Top 10 Hollywood Thrillers Of The Last Decade (2010-2019), Ranked

The thriller genre is one of the most popular among audiences as it promises to make one feel many things on a very sensory level, from anxiety to being shocked by surprising revelations. It is a genre where the viewers want to be dazzled, even though there have been various formulaic treatments and tropes throughout the history of cinema. Still, filmmakers who are well-versed in their craft manage to create great films that are thrilling, anxiety-fueling, play with the audience’s expectations, and are works of art. Due to the popularity of the genre, there has always been quite a glut of thrillers being produced, yet some of them are lost to oblivion as the greats pass the test of time. The last decade is no different, with various kinds of thrillers ranging from action and psychological to science fiction that actually managed to come up with something interesting and great. So here is a list of the Top 10 English-language thrillers of the 2010s.


10. Searching (2018)

The narrative of “Searching” (2018) revolves around the tried and tested formulaic story of a girl gone missing with her father in search of her. But the twist lies in the absolutely unique way in which this is depicted on the big screen in this Aneesh Chaganty directorial debut, showcasing the entire film through various bits of footage from devices such as smartphones, CCTV cameras, laptops, and browsers and managing to build a tense atmosphere with a sense of urgency. The key lies not only in this unique way of storytelling but the effectiveness through which it manages to capture and also makes a commentary on the current technological advancements. Furthermore, from a technical standpoint, it expands on how films can be made in the future with almost shoestring budgets and various limitations.

9. Skyfall (2012)

Sam Mendes became the first Academy Award-winning director to take charge of the director’s chair of any James Bond film, and he completely changed the cinematic grammar of the franchise. The Bond franchise, which mostly belonged to the action genre, shifted gears to a more thriller-like approach and toned down on the action set-pieces in “Skyfall” (2012). The titular character of James Bond, played by Daniel Craig, was given a more vulnerable approach than its predecessors, and along with him, the film also got its weight from a more sinister and less caricaturist villain played by Javier Bardem. Furthermore, another shift was through the unique yet brilliant visualization through the lenses of Roger Deakins. This film is a perfect example of how to revise and reinvent a very popular character, adding new layers while maintaining the core essence of its legacy. 


8. Knives Out (2019)

Knives Out” (2019) perfectly adds to the list of popular detectives such as Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot with its introduction of Benoit Blanc (played by Daniel Craig). This Rian Johnson directorial is a perfect example of the use of classical generic tropes and manages to plan out and execute a tightly written and precisely directed chamber drama taking place majorly around the mansion of the character Harlan Thrombey, whose murder at his 85th birthday is to be investigated. Furthermore, this whodunnit thriller manages to hit all the right spots, from its world-building to inducing tension, and furthermore, the brilliant casting of an ensemble that, with their performance, further keeps one glued to the screen.

7. Get Out (2017)

Jordan Peele’s shift from being a renowned comedic actor to being an interesting writer-director is marked by this fantastic debut. “Get Out” (2017) manages to blend various genres and comprises elements like dark humor, suspense, and horror. The strongpoints of the film lie in its writing, which perfectly blends everything, starting from a romantic lens and then changing gears throughout the film while at the same time making a hard-hitting commentary on the lives of Afro-American people in the USA and the racism and exploitation they face, along with the hypocrisies of the many white, liberal Americans.


6. Gone Girl (2014)

David Fincher is definitely the best filmmaker when it comes to modern-day thriller films, and “Gone Girl” (2014) is no exception, as the director perfectly adapts the popular book of the same name by Gillian Flynn for the big screen. The film boasts of great performances, especially from Rosamund Pike as the titular character of Amy Dunne, and has its moments in the way it changes the audience’s expectations by constantly challenging its viewers with various twists and turns and the adequate presence of shocking and terrifying moments. At the same time, the film puts forward various questions on its themes of gender identity and the persona one promotes compared to the actuality, along with being a stark critique of the mainstream media. 

5. Black Swan (2010)

“Black Swan” (2010) is among the finest psychological thrillers, sometimes dwelling in the horror genre territory that came out in the last decade. The film boasts a pitch-perfect performance by its lead actress, Natalie Portman, who portrays a ballerina named Nina Sayers. The film is gorgeously shot and perfectly brings out the psyche of the characters. It is a brilliant take on womanhood, envy between artists, and obsession, and it has a very haunting and gothic-like effect. The brilliance of the film lies in its visualization of the complexity of the human mind and in presenting a very horrific and nightmarish quality on the screen, and major credit should go to its director, Darren Aronofsky. 


4. Nightcrawler (2014)

“Nightcrawler” (2014) is a marvelous neo-noirish psychological thriller that is primarily focused on a character-centric narrative. The primary character of Lou Bloom is one to look out for, as he is one of the most perfectly written and interesting characters in English films in recent times. Furthermore, Lou Bloom in “Nightcrawler” kind of acts like a cinematic sibling to the renowned character of Travis Bickle from “Taxi Driver” (1976), and the madness and ambition the character embodies are perfectly etched out by Jake Gyllenhaal. The film also manages to make a strong and bold commentary on the sensational part of journalism and critiques the capitalistic media along with its voyeuristic audience.

3. Prisoners (2013)

Even though the plot is quite generic—two young girls are abducted, followed by a police search, and eventually, their father takes matters into his own hands—”Prisoners” (2013) is unlike any other conventional Hollywood thriller. Director Denis Villeneuve focuses more on the psychological aspects and crafts more of a morality tale, and the film is not dependent on a very flashy shot span or intensity fuelling music to engage the viewers; rather, it is very moody and has a very cold vibe, with the color palette comprising mostly of cool colors, and prefers to linger on the visuals. The film is further enhanced by the brilliant acting performances from its huge ensemble, consisting of Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, and other supporting actors. A special mention should also be given to the legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins, whose visuals add a different texture to the film.


2. Gravity (2013)

The plot in itself sounds very claustrophobic, where Ryan Stone (played by Sandra Bullock) is the sole survivor of a disaster stranded in outer space. Even though the narrative is not heavily plot-dependent, through the visuals and soundscape, along with the other brilliantly executed technicalities, “Gravity” (2013) manages to perfectly create a tense and eerie atmosphere. Director Alfonso Cuarón showcases his prowess as a filmmaker throughout the film and how he, along with his cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, manages to choreograph these extremely breath-taking set pieces, especially the first sequence, which is a single uninterrupted take lasting about twelve and a half minutes. 

1. Uncut Gems (2019)

“Uncut Gems” (2019) is primarily a character-centric film revolving around a debt-ridden jeweler who is addicted to gambling and his journey when he puts his entire fortune online. The film boasts everything one can expect from an edge-of-the-seat thriller. The film is a perfection of high-intensity writing along with direction, and adding the cherry to the top is a mesmerizing performance by Adam Sandler, who completely blows it out of the roof. The director duo of the Safdie Brothers (consisting of Josh and Benny Safdie) manages to envision a character like Howard Ratner and captivate the audience’s attention for the entirety of the film. The film is an outstanding take on the nature of human beings and their lives through their persuasion of greed, addiction, and obsession.


The list tried to encapsulate the varied ways in which thrillers are showcased by different unique voices of the filmmakers in the last decade and hence, limited itself from mentioning more than one film of a particular director and selecting only their personal best. Some of the special mentions that one may give watch – “Shutter Island” (2010), “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” (2011), “Zero Dark Thirty” (2012), “Sicario” (2015), “You Were Never Really Here” (2017), “Good Time” (2017), “The Killing Of A Sacred Deer” (2017), “Widows” (2018) and “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” (2019).

See more: Top 10 Contemporary Hollywood Filmmakers, Ranked

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Riddhadev Bandyopadhyay
Riddhadev Bandyopadhyay
Riddhadev has a major interest in watching various kinds of films, knowing about history, playing varied video games, and having a knack for politics. He is also a football fanatic. He is very opinionated but sometimes finds it difficult to express himself. Moreover, he has a piece of paper that people refer to as a degree in journalism and mass communication. At present, he is pursuing a Master's in Media Science while also trying out different activities to figure out which he does best.

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