10 best thrillers of 2021, according to Letterboxd
Audiences love a good thriller that can put them on the edge of their seat and keep them there throughout the film. Luckily for those fans, there were a number of great thrillers in 2021 that ranked among the most compelling films of the year.
Based on Letterboxd users, the best thrillers of 2021 varied in size, but all managed to tell the kind of biting stories fans have come to expect from the genre. If fans are looking to revisit some of the year’s most notable genre entries or find lesser-known gems they might have missed, these 2021 thrillers are the standouts.
ten Last night in Soho (3.50)
Edgar Wright is best known for crushing other genres with his comedic style, but Last night in Soho sees the inventive filmmaker fully embrace the thriller genre. The film follows a young woman who moves to London where she soon finds her dreams haunted by a young girl who lived in the same apartment in the 1960s.
Wright’s distinct visual style and his influence on other classic thrillers show Last night in Soho as an impressive step forward for him as a director. It’s also a gripping, clever, and surprising story that deserves multiple repeats.
9 No Time to Die (3.56)
Daniel Craig’s 007 movies have always been a bit darker than the rest of the franchise. For Craig’s final outing as James Bond, no time to die truly embraces those spy thriller concepts as Bond finds his life turned upside down when a terrifying new threat emerges.
From the intense opening sequence, no time to die makes it feel like something new in the Bond franchise while delivering the kind of thrill and fun that fans have come to expect. Craig gets a fitting farewell in the role with some unexpected twists.
8 The Mauritanian (3.58)
Sometimes a thriller can be even more effective when the story is based on real events. Such is the case with Mauritanian which tells the story of Mohamedou Ould Slahi who was held captive by the US government for years without being charged with a crime.
The film is a moving look at his fight for freedom with Tahar Rahim in the lead role as well as Jodie Foster and Benedict Cumberbatch playing the lawyers on either side of the fight. It’s a terrific entry into the forensic thriller genre.
seven Alley of Nightmares (3.60)
Film noir has long been an exciting aspect of the thriller genre, and it’s especially fun to see it tackled by a master filmmaker like Guillermo del Toro. alley of nightmares stars Bradley Cooper as a performer on a traveling carnival whose specific abilities land him in a dangerous situation.
While it doesn’t embrace horror elements as much as some of his other work, del Toro obviously has a lot of fun toying with the story’s various nefarious characters and teasing the intricate mystery at its center.
6 Old Henry (3.60)
The Western genre often deals with more adventure-oriented types of movies. However, there is room for thrillers to operate in the Wild West world effectively. Old Henry is a short Western story about a farmer whose violent past is revisited when he finds himself targeted by a group of dangerous men.
Tim Blake Nelson shines in a rare starring role as the titular character. It’s a joy to watch the tense and intimate thriller unfold. It embraces some aspects of a typical western while telling its own unique story.
5 The Novice (3.64)
The newbie is another example of how a more intimate story can still make for a gripping thriller. The character study follows a young freshman who joins the school rowing team. As she hones her skills, she develops an obsession with being the best.
Although it is a short story, The newbie is nonetheless effective in this unsettling story that anyone who has ever wanted to be the best at something can relate to. Although not easy to watch, it is a gripping story.
4 Titanium (3.73)
The Letterboxd community often highlights international films among the best of the year and one of the most popular of these films of 2021 was the French film Titanium. It follows a young woman involved in a horrific childhood car accident who has developed an unusual fascination with them.
Titanium is certainly not a film that will appeal to all audiences with its mix of body horror and outrageous subject matter. However, many found it transcended the mere shock value of its reputation to become one of the most provocative and compelling films of the year.
3 Pig (3.82)
One of the biggest surprises of the year for many audiences was the thriller Pork. Nicolas Cage stars as a reclusive man living in the woods with his pig which he uses for truffle hunting. When the pig is taken from him, he ventures into the world he left behind to reclaim his beloved pet.
Cage gives one of his most reserved but powerful performances in this strange and intense story. As bizarre as the premise might sound, it’s thoroughly engrossing and packs an unexpected emotional punch.
2 Boiling point (3.87)
Once again, Boiling point isn’t a thriller that relies on murder or the danger lurking around every corner, but rather finds its thrills in watching the main character simply try to keep his head above water. Stephen Graham stars as a chef struggling with endless pressures on the busiest night of the year.
The film is filmed in one continuous shot, which only adds to the intense nature of the story. The chaotic atmosphere inside the kitchen and the clash between different personalities make for an explosive little drama.
1 The Tragedy of Macbeth (3.88)
It would seem difficult to find a new and exciting approach to telling the story of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, but with the talent involved in Macbeth’s Tragedy, it is not surprising that they succeeded. In his first solo film as a director, Joel Coen tells the story with Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth respectively.
The sheer joy of seeing these iconic actors work with this material is enough to make it a rewarding experience. But Coen also does a masterful job of staying true to the material while adding his own unique quality.
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