The Best Netflix Thrillers to Watch Tonight

Don't be in suspense about what movie to watch this evening

Popularized and perfected by Alfred Hitchcock in the mid-twentieth century, cinematic thrillers come in many forms and genres. From psychological thrillers to sci-fi horror, Netflix has no shortage of tense films in its massive library. We've picked through its catalog of major studio features and Netflix Originals to find the best thrillers that will keep you glued to the TV in suspense.

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Seven: Best Crime Thriller

Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt in Se7en (1995).

New Line Cinema/IMDb

  • IMDb Rating: 8.6/10
  • Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery
  • Starring: Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow
  • Director: David Fincher
  • Motion Picture Rating: R
  • Running Time: 1 hour, 54 minutes

David Fincher proved himself a master of the psychological thriller with films like Zodiac (2007) and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011), but Seven remains his most popular take on the form. 

Starring Morgan Freeman as a veteran detective and Brad Pitt as his young hotshot partner, Seven follows the pair’s attempts to find a serial killer who models his murders after the seven deadly sins. Famous for its shocking final twist, Fincher’s film is a tour de force of suspense and grotesqueries, and arguably set the template for the modern crime thriller.

Seven was both a commercial and critical hit, landing in the top 10 highest-grossing movies of 1995 on its way to an Academy Award nomination for Best Film Editing.

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Nightcrawler (2014): Best Modern Neo-Noir Thriller

Jake Gyllenhaal as Lou Bloom in Nightcrawler (2014).

Open Road Films

  • IMDb Rating: 7.8/10
  • Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
  • Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton
  • Director: Dan Gilroy
  • Motion Picture Rating: R
  • Running Time: 1 hour, 57 minutes

A damning portrait of media sensationalism, consumer demand, and the often brutal ways these interests intersect, Nightcrawler is a taut thriller that is both darkly funny and disturbing. 

Starring Jake Gyllenhaal as an opportunistic freelance journalist who records and sells footage of late-night violent events in Los Angeles, the film also features standout performances from Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, and the late Bill Paxton.

Nightcrawler has become something of a cult classic in recent years but was a modest commercial hit upon release. It also earned a Best Original Screenplay Oscar nomination, as well as widespread praise for Gyllenhaal’s performance.

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The Hateful Eight (2015): Best Western Thriller

Samuel L. Jackson as Major Marquis Warren in The Hateful Eight (2015).

The Weinstein Company/IMDb

  • IMDb Rating: 7.8/10
  • Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery
  • Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh
  • Director: Quentin Tarantino
  • Motion Picture Rating: R
  • Running Time: 2 hours, 48 minutes

Quentin Tarantino is well known for crafting tense dramas punctuated by shocking acts of violence and this 2015 Western thriller is no exception.

Featuring an all-star cast headlined by Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Samuel L. Jackson, The Hateful Eight plays out like a hyperviolent, foul-mouthed Agatha Christie whodunnit. The tension is heightened considerably by Tarantino and cinematographer Robert Richardson’s decision to shoot on 70mm, as the film’s claustrophobic spaces are made even more so by the format’s stunning fidelity.

The Hateful Eight earned three Academy Award nominations, including a well-deserved Best Original Score win for Ennio Morricone.

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Deliverance (1972): Best Backwoods Survival Thriller

Burt Reynolds as Lewis Medlock in Deliverance (1972).

Warner Bros./IMDb

  • IMDb Rating: 7.7/10
  • Genre: Adventure, Drama, Thriller
  • Starring: Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty
  • Director: John Boorman
  • Motion Picture Rating: R
  • Running Time: 1 hour, 49 minutes

Perhaps best known for the infamous “squeal like a pig” scene, John Boorman’s wilderness survival thriller is much better than its hillbilly exploitation trappings might suggest.

Starring Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, and Ronny Cox as four urban dwellers who venture to the Georgia wilderness for a canoe trip, Deliverance quickly devolves into an engrossing horror story. Along the way, the group contends with the unforgiving backwoods, violent mountain men, and their own alpha male delusions.

Deliverance was a commercial and critical success, with particular attention paid to the performances of Voight, Reynolds, and Beatty.

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Nocturnal Animals (2016): Best Aesthetic Thriller

Amy Adams as Susan Morrow in Nocturnal Animals (2016).

Focus Features

  • IMDb Rating: 7.5/10
  • Genre: Drama, Thriller
  • Starring: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon
  • Director: Tom Ford
  • Motion Picture Rating: R
  • Running Time: 1 hour, 56 minutes

Tom Ford’s follow-up to A Single Man is a gorgeously-shot neo-noir whose beauty is constantly undercut by harrowing depictions of physical and psychological violence.

Amy Adams stars as a wealthy art gallery owner who is forced to contend with her troubled marriage to her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal) after he sends her the manuscript for his new novel. The film jumps back and forth between the real world and Edward's novel, the latter of which tells the story of a family plunged into a violent encounter with a group of criminals led by Aaron Taylor-Johnson.

Also starring Michael Shannon (who earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his performance), Nocturnal Animals was a modest critical hit that nonetheless earned nine BAFTA Award nominations. 

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Matt Damon as Tom Ripley in The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999).
Paramount Pictures/Miramax International.
  • IMDb Rating: 7.4/10
  • Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
  • Starring: Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law
  • Director: Anthony Minghella
  • Motion Picture Rating: R
  • Running Time: 2 hours, 19 minutes

Fresh off star-turning roles in Good Will Hunting and Saving Private Ryan, Matt Damon took a rare turn into villainous territory in this psychological thriller based on Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 novel of the same name.

Damon plays the titular Tom Ripley, a sociopathic social climber who infiltrates the lives of a wealthy young couple played by Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow. Anchored by Damon’s lead performance, The Talented Mr. Ripley is a well-executed thriller that makes you both loathe and root for its troubled protagonist.

Also co-starring Cate Blanchett and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, this star-studded film received five Academy Award nominations, including Best Supporting Actor for Law.

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Identity (2003): Best Slasher Thriller

John Cusack and Ray Liotta in Identity (2003).

Sony Pictures

  • IMDb Rating: 7.3/10
  • Genre: Mystery, Thriller
  • Starring: John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet
  • Director: James Mangold
  • Motion Picture Rating: R
  • Running Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Inspired by Agatha Christie’s 1939 mystery story And Then There Were None, Identity has all the appearances of a generic slasher film before playing its hand in the third act.

Featuring an ensemble cast headlined by John Cusack, Ray Liotta, and Amanda Peet, Identity takes place over the course of a dark and stormy night at an isolated hotel where ten strangers are mysteriously killed off one by one. While not one of director James Mangold’s strongest outings, Identity makes up for its familiar trappings with some standout performances and a memorable final twist that is equal parts insane and brilliant.

Identity was a modest box office success that earned mixed reviews from critics but has since developed something of a cult following.

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Tilda Swinton as Karen Crowder in Michael Clayton (2007).

Warner Bros. Pictures/Summit Entertainment

  • IMDb Rating: 7.2/10
  • Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery
  • Starring: George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson
  • Director: Tony Gilroy
  • Motion Picture Rating: R
  • Running Time: 1 hour, 59 minutes

Starring George Clooney at the top of his game, Michael Clayton stands out as one of the best legal thrillers of the 21st century so far.

Clooney plays the title character, a “fixer” for a high-profile New York City law firm who becomes involved in a multi-billion dollar lawsuit. Writer-director Tony Gilroy’s script delivers the kind of fast-paced drama you’d expect, but it’s the character work that really helps it stand out. Clooney and co-stars Tom Wilkinson and Tilda Swinton all play characters who are ruthlessly efficient at their jobs but are forced to contend with personal demons and crises of conscience.

Michael Clayton was one of the most critically-acclaimed releases of 2007, earning seven Academy Award nominations and a win for Swinton (Best Supporting Actress). 

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The Gift (2015): Best Stalker Thriller

Rebecca Hall, Jason Bateman, and Joel Edgerton in The Gift (2015).

STX Entertainment

  • IMDb Rating: 7.0/10
  • Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller
  • Starring: Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton
  • Director: Joel Edgerton
  • Motion Picture Rating: R
  • Running Time: 1 hour, 48 minutes

Not to be confused with the 2000 Sam Raimi film of the same name, The Gift is an unsettling psychological thriller from writer-director Joel Edgerton that lands like a gut punch despite falling victim to a few genre cliches along the way.

Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall star as Simon and Robyn, a married couple who move from Chicago to Los Angeles, where they encounter Simon’s old high school friend, Gordo (Edgerton). Unfortunately, Gordo’s friendly gifts and unannounced home visits soon take a sinister turn as the couple becomes increasingly unsettled by his behavior. 

The Gift was a surprise box office success, earning $59 million worldwide on a $5 million budget. It was also positively received by critics, earning a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

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I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017): Best Oddball Thriller

Elijah Wood and Melanie Lynskey in I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017).


  • IMDb Rating: 6.9/10
  • Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama
  • Starring: Melanie Lynskey, Elijah Wood, David Yow
  • Director: Macon Blair
  • Motion Picture Rating: Not Rated
  • Running Time: 1 hour, 33 minutes

A suburban neo-noir grounded in the mundane, Macon Blair’s debut feature is a clever genre mashup that is at times hilarious, audacious, and surprisingly violent.

Melanie Lynskey stars as Ruth, a lonely nursing assistant who comes home one day to find her house has been robbed. Frustrated by unhelpful police, she recruits her strange but helpful neighbor Tony (Elijah Wood) to help track down the thieves. What follows is a maddening and bizarre amateur investigation that brings Ruth and Tony into contact with a cast of characters (mostly jerks) and reveals some harsh truths about what life is like for most Americans struggling to get by.

I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is a Netflix Original that won the Grand Jury Prize for Drama at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

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Contagion (2011): Best Pandemic Thriller

Marion Cotillard as Dr. Leonora Orantes in Contagion (2011).

Warner Bros. Pictures

  • IMDb Rating: 6.8/10
  • Genre: Drama, Thriller
  • Starring: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law
  • Director: Steven Soderbergh
  • Motion Picture Rating: PG-13
  • Running Time: 1 hour, 46 minutes

A film that unfortunately took on heightened significance at the peak of the Coronavirus pandemic, Contagion is a well-crafted medical thriller if you can get past its all-too-real subject matter.

Directed by Steven Soderbergh, Contagion tracks the spread of a deadly respiratory virus and centers the drama around an ensemble cast headlined by Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, and more. From conspiracy theories to public skepticism, Soderbergh’s film is shockingly precinct and realistic in its depiction of an existential threat humanity is ill-equipped–or possibly unable–to face. 

Contagion was a modest box office success that was reviewed well by critics, but its reputation has risen significantly in the face of real-world events.

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Gerald's Game (2017): Best Adaptation of a Stephen King Thriller

Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood in Gerald's Game (2017).


  • IMDb Rating: 6.5/10
  • Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller
  • Starring: Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood, Chiara Aurelia
  • Director: Mike Flanagan
  • Motion Picture Rating: Not Rated
  • Running Time: 1 hour, 43 minutes

Mike Flanagan has had a historically productive partnership with Netflix and one of his best efforts is this faithful adaptation of Stephen King’s 1992 novel of the same name.

Gerald’s Game is set almost entirely within one room in an isolated lake house where Jessie (Carla Gugino) has been playfully handcuffed to the bed by her husband Gerald (Bruce Greenwood). The only problem? Gerald dies of a heart attack before Jessie can be uncuffed, leaving her trapped with a hungry stray dog close at hand. 

Praised for its tense psychological thrills and riveting lead performance from Gugino, Gerald’s Game is one of the best adaptations of King’s work to make its way to Netflix.

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Oxygen (2021): Best Claustrophobic Thriller

Mélanie Laurent as Elizabeth Hansen in Oxygen (2021).


  • IMDb Rating: 6.5/10
  • Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
  • Starring: Mélanie Laurent, Mathieu Amalric, Malik Zidi
  • Director: Alexandre Aja
  • Motion Picture Rating: PG-13
  • Running Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

A tense French-language science-fiction thriller from director Alexandre Aja, Oxygen is a spiritual successor of sorts to 2010’s Ryan-Reynolds-trapped-in-an-enclosed-space thriller Buried but with a futuristic twist.

Mélanie Laurent (Inglorious Basterds) stars as Liz, a woman who wakes up in a cryogenic pod with her memory lost, oxygen levels rapidly decreasing, and no means of escape. It’s an anxiety-inducing setup that leads to some satisfying payoffs as the viewer unravels the mysteries of Liz’s fate along with her. 

Oxygen scored an 88% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics calling it “a must-watch thriller for sci-fi fans.”

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Time to Hunt (2020): Best Assassin Thriller

Lee Jehoon in Time to Hunt (2020).


  • IMDb Rating: 6.3/10
  • Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
  • Starring: Lee Jehoon, Jae-hong Ahn, Choi Woo-sik
  • Director: Yoon Sunghyun
  • Motion Picture Rating: Not Rated
  • Running Time: 2 hours, 14 minutes

An action thriller that delivers the kind of sustained tension you’d expect from a Michael Mann film, Yoon Sunghyun’s Time to Hunt employs a tried-and-true narrative setup to put its characters through some truly hellish set pieces.

Set in a dystopian South Korea, Time to Hunt follows a group of friends (including Train to Busan and Parasite star Choi Woo-shik) who find themselves hunted by a relentless contract killer (Park Hae-soo) following a botched gambling house robbery. 

Distributed internationally by Netflix, Time to Hunt earned nominations from the Asian Film Awards and Baeksang Arts Awards.

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Creep (2014): Best Found Footage Thriller

Mark Duplass as Josef in Creep (2014).


  • IMDb Rating: 6.3/10
  • Genre: Horror, Thriller
  • Starring: Mark Duplass, Patrick Brice, Katie Aselton
  • Director: Patrick Brice
  • Motion Picture Rating: R
  • Running Time: 1 hour, 17 minutes

Mark Duplass is generally known for his low-key comedy work, so it’s a shock to go completely against type as an eccentric creep (pun intended) in this brisk thriller, which he co-wrote with director Patrick Brice.

Brice plays Aaron, a videographer hired by Josef (Duplass) to film him at a remote cabin. Although Josef claims to have a terminal brain tumor, his increasingly troubling behavior soon leads Aaron to realize that his new client isn’t who he claims to be. 

Creep employs the found footage technique popularized by series like Paranormal Activity to creative effect and was a popular hit for Netflix. An arguably even better sequel was released in 2017, with a third installment on the way.

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Cam (2018): Best Online Culture Thriller

Madeline Brewer as Alice / Lola in Cam (2018).


  • IMDb Rating: 5.9/10
  • Genre: Drama, Horror, Mystery
  • Starring: Madeline Brewer, Patch Darragh, Melora Walters
  • Director: Daniel Goldhaber
  • Motion Picture Rating: Not Rated
  • Running Time: 1 hour, 34 minutes

There’s been no shortage of films that depict the darker sides of the internet in recent years, but Daniel Goldhaber’s thriller about an adult webcam performer feels especially plugged into this cultural anxiety.

Cam stars Madeline Brewer (The Handmaid’s Tale) as Alice, a camgirl who broadcasts under the name “Lola_Lola.” Alice has amassed a loyal following but things take an unsettling turn when she finds herself locked out of her account and her identity stolen by a doppelganger. Isa Mazzei’s script nails its psychological horror beats but the material is elevated by the ways in which it empathetically and thoughtfully engages with sex work, as well as power dynamics within online communities.

Cam currently holds a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and was widely regarded as one of the best horror movies of 2018. 

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