The thriller genre has been a cinematic staple since the early days of movies. From seedy, smoke-filled noir narratives to nail-biting psychological outings, the genre is constantly reinventing itself, leaning on tropes and tradition as part of the creative reimagining. For Hulu subscribers, there’s a massive pantheon of thriller flicks on the streaming platform. As experts of all things streaming, we’ve compiled this roundup of the best thrillers on Hulu this month. Read on to see what new films are out there and what classics you recognize.
Before their major success with The Matrix, the Wachowski siblings took the world by storm with their feature debut, Bound. Jennifer Tilly stars as Violet, the mistress of intimidating gangster Caesar (Joe Pantoliano). Hoping to break away from her domineering lover, Violet falls for an ex-con, Corky (Gina Gershon), a next-door neighbor. After the women enter into an affair, they concoct a plan to steal millions of dollars in mob cash, a daring plot that simply cannot go wrong, or they’ll be faced with death. A shoestring effort that paid off, Bound is renowned for its humor, performances, and bountiful homages to the noir genre.
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Stars: Jennifer Tilly, Gina Gershon, Joe Pantoliano
Director: Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski
Runtime: 108 minutes
Goodnight Mommy (2015)
When their mother returns home after a complicated surgery, twin brothers Elias and Lukas (Elias and Lukas Schwarz) notice something isn’t right with her. Withdrawn, embittered, and just generally weird, their mother isn’t acting like herself, and her surgical face-bandaging isn’t helping. As the film progresses, we learn that the siblings may truly be onto something. From the writer-director team of The Lodge, Goodnight Mommy is a brooding slow-burn thriller with a minimalist story. Drenched in an atmosphere of unease, there are several scenes where you’ll feel the twin brothers are truly in danger.
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Stars: Susanne Wuest, Elias Schwarz, Lukas Schwarz
Director: Veronika Franz, Severin Fiala
Runtime: 100 minutes
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Pre-Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino broke into the relative mainstream with Reservoir Dogs. Following a group of jewel thieves in the aftermath of a robbery gone horribly wrong, pressure mounts as the ensemble of criminals realize that one of them could be a police informant. Reservoir Dogs effectively launched the career of its writer-director, thanks in part to actor Harvey Keitel’s belief in the material. Signing on as a co-producer, Keitel helped Tarantino and producer Lawrence Bender raise capital for the production, resulting in a fully realized piece of cinema and an homage to the raw heyday of Hollywood crime thrillers.
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Stars: Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi, Chris Penn
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Runtime: 105 minutes
William Friedkin (The Exorcist, The French Connection) takes us to a devastatingly claustrophobic place in Bug. Agnes (Ashley Judd), an Oklahoma bartender, is still reeling from the disappearance of her son years before. Connecting with Peter Evans (Michael Shannon), an ex-pat and a newcomer to the little town, Agnes and Peter begin a romantic relationship that quickly spirals into one of fear and paranoia when Peter reveals that the motel room they share is filled with bugs (literal insects), planted by the U.S. government in anticipation of Peter’s arrival. Gripping from start to finish, and boasting two excellent performances from Judd and Shannon, Bug will definitely get under your skin.
Rotten Tomatoes: 62%
Stars: Ashley Judd, Michael Shannon, Lynn Collins
Director: William Friedkin
Runtime: 102 minutes
Vanilla Sky (2002)
When David Aames (Tom Cruise), a publishing magnate, is in a traumatic car accident, the collision leaves him with harrowing face wounds. David falls for Sofia (Penélope Cruz), a woman that he’s introduced to at a party. The two grow close, only for David to wake up one day in a life that is not totally his own. Feeling something like a cross between a surreal dream and a sci-fi epic, the thrills of Vanilla Sky are unexpected, bizarre, and wholly original. A hybrid of genres and a film that operates on its own terms, it’s one you don’t want to miss. Stream it before it’s gone.
Rotten Tomatoes: 42%
Stars: Tom Cruise, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz
Director: Cameron Crowe
Runtime: 144 minutes
Alone stars Jules Willcox as Jessica, a widowed woman in the midst of relocating her life. On the car drive from her old stomping grounds to her new home, she encounters a mysterious stranger (Marc Menchaca) — a presence that pops up at several waypoints along Jessica’s route. After an unwelcome confrontation, Jessica awakens in the basement of the man’s home. She’s able to escape, but not without the stranger giving chase. A tense match of humans vs. wilderness, Alone is smartly scripted, passionately acted, and perfectly shot.
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Stars: Jules Willcox, Marc Menchaca, Anthony Heald
Director: John Hyams
Runtime: 98 minutes
The Descent (2006)
In the wake of a horrific tragedy, a group of six friends embarks on a spelunking adventure in the Appalachian Mountains. Led by Sarah (Shauna MacDonald) and Juno (Alex Reid), all is going swimmingly until a part of the cave collapses, trapping the crew inside an unmarked cave system. What’s worse is that the long-hidden catacombs are the home of pale-white humanoids known as “crawlers” — carnivorous creatures with a longing for human flesh. A day in the peaceful, underground wilderness quickly devolves into an all-out nightmare as Sarah and friends fight to make it out of the caves alive. A thrilling watch from start to finish, featuring great performances from the six principals and claustrophobic cinematography, The Descent is one you won’t soon forget.
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
Stars: Shauna MacDonald, Natalie Mendoza, Alex Reid
Director: Neil Marshall
Runtime: 100 minutes
12 Hour Shift (2020)
In 12 Hour Shift, Angela Bettis stars as Mandy, a nurse with a drug problem. To fuel her fixes, she and her co-worker, Karen (Nikea Gamby-Turner), have set up an operation to transport patient organs into the hands of black-market men. After bringing her cousin, Regina (Chloe Farnworth), onboard, a mixup with a kidney unfurls a chain of horrific events as Nicholas (Mick Foley), Mandy’s trafficker, demands the organs. Mandy and her team must turn to a deeper kind of diabolical deed to pay up, or risk their very lives if they fail. A powerful siege thriller with an incredible female ensemble, 12 Hour Shift will make you wonder exactly what’s going on behind the scenes at your local hospital or doctor’s office. Hopefully not anything on display in this film.
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Stars: Angela Bettis, David Arquette, Chloe Farnworth
Director: Brea Grant
Runtime: 86 minutes
The Clovehitch Killer (2018)
In The Clovehitch Killer, Dylan McDermott stars as Don. A beloved scoutmaster and endearing father figure, it’s easy for his son, Tyler (Charlie Plummer), to look up to him … that is until Tyler discovers a trove of horrific photographs in his father’s possession. The unearthing of images plants a seed in Tyler’s mind that his dear parent may actually be the infamous “Clovehitch Killer,” a serial murderer who vanished without a trace 10 years prior. In this ultra-compelling slow burn of a feature, director Duncan Skiles brings remarkable tension and hyper-cinematography to a tight script by Christopher Ford.
Rotten Tomatoes: 77%
Stars: Dylan McDermott, Charlie Plummer, Samantha Mathias, Madisen Beaty
Director: Duncan Skiles
Runtime: 110 minutes
The Tenant (1976)
When Trelkovsky (Roman Polanski) rents an apartment in Paris, his generally tranquil nature is quickly uprooted by a series of disturbances. For one, there are the cold and outright belligerent neighbors who seem to despise him for no reason. Then there’s the attempted suicide by his apartment’s previous inhabitant. And who could forget the human tooth lodged in the wall? Wait, what? Roman Polanski co-writes, directs, and stars in The Tenant, the last of his “Apartment Trilogy” films (the latter two features being Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby). Surreal and chilling, The Tenant doesn’t get the attention that many of Polanski’s other films receive.
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Stars: Roman Polanski, Isabelle Adjani, Melvyn Douglas
Director: Roman Polanski
Runtime: 126 minutes
Rent-A-Pal stars Brian Landis Folkins as David, an ill-dressed loner looking for a companion of any kind. When the recluse comes into possession of a mysterious VHS tape “Rent-A-Pal,” the man takes to the charismatic host on the TV screen, a man named Andy (Wil Wheaton). As David takes to Andy’s onscreen company, the vicarious friendship quickly devolves into something more sinister. Led by incredible performances and an imaginative and poignant story, Rent-A-Pal shows no mercy, neither to its characters or its audience.
Rotten Tomatoes: 68%
Stars: Wil Wheaton, Brian Landis Folkins, Kathleen Brady
Director: Jon Stevenson
Runtime: 108 minutes
She Dies Tomorrow (2020)
Remember that party you went to where everyone thought they were going to die? Neither do we, but if Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil) from She Dies Tomorrow mentions her own impending death to you, you too will be consumed by her existential doom. Writer/director Amy Seimetz is back with this bizarre and heady feature in which an entire town comes to believe that each denizen will walk the plank to their grave … tomorrow. Funny, moody, and filled with homages to the dark world of David Lynch, She Dies Tomorrow gets a double thumbs-up from us.
Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
Stars: Kate Lyn Sheil, Jane Adams, Kentucker Audley
Director: Amy Seimetz
Runtime: 84 minutes
Free room and board is never a bad deal, that is unless your proprietors are a psychologically disturbed horror novelist and her domineering college professor husband. In Josephine Decker’s Shirley (an adaptation of the Susan Scarf Merrell novel of the same name) Elisabeth Moss plays the title role of Shirley Jackson, delivering a subtle but deeply disturbing portrait of the challenged author. Rose and Fred Nemser, the young couple that takes up residence at the Jackson home, are soon engulfed in a world of nightmarish proportions and strange sexual undertones. A mind-trip for sure, Shirley is all about the slow descent of all characters into Shirley’s personal hell. Misery loves company, they say.
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Stars: Elisabeth Moss, Michael Stuhlbarg, Odessa Young
Director: Josephine Decker
Runtime: 107 minutes
Sarah Paulson is having a moment — well, she’s always having a moment. The star actress is capping off the year with Run, an intense thriller originally set for theatrical release on Mother’s Day 2020, instead now exclusive to Hulu. Paulson stars as a mother who seems to be harboring a deep secret, as her isolated daughter Chloe is slowly discovering. Kiera Allen, who plays Chloe, matches Paulson scene for scene and advances the conversation about representation in film, as Allen is a wheelchair-bound actress. Run is the highlight of original movies that arrived to the streaming service in November.
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Stars: Sarah Paulson, Kiera Allen, Pat Healy
Director: Aneesh Chaganty
Runtime: 90 minutes
Arguably the most talked-about movie of 2019, director Bong Joon-ho hit it out of the park with this black comedy thriller about a poor family in South Korea who, in an attempt to improve their dire straits, hatch a seemingly clever plan. They each recommend one another for a job working for a wealthy family when, in reality, not a single one of them is qualified to fill the position they get. Sweeping the Academy Awards with four Oscars, including two of the most coveted ones, Best Picture and Best Director, the film transcends language and culture and gets right to the heart of issues like social inequality and wealth disparity.
Rotten Tomatoes: 99%
Stars: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam, Lee Jung-eun, Jang Hye-jin
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Runtime: 132 minutes
Jails aren’t the only prisons. Prisoners stars Hugh Jackman as Keller Dover, a man whose child was kidnapped on Thanksgiving, along with one of the daughter’s friends. Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) is tasked with finding the girls and bringing the kidnapper to justice. Dover eventually takes things into his own hands and both he and Loki deploy less-than-legal techniques to locate the victims. Jackman and Gyllenhaal both give passionate, stripped-down performances that resonate long after the credits roll, while the movie never drops its thrilling element, leaving audiences in suspense until the end.
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Runtime: 153 minutes
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)
The Mission Impossible films have been hugely successful, and this is one of just two of the films in the franchise you can stream via Hulu. In this, the fourth installment, Tom Cruise reprises his role as IMF agent Ethan Hunt whose latest mission (should he choose to accept it, of course) is to find the bad guy who is about to do something terrible with newly acquired Russian nuclear launch codes. Grab the popcorn as this one will be a bumpy, but thoroughly entertaining ride.
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Stars: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton
Director: Brad Bird
Runtime: 128 minutes
Super 8 (2011)
Produced by Steven Spielberg, this movie is set in 1979, when a group of decides to film a movie on Super 8. But when a train derails, something strange starts happening in their town. Given the time period, it’s no surprise the movie has been compared to others that were actually made during the ’80s, like E.T., Stand by Me, and The Goonies, but with a darker, more ominous approach. While the concept might not be entirely original, the film is worth watching for the impressive technical and special effects alone, for which it won many awards.
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Stars: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Gabriel Basso, Noah Emmerich
Director: J.J. Abrams
Runtime: 112 minutes
A former undercover cop seeks revenge on the gang she was once embedded in, more than a decade after a bank robbery the gang committed. If the plot doesn’t drive you to watch Destroyer, the tour de force performance of Nicole Kidman should. Even though the film was a box office flop, Kidman gave it her all, turning in a remarkable performance that sheds any previous notions of limitations she has as an actress. Dark, gritty, and unrelenting, Destroyer is a tremendous trip that should go down as one of Kidman’s greatest cinematic roles, one which earned her a Golden Globe nomination.
Rotten Tomatoes: 73%
Star: Nicole Kidman
Director: Karyn Kusama
Runtime: 121 minutes
Eye in the Sky (2015)
The film marks the late Alan Rickman’s last live-action project and was dedicated to his memory. Exploring the ethics of drone warfare, it is set in Nairobi, Kenya, where an undercover British/Kenyan agent has been murdered by a terrorist group and the hunt begins to take them down. British Army Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) must decide if she should give the go-ahead for a missile attack to take out suicide bombers. But there’s a wrench in the plan: an innocent young girl is on the premises and there’s a high probability she would be killed, too. The film truly makes you examine the question, what is the cost of war?
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Stars: Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman, Barkhad Abdi, Jeremy Northam, Iain Glen
Director: Gavin Hood
Runtime: 102 minutes
If you’re in the mood for a psychological thriller, this one might satisfy your craving. After a comet passes by while friends are enjoying a dinner party, there’s a strange power outage; then, strange things start to happen. The friends discover a box with photos of themselves at a dinner party set for eight in an empty house across the street. It turns out the other house is an alternate, a sort of upside-down, bizarro carbon copy of the world, with identical replicas of each person there, just as confused as they are. It’s like a twisty, mind-bending funhouse come to life, and viewers will enjoy going along for the ride.
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Stars: Emily Baldoni, Maury Sterling, Nicholas Brendon
Director: James Ward Byrkit
Runtime: 88 minutes
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