced to manage his father’s farm when his dad goes to prison. But it’s when Shin disappears, and Lee suspects Ben’s involvement, that things really go off the rails.
1. American Psycho (2000)
Run Time: 101 min | IMDb: 7.6/10
Christian Bale stars in this horror thriller from director Mary Harron that focuses on a wealthy New York businessman with bloody habits. Bale plays Patrick Bateman, an investment banker seemingly dissatisfied with his life of excess and envious of his successful colleagues. To cope, he entertains psychotic fantasies that see him hacking prostitutes up with chainsaws and torturing his co-workers. It’s an edge-of-your-seat gore fest that leaves you questioning any sense of reality you may have in the end.
Recent Changes Through January 2020:
Removed: Jackie Brown, Brick
Added: The Invitation, The Talented Mr. Ripley