Note: This list will be updated monthly to reflect the best new thriller movies added to Netflix. Newest additions at the top, last updated January 2017.
So, here you are, looking for the best thriller movies to stream on Netflix in January. And you're in luck, because Netflix has a ton of truly brilliant thrillers to entertain, disturb, and pander to your thirst for twisty, unpredictable storytelling. In this list, updated monthly, you'll find blockbusters, psychological thrillers, arthouse films, foreign cinema, thriller movies with a touch of horror, and much more.
Work your way through, prepare to be entertained in a big way, and suggest any more superior Netflix thriller movies I may have missed in the comments below. (I will also add the odd TV thriller series from time to time if it fits the criteria.)
Check out the best thriller movies on Netflix below.
22. 'White Girl' (2016)
White privilege. Those two words are everywhere in 2016, and they're the backdrop to this racy thriller about a first-year college student (Morgan Saylor) who moves to Queens and dives headfirst into a hedonistic world of drugs, sex and trouble.
Needless to say, it all goes horribly wrong. This is a memorable breakthrough performance for Saylor (who you may recognize from Homeland), and it's not hard to imagine she'll go on to much greater things in the very near future. It's also a great, decidedly relevant portrait of racial prejudices in New York City today, inspired by first-time director Elizabeth Wood's own experiences at college. See it.
21. 'Hannibal' (2001)
How do you live up to The Silence Of The Lambs? You don't, but Hannibal is still a top-class thriller. Julianne Moore does a decent job in Jodie Foster's shoes as Clarice Starling, and Gary Oldman is on vengefully good form, but needless to say it's Anthony Hopkins who steals the show as the eternally creepy Hannibal Lecter.
Red Dragon, the Lambs prequel which followed in 2002, is arguably even better, and worth searching out if you're a fan of the disturbed serial killer genre (aren't we all?). It's not on Netflix, though. Sorry about that.
20. 'The Crown' (2016)
Everybody in the world knows Britain's Queen Elizabeth II — so how can a series about the early years of her life really be considered a thriller? If you're dubious, check out the trailer below and you'll see that this series is pretty intense...
Claire Foy plays Elizabeth in her mid-'20s, while Doctor Who's Matt Smith is Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. The cast includes endless British actors whose faces you know from every other British show ever made, plus America's John Lithgow absolutely killing it as Winston Churchill, and will span six seasons as Elizabeth ages up to the present day. The Crown is an ambitious drama which delivers some serious real-life thrills, balanced out with a surprising dose of comedy.
19. 'Black Mirror' (2016)
Alright, I know what you're thinking — Black Mirror is not a movie. But the satirical anthology series tells standalone stories which are generally so cinematic they can easily be considered mini-movies. In fact, I'm essentially giving you six movies for the price of one. You're welcome.
Making the jump from British station C4 to Netflix, Season 3 of Black Mirror stars Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World), James Norton (Happy Valley) and Michael Kelly (House of Cards) among others, with one episode written by Parks & Rec's Rashida Jones. For the uninitiated, Charlie Brooker's satirical series imagines the various disturbing ways in which technology could drive a dagger through our lives.
Howard's episode, 'Nosedive,' imagines a near future in which social media status has become the most valuable currency of all. Howard's heroine is a 4.2/5, but the friend whose wedding she just received an invite to is an enviable 4.8, and so she seizes an opportunity to sell her soul and become picture-perfect. Each episode is either blackly funny, terrifying, heartbreaking, or all of the above.
18. 'The Debt' (2010)
There's something deliciously right about Helen Mirren playing a gun-toting action heroine. Her character Rachel is an Israeli spy who, in her younger days (Jessica Chastain plays Rachel's younger self), embarked on a mission to bring a Nazi war criminal to justice.
The Debt hits all the right notes for a spy thriller — retro '60s wardrobes, the glamor of exotic foreign locations (Germany, Israel and Ukraine), people behaving suspiciously while drinking and smoking like it's sport. Think Argo, but a touch less great. Hey, it's a high bar.
17. 'Jaws' (1975)
Today's summer blockbusters are mostly big-budget CGI fests like Independence Day: Resurgence, designed to be consumed, spat out and forgotten in record time. In 1975, though, Steven Spielberg had bigger ambitions. Influenced by the high tension of Alfred Hitchcock's best work, Jaws is a horror-thriller which finds most of its scares in what's suggested rather than what's actually shown.
Ranked #5 in Empire's 500 Greatest Movies of All-Time, Jaws still has the power to give you the chills even now — but if you choose to avoid the sequels (Jaws 2 and 3 also hit Netflix in September, neither directed by Spielberg), you won't be missing out. Keep it classic, and if you're in the mood for more oceanic terror, check out this year's smart, Jaws-homaging Blake Lively thriller The Shallows.
IMDb score: 8.0/10
16. 'Pulp Fiction' (1994)
Some call it the greatest movie of all time. Quentin Tarantino holed up in a tiny apartment in Amsterdam with no phone led to the unholy birth of Pulp Fiction. Fair to say it paid off.
Everybody in this thrillingly non-linear story of gangsters, heroin, brutality and sleaze is memorably great, especially Christopher Walken in a hilarious cameo. But even with Samuel L. Jackson spreading the gospel on the Royale with Cheese, it's Uma Thurman who emerges as one of cinema's great scene-stealers. She's impossible to look away from even when ice-white and foaming at the mouth. Drugs are bad, kids.
IMDb score: 8.9/10
15. 'Nightcrawler' (2014)
A.K.A. the one in which Jake Gyllenhaal is super-creepy. Perhaps that doesn't narrow it down much, but there's something about Jake's performance in Nightcrawler that goes above and beyond to give you the chills.
Gyllenhaal's broke misfit Lou Bloom discovers he can make money by turning up with a video camera at crime scenes, but it doesn't take him long to become a little bit too good at his new career. Nightcrawler has the kind of ending you'll either love or hate, and doesn't much care for giving bad guys their comeuppance.
- IMDb score: 7.9/10
14. 'The Usual Suspects' (1995)
Long before he was making X-Men movies, Bryan Singer directed this classic crime caper in which Kevin Spacey's shady criminal Verbal, the lone survivor of a horrific massacre on a boat, uses flashback narration to explain the events that created all that bloodshed.
The only problem? As the story goes on and becomes increasingly more convoluted, the question of Verbal's reliability comes to the fore. Can this man be trusted? Benicio del Toro and Gabriel Byrne are great, but predictably it's Spacey whose sheer magnetism makes The Usual Suspects such a joy to watch two decades on.
- IMDb score: 8.6/10
13. 'Victoria' (2015)
The youthful hedonism of Berlin, Europe's current party capital, is the backdrop of this twisty thriller in which a young Spanish woman new to the city meets a group of guys - and finds herself dragged into the murky criminal underworld they populate.
That's a good premise, but not exactly unique. What is unique is the way Victoria was shot: In one single take, in one night, no cuts, no reshoots. The script was a tiny twelve pages, most of the dialogue being improvized by the superbly talented cast. The continuous shooting style makes Victoria utterly exhilarating. Bump it up your Netflix watchlist, pronto.
- IMDb score: 7.7/10
12. 'No Country For Old Men' (2007)
Often described as the Coen Brothers' masterpiece (even taking the likes of Fargo and The Big Lebowski into account), No Country For Old Men is a blood-soaked Western which tells the story of a Sheriff, a rogue hitman and a Vietnam vet on one hell of a collision course.
Javier Bardem is terrifyingly blank-eyed as hitman Anton Chigurh, a man long since deserted by any trace of morality or soul. If you've got nails, prepare to bite 'em, because this is one of the best thriller movies streaming on Netflix right now, and certainly one of the most tense. It also won the Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director. Standard.
- IMDb score: 8.1/10
11. 'Laura' (1944)
In Laura, one of the great film noirs of Hollywood's golden age, the life and death of a devastatingly beautiful femme fatale (played by the gorgeous Gene Tierney) is told in reverse, beginning with her brutal murder.
More than just a classic, twisty tale of deception and seduction, Laura is notable for its rare depiction of a woman as a careerist rather than simply a love interest and by the end, you'll know exactly why Laura herself was such a heartbreaker.
- IMDb score: 8.1/10
10. 'Headhunters' (2010)
If you don't watch much foreign cinema, you should make an exception for Headhunters. This Norwegian action-thriller is kind of like a James Bond movie, if James Bond was a short man who overcompensated for his lack of height by stealing valuable paintings to keep his beautiful wife in expensive shoes. Roger Brown (played to slimy perfection by Aksel Hennie) is a headhunter by day and art thief by night, whose life swiftly goes off the rails after meeting Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, best known for playing Jaime Lannister, another complete bastard).
Greve has beef with Brown, for reasons we don't initially know, and the two men engage in a thrilling cat-and-mouse chase across the wilds of Norway. Blood is shed, a dog is mutilated, and a man seeks refuge by climbing into an outdoor toilet. You can probably guess what happens next. Headhunters is a total blast.
- IMDb score: 7.6/10
9. 'Eyes Wide Shut' (1999)
It's hard to find a point of reference for Eyes Wide Shut, the final movie made by legendary auteur and full-time weirdo Stanley Kubrick. The director died shortly before the release of Shut, which pairs Tom Cruise in a rare non-mainstream role with his wife at the time, Nicole Kidman.
How do you define a movie like this? Part-erotic thriller, part-surrealist exploration of modern marriage, Eyes Wide Shut is classic Kubrick: A provocative visual feast packed with hidden details which may only catch the eye on repeat viewings - and those masks are what nightmares of made of.
- IMDb score: 7.3/10
Back to Tarantino, whose crime thriller Reservoir Dogs is probably somewhere up there with the best directorial debuts of all time. Harvey Keitel stars alongside Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi, Michael Madsen and Quentin himself in the tale of a diamond heist gone horribly wrong (because, of course, heists in cinema only ever result in death or worse).
Fans who boarded the Tarantino hype train later in his career might be shocked by the stark contrast between his glossy aesthetic now and the rough, frenzied energy of his earlier work - but while not quite as impactful as Pulp Fiction on pop culture, Dogs is still the work of a man who knows exactly how to drag his audience head-first into a world quite unlike their own.
- IMDb score: 8.4/10
7. 'The Lovely Bones' (2009)
Based on the award-winning, bestselling novel of the same name, Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson created a very different kind of fantasy world with The Lovely Bones. Saoirse Ronan is Susie Salmon, fourteen at the time she is abducted by a serial killer who happens to live on her street. While Susie embarks on an adventure, we see her family fall apart as they attempt to get through the stages that follow a child's disappearance: Hope, despair, grief, acceptance.
Ronan is awesome, her performance imbued with a maturity beyond her years, and Rachel Weisz, Mark Wahlberg and Susan Sarandon are likewise excellent as Susie's parents and grandmother, but it's Stanley Tucci who takes gold with a phenomenally transformative performance as the creepy neighbor Susie wishes she'd never crossed paths with. Not everybody loves this movie, some considering it too Peter Jackson-ish for the story's own good, but I think it's a superbly memorable thriller.
- IMDb score: 6.7/10
6. 'The Machinist' (2004)
If extreme body transformations make you squeamish, this one might not be for you. For The Machinist, Christian Bale lost a terrifying 28 kg (that's 62 lbs) by living on a diet of one apple and a cup of coffee per day. That's commitment. His character, Trevor, is an industrial worker suffering from extreme insomnia.
When Trevor is involved in a workplace accident, his colleagues begin to turn on him, and both a mysterious stranger and a series of menacing post-it notes dotted around his apartment give Trevor cause to start doubting his own sanity — unless somebody, for some reason, is trying to break him. The mystery unfurls in thrilling, increasingly terrifying fashion, until you feel you're living Trevor's hellish nightmare right there with him. The Machinist is quite comfortably one of the best psychological thrillers on Netflix right now.
- IMDb score: 7.7/10
5. 'Basic Instinct' (1992)
If ever a movie needed no introduction, it's Basic Instinct. Unless you're hideously young, you know exactly why this classic erotic thriller took the world by storm in 1992 and made a star of Sharon Stone. Her character, temptress author Catherine Tramell, embarks on an ill-advised sexual relationship with the police detective investigating her involvement in a brutal murder committed in the bedroom.
Stone has sizzling chemistry with Michael Douglas, Hollywood's go-to leading man in the late '80s and early '90s, and the script artfully dances around the question of Tramell's guilt - even though you knew the answer right from the beginning. They don't make 'em like this anymore.
- IMDb score: 6.9/10
4. 'We Need To Talk About Kevin' (2011)
Director Lynne Ramsay demonstrates her immense talent by putting her own distinctive stamp on the dark novel of the same name by Lionel Shriver. The titular Kevin is an emo teen who seems to have some formidable darkness at his core.
This is a relentlessly bleak psychological thriller told across a split time narrative which effortlessly succeeds in building tension until you can hardly take any more — at which point it drops a brutal, devastating twist. Ezra Miller, soon to star in DC's The Flash, is great as the troubled Kevin, but it's Tilda Swinton as his loving but helpless mother who has the best material to work with in a movie which poses the question: Is anybody born evil, or does something —or somebody — turn them that way?
- IMDb score: 7.5/10
3. 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo' (2009)
The first book in Stieg Larsson's world-famous Milennium trilogy is the very definition of a page-turner, and this original Swedish adaptation from director Niels Arden Oplev does a stellar job of translating one of the most intriguing murder mysteries of the century to the big screen.
Noomi Rapace launched a Hollywood career with her gothic portrayal of the aggressive hacker Lisbeth Salander, recruited to join journalist Mikael Blomkvist in investigating the disappearance of a young girl from her wealthy family's estate almost five decades earlier. The secrets uncovered along the way are borderline unguessable — always the mark of a great thriller. For my money, David Fincher's English-language adaptation is even better, but that one's not on Netflix. Sorry.
IMDb score: 7.8/10
2. 'The Guest' (2014)
If you love a good soundtrack, look no further than this. Adam Wingard is a director on the rise, and this neon-drenched thriller with some elements of horror is one of the most stylish movies streaming on Netflix right now. Downton Abbey's Dan Stevens plays David, a soldier who turns up on the doorstep of the grieving Peterson family claiming to have been friends with their son.
As he ingratiates himself with the family, but struggles with teenage daughter Anna (Maika Monroe of the superb horror flick It Follows), David's potentially more sinister motivations begin to reveal themselves, and an epic climax inside a high school gym dressed up as a haunted house for a Halloween prom takes you on a deep dive into cult '80s territory. More than just a highly entertaining thriller, The Guest hints at big things for its clearly talented director and cast.
- IMDb score: 6.7/10
1. 'Oldboy' (2003)
It couId be argued that a thriller has only one job: To thrill. The movies on this list achieve that objective in a variety of ways, but none is as downright insane, twisted or horrifying as this mind-blowing Korean movie from the visionary director Park Chan-wook. Oldboy follows Oh Dae-su, a businessman taken hostage in a hotel room for fifteen long years, where he's kept alive with no information about how his situation came to be.
One day, without explanation, Dae-su is released. Naturally, he begins a campaign of revenge while attempting to locate the daughter he was taken from. What follows is a series of utterly unguessable twists, the last and biggest of which will make you want to cry. That's not hyperbole. Thrillers simply don't get any darker than Oldboy, so if you only watch one on Netflix in January, make it this.
- IMDb score: 8.4/10
What did you think about our best Netflix thrillers? What's the best thriller movie on Netflix you've seen? And what will you be watching this January? Make a few suggestions in the comments below!