What to Watch

16 of the best thrillers on Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, and more

If you’re enjoying a thriller, your body might know before your mind does. Thrillers can touch on many different subgenres, but they live and die on whether they make viewers feel suspense, anxiety, tension, and surprise. From classic thrillers like John Cassavetes’s The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder to underseen gems like John Hyams’ Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning or the Antonio Banderas mall cop thriller Security, the genre boasts a rich and expansive selection made for every sort of audience you can think of.

Looking for something exciting and cerebral to watch this weekend? We’ve pulled together a list of 15 of our favorite thrillers available to stream on Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, Criterion Channel, free services like Tubi, and more. These are movies that’ll keep your eyes glued to the screen and your palms wrapped around your seat. If you’re looking to keep the adrenaline pumping, feel free to also take a look at our list of the best heist movies available to stream or our list of great horror movies you can watch at home.


Blood Simple

Image: Universal Studios Home Video

The Coen brothers’ 1984 directorial debut Blood Simple is a perfect primer for the darkly comic, eccentrically plotted, idiosyncratic body of work they went on to create. A hard-boiled neo-noir crime thriller set in Texas, the film centers on a deadly love triangle between a bar owner, his wife, and one of his employees. When the attempted affair and elopement inevitably spills over into bloodshed, the would-be lovers are implicated in a tangled plot of money and murder. Frances McDormand shines in her performance as Abby, the dissatisfied wife at the heart of the drama, as does M. Emmet Walsh as Loren Visser, the conniving hitman who throws the whole conflict into turmoil in his own selfish bid for a quick payday. —Toussaint Egan

Blood Simple is available to stream on HBO Max and Criterion Channel.

Collateral

Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx in Collateral

Photo: DreamWorks Pictures

Michael Mann’s 2004 neo-noir action thriller Collateral is one of the director’s most successful films, grossing more than $220 million worldwide and earning Jamie Foxx a nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the 77th Academy Awards. Tom Cruise stars as Vincent, a contract killer whose assignment to assassinate five targets across Los Angeles leads him to take a hostage to drive him from target to target: Max (Foxx), a taxi driver who aspires to start his own business. Collateral’s nocturnal lighting and brilliant cinematography, courtesy of Dion Beebe and Paul Cameron, combine into one of the most hypnotic, memorable portraits of LA’s metropolitan sprawl ever committed to film, and Cruise’s performance as Vincent ranks as one of his best. —TE

Collateral is available to stream on HBO Max.

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

Ben Gazzara as Cosmo Vittelli in The Killing of a Chinese Bookie.

Image: The Criterion Collection

John Cassavetes’ 1976 neo-noir thriller is one of the finest works by one of the masters of American independent cinema. The movie follows a nightclub owner (Ben Gazzara, in a stunningly good performance) who gets in way over his head and is asked to kill somebody to pay off his gambling debts. A rich character study with an all-timer lead performance, stunning use of tinted frames to bring out color, and Cassavetes’ cunning eye for group dynamics, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie is a high mark of 1970s American filmmaking. —Pete Volk

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie is available to stream on HBO Max and Criterion Channel.

Joint Security Area

Song Kang-ho, Lee Byung-hun, Shin Ha-kyun in Joint Security Area.

Image: Arrow Media

A career-making hit for Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, The Handmaiden), JSA is a mystery about a murder on the border between the two Koreas. Swiss Army Major Sophie E. Jean (Lee Young-ae) is sent to the Demilitarized Zone to investigate an incident on the border that left two North Korean soldiers dead and one South Korean soldier (Lee Byung-hun) wounded. After the wounded South Korean soldier confesses to the killings, the investigator gets conflicting reports from the two sides about what happened. At times funny, joyful, crushing, and pensive, JSA cuts right through to the human stakes of the maintenance of borders and government conflicts. —PV

Joint Security Area is available to stream for free on Tubi.

Locke

Tom Hardy as Ivan Locke staring blankly in deep thought in Locke (2013).

Image: Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) is a construction foreman in England. The night before a massive job, he learns that a woman who he had an affair with is about to go into labor with their child. Locke decides to drive to London to be with her, leaving his wife and children waiting at home.

The 85-minute film takes place almost entirely on the drive from Birmingham to London, with Hardy the only actor to appear onscreen. The rest of the cast, including Olivia Colman and a young Tom Holland, appear in voice roles over the car’s speakerphone, as Locke juggles his professional and personal responsibilities on the road.

Directed by Steven Knight (Peaky Blinders, 2019’s Serenity), Locke is an impressive technical feat and an economical thriller to the bone, deftly showing off the skills of both its star and director. —PV

Locke is available to stream on Kanopy with a library card.

Lost Bullet

A red automobile with a metal cowcatcher is sandwiched between two cop cars in Lost Bullet.

Image: Netflix

This 92-minute thrill ride is one of many stellar French crime thrillers on Netflix. In it, Lino (former stunt man Alban Lenoir) is an expert mechanic who has been forced to work for a group of dirty cops. When he’s framed for murder, Lino has to find the one thing that can prove his innocence: a lost bullet in a missing car. With high-octane action sequences and great car stunts, director Guillaume Pierret executes a simple premise to perfection.

Lost Bullet is available to stream on Netflix.

M

Inge Landgut as Elsie Beckmann peering up at a man silhouetted against a wanted poster in M.

Image: Criterion Channel

Fritz Lang’s 1931 thriller M is widely considered arguably his magnum opus — second perhaps only to his seminal 1927 sci-fi epic Metropolis — but also one of the greatest films of all time. Set in Berlin, the film follows the investigation of a psychotic child murderer whose reign of terror has plunged the city into a fit of hysteria and suspicion. As the criminal underground of Berlin find the noose tightening around them in the police’s unsuccessful campaign to capture him, they take it upon themselves to root out this evil and bring him to justice. —TE

M is available to stream on HBO Max, Criterion Channel, and Kanopy with a library card.

Memories of Murder

Detective Park (Song Kang-ho) and Seo (Kim Sang-kyung) holds the photo of murder suspect Park Hyeon-gyu (Park Hae-il ) in Memories of Murder

Image: The Criterion Collection

Bong Joon-ho’s career-making hit is loosely based on the story of the first confirmed serial murders in Korea, and is one of the best serial killer dramas and detective thrillers ever made. Song Kang-ho plays an overmatched local detective who has been tasked with solving a series of murders. When a younger detective from Seoul (Kim Sang-kyung) arrives to help him with the case, their methods clash. —PV

Memories of Murder is available to stream on Hulu.

Michael Clayton

George Clooney drives a car in Michael Clayton

Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

One of George Clooney’s greatest performances, Michael Clayton was the directorial debut of Tony Gilroy (writer of the first four Bourne movies and co-writer of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story). Michael Clayton (Clooney) is an off-the-books attorney who acts as a fixer for the rich and powerful. After Arthur (Tom Wilkinson), another attorney at his firm, has a breakdown during a deposition for a class-action lawsuit against an agricultural company, Michael is assigned to bail Arthur out of jail and help him get his act together. As Michael learns more about the truth of the lawsuit and drastic events pile up, legal thriller quickly transforms into conspiracy thriller in an instant classic. —PV

Michael Clayton is available to stream on Netflix.

Personal Shopper

Kristen Stewart in Personal Shopper.

Photo: Carole Bethuel / Les Films du Losange

Director Olivier Assayas’ (The Cloud of Sils Maria) second collaboration with Kristen Stewart is this lyrical ghost story that won him Best Director at Cannes. Maureen (Kristen Stewart) is the personal shopper for a supermodel, professionally trying on and purchasing items for someone else. She is also grieving the recent death of her twin brother, Lewis, and hoping to hear from him from the afterlife. Maureen and Lewis, both spiritual mediums, made a pact that whoever died first would send a signal to the other from the afterlife. After Maureen receives a mysterious series of text messages that she believes (or hopes?) are from Lewis, her twin lives intersect into a beautiful, haunting ghost story. —PV

Personal Shopper is available to stream on Hulu.

Security

Eduardo ‘Eddie’ Deacon (Antonio Banderas) and Jamie (Katherine de la Rocha) in Security (2017).

Image: Millennium Films

A standout low-budget Antonio Banderas vehicle, Security is a 2017 action thriller where Banderas plays a retired Marine Corps Delta Captain who gets hired as the new security guard at a mall. When a young girl being chased by armed mercenaries (led by Ben Kingsley) takes shelter in the mall, Banderas must use all the training at his disposal to protect her. With great action sequences, a strong lead performance by Banderas, and an economical 92-minute running time, Security is one of the stronger action thrillers available on Netflix. —PV

Security is available to stream on Netflix.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

Kang-ho Song as Dong-jin Park holding a knife and drenched in water in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance.

Image: Tartan Video

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is the first in Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy, a group of three standout films (including 2003’s Oldboy) that are linked in theme but not in characters or plot. In Mr. Vengeance, a deaf factory worker (Shin Ha-kyun) makes a deal with black market organ sellers to exchange his kidney for one that could be used for his sick sister. When the organ sellers run away with his kidney, he acts on the advice of his girlfriend (Bae Doona) and kidnaps the daughter of his former boss (Song Kang-ho).

Like Oldboy and the trilogy’s third movie (Lady Vengeance), Mr. Vengeance tackles issues of class and capitalism through the prism of the action thriller genre. With a standout cast and Park’s terrific visual sensibilities, Mr. Vengeance is a bloody good time at the movies. —PV

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is available to stream for free with ads on Tubi and Vudu, or for free with a library card on Kanopy.

Uncut Gems

adam sandler in uncut gems

Photo: A24

The Safdies’ (Good Time) 2019 masterpiece is not only one of the best thrillers you can watch at home, it’s also one of the best basketball movies. Few works of fiction have ever so accurately nailed the stress of watching a high-stakes sports event; here, playoff basketball is turned into a literal life-and-death situation. Featuring a career-best performance from Sandler, unforgettable cameos from Kevin Garnett and The Weeknd, and a bedazzled Furby, Uncut Gems is, simply put, a jewel of a movie. —PV

Uncut Gems is available to stream on Netflix.

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning

Scott Adkins as John in Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (2012).

Image: Magnet Releasing

A soldier (Scott Adkins) wakes up from a coma, haunted by memories of the brutal murder of his wife and daughter. He wants nothing more than to hunt down the man responsible … Luc Deveraux (Jean Claude Van Damme) the protagonist from the original films of the Universal Soldier franchise.

John Hyams’ 2012 masterpiece is a high achievement, effortlessly blending science fiction, horror, hard-hitting action (the fight in the sporting goods store with UFC fighter Andrei Arlovski!), and thriller into one chaotic package. A breakout role for Adkins that engages with a long-running franchise in new and challenging ways, Day of Reckoning is an unforgettable experience that will keep you on the edge of your seat while you question everything you see. —PV

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning is available to stream on Tubi.

Unsane

Claire Foy as Sawyer Valenti in Unsane.

Image: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Steven Soderbergh’s 2018 psychological horror thriller Unsane stars Claire Foy as Sawyer Valenti, a young woman who is involuntarily committed to a mental institution in what she suspects is an elaborate plot orchestrated by her stalker. Shot entirely on an iPhone 7 Plus, the film is tense and claustrophobic, with visuals composed primarily of close-up shots that place stark emphasis on Foy’s frenzied performance. If you’re looking for genuine mind-screw of a psychological thriller, Unsane is it. —TE

Unsane is available to stream on Hulu and on Kanopy with a library card.

Unstoppable

Denzel Washington talks on a walkie talkie through speckled glass in Unstoppable.

Image: 20th Century Fox

Tony Scott and Denzel Washington never, ever missed in their many movies together. Unstoppable, a working-class drama about the tensions between generations of workers and also a runaway train, may be their best collaboration. Denzel stars as Frank Barnes, a veteran railroad engineer who is not pleased with his assignment to train the fresh-faced train conductor Will Colson (Chris Pine). When a runaway train threatens an entire Pennsylvania town, the two find themselves as the only ones capable of stopping it and saving scores of lives. Washington and Pine are superb in a complicated working dynamic, and Scott’s assured direction and attention to detail will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout the 98-minute thrill ride. —PV

Unstoppable is available to stream on Hulu.

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