The Most Intense Thriller Movies of the Last Decade

Midsommar (2019) Florence Pugh intense thriller

In the past decade of cinema, movies have seen a renaissance in the horror and thriller genres. From spine-tingling supernatural encounters to heart-pounding psychological mind games, filmmakers pushed the boundaries of fear, delivering experiences etched into our dreams. As we enter a new era, it’s only fitting to pay tribute to a few outstanding gems that have left audiences gripping their seats and peeking through splayed fingers.

Join us as we embark on a chilling journey through the last ten years, uncovering some must-see intense thriller movies that have enriched the genre, leaving a lasting mark on the cinematic landscape. Brace for a surreal roller-coaster ride of terror and tension that will keep butts on the edges of seats.

1. Midsommar

Midsommar (2019) Florence Pugh, Vilhelm Blomgren
Image Credit: A24.

 Midsommar distinguishes itself among intense thriller movie experiences. Invited to a midsummer festival in Sweden, a group of friends encounter a trap they stumble into. For a first-time viewer, the anticipation of events around the corner precedes the actual sight, the ensuing horror demands attention. This movie captivates like a burning trainwreck in the best way possible.

A slow burn with appealing aesthetics in colors, set design, and special effects, Midsommar manipulates the viewer using dark and subtle images. Visual occurrences gain emphasis through sound effects or their absence. Characters exude jovial attitudes, overshadowed by an underlying malevolence. The illusion of safety prevails; nothing proves certain amidst the flowery façade.

2. The Platform

The Platform
Image Credit: Netflix.

The Platform, a Spanish sci-fi thriller, twists the dystopia genre with an air of claustrophobia and disorientation. The narrative revolves around a towering prison with an unknown number of floors. On each floor, inmates cower in corners. A central hole features a descending platform, stretching from the top floor downward. Sufficient food for all prisoners lay atop the platform, upper levels take more than their fair share, leaving scraps for those below. A man endeavors the impossible, acting to reform the system, embodying the dual nature of humanity as both a goal and a sacrifice.

3. The Babadook

The Babadoook (The Babadook)
Image Credit: Umbrella Entertainment.

The Babadook establishes itself as an instant classic featuring its odd familiarity yet original monster. The paranoia triggered by a children’s book, “Mister Babadook,” delves into uncanny and perplexing hauntings as the book materializes. A mother and her son experience close-to-home scares, rendering us paralyzed as we shield our eyes. The interplay of whimsical nursery rhymes and the supernatural induces a disorienting terror, revealing profound themes of concealed traumas and grief.

4. Get Out

Get Out (2017) Daniel Kaluuya
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

This intense thriller weaves tensions and mystery, showcasing various expressions of insidious racism linked to “colorblindness” and neoliberalism. The supernatural looks tame when compared to the violence perpetrated by a family of soul suckers. Its unique premise doesn’t rely on jump scares and eldritch horrors but a psychological journey. Get Out imprints a lingering sense of unease, offering a glimpse beneath our contemporary landscape.

5. A Quiet Place

A Quiet Place
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Set in a post-apocalyptic world, blind extraterrestrials with acute hearing dominate the planet, devouring its human inhabitants. A Quiet Place demonstrates creative narrative mechanics. Survivors adapt to the threat by maintaining perpetual silence. They install carpeted floors, inhabit softened earth fields, and surround their homes with makeshift windchimes to distract the monsters.

The intense thriller's terrifying struggle illustrates the difficulty of remaining silent when the natural impulse to scream.

6. Train to Busan

Train to Busan Gong Yoo
Image Credit: Next Entertainment World.

Instead of surviving out in the wild or in a decrepit city, survivors of a zombie invasion find themselves confined to a moving train in South Korea. Filled with gut-wrenching betrayals and action-packed violence, persistent tension pervades as the train stops at zombie-infested platforms. Despite the ride’s conclusion, relief does not equal a happy ending. Train to Busan stands among the greatest zombie films, a standout for viewers seeking a refreshing zombie survival experience.

7. 1922

1922 Thomas Jane
Image Credit: Netflix.

A spin-off of a Stephen King novella, this movie follows a deceptive and simple premise featuring a terrifying human villain and unexplainable mysteries. A proud farmer convinces his teenage son to help him murder his wife for financial gain. Following her death, the two struggle in the face of unpredictable consequences. Though viewers root for justice, the haunting experiences the farmer and his son face drive them to the brink of self-destruction.

8. Annihilation

Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

The intense thriller Annihilation presents a chilling blend of science fiction and cosmic horror, depicting scenes both twisted and beautiful through the graceful merging of natural landscapes and extraterrestrial structures. Scientists sent to a peculiar area on Earth uncover something strange amidst their investigations. They unveil the unreliability of time and the blurred distinction between plant and animal life. The discoveries within the anomaly defy capacity for description, resisting articulation.

10. It Follows

It Follows
Image Credit: RADiUS-TWC.

Absurd yet relevant, It Follows contains classic American tropes of sexuality and the supernatural. In a suburban town, University students face an entity disguised as an STD. The entity, more than a metaphor, embodies a mysterious terror that keeps us afraid of its invisible and diseased nature. It Follows highlights the terror in the unseen, emphasizing that what remains hidden scares more than what's seen, a recurring theme in intense thriller and horror films of the last decade.

10. NOPE

NOPE Keke Palmer, Daniel Kaluuya
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

NOPE surprises by embodying both a spoof and a love letter to the horror genre. The film’s aesthetic mirrors a simplistic style akin to Wes Anderson, Jordan Peele’s direction offers a refreshing perspective on UFOs and human nature. Beginning with an act separated by time, the film introduces a theme of exploitation rather than cosmic horror. Its theme focused on the endless human struggle against an unknown entity, the film maintains suspense by subverting expectations every chance it gets.

11. Green Room

Green Room Patrick Stewart
Image Credit: A24.

In this shocking blend of intesne thriller and horror, a punk band low on funds gets invited to a venue, only to discover it’s a skinhead bar. Opening for the NSBM band Cowcatcher, the band becomes swarmed by something more terrifying than zombies — Nazis. Patrick Stewart takes on a menacing role as the skinheads’ leader. Green Room shows no mercy, and the violence precise and purposeful. Rather than lingering in slow-burning scenes, this movie delivers a swift and potent punch.

12. Barbarian

barbarian 1
Image Credit: 20th Century Studios.

Barbarian offers an unsettling and surreal experience. The introduction plays out a possible scenario: a woman, on a business trip, arrives at a rental home and discovers it’s double-booked. The unanticipated house guest seems out of place in a shadowy neighborhood that feels even more eerie. However, more unexpected events unfold within the rental home. In a non-traditional haunting, a sinister human event occurs in the depths of the house.                         

13. It

It (2017) Bill Skarsgård
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

A frightening adaptation of Stephen King’s original novel, this tale unfolds in the late eighties when a group of young kids encounter a shape-shifting monster posing as a clown. The film begins with an introduction mirroring the book, evaporating any illusion of safety as a paper boat maneuvers toward a drain, revealing a horrifying face lurking within the darkness. Suburban streets lose their playground status of only hiding or seeking, leaving no in-between.

14. The Conjuring

The Conjuring Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson
Image Credit: Michael Tackett / Warner Bros. Pictures.

Drawn from chilling real-life reports, The Conjuring narrates mystifying paranormal events within a Rhode Island farmhouse. Following generations of neglect, an unwitting family occupies the abandoned building. The cursed history of the house unfolds, haunting them with a malevolent spirit linked to numerous deaths. 

15. The Autopsy of Jane Doe

The Autopsy of Jane Doe Olwen Catherine Kelly
Image Credit: Lionsgate.

Delve into an intense thriller mystery surrounding the body of a Jane Doe brought into a morgue at night by the local Sheriff in need of answers by sunrise. The coroner and his assistant, a father and son team, discover strange things on and inside the body. A nightmare of deceptive illusions and hauntings ensue throughout a storm-ridden night as they race against, and for, the dead. The foreshadowing in this film makes viewers exclaim, “Ah-ha!” while the same time muttering, “Oh no…”

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Matt comes from the background of a stranger, born with deafened ears and raised in the NATO system, leaving home in Belgium to go to school and work in Washington. He holds a BA in Film and Cultural Studies from The Evergreen State College and an MFA in Creative Writing and Poetics from the University of Washington Bothell. During his undergrad, he wrote and created a film with two other students entitled "Post World Loneliness," which critiqued "progress structures" like capitalism and industrialization while trying to promote ecological awareness. He has published poetry and short stories in the Clamor journal.

His writing is self-described as a cacophony of writing, usually dabbling in poetry and fiction. The themes in his writing consist of speculative sci-fi with an emphasis on exploring and deconstructing anthropocentrism. His most recent project was his thesis, a novel entitled "Anti-Parietal Epithalamus," which merges object-oriented ontology and physics, ecology and philosophy, poetry and science in an absurd, dark-comedic fictional universe. He used tropes from recent sci-fi and horror stories to play with existentialism and disorientation by technology and modernity.

His favorite readings lately are Houses of Ravicka by Renee Gladman, The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer, and the Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown.