There are a lot of movies on Netflix, and it probably won't surprise you to learn that not all of them are very good. Fortunately for you, I've watched a whole ton of them - the good, the bad and the ugly - and selected seven of the best thriller, mystery and action movies streaming on Netflix this November - meaning all you have to do is grab the remote. Also included are two superior thrillers currently streaming on HBO Now, the Netflix rival service growing in popularity. So, whether you're in the mood for a martial arts blood-fest or a blackly comedic marital murder mystery, Netflix have got it covered.
Django Unchained (2012)
Quentin Tarantino is coolly skilled in the art of genre-hopping, and with Django he takes us back to the Texas of 1858, where Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a German bounty hunter who makes a deal with a black slave, the titular Django (Jamie Foxx); the two men wind up on the ranch of the wise-cracking Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio, clearly relishing a rare villainous role). Being a Tarantino, there's violence and colourful language galore - as if you'd have it any other way - but ultimately, the film feels a little hollow compared to 2009's Nazi-populated near-masterpiece Inglourious Basterds, and the lack of a memorable female character this time around is a touch disappointing.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2009)
One thing The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo does not want for is a strong female character. Noomi Rapace's star-making turn as Lisbeth Salander, the punky, tormented heroine of Stieg Larsson's Millennium novel trilogy, carries this Swedish-language film adaptation, which was originally intended to air on TV but then released to cinemas to huge financial success and critical acclaim. Staying mostly faithful to the source material, the film sees Lisbeth recruited by the journalist Mikael Blomkvist to solve the mystery of a young girl who disappeared during a family reunion almost forty years previously. The catch? The Vanger family live on an isolated island, and the only bridge with the mainland was blocked the day of Harriet's disappearance - meaning Harriet's killer was somebody inside the family. The story is thrilling, Salander's character utterly fascinating - but the film has since been eclipsed somewhat by David Fincher's 2011 version, an ultra-rare example of a superior US remake.
There must be something about Scandinavia that lends itself well to the thriller genre - all that snow, perhaps. In Headhunters, the most successful Norwegian film of all time, headhunter Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) clings on to his very beautiful, significantly taller girlfriend Diana by indulging in the theft of priceless art in order to pay the mortgage on his luxury home. A chance meeting with Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, channeling the more sadistic side of his Game of Thrones character Jamie Lannister) gives Roger the opportunity to make some serious money, but in his greed and vanity he fails to see that he's walking right into an artfully-constructed trap. What follows is an elaborate game of cat and mouse, several massively original action set pieces (one involving a tractor and a bloodthirsty dog is especially memorable), and a genius plot twist you won't see coming. Tense and relentlessly funny throughout, Headhunters is not just a neat twist on a modern morality tale, but one of the best films of the current decade.
Kill Bill (2003)
Before he'd fully captured the attentions of mainstream audiences, Quentin Tarantino had a huge cult following - a result of classics like Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown - and the news that he was going to make an homage to the martial arts genre must have been music to his fans' ears. Re-teaming with Uma Thurman a decade on, Tarantino produced a brutally, often comically violent movie about a woman, the unnamed Bride, on a mission to take out the enigmatic Bill. On the way, she encounters a quartet of deadly assassins, including Lucy Liu's O-Ren Ishii; the epic showdown with O-Ren, in which the Bride takes out her enemy's 88-strong army one by one before taking the fight out into the snow, is Part 1's most stunningly executed sequence, Tarantino's love for the genre shining through. Pulp Fiction aside, this might just be his crowning glory.
We're living in an age of surveillance. Everything is captured, news breaks instantly. This is the conceit of Nightcrawler, a film which makes excellent use of star Jake Gyllenhaal's talent for getting under the skin of creepy, intense, dead-eyed characters who straddle the line between hero and anti-hero. Lou Bloom, a jobless loser, witnesses a car crash, then sticks around to see the vultures who call themselves freelance cameramen descend on the scene, capturing footage they'll later sell to local news outlets. Suddenly, he sees a lucrative career for himself, and manages to find an in with the director of news at a local station (Rene Russo). But soon Lou's ego is inflating and the people around him begin to get a glimpse of somebody without much humanity. The story goes to some seriously dark places, enhanced by the visceral way in which Los Angeles is shot by director Dan Gilroy. Not a classic, but a worthwhile modern day noir.
As in the Korean original, not that US remake absolutely nobody asked for. Oldboy, helmed by the legendary Park Chan-wook, is possibly the clearest example of just how far ahead of the curve South Korean cinema is when it comes to the horror and thriller genres. When Dae-su awakes in an anonymous hotel room, he learns of the murder of his wife from a TV news report. The next fifteen years are spent in that one room being routinely drugged, with only the prospect of revenge keeping Dae-su remotely sane. And then he's released, without explanation, free to head down a path of elaborate vengeance a decade and a half in the planning. From hereon in the film goes down avenues that would never even occur to somebody whose mind doesn't plunge the depths of morality and despair, and you'll love every second of it. The twist that comes late on is one of the all-time greats.
There Will Be Blood (2007)
Oscar magnet Daniel Day-Lewis stars in director Paul Thomas Anderson's story of the oil boom that made Southern California ripe for riches in the late 19th century. More than just an engaging story, the film is a technical masterpiece, every inch of the frame, every beat of the soundtrack carefully selected to ensure the most visceral viewing experience. Critics from New York Times, AV Club and Slant among others declared it the best film of 2007, with Peter Travers of Rolling Stone drawing comparisons with Citizen Kane. Big words, big film.
Gone Girl (2014) (HBO Now)
I didn't enjoy Gillian Flynn's best-selling thriller novel Gone Girl that much. The characters were immensely dislikable. But in David Fincher's film version, with a script written by Flynn herself, Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike bring Nick and Amy Dunne to life, relishing in their flaws but also adding a spike of likability that makes it much more enjoyable to watch these two people do one another damage. Amy is a columnist and avid writer whose diary proves surprisingly incriminating in the wake of her disappearance, the spotlight of the media turning brightly on her husband. Nick is handsome, smug and far from a saint, and the film dares us to imagine whether this man could really be responsible for the death of his picture-perfect wife, whilst painting a picture of marriage as something to be avoided at all costs. Black humour punctuates this tightly paced thriller. The ending is delightfully twisted.
Mulholland Drive (2002) (HBO Now)
David Lynch cemented his legend with Twin Peaks, the all-time greatest murder mystery TV series, after the delightfully weird Blue Velvet achieved significant cult status within the mystery genre. A decade on he returned with Mulholland Drive, a psychological thriller set against the backdrop of the ruthless ambition and shattered dreams that line the streets of Los Angeles. Naomi Watts gives such a stunning performance as Betty Elms, an aspiring actress new in town, it's practically a crime that she didn't receive an Academy nomination. The scene in which she she attends an audition and actually kills her reading of the script is as great a piece of acting as you'll ever see on screen. Drive weaves a tangled mystery, its big plot twist still extracting differing interpretations of the story to this day.
How many of the movies on this list have you seen? Do you have a recommendation for an action/thriller on Netflix that I didn't include? Leave a comment below.