Everybody loves a good thriller. When it comes to edge-of-your-seat movie experiences, nothing hits quite as hard as the unravelling of a muder mystery, the relentless pursuit of an assassin or the home invasion gone awry.
Luckily, Netflix ticks all of those boxes and more, with the streamer home to a host of movies that will leave you catching your breath, covering your eyes and scratching your head in equal measure.
In this list, we round up ten of the best – from underappreciated noir flicks to classic thriller staples.
And yes, at least three of them star Jake Gyllenhaal.
Michael Mann’s 2004 neo-noir thriller stars a white-haired Tom Cruise as Vincent, the ruthless hitman who holds cab driver Max, played by Jamie Foxx, hostage through the streets of downtown Los Angeles.
For those in doubt of Cruise’s acting chops, Collateral proves a refreshing departure from the selfish playboys and one-dimensional action heroes that have largely defined his career, with Foxx his equal in every dialogue-duelling scene. Like Heat before it, Mann’s obvious love for the L.A. aesthetic here would go on to influence several urban adaptations in the years that followed – Gotham City and Los Santos among them.
Oh, and Mark Ruffalo plays a detective, obviously.
Sticking with the Los Angeles theme – maybe there’s something in the water? – Nightcrawler is one of the most accomplished directorial debuts of recent times, with Dan Gilroy conducting the camera with all the skill of a seasoned pro.
Jake Gyllenhaal, too, is mesmerising as Louis Bloom, an eccentric con man who becomes a video journalist covering L.A.’s violent crimes, opposite an early-career – and equally well-cast – Riz Ahmed. It’s grisly, satirical and the sort of movie that may have you wanting to take a shower when the final credits roll.
If you liked Joker, this one’s a sure-fire hit.
The first of three David Fincher movies on this list, Seven (or Se7en) is just about as thriller-like as thrillers get. Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman star as detectives on the hunt for a serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins to inform their murders. That’s really all that can be said in terms of spoiler-free plot – just know that things get… gruesome.
It doesn’t quite have the intricacy of Fincher’s later work, Zodiac (which you’ll also find below), but Seven doesn’t half chew you up and spit you out. And that’s all you can ask of a movie, right?
Watch it even if only to find out what’s in the box.
No Country for Old Men (2007)
Regarded by some as the best film of the noughties, the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men packs tension, intrigue and downright fear into the two-hour tale of a drug deal gone wrong in the Texas desert.
Granted, those elements largely come thanks to a bowl cut-sporting, cattle gun-toting Javier Bardem, whose hitman Anton Chigurh is one of the best villains of recent cinema, but No Country for Old Men proves that – when it comes to thrillers – slow and steady wins the race.
As above, Zodiac takes everything David Fincher got right with Seven a decade earlier and adds a healthy dose of reality to proceedings. It follows the still unsolved case of the infamous Zodiac Killer, a serial murderer who terrorized the San Francisco Bay Area during the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Like Seven before it, Zodiac has its fair share of grisly moments, but it’s ultimately a more stylish, upbeat picture anchored by leads from Mark Ruffalo, Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr.
Tony Stark, Bruce Banner and Mysterio in the same film? It’s the MCU crossover you didn’t think existed.
We’re often advised to keep lists like this impartial, but Prisoners is probably the best thriller of the last ten years, helmed by arguably the most exciting director working in Hollywood today.
In an otherwise fairly run-of-the-mill story of two fathers driven to revenge by the disappearance of their young daughters, Denis Villeneuve – in his first English-language feature – proves himself capable of filmmaking that challenges his audience both mentally and emotionally.
Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal star as father and detective, respectively, with the former offering a refreshingly gritty performance so different to the musical and superhero roles he’s become famous for.
Neil Burger’s Limitless doesn’t get the credit it deserves. For all its criticisms – its hollow satire, one-note narrative and dependence on voice-over storytelling – this Bradley Cooper-led thriller about a man who discovers a productivity-enhancing drug is undoubtedly an incredibly watchable experience.
It’s not the sort of movie you’d stick at the top of your all-time favourites list, but is still always an enjoyable option should you find yourself in need of a fast-paced, stylishly-shot drama with an interesting premise.
Panic Room (2002)
The last David Fincher movie on this list (we promise…), Panic Room is the quintessential home invasion thriller. Starring Jodie Foster, Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto and a young Kristen Stewart, it follows a mother and daughter locked inside a panic room when intruders break into their house.
As is customary of the director, Panic Room is ultimately an uneasy viewing experience – but if close-to-home thrills are your idea of fun, then this is right up there with the most gripping movies around.
Think of it as Home Alone for grown-ups.
Infernal Affairs (2002)
The superior original to Martin Scorsese’s still-impressive The Departed, the Hong Kong-made Infernal Affairs ranks among the best cat-and-mouse crime thrillers on the big screen.
It follows a mole in the city police department and an undercover cop in the mob, whose respective missions to expose one another have explosive consequences. Infernal Affairs is high-octane storytelling delivered with substance and style, and since it rarely crops up on Western movie channels, should be watched while Netflix gives you the chance. All three movies in the trilogy are available on Netflix UK.
Good Time (2017)
For many, the Safdie brothers’ debut feature trumps their more popular sophomore effort, Uncut Gems – and for good reason. While Adam Sandler getting stressed about basketball makes for undeniably thrilling viewing, Good Time is an even more unpredictable, fast-moving experience that deserves more eyes than it first received.
Fronted by Robert Pattinson in a then-career-high performance, the movie merges tropes of the heist genre with arthouse sentimentalities to become an instant independent classic in the way so many A24 productions have in recent years.
Unsurprisingly, Good Time is a damn good time.
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Axel is a London-based Senior Staff Writer at TechRadar, reporting on everything from the latest Apple developments to newest movies as part of the site's daily news output. Having previously written for publications including Esquire and FourFourTwo, Axel is well-versed in the applications of technology beyond the desktop, and his coverage extends from general reporting and analysis to in-depth interviews and opinion.
Axel studied for a degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick before joining TechRadar in 2020, where he then earned an NCTJ qualification as part of the company’s inaugural digital training scheme.