The 15 Best Thrillers Streaming on Netflix in July, from ‘Fair Play’ to ‘Emily the Criminal’

Sometimes, when you’re looking to be entertained, only a thriller will cut it. Sure, everybody loves a rom-com or an action movie, but If you ever find yourself feeling like life is getting inexplicably dark and morality is becoming more ambiguous, immersing yourself in a tense world of serial killers, terrorists, crooked sleazebags, and jaw-dropping twists of all kinds is a pretty great form of escapism. The genre is broad enough to encompass a wide variety of tropes. so you could probably watch thrillers forever and never get bored.

Netflix’s thriller offerings are surprisingly well-rounded this month, offering a good mix of undisputed classics from the likes of Brian de Palma as well as newer indie flicks that you may have missed. This July, top-tier archival titles include “Oldboy” and “American Psycho” along with Netflix Originals like “Fair Play” and “Run Rabbit Run.” Whether you’re looking to revisit an old favorite, fill an embarrassing gap in your movie knowledge, or find something new and cutting-edge that will blow your mind, the thriller genre always has something for you.

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Keep reading for 15 of our favorite thrillers streaming on Netflix in July 2024.

With editorial contributions from Christian Zilko.

15. “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile”

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile’Netflix

At first glance, the casting of Zac Efron as Ted Bundy seemed like an indulgence of all of the worst parts of mainstream true crime culture. As America’s fascination with serial killers continued to skyrocket, bringing in a former Disney star to play a brutal serial killer could have been a shameless attempt to cash in on the trend. But Efron delivers an excellent performance in a nuanced film that does nothing to glamorize the murderer, choosing instead to break down the cult of personality surrounding Bundy at every turn. —CZ

14. “Natural Born Killers”

NATURAL BORN KILLERS, Woody Harrelson, 1994. © Warner Bros./Courtesy Everett Collection
‘Natural Born Killers’©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

Extremely controversial at the time of its release for its violent content and suspected copycat crimes that followed in its wake, “Natural Born Killers” still polarizes today. Based loosely on a screenplay originally written by Quentin Tarantino that director Oliver Stone revised, the action thriller stars Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis as a husband and wife with tragic pasts who go on a countrywide killing spree. Because they’re young and attractive, they’re catnip for television and the press, who glorify their crimes and their love story. Whether Stone succeeded at his semi-heavy-handed attempt to criticize the sensationalist tabloid circuit was a matter of much debate that still fiercely divides the film’s admirers and critics. That said, even those who dislike “Natural Born Killers” can generally appreciate much about the film, from the frenetic and stylish editing and cinematography to the strong performances from an ensemble that also includes Robert Downey Jr. and a wild turn from Rodney Dangerfield. —WC

13. “Run Rabbit Run”

RUN RABBIT RUN, Sarah Snook, 2023. ph: Sarah Enticknap /© Netflix /Courtesy Everett Collection
‘Run Rabbit Run’©Netflix/Courtesy Everett Collection

Sarah Snook took on her first post-“Succession” leading role in this Australian thriller about a fertility doctor who begins to suspect that something is very, very wrong with her young daughter. In a performance that wildly diverges from her tightly-wound Waystar Royco heiress persona, Snook goes to great lengths to elevate a conventional thriller premise (complete with familiar tropes like ominous animal iconography) into one of the more entertaining films to hit Netflix in recent memory. Equal parts “The Babadook” and “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” it’s a film that will push you to your breaking point as quickly as Snook’s character reached hers. —CZ

12. “A Simple Favor”

“A Simple Favor”Peter Iovino

“A Simple Favor” is not a particularly successful thriller in terms of, er, thrilling you, but it does succeed wildly at entertaining you. Paul Feig’s comedic take on the genre is a lightly satirical look at mommy blogging culture and suburban discontent, filtered through the perspective of Anna Kendrick’s dissatisfied Stephanie. When her best friend, the highly successful Emily (Blake Lively) mysteriously disappears, Stephanie throws herself into the investigation and digs up dirt on her seemingly perfect counterpart. If “A Simple Favor” proves a bit wobbly, then Kendrick’s go-for-broke performance and the often genuinely funny script just as frequently steadies the ship. It’s less “Psycho” than it is “Desperate Housewives,” which will be music to anyone who misses “Desperate Housewives.” —WC

11. “Captain Phillips”

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, Tom Hanks (back left), 2013. ph: Jasin Boland/©Columbia Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection
‘Captain Phillips’ ©Columbia Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

Paul Greengrass’ based-on-a-true-story action thriller “Captain Phillips” is handsomely mounted and made, but its primary virtue is as a vehicle for one of star Tom Hanks’ all-time best performances. He plays the title character, captain of the cargo ship Maersk Alabama which was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009. The film harks back to the classic Hanks vehicle “Cast Away,” detailing the innately likable actor’s struggles to survive in desperate circumstances. What elevates it is Greengrass’ muscular direction and the fine acting performances from the entire ensemble. Barkhad Abdi is excellent as pirate leader Abduwali Muse, making the character more than just a villain, but it’s really Hanks’s show, and his moment of anguish in the film’s finale may be the finest acting moment of his entire career. —WC

10. “Emily the Criminal”

Emily the Criminal, Aubrey Plaza
‘Emily the Criminal’ screenshot

A nasty crime thriller about how economic uncertainty can push people to desperate extremes, “Emily the Criminal” stars Aubrey Plaza as the titular Emily, a former art student whose college debt and former felony charge prevents her from escaping the drudgeries of service work. When a coworker connects her to a credit card fraud ring, Emily leaps at the opportunity to make some fast cash, and under the tutelage of organizer Youcef (Theo Rossi), she quickly becomes a natural at this very unsavory line of work. The screenplay is occasionally a bit silly, but John Patton Ford’s feature directorial debut shows great promise, and Plaza’s charismatic performance as an ordinary woman with a surprising capacity for violence and crime is damn near flawless. —WC

9. “Gerald’s Game”

"Gerald's Game"
‘Gerald’s Game’Netflix

Stephen King’s chilling tale of bondage sex gone wrong was long thought to be unfilmable, due to so much of the novel “Gerald’s Game” taking place inside the mind of a woman who is chained to her bed. But “The Haunting of Hill House” creator Mike Flanagan found a way, turning the story into a chilling two-hander starring Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood that remains faithful to the novel while still thrilling viewers. —CZ

8. “Fair Play”

FAIR PLAY, from left: Alden Ehrenreich, Phoebe Dynevor, 2023.  © Netflix /Courtesy Everett Collection
‘Fair Play’©Netflix/Courtesy Everett Collection

The buzziest title of the 2023 Sundance Film Festival made its way to Netflix in October 2023 following a $20 million acquisition from the streaming giant. Chloe Domont’s take on the sexual power dynamics at the apex of the financial industry stunned Park City audiences by offering an unapologetic throwback to 1990s erotic thrillers like “Basic Instinct” and “Fatal Attraction” while still exploring contemporary gender politics. Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich star as two corporate climbers at an elite hedge fund whose dueling ambitions and depraved sexual chemistry reach a breaking point when her career begins to surpass his. It’s a non-stop thrill ride that never shies away from the ugly side of sex and is one of the most shocking titles to hit Netflix in 2024. —CZ

7. “Missing”

MISSING, Storm Reid, 2023. © Sony Pictures Entertainment / Courtesy Everett Collection
‘Missing’©Sony Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

It’s not really a spinoff set of “Searching,” the 2018 screenlife thriller starring John Cho, but it does ostensibly take place in the same universe. And yet, 2023’s “Missing” was a pleasant surprise, a well-directed and well-told standalone mystery that succeeds in entertaining on its own terms. First-time directors Will Merrick and Nick Johnson make great use of the screenlife format to document main character June Allen’s (Storm Reid) desperate quest to track down her missing mother, using the cascading and constant torrent of information as a manifestation of the dead ends and red herrings she has to dig through. Reid is a solid and likable lead, giving the audience a reason to care as the investigation falls quickly out of June’s control. —WC

6. “The Killer”

THE KILLER, Michael Fassbender, 2023. © Netflix /Courtesy Everett Collection
‘The Killer’©Netflix/Courtesy Everett Collection

David Fincher’s latest is one of his slightest works, but the “Fight Club” and “Memento” director is still in top form with “The Killer.” Based on a French graphic novel series, the film stars Michael Fassbender as a highly experienced professional hitman who’s more than a little burnt out by his profession and ends up flubbing a mission, leading him on an international journey to take out his former employers before they take him out first. The film’s dryly funny sense of humor and Fassbender’s perfectly stoic performance sometimes make it feel like a lark more than a pulsing thriller, but Fincher’s nimble direction and sleekly executed action can still get your heart racing. —WC

5. “Wild Things”

WILD THINGS, from left, Denise Richards, Kevin Bacon, 1998, ©Columbia/courtesy Everett Collection
“Wild Things” ©Columbia Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

100 percent pure grade Trash with a capital T, “Wild Things” is brilliantly, radically dumb. John McNaughton’s 1998 cult classic feels retrograde and conservative on the surface, telling the story of two high school girls (Neve Campbell and Theresa Russell) who make a seemingly false accusation of rape against their high school guidance counselor (Matt Dillon). But as a police detective played by a scene-chewing Kevin Bacon digs into the alleged crime, it becomes clear that this plot hook is just a vehicle for absolute schlock mayhem. In an hour-and-40-minute runtime, “Wild Things” packs ludicrous plot twist after ludicrous plot twist, in addition to blazingly hot erotic scenes featuring a very game cast. The jury is out on whether or not “Wild Things” is an intentional parody of the ’90s erotic thriller, but who cares about intention when a film is this much fun? —WC

4. “The Beguiled”

“The Beguiled”
“The Beguiled”

Thomas P. Cullinan’s novel “The Beguiled” had already been adapted into a well-received, faithful film in 1971, with Clint Eastwood in the central role of an injured Union soldier from the Civil War who gets taken in at a Southern girls boarding school and becomes an object of sexual desire for the students and staff. But Sofia Coppola’s 2017 take on the material is just as good, thanks to her sharp, insightful screenplay, which digs deep into the tortured psychology of the women in the story. And she assembled a talented cast to play these complicated women; Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, and Elle Fanning all turn in ravishing, nuanced performances opposite Colin Farrell in the central male role. Coppola’s lush direction captures the sensuality of the material, as well as the lurking danger underneath. —WC

3. “Burning”

BURNING, (aka BEONING), JEON Jong-seo, 2018. © Well Go USA / courtesy Everett Collection
“Burning”Everett Collection / Everett Collection

Lee Chang-dong’s acclaimed Korean thriller has a strong literary pedigree, mixing elements of two different short stories both titled “Barn Burning” by writers Haruki Murakami and William Faulkner. But the result is an extraordinary cinematic creation: a nervy, slow-moving, and absorbing look into the relationships between its three main characters, childhood friends Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in) and Hae-Mi (Jong-seo), alongside stranger Ben (Steven Yeun, in a charming but unnerving performance). On the surface, the two are lifelong pals — but a possessive attitude towards Hae-Mi becomes apparent, and Ben clearly hides strange secrets. A deep sense of unease is palpable in every scene and “Burning” keeps that tension growing thicker and thicker, until the final horrifying release that closes the film. —WC

2. “American Psycho”

AMERICAN PSYCHO, Christian Bale, 2000. © Lions Gate / Courtesy Everett Collection
“American Psycho” ©Lions Gate/Courtesy Everett Collection

A satire so brilliant that many of its biggest fans barely comprehend that it’s satire, Mary Harron’s “American Psycho” is, to many, a quintessential dudebro movie. And yet, Harron — adapting Bret Easton Ellis’ 1991 novel with cowriter Genevieve Turner — is as precise as an arrow in her takedown of hypermasculinity and hyperconsumerist capitalism, embodied by Christian Bale’s uncanny and reptillion portrayal of the self-obsessed serial killer Patrick Bateman. Smug and shallow, Bateman is the type of vapid yuppie common to ’80s New York City, and would be mostly harmless if it weren’t for the fact that he’s also a serial killer — maybe. It’s unclear if Bale’s various bloody misdeeds are real, or figments of his character’s crazed imaginations. It’s up to the audience’s point of view, which is possibly more unnerving. —WC

1. “Oldboy”

Oldboy 20th anniversary restoration

Forget Spike Lee’s regrettable American remake if you somehow haven’t already; Park Chan-wook’s original “Oldboy” still thrills over 20 years later. One of the most acclaimed films of its decade, the film tells the propulsive, zig-zagging, and subversive story of Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik), an ordinary businessman who is suddenly and abruptly captured and placed in captivity for 15 years. When he’s just as abruptly freed, he goes on a rampage to figure out who was responsible for his torture. Park shoots the hell out of “Oldboy” — that hallway fight scene remains justly influential — but the movie is just as much a deconstruction of the thriller genre than a straight example of the form, examining the depths people can sink to in the pursuit of vengeance. Its horrifying ending is well-known to many, but regardless of whether or not the film can still surprise, its critical look at the futility of revenge remains just as insightful and devastating. —WC

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