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13 Underrated Thrillers That Will Get Your Blood Pumping

Updated on March 8, 2017
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Arthur is an avid television and movie fan with horror being his favored genre. If you can name it, he has probably seen it. Twice.

Thriller is a unique category because it has so many subtleties that keep it from blending into other categories. For instance, a thriller can often be described as a horror movie if there is a body count exceeding one or two people. On the other hand, if everyone in the film manages to get out alive it could easily be described as a drama. The one concrete attribute of a thriller is that it keeps you in suspense and always creeping toward the edge of your seat. If you are looking for a movie that will get your pulse pounding these 13 movies will do the trick even if they weren't appreciated in their own time.

The Recruit

This movie didn't get a very warm reception when it first came out despite the fact that Colin Farell was in high demand at the time. The film also stars Al Pacino as a CIA director in charge of new recruits. The Recruit starts out a little slow, but it gradually picks up steam throughout. Once it crescendos it doesn't stop with a series of twists that keep you guessing well into the third act. It may not be the perfect movie, but I think it deserves more credit than people have given it.

Swimfan

Swimfan is edgy for a PG-13 movie. The story is about a promising high school swimming prospect, Ben, who is a golden boy in every sense of the phrase. When a new girl moves to town and becomes his biggest fan, everything changes. It turns out that she has a shady past and no one, not even her family, is safe from her. Things start going south for Ben and his friends including drugs, sex, and even murder and it is up to Ben to stop the mayhem before it gets any worse. The movie is slightly predictable and ends in a rather cliched manner, but it is worth seeing at least once.

Memento

Memento is a testament to the art of filmmaking, yet most people will tell you that they have never seen it. The movie is about a man hunting for the individual responsible for killing his wife and leaving him with severe short-term memory loss. The memory loss is so severe that he lives his life through sticky notes and Polaroid pictures. Apart from simply being a solid thriller this movie also did what no other movie did before or has done since. The story is broken into two separate "films" in a way. One plays forward like a regular movie with linear progression while the other moves backward slowly unraveling the main character's backstory. There is not a lot of value in rewatching this film, but the initial viewing is unlike anything that you have ever seen.

Lucky Number Slevin

Lucky Number Slevin may technically be filed under an action movie, but it can also double as a mystery/thriller. A young man shows up at his friend's house only to find that his friend is not there. To make matters worse, he gets abducted by two rival crime bosses who both think that he is his friend. Now he must do his friend's dirty work to ensure his safety and maybe make a few bucks in the process. The movie is funny, dark, and mysterious; but it is not as straightforward as it seems on the surface. I'm not sure if this new-age spy film ever went to theaters, but if it did it didn't get the attention it rightly deserves.

Oldboy

Oldboy is also a contender for the list, "the most messed up movies of all time." A man is abducted out of the blue and held captive for 15 years without ever seeing another human being or knowing why his captor is torturing him in such a way. One day he is set free, but with a twist. He must find his captor and find out why he has been imprisoned for 15 years, but he only has five days to do it. Along the way, he meets a girl and falls in love with her, but she is not who he thinks she is. There is a lot of action and even more drama in this thriller that will leave you thinking, "What?!" There is an American remake starring Josh Brolin which is still good, but I would go for the original if you don't mind subtitles.

Primal Fear

Primal Fear is a diamond in the rough that has some huge names in it. Richard Gere and Laura Linney star as lawyers who are battling over the innocence of a young man played by Edward Norton. This crime drama has hints of thriller until the very end when it goes full thriller. It is a long movie with some unnecessary plot additions but it is worth every minute to get to the end result.

Black Water

The problem with films made in Australia is that they never get the due they deserve in the U.S. even though they make some pretty good movies Down Under. This thriller borders on horror, especially the creature feature genre, because it is about a giant man-eating crocodile. The thriller part comes in as we watch the three characters battling for survival against the giant croc. It is a heart-pounding nightmare that is inspired by a true story.

Hard Candy

The first time I watched Hard Candy I had mixed feelings about its content. There is not a lot of action in this movie, with most of the tension coming from a dialogue between a young girl played by Ellen Page and the photographer that she has quasi-kidnapped. This film is a psychological thriller to a T and tackles some pretty heavy subjects. Being an independent film, Hard Candy never reached the audience that it deserves.

Identity

Identity could also be seen as a horror movie because it has a relatively high body count, but I would not describe the film as bloody or gory in any way. The story follows a group of strangers who get stranded at roadside motel thanks to a torrential downpour. It isn't until a few of them start dying off that they realize that there is a killer in their midsts. The is only one shocking revelation that the group unfolds as a bigger story begins to unfold.

Look

Look is a crazy movie, and I can't believe that it flew as far under the radar as it did. It is shot entirely through security cameras and reminds us that we pass by hundreds of cameras a day recording our every move. Look weaves through five interconnecting stories showing us mostly the worst in people. I was surprised how much I liked this movie the first time I watched it.

Untraceable

If you can handle a bit of gore, Untraceable is one to see. It stars Diane Lane as an FBI agent who specializes in internet forensics. When a new site comes up, unlike anything she has ever seen she has no idea how much it is about to change her life. The movie becomes a game of cat and mouse between Lane's character and a deranged internet genius with a motive. This is one of those movies that is described as a non-stop thrill ride and lives up to its hype.

Frailty

Frailty is a must see movie starring Mathew McCounaghey and the late, great, Bill Paxton. The movie is about a man who walks into an FBI office to help them with multiple murders tied to his family. As the story unfolds, you will start to question whether the killings were justified in the end. Though the movie loses part of its magic after the first viewing, this film is so entertaining that you can watch it over and over again even though you know how it ends.

Mind Hunters

In my mind, there is no better thriller out there than Mindhunters. It stars a whole cast of recognizable faces and follows a group of FBI trainees on a weekend training mission. What they think is a routine exercise becomes a life and death battle when those amongst their ranks stop dying off. I am the kind of person that knows how the movie will end before it even starts and this film had me guessing until the final reveal. I recommend Mindhunters anytime anyone asks me for a good thriller to watch.

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