The Best Thrillers on Netflix

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The Best Thrillers on Netflix

Thrillers have been a cinema staple ever since Alfred Hitchcock kept us in suspense with his silent serial killer film The Lodger in 1927. The story may be fictional, but if the telling is masterful enough, the tension we feel is real. From tales of the supernatural to spy chases to psychological dramas, the thriller is a broad and hard-to-define genre—you’ll see our list of the Best Thrillers on Netflix overlap with our Best Dramas on Netflix, Best Action Movies on Netflix, Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix and Best Horror Movies on Netflix lists—but the key element of a good thriller is keeping an audience member on the edge of their seat. So, we’ve officially defined a thriller as anything that Netflix calls a thriller (excepting a few wildly mislabeled films), and any complaints or concerns can be directed to one of Netflix’s insufferable first-person Twitter accounts.

Here are the 30 best Thrillers on Netflix right now:


Year: 1975
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton
Rating: PG
Runtime: 124 minutes

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Is Jaws a horror film? For those who worry that it’s “not safe to go back in the water,” then most certainly it is. But regardless of how you’d classify it, there’s no denying that Jaws is anything but brilliant, one of Spielberg’s great populist triumphs, alongside the likes of Jurassic Park and E.T., but leaner and less polished than either,. Much has been made over the years of how Jaws as a film really benefits from the technical issues that plagued its making; the story originally called for more scenes featuring the mechanical shark “Bruce,” but the constantly malfunctioning animatronic forced the director to cut back, which ended up maximizing each appearance’s impact. The first time that Brody (Roy Scheider) sees the literal “jaws” of the beast while absentmindedly throwing chum into the water is one of the great, scream-inducing moments in cinema history, and it’s a shock that has rarely been matched in any other shark movie since. Likewise with the death of Quint (Robert Shaw), whose mad scramble to avoid those gnashing teeth is the kind of thing that created its very own sub-genre of children’s nightmares. Ultimately, Jaws is a great film via memorable characters, but a scary film care of novelty and perfect execution. —Jim Vorel


Year: 2013
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard
Rating: R

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An air of heaviness surrounds Prisoners: the darkness of its story, the grimness of its view of human nature, the somberness of its performances. The titular captives aren’t limited to the abducted girls at the plot’s center—in a sense, most of the characters are trapped in metaphorical prisons of one form or another. That heaviness is pungently expressed by director Denis Villeneuve without much variation or letup—and in the process, the audience gets imprisoned a bit, as well.

The Departed

Year: 2006
Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Vera Farmiga
Rating: R

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At times truly funny and at others brutally violent, Martin Scorsese’s ambitious gangster flick spends equal time exploring the deceitful inner workings of the Boston Special Investigation Unit and it’s pro-crime counterpart, the Frank Costello-led Irish mafia. The director’s first gangster film to be set in Boston won him his first Best Picture Award at the Oscars. Featuring an all-star cast in the likes of Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jack Nicholson, the gangster drama, a remake of the Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs, upholds the optimum qualities of a classic Scorsese picture: style, morality and grit.—David Roark

The Good Nurse

good-nurse.jpgYear: 2022
Director: Tobias Lindholm
Stars: Jessica Chastain, Eddie Redmayne, Nnamdi Asomugha, Noah Emmerich, Kim Dickens, Malik Yoba
Rating: R

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In an era where true crime content is churned out a mile a minute, it can be hard to differentiate adaptations that exist because their stories are actually worth telling, and those that are just another desperate vie for a spot on Netflix’s venerated Top 10 list. If you’re anything like me, you’ll frequently find yourself considering hard-hitting questions about the matter, such as: Does Jeffrey Dahmer’s backstory actually deserve to be three hours longer than Sátántangó? And, perhaps more to the point: Is there a purpose to any of this output at all? But then, every so often, a movie like The Good Nurse comes out, and it feels like a breath of fresh air. Directed by The Hunt and Another Round writer Tobias Lindholm, The Good Nurse tells the true story of Charles Cullen, a nurse and the most prolific serial killer in New Jersey history. The film centers around Amy Loughren (Jessica Chastain), the titular Good Nurse: An overworked single mom who pulls all-nighters to care for sick patients in an effort to pay for her upcoming heart surgery. Enter Charles (Eddie Redmayne), a soft-spoken nurse who appears to have been sent straight from heaven to make sure Amy takes her meds and help her daughter rehearse for the school play. But just as things are looking up for Amy, patients who came into the hospital with relatively minor injuries start mysteriously dying. Once The Good Nurse establishes that something undeniably fishy is going on, it quickly cascades into a perfect amalgam of a tense detective thriller starring dubious officers Danny Baldwin (Nnamdi Asomugha) and Tim Braun (Noah Emmerich), a gut-wrenching psychological drama, and a staggering showcase for Chastain and Redmayne, who deliver two of the finest performances of the year. —Aurora Amidon


okja-movie-poster.jpgYear: 2017
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Stars: Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, An Seo Hyun, Byun Heebong, Steven Yeun, Lily Collins, Yoon Je Moon, Shirley Henderson, Daniel Henshall, Devon Bostick, Woo Shik Choi, Giancarlo Esposito, Jake Gyllenhaal
Rating: NR

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Okja takes more creative risks in its first five minutes than most films take over their entire span, and it doesn’t let up from there. What appears to be a sticking point for some critics and audiences, particularly Western ones, is the seemingly erratic tone, from sentiment to suspense to giddy action to whimsy to horror to whatever it is Jake Gyllenhaal is doing. But this is part and parcel with what makes Bong Joon-ho movies, well, Bong Joon-ho movies: They’re nuanced and complex, but they aren’t exactly subtle or restrained. They have attention to detail, but they are not delicate in their handling. They have multiple intentions, and they bring those intentions together to jam. They are imaginative works that craft momentum through part-counterpart alternations, and Okja is perhaps the finest example yet of the wild pendulum swing of a Bong film’s rhythmic tonality. Okja is also not a film about veganism, but it is a film that asks how we can find integrity and, above all, how we can act humanely towards other creatures, humans included. The answers Okja reaches are simple and vital, and without really speaking them it helps you hear those answers for yourself because it has asked all the right questions, and it has asked them in a way that is intensely engaging. —Chet Betz


Under the Shadow

under-shadow-movie-poster.jpgYear: 2016
Director: Babak Anvari
Stars: Narges Rashidi, Avin Manshadi, Bobby Naderi, Ray Haratian, Arash Marandi
Rating: PG-13

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For most of the film, Babak Anvari is crafting a stifling period drama, a horror movie of a different sort that tangibly conveys the claustrophobia of Iran during its tumultuous post-revolution period. Anvari, himself of a family that eventually fled the Ayatollah’s rule, has made Under the Shadow as statement of rebellion and tribute to his own mother. It’s a distinctly feminist film: Shideh (Narges Rashidi) is cast as the tough heroine fighting back against greater hostile forces—a horror movie archetype that takes on even more potency in this setting. Seeing Shideh defy the Khomeini regime by watching a Jane Fonda workout video, banned by the state, is almost as stirring as seeing her overcome her personal demons by protecting her child from a more literal one. —Brogan Morris


Captain Phillips

captain-p.jpgYear: 2013
Director: Paul Greengrass
Stars: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Catherine Keener, Faysal Ahmed
Rating: PG-13

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Captain Phillips proves that, while his imitators may do more harm than good, Paul Greengrass himself remains the kind filmmaker cinephiles are lucky to have around. Based on a 2009 incident in which a U.S. cargo ship and its captain were taken hostage by Somali pirates, the film marks Greengrass’ best work since 2006’s 9/11 drama United 93. What’s more, it’s the kind of film that will have you nervously biting your nails and holding your breath out of a sheer sense of suspense—and that’s even if you know how the true story unfolded. Captain Phillips finds its titular character, Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks), and his crew going about their daily, somewhat monotonous routine. Unbeknownst to them, a gang of Somali pirates led by Muse (Barkhad Abdi, in a breakthrough performance) watches from mere miles away, plotting a strike. Phillips first becomes alarmed when he receives an email warning him of piracy in the area. Not long after, he spots Muse’s crew making their way to his ship. A defensive strategy fails, and the pirates find their way onto the ship. From here, the film divides itself into two distinct parts. The first sees Phillips attempting to stall the pirates as his crew, who have barricaded themselves in the ship’s lower depths, make plans for regaining control via traps and covert maneuvering that would make Home Alone’s Kevin McCallister proud. Once the plot truly gets moving, Hanks gamely disappears into the role, giving perhaps his most powerful performance since 1998’s Saving Private Ryan. Using his inherent movie star prowess, Hanks is able to embody both Phillips’ authoritative nature as well as successfully sell his cool-headed approach to the situation. Much of the film’s latter half, meanwhile, is predicated on his reactions and interactions with the pirates as well as his growing desperation. Watching the slow, quiet erosion of Phillips’ composure proves only slightly more harrowing than the film’s suspenseful set pieces. The character’s emotional arc eventually builds to a scene that, without spoiling anything, is so potent and raw that you almost can’t stand to watch because Hanks endows the moment with such an aching sense of reality. —Mark Rozeman



creep poster (Custom).jpgYear: 2014
Director: Patrick Brice
Stars: Mark Duplass, Patrick Brice
Rating: R

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Trust is a valuable commodity online. Though the connective power of the Internet has made our world smaller, believing in what you can’t see is risky business. In Creep, Patrick Brice makes a mercurial study of these fears through the veneer of found footage. As genre niches go, the found footage conceit wore out its welcome in a deluge of Paranormal Activity imitators over the span of the past eight years. In Brice’s hands, the technique works: Unlike its low-fi kin, Creep is made with attention to detail and a dedicated consideration of motive. There’s a reason the camera stays on from scene to scene. If the web invites harm, Brice’s lens almost acts like a shield. Nothing bad can happen while we’re rolling, at least until it does. Even a casual horror fan knows the destination on Creep’s narrative itinerary, but Brice has a knack for making us second-guess ourselves at almost every juncture. The film stars Brice as Aaron and his comrade, mumblecore guru supreme Mark Duplass, as Josef. Aaron is down on his luck and looking for fast, easy cash. Josef is a vibrating ball of pent-up, charismatic energy. He’s also slowly dying, the victim of an aggressive, untreatable brain tumor. Hence Aaron, whom Josef has hired as his personal videographer. Josef wants to record a single day in his life for his unborn son, whom he may never get to meet. So the two men strike out on an adventure through hill and dale, which sounds fine and dandy except that Josef is weird. Really weird, in fact, and not the quirky, precious kind of weird that indie audiences find endlessly endearing. And Brice has a deft hand at fostering sustained terror. He’s equally as good at coaxing a chuckle out of us at the right moment to subvert our expectations. Creep is as intensely frightening as it is humorous, but Brice doesn’t use gags to let the air out of the room. Rather, he treats them as bait, and anticipation as a red herring, executing his many misdirections brilliantly. Even when the film ticks down to its final minutes, we can’t help but hope for a happy ending. —Andy Crump


omar.jpgYear: 2014
Director:Hany Abu-Assad
Stars: Adam Bakri, Leem Lubany, Waleed Zuaiter
Rating: TV-MA

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More trenchant as a political allegory than a character drama, Omar is more interested in the ideas within this slow-burn thriller than in plot machinations. To writer-director Hany Abu-Assad, maniacal twists and cunning action set pieces would simply get in the way—better that we spend our time thinking about why the characters find themselves in this situation at all. Nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, Omar stars Adam Bakri as the titular young Palestinian, who must daily scale the imposingly tall security wall that separates him from his girlfriend, Nadia (Leem Lubany). Though very much in love, they haven’t yet revealed their relationship to her brother (and Omar’s good friend) Tarek (Eyad Hourani), who is planning with Omar and another close pal, Amjad (Samer Bisharat), to kill an Israeli soldier. The three friends’ mission is a success—it’s Amjad who pulls the trigger—but soon after, Omar is snagged by Israeli forces, led by Agent Rami (Waleed F. Zuaiter). Threatening Omar with imprisonment, Rami promises him freedom if he’ll deliver Tarek, the group’s leader, to them in exchange. What’s most resonant in Omar is that, just as we can’t always gauge the characters, they’re, too, concealing parts of themselves from each other, a byproduct of living in a part of the world where distrust is commonplace and secrecy a necessity. Which is why Omar’s startling ending is both somewhat mystifying and also oddly perfect—we don’t see it coming, and yet deep down, we’re not surprised at all that it happened. —Tim Grierson

The Platform

platform.jpgYear: 2019
Director: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia
Stars: Iván Massagué, Zorion Eguileor, Antonia San Juan, Emilio Buale Coka, Alexandra Masangkay
Rating: NR

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The Platform benefits immensely from the strength of its simple, high-concept premise and all the superfluous information that is withheld from the viewer. It doesn’t matter that we don’t know why exactly people are placed into this diabolical, vertical prison structure, in which the only sustenance arrives once a day in the form of a steadily descending, increasingly gross stone slab piled high with perishables. Nor do we really need to know how this apparent social experiment operates, although the repeated glimpses we get at cooks slaving over perfect dishes to be sent down to the doomed convicts is no doubt designed to needle at our curiosity. What matters is that we observe the differences in human reaction to this plight—the ways that different personalities react to adversity with an “us or them” mentality, or a predatory hunger, or a spontaneous drive toward self-sacrificing altruism. The fact that the position of the prisoners is constantly in flux is key—it gives them both a tangible reason to be the change they want to see in their world, and an almost impossible temptation to do the exact opposite out of distrust of their neighbors. One expects a nihilistic streak here, and you won’t be disappointed—but there’s a few glimmers of hope shining through the cracks as well. Just enough, perhaps, to twist the knife that much deeper. —Jim Vorel

The Hateful Eight

16.jpgYear: 2015
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Stars: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demien Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern
Rating: R

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The Hateful Eight is a sprawling film with an intimate core and too much necessary material to trim. There’s a pomp and grandiosity to the weight of the film, and to Quentin Tarantino’s ambition in making it his way, that’s hard not to admire. More so than most marquee movies and tentpoles claiming to be “epic,” The Hateful Eight actually lives up to the word. With this whodunit—or who’s-gonna-doit—Tarantino is chiefly interested in the exchanging of barbs and threats more than he is in action. Make no mistake, The Hateful Eight is insanely violent, but it’s fixated around violent talk and violent reverie before physical violence. Tarantino may lay his timely allegory on thick, but The Hateful Eight bears it out in subtle ways, too: With distrust as the film’s prevailing manner, the notion that you cannot truly know the people with whom you’re having dinner takes on increased gravity and meaning, particularly in the climactic showdown, when all is revealed and we see the film’s various humans for who they truly are. Frontier justice does quench our thirst, but the themes of social justice that drive the film are more satiating by far. It all adds up to a towering work, as profound as it is profane. —Andy Crump

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

el-camino.jpgYear: 2019
Director: Vince Gilligan
Stars: Aaron Paul, Jesse Plemons, Charles Baker, Matt Jones, Jonathan Banks
Rating: NR

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Like many (though not all) TV shows that are able to plan their series finales, Breaking Bad’s “Felina” was pitch-perfect. It was the end of Walter White (Bryan Cranston), as it needed to be, but it allowed us to have some hope in a future for Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) as he sped off into the unknown. Viewers have hoped for and imagined a happy ending for Jesse since “Felina,” that he might actually make it to Alaska and find a life for himself that was his own. And that, essentially, is what El Camino gives us. It starts the moment that Jesse drives away from that compound, but for the rest of its runtime it goes back and forth through time, as Jesse works on getting Ed the Extractor (the late Robert Forster) to find him a way out of the chaos that Walt created around them. In some ways, the plot is like an RPG quest line, wherein Jesse must do a variety of tasks before he is allowed to go to the next stage. And in true Breaking Bad fashion, it’s also full of anxiety-inducing moments where Jesse seems cornered and done for. As he realized in a past conversation with Mike, he has a chance to start fresh, even though he can never make things right. Too much has happened; too many people have died. “I’ve gone where the universe takes me my whole life. It’s better to make those decisions for yourself,” Jane (Krysten Ritter) tells Jesse in the past. It’s time for Jesse to start living for himself. He’s ready, bitch! And I’m glad we got to see it. —Allison Keene

Nocturnal Animals

nocturnal-animals.jpgYear: 2016
Director: Tom Ford
Stars: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Isla Fisher
Rating: R

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After A Single Man was (unjustly) criticized in some quarters for its preoccupation with surface beauty, fashion designer-cum-filmmaker Tom Ford has returned with something ugly. Aesthetically, Nocturnal Animals is still deliberately gorgeous, with its model-handsome actors, designer costumes and career-high lensing by cinematographer Seamus McGarvey. It’s also a film that presents two worlds—one real, one fictitious—in which people are compulsively, perhaps inevitably, driven to do horrible things to one another. A revenge movie that features only imagined violence, Nocturnal Animals is all the more uneasy for having a male “hero” who seeks to mentally brutalize its heroine. This one feels personal for the filmmaker, a bundle of ways to explore multiple anxieties: creative stagnation and infidelity; familial responsibilities and loss of control; fear of failure and rejection. Each story thread comes with a different kind of dread—though all of them are unified in their investigation of toxic masculinity. Male anger and resentment drive this savage tale, a thriller as gripping as it is stomach-churningly frank. —Brogan Morris


avengement-movie-poster.jpgYear: 2019
Director: Jesse V. Johnson
Stars: Scott Adkins, Craig Fairbrass, Nick Moran
Rating: NR

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The second of three films directed by Jesse V. Johnson released in 2019, Avengement is as crystalline, as empirically precise, as micro-budget VOD martial arts action can aspire. With that kind of prolificacy, a journeyman director’s bound to do something right—which would be a valid assessment, were everything Johnson’s done not so undeniably solid. Thanks goes, of course, to Johnson’s muse, Vicious Beefcake Scott Adkins, a flawlessly sculpted humanoid so squarely planted in Johnson’s sweet spot—melodramatic, archly brutal action cinema with enough wit and heart to leave a bruise—a Johnson film without him as the protagonist doesn’t quite feel fully realized. Look only to Triple Threat, Avengement’s 2019 predecessor, to yearn for what could have been, mollified by a scene in which Adkins body slams a sedan going at least 40 mph. Triple Threat boasts three writers and a cavalcade of international action cinema stars, from Iko Uwais and Tony Jaa, to Tiger Chen and Michael Jai White (still in decent shape, but so outclassed by Adkins and his peers’ athleticism he seems pretty much immobile), while in Avengement Johnson works from his own script, winnowing the plot to a series of increasingly higher stakes brawls as wronged nobody Cain (Adkins) makes his bloody way through the criminal organization (led by his brother, no less) that left him to rot in prison. As is the case with Savage Dog and The Debt Collector (both on Netflix), Avengement thrives on the preternatural chemistry between director and star, the camera remarkably calm as it captures every amazing inch of Adkins in motion, beating the living shit out of each chump he encounters, Adkins just as aware of how best to stand and pose and flex to showcase his body. Charming character actors cheer from the sidelines; the plot functions so fundamentally we hardly realize we care about these characters until we’ve reached a satisfying end at their sides. Perhaps Scott Adkins is a better dramatist than we’ve come to expect from our kinetic stars anymore. Perhaps we’ve set our expectations too low. —Dom Sinacola


cam-movie-poster.jpgYear: 2018
Director: Daniel Goldhaber
Stars: Madeline Brewer, Patch Darragh, Melora Walters, Devin Druid, Imani Hakim, Michael Dempsey
Rating: N/R

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As so many films in 2018 have shown us, the identities we create online—that we digitally design, foster and mature, often to the detriment of whatever we have going on IRL—will inevitably surpass us. The horror of Daniel Goldhaber’s Cam, based on the Isa Mazzei’s script (in turn, based on her real experiences as a sex worker), is in this loss: that no one is ever truly in control of these fabricated identities; that the more real they become, the less they belong to the person most affected. Welcome Alice (Madeline Brewer), an ambitious camgirl who compensates for the exhausting rigor of online popularity (and, therefore, economic viability) with gruesome stunts and a rigorous set of principles dictating what she will, and won’t, do in her capacity as female fantasy. She’s successful, tossing funds to her mom (Melora Walters) and brother (Devin Druid) without being totally honest about her job, but she could be more successful, trying whatever she can (within reason) to scale the ranking system enforced by the site she uses to broadcast her shows. With dexterous ease, Mazzei’s script both introduces the exigencies of camgirl life while never stooping to judge Alice’s choice of employment, contextualizing an inevitable revelation to her family not as one of embarrassment, but as an impenetrable morass of shame through which every sex worker must struggle to be taken seriously. So much so that when someone who looks exactly like Alice—who operates under her screen name but is willing to do the things Alice once refused—gains leaps and bounds in the camgirl charts, Goldhaber and Mazzei derive less tension from the explanation and discovery of what’s really going on rather than the harsh truth of just how vulnerable Alice is—and we all are—to the cold, indifferent violence of this online world we’ve built for ourselves. —Dom Sinacola

Gerald’s Game

geralds game list poster (Custom).jpgYear: 2017
Director: Mike Flanagan
Stars: Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood
Rating: N/A

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Director Mike Flanagan’s Gerald’s Game trims fat, condenses and slims, stripping away some of the odder quirks of Stephen King’s novel to get at the heart of themes underneath. The result is a tense, effective thriller that goes out of its way to highlight two strong actors in an unfettered celebration of their craft. This is nothing new for Flanagan, whose recent output in the horror genre has been commendable. It’s hard to overlook some of the recurring themes in his work, beginning with 2011’s Absentia and all the way through the wildly imaginative Oculus, Hush and Ouija: Origin of Evil. Every one of these films centers around a strong-willed female lead, as does Gerald’s Game. Is this coincidence? Or is the director drawn to stories that reflect the struggle of women to claim independence in their lives by shedding old scars or ghosts, be they literal or figurative? Either way, it made Flanagan an obvious fit for Gerald’s Game, an unassuming, overachieving little thriller that is blessed by two performers capable of handling the lion’s share of the dramatic challenges it presents. —Jim Vorel

Army of Thieves

army-of-thieves.jpgYear: 2021
Director: Matthias Schweighöfer
Stars: Matthias Schweighöfer, Nathalie Emmanuel, Stuart Martin, Guz Khan, Ruby O. Fee, Jonathan Cohen
Rating: TV-MA

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Army of the Dead is a film full of pleasant surprises, but Matthias Schweighöfer, playing a German safecracker with a hair-trigger for impassioned speeches about locks and bolts, is perhaps the most pleasant surprise of them all. The man has a twitchy sort of charm easily misidentified as “quirkiness.” In reality he’s well-mannered to a fault and polite to the point of timidity, but with one other propulsive quality buried beneath the affable veneer: Intensity. Everything Schweighöfer does in Army of the Dead is informed by a vigor belied by his nervousness. He’s a squirrely burglar, quivering one moment over flesh-eating ghouls and doing a heroic sacrifice the next. This intensity carries over into Army of Thieves, the prequel film to Army of the Dead, where Schweighöfer replaces Zack Snyder in the director’s chair. To allay any fears that Schweighöfer might copy Snyder’s style, don’t worry: Schweighöfer is not Zack Snyder, because nobody is. Everything that singled out Schweighöfer’s work under Snyder’s guidance is infused into Army of Thieves on a molecular level, as if he managed to get his hands on Shay Hatten’s screenplay and bleed all over its pages. Army of Thieves replaces the doom, gloom and zombie chaos with deep-rooted joy, as if Schweighöfer, behind the camera, can scarcely believe he’s directing a film this big established by a filmmaker like Snyder. It’s impossible to resist that sort of bubbly, crackling enthusiasm, which makes Army of Thieves’ predictable elements easier to countenance. —Andy Crump

Don’t Worry Darling

dont-worry.jpgYear: 2022
Director: Olivia Wilde
Starring: Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Wilde, Gemma Chan, KiKi Layne, Nick Kroll, Chris Pine
Rating: R

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Don’t Worry Darling is a movie about men imprisoning women, physically and metaphorically, for not meeting men’s expectations about how they ought to act. The film critiques a brand of contemporary male chauvinist faux-intellectualism, including an antagonist (Chris Pine’s Frank) that director Olivia Wilde says is based on Jordan Peterson. For all the hubbub and controversy leading up to release, it’s an at-best entirely ordinary movie carried almost entirely by Florence Pugh’s performance. Taking its plot at face value, Alice (Pugh) lives with her husband Jack (Harry Styles) in a picture-perfect cul-de-sac neighborhood in the California desert. The tightknit community is made up of picturesque couples who seem to have been pulled from the 1950s, except that there’s a surprising amount of interracial relationships. Shorn of its contrived and drama-filled production context, Don’t Worry Darling’s just a middling thriller that doesn’t give its cast enough to do. It would have been more interesting as a literal one-woman show than as a figurative one. —Kevin Fox, Jr.

Creep 2

creep-2-movie-poster.jpgYear: 2017
Director: Patrick Brice
Stars: Mark Duplass, Desiree Akhavan, Karan Soni
Rating: N/A

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Creep was not a movie begging for a sequel. About one of cinema’s more unique serial killers—a man who seemingly needs to form close personal bonds with his quarry before dispatching them as testaments to his “art”—the 2014 original was self-sufficient enough. But Creep 2 is that rare follow-up wherein the goal seems to be not “let’s do it again,” but “let’s go deeper”—and by deeper, we mean much deeper, as this film plumbs the psyche of the central psychopath (who now goes by) Aaron (Mark Duplass) in ways both wholly unexpected and shockingly sincere, as we witness (and somehow sympathize with) a killer who has lost his passion for murder, and thus his zest for life. In truth, the film almost forgoes the idea of being a “horror movie,” remaining one only because we know of the atrocities Aaron has committed in the past, meanwhile becoming much more of an interpersonal drama about two people exploring the boundaries of trust and vulnerability. Desiree Akhavan is stunning as Sara, the film’s only other principal lead, creating a character who is able to connect in a humanistic way with Aaron unlike anything a fan of the first film might think possible. Two performers bare it all, both literally and figuratively: Creep 2 is one of the most surprising, emotionally resonant horror films in recent memory. —Jim Vorel

I don’t feel at home in this world anymore.

i-dont-feel.jpgYear: 2017
Director: Macon Blair
Stars: Melanie Lynskey, Elijah Wood, David Yow, Jane Levy, Devon Graye
Rating: N/A

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Writer-director Macon Blair’s debut feature is a tonally audacious genre outing unafraid to slip for a moment or two into the sweet relief of magical realism. Blair’s premise is simple—Ruth (Melanie Lynskey, cast to perfection), a quiet loner, comes home to find her house robbed, and when the police won’t help, she seeks vigilante justice with equally socially inept neighbor, Tony (Elijah Wood)—but his ever-increasingly sprawling plot is fueled by a myopic moral perspective rendered in black and white. Ruth wonders aloud why everyone is an asshole (moreso, why assholes so easily get away with being assholes), and Blair seemingly wonders the same thing, punctuating his mundane neo-noir with gruesome violence and unexpected physical comedy (a projectile vomit scene, in particular, rivals the classic back-alley puke-fest from Team America). Blair’s worked extensively with his friend Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin, Green Room), so the two share a startling sense of pace and a knack for making even the most sloppy action sequences feel precise, but Saulnier is so much bleaker, whereas Blair allows each of his film’s supposed assholes a chance to redeem, or at least explain, themselves. A crappy cop is going through a messy divorce; a delinquent son acts out against the specter of an absentee father; a guy whose dog craps on your lawn just wasn’t really paying attention—as Ruth struggles to confront the callousness of her cold world, she realizes that we’re all pretty much doing the same thing too: We’re struggling. —Dom Sinacola


mudbound.jpgYear: 2017
Director: Dee Rees
Stars: Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell, Mary J. Blige, Rob Morgan, Jonathan Banks, Garrett Hedlund
Rating: R

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Director Dee Rees uses the uneasy partnership between a white family and a black family in postwar Mississippi as a bruising metaphor for modern-day America. In Mudbound, Jason Clarke is the patriarch of a recently relocated Tennessee clan that must work together with the Jacksons (led by Mary J. Blige) to cultivate farmland, but the poisonous economic, racial and social atmosphere surrounding them constantly threatens the crops they’re trying to sow. This somber, despairing film sees the world plainly: War veterans aren’t given the care they need when they return, bigotry runs rampant, and good people are outnumbered by the small-minded. And the performances are stellar—especially Garrett Hedlund, as a bomber pilot who’s a shell of himself now that he’s home, and Jason Mitchell as a black soldier who finds that America still won’t accept him, even though he fought valiantly for his country. —Tim Grierson

The Perfection

the perfection poster (Custom).jpgYear: 2019
Director: Richard Shepard
Starring: Allison Williams, Logan Browning, Steven Weber, Alaina Huffman
Rating: N/A

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What should horror movies be judged by? Airtight narrative logic, or imaginatively deranged imagery? Scores matter, scripts matter, but by the end of the movie what tends to matter most are the visuals, and Richard Shepard’s new movie, The Perfection, sears its visuals into the viewer’s mind like branding on livestock, right up to its final shot, one of the genre’s most indelible since horror became the taste of the day in the mid 2010s. It’s a twisted kind of miracle that anyone who watches The Perfection will never be the same, and a testament to horror’s power to bend minds and spur nightmares with a single picture. But the movie also reminds us that as much as pictures often come first, plotting usually should come a very close second. The film begins promisingly enough: After abandoning her career to care for her dying mother, cello prodigy Charlotte (Allison Williams) returns to the music world to reclaim her standing as the Bachoff Academy of Music’s star pupil, which means sabotaging the current title holder, Lizzie (Logan Browning). Charlotte reaches out to her old teachers, Anton (Steven Weber) and Paloma (Alaina Huffman), travels to Shanghai as Bachoff selects its latest student, and cozies up to Lizzie. They flatter each other. They flirt. They drink, go partying, then make passionate love in a hotel, filmed with cinematographer Vanja Cernul’s lurid gaze. Maybe Charlotte bears Lizzie no grudge. Maybe they really do admire each other to romantic heights. And then they travel to rural China, where Lizzie grows increasingly sick, starts puking up bugs, discovers yet more bugs dithering about under the skin on her arm, and, when offered a butcher’s cleaver by Charlotte, chops off her hand. This is the climax to The Perfection’s first half hour, ruined by a single viewing of the trailer. It’s also where Shepard springs the first of several fakeouts, stealing a page from Michael Haneke’s playbook. At its best, The Perfection is an homage to 1970s horror movies and 1980s thrillers, a glorious, multi-hewed mind screw. When Shepard sticks to this aesthetic, the movie soars on grotesque wings. When he commits the cardinal sin of demystifying the mysterious, it’s a major drag. A little ambiguity goes a long, long way in horror. —Andy Crump


stowaway-210.jpgYear: 2021
Director: Joe Penna
Stars: Anna Kendrick, Daniel Dae Kim, Toni Collette, Shamier Anderson
Rating: R

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Science-fiction writers have imagined just about everything that could wrong as we travel to Mars, and Joe Penna’s Stowaway adds “accidental extra passenger” to that list. Three astronauts, played by Toni Collette, Anna Kendrick and Daniel Dae Kim, are unprepared for the appearance of an engineer (Shamier Anderson) who’d been knocked unconscious while preparing for their ship for the long journey. There’s not enough oxygen for a fourth voyager, and the crew faces increasingly dangerous dilemmas of both moral and technical varieties. The story can drag a bit for a space adventure, but the top-notch cast—especially Collette, free to settle into her native Australian accent—elevates this suspenseful drama, making it worth two hours of your time. —Josh Jackson

Velvet Buzzsaw

velvet buzzsaw poster (Custom).jpgYear: 2018
Director: Dan Gilroy
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Toni Collette, Zawe Ashton, Natalia Dyer, Daveed Diggs, John Malkovich
Rating: R

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With 2014’s chilling Nightcrawler, writer/director Dan Gilroy and stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo created a potent critique of the media’s “if it bleeds, it leads” mentality. Four years later, the same team is back with Velvet Buzzsaw in order to ostensibly skewer the shallowness and materialism of art profiteering, told through a gaudy blend of pretentious B-horror and on-the-nose satire. Nightcrawler’s solidly structured and thematically laser-focused existence makes Velvet Buzzsaw that much of a baffling experience, since what we get from Gilroy here is the exact opposite: A muddled, morally confused and, worst of all, woefully predictable genre rethread with a laughably transparent art house veneer. Hidden underneath Gyllenhaal and Russo’s scenery-chewing cartoon versions of highfalutin art expert types, the premise of a mysterious collection of apparently haunted paintings killing all those who try to profit from it presents not much more than a typical slasher flick. Whenever a character is left alone every 20 minutes or so, you can bet they’ll be toast or mince meat—in one case literally—by the time the scene’s over. One can expect such a flimsy narrative used solely to prop up a series of exuberantly gory set-pieces from a medium-grade giallo auteur of the ’70s, but more cohesive work is expected from the likes of Gilroy and his powerful cast. If you’re a horror fan who’s in it only for the blood, go for it. Other buyers, beware. —Oktay Ege Kozak

I Care a Lot.

i-care.jpgYear: 2021
Director: J Blakeson
Stars: Rosamund Pike, Peter Dinklage, Eiza González, Chris Messina, Dianne Wiest
Rating: R

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There’s nothing like a Rosamund Pike sociopath performance to ready you for a mean-spirited romp. Netflix’s I Care A Lot, writer/director J Blakeson’s tight crime thriller, goes off the rails in various ways—though it never leaves behind its central viciousness and gives us plenty of Pike as it works us over. That said, the further it gets from its rancid, yet tightly constructed nucleus, the harder it is to appreciate its unabashedly rotten style. Romantic and business partners Marla and Fran (Pike and Eiza González), both perfectly hateable and smug, run an elder care scam where they obtain legal guardianship of unwitting victims and check them into facilities with the help of doctors, judges and managers of varying complicity. With the victims out of the way, the pair can sell off their estates without resistance—all under the guise of providing the best care available. It’s plain that these indoor-sunglasses-wearing, high-fiving, chain-vaping girlboss fraudsters have quite the game going. It’s even more plain that they’re able to carry on because of interlocking systems easily exploited by those with enough ambition and a lack of scruples. The film has all the makings of an imperfect and crooked Soderbergh caper, with the added novelty of cruel, selfish, loving and even grotesque central women. Some of the film’s punchy dialogue pops us on the nose now and again with its Themes (specifically its notes on sexism and the American Dream), but if you’re willing to look past that and a contrived half-hour detour, I Care A Lot is a savvy and wicked endeavor peppered with personality. —Jacob Oller

Emily the Criminal

Year: 2022
Director: John Patton Ford
Stars: Aubrey Plaza, Theo Rossi, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Gina Gershon
Rating: R

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As someone anxiously checking back in on when my student loan payments will resume, I can relate to cinema’s rich canon of alluring and thoroughly explored financial reasons for non-violent crime. Writer/director John Patton Ford’s debut taps into familiar territory with a strong pair of lead performances, but so lightly and blandly that he barely skims anything off the top. A crooked criminal seduction that fires a few stray bullets at job (or, ahem, unpaid internship) interviews, Emily the Criminal might break the law but doesn’t get away with enough to warrant an APB (Aubrey Plaza Bulletin). Plaza, a driving force of the film as both its star and producer, must’ve seen something in the script that appealed to her—perhaps as another chance to showcase her endless range. And Emily, a desperate caterer haunted by a past felony who lucks her way into a credit card fraud gig, is perhaps as hardened a character as she’s played yet. Hitting so many dead ends has calloused her, though we don’t quite get a look at what’s underneath. Plaza is enjoyably grim in the role (even if her Jersey accent comes and goes), but compared to some of her more nuanced work in things like Ingrid Goes West, it’s a little surface-level and straightforward—but by no means ineffective. It’s through her abilities and those of Theo Rossi, who charmingly plays Youcef (the cute and teddyish broker who instructs her at a sort of backroom shoplifting seminar), that the film holds together. —Jacob Oller


1922.jpgYear: 2017
Director: Zak Hilditch
Stars: Thomas Jane, Molly Parker, Dylan Schmid
Rating: Ref=””
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A chameleonic performance from Thomas Jane anchors this understated, gothic story set in Depression-era Middle America, told in the style of a confession by the husband (who we can tell right from the get-go is haunted by some horrible crime). When his wife (Molly Parker) insists on selling the land she’s inherited rather than work it, Jane’s unsophisticated field hand harangues their son (Dylan Schmid) into becoming an accomplice in her grisly murder. As with every Grand Guignol tale, though, we already know that the worst part isn’t the act of killing, but the endless paranoia of living with it. In the case of the movie’s guilty narrator, that means a vengeful and inevitable haunting filled with all the foreboding and creepy imagery you came to see. Stephen King adaptations have their hits and their misses, but this is a straightforward story that gets by on the power of a dread-steeped plot and some compelling performances by good character actors you’ll most likely always be happy to see get screen time. —Kenneth Lowe


spiderhead-poster.jpgYear: 2022
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Starring: Miles Teller, Chris Hemsworth, Jurnee Smollett, Mark Paguio, Tess Haubrich
Rating: R

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Paste’s Steven Petite called George Saunders “a master of creating worlds that are close enough to mirroring our own to be deemed realistic while not familiar enough to entirely resemble the world we live in” and “perhaps the greatest living English language short story writer, whose bizarre brand of humor is both dark and refreshing.” Netflix’s Spiderhead, adapted from Saunders’s 2010 short story “Escape from Spiderhead,” is darker than it is funny (or fun), but it is refreshing to watch Chris Hemsworth drop his superhero persona to play a mad genius running an unorthodox prison where the inmates have volunteered as lab rats in exchange for good meals and personal space. Directed by Tron: Legacy’s Joseph Kosinski, the film imagines a future where changing someone’s mood and perception is as easy as an iPhone app and oversight of our private prisons is—well, even less than it is today. Miles Teller and Jurnee Smollett star as inmates who begin to question whether life back in gen pop was actually better. —Josh Jackson

I Am Mother

i-am-mother-poster.jpgYear: 2019
Director: Grant Sputore
Stars: Hilary Swank, Clara Rugaard, Rose Byrne
Rating: TV-PG

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Almost all of I Am Mother takes place inside a secure, post-apocalypse facility where a robot named Mother (voiced by Rose Byrne) raises a human child simply named Daughter (Clara Rugaard). Mother has provided an idyllic upbringing for the girl, who represents the hope for humanity with thousands more embryos ready to become her little brothers and sisters. She learns everything from engineering to medicine to ethics (that latter subject key to the questions the film will eventually raise).Grant Sputore’s Australian/American production is constructed around plot twists as much as characters, and although some of them are exactly what any sci-fi fan was probably expecting, there’s enough original thought to keep the tension level high. Everything Daughter knows is thrown into question by the arrival of a nameless woman (Hilary Swank) whose description of the outside world doesn’t match Mother’s. (There’s definitely a little 10 Cloverfield Lane going on here.) Daughter must balance her loyalty to Mother, to her future siblings and to her species, all while trying to uncover the truth. —Josh Jackson

The Invitation

the-invitation-2022-poster.jpgYear: 2022
Director: Jessica M. Thompson
Stars: Nathalie Emmanuel, Thomas Doherty, Stephanie Corneliussen, Alana Boden, Hugh Skinner, Sean Pertwee
Rating: PG-13

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It’s rough work trying to remix a classic like Bram Stoker’s Dracula when there’s been 125 years of others endlessly giving it a go on paper, stage and screen. As such, when an attempt does hit some fresh angles, it’s to be commended—as is the case with The Invitation. Coming at the mythology with a female lens is director Jessica M. Thompson, writer Blair Butler and actress Nathalie Emmanuel, who execute some unexpected choices that manage to slightly subvert their full goth approach to the material. However, The Invitation takes way too long getting to its most interesting ideas, leaving us with the distinct feeling of “too little, too late.” —Tara Bennett

Munich: The Edge of War

munich-edge.jpgYear: 2022
Director: Christian Schwochow
Stars: Jeremy Irons, George MacKay, Jannis Niewohner, Sandra Huller, Liv Lisa Fries, August Diehl
Rating: TV-13

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In the first scene of Christian Schwochow’s Munich—The Edge of War, Paul von Hartmann (Jannis Niewöhner) joyously proclaims to his college buddies that a dazzling new Germany awaits on the horizon, as fireworks sparkle in the background and champagne froths like confetti. The year is 1932, and, of course, there isn’t a soul in the audience who is not aware that this new Germany couldn’t be further from the kind of country that Paul yearns for. Framing Nazi Germany with this level of irony isn’t exactly a groundbreaking move, but this tonal tension does inadvertently highlight the things that Munich gets right—and wrong. The film, based on Robert Harris’s 2017 novel of the same name, follows 1917’s Hugh Legat (George MacKay, who thankfully doesn’t have to spend the entire two hours running), one of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s (Jeremy Irons) private secretaries, who, on the eve of World War II, is fighting alongside college friend Paul to stop Germany from taking over part of Czechoslovakia and launching all of Europe into war. There’s something inherently satisfying about watching a film when you know exactly how it’s going to end. Our familiarity with this story’s ending makes it that much more agonizing when Paul romanticizes the future of his country, just as it precludes any sigh of relief we might be afforded when the characters mistakenly think they have stopped the war. But while watching our characters mistakenly revel on the precipice of war serves Munich’s dramatic effect, it doesn’t do a whole lot for its tension. It’s not a stretch to expect that a film about the infamous Munich Conference to be a ripe bundle of nerves and apprehension. But the film ends up being as suspenseful as a 1990s rom-com. —Aurora Amidon

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