These movies might keep you up at night.
When it comes to the best thrillers on Netflix, there are a couple of questions you need to ask yourself: What’s the last horror movie that kept you up at night? That you found yourself thinking about days later? The best kind of thriller is often one where there’s no monster; instead, it’s an exploration of human nature that fills us with dread and makes us question if there’s any good in the world. These movies stumble down some dark avenues. Surprise! The monster is (usually) us.
The best thrillers on Netflix
Hush is an hourlong cuticle-ripper. The 2016 film centers on Maddie (Kate Siegel, who co-wrote the screenplay), a deaf and mute author who lives in a secluded cabin in the woods. And there’s a killer on the loose, wearing a creepy white mask. This premise might sound awfully well-tread, but Hush upends the typical home-invasion thriller by letting us see the threat (The Newsroom’s John Gallagher Jr.) unmasked, forcing the tension to build as Maddie finds different ways to thwart his murderous advances. By immersing us in Maddie’s silent world, the tension is even more palpable, and the fact that she’s a writer of fiction allows the film to expand in some inventive directions, even as her fate remains unsure.
Netflix’s David Fincher-produced Mindhunter takes viewers into the depraved minds of history’s most notorious killers. Set in 1977, the series follows FBI agent Ford Holden through his groundbreaking research. The true crime series tackles a difficult question: Are criminals born, or are they formed? And the answers aren’t easy. But the real-life serial killers featured in the show make for helpful, transfixing interview subjects. With strong dialogue and cinematography, it’s a clinical series that’s already been renewed for season 2. —Danielle Ransom
Ben Wheatley’s adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s 1975 novel didn’t see much movement in theaters, but then it’s not really a movie for everyone. Ballard’s tale of an apartment building that devolves into class warfare, floor by floor, is still pretty relevant in 2016, and Wheatley (who previously directed the impeccable Kill List) adds his trademark dread and style to the proceedings, which include decadent parties and dead dogs. Tom Hiddleston, as lightly chilled protagonist Robert Laing, attempts to break down what this literal class warfare means but gets lost in the mania, narcissism, and the need to belong. It’s a beautiful set piece, even if it lacks some of the novel’s philosophical corners.
Errol Morris’ latest opus is an extraordinary CIA murder mystery involving an unusual death and the consequential government secrets being swept away by the circumstances surrounding it. In the middle of it all, a son pursues closure about his father’s mysterious demise. —Kahron Spearman
From filmmaker Baran bo Odar and writer Jantje Friese, Dark is a show about several intertwining families in the German city of Winden, and the disappearance of several local children. Its half gritty crime drama, half supernatural thriller, all modern prestige television. In the tradition of a depressing amount of series about small towns with missing children, Dark is a sort of cross between Stranger Things, Twin Peaks, and True Detective. It manages to squeeze in plenty of ‘80s nostalgia, from warnings about the dangers of nuclear power to philosophical riffs on the nature of time. —Chris Osterndorf
6) It Follows
David Robert Mitchell’s 2014 film plays on an idea that could have unending sequels: A curse is transmitted through sexual intercourse, and once you have it, the curse follows you until you pass it on to someone else. In It Follows, a young girl named Jay (Maika Monroe) discovers this terrible premise and starts to investigate what exactly “It” is. The cinematography allows for scenes to feel at once innocent and suffocating, and the minor-key soundtrack adds a layer of dread.
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7) The Babadook
In Jennifer Kent’s 2014 film, the mother is supposed to be the protector, but she might be the monster, too. This tangled duality pushes The Babadook, a film that takes the idea of a bogeyman and draws a thick black line to the depths of our subconscious. Essie Davis is wonderful as Amelia, a single mother who’s slogging through life with her troubled, high-strung son. Their relationship starts to shift after a creature in a children’s pop-up book starts appearing outside the pages and becomes a terrifying metaphor for grief and depression. It joins a handful of recent horror films (The Witch, It Follows, Ex Machina) in which women aren’t just prey or victims.
8) Black Mirror, season 4
In season 4, the extended universe is built out even more. There are familiar explorations of memory (“Crocodile”), love (“Hang the DJ”), and technology gone wrong (“Metalhead,” “Arkangel”). But two episodes, “USS Callister” and “Black Museum,” explore even more relevant topics. The connective, collective thread is there, but the themes are still dark as hell. (You can find our definitive ranking of the best Black Mirror episodes here.)
9) Alias Grace
Sarah Gandon shines as Grace Marks, a demure domestic servant who became infamous in Canada after being convicted of a brutal 1843 double murder. The question of whether she did it, and why, and of what forces brought her to that point, shapes Netflix’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s twisting narrative… and leaves behind far more questions than answers. Gandon’s Grace is both victim and mastermind, a hypnotic vision of a woman trying to navigate a society that’s been stacked against her from the moment of her birth. —David Wharton
10) Gerald’s Game
It’s the year of the Stephen King adaptation, and Gerald’s Game might be the best one. Mike Flanagan (Hush, Oculus) takes a novel that has long been considered unfilmable and imbues it with tension and emotion. Carla Gugino gives a standout performance as Jessie, a woman who is left handcuffed to a bed in a remote cabin after her husband Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) dies unexpectedly. The bulk of this Netflix original movie concerns her survival and how deep into the past she can go, and it actually improves upon the novel.
11) The Bad Batch
Ana Lily Amirpour wanted her film The Bad Batch to be a “psychedelic Western Alice in Wonderland portrait of America.” That portrait includes Ace of Base, cannibalism, and bodybuilding. Arlen (Suki Waterhouse) is our stand-in Alice, and after being branded as part of the “bad batch” and thrown down the rabbit hole, the opening scene happens in near silence. It’s one of the most stunning first acts in recent memory, the Texas desert an oppressively bright stage where monsters can approach from any direction.
12) The Imitation Game
Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Alan Turing, the British mathematician who cracked Germany’s Enigma code during World War II. Turing’s team (filled out by Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode) offers strong support to Turing’s dogged pursuit, and the film gives us a historical sketch of the time and political climate—and how one’s sexuality could be used against them.
13) The Invitation
If you missed 2016’s twisty The Invitation, you’re not alone. But you’re also in for a treat. Karyn Kusama’s thriller about a group of friends at a dinner party is simplistic in premise but precise in execution. It’s a movie so intimate, so perfectly claustrophobic, you’ll feel, almost like the characters in the movie, trapped by a kind of relentless dread while watching it. As the plot unfurls and the party stretches on, secrets and ulterior motives are revealed, all the way up to a breathtaking climax. Intense as the experience is, you may immediately want to watch it again, if not because it’s great then at least to make sure you got everything. —Chris Osterndorf
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14) The Good Neighbor
James Caan has played some intense characters, but this one deserves an award for raising blood pressure. Logan Miller (Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse) and Keir Gilchrist (It Follows) play two bored teens drawn into a prank that involves bugging neighbor Grainey’s house with cameras. Grainey (Caan) lost his wife, and the boys rig it so it seems like he’s being haunted. But after watching a little too long, a boundary is crossed.
Directed by Julius Onah and featuring Black Mirror’s Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Selma’s David Oyelowo, The Cloverfield Paradox doesn’t attempt to answer any questions from its predecessor. We never see that movie’s protagonist, but we know that power running out on Earth due to some sort of catastrophic event. A multinational space mission is above Earth, trying to find a new source of energy with a particle accelerator, but when that fails, the words of a keyed-up conspiracy theorist (Donal Logue) foreshadow monsters to come—otherworldly menaces that have been briefly featured in the previous two films but never explained. We do get a final “Oh, shit” shot that neatly sets up the next film, or ties it into the first Cloverfield, depending on your interpretation. —Audra Schroeder
16) The Road
This is a bleak, devastating film, with no real sweet spot. If that appeals to you, then The Road—adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the same name—is a solid look at humanity in upheaval. Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee play a father and son traversing a terrifying, no-rules dystopia after an unnamed event has devastated the country. Director John Hillcoat set the tone with 2005’s The Proposition.
Moon is one of the best sci-fi movies of the 21st century. Sam Rockwell plays Sam Bell, an astronaut working a solo mission on the moon. With his assignment nearing its end, Sam finds out that his replacement is… himself. The more Sam tries to figure out the true nature of his work, and himself, the more his world upends. This is the best work of Rockwell’s career, and he has a blast playing multiple versions of his character. Director and co-writer Duncan Jones delivered a top-tier debut with Moon, and the resourceful filmmaking marked him as a bright new voice. But this is Rockwell’s show, and he crushes it. —Eddie Strait
Madalyn Murray O’Hair was one of the world’s most controversial atheists, and this new film from Tommy O’Haver and Irene Turner looks at her mysterious disappearance and death as well. Melissa Leo plays O’Hair as a bulldog who fought for religious freedom, but her life had some dark pockets too.
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19) In the Shadow of Iris
Jalil Lespert’s Iris goes missing early in the film, but her disappearance is tied up in some nasty details. In the Shadow of Iris was inspired by Hideo Nakata’s 2000 film Chaos, which added some intricate layers to the psychological thriller. A kidnapping gets turned on its head, and then some.
Ennui, violation, ham-fisted vengeance: It all comes together in Macon Blair’s directorial debut, starring Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood as two amateur detectives looking for justice in a world gone mad.
21) Small Crimes
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore’s Macon Blair once again tackles the crime-thriller with this film adaptation of Dave Zeltserman’s novel of the same name. Co-written by Blair and Evan Katz (Cheap Thrills), Small Crimes focuses on Joe (Game of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a former cop who served time for murder and has just been released. He doesn’t believe in second chances, and he just can’t help but fall into old habits again.
22) The Departed
Martin Scorsese’s 2006 Irish mob drama gets a bad wrap sometimes for beating Little Miss Sunshine at the Oscars, but The Departed is one of the best, not to mention most fun, films he’s made in the past few decades. The Boston-set gangster movie features classic Scorsese touches—most notably, expressive camera movement and a great soundtrack—as well as a top-notch cast, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Vera Farmiga, Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, and Jack Nicholson. —Chris Osterndorf
Four shorts make up this anthology series from directors Annie Clark, Karyn Kusama, Jovanka Vuckovic, and Roxanne Benjamin. It’s an homage to classic horror films but also signals a shift away from women as objects, victims, or survivors. And it points to an influx of exciting new directors (and ideas) in the horror genre.
24) Shimmer Lake
This Netflix original movie walks through a crime story backward, bringing Rainn Wilson, Adam Pally, and more with it. The details of a bank robbery are retraced and an ensemble cast trotted out to dust off some small-town true-crime tropes. Shimmer Lake doesn’t always hold together, but its pacing makes for a wild ride.
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25) Lucid Dream
A South Korean riff on Inception, Lucid Dream follows a journalist, Dae-ho, working to find his son, who was kidnapped three years earlier. The investigation has gone cold, but an experimental technique allows Dae-ho to relive the day his son was taken through lucid dreaming. For a premise as inherently grim as a parent searching for a lost child, Lucid Dream is surprisingly fun. The investigations taking place in dreamland and the real world intersect in interesting ways and the story is constantly upping the stakes. —Eddie Strait
South Korean thriller Forgotten is a slick, twisty yarn. It’s also a blast. Jin-Seok gets caught up investigating his brother’s kidnapping, and each new thing he learns makes him question everything about his own life. Nothing is as plain as it seems and our protagonist comes face to face with long-forgotten demons. Action master Jang Hang-jung’s film is a well-executed genre exercise that delivers an emotional wallop to go with its thrills and jaw-dropping reveals. —Eddie Strait
Julia Ducournau’s debut feature film is an obstacle course for the senses, and it’s one of the most unique horror films of the year. Teen vegetarian Justine (Garance Marillier) is cast off to her first year of vet school and endures a hazing ritual that causes her to awaken in several ways. Raw is about a woman coming to terms with her nascent cannibalism but more fundamentally about a woman discovering desire and sisterhood. Marillier gives a stunning performance as she fights and gives in to her urges, and her transformation doesn’t need CGI to be terrifying and ascendant.
There’s yet another Stephen King adaptation landing on Netflix, and this one involves rats and murder. In Zak Hilditch’s take, Thomas Jane plays Wilfred James, a Nebraska farmer who has a crisis of conscience when wife Arlette (Molly Parker) says she wants to move to the city and take their teenage son. What follows is a signature King ghost story but it expands in Jane’s dead-eyed portrayal of Wilfred. Mike Patton provides the anxiety-inducing soundtrack, and it couldn’t have been a better choice. —Audra Schroeder
In this update on the techno-thriller, a teen named Tom (Bill Milner) is inadvertently turned into a vigilante superhero after an accident leaves smartphone shards in his brain. Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams and Penny Dreadful’s Rory Kinnear co-star. Forget the rush that comes with all the chase scenes; the real terror is that you know this kid has a phone lodged in his head.
30) The Ritual
This indie flick stars Rafe Spall (Life of Pi, Hot Fuzz), Robert James-Collier (Downton Abbey), Arsher Ali, and Sam Troughton as four friends on a lads’ holiday hiking in Sweden after a recent tragedy. As you might’ve already guessed, given that this is a horror movie, the trip does not go as planned. One of the men hurts his foot, sending them off the main trail and onto a shortcut through the woods. The third feature from director David Bruckner, the film is essentially a mythological riff on Deliverance. —Chris Osterndorf
John Woo gets back to basics with the melodramatic and ridiculously entertaining Manhunt. After waking up in bed next to a dead woman, Du Qiu finds himself accused of her murder. To prove his innocence he must go on the run while he looks for evidence. On his trail is detective Yamura. The two men find himself in shootout after shootout and chase after chase. If you’ve ever enjoyed one of Woo’s action movies, you’ll get a kick out of Manhunt. —Eddie Strait
32) The Gift
Joel Edgerton’s directorial debut is a nasty thriller about a man who antagonizes a new couple in the neighborhood in increasingly unsettling ways. The script is constructed on sturdy genre blueprints and builds something that is recognizable yet hard to predict. The lead trio of Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall as the married couple and Edgerton as the creeper is terrific. Edgerton is well-established as a leading man, and he brings the same vigor and terseness to his work behind the camera. The Gift delivers the goods and offers enough twists to throw you off its scent. —Eddie Strait
33) Seven Seconds
This anthropological crime thriller from Veena Sud tackles the controversial issues of race relations between law enforcement and the people they serve. It’s Netflix’s statement about the Black Lives Matter movement: The 10-episode miniseries follows the aftermath of 15-year-old Brenton Butler’s death from a hit-and-run accident in Jersey City, committed by a white cop. Straying from the classic whodunnit formula, the show explores each characters’ decisions and motives to show how the killing of an innocent Black boy shakes a community to its core. Despite pacing and acting flaws, Seven Seconds raises a compelling question about when—and for whom—justice is served in this country. —Tess Cagle
34) The Rain
Created by Danish filmmakers Jannik Tai Mosholt, Christian Potalivo, and Esben Toft Jacobsen, The Rain follows two siblings as they emerge from their bunker six years after a lethal virus spread by rain wipes out almost everyone in Scandinavia. The duo joins a group of survivors and travels to Sweden in search of their father—who they believe can cure the disease—and other signs of life. Along the way, the group struggles to cope in the post-apocalyptic world and find that the only thing from their former lives that remains is their humanity—their ability to feel fear, love, and grief. —Tess Cagle
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Jessica Jones returns for a second season of Marvel’s gripping, feminist thriller. With her nemesis Kilgrave gone, Jessica (Krysten Ritter) investigates the mystery of how she gained her powers as a child. Unlike some of Marvel’s other Netflix series, this show is too intense to binge-watch in one sitting—and that’s definitely a good thing. —Gavia Baker-Whitelaw
Mute is the spiritual successor to Duncan Jones’ acclaimed 2009 thriller Moon, although it may disappoint some of Moon‘s sci-fi audience. Alexander Skarsgård stars as a mute bartender searching for his missing girlfriend in a noir mystery with Blade Runner influences. Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux are characteristically fun as a duo of Tarantino-esque criminal surgeons, but Mute doesn’t quite measure up to the originality of recent neo-noir hits like Drive. —Gavia Baker-Whitelaw
In Cargo, the zombie apocalypse is intimate, compelling and showcases the best and worst of humanity in the Australian Outback. And for one father (Martin Freeman), the stakes have never been higher as he only has only 48 hours to find someone to take care of his young daughter before he turns into one of the undead. —Michelle Jaworski
Based on the Japanese manga, conspiracy and violence are close to the surface as a man is released from a prison cell 15 years after being kidnapped. He’s given money, clothes, a phone, and has a thirst for revenge against the person who kept him captive all those years. —Michelle Jaworski
A French co-production between Netflix and Canal+, Safe has just arrived on streaming in America while France will air it on channel C8. The series is not set in France or America, though, instead taking place within a gated community in England. It’s there that Michael C. Hall’s Tom Delaney, a surgeon with two daughters, is trying to put his life back together after the death of his wife. As you probably could have guessed, not all of Tom’s neighbors are who they appear to be, and everyone within the community’s secured fences has secrets—including Tom. Things take another turn when Tom’s daughter, Jenny (Amy James-Kelly), goes missing one night after a party. —Chris Osterndorf
40) Annihilation (international only)
In Alex Garland’s adaptation of Annihilation, we still get to explore Area X, a quarantined area of land besieged by mysterious environmental changes. That’s about where the similarities to the book end. The film uses author Jeff VanderMeer’s spectral setting to get in its characters’ heads. Natalie Portman plays Lena, a biologist and former soldier who is grieving the loss of her husband, Kane (Oscar Isaac). He was sent into Area X on a secret mission and feared dead but suddenly returns home—altered. Lena’s mission there is one of truth and redemption, but Portman plays her with appropriate detachment. We don’t really know her true motives, and fellow travelers Anya (Gina Rodriguez), Cass (Tuva Novotny), Josie (Tessa Thompson), and Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) have their own reasons for going on an apparent suicide mission. —Audra Schroeder
Need more ideas? Here are our Netflix guides for the best war movies, documentaries, anime, indie flicks, true crime, food shows, gangster movies, Westerns, and movies based on true stories streaming right now. There are also sad movies guaranteed to make you cry, weird movies to melt your brain, and standup specials when you really need to laugh. Or check out Flixable, a search engine for Netflix.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.