Halloween is over, but if you’re a fan of the thriller genre like I am, any day of the year is a good day for a cinematic thrill or scare. Each year, I usually compile a list of the best thrillers I’ve seen over the previous year. Here’s a list of some of the movies I’ve watched over the last couple of years that you might enjoy.
The Hidden Face (2011) – One of the best thrillers I’ve seen in years, this Spanish film employs Edgar Allan Poe’s frightening device of live confinement. It’s also a cautionary tale about jealousy. In this film, an orchestra conductor deals with the mysterious disappearance of his girlfriend, but has she really disappeared?
I’m Not Scared (2003) – This film is my top pick. Forget the fact that it fits into the thriller/horror genre. This is one of the best movies of the decade. I’d even define it as a masterpiece that explores morality and human nature. In this Spanish film, a young boy accidentally discovers a deep hole in the ground, where another boy is kept prisoner. A “must watch” film.
Hatfields and McCoys (2012) – While you don’t typically think of this age-old tale as a horror or thriller film, I think it fits nicely into the category. It’s essentially a gang war filled with suspense about who will live and die. Starring Kevin Costner, this dramatization depicts a bitter feud between two families on the West Virginia and Kentucky border in the years after the Civil War. It’s a great production with interesting characters and good performances.
Top of the Lake (2013) – If you love Elisabeth Moss in Mad Men, you’ll probably want to take a look at this mini-series Top of the Lake. When a pregnant 12-year-old girl tries to kill herself in a freezing New Zealand lake, Detective Robin Griffin (Moss) begins an investigation and uncovers many small-town secrets. The series also stars Holly Hunter.
Cracks (2009) – Eva Green is an actress that has been gaining momentum in the last few years. I first noticed her in the film Womb that was later renamed Clone (below), and she plays a strange, yet influential teacher in the film Cracks that is set in an elite boarding school. It’s an interesting psychological thriller about a group of girls and their relationship with their teacher.
Clone (2010) – Clone, mentioned above, is a sci-fi psychological thriller. Eva Green plays a woman who meets her soul mate, a scientist involved in cloning. Unfortunately, he tragically dies, so she decides to clone him. She gives birth to the clone, and raises it as her son, but the complex situation causes some controversial problems.
Europa Report (2013) – I’ve always been fascinated with ocean and space travel movies that involve a crew of people traveling into unknown territory. When the crew travels to Jupiter’s moon, Europa, they explore the idea that life may exist there because of a recent discovery. Technical complications ensue, and the group must make tough decisions regarding their survival.
The Wall (2012) – This German film is one of the most unique and interesting film concepts I’ve seen in a while. One day, while driving through a rural village in her car, a woman comes upon an invisible wall that surrounds the countryside, cutting her off from all human contact. It’s an interesting story of isolation.
The Hunt (2012) – When a child with a vivid imagination accuses her innocent teacher of a terrible act, he becomes an outcast and must prove his innocence. Great performances and acting in this Swedish film.
Kidnapped (2010) – Kidnapped is not for everyone. It is a brutal thriller about a family terrorized by three criminals who break into their home in Madrid and hold the family hostage. Do not watch this movie if you expect a typical Hollywood ending where things are resolved. The film seems be the basis for the 2011 film Trespass starring Nicole Kidman and Nicholas Cage, which might be a less violent alternative.
In Her Skin (2009) – A unique film concept with a lot of twists and turns that psychologically explores the actions of a mentally ill woman fueled by jealously. It’s a tale about a 15-year-old Australian girl who goes missing.
Trap for Cinderella (2013) – A suspenseful thriller with good performances, in this UK film, a young girl suffering from amnesia after surviving a house fire, begins to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
The Sacrament (2013) – Here’s a thriller with a Mississippi connection. When a guy begins to investigate the disappearance of his sister from a sober living community in Mississippi, he learns she has left with a group of people who have moved to a new country to live in a commune called Eden Parish. After meeting the group’s leader, the brother and his friends begin to suspect something isn’t quite right about this paradise. The film is based on the Jim Jones cult story.
Proxy (2013) – An interesting thriller with a unique plot, Proxy is about the life of three parents who have all shared the loss of a child. “Motives are not what they seem, and sanity is in short supply in this thriller,” reads the IMDb.com description.
The Reef (2010) – Probably partially inspired by Jaws and movies that have made us afraid of the water, this Australian film is about a great white shark who hunts the crew of a capsized sailboat along the Great Barrier Reef. You’ll wonder who will make it out of the ocean alive.
Caught Inside (2010) – The third water movie on the list, is about a predominantly male group of surfers on a boat with two women and a loose canon who harms one of the girls. The attacker is abandoned on an island, but he finds his way back to the boat and holds the crew hostage.
The Awakening (2011) – This is not a movie based on the Kate Chopin novel. Instead, it’s a brilliantly told ghost story set in 1921 London. When a paranormal investigator travels to a boarding school to investigate a ghost, she makes some interesting discoveries.
The Returned (2012) – This is a must see French series about people in a community presumed dead who return as if nothing has ever happened. The network television series Resurrection seems to based on this concept, but The Returned is so much better than anything that tries to replicate it. Those who return have not aged and don’t know they’ve died. This is one of the best television series I’ve seen.
A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) – This South Korea film features two sisters, who return to the home of their father and cruel stepmother after spending time in a mental institution. They are forced to deal with their stepmother’s craziness and a ghost.
Haunter (2013) – Abigail Breslin stars as a teenager stuck in a time loop that changes a little each time. To make it stop, she must uncover the truth, but her actions have consequences for herself and others.
Kill Theory (2009) – In the tradition of Friday the 13th, a group of college students staying in vacation home in the woods is targeted by a sadistic killer who forces them to kill one another in order to survive. Taryn Manning, of Orange is the New Black, plays one of the group members.
Devil’s Knot (2013) – If you live in the Memphis area, you’ll probably remember the unsolved murder of three young boys in the early 1990s who, were believed, at the time, to have been murdered as part of a satanic ritual. There have been several documentaries about the crime and some movies, but this is the best one I’ve seen that presents many unanswered questions about the case and seems factual. I know, because I’ve read all of the court documents on the case, hoping that I could find an answer, but my questions just led to other questions, similar to the film. Reese Witherspoon stars in the movie.
Love Crime (2010) – Christine, a strong businesswoman, hires Isabelle as her assistant, and toys with her emotions. But she underestimates Isabelle’s ambition and cunning wit. The film stars Kristin Scott Thomas and Ludivine Sagnier.
Yellowbrickroad (2010) – In 1940, the entire population of Friar, New Hampshire, walked up a winding mountain trail, leaving everything behind. In 2008, the first official expedition into the wilderness attempts to solve the mystery of the lost citizens. This was an intriguing concept, but the film falls apart in the middle. I think anyone could have come up with a better explanation of why all the townspeople vanished. It still might be worth checking out.
Wilderness Survival for Girls (2004) – Three high school girls on a weekend getaway fueled by a story about a mountain murder take a trespasser captive when he shows up at their remote mountain cabin.
Madison County (2011) – This is another road trip movie about a group of college kids who travel to a mountain town to interview the author of a tell-all book about several grisly murders that happened there. When they arrive, they can’t find the author, and they are treated suspiciously as outsiders. Unfortunately, they don’t take the hint that they aren’t welcome.
Darkroom (2013) – When a woman seeks a job opportunity at a company called “Darkroom Inc.,” she arrives at a huge mansion. She’s hired for the job, but soon discovers that she is trapped inside the house with other women and three deranged, sadistic siblings that intend to purge her of her sins.
Aftershock (2012) – “In Chile, a group of travelers who are in an underground nightclub when a massive earthquake hits quickly learn that reaching the surface is just the beginning of their nightmare,” reads the IMDb.com description.
Sweet Evil (2010) – Somewhat better than I expected it to be, this movie is about a 15-year-old girl who knows more about life than she should. Street smart and savvy, she eventually catches the eye of a judge. Despite his wife’s resistance, he takes the girl in, and she gradually wins them both over. But eventually, they see through her lies.