10 Great Thriller Movies Made By World-Class Directors

6. Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007, dir. Sidney Lumet)

Sidney Lumet’s final film before his death in 2011 didn’t receive as much recognition as his more famous works such as “12 Angry Men” or “Dog Day Afternoon,” but it is nonetheless nothing short of a masterpiece.

“Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead” follows Andy and Hank Hanson (played by Ethan Hawke and Philip Seymour Hoffman), two brothers who decide to do remorseless things in pursuance of getting money. The siblings decide to rob their own parents’ jewelry store and in order to do so they hire an experienced thief to help them with their scheme. However, things don’t go according to plan when their mother accidentally gets shot. From there on, everything in the brothers’ lives falls apart.

This film amazes not only through the award-worthy performances from its talented cast but also through the unconventional, utterly captivating nonlinear storytelling. It feels like a puzzle, always taking you back and forth in time, and in the end constructing a perfect observation on the downfall of a family.

Thrilling, dramatic and funny at the same time, “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” is one of the most suspenseful films of this century and one of Sidney Lumet’s greatest films.


7. High and Low (1963, dir. Akira Kurosawa)

High and Low

Calling Kurosawa’s “High and Low” an underrated film is a stretch considering its reputation among film buffs and movie critics, yet compared to “The Seven Samurai”, “Rashomon” or “The Hidden Fortress”, it still feels a little less talked about than it should be.

One of the most modern movies that Kurosawa has ever made, the influence of “High and Low” on later films is undisputed, and there are countless police procedural thrillers (Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” and “Memories of Murder” or Villeneuve’s “Prisoners” among some of them) that have most likely been inspired by Kurosawa’s 1963 masterful film.

The film stars Kurosawa’s longtime collaborator Toshirô Mifune as Kingo Gondo, a wealthy executive who is struggling to gain control of the shoe company he is working for. But just when he is about to put his plans into action, he receives a call that announces that his son has been kidnapped. Kingo is prepared to pay the ransom when he finds out that the kidnapper has made a mistake: instead of taking Kingo’s son, he abducted the son of his chauffeur.

Suspenseful from the first to last frame, flawlessly directed (the train scene during the film’s second act rivals the best works of Hitchcock), with complex storytelling and also making a thoughtful social commentary on the inequity between poor and rich, “High and Low” is one of Kurosawa’s finest works and a masterful film in every way.


8. Sorcerer (1977, dir. William Friedkin)


“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 novel “The Exorcist”. However, unlike the previously mentioned movies, “Sorcerer” was not a success at all and neither too lauded by critics 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, a memorable 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 the 20th century and, despite its growth in popularity over the years, still remains a forgotten masterpiece for most moviegoers.


9. The Long Goodbye (1973, dir. Robert Altman)


Robert Altman’s adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s novel 1953 “The Long Goodbye” is a suspenseful neo-noir that stars Elliot Gould as the charismatic Philip Marlowe, a private detective who finds himself in the middle of a mysterious case that includes a missing man, a murdered wife, violent gangsters, and corrupt Mexican cops.

Set in the moody backdrop of 1970’s Los Angeles, Altman’s film is filled with night scenes, cigarette smoke, and quirky characters. Even though at its base a murder mystery, “The Last Goodbye” subverts genre expectations and takes its plot in unexpected directions. The result is a unique film that is as much a hard-boiled detective story as it is a dark comedy, an examination on the frailty of friendship and trust or, as Altman himself called it, “a satire in melancholy”.


10. Targets (1968, dir. Peter Bogdanovich)

Targets (1968)

One of Peter Bogdanovich’s early films before his 1971 breakthrough “The Last Picture Show”, “Targets” is an unconventional thriller about a retiring horror movie actor (played by Boris Karloff in one of his last appearances on screen) and a young mass-murderer whose paths cross in an unexpected way.

Based on real-life events from 1966, when a former U.S. Marine killed 18 people in what is known today as the University of Texas tower shooting, “Targets” is a 50 years old film, yet it feels today as unsettling and relevant as ever. It works not only as a chilling thriller, but also as a fascinating commentary on gun culture, movies and violence in 1960s America, and a sort of semi-autobiographical swan song for Boris Karloff. Although perhaps not as accomplished as Bogdanovich’s later films, “Targets” is still an exceptional film, even more considering Bogdanovich was only 29 years old at the time of its making.