Netflix has a large selection of movies to watch, but only some can be winners. Each month, we pick five great thrillers to watch that feel like great fits for that specific month. Maybe the movie is seasonally appropriate, maybe it’s leaving Netflix soon, maybe the people involved have a new project coming out, or maybe it just feels right — sometimes, it’s just vibes.
This month, our picks for you to enjoy at home include an Alfred Hitchcock classic, a rare successful modern Hitchcock imitator, an exciting Denzel-led remake of a classic, and more for you to watch this month.
The Taking of Pelham 123
Run time: 1h 46m
Director: Tony Scott
Cast: Denzel Washington, John Travolta, John Turturro
One of my favorite runs for a filmmaker is Tony Scott from 2004’s Man on Fire to his final film, 2010’s Unstoppable. Scott embraced the arrival of digital filmmaking tools and used them to enhance his work, with rapid-fire editing and amplified color tones bringing the most out of his action thrillers.
This era also saw Scott repeatedly work with Denzel Washington, and the two never missed. In addition to Man on Fire and Unstoppable, the two collaborated on the sci-fi thriller Deja Vu and this remake of the 1974 classic train heist movie.
Washington stars as subway dispatcher Walter Garber, who finds himself as the negotiator in an ongoing hostage crisis on board the titular train. John Travolta is appropriately unhinged as the lead hijacker, and the movie has a sprawling cast that features John Turturro (NYPD’s hostage negotiator, who Travolta rejects in favor of Washington’s Garber), Luis Guzmán, and James Gandolfini, among many others.
The movie features some great train action scenes, but the highlight is the interplay between Washington and Travolta, both at their very best in this cat-and-mouse thriller. —Pete Volk
I See You
Run time: 1h 38m
Director: Adam Randall
Cast: Helen Hunt, Jon Tenney, Owen Teague
This 2019 psychological thriller centers on the life of the Harper family: Jackie (Helen Hunt), a successful psychologist; Greg (Jon Tenney), a police detective and Jackie’s husband; and Connor (Judah Lewis), Jackie and Greg’s teenage son. After Jackie’s infidelity with another man is revealed, the Harpers struggle to rebuild their lives together. While this is happening, Greg is brought on to investigate a series of mysterious and violent kidnappings linked to a rash of similar incidents dating back several years prior.
As Greg’s investigation advances, the Harpers are menaced by a mysterious vandal with knowledge not only of their deepest secrets and whereabouts, but apparent access to their home. Who is this masked assailant, and what is their connection to these recent disappearances? Where I See You may suffer from occasionally wooden performances and admittedly subpar pacing, it excels in contorting its relatively simple premise into increasingly macabre and surprising new shapes. If you’re looking for a murder mystery drama/slow-burn cerebral home invasion thriller with unsettling found-footage elements à la Michael Haneke’s Caché, I See You is the perfect choice. —Toussaint Egan
Run time: 1h 49m
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin
What could possibly be said about Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 psychological horror thriller that hasn’t already been said before several times over? Psycho is an undisputed masterpiece, the crown jewel in a filmography of a director with no shortage of cinematic gems, a film so iconic and widely referenced and parodied by countless other films and television series, the thought that anyone could go without recognizing it feels all but impossible.
The film stars Vera Miles and John Gavin as Lila Crane and Sam Loomis, the sister and lover respectively of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), a would-be embezzler on the run after stealing $40,000 from her job as a bank teller. Investigating her disappearance, Lila and Sam track Marion’s last-known whereabouts to a motel run by Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) and his mother. To say anything more would be to spoil the plot. If you somehow have never seen or heard about Psycho, stop what you’re doing and make it your priority to watch this film. —TE
Run time: 1h 46m
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Rooney Mara, Jude Law, Channing Tatum
Now, from a Hitchcock classic to a Hitchcock-inspired modern classic.
Before making movies with his iPhone, and before his “retirement” from directing, Steven Soderbergh made this captivating psychological thriller about the pharmaceutical industry, written by his frequent collaborator Scott Z. Burns (Contagion).
In Side Effects, Emily (Rooney Mara) a wealthy woman whose husband (Channing Tatum) recently got out of prison after a bid for insider trading. After attempting to take her own life, Emily is prescribed an experimental drug by a pair of psychiatrists (Jude Law and Catherine Zeta-Jones), with shocking… side effects.
Soderbergh’s most Hitchcockian movie (at least until Kimi), Side Effects is a clever thriller with great central performances (especially Mara, who is fantastic in a great addition to the “a person has an extremely bad time” film canon) and plenty of twists to keep viewers guessing. It’s also the kind of movie that rewards rewatches — if you’ve already seen it, now’s a good opportunity to revisit it. —PV
Run time: 1h 30m
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Riley Keough, Peter Sarsgaard
If you’re looking for another unhinged, nail-biting Jake Gyllenhaal performance similar to 2014’s Nightcrawler, Antoine Fuqua’s 2021 crime thriller is the movie for you. Written by Nic Pizzolatto of True Detective fame, this American remake of the 2018 Danish film of the same name stars Gyllenhaal in this one-man drama as Joe Baylor, an LAPD officer working a probationary night shift at a 911 call center in the lead-up to an undisclosed court hearing. When Joe receives an emergency call from a kidnapped woman, he frantically works to track down the culprit in his personal bid for redemption. But not everything is as it seems, and Joe will have to face not only the truth of the situation but also himself if he has any shot of setting things right. Powered by an impeccably magnetic lead performance, The Guilty is a solid and entertaining thriller worth watching. —TE