Thriller is a genre so loosely defined it that it easily encompasses political intrigue, cyborg future assassins, mysterious Korean playboys, and even bored housewives. Though the general formula seems to be "action movie + sexy results/political elements," the one thing that all thrillers really have in common is a tension that should keep your heart rate up for the full duration of the film. And if you're looking for a movie to immediately get your blood pumping, look no further than these
39 thrillers with near-perfect Rotten Tomatoes scores, all of which you can stream right now.
The Tomatometer isn't the end-all, be-all of movie judgment, especially considering how it
evaluates and compiles critical assessment. But like Roger & Ebert's thumbs, IMDB's stars, or the AV Club's letter-grading, it's a decent enough guide to general competency and craftsmanship. There's also personal and social taste to consider. The Thriller category saw a spike in action-packed political conspiracies in the late '70s (none of which seem to be available streaming, a true shame), while the late '80s to early '90s were the heyday of erotic thriller hits, such as No Way Out and Body Heat. Sketchy brotherhood betrayal also seems to be a timeless thriller trope, from early runs like The Third Man and The Manchurian Candidate to the more recent Blood Simple, Infernal Affairs, and Let The Right One In. Modern takes on the genre such as Drive, Cam, and Good Time are intensely color-saturated, highly stylized looks at one poor sap trying to handle the situation they've been put in.
Who's to say what thrillers will become in the future, but in the meantime, you can enjoy the highly regarded films below right now.
1 'The Terminator'
Before he made good on his promise to be back, Arnold Schwarzenegger was an unstoppable killing machine hunting down poor Sarah Connor, not yet the sinewy rebel leader she'd become. At heart a love story between Sarah and the soldier sent to protect her, the film doesn't skimp on action.
Available to stream on Amazon Prime and Hulu and with ads on YouTube, Roku, and Tubi. 2 'M'
With a child predator on the loose and police cracking down, the criminal underworld pools its resources to catch the perp themselves (and take the heat down a notch). Peter Lorre plays the hunted creep with a humanity that makes his crimes all the creepier.
Available on Hoopla, The Criterion Channel, and Kanopy. 3 'Chinatown'
A dark neo-noir with Jack Nicholson as Jake Gittes, a gumshoe who unravels a conspiracy of corruption beyond what any one man can comprehend. Jake's frustrations echo the present day, where the Mr. Mulwrays of the world remain untouched and we feel about as powerless.
Available on Hoopla, Tubi, and Kanopy. 4 'Night Of The Hunter'
Robert Mitchum's murderous preacher and his knuckle tats are just one part of this parable of good and evil, as two siblings flee his determination to uncover hidden cash at any cost.
Available on Fubo. 5 'Let The Right One In'
A quieter film than many on this list, this story of a bullied young boy and his vampiric new friend creates tension from the hush of fallen snow.
Available on Hulu, Hoopla, Kanopy, and Shudder. 6 'The Third Man'
Writer Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) slowly learns his childhood friend Harry (Orson Wells) wasn't the pal he thought as Martins tries to solve the mystery of his death.
Available on the Criterion Channel and Flix Fling. 7 'The Vanishing' (1988)
A woman enters a highway rest stop. She never comes back.
The memory of her and his ideas of what might have happened torment her boyfriend Rex so badly that he refuses to give up searching... while we see the making of a man who likely had a lot to do with the disappearance.
Available on The Criterion Channel and Kanopy. 8 'Body Heat'
Sexy affairs, double-crosses, and murder plots simmer as a shady lawyer (William Hurt) plots with an unhappy wife (Kathleen Turner) to take the money and run.
Available on HBO Go. 9 'The Lady Vanishes' (1938)
When her travel companion goes missing, a young woman makes inquiries, only to be told by everyone there
was no woman. The film unfolds as a screwball comedy/murder mystery as she teams up with her fellow passenger to figure out what happened. Available on The Criterion Channel. 10 'Maria Full Of Grace'
A pregnant young woman (Catalina Sandino Moreno) risks life as a drug mule to get money for herself and her family in this tense tale.
Available on HBO Go. 11 'The Manchurian Candidate'
Coming back from the Korean War, Captain Marcos (Frank Sinatra) is troubled by disturbing nightmares and a sense that something is wrong. Working with other members of his platoon, they start to unravel a sinister political plot.
Available on Amazon Prime. 12 'One False Move'
Three criminals hole up in a small Arizona town, unaware the town's sheriff (Bill Paxton) is on to them.
Available on Sony Crackle. 13 'In The Heat Of The Night'
Detective Tibbs (Sidney Poitier) deals with racism, secrecy, and lies while investigating a murder in a small Mississippi town.
Available on Amazon Prime. 14 'In The Line Of Fire'
Clint Eastwood plays a Secret Service Agent who's haunted by the fact that he failed to save John F. Kennedy from assassination (seriously) and taunted by calls from someone planning to kill the current president (seriously).
Available on Sony Crackle. 15 'To Catch A Thief'
A retired cat burglar (Cary Grant) sets out to clear his name after a series of copycat crimes put the heat on him and sour his budding romance with one of the victims (Grace Kelley).
Available on Amazon Prime. 16 'A Hijacking'
Somali pirates take over a Norwegian ship and haggle with the ship's owners on the mainland for hostages. The tension comes not just from seeing what takes place onboard, but in hearing others put literal value on human life.
Available on Kanopy and with ads on Youtube and Tubi. 17 'Burning'
A chance encounter leads a young man (Steven Yeun) to reconnect with a woman from his town who loops him into catsitting. She returns with a handsome playboy who reveals a disturbing hobby.
Available on Netflix and Hoopla. 18 'Blood Simple'
The Coen Brothers' first feature is a grimy, Texan noir about a detective who turns the tables on the jealous husband and cheating wife he's asked to investigate.
Available on Max Go. 19 'Infernal Affairs'
An idealistic cop goes undercover with the Triad to root out corruption, but, at the same time, a new Triad member graduates from the police academy to become an internal mole.
Available on Hoopla. 20 'Icarus'
Initially a documentary about the effects of doping, director and human guinea pig Bryan Fogel accidentally uncovers a global scandal after getting advice from a Russian scientist.
Available on Netflix. 21 'Cam'
Camgirl Alice (Madeline Brewer) is determined to do whatever it takes to get and keep her top ranking, but when an identical imposter takes over her account
and seems more popular, Alice needs to figure out what's happening. Available on Netflix. 22 'The Great Escape'
An unbreakable team led by Steve McQueen repeatedly escape from a Nazi POW camp — a dangerous gambit not only for their freedom, but to divert Nazi attention from fighting on the front lines.
Available on Amazon Prime, Roku, and Hoopla. 23 'Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol'
Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is on the lam after he's accused of an act of terrorism in the fourth movie in the series. And once the "Ghost Protocol" is enacted, he's utterly on his own.
Available on FXNow and Fubo. 24 'The Lives Of Others'
Listening in to check the loyalty of a playwright, a Communist spy sympathizes and falls for the playwright's lover, an actress. When the spy's boss decides
he likes the actress and wants the playwright out of the way, the spy's thrown into conflict. Available on Netflix. 25 'Insomnia'
An experienced police detective (Al Pacino) heads up to a small Alaskan town to investigate the murder of a teen girl. The main suspect (Robin Williams) messes with his head under the midnight sun, to the point where sanity is questioned.
Available on Amazon Prime. 26 'Ex Machina'
An eccentric genius (Oscar Isaac) invites one of his company's coding lackeys (Domhnall Gleeson) to his remote mansion to examine his latest invention: an A.I. he claims is indistinguishable from human (Alicia Vikander). The employee agrees... and wants to help her escape.
Available on Netflix, Hoopla, and Kanopy. 27 'Sicario'
Emily Blunt plays an FBI agent recruited for a dangerous mission led by a shady Benicio del Toro. The plan is to use one cartel leader to flush out another as the team criss-crosses the Mexico-U.S. border.
Available on FXNow and Fubo. 28 'Children Of Men'
In a near future where infertility threatens the future of humanity, a depressed paper-pusher (Clive Owen) must help a pregnant woman (Clare-Hope Ashitey) escape the web of political corruption and mania to get to safety.
Available on Starz. 29 'Good Time'
A failed bank robber (Robert Pattinson) runs ragged across the city, desperate to get his brother safely out of prison.
Available on Amazon Prime. 30 'Drive'
A Hollywood stunt driver (Ryan Gosling) gets roped into a high-stakes heist job. When it goes awry, he tries to protect his neighbor and her husband from the heist's higher-up orchestrators.
Available on IMDB TV. 31 'Hotel Rwanda'
When what would later be known as the
Rwandan Genocide breaks out, with Hutu military slaughtering the ethnic Tutsi minority, Hutu hotel manager Paul (Don Cheadle) tries protecting his Tutsi wife. When the U.N. leaves him and the growing number of refugees high and dry, Paul must work on his own to save as many lives as he can. Available on Hoopla and with ads on Pluto TV. 32 'No Way Out'
Navy Lieutenant Tom (Kevin Costner) has a steamy fling with a woman (Sean Young) who ends up dead. Tom's put in charge of her murder investigation, uncovering that his superior (Gene Hackman) also had an affair with her and that he too is a suspect.
Available on Amazon Prime. 33 'Minority Report'
In the near future, a "pre-crime" unit, led by Tom Cruise's Chief John Anderton, catches criminals before they act. When the psychic "pre-cogs" predict that he commits a heinous political murder, John goes on the run to prove his innocence.
Available on Fubo. 34 'Green Room'
After a gig, a punk band witnesses heinous violence, only to become the target of racist skinheads who want to eliminate all evidence of their crime.
Available on Netflix, Hoopla, and Kanopy. 35 'A Simple Plan'
When a local man (Bill Paxton), his dimwitted brother (Billy Bob Thorton), and their friend find a downed plane containing millions of dollars, the plan's simple (hence the title): split the money three ways. But almost immediately, things go awry in a way only the Coen Brothers could unfold.
Available on Amazon Prime and Kanopy and with ads on Tubi and Pluto TV. 36 'We Have Always Lived In The Castle'
Based on the Shirley Jackson novel, sisters Merricat (Taissa Farmiga) and Constance (Alexandra Daddario) live happily in isolation with invalid uncle Julian (Crispin Glover). The local folk believe Constance poisoned the rest of their family and harass Merricat when she comes to town on errands. When a suspicious cousin (Sebastian Stan) shows up with designs on their fortune, their refuge is threatened.
Available on Netflix. 37 'The Talented Mr. Ripley'
Matt Damon stars as a chameleonic charmer who works his way into the life of wealthy gadabout Dickey (Jude Law) and will do anything to stay there.
Available on Amazon Prime. 38 'The Constant Gardener'
The social activist wife (Rachel Weisz) of a British diplomat (Ralph Feinnes) is found dead in the wild, but when he investigates further, he discovers some disturbing motivations.
Available on Starz. 39 'Oceans 11'
This star-packed heist movie (featuring George Clooney, Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Bernie Mac, and many others) has a lifelong conman recruit others to pull off the biggest heist in history.
Available on Hulu.
Put together a marathon of some of these thrillers, and the edge of your seat might start to get overcrowded.
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