The thriller is an incredibly broad genre of film and has many sub-genres. For example, psychological, horror and crime. The suspense thriller is a sub-genre which is open to much debate. After all, thrillers within themselves can be described as films with elements of suspense.
However, it can certainly be said that when it comes to thriller films, there are definitely ones that keep audiences on the edge of their seats more or give audiences more uncertainty on how events will play out or conclude.
These thrillers can arguably be categorised as suspense thrillers. These thrillers are often thought-provoking, intense, nerve-wracking and mysterious, to name but a few adjectives.
10. Julia’s Eyes (2010)
When Julia’s sister dies, the official verdict on her death is that it is a suicide. Haunted by her sister’s death and its ruling as a suicide, Julia is convinced that something altogether more sinister and disturbing is to blame.
This sharp thriller benefits from its roots in horror which inevitably make it suitably creepy and foreboding, and as a result suspenseful throughout. There is a mystery element to Los Ojos de Julia which means that the suspense builds to a conclusion that audiences may or may not have not seen coming (pun intended) but is a satisfying result either way. The film is elevated by some of its technical elements, such as some impressive camera work and overall is definitely an edge of seat thriller.
Trivia: The film was originally going to be filmed as an English language film. However, when Guillermo del Toro came onboard as a producer, Universal Pictures saw an opportunity to make the film its first Spanish production.
9. A Hijacking (2012)
When Somali pirates hijack a Danish cargo ship and take the crew hostage, they enter into tense negotiations with authorities in Copenhagen which soon escalate.
If asked to name a film about Somali pirates hijacking a cargo ship, many audiences may immediately think of 2013’s Captain Phillips. However, Kapringen came out first and could even be argued as being the superior film.
Whilst both films are fraught with tension, Kapringen adds a different level of suspense with its inclusion of scenes which show the company’s CEO in negotiations in the boardroom. The palpable sense of dread throughout and the psychological element make this a more than worthwhile suspense thriller.
Trivia: Director Tobias Lindholm wanted the phone call scenes between Mikkel and Peter to appear as real as possible, so he filmed those scenes as actual conference calls.
8. Searching (2018)
When David Kim’s sixteen-year-old daughter Margot goes missing, the immediate police investigation leads nowhere. With no leads forthcoming, David decides to start investigating as well and looks to the one place that no one else has considered – Margot’s laptop. Tracing his daughter’s digital footprints, David contacts her friends and looks through photos and videos in hopes of finding a clue to where his daughter has gone or why she has disappeared.
Missing person thrillers are a tried and tested sub-genre of film but Searching is elevated by the clever way in which it tells its story. The story is told entirely through computer screens and feels really current and innovative.
Although this kind of method has been used before, Searching’s story lends itself really well to this and it helps make the suspense element feel even more pronounced. The audience discovers things along with David and we are on the edge of our seats waiting to see where the digital evidence will take us.
Trivia: Previously, the film Unfriended (2014) also used the method of telling its story entirely through a computer screen. There is a small nod to this film during the first Facebook scene where the name ‘Laura Barns’ appears as a trending topic. Laura Barns is a character from Unfriended.
7. Wind River (2017)
U.S Fish and Wildlife Service tracker Cory Lambert discovers the frozen body of eighteen-year-old Natalie Hanson on an American Indian reservation in the snowy Wyoming wilderness. When it is revealed that Natalie has also been raped, FBI Agent Jane Banner arrives to investigate. Soon she recruits Lambert to help solve the case, as the duo find themselves trying to decipher the mystery of the woman’s murder.
Location can have a massive impact on a film’s effectiveness and a lot of Wind River’s suspense comes from the desolate, snow covered landscape of the Wyoming reservation.
Shots which show the vast emptiness stretched out really hit home for the audience as to how terrifying it would be to be alone or in trouble out on the reservation. The tension is built slowly but surely as Lambert and Banner’s investigation delves more deeply into Natalie’s life and what ultimately happened to her.
Trivia: Wind River is the final instalment in director and screenwriter Taylor Sheridan’s thematic American Frontier trilogy. The other films are Sicario (2015) which he wrote, Hell or High Water (2016) which he wrote, and Wind River which he wrote and directed.
6. The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
The Killing of a Sacred Deer follows renowned cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Steven Murphy who secretly befriends a fatherless teen called Martin who has a connection to his past. As Martin demands more of Steven’s time and insinuates himself further into Steven’s life, the true intent behind his actions become painstakingly clear. Now Steven, faced with a past transgression, must face his worst fears and make an unforgivable choice.
Some thrillers build up their suspense through action packed scenes, using scenes of violence, car chases or shoot outs to keep audiences jittery and feeling on edge. The Killing of a Sacred Deer takes a completely different approach and uses a slow and uneasy method that takes the suspense to breaking point and keeps the audience on tenterhooks.
Trivia: The heart surgery scenes in the film are real. Colin Farrell attended the operation of a real patient undergoing quadruple bypass surgery.