The Best Thrillers on Netflix Canada Right Now
From nail-biting murder mysteries to pulse-pounding capers, here are the most suspenseful offerings on Netflix Canada.
All Will Dormer (Al Pacino) wants is a good night’s sleep. The gifted LAPD detective has just been called up to the sleepy fishing community of Nightmute, Alaska—where the sun never sets—to help solve the murder of a local teen. But when the lead suspect (a deliciously creepy Robin Williams) begins taunting him, it’s only a matter of time before Dormer’s demons join the fray. Insomnia is Christopher Nolan’s first major studio picture, and already the legendary auteur’s visual flair and psychological preoccupations are on full display.
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The Interpreter (2005)
This intelligent thriller—the final feature directed by Sydney Pollack (The Firm)—was among the handful of paranoid American films made in the wake of 9/11. Nicole Kidman stars as a UN translator who inadvertently learns of the plan to assassinate the president of the fictional Matobo before he is to be indicted on charges of genocide. Though The Interpreter is sometimes undermined by its tendency to pull punches, it nevertheless succeeds at shining a light on the ugliest aspects of global politics. Bonus: it was the first-ever movie to be filmed inside UN Headquarters in New York City.
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The success of Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite—it became the first non-English language film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture—was a watershed moment for world cinema. Fortunately, it couldn’t have happened to a timelier movie. Bong’s razor-sharp critique of inequality in South Korea, in which the impoverished Kim family devise a series of schemes in order to work for the wealthy Parks, is a fiendishly entertaining thriller. Parasite’s greatest strength? It doesn’t place either family on a moral pedestal—giving the film’s title that much more mystery.
Sometimes referred to as “France’s Zero Dark Thirty,” November takes a similarly meticulous—and suspenseful—approach to dramatizing violent real-world events; in this case, the 2015 Paris attacks and the subsequent five-day manhunt undertaken by French anti-terrorism units to find those responsible. And while November notably lacks its American counterpart’s relentless moral probing, perhaps that’s the point: these senseless acts happen so often, there’s no time for self-reflection.
Combine the ethical murk and vicious anger of 2003’s Mystic River with the insane twists of a Criminal Minds episode and the results would not be too far off from this acclaimed thriller. When his young daughter and her friend go missing and the prime suspect is released, everyman Keller Dover (Hugh Jackson) takes matters into his own hands. Meanwhile, the investigation’s lead detective (a twitchy Jake Gyllenhaal) is not convinced the case is ever so simple. Prisoners is not an easy film to sit through, but as an examination of human frailty, it will surely inspire a debate or two.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
“I think people are perverts,” said David Fincher in 2011. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, then, is the director’s purest distillation of his belief. Based on the bestseller by the late Stieg Larsson, this adaptation follows Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a brilliant computer hacker with a troubled past. Together with journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), Salander investigates the 40-year-old disappearance of an heiress. (Needless to say, Dragon Tattoo’s lurid revelations are not for the faint of heart.)
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Wind River (2017)
In the final entry of writer-director Taylor Sheridan’s (Yellowstone) Western frontier-set trilogy, a rookie FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) teams up with an expert wildlife tracker (Jeremy Renner) to investigate the murder of a local woman on the titular Wyoming reservation. Nothing, however, can prepare the duo for the devastating truth about the young girl’s death. Wind River is one of the best thrillers on Netflix Canada—and a sobering, socially resonant work.
Side Effects (2013)
If Alfred Hitchcock were alive to take on the modern pharmaceutical industry, the result might be something close to Steven Soderbergh’s twisty Side Effects. The life of good-guy psychiatrist Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) is turned upside down when one of his patients (Rooney Mara) is charged with murder while on an experimental new drug that Banks has prescribed. This is a deliriously fun and nasty movie—one that is so well-versed in thriller conventions, it stays two steps ahead of its audience for much of its lean 106-minute runtime.
Hell or High Water (2016)
In order to stop their family’s West Texas ranch from being foreclosed, two brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) begin robbing small banks. Meanwhile, a clever Texas Ranger (Jeff Bridges) is hot on the brothers’ tail and vows to ambush them at the scene of their next crime. A sleeper hit, Hell or High Water was nominated for four Academy Awards in 2017, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Bridges.
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In the Line of Fire (1993)
On November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Thirty years later, Frank Horrigan (Clint Eastwood), the last remaining Secret Service agent who was guarding Kennedy that afternoon, is still haunted by his failure. Enter Mitch Leary (John Malkovich): a disenchanted former CIA operative who plans to assassinate the current president—and who taunts Horrigan along the way. In the Line of Fire features top-notch direction and a taut screenplay, but it’s Malkovich who threatens to steal the show in an Academy Award-nominated turn that surely inspired one or two future Joker performances.
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Shot Caller (2017)
When his drunk driving gets his best friend killed, wealthy stockbroker Jacob Harlon (Game of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is sent to a notorious maximum-security prison: the California Institution for Men. Once inside, Jacob joins a white supremacist gang in return for protection, but learns the hard way that once you join a prison gang, there’s no getting out—even when you’re released early on parole.
History professor Adam Bell (Jake Gyllenhaal) seemingly leads a normal life—but something is afoot. One day, Adam rents an obscure film, and in it spots an actor who looks exactly like him. Is this man his doppelganger, his twin brother, a figment of a fraying mind or a manifestation of a guilty deed? Enemy may have more questions than answers but, like the very best psychodramas, it’s all the more fascinating for it. Plus, it’s one of the few movies filmed in Toronto that’s actually set in Toronto.
A Simple Favor (2018)
As the director of Bridesmaids and Spy, Paul Feig is no stranger to comedy. His first foray into mystery, however, might be his strongest effort yet. In Connecticut, widowed mom Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) spends her hours running a no-name blog; one day, her rather dull existence is enlivened by Emily (Blake Lively), the high-powered director of a PR company and mother of her son’s classmate. What follows is an engrossing and darkly funny whodunnit after Emily vanishes and Stephanie learns her new friend wasn’t what she seemed.
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Triple 9 (2016)
This criminally underrated, A-list thriller—it stars Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Kate Winslet, Gal Gadot and Anthony Mackie, to name a few—follows a crew of corrupt Atlanta cops who are blackmailed by the Russian-Jewish Mafia into taking on a risky job. The plan? Break into the Department of Homeland Security to steal valuable intel—and manufacture a genuine “999,” police code for “officer down,” in order to do so.
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Mystic River (2003)
Clint Eastwood’s most unlikely film is also his most disturbing. Sean Penn gives the performance of a lifetime as Jimmy Markum, a convenience store owner—and ex-con—whose teenage daughter is found murdered after a night out. Mystic River’s stellar supporting cast includes Kevin Bacon, Marcia Gay Harden and Laura Linney; Tim Robbins, meanwhile, plays Dave Boyle, an old friend of Jimmy’s reeling from his own ordeal. Mystic River is a film about many things: vengeance, trauma, self-deception. But above all else, it is a work of absolute power.
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Set in the dangerous border lands between the United States and Mexico, idealistic FBI agent Kate Mercer (Emily Blunt) is enlisted by a sly government official (Josh Brolin) to bring down a lieutenant in the notorious Sonora Cartel. Joining the team is Alejandro (Benicio del Toro), an enigmatic “adviser” with a dark past. Sicario is a visceral and intelligent thriller—and a unique deep-dive into the failure of America’s War on Drugs.
The Guilty (2021)
In this remake of the 2018 Danish film of the same name, Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Joe Baylor, an LAPD officer demoted to working nights at a 911 call centre while awaiting a court hearing. Late into one particular shift, Joe gets a call from a woman named Emily, who claims she’s been abducted and is being held in a white van on the move. As the night unfolds, however, Joe learns that Emily’s predicament isn’t so cut-and-dried. Brilliantly acted, smartly paced and packing a handful of astonishing twists, The Guilty is one of the best thrillers on Netflix Canada.
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Escape from Pretoria (2020)
This criminally underrated thriller—it stars Daniel Radcliffe, moving further away from his Harry Potter roots—follows two white South African anti-apartheid activists who are sent to Pretoria Central Prison for lengthy sentences. The duo’s plan? With the help of a fellow prisoner, they analyze every inch of the complex and memorize every task the guards are given—and plan a daring, against-the-odds escape. What Escape from Pretoria lacks in innovation, it more than makes up for in nerve-wracking action.
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22 July (2018)
On July 22, 2011, Norwegian far-right terrorist Anders Behring Breivik carried out two attacks in his home country: a car bomb explosion in Oslo and a mass shooting at a Workers’ Youth League summer camp on the island of Utøya. The attacks claimed 77 lives and injured more than 300 people. 22 July depicts the events of that day in harrowing detail, before a superb coda that ends things on a hopeful note.
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Operation Finale (2018)
After the end of the Second World War, Adolf Eichmann (Ben Kingsley), one of the principle masterminds of the Holocaust, disappeared without a trace. Almost two decades later, a team of Israeli Mossad agents led by Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaacs) locate him in Buenos Aires under a new identity. Their mission? Kidnap Eichmann and bring him back to Israel to be tried for his crimes. Based on Palkin’s memoir, Operation Finale is first and foremost a late-career acting showcase for Kingsley.
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Bad Genius (2017)
Set in the high-stakes world of university admissions testing, the exhilarating Bad Genius follows Lynn, a Thai math prodigy who builds a lucrative exam-cheating business. Her ultimate goal: cracking the Standard Test for International Colleges—the correct answers to which could net her millions of dollars from her wealthy clientele. Answering multiple-choice questions has never been so nerve-racking!
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Gerald’s Game (2017)
Jessie (Carla Gugino) and Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) travel to an isolated lake house in the hopes of reviving their marriage. Once there, Gerald handcuffs Jessie to their bedposts to act out a sexual fantasy, but suddenly dies of a heart attack. Quickly succumbing to dehydration and hunger, Jessie must battle her own demons (and a hungry dog) in order to escape. Gerald’s Game is one of the most horrifying Stephen King adaptations in recent memory.
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Two childhood friends, macho businessman Marcus and shy father-to-be Vaughn, reunite for a weekend hunting trip in the Scottish Highlands. Their happy get-together, however, quickly turns into a nightmare when Vaughn accidentally kills a young boy during one of their expeditions. Can Marcus and Vaughn hide their horrible crime without arousing suspicion from the locals? One of the best thrillers on Netflix Canada, Calibre is an edge-of-your-seat ride from start to finish.
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The Decline (2020)
Convinced that a cataclysmic event is just around the corner, Antoine (Guillaume Laurin) travels to rural Nord-du-Québec to meet Alain (Réal Bossé), a survival expert. The charismatic Alain has built a self-sufficient compound on his 500-acre property, and has also invited five other survivalism enthusiasts to his intensive training program. When a freak accident leaves one person dead, however, the group argues over what to do next, provoking a tense—and violent—showdown.
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The Red Sea Diving Resort (2019)
Inspired by true events, The Red Sea Diving Resort follows a group of international spies—led by Israeli Mossad agent Ari Levinson (Chris Evans)—as they attempt to rescue thousands of refugees fleeing Sudan in the early ’80s. The Wire‘s Michael K. Williams co-stars.
Now that you know the best thrillers on Netflix, check out the best movies on Netflix Canada—according to Rotten Tomatoes!