100 thrillers to see before you die: 2010s

From Nightcrawler to Sicario: the best in suspense from the 2010s.

The Hunt (2012)

Director Thomas Vinterberg

The Hunt (Jagten)

A fib grows fat on hysteria in Thomas Vinterberg’s story of Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen), a kindergarten teacher falsely accused of sexual assault by a female pupil. The thrill – horror, really – lies in the skill with which Vinterberg and his co-writer Tobias Lindholm develop each character’s rationale for their dizzying fall into group insanity. Lucas doesn’t have a chance. The girl cried wolf, the pack turned on its own. HB

See also: It Happened in Broad Daylight (1958); Prisoners (2013)

Kahaani (2012)

Director Sujoy Ghosh

Kahaani (2012)

Vidya Balan – who already had a strong track record of female-centric works – turns Kolkata upside-down as a pregnant woman searching for her husband in the wake of a terrorist attack. Up with the best of recent Bollywood, it’s nearly as impressive for a sustained feat of intricate conspiratorial plotting as it is for its progressive politics. PHo

See also: No One Killed Jessica (2011); NH10 (2015)

Locke (2013)

Director Steven Knight

Locke (2013)

An inaction thriller, set entirely on the drive from Birmingham to London. Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) has bunked off a job laying foundations to attend the birth of his baby, conceived during an extramarital affair. On the hands-free are his wife, his kids and his boss, who he’ll methodically betray over 85 excruciating minutes. It’s blood-free, peril-free and there’s loads of talk of concrete. Absolutely riveting. HB

See also: Buried (2010); All Is Lost (2013)

Miss Bala (2011)

Director Gerardo Naranjo

Miss Bala (2011)

Catherine Hardwicke has been linked with a remake of Gerardo Naranjo’s loosely fact-based account of a Tijuana twentysomething getting caught up with crooked cops and vicious cartel thugs after entering a beauty contest. Combining searing social realism, melodrama and explosive set-pieces, this is a giddying snapshot of the poverty, crime, corruption and violence debilitating Mexican society. DP

See also: Traffic (2000); Sin nombre (2009)

Nightcrawler (2014)

Director Dan Gilroy

Nightcrawler (2014)

Writer-director Dan Gilroy’s murky look at the LA news machine is bleak but extremely entertaining. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom like a malignant, more damaged version of the obsessive cartoonist he portrayed in Zodiac (2007). Bloom is a thief, a morally questionable opportunist and a shrewd camera op with a nose for what the TV stations require to really excite – and scare – their viewers. LT

See also: Drive (2011); Nocturnal Animals (2016)

Omar (2013)

Director Hany Abu-Assad

Omar (2013)

Hany Abu-Assad’s gripping second feature is as nimble as its young Palestinian protagonist. A rare blend of immersive action, intriguing deception and romantic tribulations combine in striking fashion as the eponymous baker tries to stay one step ahead of the Israeli security services. Essential viewing for fans of pugnacious, politically charged cinema. LT

See also: The Battle of Algiers (1966); Paradise Now (2005)

Sicario (2015)

Director Denis Villeneuve

Sicario (2015)

Emily Blunt is on superb form as a steely FBI agent fighting the war on drugs in Denis Villeneuve’s stylish narco-thriller. Roger Deakins’ stunning US-Mexico borderlands cinematography provides the aesthetic ballast, while an ominous Jóhann Jóhannson score evokes a dread atmosphere across a succession of pulse-quickening set-pieces. LT

See also: Border Incident (1949); Hell or High Water (2016)

Stranger by the Lake (2013)

Director Alain Guiraudie

Stranger by the Lake (2013)

Under blue skies and beside a glistening lake, gay men meet for casual sex over a long, idle summer. Befriending Henri, Franck is meanwhile blindsided with desire for handsome Michel, but there are signs of trouble in paradise: talk of a killer on the loose, or something in the water. As subtle in mood and character as it is sexually frank, Stranger by the Lake makes most Tinseltown erotic thrillers look prehistoric by comparison. SW

See also: Cruising (1980); Swimming Pool (2003)

Victoria (2015)

Director Sebastian Schipper

A one-shot wonder filmed in a (genuine) continuous take. Victoria (Laia Costa), a Spanish café worker new to Berlin, meets a gang of Germans while clubbing in the Mitte district. She follows them from the club, to a rooftop, to her café, to a car, to their meeting with a mob boss, to a bank robbery, to a shootout. The dialogue is improvised; it’s shot by a single camera op. Can the crew pull off the robbery? Can the crew pull off the movie? The tension is unbearable. HB

See also: Rope (1948); Run Lola Run (1998)

Viva Riva! (2010)

Director Djo Munga

Viva Riva! (2010)

Considering the Democratic Republic of Congo only made its first feature in 1987, there was no reason to expect such a slick and infectious first thriller. Where too many African-set western films flog dark continent miserablism, Djo Munga’s sally in search of contraband fuel and intrepid cunnilingus makes Kinshasa feel like the place to be. PHo

See also: City of God (2002); Gangster’s Paradise: Jerusalema (2008)

Read more

Back to the top

See something different

Subscribe now for exclusive offers and the best of cinema.
Hand-picked.