Best Thriller Movies

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The best thriller movies combine elements of mystery, suspense, and action to surprise and delight audiences with twisty puzzles, mind-boggling situations, and tense chase scenes.

Unlike suspense movies where the main characters don’t know about the threats, the protagonists in a thriller is well aware of the danger they’re in—and must fight to figure out the mystery while staying alive.

 

The Manchurian Candidate (1964)

Director: John Frankenheimer
Starring: Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury
Rating: PG-13
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Where To Watch: Fandango, Amazon Prime, Apple TV

After being captured by Communists during the Korean War, an entire platoon of soldiers is brainwashed.

Following their daring rescue, they can return home…but it seems their troubles aren’t over: the commander starts having strange dreams.

He and a few others must try to figure out what really happened to their minds during their captivity, before it’s too late.

 

Chinatown (1974)

Director: Roman Polanski
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway
Rating: R
Rotten Tomatoes: 99%
Where To Watch: HBOMax, Fandango, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV

Hardboiled detective JJ Gittes becomes embroiled in what, at first glance, seems like a standard investigation into a husband’s infidelity.

However, when the woman who supposedly hires him isn’t who she appears, he realizes he’s become part of something much larger than he bargained for.

 

No Way Out (1987)

Director: Roger Donaldson
Starring: Kevin Costner, Gene Hackman
Rating: R
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Where To Watch: Vudu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV

When a Navy Lieutenant shares a passionate affair with a charming young lady, he thinks his life has taken a turn for the better. Little does he know, she’s also engaged in an affair with his superior.

On top of that revelation, she soon turns up murdered.

He makes it his mission to find out what happened to her, but soon becomes a suspect in her death as well.

 

The Fugitive (1993)

Director: Andrew Davis
Starring: Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones
Rating: PG-13
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Where To Watch: Fandango, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV

After being accused of murdering his wife, Richard Kimble seeks to prove his innocence.

However, the U.S. Guard, who doggedly follows his every footstep, is just as determined to bring him to justice.

This tense film shows how both men struggle to live up to their morals, while uncovering the truth behind Mrs. Kimble’s murder.

 

L.A. Confidential (1997)

Director: Curtis Hanson
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe
Rating: R
Rotten Tomatoes: 99%
Where To Watch: Fandango, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV

In the early 1950s, three police officers take on the case of an unsolved murder at a coffee shop.

There’s corruption and scandal aplenty in this film, and the protagonists often undermine one another’s efforts to get to the truth in favor of their own motivations.

The tension and pacing are exquisite, and will have you questioning every last character’s loyalties.

 

A Simple Plan (1998)

Director: Sam Raimi
Starring: Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton
Rating: R
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Where To Watch: Fandango, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV

A few local men discover a downed plane and begin to check out the wreckage. There, they find the pilot’s body…and millions of dollars in cash.

Though one of them wants to report the crash and return the money, the other two convince him to keep the money and the secret. However, things start to unravel almost immediately.

 

The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)

Director: John McTiernan
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Rene Russo
Rating: R
Rotten Tomatoes: 70%
Where To Watch: Vudu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV

This movie is the epitome of the adage that too much power corrupts.

A bored billionaire decides to steal a Monet painting from a famous museum. The museum’s insurance company then sends out an agent to investigate the theft.

In a bit of classic cat-and-mouse, the thief and investigator play games—with increasingly high stakes—to determine whether the romance between them is real.

 

The Town (2010)

Director: Ben Affleck
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall
Rating: R
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Where To Watch: Fandango, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV

A group of bank robbers with tempestuous attitudes are in the midst of a robbery, when one of the robbers takes a hostage. The leader of the gang, played by Affleck himself, quickly falls in love with the hostage.

He begins to wonder if he can leave his criminal life behind and pursue a life with her…without putting the both of them in danger.

 

Open Grave (2013)

Director: Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego
Starring: Joseph Morgan, Sharlto Copley
Rating: R
Rotten Tomatoes: 22%
Where To Watch: Peacock, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV

This film’s opening scene—a man waking up in a pit of bodies—will stick in your mind forever.

In a seemingly post-apocalyptic world filled with vicious zombies, a group of survivors meet and team up.

However, none of them remember who they are, how they got there, or how they survived whatever happened to the world.

 

Gone Girl (2015)

Director: David Fincher
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris
Rating: R
Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Where To Watch: Fandango, Hulu, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV

A well-known and outwardly happy couple shocks and surprises the public when the wife goes missing.

Her husband becomes the prime suspect. During the investigation, everyone begins to question whether either partner was anything like the image they tried so hard to present.

 

Burning (2018)

Director: Chang-dong Lee
Starring: Steven Yeun, Ah-in Yoo
Rating: R
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Where To Watch: Fandango, Netflix, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV

Jong-su encounters a childhood friend after years apart, who asks him to feed her cat while she’s away.

When she returns with Ben, a new beau, Jong-su immediately distrusts him—especially once he learns of Ben’s bizarre hobby.

 

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Thriller movies, when executed well, do far more than put the audience on the edge of their seats. They should provide some kind of payoff, even if loose ends remain, or justice doesn’t entirely prevail.

All that nail-biting and held breaths need to feel worth it, somehow, culminating in a resolution that feels well worth the journey…even if it isn’t quite what audiences expect or hope for.

For more movie recommendations, check out the best action adventure or gangster movies on Netflix, or the best psychological thriller movies now streaming on major platforms.