5 movies like Netflix's 'The Wages of Fear' but better

Franck Gastambide, Sofiane Zermani in The Wages of Fear
(Image credit: Netflix)

Remaking a classic movie is always a risky proposition, especially when it’s already been remade as a movie that is itself considered a classic. So French filmmaker Julien Leclercq was facing an uphill battle before he even got started on his version of “The Wages of Fear.” Georges Arnaud’s 1950 novel was previously adapted in 1953 by director Henri-Georges Clouzot, whose movie won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and in 1977 by William Friedkin under the title "Sorcerer."

Leclercq’s film retains the set-up of a group of desperate outsiders driving trucks full of volatile nitroglycerin across treacherous terrain. Leclercq adds shootouts and car chases, awkwardly combining his lean action-movie style with the original’s slow-building psychological torment. 

The result is a frustrating misfire, although it’s been a success on Netflix since its March 29 release. For anyone disappointed with Leclercq’s efforts, here are five better movies to check out.


William Friedkin’s 1977 take on “The Wages of Fear” sticks closer to the tone of Clouzot’s film, focusing on the internal trauma of characters who live on the fringes of society, willing to take on the most dangerous work for enough money to raise them out of their dire circumstances. Like Leclercq, Friedkin includes some additional thriller elements, but “Sorcerer” still generates its suspense from the volatile cargo in the trucks the characters are hired to drive.

Roy Scheider stars as a wanted man hiding out in South America, whose sheer force of will carries him past seemingly insurmountable obstacles on his mission. Friedkin sustains white-knuckle tension for the entire journey, including a bravura sequence set on a decaying bridge, placing the audience alongside the harried, haunted men as they drive to their apparent doom.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 82%
Watch on the Criterion Channel 


He may have stumbled with “The Wages of Fear,” but Leclercq has built up an impressive filmography of gritty, elegant action movies, most recently with this revenge thriller starring Olga Kurylenko. She plays a French soldier who’s reassigned to a domestic terrorism surveillance unit after a botched overseas mission. Dealing with PTSD and guilt over failing to spot a bomb strapped to a young child, Kurylenko’s Klara channels her anger into seeking out the men responsible for a brutal attack on her sister.

Kurylenko conveys Klara’s anguish and rage, honed into a single-minded purpose, and Leclercq stages some savage close-quarters fights in cramped locations like a nightclub bathroom and a hospital basement. He doesn’t need high-concept source material to come up with an action movie that’s emotionally resonant and viscerally exciting.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 70%
Watch on Netflix 

‘The Grey’

Liam Neeson starred in his own rip-off of “The Wages of Fear” with the dismal 2021 Netflix movie “The Ice Road,” but this earlier Neeson snowbound survival thriller has a much better handle on similar material. Neeson still gets to show off his fighting skills, but director Joe Carnahan’s film is more about the internal struggles of a group of Alaska oil workers stranded in the wilderness following a plane crash.

There are plenty of external struggles, too, especially in the form of hungry packs of wolves, and Neeson’s John Ottway eventually has to fend off those wild animals. But John also has to deal with conflicts among his fellow survivors, and meeting basic needs like food and shelter as they cling to the hope of rescue. Carnahan delivers a stark, intense drama about the primal battle between man and nature.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 80%
Rent/buy on Apple or Amazon

‘The Treasure of the Sierra Madre’

John Huston’s Oscar-winning Western is a dark drama about greed and deceit, with Humphrey Bogart embracing nastiness as an American drifter in Mexico who becomes increasingly unhinged while prospecting for gold. Huston captures the seedy, underhanded side of the gold rush, as the characters quickly turn on each other when they believe that fortunes are at stake.

Bogart channels his natural charm into a heartless, cruel outlaw, with Tim Holt and Huston’s father Walter as his more honorable partners. All three of them are ultimately blinded by their lust for riches, placing them in harm’s way and leading to a bleak, rueful ending. There are no heroic showdowns or triumphant getaways, just the emptiness of a life spent chasing after supposed quick and easy wealth.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%
Rent/buy on Apple or Amazon


Set along the U.S.-Mexico border, director Denis Villeneuve’s crime thriller is an exploration of moral gray areas, with characters who carry out cold-blooded executions in the name of supposed law and order. The title refers to an assassin (Benicio del Toro) covertly working for the CIA to stabilize the drug trade across North and South America. Emily Blunt plays an FBI agent caught in the middle of the CIA operation, slowly realizing that she’s being used as a pawn.

The screenplay by “Yellowstone” creator Taylor Sheridan is layered and complex, shifting the audience’s perspective on who’s in control and who’s doing the right thing — if anyone. The movie’s centerpiece is a breathtaking action sequence that takes place at the crowded border crossing, with the same high-stakes pressure as the best moments of any version of “The Wages of Fear.”

Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%
Watch on Prime Video

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Josh Bell

Josh Bell is a freelance writer and movie/TV critic based in Las Vegas. He's the former film editor of Las Vegas Weekly and has written about movies and TV for Vulture, Inverse, CBR, Crooked Marquee and more. With comedian Jason Harris, he co-hosts the podcast Awesome Movie Year.