Yes, Netflix has a hefty dose of comedy in its ranks. It even has a large portion of completely mindless series to dive into, and they can all serve a purpose. However, sometimes it’s good to crank up the tension and get some adrenaline coursing through your veins.
Films that are often psychologically stimulating and oppressive bring a certain level of serotonin that normal jump scares can’t. Not every film can be a good psychological thriller, nor can they create the atmospheric tension that feels like a ticking time bomb. To be one, they need to be a perfect balance of horror and unexpected endings.
Netflix boasts an amazing selection of films across all genres. It has a wonderful collection of psychological thrillers as well. From themes that deal with sexual harassment cases to mothers avenging their children’s deaths, the films are extremely engaging and addictive. While some of the films are classics like Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, Shutter Island, Netflix also has an amazing collection from relatively newer directors such as Yorgos Lanthimos, Susanne Bier and more.
From its extensive collection of films, here are the five most stressful films you can now watch on Netflix.
The most stressful movies to watch on Netflix:
Nocturnal Animals (Tom Ford, 2016)
Starring Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Isla Fisher, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Laura Linney and Michael Shannon, among others, this film is based on Austin Wright’s 1993 novel Tony and Susan and is one of the rare instances where the film is better than the book itself. A psychological thriller which follows the story within a story trope, the film has a pretty suspenseful and murky premise that touches on the themes of greed, betrayal, regret and vengeance.
A disillusioned and affluent L.A. art gallery owner receives a manuscript from her ex-husband, forcing her to confront her past through a gripping and shocking story he tells in his novel, which makes her vicariously live her past mistakes and materialistic actions, ultimately leading to a tense ending.
Gerald’s Game (Mike Flanagan, 2017)
Adapted from Stephen King’s novel of the same name, the psychological horror film stars Carla Gugino in the lead and the rest of the ensemble includes Bruce Greenwood, Kate Siegel, Henry Thomas and others. A lucid exploration of trauma and abuse, the film’s premise sees an older couple engage in kinky foreplay when the husband collapses and leaves the wife handcuffed to the bed.
Dehydration and raging anxiety lead to hallucinations that blur the lines between the past and the present, resurfacing Gugino’s trauma. Harrowing and claustrophobic, every minute of this tale of survival is a morbid and horrifying exploration of the slow descent into insanity and terror that keeps the viewers on the edge of their seats.
Prisoners (Denis Villeneuve, 2013)
Dune filmmaker Denis Villeneuve’s Hollywood debut is one of the grittiest and most tense films streaming on Netflix. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Hugh Jackman, Viola Davis, Paul Dano and others, the film was based on Aaron Guzikowski’s script, partly based on Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart. While many actors and directors entered and exited the project, including directors like Antoine Fuqua and Bryan Singer, it was finally Villeneuve who managed to grab it, and he did immense justice to the film.
The film features the mysterious abduction of two young girls in Pennsylvania and the chilling search that follows. Jackman, as the distressed father, is assisted by Gyllenhaal as the detective in their grim and frantic search for the girls amidst rising atmospheric tension and terrifying consequences.
Boiling Point (Philip Barantini, 2021)
Synonymous to the word stressful, this 90-minute-long film is shot in a documentary style using single take as the viewers take a deep journey into the intricate details of working a restaurant. Starring Stephen Graham in the lead as the head chef, every minute is a ticking time bomb as Graham’s flawed vulnerability and the desire to extract maximum output from his team on a busy day adds more tension to the film.
With his role in this film, Graham cemented his position as one of the finest British actors in business currently. His display of emotional and psychological turmoil as he is caught in the throes of his personal and professional life gives him a human touch and makes the audience root for him despite his follies. After adding it to its shelves, Netflix viewers were “blown away” by Graham’s meaty performance.
The Strays (Nathaniel Martello-White, 2023)
Martello-White’s directorial debut has drawn comparisons to masterpieces like Jordan Peele’s Get Out and Michael Haneke’s Funny Games. Starring Ashley Madekwe as Neve, a light-skinned Black woman residing in an eerily idyllic suburb with her husband and children and leading life as a deputy head teacher at a private school, the film sees her being stalked by two mysterious people who gradually makes her life fall apart.
Ominous, unsettling and intensely provocative, the film is a commentary on the social dynamics, hierarchy and internalized racism that percolates across generations. It is based on a true story that Martello-White’s mum allegedly told him about “generational trauma,” which birthed the idea for the film.