Filmmakers and writers often debate which is more difficult: making people laugh or cry. However, many of the great filmmakers of all time would prefer another option: surprise. And the thing is that there is nothing more difficult for suspense films than to keep the public on the edge of the armchair, and then to crack their suspicions with an impressive final twist.
These same challenges have made the thriller in a rare genre, but glorious when it arrives in all its glory. And boy did he 21st century has left us several that capture all its greatness. Here are the best thrillers so far in the 21st century.
He disappeared one night (Dir. Ben Affleck, 2007)
Ben Affleck had already demonstrated his creative talents with the script for Indomitable Mind (Good Will Hunting), but the best was just yet to come. It was in 2007 when the Californian temporarily left acting to start a directing career with Disappeared One Night, a hypnotic film that explores the efforts of an investigative couple to find a missing girl and their despair at her inability to solve the case. The film stood out for its stupendous construction, its important reflection on child well-being, and its disturbing coincidences with a real-life case. And it is that the premiere of Disappeared one night was almost simultaneous with the enigmatic disappearance of Madeleine McCann, a British girl whose case remains a mystery to this day.
Flees! (Dir. Jordan Peele, 2017)
Jordan Peele’s debut feature was a dream project for thriller movie lovers. Not only for its well-built history, but for its important message of intolerance in an increasingly fragmented North American society. The creative explores the story of a seemingly ordinary interracial couple: he is a young African American nervous about meeting his girlfriend’s family; she is a white girl without prejudice. But things are not always what they seem and the atmosphere of disturbing hospitality will soon turn into a terrible nightmare. This is how the director / writer takes us into a dark plot that won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in 2018.
The sinister island (Dir. Martin Scorsese, 2010)
Martin Scorsese has always been a genius of criminal cinema, but a few years ago he transferred these qualities to mystery to offer us one of the best suspense films of the last decade. To achieve this, the director turned to his eternal –and very talented– Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays a detective who travels to a psychiatric institution to unravel a mystery. But things are not what they seem and our character begins to crumble before the truths that afflict him, but also before the demons of his own past. His final reflection is extremely powerful: is it worse to live like a monster or die like a good man?
The secret of their eyes (Dir. Juan José Campanella, 2009)
The talented third party made up of Eduardo Sacheri, Juan José Campanella and Ricardo Darín headed one of the great suspense films of the 21st century: a police case that was never solved, a detective tormented by it and his need to find an answer. Unlike other similar movies, the richness of this movie lies in the humanity drawn from the original novel. On the one hand we have a tragedy that only increases with the Argentine political crisis; but also a hopeful account of an old agent who only wants to close personal and professional circles to continue with his life. Worthy winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.
Men who did not love women (Dir. Niels Arden Oplev, 2009)
Nordic literature has inspired some of the great thrillers of all time, Stieg Larsson being a perfect heir to this tradition. The Millennium saga, which began with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, shines among the best thrillers of recent years, with a story that leaves the old detectives behind to fuse the cunning of a clever hacker and a veteran journalist in solving a mystery. Only a few years later, the play made its way to the cinema under the direction of Niels Arden Oplev, who, supported by the stellar performances of Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist, orchestrated one of the greatest works of crime cinema so far in the 21st century. Unfortunately the sequels struggled to maintain the level of the original film. Hollywood, for its part, orchestrated its own version under the direction of David Fincher and a few years later released The Girl in the Spider’s Web, without Fincher and with Claire Foy as Lisbeth Salander.
You might also be interested in: The best horror movies in history.
Caché (Dir. Michael Haneke, 2005)
Caché may not have the popularity of other Haneke movies like Sadistic Games (Funny Games), The White Ribbon (Das weiße Band) or Love (Amour). And yet he is among the great exponents of the thriller so far in the 21st century. Caché means hidden, a perfect title for a work that leads us through a disturbing game involving a series of tapes whose content will slowly break down the family foundations of our leading duo made up of the perfect Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche. A film as challenging as it is misunderstood. As proof, it is enough to remember his wonderful time in Cannes, as well as his controversial disqualification in search of the Oscar.
Oldboy: Five Days to Revenge (Dir. Park Chan-wook, 2003)
Some think that the Asian cinema of the 21st century has only shone internationally with terror. Serious mistake, since the region has skillfully explored other genres, Oldboy being the best example. And it is that from the first minutes, Park Chan-wook conquers us with the hypnotic story of an individual who is kidnapped for no apparent reason for 15 years, to later be released at the center of a disturbing conspiracy. This is how we enter a story full of twists and turns and revelations that have captivated audiences for several years. Needless to remember, the story was recently adopted by Hollywood, but the results were far from the original.
Amnesia (Dir. Christopher Nolan, 2000)
Christopher Nolan is one of the most talented directors of recent times, Amnesia (Memento) being his first great jewel upon entering Hollywood cinema. The story is fascinating on its own: a man who suffers from anterograde amnesia – that is, he cannot generate new memories – as a result of a traumatic event and who must resort to a series of photographs to decipher his situation. However, the true delicacy of the film lies in its narrative technique, which combines ordinary and inverted chronology to unravel the mystery from the protagonist’s perspective. The film grossed a mere $ 39 million worldwide, but eventually reached its cult status to become a must-have for thriller lovers.
Zodiac (Dir. David Fincher, 2007)
David Fincher has exhibited a great mastery of suspense in each of his films, Zodiaco being one of the best examples. The film explores the search for the infamous Zodiac killer that plagued the San Francisco area in the 1970s and sparked a mass hysteria for more than a decade. And is that regardless of the police efforts, the criminal was never identified. The director masterfully develops the story by harnessing the nature of the genre and the qualities of its cast to guide us through a thriller so powerful that it even wanders through terror. In the end, it is impossible to enjoy this movie without feeling a little nervous about the possibility that the Zodiac killer is still alive and looking for his next victim.
Dreams, mysteries and secrets (Dir. David Lynch, 2001)
Hollywood is often described as a dream place, but there are filmmakers who prefer to focus on their nightmares. Such is the case with David Lynch, who enjoys delving into the human psyche to explore the darkest corners of society. Dreams, Mysteries and Secrets (Mulholland Drive) is the best example. On paper, it is the story of a young actress who crosses paths with an amnesic woman. However, the encounter is complemented by all kinds of surrealist sequences that decipher the true content of the film and that culminate in the elegant – albeit disturbing – resolution of a mystery. A work so complex that it continues to generate different interpretations more than 15 years after its premiere. Of course, no one dares to debate its position among the best films of the filmmaker, or as one of the great masterpieces of the 21st century.
Thriller Suspense Playlists
Luis Miguel Cruz Someday I will join the X-Men, the Rebel Alliance or the Night’s Watch. Proud member of Cine PREMIERE since 2008.