As movie fans look back at 2019, they reminisce fondly over the fantastic thrillers that the year has provided. Whether it’s psychological horror, black comedy, gore or taut tension, the best 2019 thriller movies have it all. They have been able to captivate audiences in exciting and sometimes terrifying ways. But what makes the top 2019 thriller films so remarkable? Their complexity and captivating story lines often defy convention and fight against the urge to make logical sense. The deep dives into our greatest fears make them worth the watch.
This year has had some amazing releases that combined the adrenaline-fueled anxiety of being on the edge of your seat with plot lines that are often stranger than fiction. Knives Out from director Rian Johnson is an excitingly fresh take on the classic whodunit. This trendy murder mystery story may be the most unusual of the year with its witty and hip dialogue mixed with an unpredictable plot. It stars an ensemble cast of iconic actors such as Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, and Jamie Lee Curtis. These top 2019 thriller movies don’t rely on jump scares or cheap tricks but on suspense and suspenseful mystery. A critic from Rollings stone spoke of the film saying, “Knives Out is an outrageous, giddily entertaining riff on old-school whodunits, from the open ending to the sly performances. It’s a movie where its own constantly building momentum is its own biggest surprise.”
Midsommar is another stand-out among the best 2019 thriller movies. This Ari Aster-directed horror moves away from traditional intense scenes of darkness and terror and replaces them with the daytime horror of a demented cult. It’s a daring choice that contributes to the psychological horror and mind-bending atmosphere of the film. Watching Midsommar will equip you with curious thrills and scares as well as a deep understanding of the emotional pain that the protagonist endures. A 9 out of 10 on Rotten Tomatoes is a pretty impressive score and speaks to the consensus that this is one of year’s top 2019 thriller movies. An Elite Daily reporter discusses Midsommar saying, “It blends beautifully sadistic horror with breathtaking set designs and camera movements to create a cinematic feast of black humor and dread.”
The Lighthouse paints a vivid, uncomfortably intimate portrait of two men panicking and decaying in the same fishing-hut – unable to escape each other. The wooden, rustic boat house is flooded with claustrophobia that suffocates the viewer with Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe at their best. The eerie and arcane atmosphere comes to life brilliantly with a fitting 4:3 aspect ratio. The Cinematographer of the film, Jarin Blaschke, had the following to say on his vision for the film, “I wanted the film to feel uncomfortable and more like a National Geographic special than a horror movie” and that’s exactly what ended up being created. This gripping movie stands out among the best 2019 thriller movies where the viewer isn’t playing along just to escape our own everyday, but to take a real dive into madness and discomfort.
The Handmaid’s Tale
The Handmaid’s Tale blends a deep and very real sense of despair with complex characters and a setting that you can see in a lot of our World right now. This movie has a unique way of engaging viewers on the talk of today and the hints of a dire tomorrow. The Handmaid’s Tale starred Elisabeth Moss, Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski, and Alexis Bledel, who formed an impossible-to-ignore heavy-hitter of an ensemble. Moss’ portrayal of an oppressed rebel is inspiring and heartbreaking in the film, which combines beauty and bleakness in its writing and visuals. As one critic from IndieWire put it:”The Handmaid’s Tale mines grand jumps from horror to melodrama and back again, spinning a tale with an intensity and electricity that’s hard to shake.”
Shazam! is a refreshingly innocent and lighthearted superhero movie that still finds ways to utilize thrilling elements while thrilling equally. This movie is distinct among 2019 thriller movies because it tempers serious action and heavy themes with smart comedy and vibrant excitement that can be enjoyed by both adults and children alike. Zachary Levi plays the young-adult-turned-superhero with charm and grace that is unique and yet familiar. This is one 2019 thriller movie that has engaged and entertained viewers of all ages. New York Magazine described the movie stating, “It clicks primarily due to its zinging dialogue, amiable camaraderie, and inventively staged action sequences.”
The film Us highlighted the work of Jordan Peele – the same visionary writer, director, and actor behind Get Out. This was his second feature length film and it was just as powerful as the first. It took the horror universe by storm, breaking records and receiving unanimous praise from both critics and horror fans.
Us is ultimately a story about identity, both at the level of the individual and within an entire community. The confrontation of this duality is brought to life within a gripping narrative that continually shocks and surprises events.
Fans of Get Out applauded Peele’s vision, noting that this commentary on the power of a dual identity will be sure to stay long after the credits roll. The Verge enthused about the movie saying, “It follows on Get Out’s legacy to explore identity and emulate the duality of real-world horror.”
The acclaimed movie Hustlers directed by Lorene Scafaria is a thrilling crime drama that is framed around an all-star female cast that includes Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, Cardi B, and Lizzo. This 2019 thriller movie is an exciting and invigorating story of a crew of strippers who run a criminal enterprise that manipulates unsuspecting victims. The New Yorker praises the movie noting, “Scafaria draws a dynamic, muscular picture of a milieu in motion, with abrupt reversals that come with the turf.” This fast-paced and layered movie will leave you entertained and satisfied.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
The Quentin Tarantino movie Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was a late-summer hit that combined the glamor of the old Hollywood with a twist of mystery and occasional spurts of horror. The story follows the rise and fall of a former Western TV star as he navigates the changing Hollywood landscape of the 1960s along with his loyal stunt double. It’s a dazzling display of Tarantino’s signature style that contemplates the delicate balance between fame and desolation. Variety captured the movie perfectly noting, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is much more than a movie: It is a grand, generous and complicated gesture—a movie-lovers movie, and a testament to the power of deeply feeling cinema to connect, even when its narrative threads are tangled and its moral bearings are awry.”
The Farewell is a true 2019 summer sleeper hit that is part-comedy, part-drama, and part-thriller. But unlike the usual heart-in-your-mouth type thrillers, this stellar movie touches on deeper topics. The story follows a Chinese-American woman as she travels to China with her family to say their goodbyes before her grandmother passes away. This movie was an unexpected surprise with the daringly nuanced message that it conveyed. Refinery29 echoed this sentiment saying “The Farewell may end with death, but ultimately it is about birth — and how we must emotionally reckon with mortality in order to remain alive.”
Closing off the list of best 2019 thriller movies is the biopic Rocketman which details the inspiring and complex life of Elton John. This movie dazzles the viewer with the heartwarming and sometimes heartbreaking aura of the brilliantly talented and oftentimes misunderstood artist. Taron Egerton delivers an incredible performance as the lead, supported by an academy-worthy cast that makes the story of iconic musician come to life on the silver screen. The Guardian speaks highly of the movie stating, “It’s a dazzling biopic, a high-flying musical and an audaciously ridden roller coaster, while also factually accurate and emotionally honest.”
Joker burst into theaters this fall and it has been a sensation whose legacy will be felt for years. It follows the struggles and plight of the mocked Joker as he negotiates the rough paths of a broken man. Lead by Joaquin Phoenix’s award-worthy performance, Joker has brought a level of complexity that makes easy judgments impossible. It ties thought-provoking messages about the identity and purpose of an oftentimes underestimated villain with an intense anarchy-laced thriller that continually surprises. Noted movie critic, Peter Travers, spoke highly of the movie by saying, “Joker will have you on the edge of your seat. It tramples on taboos and lashes out with a recklessness that slips into madness. It’s unforgettable.” This is one of the top 2019 thriller movies that is not to be missed.
Glass is the final movie in M. Night Shyamalan’s Eastrail 177 Trilogy and it draws all the tension and excitement of the previous two films into a spectacular conclusion. In this 2019 Thriller movie, the audience witnesses suspense and surprises that echo for weeks after. It stars the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, and James McAvoy and combines them with a script that amps the key psychological elements from the series. Forbes comments positively on the movie saying, “Though the journey may be a bit predictable, the final moments are sure to leave audience members stunned and talking much in the same way Shyamalan’s movies have in the past.”