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Thriller Movie Hidden Gems On Netflix You Need To See

This content was paid for by Netflix and created by Looper.

Typically when you hang out on your couch at home and put on a movie, you're trying to unwind. But what if you want to get your heart pumping and work up a sweat, but you don't want to, y'know, exercise? There's really only one solution: queue up a pulse-pounding thriller, sit back, and don't relax.

Now, while there are plenty of old favorites in the thriller genre that should already be in heavy rotation in your movie night watchlists, it's also valuable to change things up every now and again. Besides, if you've already seen a thriller, that might kind of make it a little less thrilling, right? Half the fun of watching a great thriller is not knowing what happens. How else are you supposed to get all worked up before the end of the movie? Here are some hidden gems on Netflix that have enough thrills to replace leg day at the gym.

Shot Caller

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, made famous by his role as Jaime Lannister on HBO's hit Game of Thrones, has a talent for playing bad guys with tortured hearts. In Shot Caller, Coster-Waldau plays a man who's struggling to walk the line between good and evil, all while trying to protect himself and his family from inside the walls of a prison cell.

Married father Jacob Harlon lands himself behind bars after drunkenly running a red light and accidentally causing the death of his pal Tom in the back seat. In order to survive prison life, Harlon gets violent, rising in the ranks of one of the prison's bloodthirsty gangs, and extending his prison stay from 16 months to nine years after killing another inmate. When Harlon finally gets paroled two years before his sentence is up, he's a totally different man. What's more, he's forced to stay one step ahead of the ruthless gang leader who's threatened his ex-wife and son in exchange for Harlon's loyalty outside the joint. The result is a dark, gritty film that'll keep you feeling the tension right up until the final frame.

Blue Ruin

Murder, revenge, and old family rivalries erupting into modern day violence — this is the stuff great thrillers are made of. Blue Ruin is the gripping 2013 film by Jeremy Saulnier, the same guy behind the punk rockers vs. Nazis thriller Green Room two years later in 2015, a modern classic beloved by anyone who manages to make it to the end of the movie.

Blue Ruin's premise is simple, but what unfolds as the movie progresses is anything but. Dwight, a bearded drifter living out of his car, is informed that a man named Wade, who was convicted of killing Dwight's parents two decades earlier, is soon going to be released from prison. Naturally Dwight has one thing on his mind: vengeance. Once the wheels of the plot begin to turn, it isn't long before blood begins to spill everywhere you look. Let's just say that this movie seems to argue that revenge murders are like potato chips... it's hard to stop at just one.


Picture this: You're driving along, on your way to see your kid, and suddenly your cell phone rings. It's a woman you've never met before and she's begging — pleading — for you to help. She's in trouble, and things might end violently for her if she doesn't get rescued. Do you drop everything, and put your own life in jeopardy to try and save her?

That's the setup for Connected, a 2008 Hong Kong thriller by co-written and directed by Benny Chan. If that story sounds familiar, it should — it's the same premise for the 2004 American movie Cellular, which Chan set out to remake with Connected. Chan's goal with the remake was to inject it with improvements of many of the elements that make Hong Kong action movies stand out in the world of cinema — stuff like "human combat, action, flying cars," the director told the Associated Press (via The Hollywood Reporter) in 2008 to coincide with the film's release. If you're looking for a life or death, ticking clock plot mixed with Hong Kong's action flair, you should definitely not hang up on Connected.

Bad Day for the Cut

Some of cinema's most famous and exciting badasses are relatively normal folks who get thrust into extraordinary circumstances, and who have to rise to extraordinary heights to win the day. Paul Kersey in Death Wish, Robert McCall in The Equalizer, and Bryan Mills in Taken — they're all just guys trying to get by in life, who are driven to violence to protect or avenge the people they love.

The same goes for Donal in 2017's Bad Day for the Cut. The middle-aged amateur car repairman lives with his old mother on a small farm in Northern Ireland. While he may long for some small bit of adventure, he's content to grab a pint at the pub and keep things slow. That all changes when he wakes up to find his mother dead, the apparent victim of a botched robbery in his home. When Donal is targeted for elimination soon after, he's had enough and starts looking for answers. What unfolds is a tangled web of crime, revenge, and decades of secret grudges getting revealed. Oh, and let's not forget the most creatively disturbing use of a hot saucepan you'll see all day. Bad Day for the Cut is a small-town thriller with big-time excitement.

The Invitation

It's hard to imagine many thrills coming out of attending a dinner party held by your ex-wife and her new husband. Tension, sure. Awkwardness? Check. But thrills? Well, only if there's something seriously weird going on underneath the surface. Fortunately, that's exactly the case in the 2015 low-budget dinner party drama The Invitation.

Years ago, Will and Eden suffered the loss of their son, and their relationship fell apart. When the movie opens, Will and his current girlfriend Kira arrive at a dinner party held by Eden and her new husband David. It should be no surprise, then, that things are obviously tense. As the couple and the other guests start to learn more about a strange group that Eden and David have joined called — appropriately — the Invitation, things go from tense to terrifying. The Invitation is a movie that demands you put yourself in the shoes of its protagonist. What would you do in his position? What's the price of politeness? How long do you keep quiet when you think something weird — like, really weird — is afoot? If The Invitation is any indication, the answer is "about 80 minutes." This is one invitation you won't want to turn down.

The Oath

How far would you go to protect the people you love from those who'd harm them? Would you hurt someone? Would you kill someone? Now answer that same question, but imagine you also happen to be a surgeon, a job that requires you to make a promise — an oath, if you will — to do no harm. That's one of the main conflicts at work in The Oath, a 2016 Icelandic film starring and directed by Baltasar Samper, who also directed 2013's Two Guns and 2015's Everest.

Samper plays Finnur, a surgeon who's disturbed by his daughter's burgeoning relationship with a guy who is just up to no good. Anna has fallen in with Óttar, a drug dealer, and she begins getting into using and abusing drugs herself. As Finnur tries to intervene and pull his daughter out of her boyfriend's orbit, Óttar starts pushing back violently. What's a doting dad to do? The answers will have you on the edge of your seat.

Sweet Virginia

The best plans are the ones that go exactly how they're supposed to. It's ironic, then, that the best movies are the ones about plans doing the exact opposite. Nothing's better than watching a plan blow up in the characters' faces — especially when they're all trying to do some nasty things.

Such is the case in Sweet Virginia, a 2017 thriller starring Punisher's Jon Bernthal, Christopher Abbott, Imogen Poots, and Rosemarie DeWitt. Despite the name, the film is set in small town in Alaska, where a hit man has come to do a job. Naturally, things go wrong, and instead of one dead person, the town finds several. And that's only the start of everyone's troubles.

With haunting direction from Jamie M. Dagg, Sweet Virginia features stellar performances from all of its leads, not to mention a slow-burn plot that'll keep you guessing about what'll happen next right up until the very end.

Every Time I Die

Stopping a murderer before they strike or catching them before they can kill again is pretty standard fare for the thriller genre. And just because that's the kind of premise you see in movie after movie doesn't make it any less enjoyable when it's done well. But what about catching a killer after he's already snuffed you out? That's the hook in Every Time I Die, an independent film that dropped in 2019.

A paramedic named Sam is involved in an affair with a married friend, and he's also haunted by a secret trauma in his past. But when his lover's husband finds him and kills him, that's not the end of Sam's story — it's actually just the beginning. What follows is a twisty, turny thrill ride that sees Sam jump from body to body, all while trying to stop the man who killed him from, well, killing him again. With only five main characters whose stories are all tightly interwoven, Every Time I Die is a great showcase of how great and inventive a low-budget indie film can be.