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 are our recommendations for you and your friends.
30. 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 a beautiful scenery.
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29. 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.
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28. Dementia (2015)
George Lockhart is an elderly war veteran that recently got diagnosed with dementia. Upon this discovery, he is forced by his distant family to hire a live-in nurse to take care of him. But he soon realizes that she hides a creepy secret. “Dementia” is a slow-burn thriller with outstanding performances by Gene Jones and Kristina Klebe. Furthermore, the story is original and engaging throughout the entire film.
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27. They Look Like People (2015)
Wyatt suspects that people around him are turning into evil creatures. While staying at his friend’s Christian apartment, Wyatt tries to decide whether he should protect his (only) friend from an impending war between humans and these malicious beings. With a great use of sound effects, this movie is able to create a suspenseful and creepy atmosphere and transport you to another world. “They Look Like People” balances almost perfectly the peculiar elements of the storyline with the real interactions between the main characters. Overall, despite being a low budget film, it is an engaging indie psychological drama.
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26. 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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25. Cold in July (2014)
After hearing some strange noises in his home, Richard Dane shoots burglar Freddy Russell. Even though he’s hailed as a small-town hero, Dane starts to fear for his family’s safety when Freddy’s ex-con father arrives looking for revenge. The suspense “Cold in July” creates is impressive, everything in the film is spot on really. The music, lighting, cinematography will leave you speechless. Moreover, Michael C. Hall reveals once again that he is an amazing actor.
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24. Hush (2016)
Yes, this one can be put into the drawer of predictable horror films, however it then must also be included in the one of 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 becomes under attack of a creepy masked psychopath. Silence has never been as frightening.
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23. 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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22. The Double (2013)
What happens when an introverted, downtrodden man runs into a vivacious and energetic co-worker, his doppelgänger, at his workplace? Simon James and James Simon are the anchors of ‘The Double’, essayed by the immensely talented Jesse Eisenberg. While the introverted Simon is smitten by his beautiful colleague Hannah (Mia Wasikowska); James, the charming and respected co-worker in office, helps him get together with Hannah. To Simon’s horror, James slowly starts taking over his life.
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21. 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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20. 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.
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19. Donnie Darko (2001)
Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) doesn’t get along too well with his family, his teachers and his classmates. He has a friend named Frank – a large bunny which only he can see. When an engine falls off a plane and destroys his bedroom, Donnie is not there. Both the event and Donnie’s escape, seem to have been caused by supernatural events. “Donnie Darko” it is not a film for everyone since it promotes hard thinking. After the film ends, it’s almost impossible to keep yourself from thinking of all the possible ways to interpret everything. Moreover, it has an amazing soundtrack, a very interesting plot and brilliant performances by teenage actors.
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18. 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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17. It Follows (2014)
This one has quite a disturbing and terrifying horror-supernatural storyline but perhaps it’s because it actually brings attention to real-life dangers we could (in a realistic way) encounter. After having sex with her new boyfriend, Jay finds herself infected with some sort of paranormal curse that puts her in constant danger, as an entity visible only to her follows and hunts her around the clock. The only way to get rid of this murderous spirit is to transmit it to someone else, the same way she got it from her now disappeared boyfriend. “It Follows” will probably follow you into your dreams the night you watch it. However, don’t be taken aback as it’s still a greatly entertaining, smart and original film.
Besides its original storyline, this movie is special for two more reasons. One, its pace, which is a bit slower compared to most of the movies in this genre, which is nice by the way and secondly, it’s background score, which is very refreshing given it’s a psychological horror flick. The film could have raised the stacks towards the climax instead of staying at the same pace which is the only downer I could find. But, it is enthralling and scary enough to hook you in for 2 hours.
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16. No Escape (2015)
What’s more suspenseful than a killing rampage trying to eradicate everything and everyone, including the protagonist and his innocent and desperate family? It is when we fear for the life of the character we’re rooting for that we tensely sit up in our couch and approach the screen as an attempt to control the scene and avoid the worst to happen. However we never have control of the film and that’s whats so stressful and agitating. You’ll find what I’m talking about in this action film where an American family, newly moved in overseas, tries through every means to escape a rebellion from killing them. Will they escape though? Title doesn’t seem very convincing…you’ll have to watch to find out.
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15. 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 log line 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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14. Gone Baby Gone (2007)
“Gone Baby Gone”, based on a novel of the same name, is Ben Affleck’s directorial debut and definitely is worth the watch for the quality of what has been achieved in this film. It isn’t like any other crime mystery as it evolves into a deeper context, a more complex situation which will bring up ethical questions about what’s right and what’s wrong, that might leave the audience thinking for a while. On top of this extra exploration which gives the film importance, it obviously contains that perfectly measured amount of suspense we all seek to find. Filled with delicate rescuing, planning and plotting, it follows the attempt of two private inspectors in finding a missing four-year-old girl in a drug-involved neighbourhood of Boston.
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13. The Awakening (2011)
A ghost story had to be on the list as these are perhaps the most suspenseful films of cinema’s variety of genres. Although handling with the imaginary and inexistent (at least in most people’s beliefs), we can not but shiver at the sight of a mysterious spirit haunting our protagonist’s cherished life. Here, we have Florence, an author and “ghosthunter” of 1920’s England who is asked to help investigate a boys boarding school, where a ghost has been seen and is suspected to be the cause for the death of a pupil. With a beautiful cinematography and a well-constructed storyline, “The Awakening” is nothing else than a fresh story mastering the art of suspense once more.
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12. The Machinist (2004)
Perhaps one of the most extreme transformations an actor has gone through for a role is the one of Christian Bale in the psychological thriller “The Machinist”, for which he lost 62 pounds for a terrifyingly skinny figure. It recounts the story of a machinist who has not slept in a year due to severe insomnia and who’s implication in an accident at work is the first step to his development of paranoia that will bring him down towards a delusional road. Mysterious through it all, it holds the suspenseful mood that varies in level from beginning to end, making it an interesting and intelligently orchestrated pick to dive into.
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11. Old Boy (2003)
Incredible in all its forms, “Old Boy” can be called a masterpiece and a classic of the modern age. Powerful, brutal and raw, it brings out so much from the viewer, one can do nothing but admit that after watching it, one has witnessed the complexity that the art of cinema can create and explore. Although with a confusing start, it picks up the suspense pretty quickly and lights it on raging fire when the story begins to shape itself into an addicting tale. Oh Dae-su is imprisoned in a cell for 15 years, without ever understanding why, where and who has done that to him. When finally released, he targets his vengeance as his only goal and prepares himself to go through it all to find out the truth.
This 2004 classic has everything thrown in: brutal gut wrenching violence and gore, protagonist at unease, a shady antagonist, and incest. Watching this movie for the first time will certainly blow your minds, and you’d probably feel disgusted for sometime. I did. But its cult status can’t be denied. It is horrifying, yet mesmerizing, and inspired two remakes.
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10. Nightcrawler (2014)
With a top performance by Jake Gyllenhaal once more, we have “Nightcrawler”, a movie that goes beyond pure thrilling entertainment and defies the ethical limitations of journalism and our media driven world filled with violent stories of accidents and crime. Within this dark and dangerous mood, we got Louis Bloom, a start-up in freelance video-journalism who shoots incidents and sells the footage to news channels. As his success in this job grows, so does his obsession for better and more violent content, a tricky fixation that leads him interfering crimes scenes, if not more. An intelligent work with lots of suspense hidden in between its thriller-storyline.
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9. The Babadook (2014)
An example of a great horror film that has conquered its audience! “The Babadook” contains just the right amount of suspense and tension to make it an equilibrated terror between crafty storytelling and well-timed jump scares. Considered by many one of the best horror films of the year of its release, the Babadook will surely scare the hell out of you and bring the most inner goosebumps and shivering to the dark and scary surface.
Amelia lost her husband in a car crash on the way to give birth to Samuel and now struggles to cope with her fate as a single mom. Samuel is constantly afraid of monsters and Amelia soon discovers a sinister presence all around her. The best about this film is the suspense. Powered by a fantastic cast and a unique story, “The Babadook” is extremely suspenseful and even psychological. Not only it is very well paced, but also explores unusual themes for a horror film. In sum, an original film that will get under your skin.
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8. Insomnia (2002)
A Christopher Nolan film is a Christopher Nolan film. That means, it promises a lot of great things into an even greater result. This result, you can effortlessly find it in “Insomnia”, a film about murder, guilt and a whole lot of sleep deprivation. Robert DeNiro plays a homicide detective who is sent to a small Alaskan town in order to uncover the murder of a teenage girl. However things go wrong when encountering the suspect in a blind confrontation, in the mids of a thick mass of fog. This town, where the sun never sets, is a strange, strange place where suspense floats through the air and only ceases to exist once the screen goes dark and we sigh of relief.
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7. The Prestige (2006)
When an illusion goes terribly wrong, two 19th-century magicians, become enemies and begin a dangerous battle. Terrible consequences emerge from the acts of desperation both do with the aim to destroy the other man. “The Prestige” walks the line between mystery, fantasy, suspense, and drama. Because of that, the story feels like a dream and you never know what is going to happen next. Directed by Christopher Nolan, this film presents a superb direction and some powerful performances by an all-star cast. Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale suit their roles perfectly, making their performances unforgettable.
Magic is inspiring, eye-grabbing and entertaining in general, but when rivalry, tension and obsession come into the picture, things become a real intrigue where suspense all of a sudden plays a major role. Of course, it contains lots of twists and surprises which means that to get there, a lot of tension and apprehension will be felt. And oh it will be good.
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6. The Shining (1980)
‘The Shining’ isn’t really the traditional horror film that we’re so accustomed to seeing. There are no jump scares or flashy sound effects. But it affects you profoundly on a psychological level, unnerving and disturbing in ways you haven’t been before. Adapted from Stephen King’s 1977 novel, ‘The Shining tells the story of Jack Torrance who arrives at a chilling, mysterious hotel with his family to be interviewed for the position of winter caretaker. Jack slowly loses control of his mind as he sinks deep into the horrifying depths of unimaginable darkness. ‘The Shining’ explores the dark sides of masculinity and indolence as the devil embraces Torrance’s soul, wiping away the slightest tinges of humanity.
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5. No Country For Old Men (2007)
‘No Country for Old Men’ depicts the cat and mouse drama of a hunter and a psychopathic hitman who is in pursuit of the 2 million dollars stolen by the hunter. A startling look at the existence of violence, perennially entrenched in the human society, the film is Coen Brothers’ most philosophical work; a poetic exploration of fate, conscience, circumstance and violence while dealing with quintessential Coen Brothers’ themes of nihilism and pessimism.
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4. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009)
An investigative journalist and a troubled hacker join hands to search for a girl who vanished from her house 40 years ago. The only clue they have is a diary of the missing girl. Soon the diary reveals a series of clues that leads them to brutal murders of young girls 40 years ago. Sensational and shocking to the core, this Swedish movie was raved by the critics and the audience alike, giving it a successful Hollywood remake. Naomi Rapace gives a thunderous performance as Lisbeth Salandar.
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3. Se7en (1995)
Brutal killings, each describing a biblical sin, an unnamed American city. A soon to be retired detective with his hot-headed partner start looking for this unknown killer called John Doe. After five dead bodies, the killer turns himself over to the police and offers to take them to two more bodies. What transpires next is an amalgamation of disturbing, nasty and thorough bizarreness. David Fincher’s ‘Se7en’ is a work of fiction, but somehow it appears to be a truth close to the heart that eventually your sin catches up to you.
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2. 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.
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3. Wind River (2017)
Set inside the Wyoming Wind River Native American Reservation, Cory Lambert, a seasoned tracker and a Wildlife Service agent finds the body of a young native American girl Natalie with gruesome injuries. An amateur FBI investigator Jane starts an investigation to unfold the mysteries behind Natalie’s murder and as it turns out, something really bad happened on a night preceding a few days before the murder that involved Matt’s (Natalie’s boyfriend, who was found murdered too) drunk friends and a lot of cover-ups. ‘Wind River’ was widely praised for pathbreaking performances, layers deep characters, spellbinding thrill and depictions of chilling crimes. If you have missed ‘Wind River’, you’re missing out a lot on bone-chilling murder mysteries.