If you’re like me, you have on at least one occasion wasted an hour scrolling through Netflix’s hundreds of recommendations that are oh-so-certain you’ll enjoy the latest Ralphie May special or Nick Cage’s “Next.” Below, you’ll find some time-saving thriller recommendations that might be getting buried deep beneath the platform’s unintelligible recommendation algorithms.
Maddie is a deaf novelist who lives in an isolated house in the woods – an environment that she insists allows her to focus on her writing. While working on her laptop one evening, Maddie begins receiving photos of herself that were taken inside the home only moments prior by someone using her now missing mobile phone. Soon realizing that her life is in real danger, Maddie must find a way to escape the intruder and make it to safety.
While the premise sounds like a tired rehash of The Strangers meets “The call is coming from inside the house,” I can promise that Hush is fresh and unique thanks to the film’s ability to effectively communicate the terrifying reality of trying to survive a life-or-death home invasion without the aid of auditory clues.
Shimmer Lake (2017)
Crime Thriller, Black Comedy
Shimmer Lake follows the efforts of a local sheriff to uncover the truth behind a bank heist carried out by three small-time criminals. The gimmick: The story is told in reverse and begins roughly a week after the actual crime ala Memento. While this film is certainly not on par with Christopher Nolan’s groundbreaking mystery thriller, it does make surprisingly effective use of its narrative structure. Fans of Fargo will also appreciate the clever dialogue and dry humor imbued throughout.
Black Mirror (2011 – Current)
Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller
TV Series (3 seasons available, 4th season to be released in 2017)
Like several other titles in this list, Black Mirror has permeated the cultural membrane to the point where many of you have probably checked out an episode or two, but it’s still just too good to risk not mentioning for the others. Black Mirror – a reference to the reflective surfaces staring back at us from our TVs and mobile devices – is a British anthology series that focuses on the dark side of technology and how dangerous it could prove to be in the future.
There’s a little something for everyone as well: A Prime Minister who faces a career-threatening decision after the Royal Family’s princess is kidnapped (“The National Anthem”); A memory implant that records everything you do, see, and hear, and can be played back at will (“The Entire History of You”); A traveler who agrees to be a test subject for a revolutionary virtual reality gaming system (“Playtest”); or a powerful 1987 love story in a small seaside town that appears to challenge the laws of space and time (my personal favorite, “San Junipero”). There is zero plot carryover between episodes, so feel free to pick-and-choose or watch out of order.
The Invitation (2015)
Drama, Horror, Mystery
The Invitation follows Will and his girlfriend Kira who are returning to the home of his ex-wife and her new husband for a dinner party (awkward) with some of their old friends. As the night progresses and the events that brought on their divorce are revealed, Will makes several observations that lead him to believe something sinister is in the works for the guests.
Nothing cute or overly complex about this one. Just a well-executed horror film deserving of your time.
Mulholland Drive (2001)
Drama, Mystery, Thriller
David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive is another title that probably holds more weight in the collective consciousnous than I’m giving it credit for, and yet I still find myself twisting my buddys’ arms to give it a shot. It begins with a woman who appears to be suffering from serious amnesia after surviving a deadly car accident in the Hollywood hills. She manages to carry herself to the valley below and winds up at the apartment of a star actress who is willing to help sort out the events of her night and uncover just who exactly she is.
Quite simply, MD is the ultimate mind****. In fact, the plots from scene to scene are so often disconnected and unrelatable that you’ll likely sit up at some point to see if you might have accidently sat on the remote and changed the channel. Too often, films try to be overly complex for “the sake of art” and end up sacrificing narrative balance. But beneath its dark and creepy exterior, MD has a gripping story to tell, albeit one that may demand a second or third viewing to truly unravel. In fact, the mystery is so intense that Lynch even included his own list of ten clues on the inner DVD jacket (which I will include here for your convenience):
1. Pay particular attention in the beginning of the film; at least two clues are revealed before the credits.
2. Notice appearances of the red lampshade.
3. Can you hear the title of the film that Adam Kesher is auditioning actresses for? Is it mentioned again?
4. An accident is a terrible event… notice the location of the accident.
5. Who gives a key, and why?
6. Notice the robe, the ashtray, the coffee cup.
7. What is felt, realized and gathered at the club Silencio?
8. Did talent alone help Camilla?
9. Note the occurrences surrounding the man behind Winkles.
10. Where is Aunt Ruth?
I Don’t Feel At Home in This World Anymore (2017)
Crime Drama, Black Comedy
1h 33 min
When local police prove to be of little help in solving the burglary at her home, a depressed nursing assistant named Ruth takes matters into her own hands in tracking down the criminals. Along with Tony – her enraged neighbor (a hilarious role for Elijah Wood) – she goes door-to-door gathering clues to track down her missing laptop and antidepressent medication. Ruth and Tony are two square pegs in a round-holed world – one that is part goofy neo-noir, part ultra-violent revenge thriller. Neither seems particularly well-suited for vigilantism, which is partly what makes their ineptidude so laughable (and cringe-worthy).
The Prestige (2006)
Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi
Just like Black Mirror and Mulholland Drive, Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige probably resonates with viewers more than other titles on this list, and yet it still feels criminally underwatched. The Prestige tells the story of two rival magicians whose lives become linked following the death of one of their wives during a performance. The two become embroiled in a dangerous contest to create the ultimate illusion and best their counterparts, willing to make any required sacrifices along the way.
The Prestige is incredibly engaging, only ever truly breaking from the fast-paced performances of its magicians to go behind the curtain and reveal the illusion’s secret. And speaking of secrets… …Actually, I don’t want to ruin anything.
Wondering how a documentary could qualify as a thriller? Give this one a chance and you’ll see. From amateur cyclist-turned-director Bryan Fogel, Icarus follows Fogel’s own experiment with performance enhanching drugs. With the help of scientiest and the head of Russian’s anti-doping agency, Grigory Rodchenkov, Fogel sets out to see if he could pass an anti-doping test after a rigorous series of steroid injections. Fogel and Rodchenkov develop a close friendship over a short period of time, and it isn’t long before the latter begins opening up about his role in Russia’s massive doping scandel at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Now fearing for his life, Rodchenkov fled Russia with the help of Fogel, seeking protection from the U.S. government in exchange for Putin’s and Russia’s darkest doping secrets.