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5 winter crime thrillers like True Detective: Night Country you should watch now

Jeffrey Wright holds a gun on the poster for Hold the Dark.

True Detective: Night Country is a cold season of television — literally. Set in the small remote town of Ennis, Alaska, the Issa López-created True Detective season is defined as much by its setting’s snow-covered ground as it is by its eternally dark sky. It stands in stark contrast to the first three seasons of True Detective, all of which take place in sun-soaked environments (Louisiana, Arkansas, and Los Angeles). That fact doesn’t just make True Detective: Night Country unique in its own HBO show’s history, but also in the crime genre at large.

There simply haven’t been many high-profile, Hollywood-produced crime thrillers set in snowy regions. Consequently, Night Country’s story and setting combine to create the kind of viewing experience that remains fairly hard to come by. And anyone in the mood for more crime dramas like Night Country should check out the following five films.

1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig walk together in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Sony Pictures Releasing

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo isn’t just the most underrated film that David Fincher has ever made, but it’s also one of Hollywood’s chilliest contemporary crime thrillers. Based on Stieg Larsson’s novel of the same name, the film follows a disgraced journalist (Daniel Craig) and an antisocial hacker (Rooney Mara) as they’re hired to investigate the decades-old disappearance of a young girl, which leads them to look into the deaths of countless other women.

Its dark, ice-cold story is reflected by its setting, a Swedish island in the middle of winter, which Fincher and cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth use to their full advantage. There are few movies that more effectively make winter itself seem like a season brimming with ghosts, death, and unspoken danger.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is streaming on Paramount+.

2. Wind River (2017)

Jeremy Renner holds a rifle in Wind River.
The Weinstein Company

Set on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming, this neo-Western crime thriller from Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan is tense, thrilling, and deeply tragic. Like True Detective: Night Country, it tries to bring an indigenous perspective to a Hollywood genre that has long lacked it, and in doing so, the film manages to emerge as something more ambitious and compelling than it may initially seem.

Shot on location in Utah, Wind River also makes excellent use of its frozen environments — forcing viewers to feel the crunch of the snow under its characters’ feet and the uncomfortable level of cold that they’re constantly forced to endure. Unlike Night Country, it’s set largely during the day, but that doesn’t stop Wind River from making you want to instinctively shiver just a little as you watch it.

Wind River is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

3. Winter’s Bone (2010)

Jennifer Lawrence wears a white beanie in Winter's Bone.
Roadside Attractions

Set in the Ozarks, Winter’s Bone is mostly known as the film that effectively launched Jennifer Lawrence’s career. As impressive as she is in it, though, the 2010 drama has a lot more going for it than just her performance. Like True Detective: Night Country, it introduces viewers to a rural community that follows its own rules and is kept together by the odd connections between its inhabitants.

Watching Lawrence’s Ree navigate her way through the film’s dangerous, underground criminal world as she tries to find proof of her father’s death proves to be unexpectedly entertaining and engaging, too, as does witnessing her relationship with her uncle, Teardrop (Night Country star John Hawkes), evolve in ways that are both stirring and heart-wrenching. It’s not a film that feels the need to overstate any of its big ideas or climactic moments, and that only makes Winter’s Bone all the more immersive and quietly impactful.

Winter’s Bone is streaming on Max.

4. Hold the Dark (2018)

Jeffrey Wright walks through the snow in Hold the Dark.

An Alaska-set thriller about a wolf expert (Jeffrey Wright) who is hired to investigate the disappearance of a young boy, Hold the Dark isn’t quite as bluntly effective as Green Room, the punk rock thriller that director Jeremy Saulnier made two years before it. The film is, nonetheless, one of the most relentlessly gripping thrillers that Netflix has ever produced.

It’s not only just as atmospheric as it is riveting, but its entire plot also pivots around an unforgettable midpoint shootout that is shocking in both its staging and brutality. The film cements Saulnier as one of the most gifted thriller directors, and it uses its snow-covered Alaska setting to further trap viewers in its cold, steely grip.

Hold the Dark is streaming on Netflix.

5. Blow the Man Down (2020)

Two sisters carry an ice cooler in Blow the Man Down.
Amazon Studios

Released on Amazon Prime early in 2020, Blow the Man Down has never received the level of attention that it deserves. A darkly comedic thriller that owes as much of a debt to noir classics like Shadow of a Doubt as it does to offbeat, contemporary crime dramas like Fargo, this low-budget, Maine-set film follows a pair of sisters who are forced to cover up a murder.

Their attempts to do so prove alternately successful and not, but the light that their crime ultimately shines on the inner workings of their perpetually windy, seaside hometown reveals more startling truths than they — or those watching at home — could ever have predicted. Tonally and aesthetically, Blow the Man Down is very different from True Detective: Night Country, but its central crime plot is no less engrossing and its setting is just as bitterly and brilliantly cold.

Blow the Man Down is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

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Alex Welch
Alex Welch is a TV and movies writer based out of Los Angeles. In addition to Digital Trends, his work has been published by…
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