10 Movies to Stream – IndieWire

Sometimes, when you’re looking to be entertained, only a thriller will cut it. If you ever find yourself feeling like life is getting inexplicably dark, and morality is becoming more ambiguous, immersing yourself in a tense world of serial killers, drug dealers, and crooked sleazebags of all kinds is a pretty great form of escapism. The genre is broad enough to encompass a wide variety of tropes, so you could probably watch thrillers forever and never get bored.

Netflix’s thriller offerings are surprisingly well-rounded, offering a good mix of undisputed classics from the likes of Quentin Tarantino and Steven Soderbergh as well as newer indie flicks that you may have missed. Whether you’re looking to revisit an old favorite, fill an embarrassing gap in your movie knowledge, or find something new and cutting edge that will blow your mind, the genre always has something for you. Keep reading for 10 of our favorite thrillers streaming on Netflix in July 2023.

10. “Piercing”

Nicolas Pesce’s intense BDSM thriller opens with a man struggling to resist the urge to stab his own baby with an icepick, and things only ramp up from there. Christopher Abbott stars as a deranged man who tries to quell his violent urges by murdering a prostitute (Mia Wasikowska), only to find out that she is just as demented as he is. His attempt to lure her into a hotel room and kill her turns into a diabolical showdown that has to be seen to be believed. —CZ

9. “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile”

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
“Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile”Netflix

At first glance, the casting of Zac Efron as Ted Bundy seemed like an indulgence of all of the worst parts of mainstream true crime culture. As America’s fascination with serial killers continued to skyrocket, bringing in a former Disney star to play a brutal serial killer could have been a shameless attempt to cash in on the trend. But Efron delivers an excellent performance in a nuanced film that does nothing to glamorize the murderer, choosing instead to break down the cult of personality surrounding Bundy at every turn. —CZ

8. “Traffic”

TRAFFIC, Michael Douglas, 2000. ph: Bob Marshak / © USA Films / courtesy Everett Collection
Traffic©USA Films/Courtesy Everett Collection

An adaptation of British serial drama “Traffik,” Steven Soderbergh’s first film of the 21st century focuses on the illegal drug trade from a variety of angles, including Mexican traffickers pedaling narcotics, American politicians attempting to crack down on drug use, and the users and buyers in both countries. Featuring an ensemble cast of stars — including Michael Douglas, Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, Dennis Quaid, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Luis Guzmán, and James Brolin — its a suspenseful, epic film, and one of the most ambitious of Soderbergh’s career. The Academy agreed, granting it four Oscars, including Best Director for Soderbergh and Best Supporting Actor for del Toro. —WC

7. “Emily the Criminal”

Emily the Criminal, Aubrey Plaza
Emily the Criminalscreenshot

A nasty crime thriller about how economic uncertainty can push people to desperate extremes, “Emily the Criminal” stars Aubrey Plaza as the titular Emily, a former art student whose college debt and former felony charge prevents her from escaping the drudgeries of service work. When a coworker connects her to a credit card fraud ring, Emily leaps at the opportunity to make some fast cash, and under the tutelage of organizer Youcef (Theo Rossi), she quickly becomes a natural at this very unsavory line of work. The screenplay is occasionally a bit silly, but John Patton Ford’s feature directorial debut shows great promise, and Plaza’s charismatic performance as an ordinary woman with a surprising capacity for violence and crime is damn near flawless. —WC

6. “The Hateful Eight”

THE HATEFUL EIGHT, from left: Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh (background), 2015. ph: Andrew Cooper / © The Weinstein Company / courtesy Everett Collection
“The Hateful Eight”©Weinstein Company/Courtesy Everett Coll / Everett Collection

Probably Quentin Tarantino’s most divisive film, “The Hateful Eight” polarized critics when it premiered in 2015, with critics alternatively praising or deriding its script and stage-like setup. But even Tarantino’s worst films are worth watching, and this one remains a fascinating and ambitious work. Set almost entirely in one cabin, the film focuses on a group of eight strangers stranded with one another during a blizzard in post-Civil War Wyoming. All of the characters have their secrets and agendas that raise suspicions throughout the night, and they’re played by a uniformly terrific cast, including Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demián Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen and Bruce Dern. If you don’t think the original, nearly three-hour cut of the film works, you can check out the an extended four-episode limited series version, also available on Netflix. —WC

5. “Donnie Brasco”

DONNIE BRASCO, from left: Johnny Depp, Al Pacino, 1997. © Sony Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection
“Donnie Brasco”©Sony Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

It is a testament to Al Pacino’s storied career that “Donnie Brasco” does not top the list of the best crime movies he appeared in. This Mafia drama stars Johnny Depp as an FBI agent who goes undercover in the Bonanno crime family and develops a close relationship with an aging hitman played by Pacino. The film does an excellent job of illustrating the way undercover agents blur the line between business and personal relationships, avoiding crime drama cliches while maintaining suspense at every turn. —CZ

4. “Gerald’s Game”

"Gerald's Game"
“Gerald’s Game”Netflix

Stephen King’s chilling tale of bondage sex gone wrong was long thought to be unfilmable, due to so much of the novel “Gerald’s Game” taking place inside the mind of a woman who is chained to her bed. But “The Haunting of Hill House” creator Mike Flanagan found a way, turning the story into a chilling two-hander starring Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood that remains faithful to the novel while still thrilling viewers. —CZ

3. “Prisoners”

Paul Dano in Prisoners

Before he became the king of hard sci-fi with “Arrival” and “Dune,” Denis Villeneuve made his mark with a series of gritty psychological thrillers. One of his best is 2013’s “Prisoners,” a pitch black dark crime drama about the abduction of two young girls in a small Pennsylvania town. As the police officer in charge — Jake Gyllenhaal as Detective Loki, one of his signature weirdo characters — struggles to find a lead, the victim’s father Keller (Hugh Jackman) goes on a rampage against a troubled young man (Paul Dano) initially taken as a suspect. Villeneuve expertly builds suspense as Loki’s investigation hits dead end after dead end, and Keller commit horrific acts in his quest for vengeance for his children. —WC

2. “Nocturnal Animals”

“Nocturnal Animals”Merrick Morton/Focus Features

After establishing himself as a talented filmmaker with the LGBT drama “A Single Man,” legendary fashion designer Tom Ford chose a very different direction for his second film. “Nocturnal Animals” stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams as a divorced couple whose lives intersect again when he writes a novel that borrows from the darkest aspects of their relationship. The film utilizes a unique storytelling device, alternating between the real world and the world of the novel, with Gyllenhaal playing both the author and the story’s protagonist. The film is just as visually stunning as “A Single Man,” with Adams and Gyllenhaal both delivering excellent performances that help drive the film toward its thrilling conclusion. —CZ

1. “Reservoir Dogs”

RESERVOIR DOGS, Steve Buscemi, Harvey Keitel, 1992
“Reservoir Dogs”©Miramax/courtesy Everett / Everett Collection

One of the most iconic movies of the ’90s, “Reservoir Dogs” caused an immediate stir when it debuted at 1992’s Sundance Film Festival, with many critics panning its violence and profanity. But the film also attracted many admirers, and remains one of Tarantino’s most universally beloved works. Starring an ensemble cast that includes Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi, and Michael Madsen, the clever heist film skips the heist — a jewelry store robbery carried out by a group of professional thieves that fails miserably — entirely, instead cutting between the weeks leading up to the job as the crew gets recruited and the immediate fallout as they stand off with the police while trying to determine which member ratted them out. Featuring the beginnings of Tarantino’s trademark style, uniformly fantastic performances from the cast, and a script that’s simultaneously funny and tragic, “Reservoir Dogs” packs in some of the best thrills you can find in any movie. —WC

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