This year’s top thrillers reflect the rollercoaster ride that was the past 12 months. From the #MeToo movement that uplifted unheard voices to the cold reality of domestic terrorism, American audiences were looking for stories that were not just exciting but important, relevant, and real. And with star-turn performances from leading ladies and edge-of-your-seat plots with bite, the best thriller films of 2018 certainly delivered on all fronts. It seems that, like the world of Hollywood, what thrills us at the box office is changing with the times.
The Girl in the Spider's Web
The Girl in the Spider’s Web is the fourth book in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series and the first written by David Lagercrantz, who continued Larsson’s work after his death in 2004. This follow-up to David Fincher's version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo also sees an unexpected takeover: The Crown’s Claire Foy has stepped into Rooney Mara’s shoes as the punk-rock heroine Lisbeth Salander. If Foy hoped to shed any associations with her role as the Queen Mum, she’s succeeded in spectacular, tattooed fashion. Web is a gripping thriller for the #MeToo era, as Lisbeth exacts a very personal form of vengeance in the name of women who, like her, have been victims of sexual violence.
Shout out to Netflix for bringing this moody Scottish thriller to the States. Set in the wild landscape of the Highlands, it follows friends Marcus and Vaughn, who decide to take a hunting trip. But the excursion quickly turns disastrous when Vaughn accidentally—and fatally—shoots a young boy. The crime sets a series of disturbing events into motion, making it clear that they’re in way over their heads and may have to pay for their sins with their own lives.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado
In this sequel to the Emily Blunt-fronted sleeper hit Sicario, Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin reprise their roles as a black operative and CIA officer. This time, the Mexican drug cartel is suspected of harboring and trafficking terrorists across the U.S. border, which has led to suicide bombings across the country. Although the government believes it has all the details worked out, the truth—as Del Toro’s character discovers—is far murkier.
Mission: Impossible — Fallout
Tom Cruise just can’t resist jumping off skyscrapers, and audiences just can’t resist Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt. This marks the sixth (yes, sixth) installment of the beloved action movie franchise, which began back in 1996. Now Ethan is outsmarting terrorists who want to blow up the Vatican, Jerusalem, and Mecca with nuclear power—proving that no mission is truly impossible. Memorable supporting performances by Ving Rhames, Henry Cavill, and The Crown’s Vanessa Kirby add to the entertainment, making Fallout one of the most enjoyable and highly acclaimed thrillers to hit the big screen in 2018.
It’s 1905 when Thomas Richardson (played by Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens) sets out to rescue his younger sister, Jennifer, from the cult that’s holding her for ransom. His struggle to save her is punctuated by a series of flashbacks that reveal he was once a Christian missionary who lost his faith after he was tortured in China. But when he encounters Jennifer’s captors, he realizes he’s facing an equally terrifying danger—and that he must fully immerse himself in it if he hopes to bring his sister home.
Inspired by true events, Operation Finale stars Oscar Issac as Peter Malkin, an Israeli intelligence officer tasked with apprehending the mastermind behind the deportation of Jews to extermination camps. It was a secret, years-long manhunt that finally ended in 1960 when Malkin and his team tracked down Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires. The historical crime thriller brings to light this fascinating (and yet largely still untold) story about a behind-the-scenes fight for justice that occurred decades after World War II had drawn to a close.
Once again, Claire Foy has left the world of the British monarchy behind—this time, in favor of Steven Soderbergh’s bleaker, creepier one. A digital thriller filmed entirely on an iPhone, Unsane sees Foy play a woman who uproots her life to get away from her stalker. But no amount of distance can lessen the trauma—or the intensity of her PTSD. After unwittingly committing herself to a mental institution, she finds there is little hope for her freedom and that her stalker appears to be employed there…
This horror thriller takes place on the eve of D-Day as American paratroopers drop into a French village behind Nazi lines, hoping secure an Allied victory. But what they discover is more frightening than they could have ever imagined: The Nazi doctors have created an army of the undead—and now the American soldiers must battle both the living and nonliving embodiment of pure evil.
The impeccable Viola Davis leads this remake of a popular 1983 television series from 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen. An explosion kills four career criminals during a Chicago bank robbery—leaving their four widows deeply in debt to a cadre of bad hombres. With Veronica, played by Davis, as the queen bee, the women come together to plan a heist that will mollify an unhappy crime boss.
Related: 13 Best Heist Movies
Featured still from "Unsane" via Bleecker Street