12 Best Thriller Movies of This Decade (2010-2018)

Updated February 27, 2017
9 min read

Thriller movies are the piece de resistance for the theater-going public. Not only do they have full entertainment value, but also give the crowds much-needed thrills. The edge of the seat flicks revel themselves in parts which keeps the audiences engaged. Over the years the emergence of visionary auteurs like Dennis Villeneuve and David Fincher have lifted the standards of the genre and have set a benchmark for others to emulate. Their use of non-linear storytelling and gripping narratives make the films an engrossing venture. Though, there has been criticism directed towards the genre for becoming too commercial and losing the plot somewhat, the past decade has seen a balanced combination of both. This infusion of revolutionary techniques has made them rank amongst the best of movies. With that said, here’s the list of top thriller films of the 2010s.

12. The Invitation (2015)

‘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. Also, it stars Tom Hardy’s doppelganger, Logan Marshall-Green. I had to actually check to confirm that it wasn’t him. Twice.


11. Nightcrawler (2014)

The first on the list is Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler, starring the very-underestimated Jake Gyllenhaal as the ruthless Louis Bloom. The stringer-thriller film, canvasses his nightly sojourns through the streets of LA, working for a local TV news. A common theme in the film is the symbiotic relationship between unethical journalism and consumer demand. Gilroy courageously wrote Bloom as an antihero, which eventually came off garnering critical acclaim. It is a parody of the juxtaposed and lewd tabloids and news channels, often misrepresenting the actual news. The anti-climax is a perfect example of the character’s psyche, with Gyllenhaal surprisingly missing out on an Oscar nomination too much controversy (he also lost 20 kgs for the film). His ideas of capitalism and unemployment were perfectly showcased in the character’s actions. The supporting cast, including Rene Russo and Riz Ahmed does a commendable job creating a dark environment. It is a must watch!

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10. Enemy (2013)

Another Jake Gyllenhaal movie on the list must give you an idea of how good he is. This is the first feature on the list directed by Dennis Villeneuve.The film, loosely based on the novel “The Double”, it is a story about a high-school teacher, who discovers his doppelganger, a struggling actor. This challenging exploration of the subconscious dwells deeply in themes of spiders and webs, which stands for the predicament the protagonist finds himself in. The film has one of the most confusing plots, with the end having multiple interpretations by fans and critics alike. The director and actors have given several hints as to the fundamentals of the film. “It is about a man who is married, his wife is pregnant, and he’s having an affair. He has to figure himself out before he can commit to life as an adult.” The film is a reflection of the opening caption, which read : “Chaos is order yet undeciphered.”

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9. Sicario (2015)

The second feature directed by Dennis Villeneuve on the list, the film is about a principled FBI agent who is enlisted by a government task force to bring down the leader of a powerful and brutal Mexican drug cartel. Starring the versatile Emily Blunt and Benecio Del Toro, with an equally stellar supporting cast including Josh Brolin and Jon Bernthal, the film was met with critical and commercial acclaim. The engrossing action and the gripping direction are ably complimented by equally good acting and writing. The depiction of Juarez did attract criticism, for convoluting the reality With unexpected plot twists and surreal characters, the film is a winner all the way through.

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8. Ex Machina (2015)

The only sci-fi movie to feature on the list, this Alex Garland-helmed flick explores the journey of a programmer who wins a contest and is invited to a secluded island to administer the Turing test to an intelligent humanoid robot. The film received universal critical acclaim, with praise directed towards its stellar cast, the unconventional plot-line and the special effects. Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac and Domnhall Gleeson assume the titular roles, with surreal performances. The end, which by many has been touted as one of the most ironical climaxes of all times, garnered negative attention from many critics. It was nominated and won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects.

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7. Nocturnal Animals (2016)

This is probably the most simple, yet intriguing film in the list. Coming from the shores of Tom Ford’s haute cotoure, the film is much more than the ravishing outfits and the semi-arid plains. The movie is complemented by two stories, one encapsulated within a novel written by Edward Sheffield, which is gifted to Susan Morrow, the former’s ex-wife. Through a harrowing sequences of well written and shot scenes, the happenings of the novel are depicted, which bare a striking resemblance to Susan’s real life. The film features top performances, especially Jake Gyllenhaal, who again went unnoticed, and its enticing, yet heartbreaking, story, or stories for that matter.

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6. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

The film is based on the novel of the same name by Steig Larsson. Starring Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara( who was absolutely amazing in the movie), Robin Wright and Stellan Skarsgard, the film tracks the story of journalist Mikael Blomkovist’s investigation to find out what happened to a woman from a wealthy family who disappeared 40 years prior. He recruits the help of computer hacker Lisbeth Slander. Another film directed by David Fincher, the film sought extensive research and analysis, with the whole cast being particularly meticulous with details. The film had five Oscar nominations and won the award for Best Editing. The transformation of Rooney Mara was much talked about, and eventually got universal plaudits and accolades.

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5. Black Swan (2010)

This 2010 psychological-thriller film, directed by the maverick Darren Aronofsky, shadows the story of Nina, a dancer with the New York City dance company, and her strenuous endeavors to play the Black Swan, a role completely opposite to her traits. Nina is overwhelmed by a feeling of immense pressure when she finds herself competing for the part, causing her to lose her tenuous grip on reality and descend into a living nightmare. The surprisingly dark nature of the dancing business is exposed, with corrupt and sex-ravenous masters and bitchy peers take front seat. The thrilling finale, which signifies “achieving artistic perfection”, fittingly concludes a riveting film that evokes and provokes spine-chilling scares. Natalie Portman won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a leading role and deservingly so.

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4. Shutter Island (2010)

Another one of Scorcese-DiCaprio successful union, the film is based on Dennis Lehane’s 2003 novel of the same name. Leo stars as US Marshal Edward Daniels, who is a assigned a mental penitentiary on a secluded island, where a patient goes missing. Mark Ruffolo and Ben Kingsley star in the supporting cast. The film envisages to establish a line between reality and fallacy, using tormenting flashbacks and constrained present to effective use. The build-up is made intriguing with the mental patients and an alternative theory about the dealings of the hospital. Do not miss this one!

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3. Prisoners (2013)

Another Jake Gyllenhaal movie (God, do I still have to say?) directed by Dennis Villeneuve starring Hugh Jackman, Viola Davis and Melissa Leo. The plot centralizes on the investigation of the abduction of two little girls on the eve of Christmas. The intricate detailing in the plot adds to the eerie feel of the movie. Met with critical and commercial acclaim, the film explores various aspects of human psychology like guilt, redemption and self-loathing. The superb acting coupled with the seamless direction make for a great watch!

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2. Gone Girl (2014)

Based on Gillian Flynn’a 2003 novel of the same name, the film is directed by David Fincher. The plot divulges no information and unravels itself at snails pace, much like Rosamund Pike’s character. It focuses on a struggling husband-wife pair going through marital problems, when the wife mysteriously disappears suspected dead. The film explores themes of gender inferiority among men and the flailing economy of modern America. The cast is a stellar one including Ben Affleck, Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry, who give commendable performances. But its Rosamund Pike whose performance garnered universal critical acclaim and was nominated for an Academy Award. Fincher as always delivers with the film with one of the best thrillers of recent times.

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1. Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

This political action thriller is based on the decade long man-hunt of Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden. The Bigelow helmed film concocts certain fictional characters, while retaining important real characters, to fit into the plot of the film. It garnered negative attention for its depiction of so-called “enhanced interrogation“, with many criticising Bigelow for diluting the truth and juxtaposing the process. In spite of this attention, the film garnered critical acclaim, topping the Top 10 list of almost all critics. Jessica Chastain was the subject of universal plaudits and accolades, with critics praising her for bringing a familiar vulnerability to the character. For its gripping realism and bold subject matter, the film is a winner all the way through!

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