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Best thrillers in movie history

  • Best thrillers in movie history

    Representing the best of all worlds, quality cinematic thrillers pair edge-of-your-seat suspense with genuine human conflict. Throw in a little mystery, some taut action sequences, and the occasional romantic encounter, and it's no wonder the genre remains so wildly popular year after year. Further distinguishing a number of thrillers is that they opt for the slow burn, as opposed to, say, horror movies, which go straight for the jugular. That said, there are still plenty of top thrillers out there that veer into "action movie" territory, sparing the slow burn for a nonstop barrage of fights, explosions, and death-defying showdowns. One might say such loose parameters lend the genre all the more range. Others might argue that those same parameters dumb things down, diluting the genre in the process.

    Big-budget action sequences or not, most thrillers tend to emphasize the human element. As a result, viewers are more inclined to care about the characters and invest in the story. Not only that, but because thrillers often weave a more intricate narrative, the best ones reveal additional layers of meaning and detail with every viewing, making them compulsively watchable over and over again. And who doesn't love a movie that they can watch multiple times?

    As with any genre, not all thrillers are created equal. Some explode with pure movie magic, while others fail to light even the weakest fuse. Stacker is celebrating the former, listing out the 100 best thrillers in movie history. For analysis, we've built an index (the "Stacker score") that compiles IMDb ratings (weighted 50%) and Metacritic scores (weighted 50%). To qualify, the film had to be listed as crime on IMDb, have a Metascore, and have at least 5,000 votes. Ties were broken by Metascore, and further ties were broken by IMDb user rating. Every film on the list has been considered according to the cinematic history and development of thrillers.

    Click through to see if your favorite thriller made it to Stacker's list.

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  • #100. Revanche (2008)

    - Director: Götz Spielmann
    - Stacker score: 86
    - Metascore: 84
    - IMDb user rating: 7.5
    - Runtime: 121 min

    This Austrian film tells the story of Alex, an ex-con who, in an attempt to make life easier for his prostitute girlfriend, turns back to his old life of crime for a final heist. Fleeing the scene, he hides out in his grandfather's farming community, where he befriends a woman whose husband just happens to be a police officer. The film was a foreign-language Oscar nominee in 2008.

  • #99. Fireworks Wednesday (2006)

    - Director: Asghar Farhadi
    - Stacker score: 88
    - Metascore: 84
    - IMDb user rating: 7.7
    - Runtime: 102 min

    In this Iranian thriller, housewife Mojdeh is deeply suspicious that her husband, Morteza, is having an affair with the beautician next door. She sends her housekeeper, Rouhi, on an investigative mission to find out the truth, and things go horribly awry. A sweeping metaphor throughout the movie are the sounds of cap guns and rockets, which are literally the sounds of a celebration of the Persian New Year, but symbolically signal the human drama within, writes Clayton Dillard in Slant.

  • #98. The Insider (1999)

    - Director: Michael Mann
    - Stacker score: 88
    - Metascore: 84
    - IMDb user rating: 7.8
    - Runtime: 157 min

    Sometimes a thriller doesn't need to go big on explosions or mysteries in order to retain an atmosphere of suspense. For proof, look no further than Michael Mann's "The Insider," about a chemist's harrowing attempt to expose Big Tobacco by appearing on "60 Minutes." The film is based on the real-life story of Jeffrey Wigand, who requested that not a single cigarette be smoked on screen. With the exception of one puff during the opening sequence, Mann obliged.

  • #97. Mystic River (2003)

    - Director: Clint Eastwood
    - Stacker score: 89
    - Metascore: 84
    - IMDb user rating: 7.9
    - Runtime: 138 min

    Ex-con Jimmy Marcus' daughter is dead, and it turns out two of his childhood friends are involved: one was the last person to see her alive, and the other is the homicide detective working on the case. Not only was the film directed by Clint Eastwood, but the Hollywood icon also wrote the film's score, writes Peter Travers in Rolling Stone.

  • #96. Children of Men (2006)

    - Director: Alfonso Cuarón
    - Stacker score: 89
    - Metascore: 84
    - IMDb user rating: 7.9
    - Runtime: 109 min

    In a desolate future where humans are unable to reproduce, a miracle arrives in the form of a pregnancy. So goes the premise for "Children of Men," a propulsive thriller based on a book of the same name. Among the movie's many iconic scenes is a pig floating over the Battersea Power Station, making direct reference to the Pink Floyd album "Animals."

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  • #95. All the President's Men (1976)

    - Director: Alan J. Pakula
    - Stacker score: 89
    - Metascore: 84
    - IMDb user rating: 8.0
    - Runtime: 138 min

    From the annals of great journalism movies comes 1976's "All the President's Men," the story of two reporters who blow the lid off the Nixon Watergate scandal. While the movie goes to great lengths to preserve the integrity of the book upon which it was based, it does take some liberties in the dialogue department. More to the point, the film introduced the phrase "follow the money," which is now part of the national lexicon.

  • #94. The Handmaiden (2016)

    - Director: Park Chan-wook
    - Stacker score: 90
    - Metascore: 84
    - IMDb user rating: 8.1
    - Runtime: 145 min

    Revenge is served all sorts of ways in this Korean erotic thriller from 2017. Directed by Park Chan-wook, class tension and politics are central themes in the story of a con man who teams up with a pickpocket to swindle a wealthy man and his niece out of their money. The film is based on a Victorian-era novel titled "Fingersmith." Chan-wook's version sets it in Korea during the Japanese occupation, notes Bettina Makalintal in Vice.

  • #93. Blade Runner (1982)

    - Director: Ridley Scott
    - Stacker score: 90
    - Metascore: 84
    - IMDb user rating: 8.1
    - Runtime: 117 min

    In the midst of the initial "Star Wars" craze came Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner," a noirish take on sci-fi that's earned itself a healthy cult following over the years. In the film, Harrison Ford stars as a bounty hunter who must find and terminate a group of escaped replicants. Everything from the music to the characters to the set pieces is bursting with style and distinction, lending the film a breathtaking aesthetic all its own.

  • #92. Aliens (1986)

    - Director: James Cameron
    - Stacker score: 91
    - Metascore: 84
    - IMDb user rating: 8.3
    - Runtime: 137 min

    In 1979, Ridley Scott terrified audiences with "Alien," and in 1986, James Cameron delivered "Aliens," a sequel that cranked up the action while toning down the horror. Cameron would later become well known for his authoritative methodology, but at the time, he was considered a novice, which made it hard for him to earn the respect of his assistant director and the film crew alike. In response, Cameron had the assistant director replaced, quashing a potential uprising.

  • #91. The Dark Knight (2008)

    - Director: Christopher Nolan
    - Stacker score: 95
    - Metascore: 84
    - IMDb user rating: 9.0
    - Runtime: 152 min

    The second Batman film from Christopher Nolan is now widely considered one of the greatest comic book movies of all time. We're speaking, of course, of "The Dark Knight," which sees Christian Bale returning as the caped crusader and Heath Ledger famously tackling the Joker. To best capture the role, Ledger reportedly drew upon a slew of influences, including Sex Pistols members Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten as well as Alex from "A Clockwork Orange."

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