100 thrillers to see before you die: 2000s

From Hidden to Memento: the best in suspense from the 2000s.

About Elly (2009)

Director Asghar Farhadi

About Elly (2009)

As in his better-known A Separation (2011), Asghar Farhadi renders moral questions as nail-biting as a Fast and Furious car chase. Here, a law graduate’s white lies about the friend she invites on holiday open up divisions in a group of supposedly liberal Tehranis. Pivoting among a large ensemble of characters, Farhadi retains absolute command of his inquest into sexual repression and social conformity. PHo

See also: Killing Mad Dogs (2001); The Salesman (2016)

Harry, He’s Here to Help (2000)

Director Dominik Moll

Harry, He’s Here to Help (2000)

There’s a touch of Tom Ripley to Harry (Sergi López), the supposed old school friend who insidiously soft-soaps his way into the lives of a young married couple during their holiday in the French countryside. Blackly comic, with a full serving of Hitchcockian thrills, this one’s like a Gallic answer to the ’90s Hollywood cycle of friendly psycho movies. With Lemming (2005) to follow, director Dominik Moll looked peerless for a brief spell in the early 2000s. SW

See also: Lemming (2005); Tell No One (2006)

The Headless Woman (2008)

Director Lucrecia Martel

The Headless Woman (2008)

No cliffhangers or races-against-the-clock here. No beheadings either. Instead, the tension in Lucrecia Martel’s disconcerting drama comes from the unnervingly framed images and the detailed ambience of the soundtrack. Both seem to promise a clue to what’s happened. Was it a dog that Véronica (María Onetto) hit in the road? If so, why is there a child’s handprint on her driver’s-side window? The Headless Woman unfolds in a state of foggy concussion, with the facts hanging tantalisingly out of reach. SW

See also: Death of a Cyclist (1955); Under the Sand (2000)

Hidden (2005)

Director Michael Haneke

Hidden (2005)

The Laurents (Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil) are being watched. Someone is sending them surveillance videos of their Paris apartment. Who, and why, is the conundrum at the heart of Michael Haneke’s anxiety-inducing arthouse brainteaser. Shifting and ambiguous, Hidden is a movie that forces us to distrust even its own shots — and a whodunit that draws an entire society into the frame. SW

See also: Funny Games (1996); Lost Highway (1997)

In the Cut (2003)

Director Jane Campion

In the Cut (2003)

Notable for casting America’s girl-next-door Meg Ryan as a sexually adventurous writer who begins a steamy affair with Mark Ruffalo’s NYPD cop, Jane Campion’s beguiling film draws on intertwining themes of sex and murder to weave an intricate psychological web of lust, carnality and dangerous animal instincts. NB

See also: Eyes of Laura Mars (1978); Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Lust, Caution (2007)

Director Ang Lee

Lust, Caution (2007)

In following up 2005’s Oscar-winning Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee chose to tell this mesmerising Second World War-era story, in which Wei Tang plays a young woman who falls for Tony Chiu-Wai Leung’s influential politician. That she is embroiled in a plot to murder him adds a level of double-crossing intrigue to an already powerful emotional thriller. NB

See also: Notorious (1946); Black Book (2006)

Memento (2000)

Director Christopher Nolan

Memento (2000)

Backwards and inside-out, Christopher Nolan’s calling-card puts the revenge thriller through contortions. Leonard (Guy Pearce) knows his wife was murdered, but – thanks to a crack on the head during the attack – can’t remember by whom. With no ability to create short-term memories, he tries to outfox his broken recall in order to find her killer. Nolan, long before Inception (2010), knew that there’s nothing as powerful, or as untrustworthy, as your own mind. HB

See also: Point Blank (1967); Following (1998)

Memories of Murder (2003)

Director Bong Joon-ho

Memories of Murder (2003)

Highly influential within the Korean industry, widely admired outside it, Bong Joon-ho’s brilliantly cynical sophomore effort was a Rorschach test for a fast-modernising country: a serial-killer investigation turns up more on the hunters than the hunted. Their incompetence and brutality supplies black comedy, which mutates into an indictment of 1980s South Korean nationalism, then fades finally into a mute fatalism that scars each protagonist. PHo

See also: Zodiac (2007); Mother (2009)

The Night of the Sunflowers (2006)

Director Jorge Sánchez-Cabezudo

The Night of the Sunflowers (2006)

Set in a remote region of western Spain, The Night of the Sunflowers adopts a Rashomon-like structure to unravel its story of a rape and the complicated aftermath from various perspectives. Sadly the sole feature to date by Jorge Sánchez-Cabezudo, who’s since settled in TV, it’s a slippery, sun-baked noir with disturbing implications. SW

See also: Jindabyne (2006); Once upon a Time in Anatolia (2011)

Nine Queens (2000)

Director Fabián Bielinsky

Nine Queens (2000)

At times making David Mamet’s House of Games (1987) look like a cheap three-card trick, Fabián Bielinsky’s debut feature is a masterclass in cinematic sleight-of-hand. It dares the audience to spot the scam as Buenos Aires small-timer Gastón Pauls teams up with ruthless hustler Ricardo Darín to make a quick killing on some counterfeit Weimar stamps. DP

See also: House of Games (1987); The Spanish Prisoner (1997)

Oldboy (2003)

Director Park Chan-wook

Oldboy (2003)

Grisly and fantastic, Park Chan-wook’s film writhes across genres. The plot – a drunken businessman is kidnapped, locked in a room for 15 years and released to track down his tormentor – betrays the film’s manga roots, but there are elements of Greek tragedy, Sam Peckinpah and Deadliest Catch in there too. The big scenes – the hammer fight, the octopus gobble – have become iconic. The rest is a horrific fable about violent trauma and its fallout. HB

See also: Lady Vengeance (2005); The Handmaiden (2016)

Tsotsi (2005)

Director Gavin Hood

Tsotsi (2005)

The slum-favela-township backdrop that added globalised flava in the 2000s to well-worn thriller tropes also grouts gritty imperfections on the redemptive arc of Gavin Hood’s 2005 Oscar-winner. The conceit is pure Hollywood – Soweto’s little Caesar is made human when he kidnaps a baby – but its abdication of thriller responsibilities in favour of a gentler path never feels like moral showboating. PHo

See also: Cry, the Beloved Country (1995); Stander (2003)

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