What Are The Best Thriller Movies

Cult Classics

For those who have an appetite for thrills, few genres can measure up to the consistently thrilling movies that have been released under the banner of ‘thriller’. Whilst the parameters of genre have changed over the decades, some classic movies have stood the test of time and remain firmly rooted in the ‘best of’ categories. Without further ado, here’s a rundown of some of the most thrilling movies ever produced;

Hitchcock’s Greatest: When we think of some of the greatest thrillers of all time, Alfred Hitchcock’s name is always one of the first that comes to mind. He paved the way for the new generation of thrilling movies and created a heightened sense of suspense and terror with his movies such as The Birds (1963), Psycho (1960) and Rear Window (1954).

The Godfather: The Godfather (1972) is an iconic thriller that needs no introduction. The epic drama was written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola and tells the story of the Italian Mafia family, The Corleones, and their infamous rise to power. It’s a classic movie that has captivated audiences for years, thanks to its intense and powerful performances, stunning cinematography and gripping story.

Seven Samurai: Seven Samurai (1954) is a classic Japanese movie directed by master filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. It follows the story of a band of seven ronin (masterless samurai) who battle to protect a small village from a gang of bandits. It’s an iconic movie that is seen as one of the best action-adventures of all time.

The Silence of the Lambs: This iconic thriller is an adaptation of Thomas Harris’ novel of the same name and stars Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling, an FBI trainee seeking the help of escaped serial killer Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) to catch another serial killer. It remains one of the most riveting movies of all time and won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

Recent Hits

Whilst the classic thrillers of the past are still worthy of praise, more recent movies have taken the genre to a whole new level. Here are some of the most thrilling releases of the last decade;

The Social Network: The Social Network (2010) was a movie that had just about everything. It was a masterclass in writing and direction from David Fincher, who managed to tell the fascinating story of the creation of Facebook with a gripping and thrilling narrative, as well as excellent performances from Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Another gripping movie from director David Fincher, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) follows the story of Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) and genius computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) as they investigate a missing persons case in Sweden. It’s a thrilling ride that keeps audiences on the edge of their seats.

Gone Girl: David Fincher was in fine form here, as he helmed this adaptation of the novel of the same name. It’s the story of Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) and his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) who goes missing, and Nick finds himself the prime suspect in her disappearance. It’s a thrilling movie that will keep you guessing until the end.

The Revenant: Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant (2015) tells the epic story of frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his quest for revenge after being left for dead. It’s a gripping movie that sees DiCaprio giving one of his very best performances and Iñárritu painting a beautiful cinematic picture.


The thriller genre is popular for big-budget blockbusters, and over the last few years we’ve seen some impressive releases that have entertained us and scared us in equal measure. Here are some of the biggest box office hits of the last decade;

Inception: Christopher Nolan’s Inception (2010) is a complex yet riveting thriller that sees Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his team embarking on a mission to steal information from the subconscious of a powerful corporate magnate. It’s an incredible movie with stunning visuals and a gripping narrative.

Skyfall:Featuring Daniel Craig in his third outing as 007, Skyfall (2012) was an incredibly successful movie that brought the Bond franchise back to its former glory. It has a tense and thrilling narrative, with incredible set pieces, amazing action sequences and stunning visuals.

Gravity: Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity (2013) was an instant classic that saw Sandra Bullock and George Clooney star as astronauts stranded in space. It’s a visually stunning movie with a gripping story and remarkable performances from both Bullock and Clooney.

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation: Tom Cruise once again leads the action in this fifth instalment of the Mission Impossible franchise, which is one of the biggest action films of all time. It’s an exhilarating movie that sees Ethan Hunt and his team face off against the Syndicate, a dangerous and highly secretive organisation.

Independent Thrillers

Whilst big-budget blockbusters may dominate the thriller genre, there have been some impressive independent movies that have pushed the boundaries of the genre and proved that films don’t have to have huge budgets to be thrilling. Here are some of the most iconic independent thrillers of the last decade;

The Bourne Ultimatum: Matt Damon stars in this high-octane action-thriller as ex-CIA agent Jason Bourne, who is on a mission to uncover the blank slate memory that holds the key to his past. It’s a thrilling movie with incredible performances from Damon and co-star Julia Stiles.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) is an adaptation of John le Carré’s novel of the same name and sees Gary Oldman in the lead role as British spy George Smiley who is sent to uncover a Soviet mole in MI6. It’s a gripping movie with an excellent cast and a brilliant script.

Donnie Darko: This cult classic earned a devoted fanbase thanks to its dark and twisted story that saw Jake Gyllenhaal and Jena Malone star as a troubled teenager and his girlfriend, who must navigate an alternate universe in order to save the world.

Nightcrawler: Jake Gyllenhaal once again stars as a troubled young man in this under-the-radar gem from director Dan Gilroy. It follows the story of Lou Bloom, a driven journalist who descends into a dark world of crime and manipulation in search of the perfect story.

Foreign Thrillers

Foreign thrillers have become increasingly popular in recent years, with a wealth of exciting films from around the world using the thrillers genre to tell captivating stories. Here are some of the most critically acclaimed foreign thrillers of recent times;

Raghu Romeo: This Indian thriller is an engrossing story of a struggling theatre actor (Vikrant Massey) who takes up a job as a cab driver to make ends meet. It’s a thrilling ride that sees Raghu face off against some powerful and dangerous characters.

The Chaser: This South Korean thriller follows a former detective turned pimp (Ha Jung-woo) on the hunt for a missing prostitute. It’s an intense and gripping movie that will keep audiences on the edge of their seats until the very end.

A Separation: This Iranian drama is filled with thrilling and emotional moments, as it follows the story of a married couple who are on the brink of divorce and must cope with the aftermath of their separation. It’s a powerful movie that examines their lives and relationships with incredible insight.

Headhunters: Headhunters (2011) is a Norwegian thriller that follows a professional headhunter (Aksel Hennie) as he embarks on a dangerous mission to retrieve a valuable painting. It’s a thrilling movie with intense action sequences and a gripping narrative.

Thriller Crossovers

In recent years we’ve seen a number of thrillers that draw upon other genres in order to create something even more exciting and unique. Here are some of these hybrid movies;

The Departed: Martin Scorsese’s The Departed (2006) was something of a crossover between the crime and thriller genres, as it follows the story of two men from opposite sides of the law and their attempts to outwit each other. It’s an exciting and intense movie with incredible performances from Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson.

Shutter Island: Another thrilling crossover from Scorsese, Shutter Island (2010) sees Leonardo DiCaprio once again star as a federal marshal investigating the disappearance of a murderer on the remote island of Shutter Island. It’s an intense and captivating movie with a brilliantly unpredictable plot.

Source Code: Duncan Jones directs this thrilling science-fiction-thriller which follows a soldier (Jake Gyllenhaal) who is tasked with using a top-secret government program to track down a bomber. It’s an exciting and original movie that blends thrills and science-fiction elements in perfect harmony.

Oblivion: Tom Cruise stars in this thrilling action-sci-fi hybrid which sees him play a soldier sent to investigate an alien threat on a post-apocalyptic Earth. It’s a thrilling movie with incredible action sequences, stunning visuals and a gripping story.

Vicki Strouth is a life-long film enthusiast, having grown up watching classic cinema in her childhood. She has since gone on to pursue writing about films and movie news, with her work being published on various online platforms. She is passionate about supporting independent filmmakers and highlighting important stories from around the world. She has also written a successful book about classic movies from Hollywood's Golden Age era. Vicki currently lives in Seattle, where she continues to explore films of all genres and eras.

Leave a Comment