Narrowing down the best Netflix thrillers can be a challenge, given that there’s a whole bunch of great movies within the genre to choose from. The platform has it all, from more action-packed fare like Kate and The Gray Man, to more crime-based titles such as I Came By and The Guilty. Heck, there are even titles for sci-fi lovers, too, now that non-Netflix original Synchronic is available to watch.
Most recently, Netflix added the chilling Luckiest Girl Alive starring Mila Kunis, which is all about an acclaimed writer who's been hiding her harrowing high school experience. Then there's revenge thriller Lou, starring Allison Janney and Jurnee Smollett, which has been described as John Wick meets Taken. However, neither of these made it into the competitive best Netflix thrillers list, which is reserved for the best of the best that the streamer has to offer.
To find out what did, keep scrolling. We've narrowed down a list so that your next movie night needn’t have to be a hair-raising experience – each of our picks are streaming in the UK and US. Use the below as inspiration, pick what to press play on with ease, and leave the stressing for the characters on screen.
The best Netflix thrillers out now
Non-Netflix Original available in the UK/US
Starring Fifty Shades star Jamie Dornan and Marvel's Anthony Mackie, Synchronic is another eerie mindbender from The Endless directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead. In it, the actors play Dennis and Steve, two paramedics who stumble across a connection between a psychedelic designer drug and a series of grisly, mysterious deaths.
As they start to investigate the substance, the pairs' personal and professional lives are turned upside down, as they start to experience its otherworldly effects, the line between fiction and reality starts to blur, and Dennis's daughter disappears.
Initially released in 2019, the flick is currently rated 79% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, which highlights how worth a watch it is.
I Came By
I Came By is one of Netflix’s best new thrillers to hit the platform – and one of the few British originals from the streamer. The Babak Anvari-directed movie follows a pair of graffiti artists who target the homes of the wealthy and leave the tag "I Came By" on their walls. However, things start to go badly wrong when Toby (George MacKay) goes rogue with his latest target. High Court Judge Sir Hector Blake (Hugh Bonneville) is keeping a terrifying secret – one which Toby soon finds himself in the middle of. Alongside McKay and Bonneville, the movie also stars Line of Duty’s Kelly Macdonald and Doctor Who’s Percelle Ascott. And if all that isn’t enough to win you over, Stephen King is even a fan. "Want a tight little thriller that will remind you of Ruth Rendell and Patricia Highsmith?," he told his Twitter (opens in new tab) followers. "Try I CAME BY (Netflix). It does the job."
The Gray Man
Based on the best-selling book series by Mark Greaney, The Gray Man stars Ryan Gosling as Sierra Six, a highly-skilled CIA black ops mercenary. When Six stumbles upon some diabolical secrets about Agent Lloyd Hanson (Chris Evans), his former colleague with psychopathic tendencies, Hanson puts a bounty on his head and launches a global manhunt led by international assassins. The film, which made headlines for being Netflix's most expensive film to date, has been positively received by viewers with many calling it the "best action-packed film of the year."
Chris Hemsworth stars in this Netflix original directed by Top Gun: Maverick helmer Joseph Kosinski. The actor plays the brilliant scientist Steve Abnesti, who takes penitentiary prisoners to an island named Spiderhead – then experiments on them with some seriously mind-altering drugs. Miles Teller and Jurnee Smollett co-star, and the film is based on George Saunders' New Yorker short story 'Escape from Spiderhead,' with a script from Deadpool and Zombieland writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernicke.
This film follows Jake Gyllenhaal's Joe Baylor, an LAPD officer working at a 911 call center. He answers a call from an abducted woman, and must unravel what exactly is going on – and who is in danger. If that wasn't enough, Joe is also awaiting a hearing for something he did on duty months earlier. Antoine Fuqua directs a script penned by True Detective's Nic Pizzolatto, while the voice cast includes Paul Dano, Ethan Hawke, and Peter Sarsgaard. The film is a remake of the Danish film of the same name, which was released in 2018.
Army of Thieves
Army of Thieves may be a prequel to Army of the Dead, but you can dive right in to this heist movie without having seen the zombie flick. The film focuses on Matthias Schweighöfer's Dieter, a highly skilled safecracker who finds himself joining a group of international criminals to break into some elaborate, mysterious, and nigh-uncrackable safes. Game of Thrones' Nathalie Emmanuel co-stars as the group's leader Gwen, and Zack Snyder produces.
I Am Mother
This post-apocalyptic film focuses on a robot named Mother (Rose Byrne), who grows a human embryo into a child named Daughter (Clara Rugaard) in a bunker that's completely protected from the outside world. Everything changes when an injured woman (Hilary Swank) finds the bunker, and the truth about what's outside – and Mother – is thrown into question as Daughter learns more from the woman. Grant Sputore directs. Expect big reveals and great performances in this thought-provoking, twisty thriller.
Stowaway follows a crew on a mission to Mars, which sees disaster strike when the titular inadvertent passenger is found on the ship after launch, and has accidentally broken a device needed to remove carbon dioxide from the air. The situation is dire, and solutions are hard to come by – without a fix, the crew will suffocate before they can reach Mars. Toni Collette, Anna Kendrick, Shamier Anderson, and Daniel Dae Kim star, while Joe Penna directs.
I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore
We’ve all thought it when we hear of someone’s misfortune: I wouldn’t let that happen to me. That’s precisely what spurs Ruth into action in this darkly comic thriller that’s in a world of its own. Melanie Lynskey tackles the main role as a nursing assistant whose life gets upended after her home is burglarised. Dissatisfied with how the police handle her case, she steps in to rectify the problem herself, along with the help of her oddball neighbour Tony (Elijah Wood.)
Lynskey and Wood are perfect as a mismatched pair of pals who veer into some crazy territory, all in the name of friendship. A seriously unique movie, that bends back and forward into various genre tropes, it riffs on typical thriller moments and injects them with shots of black comedy. Lynskey’s constant barfing during one scene will make you nod, and go: 'Yep, that’s totally what I would do.'
I'm Thinking of Ending Things
Charlie Kaufman’s oeuvre tends to venture into the stranger, less obvious parts of the human experience. I’m Thinking of Ending Things, his first Netflix Original, continues that trend. Based on the acclaimed novel by Ian Reid, the movie follows largely the same story. Jessie Buckley plays a young woman whose interest in her partner Jake (Jesse Plemons) is currently waning – as evidenced by the title – yet she reluctantly agrees to a visit to meet his parents (Toni Collette and David Thewlis).
As you might expect from Kaufman, this isn’t even remotely like… well, Meet The Parents. A head trip that refuses to adhere to any semblance of normality, this 130-minute mind-boggler must be seen to be believed.
The Devil All The Time
The cast is what draws you into this sprawling two-and-a-half-hour adaptation of Donald Ray Pollock’s brooding tale. Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Bill Skarsgard, Riley Keough, Sebastian Stan, Jason Clarke, and Haley Bennett are but a few of the topliners lurking in this Appalachian mystery which on the surface draws inevitable comparisons to Fargo, yet its telling is entirely fresh.
While primarily concerned with the grimy comings-and-goings in two small towns in late 1950s Ohio, the film takes its time in unravelling its various threads. The plot bounces through time periods at a leisurely pace, kicking off with Skarsgard’s World War II vet Willard Russell returning home to wed Haley Bennett’s Charlotte. From there The Devil all the Time is led primarily by Holland’s youngster, yet still leans heavily on its batty roster of characters to tell a dark, uncompromising tale.
Hold the Dark
For his fourth feature, Jeremy Saulnier continues to disarm his fans by way of the unflinching darkness at the heart of human nature. Not exactly cheery, this time the action unravels in the cold, wintry Alaskan wilderness. Westworld’s Jeffrey Wright plays retired wolf expert Russell Core, who is lured back out into the cold by a young mother (Riley Keough) whose son was slaughtered by wolves.
Core’s role to help locate the wolves responsible for his death, along with those of two other children, soon expands to greater mysteries out in the Alaskan winter. Isolation is the key ingredient that works to make the tale all the more haunting. Saulnier directs from a script by long-time collaborator Macon Blair, who succeeds in making you feel alone in your own skin.
Message from the King
Fabrice Du Welz, the French filmmaker behind the blistering Calvaire, swings into action mode for this Netflix thriller. He enlists Chadwick Boseman, stepping outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as its triumphant Black Panther, as Jacob King, a South African who flies to Los Angeles at the behest of his sister, Bianca. When she informs him that she and her family are in trouble, he thinks nothing of flying out to check on her.
Arguably one of Netflix’s less showy Originals, Message From the King nevertheless boasts a solid cast (including Alfred Molina and Teresa Palmer) who elevate this above movie-of-the-week material. It certainly makes the most of its leading man.
Joined by Woody Harrelson and Game of Thrones' Michiel Huisman, Winstead plays Kate, an assassin who finds out she only has 24 hours to live after being poisoned. She decides to spend her last moments going on a manhunt through Tokyo and befriends the daughter (Miku Martineau) of a past target in the process.
Ignore the naysayers who say this one's simply another knock-off of Keanu Reeves' action franchise John Wick – Kate strikes out on her own, making for an engaging romp that's well worth a watch.
Imagine if you tried to log in to your digital presence one day, to find that not only were you locked out, but someone else, an impostor, had taken over your online identity. CAM revolves around that scenario, following the life of a camgirl named Lola (Madeline Brewer) who makes a living as a webcam model on a popular live girls site, racking up tokens and likes from her devout followers. Her hopes of hitting the site’s top ten are dashed when she wakes one morning to discover her profile has been taken over… by an exact copy of herself.
CAM is the extended Black Mirror episode you never knew you wanted. Brewer, who you’ll recognise from Orange is the New Black – or mistake for Anna Faris – is terrific as the terrified Lola, aware that something is drastically wrong and keen to uncover the truth. And this has some killer twists and turns as she delves deeper into the site’s seedy backstory.
We've all run through the scenario in our head: what would I do if someone broke into my home? Mike Flanagan's taut thriller takes that premise and breathes new life into it, by casting Kate Siegel as a deaf-mute woman in that very predicament. Maddie Young is a novelist who lives by herself – well, she has a cat called Bitch – with a friendly neighbour down the way. One night a masked madman appears at her back door, clutching a bloody knife, desperate to break in and make Maddie his next victim. Little does he know she’s got a lot of fight in her.
This ain’t your typical home invasion flick folks. With barely any dialogue, Hush is brimming with nifty concepts and ideas that make Maddie’s hellish night a fresh experience for audiences. Cutting back and forth between her and her killer, as she attempts to outsmart him, there’s blood, guts, and thrills galore.
Oxygen – or Oxygène, to give this French-language Netflix movie its original title – is a puzzle-box sci-fi thriller that finds an amnesiac woman (Inglourious Basterds’ Mélanie Laurent) awaking in a cramped cryogenic chamber with no memory of how she got there, or even who she even is. It’s a compelling elevator pitch that recalls Ryan Reynolds’ trapped-in-a-box antics in 2010’s Buried.
The concept requires a strong lead and Laurent is more than up for the task, as convincing in Liz’s distress as she is with her resourcefulness. Almaric’s soothing tones make for a welcome foil: his MILO (medical interface liaison officer) is able to confer crucial clues, as well as acting as a web browser to the outside world. With films in this subgenre, it’s always harder to nail the landing than the set-up, and Oxygen’s denouement manages to avoid disappointing
This thriller sees Tenet star John David Washington as the titular American tourist, who is on vacation in Greece. Disaster strikes when Beckett causes a car accident that kills his girlfriend (Alicia Vikander), and he witnesses something strange in the aftermath. Things spiral further out of control, and a dangerous conspiracy involving a missing child begins to unfold as Beckett is pursued through Greece by the authorities.
Beckett is directed by Ferdinando Cito Filomarino and executive produced by Call Me By Your Name helmer Luca Guadagnino. While the film received middling reviews, the thrills, twists, and turns make for compelling enough viewing if you're looking to pass an action-packed few hours.
Who doesn’t love an “Oh no that seemingly-normal scenario has now turned utterly horrible within five minutes!” sort of movie? They’re perfect for wandering down all sorts of hazy moral roads, and Calibre sets out to do just that. Out in the Scottish Highlands for a hunting weekend, Vaughn and Marcus, two childhood friends plan to cut loose and enjoy themselves. Taking in the sights, and boozing it up with the locals for their first evening, early the next day the pair set out for the woods to try and bag themselves a deer. Yeah, it doesn’t quite work out that way.
Through your fingers or from behind a cushion – you’ll watch it one of these ways. Taut, well-paced, and tense as hell, the real payoff for Calibre is when you realise you’ve been holding your breath. Many of the major moments here are recognisable, yet this is so well-crafted, and with SUCH an effective sound design, you’ll be wracked by the weight of it all by the time the credits roll.
A Quebecois survivalist thriller that’s stacked to the rafters with knuckle-biting moments, no mean feat considering its brisk 83-minute runtime. This thing moves. It's as lean as the stiff, icy rabbits skinned and gutted by its doomsday internet star, Alain. A prepper readying for the apocalypse, Alain maintains his own 500-acre compound out in the snowy Canadian wilderness which is where he regularly runs workshops for those seeking the same lifestyle. Well, civilisation is on… the decline.
While the movie’s soft open introduces us to one of the workshoppers, Antoine, running through a series of preparation techniques with his wife and daughter, the movie belongs to its solid ensemble who aren’t afraid to get their hands messy and beards frost-bitten. This is an impressive debut by Patrice Laliberte, whose bloodlust finds gallons spilled long before the film’s explosive ending. You’re barely given time to register the film’s more shocking moments before you’re onto the next. Ambitious and fresh, this is one of the best thrillers of recent years.
Non-Netflix original available in US/UK
50 strangers wake in a giant circle. Each person stands in their own smaller circle which they cannot leave or a machine will kill them. Every two minutes, the machine kills one of them depending on who the group designates to die. If they pick no-one? The machine chooses at random. A hellish premise, certainly, that’s loaded with cunning as every inhabitant slowly succumbs.
On paper, Circle plays like a Saw sequel that got sidetracked with less emphasis on the gory traps set by Jigsaw and more on the moral trappings of its sprawling ensemble. Its short runtime adds to the briskness of the proceedings that vary from the hideous vulgarity of human existence to its best kindness, and back again. At one point, characters debate the rest of the group for their chance to survive and plot together to outsmart (i.e. kill) others.
Also known as the Sandra Bullock Netflix movie everyone watched that one Christmas. Two years on and Bird Box remains a solid thriller that packs a novel premise; unless you cover your eyes a supernatural entity will show you something that drives you insane. The kicker is that everyone is apparently shown a specific, bespoke image that causes them to immediately commit suicide.
Strange that this was a “holiday must-see” but it nevertheless scored big for Netflix. Bullock’s dedicated performance as Malorie serves as the backbone of the movie, which leaps back and forth between the present-day where she leads two children downriver on a boat and five years earlier when the apocalypse begins. It’s those earlier scenes that stuff in the real gasp-inducing moments as the regular world is beset by otherworldly nasties.
In the Shadow of the Moon
On their own, time travel and serial killers are two enticing concepts embraced so tightly by Hollywood over the years it’s hard to imagine a way to invigorate either. Director Jim Mickle (Cold in July, We Are What We Are) mashes the two into one plot-heavy thriller that runs circles around the audience and its weary detective. As a result, In The Shadow of The Moon plays like a mix of Time Traveler’s Wife, Seven, and Terminator.
The story opens with a young beat cop Thomas Lockhart (Boyd Holbrook) and his partner Maddox (Bokeem Woodbine) as they visit a string of bizarre crime scenes across the city one night. Lockhart makes it his mission to find the person responsible, no matter the cost, with the movie continuing to check in with him every nine years.
A horror that's very much thrilling, this Stephen King book was once said to be unfilmable. Mike Flanagan's film, however, proves those naysayers wrong. This is perhaps the most loyal King adaptation yet, bringing a tome shuddering to life that consists mostly of a woman chained to a bed, alone, in the middle of nowhere. That woman is Jesse (Carla Gugino), whose husband, Gerald (Bruce Greenwood), drives her to a peaceful retreat for a weekend of nookie and $200 steak.
His ticker gives up and she's left handcuffed to the bedposts with a strange dog for company... oh, and a creeping demon with red eyes that lurks in the shadows when night falls. Carla Gugino's stunning performance piles on the layers of horror from throughout Jesse's past, until the sting in the tail you won't see coming.
Scorsese’s adaptation of I Heard You Paint Houses, Charles Brandt’s book chronicling the life of mob underling Frank Sheeran, is LONG. Packed with a show-stopping cast, Robert DeNiro leads the show as the former truck driver who falls in with a Pennsylvania crime family led by Joe Pesci’s Russell Bufalino. This is a classic Scorsese pic, bringing in Al Pacino as Teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa, alongside stalwarts Pesci and De Niro who shine in two of their best roles to date.
This is quintessential Scorsese with a twist: more people get shot in the face than you can count, and yet, it’s less concerned with the bravura of its mobsters. Unlike Goodfellas and Casino, The Irishman ruminates on the consequences of a lifelong dance with casual crime, how Sheeran’s commitment to violence not only destroyed the lives of his enemies but his own as well.