If you’re in the mood for some slow-burning, goosebump-inducing cinema, then it sounds like a good thriller film will satiate your appetite. The diverse thriller sub-genre is nestled in strange terrain between drama and horror, but it’s not uncommon for comedy to find its way in, too. Thrillers can have subdued narratives or completely bizarre stories that surprise at every turn. No matter the tale, a thriller’s job is to unsettle, and the films we’ve collected for this month’s roundup are quite unsettling, to say the least. We’ve taken the time to scour the annals of Hulu’s streaming library to hand-pick what we consider to be the very best thrillers on Hulu right now.
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 debut, director Duncan Skiles brings remarkable tension and hyper-focused 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
Only God Forgives (2013)
The streets of Bangkok run red in Nicolas Winding Refn’s visually intoxicating revenge-thriller, Only God Forgives. Julian (Ryan Gosling), an expatriate, runs an underground Muay Thai club and drug circuit with his older brother, Billy (Tom Burke). When Billy murders an underage prostitute, her father, under the authority of Thai police Lieutenant Chang, exacts his revenge on Billy, killing him. The brothers’ enraged mob-boss widow mother, Crystal, arrives (played by Kristin Scott Thomas), demanding Julian take revenge for Billy’s death, and all hell breaks loose. A bleak and unwavering film, Only God Forgives is a daring Hulu title that we can’t recommend enough. Be prepared for ultra-violence though — it’s Refn’s specialty.
Rotten Tomatoes: 41%
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Tom Burke
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Runtime: 90 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 labeled “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
The Hurt Locker (2009)
Danger is always lurking around the corner during war, but some military jobs carry more risk than others. Members of the Explosive Ordinance Disposal during the Iraq War had the unforgiving job of identifying and disabling explosives hidden everywhere from the ground, buildings, and in the trunks of abandoned cars. The stress of the job is unfathomable to most, including some on the team, but it’s a vital job that needs to be done, despite death being a possibility at a moment’s notice. The Hurt Locker keeps viewers on the edge of their seat, never revealing when the next explosion is coming and really giving viewers a fair and heart-pounding perspective of the danger of the job. The film, new to Hulu this December, won Best Picture at the Academy Awards, the only movie directed by a woman (Kathryn Bigelow) with that distinction.
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Stars: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Runtime: 131 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
The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
When a group of college students set out to a remote cabin to party, they end up getting more than they bargained for. Pivoting more toward the horror genre, this thriller sees the young adults getting unknowingly drugged and used as lab rats by technicians in an underground lab who look on as monsters and zombies attack them, one by one. Co-written by Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), the film has been praised for managing to be funny, strange, and scary, oddly all at the same time.
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Stars: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison
Director: Drew Goddard
Runtime: 95 minutes
Con Air (1997)
Nicolas Cage has a … unique … reputation now, but he used to be the typical Hollywood star, plying his craft mostly through action and thriller films. One of his best roles is as Cameron Poe in Con Air, where Cage plays a veteran charged with murder after defending his family from an attack. Upon being paroled, Poe finds himself caught up in an escape attempt on a prisoner transport plane with several very dangerous and disturbed convicts. Poe must battle from the inside to escape with his life and reunite with his family, including the daughter he has never met. The acting may seem extreme at times, but the action sequences are well-paced, keeping the thrills coming.
Rotten Tomatoes: 56%
Stars: Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, Steve Buscemi, John Malkovich
Director: Simon West
Runtime: 115 minutes
Super 8 (2011)
Produced by Steven Spielberg, this movie is set in 1979, when a group of teenagers 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 Simple Favor (2018)
When her new wealthy fashion executive friend (Blake Lively) mysteriously disappears, Stephanie (Anna Kendrick), a widowed single mother and small-town vlogger, decides to take it upon herself to solve the mystery. But what she unearths is like nothing she could ever have expected. With two powerful female actors heading up the cast, the film performed well at the box office, and critics called it “twisted” and “fun.”
Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
Stars: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding, Andrew Rannells
Director: Paul Feig
Runtime: 117 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
Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)
In the sixth and most recent installment of this hugely successful franchise (certainly not the last, as two more have been confirmed to be in the works), Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) has yet another mission. There’s plutonium missing and he and his team must retrieve it. Except when a mission goes awry, the CIA steps in to monitor the hunt. It remains not only the highest-grossing film in the franchise but also Cruise’s highest-grossing film ever. Considered by many to be the best Mission Impossible film to date, it’s worth watching as you await the release of the seventh and eighth films, likely to be released in late 2021 and 2022.
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Stars: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Angela Bassett, Michelle Monaghan, Alec Baldwin
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Runtime: 147 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
Fraud is the starting point for Arbitrage, as Robert Miller (Richard Gere) attempts to sell his company for more than $400 million, despite cooking the books. But that’s just the beginning of Miller’s problems, as the stress of his illegal dealings and an affair result in a car accident that takes the life of his mistress, which he must then cover-up to avoid further scrutiny from the authorities. Miller’s selfish decisions continue to have ramifications on his life, as he loses the respect and trust of everyone around him as he tries to keep himself out of trouble. Gere was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance, considered one of the best of his career.
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Stars: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Brit Marling
Director: Nicholas Jarecki
Runtime: 107 minutes
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
For those who like their thrillers with more scares, The Blair Witch Project specializes in the genre. One of the most legendary horror films of all time, The Blair Witch Project consists of “found-footage,” meant to look nothing like the cinematic blockbusters moviegoers have become accustomed to seeing. The film tracks three student filmmakers searching for a local legend, Blair Witch, in the Maryland woods. But viewers only see the experience through the eyes of the filmmakers and the footage they left behind while searching for the legend. It cost less than $1 million to make the film, which went on to rake in almost $250 million at the box office, a massive success story. The Blair Witch Project also spawned new “found-footage” films, like Cloverfield.
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
Stars: Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, Joshua Leonard
Directors: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez
Runtime: 82 minutes
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