Of all the genres to choose from, there’s nothing like soaking in the suspense with a thriller movie. They keep your head spinning with apprehension, whether it be scary or action-packed. The best thrillers of all time include Inception from Christopher Nolan, The Silence of the Lambs from Jonathan Demme and Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of Shutter Island.
But what about the great lesser-known thrillers, made outside of mainstream Hollywood? Here I’ve curated the following list of heart-pounding indie thriller movies that you may have missed.
Blood Simple (1984)
Let’s start with a fun fact: when The Coen Brothers finished editing their first film Blood Simple, they looked around for a distributor, but they were rejected by all the major studios. Joel Cohen said, “We saw everybody from the studios to the lowliest sleaze-bucket distributors in L.A. And they all said no.” Thankfully, indie company Circle Films picked it up and the movie came out with great reviews.
These days, Blood Simple isn’t spoken about much and it has kind of faded into history. It’s not as good as The Coen Brothers’ other films, like Fargo and No Country for Old Men, but it still has their unique voice and style, though it’s understandably less polished. In the movie, Ray (John Getz) hires a private detective to kill his cheating wife and her new man. As expected, things get out of control and the suspense is played to perfection all the way through.
Straight horror or sci-fi thriller? I’ve seen this film three times and still, I have so many questions. The story in Triangle revolves around a group of friends on a yacht, who come across an Ocean liner. When they jump on board, the ship appears to be abandoned, but quite quickly they discover they’re not alone, as a masked figure with a shotgun starts picking them off.
The plot doesn’t sound particularly inventive, does it? The truth is – without spoiling anything – the film is built around fascinating myths and paradoxes. The start misleads you into thinking it’s a slasher movie, but it turns into a brilliant puzzle-box thriller that confuses the crap out of you.
Retreat keeps viewers in the dark about what to believe and the action all happens in the same location. Martin (Cillian Murphy) and Kate (Thandie Newton) are on a remote island for a holiday retreat, but a few nights in a stranger (Jamie Bell) washes up ashore, bloodied and battered. When he comes round, he tells the couple there has been an outbreak of an airborne disease.
I have seen quite a lot of bad reviews for this one, but I thought it was good. It’s a nail-biter and a great example of what a thriller should be. Considering it only has three actors, there are many moments of tension and a creepy performance by Jamie Bell.
Side Effects (2013)
More than just a noir psychological thriller, Side Effects is about mental health and the pharma industry. With top performances by Rooney Mara and Jude Law, the film sways you back and forth from feeling unnerved to being intrigued. However, I found it flawed because there are a few things, I thought, could have been done differently, which I’m sure many viewers would agree.
But the story is extremely compelling and I was in an anxious, puzzled mindset when watching. Mara plays Emily, who at the start is awaiting the release of her husband (Chaining Tatum) from prison. Their lives descent into madness when Emily’s doctor, played by Law, prescribes her a new drug – intended to treat anxiety and depression – has severe side effects. This is a high tempo, smart thriller with a clever twist.
When I saw Jack O’Connell in the teen drama show Skins, I always suspected he would go onto to do great things in movies and so far, he has. In ‘71, he plays Gary Hook, a British soldier who is sent to Belfast in 1971 at the height of “The Troubles”. For those who don’t know, this was a major political conflict in Northern Island.
The main drama comes when Hook gets separated from his unit during riots on the streets and has to fight alone and find his way to safety. This is a fact-based action thriller that’s powerfully acted and directed. I was surprised by the sheer intensity of it and the way it disorientates the viewer, with some scenes taking on a nightmare quality. This unrelenting film that never lets you take a breather is well worth checking out.
As you can see, “thriller” bleeds into many genres to create rich drama and complex mysteries. At the end of the day, though, a good thriller is entertaining and suspenseful for any number of reasons. So, if you’re a thriller junkie, these five films have you covered!
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