The thriller genre is a wide and varied genre, with truly exhilarating gems and a few fizzling duds. Discovering a new thriller to watch is almost as exciting as actually watching the action—especially when you’ve seen them all before.
We’ve rounded up some of the best thrillers, from classics to modern masterpieces, that will thrill any thriller-lover. Settle in and get your heart racing with these picks.
This 1976 thriller stars Dustin Hoffman as “Babe” Levy, a Ph.D. candidate following in the footsteps of his deceased father. Babe’s father committed suicide after being investigated for supposed communist leanings during the Red Scare. Soon, Babe’s life becomes entangled with the same groups that took his father’s life. Based on William Goldman’s novel of the same name, Marathon Man will keep you on the edge of your seat.
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What happens when a predator becomes prey? In Hard Candy, Ellen Page plays a teen who entraps and tortures a pedophile. Page’s first major performance is terrifyingly perfect. You may even end up feeling sympathy for the 32-year-old pedophile while watching Page’s diabolical schemes.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays a sociopathic freelance video journalist in this film about media’s sensationalism and the pressure caused by lack of opportunity. Gyllenhaal’s Lou terrorizes everyone in his life—and everyone watching. Nightcrawler is currently available on Netflix.
When people talk about The Machinist, they mostly talk about Christian Bale dropping 60 pounds for his role as Trevor Reznik. To focus just on that minimizes the many, many other achievements of this film. Trevor’s insomnia has caused him to lose weight and his focus at work. When a coworker’s arm is amputated by an accident at work, none of the others believe Trevor’s assertion that another man—who may or may not actually exist—was responsible.
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Thelma & Louise
This classic road trip thriller cemented Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis’s long-lasting star status and helped launch the career of Brad Pitt. Thelma & Louise tells the story of two friends whose vacation gets immensely out of hand. After Louise kills a man who attempts to rape her, the pair goes on the run. Even if you already know the iconic ending, you should see this iconic film.
The Talented Mr. Ripley
Based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel, The Talented Mr. Ripley is a psychological thriller for the ages. Matt Damon plays the eponymous Tom Ripley, who becomes obsessed with Jude Law’s Dickie Greenleaf. Ripley’s belief that he deserves as luxurious a life as Dickie leads him down a dark path.
Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman play a pair of detectives tracking down a serial killer who models his murders after the seven deadly sins. The killer’s twisted motives soon ensnare the detectives themselves in his crimes.
When young, idealistic Detective Jake Hoyt is assigned to veteran officer Alonzo Harris for training, he has no idea what’s in store for him. Despite, or perhaps because of, Harris’s 13 years of service in the LAPD Narcotics department, the man is a corrupt and ruthless cop, stealing money and drugs from crime scenes. Hoyt must choose between his honor and his safety. Denzel Washington took home an Oscar for his portrayal of Alonzo Harris.
This underrated 2005 thriller stars Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy (Inception). McAdams plays a hotel manager on her way to visit her parents. Unbeknownst to her, her seatmate isn’t there by accident. This excellent thriller, directed by Wes Craven, benefits greatly from fantastic performances from both McAdams and Murphy.
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This Boston-based thriller follows three childhood friends whose paths diverge wildly in their adulthood. When one man's daughter is killed, he suspects that his old friend may have something to do with it. Taking matters into their own hands, the former friends spiral downward in a cycle of violence.
This sci-fi thriller follows Sam Bell, the single human manning an automated lunar mining operation. Even Sam’s communications with his wife on earth have become limited to prerecorded messages from Tess as she awaits the birth of their child. As Sam reaches the end of his contract, he begins to wonder what’s really going on around him.
Featured still from "Se7en" via New Line Cinema