The Best Thrillers on Netflix: "Piercing," "Donnie Brasco," "The Hateful Eight," and "Nocturnal Animals"
ManOfTheCenturyMovie Film The best thrillers to stream on Netflix, from ‘Nocturnal Animals’ to ‘Emily the Criminal’

The best thrillers to stream on Netflix, from ‘Nocturnal Animals’ to ‘Emily the Criminal’

The Best Thrillers on Netflix: "Piercing," "Donnie Brasco," "The Hateful Eight," and "Nocturnal Animals"

Sometimes when you’re looking to have a good time, only a thriller will cut it. If ever you find yourself feeling like life is getting inexplicably dark and morality is getting more ambiguous, immersing yourself in a tense world of serial killers, drug dealers, and sleazebags of all stripes is a pretty great form of escapism. The genre is broad enough to encompass a wide variety of tropes, so you could probably watch thrillers forever and never be bored.

Netflix’s thriller offerings are surprisingly comprehensive, offering a good mix of undisputed classics from the likes of Quentin Tarantino and Steven Soderbergh as well as new indie films you may have missed. Whether you’re looking to revisit an old movie favorite, fill an embarrassing gap in your movie knowledge, or find something new and cutting-edge that will blow your mind, the genre always has something for you. Read on for 10 of our favorite thrillers streaming on Netflix in July 2023.

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10. “Piercings”

1689291362 124 The best thrillers to stream on Netflix from Nocturnal Animals | ManOfTheCenturyMovie

Nicolas Pesce’s intense BDSM thriller opens with a man struggling to resist the urge to stab his own child with an ice pick, and it just escalates from there. Christopher Abbott plays a deranged man who tries to quell his violent urges by killing a prostitute (Mia Wasikowska), only to discover she’s as demented as he is. Her attempt to lure her into a hotel room and kill her turns into a fiendish showdown that has to be seen to be believed. —CZ

9. “Extremely evil, incredibly evil and vile”

Extremely evil, incredibly evil and vile
“Extremely evil, incredibly evil and vile”Netflix

At first glance, the casting of Zac Efron as Ted Bundy seemed like an indulgence of all the worst parts of real mainstream crime culture. As America’s fascination with serial killers continued to skyrocket, bringing in a former Disney star to play a brutal serial killer could have been a shameless attempt to cash in on the trend. But Efron delivers an excellent performance in a nuanced film that does nothing to enthrall the killer, choosing instead to tear down the cult of personality that surrounds Bundy at every turn. —CZ

8. “Traffic”

TRAFFIC, Michael Douglas, 2000. ph: Bob Marshak / © USA Films / Courtesy Everett Collection
“Traffic”©USA Films/Courtesy of Everett Collection

An adaptation of the British serial drama ‘Traffik’, Steven Soderbergh’s first film of the 21st century focuses on the illegal drug trade from a variety of angles, including Mexican traffickers pedaling narcotics, American politicians attempting to crack down on drug use and consumers and shoppers in both countries. With an all-star ensemble cast – including Michael Douglas, Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, Dennis Quaid, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Luis Guzmán and James Brolin – it’s a suspenseful, epic film and one of the most ambitious of Soderbergh’s career . The Academy agreed, awarding him four Academy Awards, including Best Director for Soderbergh and Best Supporting Actor for del Toro. -WC

7. “Emily the Criminal”

Criminal Emily, Aubrey Plaza
“Emily the Criminal” screenshot

A bad crime thriller about how economic uncertainty can drive people to desperate extremes, ‘Emily the Criminal’ stars Aubrey Plaza as the titular Emily, a former art student whose college debts and ex felony charges they prevent her from escaping the drudgery of service work. When a co-worker hooks her up with a credit card fraud ring, Emily jumps at an opportunity to make some quick cash and, under the tutelage of organizer Youcef (Theo Rossi), quickly becomes a natural in this line of business. very unpleasant work. The script is a bit silly at times, but John Patton Ford’s directorial debut shows great promise, and Plaza’s charismatic performance as an ordinary woman with an astonishing capacity for violence and crime is damn near flawless. -WC

6. “The Hateful Eight”

THE HATEFUL EIGHT, from left: Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh (background), 2015. ph: Andrew Cooper / © The Weinstein Company / Courtesy Everett Collection
“The Hateful Eight”©Weinstein Company/Courtesy of Everett Coll / Everett Collection

Arguably Quentin Tarantino’s most divisive film, “The Hateful Eight” polarized critics when it premiered in 2015, with critics alternately praising or deriding its screenplay and stage-like set-up. But even Tarantino’s worst films are worth watching, and this remains a fascinating and ambitious work. Set almost entirely in a cabin, the film focuses on a group of eight strangers stranded with each other during a blizzard in post-Civil War Wyoming. All of the characters have their own secrets and agendas that raise suspicions throughout the night, and are played by a uniformly outstanding cast, including Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demián Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen and Bruce Dern. If you don’t think the original nearly three-hour cut of the movie works, you can check out the extended version of the four-episode limited series, also available on Netflix. -WC

5. “Donnie Brasco”

DONNIE BRASCO, from left: Johnny Depp, Al Pacino, 1997. © Sony Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection
Donnie Brasco©Sony Pictures/Courtesy of Everett Collection

It is a testament to Al Pacino’s legendary career that ‘Donnie Brasco’ does not top the list of best crime films in which he has appeared. This mob drama stars Johnny Depp as an FBI agent who goes undercover in the Bonanno crime family with an affair with an aging hitman played by Pacino. The film does a great job of illustrating how undercover agents blur the line between business and personal relationships, avoiding cop drama clichés while maintaining suspense at every turn. —CZ

4. “Gerald’s Game”

"Gerald's game"
“Gerald’s Game”Netflix

Stephen King’s chilling tale of bondage sex gone awry has long been thought unfilmable, due to much of the novel’s “Gerald’s Game” taking place in the mind of a woman chained to her bed. But “The Haunting of Hill House” creator Mike Flanagan has found a way, turning the story into a chilling two-handed game with Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood that stays true to the novel while continuing to excite viewers. —CZ

3. “Prisoners”

Paul Dano in Prisoners

Before becoming the king of hard sci-fi with ‘Arrival’ and ‘Dune’, Denis Villeneuve made his mark with a string of gritty psychological thrillers. One of his best is 2013’s “Prisoners,” a dark crime drama about the kidnapping of two young girls in a small Pennsylvania town. As the police officer in charge – Jake Gyllenhaal as Detective Loki, one of his signature weirdos – struggles to find a lead, the victim’s father Keller (Hugh Jackman) goes on a rampage against a troubled young man (Paul Dano) initially taken as a suspect. Villeneuve expertly builds suspense as Loki’s investigation reaches impasse after impasse and Keller commits horrific acts in her quest for revenge for his children. -WC

2. “Nocturnal Animals”

1689291370 700 The best thrillers to stream on Netflix from Nocturnal Animals | ManOfTheCenturyMovie
“Nocturnal Animals”Features of Merrick Morton/Focus

After establishing himself as a talented filmmaker with the LGBT drama “A Single Man,” legendary fashion designer Tom Ford has taken a very different direction for his second film. “Nocturnal Animals” stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams as a divorced couple whose lives cross again when they write a novel that borrows from the darker aspects of their relationship. The film uses a unique narrative device, alternating between the real world and the world of the novel, with Gyllenhaal playing both the author and the protagonist of the story. The film is every bit as visually stunning as “A Single Man,” with Adams and Gyllenhaal both delivering excellent performances that help guide the film to its thrilling conclusion. —CZ

1. “Hyenas”

Reservoir Dogs, Steve Buscemi, Harvey Keitel, 1992
“Hyenas”©Miramax/courtesy Everett / Everett Collection

One of the most iconic films of the 1990s, “Reservoir Dogs” caused a stir when it debuted at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival, with many critics decrying its violence and profanity. But the film also attracted many admirers and remains one of Tarantino’s most universally loved works. Starring an ensemble cast that includes Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi and Michael Madsen, the clever heist film skips the heist entirely – a jewelry store heist carried out by a group of professional thieves that fails miserably – altogether, instead cutting between the weeks leading up to work as the crew is recruited and the immediate fallout as they stand up to the police as they try to determine which member reported them. Featuring the beginnings of Tarantino’s signature style, uniformly fantastic performances from the cast, and a script that is both funny and tragic, “Reservoir Dogs” packs some of the best emotion you can find in any film. -WC

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