Update, 8/17/22: We’ve replaced three movies that left the Netflix platform with three fresh recommendations.
Steven Soderbergh’s medical thriller Contagion has taken on a whole new dimension—and attracted a new audience—since the COVID-19 pandemic. Soderbergh and writer Scott Z. Burns present a frightening scenario as an unknown virus travels across the world, killing more than 25 percent of the people it infects.
The ensemble cast includes Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, and more, playing various figures in the global effort to combat the deadly disease. It’s a tense, fast-paced story with continued real-world resonance.
Director Patrick Brice’s Creep is a found footage thriller that creates maximum suspense from its minimalist style. Mark Duplass stars as an eccentric recluse who recruits a videographer (Brice) to record what he says is his final testament before dying of a brain tumor. The man is obviously not what he claims to be, and things get weirder and weirder as the videographer keeps shooting, even with his own life potentially in danger.
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Martin Scorsese’s crime epic The Departed won four Oscars, including Best Picture. It follows covert operatives from opposite sides of the law in Boston: One is a spy within the police department who’s working for local organized crime, and the other is an undercover cop who’s infiltrating the mob. Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio play the two double agents, with Jack Nicholson as the underworld kingpin and Mark Wahlberg as the cop overseeing the investigation.
Stars Al Pacino and Johnny Depp do some of their best work in underrated crime thriller Donnie Brasco. The title character is a fiction, an undercover alias created by FBI agent Joseph Pistone (Depp) to infiltrate a New York City crime family. He befriends low-level enforcer Lefty Ruggiero (Pacino) as an entry point to the organization, but the bond they form makes Pistone question the morality of an investigation that puts the vulnerable Lefty in danger.
It’s a surprisingly touching story about cross-generational connections, with all the suspense and danger of a good mobster movie.
Although it’s based on a Stephen King novel, Gerald’s Game is more psychological thriller than horror flick. Director Mike Flanagan finds a creative way to approach what’s essentially a single-character story.
Jessie (Carla Gugino) is stuck handcuffed to a bed in a remote lake house after her husband dies of a heart attack during an attempt at sexual roleplay. Via flashbacks and imagined conversations, Jessie comes to terms with her past while finding a way to escape from her increasingly desperate predicament.
A nature writer and renowned wolf expert played by Jeffrey Wright travels to a remote Alaska town that’s being plagued by wolves in Jeremy Saulnier’s ethereal thriller Hold the Dark. Wolves aren’t the only dangerous predators in town, though, and the characters confront the darkness of human nature along with the dangers posed by nature itself. Saulnier builds an eerie atmosphere punctuated with bursts of intense violence, keeping the audience on edge along with the characters.
Jake Gyllenhaal is delightfully sleazy as freelance videographer Lou Bloom in writer-director Dan Gilroy’s Los Angeles noir Nightcrawler. Lou spends his nights looking for gruesome crime scenes that he can document so that he can sell the footage to local TV stations.
Nightcrawler is an indictment of unscrupulous media coverage, and it’s also an engrossing thriller about a sociopath who’s willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead (including staging his own violent crime scenes to record).
Tom Hanks takes on a rare outlaw role in Sam Mendes’ Depression-era drama. Based on a graphic novel written by Max Allan Collins, Road to Perdition stars Hanks as a hitman who seeks revenge for the murder of his wife and son.
Hanks’ Michael Sullivan isn’t really a villain, although he kills plenty of people, abiding by his own code of honor and sense of morality. Mendes creates a moody period drama, with dark musings on mortality and vengeance.
The most iconic moment in David Fincher’s Seven is the ending, but even if you already know what Det. David Mills (Brad Pitt) finds in that box, Seven is still an engrossing serial killer thriller. Mills teams up with veteran Det. William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) to investigate a series of murders styled after the seven deadly sins.
Fincher creates a gloomy, oppressive atmosphere in the nameless city, with Pitt and Freeman as weary bastions of morality in an otherwise degenerate environment. It’s a crime thriller that meditates on the nature of crime itself.
A group of former Special Forces operatives (played by Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund, and Pedro Pascal) reunite to steal a massive amount of cash from a Colombian drug lord in J.C. Chandor’s Triple Frontier. The real thrills come less from the heist itself and more from the monumental effort required to transport literal tons of cash out of the remote South American jungle.
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