Best Thrillers of the 2000s, Ranked The Talks Today
The audience is at the mercy of every great thriller. The screenwriters and directors have us in the palm of their hand, as they decide when and how best to pull the rug from underneath our feet. The greats of the genre live and die by the credibility and shock factor of suspense sequences and plot twists, with the vast majority of those considered classics possessing the ability to leave the viewer’s mouth agape as the end credits roll.
From Psycho, Dial M for Murder, and The Silence of the Lambs, to Seven, The Fugitive, and Vertigo, there have been some truly iconic thrillers over the years. However, was 2000-2009 the best decade for the thriller since the era of Alfred Hitchcock films? It was certainly 10 years that produced hit after hit, so let’s take a look at the best thrillers of the 2000s….
10 Eastern Promises
Two years after their first movie together, Cronenberg and Viggo Mortensen reignited the glimmering spark that saw A History of Violence become a critical success with 2007’s crime thriller, Eastern Promises. Set against the backdrop of modern London and the Russian mafia, the film stars Mortensen as a quiet criminal who attempts to help Anna, played by Naomi Watts, a nurse and midwife who inadvertently uncovers a sexual abuse conspiracy when she reads the diary left on the body of a Russian girl who dies in childbirth.
An expertly written screenplay by Peaky Blinders’ creator, Steven Knight, who intricately assembled a truly engrossing plot, grounds the cold, meticulous suspense of Cronenberg. The film features one of the greatest action scenes of the decade, with a completely naked Mortensen fighting a group of gangsters in a sauna.
9 A History of Violence
A mousey-blonde Viggo Mortensen takes to the floor in David Cronenberg’s screen adaptation of the 1997 graphic novel of the same name, A History of Violence. Residing in a humble Indiana town, diner owner Tom Stall (Mortensen) lives an unassuming existence with his wife and child.
After a robbery attempt on his suburban diner is stifled thanks to his valorous efforts, Stall is confronted with life-changing repercussions when a local mobster decides, seemingly on a whim, that he has crossed him. Mortensen is terrific as the word-shy family man, whose driven by moral rationale, and that primal instinct: to protect his family.
Taken out of context, “I will find you, and I will kill you” sounds like a game of hide-and-seek that’s got a little out of hand. Liam Neeson’s character Bryan Mills, is embroiled in his own game of hide-and-seek with life-and-death consequences in 2008’s crime-thriller, Taken.
Pierre Morel’s movie presents ex-secret service agent, Mills’ extraordinary solo mission to locate and save his kidnaped daughter from the hands of merciless French drug traffickers. An engrossing, all-action affair, that Liam Neeson and the husky depths of his voice thrive in.
7 The Prestige
Two stage magicians do battle in Christopher Nolan’s unique adaptation of Christopher Priest’s 1995 fantasy novel of the same name, The Prestige. Set in 19th-century Victorian Britain, Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) and Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) are old friends and magicians who, after a fateful accident, become the fiercest of enemies. The two men consign themselves to a life of outdoing one another on stage in this unique, moody film which, like the best magic tricks, always catches the viewer off guard.
Christopher Nolan’s second feature film, which made the industry sit up and take notice of the up-and-coming 30-year-old director, was 2000’s Memento. Starring Guy Pearce as protagonist Leonard Shelby, a man suffering from an extreme form of amnesia, the neo-noir psychological thriller follows Leonard as he pieces together the murder of his wife, relying on notes and tattoos as a way of hunting down his wife’s killer.
Memento is a captivating film with an awe-inspiring central performance from Pearce, whose perplexed narration adds a personal dimension that guides the film’s narrative in such an authentic manner.
5 Mulholland Drive
In the convoluted neo-noir art film Mulholland Drive, Rita’s life is tainted by amnesia following a car accident. Together with a new acquaintance, Betty, a wannabe-Hollywood star, the pair examine the events that occurred in order to piece together a semblance of who Rita is.
David Lynch’s dark masterpiece is a confusion of fever dreams and acid trips, with the beauty of its complexity found within allowing yourself to be guided by Lynch’s greater vision, that at times is simply inexplicable. Although Mulholland Drive was a movie that bombed at the box office, its cult status did wonders in recouping its initial losses.
David Fincher is the modern-day king of the thriller. From Fight Club and Panic Room to Seven and The Game, the director has been behind some of the biggest movies of the genre for the past 30 years. 2007’s Zodiac, based on Robert Graysmith’s novel of the same name, documents the true story of the zodiac killer during the late 1960s in San Francisco.
The film follows Graysmith’s (Jake Gyllenhaal) attempts at cracking the enigma that successfully eluded police, as a professional cartoonist and puzzle-solver, Graysmith’s deep fascination with the mysterious ways of the cold-blooded killer helped aid the federal investigation.
3 American Psycho
It’s best to avoid flexing your Phil Collins knowledge to your date because one, it’s an automatic turn-off, and two, they may have an irrational fear that you’re going to brandish a chainsaw any second. While the latter relies on their knowledge and memory of American Psycho, the Mary Harron movie certainly hasn’t done the former Genesis drummer’s career any favors, although a lot of that is just down to him making dated music…
Christian Bale plays Patrick Bateman in feasibly a career-best performance. Bateman is an affluent investment banker with supremely discerning taste and an austere rigidity to discipline and routine. His sociopathic propensities begin to rear their ugly head as he succumbs to the inner yearning to kill in American Psycho, which began the decade but seemed almost more representative of the 2008 financial crisis than almost any other movie of the time.
The middle installment of Park Chan-Wook’s acclaimed Vengeance Trilogy is perhaps the director’s best work to date. 2003’s Oldboy transcended South Korean cinema and made its way into the attention of the Western mainstream. With its venomous twist and pernicious narrative, the film details Oh Dae-su’s (Choi Min Sik) false imprisonment and his journey toward ascertaining the identity of his captor.
Held captive against his will, for reasons unknown to him, Dae-su is randomly released one day with his clothes and mobile phone and sets out on a mission fueled by the desire for retribution. Oldboy is a film that culturally reset the expectations of a thriller, and that didn’t spare our shock, disgust, or natural aversion in favor of a softer, more predictable landing.
1 No Country for Old Men
The Coen brothers’ neo-Western thriller contains one of the most iconic Western villains ever in Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem). He’s a dead-eyed, uncompromising, psychopathic killer, on an unrelenting pursuit of a man inexperienced in the world of crime, who has made off with a suitcase holding a small fortune that belongs to those that Chigurh is working for.
Bardem rightfully claimed the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, delivering a masterful performance as the deranged, mesmerizing bolt-firing terminator of the West. Shot by the magnifying lens of Roger Deakins, with his famously harsh employment of natural light and beautifully contrasting silhouettes, No Country for Old Men is a truly disquieting thriller.