Why are thriller movies so popular? Is it because they have interesting plot? Or is it because they have troubled characters who can’t seem to get a handle on their lives? Or both? Whatever be the reason, I love suspense films as much as anybody else. That’s why I thought of putting together this list that I know many of you were looking for.
With the advent of online streaming services, like Netflix and Hulu, movie lovers can now watch almost every movie from the comforts of their home. With a vast collection of thriller movies, Netflix stands above the rest. So, take that popcorn and get ready to spend two hours on the edge of your seats. Here’s the list of some really good suspense thriller movies on Netflix that you can stream right right now.
24. The Open House (2018)
After losing her husband in an accident, a woman and her son move into a new house in the mountains. However, strange things start to happen every night… Are these mysterious forces real or an illusion? Written and directed by Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote, ‘The Open House’ is a horror-thriller with talented actors and beautiful scenery.
23. I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016)
This a gothic horror story that follows a live-in nurse that moves into a house to care for a retired writer of horror books. While settling in, mysterious things start to happen. And she soon discovers a link between these strange happenings and one of the writer’s most famous books. With great sound and visual effects, “I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House” is a chilling drama that focuses on the main character’s delicate mind. Writer and director Oz Perkins is able to create a unique and creepy atmosphere that will make you stay curious and entertained.
22. Before I Wake (2017)
“Before I Wake” is an intense and thrilling supernatural thriller that follows a young couple who decide to adopt an 8-year-old-boy named Cody. But Cody is terribly afraid to fall asleep since his dreams manifest physically as he sleeps. After they discover this, the young couple begins a risky adventure to reveal the truth behind Cody’s nightmares and to save their new family. The story is intriguing and refreshing and it is perfectly executed by the entire cast and director Mike Flanagan. If you enjoy films that involve the supernatural, “Before I Wake” is a must-watch.
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21. Hush (2016)
Yes, this one can be put into the drawer of predictable horror films, however, it then must also be included in one of the highly suspenseful entertainments we still love to watch for the thrill and adrenaline rush it keeps providing. As many similar films in the genre as there might be, this one brings up the tension and frustration to a higher level, as even if we could scream through the screen to warn our protagonist of peril, this one would not hear us. That’s right, “Hush” deals with the survival nightmare of a deaf writer living in an isolated house in the woods, who’s life comes under the attack of a creepy masked psychopath. Silence has never been as frightening.
20. Ugly (2014)
The enfant terrible of Indian cinema, Anurag Kashyap has been the catalyst which proved instrumental in ushering in a new generation of bold and unflinchingly honest filmmakers. A neo-noir psychological thriller, ‘Ugly’ follows the investigation into the abduction of a young girl in broad daylight, and all the murkiness that unravels from beneath the surface. Much like the works of the Austrian auteur Michael Haneke, Kashyap’s ‘Ugly’ does not want you watching it from the comfortable seats of your home, munching popcorn; no, it wants you to be provoked, disturbed and disgusted. A movie where the little girl and her fate is pushed to the background; where it becomes a minor detail, ‘Ugly’ could terrify you to the core. Easily one of the best thriller movies on Netflix.
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19. Kahaani (2012)
One of the finest thrillers to have ever come out of Bollywood, ‘Kahaani’ brilliantly intertwines great characterizations with an absorbing narrative to keep us at the edge of our seats. Starring the luminous Vidya Balan as a pregnant woman in search of her missing husband who uncovers a massive government conspiracy, Kahaani gives us what most Indian thrillers fail to provide – a cinematic atmosphere that slowly builds up the tension. Sujoy Ghosh effectively uses the city of Kolkota and its mysteries to deliver a fiercely compelling cinematic experience.
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18. The Invitation (2015)
When Will is invited to a dinner party hosted by his ex-wife and her new husband he is taken by surprise and does not know what to expect. While on the party, he cannot seem to shake the feeling that something is wrong… But is he losing his senses or is he correct? “The Invitation” will be most enjoyed if you go in blind. Don’t watch the trailer or read more than this simple synopsis. All you need to know is that you will be surprised by the plot and ending. Also, it has an extraordinary performance by Logan Marshall-Green, who portrays grief and paranoia brilliantly.
‘The Invitation’ is one of those films which is run entirely by what goes on in the background. The brilliance of it lies in the fact that you never know what is really going on until the climax. The last scene will definitely take your breath away. It is important to ensure that you go into this movie without even reading the plot summary or having a hint of what it is in order to be completely blown away by it.
17. Circle (2015)
What would happen if a group of 50 people were to wake up in a room and find out one of them dies every two minutes and that this decision is controlled by each one of them as a whole? “The Circle” is a psychological thriller that explores social issues through a provokingly simple storyline base where suspense is meticulously well-crafted in this one-room set. When only dialogue and character development are the principal aspects that lead you to stay connected and fear for the worst, you’ve got something like this.
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16. Gerald’s Game (2017)
In the hope to save their marriage, Gerald and Jessie decide to spend a couple of days in a remote retreat. When Gerald wants to play a kinky sex game with a pair of handcuffs, Jessie accepts. However, when he suddenly dies, leaving Jessie handcuffed to their bed, she must fight for survival. “Gerald’s Game” is a fantastic psychological thriller adapted by Mike Flanagan from a Stephen King’s novel. With an incredible pace, Make Flanagan uses flashbacks, unhinged conversations and hallucinations to create a movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
With some great acting and a logline that promises a lot while mentioning almost nothing at all, “Gerald’s Game” will surprise you with an outcome you might have not considered at all. It is smart, purposeful and shows a certain originality within the story parameters and the suspense it hypnotically conveys.
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16. The Sixth Sense (1999)
This classic drama by M. Night Shyamalan revolves around Malcolm Crowe, a child psychologist, who accepts the challenge to treat a young boy that sees dead people. As their relationship evolves, Malcolm Crowe starts to believe that the child is actually seeing ghosts. “The Sixth Sense” not only pays attention to detail but also reflects upon difficult subjects like death, love, commitment, and grief. Furthermore, it has an incredible execution and brilliant performances by Bruce Willies and Haley Joel Osment. It is easy to understand why this movie stayed with so many people upon watching it.
Suspense is key in this mystery drama film by M. Night Shyamalan. The supernatural carries a terrifying weight filled with tension and apprehension that leaves the audience in awe by the end of the movie. The capacity to create undeniable and quality suspense is not an easy task to achieve, however this classic is a perfect example of one that has truly nailed it. A masterpiece of suspense.
15. Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018)
It can be said without a doubt that ‘Black Mirror‘ is one of the most important Tv shows of our time. The series has opened our minds to how the technology that we use today can affect our lives and be used to cause immense damage. The most fascinating aspect about the series is the fact that ‘Black Mirror’ uses technology which is mostly available in today’s world. The series creators really upped their game when they decided to produce a film which lets the users decide what happens within the film’s narrative.
The story of the film centers around a boy called Stefan who wants to develop a game where the player gets to influence the direction which the game will take. On the other hand, we, the viewers, get to choose his story as the film progresses. Slowly the worlds of reality and fiction collide as we and the character realize that the controls are not in our hands at all, and all we have is something which just looks like a choice. While the story of the film is not that great compared to the ‘Black Mirror’ episodes, its concept is surely groundbreaking.
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14. 1922 (2017)
No other writer in history has seen his works adapted for the big screen as much as Stephen King. Filmmakers have always found his stories to be the most filmable, as they have the right amount of thrills, horrors, suspense, and are brilliantly structured as well. The 2017 film ‘1922’ written and directed by Zak Hilditch is also a Stephen King adaptation, and it can be easily said that this is one of the best Netflix original films to date.
The story of ‘1922’ centers around a man called Wilfred James who lives on a farm in rural Nebraska with his wife and teenaged son. Wilfred has a massive argument with his wife when she suggests selling their farm and their house and moving to the city. Wilfred, afraid that he might lose his land to his wife if they divorce, convinces his son to help him murder her. They carry out the murder and then dump the corpse in a well and try to forget about it. However, soon this action starts affecting the lives of Wilfred and his son in the weirdest of ways. The film is wonderfully made, with amazing performances and brilliant pacing which manages to keep the audiences on the edge of their seats throughout the running time of the film. The film takes a Shakesperean approach to horror, with there being strong resemblances between the characters of Wilfred and Macbeth.
13. Mercy (2016)
Written and directed by Chris Sparling, ‘Mercy’ premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival, after which Netflix acquired the rights to distribute this film. ‘Mercy’ centers around the story of four brothers who find themselves in a life-threatening situation when they go to their mother for the last time before she passes away. Little do they know that their mother has kept a lot of secrets of her past hidden from them. With most people in the family not really comfortable with each other, the tensions start multiplying as soon as the mother’s secrets start coming out of the bag. The brothers soon find themselves in a precarious situation where they have to literally survive through the night by any means necessary. The filmmaker has tried to play with certain filmmaking techniques in ‘Mercy’, but overall the film lacks a certain coherence and feels rather disjointed in certain places.
12. Calibre (2018)
A brilliantly made thriller, ‘Calibre’ is the debut film of Scottish filmmaker Matt Palmer. The story begins with two friends who go on a hunting trip and then get into circumstances which end up threatening their lives. Marcus and Vaughn are the two characters in question, and they go to a rural town where they wish to have a gala time before Vaughn gets married. The director takes time in introducing the two leading characters before simply jumping into the story, which helps us know them better so that we can empathize with them when the real dangers set in. During their hunting, Vaughn notices a deer and shoots at it instinctively without observing carefully.
What happens after that is what the film is basically about. ‘Calibre’ becomes a film dealing with paranoia, guilt, toxic masculinity, and so on. Brilliantly paced, the suspense remains intact right from the start until the very end of the film. ‘Calibre’ is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best Netflix original movies of all time.
11. Hold The Dark (2018)
‘Hold The Dark’, directed by Jeremy Saulnier, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival before being picked up by Netflix for distribution. The film tells the story of Russell Core, a renowned scholar of wolves, who has been hired by a grieving mother to find and kill the wolf which has taken the life of her son.
The story takes place in a village called Keelut where wolves have been responsible for the death of three children. The mother, Medora Slone, though apparently grieving the death of her son, has certain secrets which she does not reveal. As he investigates further, Russell slowly comes to realize that forces far more sinister than a pack of wolves are at play here. The film is a slow-burner and relies on heavy symbolism. Here, each character and the village itself become much more than their importance in the narrative. Saulnier has made impressive films in the past like ‘Blue Ruin’ and ‘Green Room’, and this film too has moments of brilliance at par with the other two. There are bursts of gory violence in this film which works quite effectively in the otherwise bleak and snowy atmosphere.
10. Cam (2018)
A cam girl is someone who performs live via webcams on certain hosting sites where audiences can watch their videos and even communicate with them directly if they want to. This is exactly what the leading character of the film ‘Cam’, Alice Ackerman does. She uses the name “Lola_Lola” to perform (mostly pornographic material) on a streaming site, while keeping her mother entirely unaware of her profession. Desperate to be number one on the website, Alice streams an elaborate fake suicide which gives her a massive boost, but this is also where the problems in her life start to appear. Another girl who looks exactly like Alice starts performing similar acts using Alice’s name.
The real Alice tries to get behind this and stop the imposter, but the harder she tries, the more she enters into a world where technology is twisted and turned in many ways by certain people to make money. The film warns us of the dangers of revealing too much about ourselves on the internet while itself being thoroughly entertaining. ‘Cam’ packs a solid punch with its brilliant performances, writing, cinematography, and direction. It is commendable that such a powerful film got made with only a $1 million budget.
9. Apostle (2018)
One of the best horror films by Netflix, ‘Apostle’ released during the Halloween of 2018 and immediately garnered a lot of interest from horror lovers all over the world. The film centers around a character called Thomas Richardson who comes to know that his sister has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom at an island that is entirely controlled by a religious cult. In a bid to save his sister, Thomas decides to travel to the island disguised as one of their followers.
Once on the island, Thomas discovers many sinister activities carried out by the cult in the name of religion. Blood sacrifice turns out to be one of the most important activities of this cult, as they believe this is the only way to keep the island holy enough to carry out their religious activities. In this extremely dangerous situation, Thomas has the impossible task of locating his sister and then carrying her back to safety. The set designs of this film are extremely impressive. The performance of Michael Sheen as Malcolm Howe, the cult’s leader, is also marvelous. ‘Apostle’ keeps the audience on their toes throughout its entire running time.
8. Secret Obsession (2019)
‘Secret Obsession‘ is a Netflix original film dealing with the situation one woman finds herself in after losing all her memories as a result of an accident. The woman in question, Jennifer, (Brenda Song), cannot recall anything, be it who are friends are, where she works, or even who her husband is. However, Jennifer’s husband Russell proves to be someone who is ready to look after her, and he even tries his best to bring back her memories by showing Jennifer photographs of her parents.
Meanwhile, we learn about Detective Frank Page (Dennis Haysbert), who is desperately searching for her daughter’s kidnapper. It is Page who takes up Jennifer’s case and on the course of his investigation, he becomes suspicious about Jennifer’s husband. Page is of the opinion that Russell is not who he claims to be and is simply taking advantage of Jennifer’s loss of memory. The idea of the film is novel, but the tropes used here are rather outdated. Despite this, the powerful performances by Song, Mike Vogel, and Haysbert are the main reasons why ‘Secret Obsession’ are the main reasons why ‘Secret Obsession’ remains a watchable film.
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7. Fractured (2019)
Netflix has really become a force to be reckoned with when it comes to making original thriller films. Yes, there have been certain disappointments when it comes to their original films, but that can be said about any major production house. The 2019 film ‘Fractured‘ proves that Netflix has often managed to hit the mark with their original films. This movie centers around a family of three who have gone on a trip. Because of a certain incident, the daughter needs to be admitted to the hospital. While waiting for his wife and daughter, the husband Ray Monroe passes out in the hospital’s lobby. But when he wakes up and starts looking for his family, he finds no trace of them whatsoever. His wife and daughter cannot be located anywhere in the hospital, nor can the doctors or other officials provide Ray with any information.
It slowly dawns upon Ray that the people working in the hospital are themselves somehow responsible for the disappearance. Ray now has to battle against all the odds and look for his family before it is too late. The film’s story is a bit predictable and all the twists and turns are also things we have already seen. However, the film is overall an entertaining watch. Sam Worthington has also put up a solid performance as the leading character. The director has managed to create a sense of confusion and panic with his intricate direction and appreciable cinematography.
6. Polar (2019)
Mads Mikkelsen is a magnetic presence whenever he appears onscreen, and ‘Polar’ managed to create quite a buzz around the world when it was revealed that Mikkelsen is playing the lead role in the film. His character in ‘Polar’ is called Duncan Vizla, aka “the Black Kaiser”. Duncan is one of the finest professional killers in the world who is planning his retirement at the age of 50. When he refuses to carry out one more hit for the firm he has been working for, the latter deems him a liability to the organization and sends out killers to track and kill Duncan using any means necessary. Duncan now has to go up against this army of professional killers all of whom are rather well-trained and know how to get their jobs done. ‘Polar’ does not have anything new to offer, but it surely is an entertaining watch.
5. Rebirth (2006)
Writer-director Karl Mueller’s film ‘Rebirth’ begins with a rather intriguing premise. The film centers around a man called Kyle (Fran Kranz) whose monotonous existence has no quotient of thrill or adventure. When he comes across one of his old friends Zack (Adam Goldberg), the latter offers Kyle a chance to escape this regular life by going with him to a retreat simply known as ‘Rebirth’. Once there, Kyle realizes this place is more than just a weekend retreat. He goes down a spiral of lies, drama, and violence inside the retreat where rules of the outside world don’t apply. The film brilliantly sets up its story but massively falters when it comes to the resolution, which is rather dismal. The performances in the film are appreciable. ‘Rebirth’ could’ve become one of the best Netflix original films if its last act was as well written as the earlier ones.
4. ARQ (2016)
An intriguing science fiction thriller, ‘ARQ’ is set in the near-future when oil reserves all over the world are slowly drying up. In such a scenario, the big corporations are up in arms against the governments to obtain energy supplies. Within this premise, the narrative of ‘ARQ’ revolves around an engineer who has with him a source of unlimited energy. But he is trapped alone inside a house, and outside are lurking dangerous masked gunmen who will do anything to get their hands on his prized possession. There is one more twist- the engineer and his friends are stuck in a time loop which prevents them from getting out of the dangerous situation. The film is rather well-made, and the plot is also nicely built up and brought to a fitting resolution by writer-director Tony Elliott.
3. Clinical (2017)
The job of a psychiatrist is rather challenging. She has to delve into the deepest recesses of the subject’s minds and bring out the latter’s darkest thoughts. This film too is a story about a psychiatrist, Dr. Jane Mathis (Vinessa Shaw), who herself is suffering from PTSD after she was attacked by a patient who also attempted suicide in her home. Just when she is recuperating from this situation and looking for a solution, Jane comes across a patient called Alex who is in need of psychiatric help after witnessing a major accident and losing his daughter because of the same. The film’s plot is intricately built up, and the resolution leaves audiences with a sense of closure. Vinessa Shaw and India Eisleyre magnificent in their roles as well.
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2. Shimmer Lake (2017)
Jean-Luc Godard very famously said, “Every film has a beginning, middle, and an end- but not necessarily in the same order”. This is exactly the scenario when it comes to the film ‘Shimmer Lake’ written and directed by Oren Uziel. The movie centers around a sheriff’s investigation into the whereabouts of three dangerous criminals, one of whom happens to be his own brother. The story of the film spans a period of a week, but the entire narrative is revealed to us backward, similar to the approach Gasper Noe takes in the 2004 film ‘Irreversible’. Of course, the writing here has to be appreciated because it is rather difficult to concisely tell a story backward. The film really packs a punch and keeps us on our toes. It can easily be said that ‘Shimmer Lake’ is one of the best thrillers among all Netflix original films.
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1. Wheelman (2017)
A high-octane action thriller, ‘Wheelman’ is a brilliant film made by writer-director Jeremy Rush which centers around the eponymous character who serves as a getaway driver for criminal gangs. After one bank heist, the Wheelman gets betrayed by his contact and this results in the lives of his ex-wife and daughter getting endangered. As the Wheelman tries to save their lives, he is also being chased by a gang who want to get their hands on the stolen money in his car. Viewers who love action-thrillers will have a gala time watching this film. The performances are measured, the pacing of the film is even, and there is not a single loosely written scene in the entire film.
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