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The Best Thriller Films Available on Netflix Instant Stream

Updated on March 14, 2015

Best Thriller Films on Netflix

As a Netflix user I spend countless hours browsing through the Netflix catalog, looking for the best movies available and trying to keep on top of any new additions to their movie library. There are a lot of movies on there, some of which are pretty bad. However, there are also some really great flicks sprinkled in there and I want to put together some lists of the best movies available for instant streaming for a variety of genres. I'm going to start with "Thrillers", which is one of the more robust categories Netflix offers in terms of film quality.

Donnie Brasco (1997)

One of the seminal undercover cop, gangster movies of the modern generation, Donnie Brasco stars a younger Johnny Depp as an FBI agent who infiltrates the mafia and becomes good friends with a washed up mobster named Lefty (played by the brilliant Al Pacino). Of course, as he gets deeper into the world of the mafia under the persona of Donnie Brasco, the lines inevitably blur and he's struggling with the moral dilemmas, staying in character despite the circumstances and maintaining a life with his family. The chemistry between Depp and Pacino is great, and the film does a really fantastic job making it difficult for you to know what you should be hoping for in the end. Depp continued on to great things from here of course.

Chinatown (1974)

One of the greatest films ever made, Roman Polanski's masterpiece stars Jack Nicholson as a shady Private Eye who gets involved in a conspiracy that takes him on a mysterious and dark journey through the streets of "Chinatown". With some iconic moments, a great script and atmosphere and a great performance from Jack, this film is one of Netflix's must see movies.

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Quentin Tarantino has recently announced that his latest film, The Hateful Eight, will also be his last. This is sad news for movie fans, and although he's quite a polarizing figure, he'll certainly be missed by most. Perhaps the film that really skyrocketed him to fame was his masterpiece, Pulp Fiction, which had one of the most epic casts assembled in history. The film included the likes of Uma Thurman, John Travolta, Samuel L Jackson, Bruce Willis, Ving Rhames, Christopher Walken and plenty more. Every character was so unique, the dialogue was so insane and hilarious and the disjointed timeline of events, presented out of chronological order and only loosely connecting, made for a rare viewing experience. It isn't to everyone's taste, but not many people can make you laugh and thrill you at the same time quite like Tarantino.

Pi (1998)

Darren Aronofsky has made a great name for himself as one of the best film makers in the industry, and similar to Christopher Nolan's 'Following', Aronofsky also got started with some brilliant indie movies. 'Pi' is a black and white film about a troubled genius who is trying to determine the formula behind the fundamentals of the universe, and along the way comes across a strange number that draws him into a world of psychological disintegration, and perhaps even trouble from stock market sharks looking to make a buck. The film is unique in it's techniques and does a great job being creepy, intelligent and portraying a man's dissent into madness.

Noomi Rapace is fantastic as Lisbeth.
Noomi Rapace is fantastic as Lisbeth.

Dragon Tattoo Trilogy (2010)

This is technically three films, but Netflix is now featuring a trilogy extended edition, which is all three films based on Stieg Larsson's classic novels, in an extended format rolled into one. This version features hours of content that was cut from the original Swedish version of the films, which really fleshes things out for more traditional lovers of the Novels. Noomi Rapace is fantastic as Lisbeth Salander and she herself makes this dark and gritty trilogy worth a watch.

Jack Reacher (2012)

A newer film on this list, Tom Cruise is the latest to bring author Lee Child's legendary former military man Jack Reacher to life. Christopher McQuarrie does a nice job making the film a lot more credible and enjoyable than you might think, and while it is no masterpiece of cinema, it is a sharp, tightly plotted action thriller with some fantastic action scenes (including one incredible bit of stunt driving by Tom Cruise himself), some good supporting work from Rosamund Pike and a little humor sprinkled in. Don't let your expectations keep you from checking this one out.

A great French thriller.
A great French thriller.

Tell No One (2006)

One of my favorite foreign films of all time, this French thriller involves countless twists and turns to go along with some great suspense and action. The movie is about a man whose wife was brutally murdered years before, a crime to which he was originally considered a suspect. The case is reopened years later and he becomes even more of a suspect, but simultaneously discovers evidence that his wife may be alive. He is running from criminals and the cops, while trying to unravel the mystery behind his wife, and it all comes together in exciting fashion. A must see on Netflix's online catalog.

Tarantino's first masterpiece.
Tarantino's first masterpiece.

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Quentin Tarantino's first full length feature film had to make the list, as this is one of cinema's all time classics. Involving an All Star cast, the film is a quirky take of a group of criminals who get together without revealing their true identities and plan an elaborate crime. As the viewer, we don't see the crime, but we are transported straight into the aftermath and disaster of what clearly went terribly wrong. What ensues is an attempt to hash together what actually happened that turns into mayhem and violence. In classic Tarantino fashion this one is quirky, funny at times and keeps you hooked until the conclusion.

Brad Pitt as Mickey
Brad Pitt as Mickey

Snatch (2000)

Guy Ritchie's follow up to Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch is one of the funniest British films you'll ever see. With a massive all star ensemble cast, led by Brad Pitt and Jason Statham, the movie involves a valuable diamond and this massive crew of criminals and gangsters whose attempts to track it down lead to them crossing paths in a variety of crazy ways. The film never gives you what you expect, and is full of hilarious dialogue and situations that are classic to Guy Ritchie's style. One of the best British films available on Netflix, definitely check this one out.

Taxi Driver (1976)

Martin Scorsese has made a lot of incredible movies. The Departed, Goodfellas and Raging Bull come to mind. But there are many people who might argue that his greatest work is actually Taxi Driver, starring Robert De Niro as a troubled and lonely taxi driver who is disillusioned with life in general as well as the dirty and crime filled streets of New York that he patrols in his cab. His troubles eventually lead him on a vigilante mission of violence and death which culminates in a brutal fight to save a young prostitute (played memorably by a very young Jodie Foster). This is a complex and dark film with a ton to say. It may be remembered most for it's famous line "You talking to me?" but it should be remembered for much, much more.


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    • jmartin1344 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Royal Oak, Michigan

      Thanks khtnameh, I appreciate it!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Fantastic list. All the movies in the list are worth watching multiple times.

    • jmartin1344 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Royal Oak, Michigan

      Thanks for reading nsnro!

      That's an interesting take, I agree there are a few scenes that aren't exactly 'realistic' but overall I think what people love is the style and the tone of the film. It's very unique.

      Only God Forgives is definitely a great debate. Most people seemed to HATE it. I didn't, but I didn't love it either and I didn't like the attempt to make another movie with the exact same mood, and same star.

      Thanks again!

    • nsnro profile image

      Chiorean Daniel 

      7 years ago from Romania

      Great recommendations. I do wonder why everyone considers Drive such a great movie. I think it's quite bad, and I've liked some bad movies over the year. It just had a few scenes that were so stupid (I remember when Gosling's character was walking on the street with his blood stained jacket and literally nobody notices or says anything).

      Not to mention attempting to copy the 'success' with Only God Forgives.

    • jmartin1344 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Royal Oak, Michigan

      Thanks Adriean!

    • jmartin1344 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Royal Oak, Michigan

      Thanks W1totalk! I would definitely recommend watching it!

    • W1totalk profile image


      7 years ago

      I have been trying to sit down and watch Drive but I can never get myself to. Great list of films and well written article.

    • jmartin1344 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Royal Oak, Michigan

      Prentice Byrd, I would say that they have a pretty good selection, although of course once you've seen a good number of them it becomes difficult. I'd say their TV Show selection is much better than their movie selection.

      Thanks for reading!

    • jmartin1344 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Royal Oak, Michigan

      Thanks Inkylips, appreciate you giving it a read!

    • Inkylips profile image

      Jessica Gilbert 

      8 years ago

      thanks! Always looking for movies on Netflix that are good!

    • jmartin1344 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Royal Oak, Michigan

      Thanks Krista, Memento is a fantastic film for sure.

      If I didn't have cable and sports I'm pretty sure my Netflix would be maxed out by now!!

    • Krista Schnee profile image

      Krista Schnee 

      8 years ago from Wichita, Kansas

      Thanks for the recommendations! We also gave up cable and only have Netflix streaming, and so I'm always looking for a decent movie to watch. Thrillers and scifi are my two favorite genres, and so this was a welcome hub. I have seen a few of these movies--Memento is one of my favorites--but will have to check out the rest.

    • jmartin1344 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Royal Oak, Michigan

      Thanks mary615! There are some really bad ones on there too so you have to be careful! ha... hopefully you get a chance to check some of these out.

      Thanks for reading!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      8 years ago from Florida

      I gave up cable TV about a year ago and depend on my Roku for movie through Netflix. Some of the movies I choose are really bad, so I was glad to read of these movies. I did see Lincoln Lawyer, and liked that.

      Voted UP, etc.

    • jmartin1344 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Royal Oak, Michigan

      Thanks for reading Bernie! Definitely check out Dead Man's Shoes!

    • BernietheMovieGuy profile image

      Bernie Ment 

      8 years ago from Syracuse, NY

      Interesting list. I personally didn't care much for Snatch, but Memento and Drive are definitely on my list of great movies, as is the classic Chinatown. I have not seen Dead Man's Shoes, so maybe I will check that one out. Thanks for the list. Voted up!

    • jmartin1344 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Royal Oak, Michigan

      You're very welcome - hope you enjoy them!

    • Oswalda Purcell profile image

      Oswalda Purcell 

      8 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thank you! Will check out what I haven't seen :)


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