best thrillers on amazon prime - neon demon

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20 thrillers on Amazon Prime that will make your heart race

Amazon is full of movies that will quicken the pulse.

Jul 8, 2020, 8:05 pm*


Audra Schroeder 

Audra Schroeder

Amazon Prime is home to thousands of good movies, but if you’re looking for something to quicken your pulse, its selection of thrillers will do the trick. From action to horror to psychodramas, here’s a list of the best thrillers on Amazon Prime right now.

The best thrillers on Amazon Prime

1) The Neon Demon

Nicolas Winding Refn’s movies are not for everyone. He makes aggressive, confrontational films that practically dare you to turn them off. But he’s too skilled a craftsman to completely dismiss outright. The Neon Demon is about a young woman (Elle Fanning) breaking into and ascending the ranks in the L.A. modeling world. The movie is a treatise on the male gaze, the perceived vapidity of models, and the dog-eat-dog nature of the industry—or at least the version of the industry depicted here. The good thing about Refn and The Neon Demon is that you’ll know within the first few minutes of the movie if it’s something you want to see. —Eddie Strait

2) Hanna

Esme Creed-Miles gives a compelling performance as Hanna, a teenage girl on the run from the CIA, in this thriller miniseries that blends Jason Bourne action with teen drama. Hanna may not be too exciting for diehard fans of the original movie, which benefitted from its aesthetic flair and offbeat humor. But if you’re looking for a mainstream action thriller with a compelling emotional core, you’ve come to the right place. —Gavia Baker-Whitelaw 

3) Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Luc Besson’s 2017 space odyssey is best experienced as a sensory event. Much like its spiritual precursor The Fifth Element, the film, helmed by Dane DeHaan (Valerian) and Cara Delevingne (Laureline), swoops into colorful, otherworldly vistas and introduces us to impossible characters (like a shape-shifting Rihanna). Yes, there’s some clunky dialogue from DeHaan, who appears to be channeling Keanu, and you desperately want Laureline to dump that chump. But if you can let go of plot and structure and hold on to its rushes of planet-jumping, alien menace, and elaborate set pieces, Valerian is mindless fun.  —Audra Schroeder

4) Picnic at Hanging Rock

Based off the 1967 novel by Joan Lindsay, cinephiles will likely be familiar with Picnic at Hanging Rock from Peter Weir’s 1975 adaptation of the same name. Both versions focus on the disappearance of a group of students and a governess from an Australian girls’ school called Appleyard College during a picnic on Valentine’s Day, 1900. Where the miniseries and the film diverge is in how they chronicle the aftermath of these events. While the film resolves little of the mystery, choosing to focus more on the effects the women’s disappearance has on the school and its denizens, the miniseries expands the story to include more from Lindsay’s novel, providing additional backstory and answering some of the questions the movie ignores. —Chris Osterndorf 

5) The Handmaiden

If you haven’t seen it yet, stop everything you’re doing and spend the next two-and-a-half hours in Park Chan-wook’s exhilarating The Handmaiden. The movie is chock full of twists and role-reversals and is so much fun that mentioning any story specifics would be unfair. Chan-wook is one of the world’s most entertaining directors, and The Handmaiden is arguably one of his best. Everything that makes him great is on display here, from the dizzying tonal shifts to the luscious photography, and idiosyncratic indulgences. —Eddie Strait

6) Good Time

Robert Pattinson is electrifying as Connie, a slick-talking schemer who always has a plan and penchant for making problems worse. After a bank robbery gone wrong lands his brother in Rikers, Connie spends all night trying to hustle up the money to post bond. Up-and-coming writer-directors Josh and Benny Safdie keep the action tight and the pace snappy, never allowing Connie or the audience to take a breath. As Connie hits new lows, Pattinson does some of his best work to date. The characters may be having a rough night, but it’s one the audience won’t soon forget. —Eddie Strait

7) The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Yorgos Lanthimos’ films are somewhat controversial, but The Killing of a Sacred Deer is its own inscrutable entity. Part mythology, part family psychodrama, Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman star as parents who are forced to confront the mysterious medical issues facing their kids after a fatherless young man named Martin (Barry Keoghan) comes into their life. Audra Schroeder

8) Suspiria 

The original Suspiria is a memorable concoction of bold creative choices: a multilingual European slasher movie about a young woman who discovers that witches run her dance school. The score (a blaring prog rock album by the band Goblin) and visual design are astounding, but the characterization is thin, and by modern standards it’s neither scary nor an effective psychological thriller. So with a filmmaker like Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name) in charge, there’s plenty of reason to get excited about this new retelling. Guadagnino specializes in luxurious romantic dramas, often starring women and always seasoned with a biting sense of humor. With a script by horror screenwriter David Kajganich (The Terror) and music by Thom Yorke, you have a promising creative team. Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

9) Brawl in Cell Block 99

Vince Vaughn has never been better onscreen. He plays a man who gets himself mixed up with the wrong people and finds himself in prison. In order to keep his wife safe, he must brawl (there it is) his way through to the jailhouse kingpin. Anyone familiar with S. Craig Zahler’s Bone Tomahawk knows that means plenty of skull-cracking violence will ensue. Brawl is a brutal, somewhat stunning B-movie. Oh, and there’s a scene where Vaughn pummels and tears apart a car with his bare hands. —Eddie Strait

10)  Homecoming 

Sam Esmail’s first major project since the success of Mr. Robot is Homecoming, the new Amazon Prime show starring America’s sweetheart Julia Roberts, and America’s soon-to-be sweetheart, Stephan James. While the series was actually created by Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg, based off their podcast of the same name (because Amazon loves making shows like that, apparently,) it has Esmail’s fingerprints all over it. Like Mr. Robot, the series is a paranoid thriller, deeply skeptical of government and powerful entities in general. It follows a program designed to acclimate soldiers to civilian life, with Roberts as Heidi Bergman, a primary caseworker at the facility, and James as Walter Cruz, a veteran whom she forms a special bond with. The supporting and recurring cast consists of a seemingly endless array of talented actors, including Bobby Cannavale, Shea Whigham, Alex Karpovsky, Sissy Spacek, Jeremy Allen White, Hong Chau, and in the My Best Friend’s Wedding reunion nobody expected, Dermot Mulroney, playing Heidi’s drip of a boyfriend. —Chris Osterndorf

11) A Quiet Place 

John Krasinski’s directorial debut is a long way from The Office, but it still managed to scare audiences into silence. In the film’s reality, aliens who track sound now inhabit parts of the world, and Krasinski’s Lee Abbott has rigged his country home to adapt. That also means he and his family must live in silence to survive, even his pregnant wife (Emily Blunt), who has one of the film’s most harrowing scenes. Audra Schroeder

12) Hereditary

Most filmmakers would kill to make a film as accomplished as Hereditary, writer-director Ari Aster’s debut. It’s atmospheric as hell, features outstanding acting, and is full of terrifying imagery. The film centers on a family dealing with the loss of their grandmother. The family’s grief is amplified by disturbing visions and more tragedy. Anchored by great performances by Toni Collette (who, in a just world, would get an Oscar for her work) and Alex Wolff, Hereditary is the kind of horror movie that burrows itself into your head and sticks with you long after you finish watching it. —Eddie Strait 

13) First Reformed 

Some movies leave your brain after you watch them, and some lodge themselves so deep you can’t stop thinking about them. Paul Schrader’s stunning First Reformed is the latter. It tells the story of a pastor named Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke in an Oscar-worthy turn), who presides over a small congregation in upstate New York and spends his days journaling and drinking away his pain. When he meets an environmental activist who questions whether God can forgive us for corrupting the planet, a new crisis of faith is ignited. First Reformed doesn’t provide easy answers for the questions it asks, but it underscores how our thinking (and our institutions) can be corrupted and infected, paired with some truly transcendent scenes. Audra Schroeder 

14) We Need to Talk About Kevin

I know what you’re thinking: school shooting movie, pretty tough sell. Well, you’re not wrong. But We Need to Talk About Kevin is worth watching for how it subverts the genre. From the always bold Lynne Ramsay (Ratcatcher), the film tracks the relationship between Eva (Tilda Swinton) and her son, Kevin (Ezra Miller), from his birth to the incident in question. We Need to Talk About Kevin doesn’t pull its punches: Kevin is naturally disturbing and unsympathetic, and Eva is wary of him from a young age. Was Kevin always the way he was, or was it is mother’s inability to love him that made him that way? And more importantly, should Eva have been a mother to begin with? Some people aren’t meant to be parents. Those are the probing questions Ramsey asks in We Need to Talk About Kevin, ones made all the more haunting by a final scene where mother and son are forced to finally come together, having no one else left to turn to. —Chris Osterndorf

15) Blue Velvet

David Lynch’s 1986 film is, like so many of his films, a dream committed to screen, and it’s easy to see why it shocked audiences back then. Kyle MacLachlan stars as Jeffrey, a fresh-faced college student who (pre-Twin Peaks) starts doing some detective work after finding a severed ear while back in his hometown. This leads him to a singer named Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini) who welcomes him into her unhinged worldone filled with deviants, violence, and Dennis Hopper huffing gas. —Audra Schroeder

16) Annihilation

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 he 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 

17) Good Omens 

Adapted from Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s 1990 fantasy novel of the same name, Good Omens follows an angel (Michael Sheen) and a demon (David Tennant) who team up to try to stop the end of the world. With beautiful visuals and a humorous tone, this Amazon Prime series is hard not to like. Good Omens won’t make you root for heaven or hell, but it will make you want to see both Tennant and Sheen in more roles, preferably together. —Tiffany Kelly

18) Mother!

Darren Aronofsky’s 2017 film elicited some strong reactions and its share of walkouts upon release. Starring Jennifer Lawrence as a doting wife and Javier Bardem as her narcissistic writer husband, mother! presents a claustrophobic view of domestic life, and once her husband’s fans start showing up at their home, it only gets worse. This film isn’t for everyone, and a third-act scene will certainly send some viewers fleeing, but mother! slowly becomes so deranged it borders on dark comedy. —Audra Schroeder

19) Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

Did Abel Ferrara’s 1992 film really need a sequel? Only if Nicolas Cage picked up the Harvey Keitel role and Werner Herzog directed it. This 2009 film moves the bad lieutenant to post-Katrina New Orleans, where Cage embodies a morally bankrupt, drug-addled police officer in the Cage-iest way possible. There are many surreal scenes (this is a Herzog joint after all), plus standout performances from Eva Mendes and Xzibit. —Audra Schroeder

20) You Were Never Really Here 

Joaquin Phoenix has never been better with a hammer. In Lynne Ramsay’s dark thriller, Phoenix plays Joe, a closed-off husk of a human who makes his living as a hitman. When he’s hired to save a politician’s daughter from sex trafficking, his past trauma starts to unravel and we’re left to battle demons with him. —Audra Schroeder

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*First Published: May 22, 2018, 6:00 am