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The Absolute Best Movie Thrillers Of 2022 So Far

There's nothing quite like a film that gets your blood pumping. Hardcore horror fans often chase this feeling by seeking out the most bloody, disturbing films they can find, but not every moviegoer wants to be horrified at every turn. That's where thrillers come in. The thriller can be kind of a hard genre to define, but films in this category often play with the notion of suspense in order to evoke feelings of excitement or anxiety in the viewer. Thrillers often have several twists and turns that keep audiences guessing until the very end.

That's not to say that thrillers are never scary with a capital "S" — they very well can be. (If you're easily frightened, you should still proceed with caution.) But thrillers tend to rely on suspense and anticipation rather than the blood and guts you might expect from a classic horror. Maintaining that tension and slow-building suspense can be a difficult feat, and there are plenty of thrillers that don't succeed in keeping the viewer on the edge of their seat.

But we're here to talk about the thrillers that do shock and excite us. If you feel like you've missed out on all the good thrills this year, we've got you covered. Keep reading to explore our comprehensive list of the very best thrillers of 2022 (so far).

Soft & Quiet

Beth de Araújo's "Soft & Quiet" is a deeply unsettling film precisely because of how normal it all seems. A one-take thriller, "Soft & Quiet" plays out in real-time and follows an unassuming school teacher named Emily (Stefanie Estes). Emily has organized a group of women to come together and share their ideas for a better future. The catch? They're all white supremacists. It quickly becomes clear that this is not a harmless meeting when Emily arrives with a cherry pie with a swastika carved into the crust. This startling image is a perfect encapsulation of what makes these women so dangerous: They may seem non-threatening on the outside, but there is something insidious — evil even –within.

After their meeting — in which the women get increasingly comfortable expressing their horrifying beliefs — the group heads to the grocery store, where things really start to get scary. A fight breaks out when Emily encounters a woman from her past, and from here on out things only escalate further. In only 90 minutes, the film portrays how quickly hateful thoughts can become hateful (and violent) actions, succinctly illustrating the gut-wrenching horror of white supremacy. This one is certainly not for the faint of heart, and it will undoubtedly leave you with a bitter taste in your mouth. Sometimes, the evil that lives close to home is the scariest of all.

The Stranger

"The Stranger" is a tightly wound thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat even after the central premise is revealed. (Be warned: mild spoilers ahead.) The film is based on the real-life murder investigation of an Australian child, which culminated in one of the largest undercover operations in the country's history. Sean Harris plays Henry Teague, the police's primary suspect in the abduction and murder of a young teen. They don't have any evidence to convict him, so they set up a "Mr. Big" procedure to get him to confess.

Joel Edgerton plays Mark, the police officer tasked with getting close to Henry. Mark convinces Henry to join an underground criminal operation — populated by undercover police officers — to get him to confess to his new bosses. Mark and Henry develop an intimate connection, the effects of which are devastating for both of them.

"The Stranger" is a sparse, gritty film that forcefully pulls you into its dark world. Edgerton gives a haunting performance and Harris is deeply unsettling as the lonely grifter. Even after the true nature of Henry and Mark's relationship is revealed, the intensity never lets up. The film's non-linear narrative gives you a sense of the damaged psyches of our protagonists, and the eerie revelations just keep coming.

Speak No Evil

Though vacations are generally thought of as happy occasions, there are plenty of films and series that reveal how quickly things can go wrong while traveling abroad. (See, for example, "The White Lotus.") The Danish film "Speak No Evil" is one such exploration of this theme, and it's worth a watch if terrifying social satire is your thing. The film focuses on two families, one Danish and one Dutch. After meeting while on vacation in Tuscany, the Dutch family invites the Danish family to their remote house for a weekend getaway.

What follows is a very apparent clash of cultures and lifestyles. The Dutch family is quite open-minded and relaxed, while the Danish family is more conservative. The Danish family becomes increasingly unnerved by the eccentric behavior of their hosts, but their own deep-rooted sense of politeness stops them from speaking up. As the misunderstandings pile up, so does the sense that there is something much more sinister at play. A masterclass in tension and discomfort, the ending is bound to leave you with your mouth agape.

Vengeance

"Vengeance" may sound like a brutal action thriller, but that's not really the name of the game here. From writer, director, and star B.J. Novak, the film follows Ben (Novak), a journalist living in New York City. Ben receives a call from Ty Shaw (Boyd Holbrook), who tells him that his sister Abby has just died of what appears to be a drug overdose. Ty assumes Ben was Abby's girlfriend — in reality, they had just hooked up — and requests that Ben come to west Texas for the funeral.

Somewhat surprisingly, Ben agrees to come. While there, he tries to fit Abby's family into his preconceived notions about red-state rural folks and only becomes truly interested in their lives when Ty reveals to him that he thinks Abby's been murdered by a drug dealer. Sensing an opportunity to further his career, Ben agrees to help Ty prove Abby's murder with the intention of turning it into a viral podcast.

Ben is a narcissistic, rather grotesque character, but the film is smart enough to recognize his own self-loathing and the absurdity of the elitist views he holds. Things start to get interesting near the end of the film as the stakes get higher and the film's comedic structure veers into the more thrilling territory.

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Saloum

Some thrillers are slow-burns, hooking audiences by continuously building suspense as the film goes on. Others are fast and exciting, envisioning danger and thrills around every corner. "Soloum," the latest offering of Congolese director Jean Luc Herbulot, falls into the latter category. The film follows a group of pirates known as the Bangui Hyenas. After kidnapping a drug lord and stealing a pile of gold bars, the Hyenas are forced to land and lay low. They arrive at a resort in Sine-Saloum, a coastal region of Senegal, and try to stay under the radar.

Also staying at the resort is a mute woman named Awa (Evelyne Ily Juhen), who threatens to expose their secrets, and a policeman who could bust them at any moment. But it's the group's leader, Chaka (Yann Gael), who may be the most dangerous of all, as his darkest secret manifests itself in terrifying ways. What begins as a crime thriller morphs into something much more sinister, and as the film's supernatural elements come into play, the audience gets taken on a ride that's most unexpected. Taking a familiar story but imbuing it with frightening new life, the film buzzes with energy and furor. The only thing you can do is to try and keep up.

Resurrection

Those of us that have been paying attention know: Rebecca Hall is one of the greatest actors of our time. If you weren't already convinced of this fact before, her performance in the psychologically terrifying "Resurrection" is sure to persuade you. "Resurrection" is the kind of movie that sounds both too ridiculous and not ridiculous enough. Hall plays Maggie, a British woman living and working in New York City. Maggie lives with her teenage daughter, Abbie (Grace Kaufman), and maintains a façade of hardened professionalism. When a figure from her past (Tim Roth) returns after over 20 years, her precariously balanced control — and her sanity — begins to slip away, with horrifying consequences.

There's more to the story, but we don't want to describe the nature of Maggie's demons before you've had a chance to experience them for yourself. The film's ghastly premise is held together by Hall's awe-inspiring performance of a woman who is trying (and failing) desperately to hold herself together, as Tim Roth's character slithers back into her life. The turning point comes about halfway through the film when Hall gives an incredible 8-minute monologue straight to the camera and we finally get to learn about the secrets of her past. It's a difficult, at times harrowing watch, but Hall demands us not to look away. It has the kind of ending that will leave you shivering as the credits roll, so be prepared to be unsettled.

Hypochondriac

If you have an aversion to body horror, "Hypochondriac" might not be the film for you, though perhaps you could have guessed that from its title. The film centers on a young man named Will (Zach Villa). Will leads a happy life — he's got a great job as a potter, and he has a loving boyfriend — but things begin to go downhill for him when his bipolar mother returns after 10 years, and his history of mental illness and childhood trauma begin to transform his life.

Will starts to experience mysterious symptoms that seem to be a manifestation of his past trauma, and as he works to uncover the cause, his control over his mind and body begins to slip away. A striking portrayal of how mental illness can take over one's life, the physical materializations of Will's pain are unique and compelling. Critic Sara Michelle Fetters described the movie as "like a 20-something LGBTQ+ 'Donnie Darko,' complete with psychedelic conversations with prescient creatures wearing animal suits." It's hard to describe the film in easily digestible terms, so you're just going to have to trust us with this one. At the very least, it might make you think about wolves a little differently.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Take the Night

A twisted crime thriller, Seth McTigue's debut film "Take the Night" will likely appeal to those looking for old-school thrills in a fresh new package. The film focuses on two brothers, Robert (Sami Li) and William (Roy Huang) Chang. Heirs to a fortune, Robert has just been made the CEO of his family's company following his father's death — something that is clearly a source of envy for William, who is the older of the two. Robert's 25th birthday is coming up, so William decides to plan a fake kidnapping in order to kick off the surprise party. He hires a group of real-life criminals to do the job, but when they realize they're working for millionaires, they decide on a different plan entirely.

While the plot might sound mildly familiar, it's the emotional core of the story — the complicated relationship between families — that drives the narrative. While Robert and William must put aside their differences and work together in order to save the family fortune, and the kidnappers are fighting for a different kind of survival, intent on retrieving the money they so desperately need. This clever juxtaposition illustrates the ways in which money does — and doesn't — define familiar relationships, all while providing impassioned momentum for the film. It's an impressive debut on a modest budget, and the money was clearly well-spent on the development of the characters and the thrilling set pieces.

Here Before

If there's one word that best describes Stacey Gregg's debut film, "Here Before," it's this: dread. A thriller of the psychological variety, "Here Before" is a slow burn where you almost wish the ending wouldn't come. Andrea Riseborough — who you may know as the lead in the deeply unsettling film "Possessor" — plays Laura, a mother grieving the loss of her young daughter, Rosalie. Laura becomes unsettled after the arrival of their new neighbors, including a young girl named Megan. When Megan begins behaving strangely and acting as if she knows Rosalie, Laura becomes obsessed with discovering the truth.

While Laura becomes increasingly convinced Megan actually is Rosalie, Laura's husband and Megan's mother grow concerned about Laura's erratic behavior. With an explosive, devastating ending, "Here Before" hammers in the horrific, otherworldly nature of grief. The standout element in the film is Riseborough's haunted, desperate performance, and much of the movie hinges on the believability of Laura's actions. In Riseborough's hands, Laura's alarming behavior becomes something to be pitied, rather than feared, though perhaps we should be doing both. Intelligent and gripping, the film's eerie atmosphere builds until there's nothing left for it to do except collapse. And collapse it does.

Catch the Fair One

Josef Kubota Wladyka's "Catch the Fair One" is a serious, important drama that also doubles as an action-packed thriller. Kali Reis plays Kaylee, a Native American woman and former boxer who is now living in a shelter. Kaylee's sister, Weeta, was kidnapped two years before, and Kaylee has been searching for her ever since. She learns that Weeta may have been taken by a human trafficking network and sets out to find the men who are responsible and rescue her sister.

"Catch the Fair One" is a brutal revenge thriller where the actions of our protagonist are as righteous as they can be. Kaylee's dedication is total, and her skills as a boxer help her overcome some of the obstacles in her way. Reis, who is a former boxer herself, gives a sensitive, propulsive performance, and her obvious athleticism helps ground the story in a visceral reality. As critic Graeme Tuckett wrote, "Former champion boxer Kali Reis is simply incredible, holding together every stitch of 'Catch the Fair One' with a lived reality that goes far beyond acting."

There's not much lightness or redemption here — only a vigorous, all-encompassing desire for justice. It's a painful film, in more ways than one, and it packs a definite punch (no pun intended). If you have the stomach for it, it's well worth your time.

Kimi

Steven Soderbergh's "Kimi" is a pandemic-inspired thriller, and if that doesn't sound immediately appealing to you, we'd urge you to reconsider. It may hit too close to home for some, but it smartly explores some of the conditions of COVID without hitting you over the head with metaphor. Zoe Kravitz plays Angela, an employee of a tech company called Amygdala. The company has recently announced a new product called Kimi, which is a smart speaker analogous to Amazon's Alexa. Angela's job is to review voice recordings from users and update Kimi's software accordingly.

As a result of a previous assault, Angela experiences anxiety and agoraphobia and rarely leaves the house. Her fears are exacerbated by the pandemic, and her only real human contact is a sexual partner who lives across the street. One day, Angela discovers what she believes to be evidence of a violent crime on one of the recordings. She reports this to the company, but no one seems to take her concerns seriously. Committed to doing the right thing, Angela forces herself to face her greatest fear, with dangerous consequences.

What a smart, tight script from David Koepp, "Kimi" succeeds in capturing the viewer's attention with what may be an uncomfortably prescient narrative. Much of the film's success rides on Kravitz's riveting performance, most of which is achieved without another person in the room and without much dialogue. Another laudable accomplishment by Soderbergh, who has a knack for making the kind of films that are deeply intelligent without being arrogant about it.

Decision to Leave

Park Chan-wook's "Decision To Leave" has the unique distinction of being a mystery, a romance, and a thriller. The 11th film from the Korean master, "Decision To Leave" is a murder mystery where the search for the truth becomes entangled with a dangerous game of desire. Park Hae-il plays Hae-Joon, a detective sent to investigate when a man falls to his death on a mountaintop. As he becomes more involved in the case, his suspicion falls on the man's wife, Seo-rae (Wei Tang). His investigation is further complicated when he begins to develop feelings for the woman and must separate the truth from the lies — and his own feelings for her.

Styled like a classic film noir, "Decision To Leave" is equal parts mysterious and erotic, with the two modes going hand in hand. It's easy to compare the film to Alfred Hitchcock classics like "Vertigo," but "Decision To Leave" retains the director's signature style, found in thrilling films like the violence-ridden "Oldboy" or the shockingly romantic "The Handmaiden."

The film starts rather abruptly and gives the viewer little time to catch their breath. It's important not to panic at this point — you won't know exactly what's going on for quite some time — but as the pieces start to fall together and the world develops around the characters, you're subtly enveloped in a story that puzzles just as much as it delights. One of the smartest, sexiest thrillers we've seen in years, you're bound to feel well-fed after walking out of this one.