The best thriller movies on Hulu

The best thriller movies on Hulu

Clockwise from top left: The Clovehitch Killer (Screenshot); Destroyer (Photo: Annapurna Pictures); The Nightingale (Photo: IFC Films); The Guilty (Photo: Magnolia); Joe (Screenshot); Goodnight Mommy (Screenshot); Killer Joe (Screenshot)
Clockwise from top left: The Clovehitch Killer (Screenshot); Destroyer (Photo: Annapurna Pictures); The Nightingale (Photo: IFC Films); The Guilty (Photo: Magnolia); Joe (Screenshot); Goodnight Mommy (Screenshot); Killer Joe (Screenshot)

Streaming libraries expand and contract. Algorithms are imperfect. Those damn thumbnail images are always changing. But you know what you can always rely on? The expert opinions and knowledgeable commentary of The A.V. Club. That’s why we’re scouring both the menus of the most popular services and our own archives to bring you these guides to the best viewing options, broken down by streamer, medium, and genre. Want to know why we’re so keen on a particular movie? Click the author’s name at the end of each passage for more in-depth analysis from The A.V. Club’s past. And be sure to check back often, because we’ll be adding more recommendations as films come and go.

Some titles on this list also appear on our best movies on Hulu, but we decided thriller films deserved their own spotlight since they are often not included on our year-end lists as much as other genres. The criteria for inclusion here is that (1) the film is classified by Hulu as a thriller film (so don’t shoot the messenger if you think something is misgenred here), (2) The A.V. Club has written critically about the movie; and (3) if it was a graded review, it received at least a “B.” Some newer (and much older) movies will be added over time as Hulu announces new additions to their library.

Looking for other movies to stream? Also check out our list of the best movies on Netflix, best movies on Disney+, and best movies on Amazon Prime. And if you’re looking to laugh, check out our list of the best horror movies and the best comedy movies on Hulu.

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The Cabin In The Woods

The Cabin In The Woods

Illustration for article titled The best thriller movies on Hulu
Screenshot: A Cabin In The Woods

Where Scream put a postmodern twist on slasher films, The Cabin In The Woods takes on the whole genre and twists even harder. Director Drew Goddard, screenwriter of Cloverfield and a veteran of Lost and Alias, co-wrote the film’s script with Joss Whedon, who worked with him on Whedon’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel. The script brings to the fore Whedon’s love of subverting clichés while embracing them and teasing out their deeper meaning. [Keith Phipps]

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3 / 21

Casino Royale

Casino Royale

Daniel Craig
Daniel Craig

The most significant shot in Casino Royale—the Daniel Craig revamp of the James Bond franchise—comes early, while the new Bond is getting his Parkour on and hopping from beam to beam at a construction site in pursuit of a terrorist bomber. When Craig severs a cable so he can rise up on a pulley, there’s an insignificant insert shot of the pipes Craig cut loose, now tumbling on the ground. But it’s only insignificant from a plot perspective. From a thematic perspective, the falling pipes reflect the mission statement for this new Bond: “Actions have consequences.” This is a messier Bond than we’d seen in a while. He’s impulsive, he miscalculates, and when he kills someone, he gets blood on his hands, his face, and all over his clothes. In Casino Royale, 007 has plenty of chances to get bloody. [Noel Murray]

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4 / 21

The Clovehitch Killer

The Clovehitch Killer

Dylan McDermott
Dylan McDermott
Screenshot: The Clovehitch Killer

Not enough attention has been paid to The Clovehitch Killer, directed by first-timer Duncan Skiles, from a script by Cop Car co-screenwriter Christopher Ford, starring Dylan McDermott as a beloved small-town scoutmaster who may be a serial rapist and murderer. Lean On Pete’s Charlie Plummer plays the man’s son, in a story that unfolds in three distinct parts, each asking two unsettling questions: What if this seemingly upstanding, conservative Christian community leader is actually a dangerous criminal? And what is it about who he is and where he lives that might let him get away with something truly heinous? The Clovehitch Killer takes an unusually slow-paced and experimental approach to mystery and suspense, but it’s also a cogent critique of how “the culture wars” can provide a cover for someone whose sins are far beyond what his neighbors can imagine. [Noel Murray]

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Coherence

Coherence

Emily Foxler
Emily Foxler
Screenshot: Coherence

The minimalist sci-fi mindbender Coherence boasts a scenario as tried and true as the walking dead: Bickering individuals hole up in a house during a crisis, discovering that the threat looming beyond their walls may pale in comparison to the conflict happening within them. There’s a wrinkle in the design this time, however, and it’s that the characters are their own worst enemies not just in a figurative sense, but in a literal one, too. Confused? Writer-director James Ward Byrkit has the answers, and he’s not stingy about providing them. What separates his film from other exercises in Twilight Zone trickery is its refusal to play coy with a high concept. Unlike, say, the feature-length rug-pull The Signal, Coherence doesn’t get off on withholding. It would rather milk its premise for all it’s worth than stockpile secrets. The result is an uncommonly clever genre movie, reliant not on special effects—of which there are basically none—but on heavy doses of paranoia. [A.A. Dowd]

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Destroyer

Destroyer

Nicole Kidman
Nicole Kidman
Photo: Annapurna Pictures

Destroyer, from The Invitation director Karyn Kusama, is very much in the mold of antiestablishment ’70s cop movies like Serpico and Dirty Harry, but with a gender-swapped twist: Nicole Kidman stars as Erin Bell, an LAPD detective who’s still scarred by an undercover assignment that went tragically wrong nearly 20 years earlier. Unable to forgive herself for her role in the debacle, Erin let her guilt consume her from the inside like a cancer. Now, she’s a hard-drinking, rage-filled, brittle husk of a woman who regularly sleeps in her car. But Kusama and Kidman give Erin’s hard-bitten amorality an intriguing twist by making her, for all her violent tantrums, ineffective and eternally frustrated. In the opening minutes of the film, Erin stomps onto a murder scene on the dried-up banks of the L.A. River, demanding information from the cops standing around the body. They tell her to go home and get some rest. It’s a dynamic that repeats throughout the film, as Erin descends back into her own personal hell after receiving a coded message from Silas (Toby Kebbell), the leader of the high-desert gang she and her former partner/boyfriend Chris (Sebastian Stan) infiltrated all those years ago. [Katie Rife]

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7 / 21

Goodnight Mommy

Goodnight Mommy

Illustration for article titled The best thriller movies on Hulu
Screenshot: Goodnight Mommy

Squirming just below the surface of Goodnight Mommy, a nerve-shredding thriller from far-flung Austria, is an almost comically predictable plot twist. Moviegoers hip to the true identities of Tyler Durden and Keyser Söze should figure it out by the end of the first reel, when the filmmakers have already begun to show their hand. But you don’t go to a midnight movie to have your mind blown. You go to have your stomach churned, your hairs put on end, your fingers forced over your eyes. And by that base criteria, this elegantly nasty little potboiler should satisfy those brave enough to brave it. They might see the big reveal coming, but that won’t help them unsee the horrors leading up to it. Nearly all of the film takes place in a secluded country house, surrounded by an idyllic forest and vast cornfields, perfect for frolicking and fleeing. This is the new home of 9-year-old twins Elias (Elias Schwarz) and Lukas (Lukas Schwarz), as well as their mother (Susanne Wuest), an anchorwoman who’s just undergone cosmetic surgery. To these troublemaking boys, there’s something not quite right about Mommy: Beyond her strange, frightening appearance—a pair of bloodshot eyes peeping out from behind a mask of bandages—she just seems different. For one thing, she’ll barely acknowledge Lukas’ existence, addressing only Elias and providing the boys with a single dinner, one set of clothes in the morning, etc. Soon, the brothers begin to wonder if it’s someone else entirely under all that gauze—if, in fact, their mother has been replaced by a malevolent imposter. [A.A. Dowd]

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8 / 21

The Guilty

The Guilty

Jakob Cedergren in The Guilty
Jakob Cedergren in The Guilty
Photo: Magnolia

Stories confined to a single location had a special place in the career of Alfred Hitchcock, who saw them as opportunities to experiment: with long takes in Rope, 3D in Dial M For Murder, and studios sets in Lifeboat and Rear Window, one of his celebrated and most imitated films. But one wonders what the master of suspense would have made of the Danish emergency call center that provides the backdrop for Gustav Möller’s intriguing thriller The Guilty. A utilitarian bullpen with six desks and a water cooler, the setting of Möller’s debut feature is distinctly awkward and uncinematic—a ploy to get us into the point of view of Asger Holm (Jakob Cedergren), a disillusioned Copenhagen narcotics officer who has been reassigned to dispatch until a high-profile internal investigation blows over. It might not be the kind of movie that anyone needs to see twice, but The Guilty’s variations on the classic building blocks of suspense implicate our own guesswork in interesting ways—suggesting, in a roundabout manner, that the qualities that make Asger a driven protagonist might make him a less than ideal officer of the law. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

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9 / 21

Joe

Joe

Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan
Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan
Screenshot: Joe

These days, the performances of Nicolas Cage can usually be divided into one of two categories. The actor is either outright bad, in that lazy Con Air kind of way, mumbling through his lines and defaulting to sullen action-star mode. Or—and this is much more fun, obviously—he’s good bad, offering the kind of bellowing, cartoon-junkie intensity that seems readymade for YouTube encapsulation. (The Wicker Man remake may be awful, but because of its star and his lunatic line readings, it’s rarely boring.) Every once in a while, though, Cage does the unthinkable and offers a performance that requires neither apologies nor camp appreciation. For two hours or so, he becomes a magnetic actor again, the same vibrant presence who wowed audiences with his work in Leaving Las Vegas and Adaptation. He is, in these rare instances, just plain good. That Cage, the serious and committed one, shows up for work again in Joe, a ramshackle Southern drama about poverty, dead-end lives, and the day-to-day difficulty of keeping your hands clean in a dirty world. [A.A. Dowd]

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Killer Joe

Killer Joe

Matthew McConaughey
Matthew McConaughey
Photo: Killer Joe

Matthew McConaughey topped a resurgent 2012 as the eponymous character in Killer Joe, a redneck noir that bristles with sleazy wit. McConaughey plays a police detective who moonlights as a contract killer, a double life that gives McConaughey an advantage in investigative cover-ups (see also: Morgan, Dexter), but one that requires careful management so McConaughey doesn’t cross the streams. He’s utterly psychotic, but he keeps his anger and creepy peccadilloes in check while spending much of his time leveraging power and control from the desperate, greedy pond scum that requires his services. Whatever threat he poses is hidden behind the eyes. [Scott Tobias]

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The Lodge

The Lodge

The Lodge
The Lodge
Photo: Neon

The stranded family of The Lodge are locked in a cold war even before the harsh weather strands them indoors. Teenage Aidan (It’s Jaeden Martell) and his younger sister, Mia (Lia McHugh), give a chilly reception to their father’s new fiancé, Grace (Riley Keough). Their resentment runs deeper than the usual reluctance to warm to a surrogate parent; it stems from a trauma The Lodge inflicts early, the tragedy and unspeakable loss—a jolt of shattering violence—that sends the plot into glacial motion. Grace, as it turns out, has deep wounds of her own. Her father was the leader of a radical Christian cult whose entire congregation committed suicide when she was 12, leaving her the only survivor. The first real glimpse we get of her is in the front seat of a car, back to the camera, eyes in the rearview mirror. They want to appear friendly. They mainly look haunted. [A.A. Dowd]

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12 / 21

Luce

Luce

Luce
Luce
Photo: Neon

There’s a scene early in Luce, a riveting psychodrama about race and preconceptions, that’s as tense as any thriller, and all it really comes down to is two people talking in a classroom, their deceptively polite conversation shading into passive-aggressive antagonism. One of the two is the title character, a beaming A-student played by Kelvin Harrison Jr. The other is his government and history teacher, Ms. Wilson (Octavia Spencer), the only instructor at their Virginia high school who ever seems to challenge the star athlete, debate-club champion, and soon-to-be valedictorian—though she, too, views him as an “important example to the school,” a Black kid who’s climbed his way to the top of the class. Harrison perfectly captures the poise and charisma of an academic golden child, the kind who knows just how to talk to adults, projecting sincerity and gratitude with just a touch of good humor, so as not to come off an unlikable, Tracy Flick-like overachiever. But the actor also lets us see, early and often, how that congeniality is a kind of front: a whole manufactured persona Luce can toggle on or off. And as Ms. Wilson carefully questions the promising pupil about an assignment he’s turned in that’s raised some red flags for her, his mask of ingratiation slips, just long enough for him to issue what sounds an awful lot like a veiled threat. It’s a remarkable, chilling performance: from Harrison, certainly, but also from his character, playing code-switching mind games with his teacher. [A.A. Dowd]

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Mission: Impossible—Fallout

Mission: Impossible—Fallout

Mission: Impossible — Fallout
Mission: Impossible — Fallout
Photo: Paramount Pictures

Only about 30 rocket-paced minutes have whizzed by before Mission: Impossible­—Fallout first flirts with truly impossible odds. Ethan Hunt, the human missile of American intelligence that Tom Cruise has been popping back in to play for more than 20 years now, is masquerading as a mysterious terrorist, the perfectly named John Lark, to buy back some plutonium he’s lost to a cabal of doomsday extremists. The bad guys, alas, will accept only one form of payment: the sneering anarchist supervillain Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), who Hunt put away in the last Mission: Impossible and is now forced to bust out of police custody to avert nuclear catastrophe. Forget, for a moment, the risk that our hero will unleash the world’s most dangerous man back on the world. How, exactly, can Hunt free his nemesis without either killing a lot of innocent cops or blowing his cover as an agent of chaos who wouldn’t think twice about leaving a trail of bodies in his wake? [A.A. Dowd]

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14 / 21

Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol

Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol

Jeremy Renner and Tom Cruise
Jeremy Renner and Tom Cruise
Photo: Paramount Pictures

There’s always been a degree of cheek to the Mission: Impossible film series, which for two decades has offered a knowing, but generally exciting, take on a 1960s TV series that pitted mask-happy, gadget-wielding spies against megalomaniacal madmen. In both the film and TV versions, any resemblance to actual espionage was purely coincidental. Though J.J. AbramsMission: Impossible III introduced some emotional stakes, the M:I movies have mostly served as a testing ground for how well a director could craft an exciting action sequence around Tom Cruise. Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol, the series’ fourth film, charges director Brad Bird with the task, betting that the animator behind The Incredibles and Ratatouille would have similar luck with flesh and blood in his live-action debut. The bet pays off. And then some. [Keith Phipps]

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15 / 21

The Nightingale

The Nightingale

The Nightingale
The Nightingale
Photo: IFC Films

Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale is a Western revenge yarn of such heightened cruelty and suffering that it basically demands to be read as allegory. Westerns, as a rule, are violent, and that perhaps goes double for the Aussie ones, which tend to be more pitiless than their American cousins, stripping the genre of its romance and derring-do. Even by those standards, The Nightingale is tough to take. Set in the Oz of 1825, it confronts audiences with the full horror of colonialism, including enough scenes of sexual assault to warrant the trigger warning offered up before several screenings of the film. But while what we see and can never unsee over the course of a grueling two-plus hours is certainly extreme, it’s not gratuitous. That’s partially because Kent, who made the spectacular spookfest The Babadook, isn’t some B-movie shockmeister, rubbing our noses in ugliness for the sake of it. She’s pulled back the veil of awful history to find a cracked reflection of the modern world—and a corresponding, hard-won beauty in solidarity among survivors. [A.A. Dowd]

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Parasite

Parasite

Parasite
Parasite
Photo: Neon

The last time Bong Joon Ho made a parable of class warfare, he set it aboard one hell of a moving metaphor: a train looping endlessly around a frozen Earth, its passengers divided into cars based on wealth and status, upward mobility achieved only through lateral revolution. Parasite, the South Korean director’s demented and ingenious movie, doesn’t boast quite as sensational a setting; it takes place mostly within a chicly modern suburban home, all high ceilings, stainless steel countertops, and windows instead of walls, advertising the elegant interior decoration within. But there’s a clear class hierarchy at play here, too; it runs top to bottom instead of front to back, vertically instead of horizontally. And though we’re watching a kind of warped upstairs-downstairs story, not a dystopian arcade brawler, Parasite races forward with the same locomotive speed as Snowpiercer, with plenty of its own twists and turns waiting behind each new door. [A.A. Dowd]

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Shirley

Shirley

Shirley
Shirley
Photo: Hulu

Suffering has long been characterized as a woman’s lot, canonized in the form of Catholic saints and celebrated in literature and art. (Pablo Picasso merely made it explicit when he said, “Women are suffering machines.”) To defy this edict will bring further misfortune, leaving only two choices: either smile and let your soul die piece by indignant piece, or embrace the darkness and learn to enjoy it. Josephine Decker’s Shirley is about a woman who opted for the latter: Shirley Jackson (played here by Elisabeth Moss), author of high-school staple “The Lottery” and the oft-adapted The Haunting Of Hill House.  Mocked by her peers, mistreated by her husband, and burdened by mental illness, Jackson lived with the psychic evils that lurk in her writing. But for Decker, what’s important about Shirley’s misery is how she used it to fuel her work. [Katie Rife]

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18 / 21

A Simple Favor

A Simple Favor

A Simple Favor
A Simple Favor
Photo: Lionsgate

Gallons of ink have been spilled on Paul Feig’s female-focused approach to comedy, so why isn’t one of the year’s best vehicles for women getting more press? Starring Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively in a twisted tale of suburban intrigue, A Simple Favor pioneers the subgenre of mommy-blog noir. But while it lives in the mundane realm of play dates and PTA meetings, the film also recognizes that, while they might spend a lot of time with kids, its characters (and target audience!) are still intelligent adults with sophisticated tastes, from dry gin martinis to designer menswear. [Katie Rife]

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Southbound

Southbound

Southbound
Southbound
Screenshot:

Heartless evildoers receiving their ironic comeuppance have been a horror staple since the days of EC Comics. The indie horror anthology Southbound puts a contemporary spin on this tradition, presenting five tales of irreversible decisions and their gruesome consequences. Sometimes the lessons in these mini-morality plays are ploddingly obvious—especially when Larry Fessenden explicitly explains them in his cameo role as a radio DJ—but then again, the same can be said for Tales From The Crypt. Set against the bleak landscape of the Southwestern desert, the segments overlap on several levels. Besides the Monty Python-style transitions, in which characters from one episode appear in the next, the movie also maintains a certain stylistic consistency throughout, which has its pluses (the segments share a timeless feel, à la Bates Motel) and minuses (shaky hand-held camerawork is an unfortunate constant). Regardless, that cohesion is a credit to the creative forces behind the film, and a welcome change from the wild inconsistencies of horror anthologies like the ABCs Of Death series. [Katie Rife]

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Super 8

Super 8

Illustration for article titled The best thriller movies on Hulu
Photo: Super 8

For a stretch of the 1980s, there wasn’t enough Steven Spielberg to go around. While continuing to direct a movie every year or two, Spielberg produced films that had the look and feel of Spielberg-by-proxy, films filled with end-of-childhood adventures, suburbs, and small towns that doubled as unexpected sites of wonder or horror. In the best of them, directors like Joe Dante and Robert Zemeckis put their personal stamp on Spielbergian themes while creating popcorn-friendly films to rival their inspiration. Set in the streets, magic-hour-blanketed hills, and cluttered suburban homes of a small Ohio town as the 1970s edge into the ’80s, the J.J. Abrams-scripted-and-directed Super 8—which Spielberg produced—consciously, and successfully, looks back to an era of abundant Spielbergiana. [Keith Phipps]

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