6. Sorcerer (1977)
“Sorcerer” is directed by William Friedkin, who is most famous for helming the classic 1971 Gene Hackman thriller “The French Connection” and, of course, for his 1973 adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s horror “The Exorcist”. However, unlike the previously mentioned movies, “Sorcerer” was not a success at all and, apart from being a commercial failure, it wasn’t too lauded at the time of its release.
The film, which acts as a reimagining of the 1953 French-Italian thriller “The Wages of Fear”, follows four expatriated men from a remote South American town who are hired to drive a truck carrying a highly-explosive load of nitroglycerin chemicals through the dangerous Amazonian jungle.
With gripping action, fantastic cinematography and soundtrack by Tangerine Dream and featuring some of the tensest scenes in cinema history (everyone who has seen this film will recall the bridge scene), “Sorcerer” is one of the best suspense movies of all time and, despite its growth in popularity over the years, still remains a forgotten masterpiece for most moviegoers.
7. Blow Out (1981)
Brian De Palma’s 1981 political thriller stars a young John Travolta as Jack Terry, a sound technician whose job is to record sound effects for low-budget films.
While recording wind sounds for a horror movie in an empty local park, Jack witnesses a car having a tire blowout and plunging into the nearby creek. He immediately jumps into the water, trying to save the car’s passengers, but he only manages to save a young woman. The car’s driver, Governor McRyan, a politician who was running for president, is dead.
Soon after the incident, Jack starts to analyze the audio recordings he’s made in the night of the accident and discovers a detail which makes him question the things he saw. On the recording, just before the tire blowout, Jack hears what sounds like a gun being shot. However, when he is about to make the discovery public, his tapes are stolen and he comes to the conclusion that there is an entire conspiracy behind McRyan’s death.
With Hitchcockian suspense, a distinctive visual style and a career-high performance from Travolta, “Blow Out” qualifies itself not only as Brian De Palma’s best film to date but also as one of the best thrillers of the 1980s.
8. Marathon Man (1976)
Directed by John Schlesinger and adapted by John Goldman from his 1974 novel of the same name, “Marathon Man” stars Dustin Hoffman as Thomas “Babe” Levy, a history graduate and marathon runner who, after the death of his secret agent brother (Roy Scheider), gets caught in the middle of a conspiracy which involves a Nazi war criminal dentist nicknamed “The White Angel” (Laurence Olivier) and his collection fo diamonds stolen from Auschwitz.
With tense and very entertaining storytelling, a tour de force performance from Dustin Hoffman and some memorable scenes that will trigger everyone’s phobia of dentists, “Marathon Man” is one of the best made and most intriguing thrillers of the 1970s.
9. Notorious (1946)
Of course there had to be a film from the master of suspense himself on this list. While it isn’t as famous as some of his other films, there are many who consider “Notorious” a classic on the same level with Hitchcock’s finest works and we think it deserves a spot on this list.
The film stars Ingrid Bergman as Alicia Huberman, a notorious woman whose father is a convicted Nazi spy and who gets recruited by an American government agent (played by Cary Grant) to infiltrate and spy a Nazi organization from Brazil sometime after the ending of WWII. Alicia falls in love with Grant’s character, but he is using her love in his own interests and requires her to marry one of her father’s Nazi friends from Rio de Janeiro who is a leading member of the Nazi organization.
While the suspense here is subtler than that found in his later works, “Notorious” still showcases Hitchcock’s mastery of the genre and perfectly blends elements of romance with the gripping thrills of espionage film.
10. In The Line Of Fire (1993)
Wolfgang Petersen’s save-the-president thriller stars Clint Eastwood as Frank Horrigan, an old secret service agent (yes, Eastwood played old even in 1993) who is haunted by a mistake he made in his past: he was present during JFK’s shooting and failed to save the president by shielding him from the fatal bullet.
Thirty years later, while investigating what seems like an ordinary case, Horrigan finds hints that lead him to believe that a yet unknown man is planning another presidential assassination. John Malkovich is perfectly cast as Mitch Leary, the charismatic yet menacing assassin is always one step ahead Horrigan.
The film plays as an entertaining cat-and-mouse game between Eastwood and Malkovich’s characters, where at every turn one of them seems to be at an advantage only so that the next second the roles are reversed. Filled with suspense, great action and uplifted by strong performances from its two leads, “In The Line Of Fire” is the kind of Hollywood action thriller that we don’t really see anymore these days.