The 10 Most Underrated Thriller Movies of The 2000s

The sheer volume of movies currently available across the streaming landscape can make finding hidden gems that are actually worth your time a difficult endeavor, especially if you have already watched all the capital-M Masterpieces that routinely pop up on decade-end roundup lists. To help, we’re digging a little deeper to focus on the kind of lesser-known titles that often get buried by the algorithm and simply don’t get as much attention these days as they undoubtedly deserve.

From gripping tales of international espionage and retrofuturistic Euro-thrillers to gnarly revenge flicks that will get your adrenaline juices pumping — the following selection of overlooked titles released from 2000-2009 may have tanked at the box office or simply slipped through the cracks but nevertheless deserve your attention. If you’re looking for edge-of-your-seats thrills, keep reading to find what may well become your new cinematic obsession.


1. Lust, Caution (2007)

Lust, Caution

After breaking into the mainstream with “Brokeback Mountain”, Taiwanese-born director Ang Lee decided to ride the momentum of his big Oscar win by returning to his home turf to adapt this potboiler novel about a Hong Kong theater student who must slip undercover into the high society of Japanese-occupied Shanghai to seduce and eliminate a high-ranking official working for the puppet government.

Chinese bombshell Tang Wei of “Decision to Leave” fame and Wong Kar-wai stalwart Tony Leung Chiu-Wai set the screen aflame as two deadly enemies-turned-star-crossed lovers caught in a whirlwind of conflicting loyalties amidst a complex power struggle. An evocative cross between “Notorious” and “In the Mood for Love”, “Lust, Caution” never had much of a chance of getting a fair shake overseas given its extremely graphic sex scenes — which caused quite a stir upon release, rattling Puritan film critics and movie censors, who bestowed it with a harsh NC-17 rating. But the bristling chemistry between the two leads alone should convince any hesitant viewer to add this to their streaming queue, especially if they happen to like their thrillers with a healthy dose of international espionage, political intrigue and erotic tension.


2. Demonlover (2002)


This chilling cyberthriller by French cinema titan Olivier Assayas might have flown under the radar and failed to find much of an international audience after flaming out at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival with little more than a whimper. But more than 20 years and a newly restored director’s cut later, the movie has gone on to earn a reputation as a cult classic that’s been fully rehabilitated for its prescient commentary on the entertainment business, which retools classic thriller tropes for the internet-age to peer behind the blinds and into the seedy underworld of the gaming and pornographic industry.

What begins as a bizarro procedural drama about a French corporation batting heads with an American web media company for the distribution rights to a sleazy hentai production studio quickly reveals its true colors as a unique spin on “Videodrome” for the Y2K-panic era. You can even argue the story, which eerily anticipated the media-obsessed and cutthroat corporate culture that has become ever so prevalent in our times, resonates more today than ever. And even if that B-movie set-up doesn’t sound like the kind of thing that’ll float their boat, this box office flop is certified to give you plenty to chew on after the credits roll.


3. Sexy Beast (2000)

Sexy Beast

As his latest film The Zone of Interest just won an Oscar for Best International Feature Film early this year, it’s high time we revisit the early-career breakthrough that established Jonathan Glazer as a major creative force and brand-name auteur at the century’s turn.

The London-born writer-director’s pet themes arrived fully formed in this stripped-down thriller about a retired British criminal trying to hide out peacefully in a remote Spanish villa until he’s forced to confront his past after a former associate turns up announced on his doorstep, which boasts career-best performances by top-shelf character actors in Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley and Ian McShane.

Despite earning rave reviews and racking up Oscar and Golden Globe nods at the time, Glazer’s breakout hit has slowly faded into obscurity without experiencing the same critical reassessment as his 2013s “Under the Skin”. With a runtime that barely stretches past the 80-minute mark, however, crime aficionados can rest assured that watching “Sexy Beast” will be time well spent.


4. Southland Tales (2006)

In hindsight, it’s nothing short of a miracle that Richard Kelly actually managed to convince a major studio to fund his “Donnie Darko” follow-up — a mind-bending, no-holds-barred, absurdist farce that doubles down as a cracked-mirror vision of a post-9/11 America bracing for Armageddon. Just for the record, we’re talking nuclear warfare, closed state borders, government surveillance, police brutality, Pynchonesque political conspiracies, energy shortages, time travel, radical Neo-Marxists, psychic porn stars, and deranged Iraq War vets, not to mention a perpetually bewildered Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson playing a sort of bizarro version of himself.

This tongue-in-cheek Bush-era time capsule debuted to deafening boos at Cannes and barely made a dent at the box office after being dismissed — perhaps unfairly — as an absolute head-scratcher. That’s too bad, really, because if the events of the past 17 years are anything to go by, society seems to have finally caught up with Kelly’s apocalyptic prophecy. In a world where influencers, conspiracy nutjobs, Hollywood celebrities, billionaire tycoons and elected presidents all log in to Twitter to post memes, spread misinformation, diss porn stars, sell merch or publicly endorse mass genocide, “Southland Tales” doesn’t feel as far-fetched as it once did in 2006.


5. Femme Fatale (2002)

Though Brian De Palma’s creative mojo had already dried up considerably by the turn of the millennium, the thriller maestro bounced back big time and found a sublime new expression to his trademark themes and stylistic flourishes in this globe-trotting neo-noir starring Antonio Banderas and Rebecca Romijn.

What we have here is a slick slice of erotic Euro-sleaze with shades of Dario Argento, David Lynch and early Paul Verhoeven that zeroes in on a cunning career thief who pulled off a $10-milion diamond heist (at the Cannes Film Festival no less) before double crossing all her associates and starting afresh in Paris. All is fine and dandy until a too-clever-by-half tabloid paparazzo stumbles upon her and unwittingly snaps her picture, which screams trouble for our elusive woman-on-the-run, who might just find her past coming back to bite her.

As per usual, De Palma can’t help but indulge on some of his signature calling cards — from bravura sequences, ostentatious split diopter shots, evil doppelgangers, meditations on voyeurism, and enough double-crossing to make Alfred Hitchcock’s head spin. One’s mileage with the film is likely to vary, which means some may need a few extra viewings to make head or tails of what’s going on at the end of the story.