The Best New Thriller Movies of 2019

Can you even stand the anticipation?

Architecture, Arch, Building, Tourist attraction, Art, Space,
Claudette Barius/Netflix

Here's my problem: I love getting spooked at movies—feeling anything heart-pounding, really—but I cannot stand gore. I find the use of excessive blood campy at best and exploitative at worst, and it makes me feel more nauseous than scared. For this reason, it's the rare horror movie I can actually stomach. But thriller movies? Thrillers I can do.

I love a movie with twists and turns, with good people who might be bad and bad guys who turn out good. I love trying to guess what happens before the ending (I am always wrong) and I especially love that these movies can elicit strong reactions, like a roller-coaster, without freaking me out too much with gross wounds. Which means 2019 was a good year for me, movie-wise, because there have been some genuinely, um, thrilling thrillers hitting theaters and streaming sites alike.

Here are 19 of the best thrillers that came out in 2019.

Rust Creek

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Released: January 4, 2019

What Is It?

A woman named Sawyer gets lost in the heart of Kentucky and stumbles upon some scary characters. Including her would-be "rescuer" who's...just as strange as her pursuers. You have about as much information as the resourceful, resilient Sawyer, as she fights (often literally) to get to the truth and save her own life. The "survival thriller" isn't always interesting, but Hermione Corfield turns in such a good performance it reminded me of Oscar-nominated Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone.

Serenity

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Released: January 25, 2019

What Is It?

A deeply effing weird film about a woman (played by Blonde Anne Hathaway) who seeks out her old flame (Matthew McConaughy, doing his best Chrysler on an island to convince him to murder her abusive husband. But as in many thrillers, things are not what they seem. This is a creepy, slow-burning, thriller that will have you questioning your own eyes.

Velvet Buzzsaw

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Released: January 27

What Is It?

A bizarro art world dark comedy about a mysterious dead artist whose paintings do his anti-capitalist bidding. Is it a not-so-subtle critique on the monetization of meaning in a world devoid of it? You bet.

Cold Pursuit

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Released: February 8

What Is It?

When my husband first told me the premise of Cold Pursuit (a remake of the 2015 Norwegian film In Order of Disappearance), I thought he was joking: The action-packed thriller is about a snowplow driver (Liam Neeson) looking to avenge the death of his son by the hands of drug dealers. A SNOWPLOW DRIVER! Only Neeson could play the uncommunicative, hard working Everyman with a silence that's at once menacing and heartbreaking. But it's not all bullets and steely stares—comedic moments (thanks to silly bad guys and Liam's own "I'm too old for this shit" moments) cut through the tension and will be the reason why you remember this movie and why it made this list.

Us

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Released: March 22

What Is It?

Ok, fair warning here: There is some gore, and this could technically be considered a horror movie as well as a thriller. But hear me out (this is totally the exception to my horror movie rule). Jordan Peele makes his movies like puzzle boxes. Whatever you're looking at in the first few scenes is guaranteed not to be reality, and it'll take a while to understand what's really lurking underneath. This one's about a family tormented by their (mostly) mute, red-wearing doppelgängers, and it's exactly as scary and mysterious as it sounds. It's not at all like Get Out, but it is equally cool.

Pet Sematary

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Released: April 5

What Is It?

Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, it follows a family who buries a beloved cat in the cemetery behind their house in woodsy Maine—and then it comes back. But it’s different. So imagine what would happen if they buried something bigger...Okay, it might be more of a horror movie, but at least in the 1989 movie there was more suspense than gore.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile

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Released: May 3, 2019

What Is It?

A dramatization of the charismatic, handsome, and utterly psychotic serial killer Ted Bundy (played by Zac Efron, in his buzziest role ever). The movie shows his home life and the view the people who knew him as just a normal guy had of Bundy, and then offers a glimpse of the total circus surrounding his trial. (Efron is already getting awards buzz for his totally unrecognizable portrayal.)

John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum

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Released: May 17

What Is It?

The media has widely lauded 2019 as the year of the Keanussance. We at MC disagree—okay, about half of us. Keanu Reeves movies have NEVER NOT been a joy to watch and his sad-sandwich, woke AF antics have NEVER NOT been clickbait of the most satisfying order. The third installment of the series of action thrillers continues to chronicle the action-packed events (chapter 3 takes place an hour after chapter 2) set in motion by the (SPOILER ALERT!) killing of his dog in the first movie. Instead of being the hunter, he is the hunted—declared "excommunicado" by the High Table that governs this universe of assassins. The signature mix of balletic and brutal martial arts sequences, self-referential humor (thanks to bad guy and Iron Chef host Mark Dacascos) and neo-noir vibe make this our favorite thriller of the year so far.

Ma

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Released: May 31

What Is It?

Octavia Spencer plays the ultimate cool mom (albeit short lived) to a group of high school kids looking to party. The action kicks off after one of them hits her up outside a liquor store to buy them alcohol. A series of wild parties at Ma's house ensue, feelings get hurt and her true intentions are revealed. Bonus: A dance party scene set to Debbie Deb's freestyle hit from the 80s "Lookout Weekend"—it's been on heavy rotation on my Spotify ever since.

Motherless Brooklyn

Celebrity Sightings in New York City - February 15, 2018
Dafoe on-set.
Pierre SuuGetty Images

Released: July 3

What Is It?

Ed Norton directs and stars in this movie, based on the Jonathan Lethem novel about a spy who suffers from Tourette’s Syndrome. It’s set in New York in the 1950s and has lots of seedy, strange characters (Willem Dafoe and Bruce Willis also star) so expect fun, nostalgia thrills.

Crawl

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Released: July 12

What Is It?

This creature feature, directed by Alexandre Aja (High Tension and Piranha 3D) takes place during a category 5 hurricane and as the water rises, so do the thrills. While most of her hometown heads to higher ground, a reluctantly dutiful daughter (Kaya Scodelario) goes to her childhood home in a Florida swamp to check in on her father (Barry Pepper). She finds him injured and unconscious in the crawl space underneath the house. Swampy waters and everything that comes with them are now filling the streets and buildings. What was once dry land is now their domain. Who's going to make it out alive?

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Celebrity Sightings In Los Angeles - July 24, 2018
DiCaprio and Pitt on-set.
PG/Bauer-GriffinGetty Images

Released: July 26

What Is It?

Quentin Tarantino’s newest movie takes on the Manson Murders of the 1960s, showing Los Angeles in all of its gritty, glamorous glory. It’s also reliably star-packed: Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Al Pacino, and more will show up.

47 Meters Down: Uncaged

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Released: August 16

What Is It?

In this sequel to 47 Meters Down, instead of a lone Mandy Moore, trapped in a cage at the bottom of the ocean surrounded by sharks, we have four adventurous teens trapped in an underwater city with the devil-eyed predators—it's as if The Descent and Jaws had a Gen Z baby who would go to any lengths for the perfect IG photo.

Luce

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Released: August 23

What Is It?

Luce (Kelvin Harrison Jr., terrific and terrifying) is a model student in his community and for his (adoptive, white) parents. Then, an altercation with his teacher starts to unravel the narrative, and the story keeps us guessing until the final moment. This isn't just a compelling thriller, it also tackles thorny issues of race, class, stereotype, and the lies parents tell themselves about their children. It's thought-provoking and compelling all at the same time—so it's a treat to watch.

Ad Astra

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Released: September 20

What Is It?

Brad Pitt is at his quietest and most reserved here as an astronaut tasked with trying to stop his fellow astronaut father, who may be in deep space trying to kill everyone on Earth. What could have been a simple action movie actually ends up being a moody reflection about the nature of humanity and isolation—plus, just like everything else on this list, not everything is as it seems.

Joker

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Released: October 4

What Is It?

Joaquin Phoenix stars as failed Gotham City comedian Arthur Fleck, who slowly descends into madness and becomes the criminal mastermind and iconic supervillain known as The Joker.

Gemini Man

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Released: October 11

What Is It?

Will Smith returns to his action movie roots as an aging assassin who is ready to retire from the job only to find that he's become the target himself. The twist? The super assassin out to get him is a cloned, younger version of himself.

21 Bridges

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Released: November 22

What Is It?

Chadwick Boseman as an NYPD detective who uncovers a massive conspiracy who takes the extreme measure of shutting down all of Manhattan's 21 bridges in a manhunt for two cop killers.

Knives Out

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Released: November 27

What Is It?

A wealthy, eccentric crime novelist invites his extended relatives to his remote mansion for his 85th birthday party, hoping to reunite them. The next morning, however, he's found dead in his study, leaving the police and a very experienced private eye to investigate and interview the family members/suspects.


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