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Best Thrillers On Netflix, According To Critics

Like horror movies, thrillers hook their viewers by giving them a rush of that fight-or-flight adrenaline from the comfort of their own couch. The best thrillers know exactly how to play their audiences, whether it's through breakneck pacing or harrowing stakes that are raised by the collision of compelling characters and extreme circumstances. As with any genre of movie, there is no shortage of thrillers that don't work as well as they should. Thankfully, though, it's not hard to find the ones that do.

If you're in the mood for the best of the best, Netflix has you covered. The streamer not only has a huge catalog of thriller movies, representing basically every sub-category you can think of, it also has some of the most critically acclaimed entries in the genre. From stone-cold classics to contemporary indie darlings, these are the five thrillers currently on Netflix that scored the best with critics.

Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver is considered one of the classics for a reason

The thriller genre has seen many terrific entries in recent years, but sometimes, it's hard to top the classics. Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver is roundly considered to be one of the essential films of the 20th century, and has a 96% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes to boot. The 1976 film is a searing portrait of a dark character, specifically, Vietnam veteran-turned-NYC-taxi-driver Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro). While the movie's narrative is a bit looser than other entries in the genre, it uses the volatile nature of its protagonist to keep audiences on edge.

In Travis, the film has a subject who is part vigilante hero and part violent outcast. The film takes its time to let the audience get to know Travis, which makes the jolts of propulsive action all the more thrilling. Viewers come to know exactly how unsettled Travis is and what he's capable of. When he begins to turn his increasing anger at the rottenness of the world around him into action, it results in a bracing explosion of violence at the end of Taxi Driver, one that is hard to watch and even harder to look away from. It's that sense of intimate dread that makes the movie such a classic.

Nightcrawler sees Jake Gyllenhaal at his unnerving best

In some ways, 2014's Nightcrawler shares quite a bit of DNA with Taxi Driver. Similar to the Scorsese classic, Dan Gilroy's film builds tension through the use of a singularly menacing protagonist who slowly reveals his capacity to step out of bounds to the audience. Quiet Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) survives in Los Angeles by pulling off petty robberies. That is, until he discovers a whole new career path that suits his loner lifestyle and propensity for the dark. He begins to work as a freelance photographer, arriving at the scenes of deadly car crashes and horrific crimes to snap images of the aftermath to sell to local news stations. The competition among his colleagues to be first on the scene is fierce. So much so, that Lou begins to take extraordinary steps to make sure nobody beats him to the perfect shot.

The film, which has a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes, drew praise for its dark tone and biting commentary on the media ecosystem. Critics also heaped praise on Gyllenhaal's chillingly effective lead performance. Writing for Vox, Emily VanDerWerff said, "[Lou's] arc, in some ways, is about prey learning to become predator, and it's impressive to chart just how great Gyllenhaal is at making both sides of that equation seem deeply unsettling."

Don't be fooled by the slow pace of Burning

Clocking in at just under two and a half hours, the South Korean film Burning asks for the audience's undivided attention as it gradually unspools its mysterious story. For some, the slow pace and subtle revelations may make it a difficult watch. However, if you invest in the film, you'll find that it's a brilliantly sinister take on a familiar trope. The movie follows a young man named Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in), who struggles to keep his head above water while trying to kick start his career as a writer. One day, he runs into a high school classmate, Hae-mi (Jeon Jong-seo), on the street. While Jong-su was never particularly close with her, his lack of close friends and a budding infatuation leads him to spending time with the complicated woman. However, when Hae-mi begins dating an ultra-wealthy man named Ben (Steven Yeun), everything Jong-su thought he understood about the situation begins to change.

When the film premiered in 2018, it was met with rapturous critical praise. It currently holds a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes and ended up on many Best of the Year lists, including that of amateur film critic and former President of the United States Barack Obama (via Indiewire). Burning is a film that is best watched knowing as little as possible about the plot and with your attention solely focused on the screen. Put your phone in the other room before you fire up Netflix to catch this one.

Cam is an eerie techno-thriller with a smart hook

Cam is a distinctly modern thriller that puts even the best episodes of Black Mirror to shame with its ability to make viewers think twice before turning on their computers. Resourceful and ambitious Alice (Madeline Brewer) is known to her legion of fans as Lola, a bubbly cam-girl rising to prominence thanks to her well produced shows and ability to connect with her frequent tippers. Although Alice aims to rise to the top echelon of performers, she still operates by a strict code: she keeps her shows adventurous and daring, but tasteful, and she never reveals too many personal details. Naturally Alice is horrified when an imitation of her appears on the site. Not only does this imposter Lola look and sound exactly like her, she also somehow knows intimate details about Alice's personal life. As the imposter Lola's shows become more and more sinister, Alice is forced to track down the origins of this unnerving case of stolen identity.

When it was released, Cam was heralded by critics, and the film has a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. Katie Rife of AV Club was one of many who praised the film, calling it a "boldly stylized identity thriller in the Alfred Hitchcock mode," specifically noting, "what makes the film truly magnetic is Brewer's darkly humorous, intensely vulnerable performance."

Robert Pattinson goes for broke in Good Time

Robert Pattinson's post-Twilight career has been a thrill ride of its own, with a slew of distinct and arresting performances in movies like adventure epic The Lost City of Z and psychological horror film The Lighthouse. One of his most acclaimed roles was in the Safdie Brother's 2017 thriller Good Time, which boasts a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. Good Time is a relentless crime thriller that sees Pattinson playing career criminal Connie Nikas, who embarks on an obsessive mission to break his brother Nick (Benny Safdie) — who lives with a developmental disability — out of prison following a botched robbery. The set-up of Good Time may sound familiar, but the devil is in the details with this one. Critics were floored by the movie's intense pacing and Pattinson's visceral performance, which James Berardinelli of Reel Views called "remarkable," "credible," and "scary."

If you're going to add Good Time, or any of these remarkable thrillers, to your Netflix queue, make sure you have a soothing sounds playlist ready to go to help take the edge off afterward.