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15 Best Thrillers On HBO Max [October 2021]

HBO Max has a terrific selection of both classic and contemporary thrillers, so if you're looking for something that will keep you on the edge of your seat, look no further. We're keeping an eye on everything on the service, bringing you the best in psychological suspense, conspiracies, and battles of will. If it's got tension, overwhelming odds, or ordinary people in extraordinarily dangerous situations, we know it'll make for a great movie night. And there should be something here for everyone. So pop some popcorn, pull the shades, and get ready for some dark and heart-pounding entertainment.

Updated on September 27, 2021: HBO Max is always updating its streaming library, and we'll make sure that this article stays current with the best the service has to offer. We refresh this selection every month, adding new must-sees and sometimes rotating in other classics by major thriller directors like Alfred Hitchcock. (Because, let's face it, basically every Hitchcock movie could earn a spot on this list.)

Blood Simple

A setup that feels like the start of a standard private eye movie goes wrong in "Blood Simple." Marty hires an investigator, Lorren Visser, to tail his wife, as she's having an affair with Ray, who works at Marty's bar. When Visser gets the proof, Marty offers Visser more money to kill them — but while Visser accepts, it turns out that he has other plans, ones that will leave Ray and Abby alive (at least for now) but plunge them into a dark vortex of horror and increasing complications. This nightmarish twist on the genre is the Coen brothers' first film, and it already shows all the earmarks of their greatness.

  • Starring: John Getz, Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya

  • Director: Joel Coen

  • Year: 1984

  • Runtime: 95 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%


French thriller "Diabolique" starts off with an unusual murder plot. Michel, headmaster of a boys' boarding school, is sadistic and petty, and his wife, Christina, and mistress, Nicole, bear the brunt (and bruises) of it all. Against all odds, the two are friends, and fragile, tenderhearted Christina and bold, icy Nicole console each other. They also plan Michel's murder. But after they've killed him, the tension doesn't go away — it just gets more nightmarish. His body disappears, and people report having talked with him. And Christina is starting to crack under the pressure.

"Diabolique" has a plot that even Hitchcock might have envied, and it also features one of the most iconic reveals in cinema history. There's definitely at least one scene here that you'll never forget.

  • Starring: Simone Signoret, Véra Clouzot, Paul Meurisse

  • Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot

  • Year: 1955

  • Runtime: 116 minutes

  • Rating: TV-MA

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%


LAPD detective Will Dormer and his partner assist with a murder case in a small Alaskan town, and it's a good time for Dormer to be away since he's also under investigation himself. But things only get worse. Early in the case, in a confusing, foggy firefight, he accidentally kills his own partner, and he knows it will look like murder. He covers up his involvement, but that just opens the door for an elaborate game with the man he's chasing ... who knows the truth about what just went down. 

Their unsettling phone calls, the constant Alaskan daylight, the guilt, and a near-total lack of sleep all begin to eat away at Dormer, making him more and more unstable as a final confrontation approaches. "Insomnia" features a great, haggard Al Pacino and an unusually serious (and horrifying) turn from Robin Williams, but we still have to give top billing to the setting and atmosphere. You can almost feel the doom.

North by Northwest

"North by Northwest" is essential viewing if you like ordinary people forced into extraordinary and bizarre predicaments. It even packs in at least two famous action sequences.

Roger Thornhill finds himself in over his head when he's kidnapped and brought to a luxurious mansion. Interrogated and menaced by men who suspect him to be someone he's not, he's soon set up to die in a drunk-driving accident. And when he survives and tries to find out what's going on, everything has been masterfully covered up, to the point where it seems like he's losing his mind. Soon, Thornhill is framed for murder and on the run, and his only ally is Eve Kendall, a woman he's just met — and he might not be able to trust her. He has to try to clear his name ... if he can even stay alive long enough to do it. 

  • Starring: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason

  • Director: Alfred Hitchcock

  • Year: 1959

  • Runtime: 136 minutes

  • Rating: TV-PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%

Presumed Innocent

Prosecutor Rusty Sabich winds up on the wrong side of a murder trial when his colleague, Carolyn, is murdered. Rusty once had an affair with Carolyn, and that — combined with a mounting pile of evidence — quickly makes him a top suspect. Rusty works to prove his innocence, but it's a tough job, especially in the middle of mounting scrutiny and a political firestorm. He may well be sacrificed to protect his boss, especially given the pending election. And even as we're wondering whether or not he'll be successful at saving his reputation, we also have to wonder whether he really is innocent after all. "Presumed Innocent" is a brooding and thought-provoking, the legal thriller at its morally ambiguous best.

Reservoir Dogs

After a jewelry store robbery gone wrong, the surviving criminals take refuge in a dilapidated warehouse. (To hide their identities, most of them are known only by code names: Orange, White, Pink, and Blonde.) Mr. Orange has been shot, and without medical attention, he'll bleed to death. Mr. White is anxious to get him to a doctor, but the others overrule him. They're more focused on one question: How did the police seemingly know they were coming? Is one of them an undercover cop? The volatile Mr. Blonde offers up one way to find out — torture the information out of an officer he's kidnapped. With accusations flying and tensions rising while they wait for their boss' arrival, something is bound to explode.

Darkly comedic and punctuated by shocking acts of violence — you'll never hear "Stuck in the Middle with You" the same way again — "Reservoir Dogs" is a perfect dose of Tarantino's distinctive style.

  • Starring: Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen

  • Director: Quentin Tarantino

  • Year: 1992

  • Runtime: 99 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

3 Days of the Condor

Joe Turner works for the CIA, but his job is fairly low-key. He examines books and other texts for clandestine political messages. It's not supposed to be dangerous. But one day, while Turner's out picking up lunch, his colleagues are murdered ... and Turner is next on the hit list. Unsure he can trust anyone in the CIA, he goes on the run, trying to get to the bottom of the conspiracy. But with all the power on the other side, does Turner even have a chance? One of the best of the paranoid political thrillers, "3 Days of the Condor" is tense, well-acted, and completely compelling.

  • Starring: Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Max von Sydow

  • Director: Sydney Pollack

  • Year: 1975

  • Runtime: 117 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%

Wait Until Dark

Susy, who's still adjusting to her loss of sight, winds up accidentally — and unknowingly — in possession of a doll stuffed with heroin. The ruthless Harry Roat and his associates are after it, and they'll do whatever it takes to get it back. At first, it seems like they'll be able to take advantage of Susy's blindness to fool her into handing over the doll, but once she realizes they've been lying to her, she decides to fight back. The movie then turns into a cat-and-mouse game where Susy must try to outwit the men targeting her and put them all on a level playing field. This everywoman vs. villains thriller is as inventive as it is suspenseful.

  • Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin, Richard Crenna

  • Director: Terence Young

  • Year: 1967

  • Runtime: 107 minutes

  • Rating: TV-PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%

Blue Ruin

"Blue Ruin" is a tense, atmospheric, and beautifully shot revenge thriller that shows how payback becomes a brutal and unending chain. Dwight Evans lives on the margins of society, sleeping in his car and showering only when he can break into someone's house. He gains a new sense of purpose when Wade Cleland, his parents' killer, gets out of prison. After all, Dwight wants him dead. But striking back at Wade opens up a whole new conflict with Wade's family and also reveals secrets Dwight never even knew existed.

  • Starring: Macon Blair, Amy Hargreaves, Devin Ratray

  • Director: Jeremy Saulnier

  • Year: 2013

  • Runtime: 90 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%


Meet Max — the best L.A. cab driver you could ever imagine. He knows all the routes and traffic patterns ... and that unfortunately catches the attention of the enigmatic Vincent, who needs to make several scheduled stops that night. Vincent offers too much money for Max to pass up, but then Max accidentally learns the truth: Vincent is a hitman, and each stop represents another hit. Max's own life is now on the line, but he cares more about trying to save the other targets, especially one victim who has a connection to Max. The setup and pacing in "Collateral" are both great, but the biggest selling point is the performances. Both Jamie Foxx and Tom Cruise are at the top of their game here.

  • Starring: Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith

  • Director: Michael Mann

  • Year: 2004

  • Runtime: 120 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%

Deep Cover

Gritty and full of moral weight, "Deep Cover" sends cop Russell Stevens undercover in frenetic, violent drug trafficking circles. Stevens wants to hold onto the values that define him, but more and more, that starts to seem impossible. Every part of the world — or at least every part that he can get to — is corrupt and deeply flawed, and with that in mind, what choices should he make? What matters? He's well off-set by crooked lawyer David Jason, who becomes his partner in the underworld: The two have a tense, electric relationship that's too close to friendship for comfort. The noir fatalism brings all the right cynicism, and it's nicely invigorated by Stevens' defiant drive.

  • Starring: Laurence Fishburne, Jeff Goldblum, Victoria Dillard

  • Director: Bill Duke

  • Year: 1992

  • Runtime: 108 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%

The Fugitive

"The Fugitive" is a classic thriller — exciting, inventively plotted, and perfectly cast. This is the story of Dr. Richard Kimble, who's convicted of his wife's murder. No one believes his implausible story that a mysterious one-armed man committed the crime instead, so when he manages to escape custody, he has to investigate her murder himself. But while he's trying to follow up every lead and stay under the radar, dogged and capable U.S. Marshal Gerard is tracking him down. To Gerard, Kimble is just one more fugitive he's determined to catch. Pitting two smart, highly resourceful good guys against each other is a great move, and it's one of the things that makes "The Fugitive" so memorable and nail-biting.

One Hour Photo

Sy is an incredibly lonely man who does his best to fill his empty life with other people's happy memories: He develops photos at a SavMart and secretly squirrels away extra prints from his favorite family. His fixation on them keeps growing — even to the point of making his life come apart at the seams — and when he finds out that the perfect husband and father is really having an affair, Sy's obsession turns dangerous. A tense, creepy stalking drama with chilling horror movie overtones, "One Hour Photo" is a perfect showcase for Robin Williams, who makes Sy as pitiable as he is frightening.

  • Starring: Robin Williams, Michael Vartan, Connie Nielsen

  • Director: Mark Romanek

  • Year: 2002

  • Runtime: 95 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%


Kale Brecht reacts badly to a teacher bringing up his dead father — so badly that he hits him and winds up under house arrest. Without much to do, he finds himself getting obsessed with watching his neighbors, especially Robert Turner, who lives next door and who has a possible link to a string of murders. Kale and his friends, Ashley and Ronnie, keep prying into the strange happenings over at Turner's, and their deepening involvement puts them in more and more danger. Because now, Turner knows they're watching. This "Rear Window" homage does a great job revisiting classic themes and adding its own twist. 

  • Starring: Shia LaBeouf, David Morse, Sarah Roemer

  • Director: D.J. Caruso

  • Year: 2007

  • Runtime: 104 minutes

  • Rating: PG-13

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 69%

Marathon Man

The smart and gripping thriller "Marathon Man" features an ordinary person — Dustin Hoffman's Babe — inexorably swept up in an espionage plot. That's what happens when your brother turns out to be a spy, one with Nazi war criminal Dr. Szell as an informant ... and Szell wants out of the arrangement. He wants it badly enough to kill for it, but then he has no way of getting to his cache of diamonds. He thinks Babe might have the answer, and this suspicion sets off a brutal chase marked by both betrayals and some of the most effective, terrifying torture scenes ever committed to film. Let's just say you shouldn't try to watch this right before a dentist appointment.

  • Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Laurence Olivier, Roy Scheider

  • Director: John Schlesinger

  • Year: 1976

  • Runtime: 125 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 81%