5 best Netflix crime thrillers to watch right now

L to R: Eddie Redmayne as Charlie Cullen and Jessica Chastain as Amy Loughren in The Good Nurse
(Image credit: Netflix)

A gripping crime thriller is like a roller coaster ride for your mind. It takes you on a journey of unrelenting excitement from the moment the opening music begins to when the credits start to roll. The entire gritty vibe of these types of films sweeps you away. Pair that with the chance to solve a crime or discover how a mystery unfolds, and you have an excellent movie-watching experience.

Netflix has some of the best crime thrillers available. We've selected the ones you can watch, whether you have the lower-priced ad-supported plan or the higher-tiered ad-free plan. Whether it's a classic film that has resonated with movie fans for years or a newer one you may not have seen before, you are sure to find your next favorite crime drama on this list.

Emily the Criminal

Emily The Criminal is a film that will take you by surprise as you root for an anti-hero doing the very illegal actions so many of us are impacted by. Aubrey Plaza stars as the title character, who has a hard time finding a job because of her criminal record. She starts delivering food to make ends meet, but things take a turn when she is soon introduced to a seemingly simple credit card scam. 

Nothing remains simple as she gets deeper into this criminal world. Plaza portrays a spot-on depiction of a struggling, not-so-sympathetic anti-hero whose life takes a turn from difficult to life-threatening. You'll be kept on the edge of your seat as she navigates sketchy characters who put her life at risk and deal with friends she can no longer trust.

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The Good Nurse

The Good Nurse is a quiet but captivating crime thriller about a man who is accused of killing numerous patients in the hospital. However, it doesn't exactly start that way. The film begins by focusing on Jessica Chastain, who plays Amy Loughren, a nurse with a serious heart condition waiting for a transplant. She gets much-needed help during her shifts from Eddie Redmayne's Charles Cullen, a new hire who just joined the hospital.

Paralleling this debacle is an investigation brought on by the hospital after an elderly patient dies unexpectedly. Two detectives arrive on the scene and focus on Cullen, whose behavior that night is in question. However, the detectives can't find evidence that proves he's involved in the growing hospital deaths. The truth comes to light when Loughren becomes involved in the case. This movie is a must-watch if you love movies based on true stories.

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The Informer

The Informer is a gritty crime thriller starring Joel Kinnaman as Pete Koslow, a former special operations soldier and ex-convict. Because of his connections with the Polish mafia, the FBI recruits him to go undercover in a maximum security prison to expose the crime boss Eugene Lipinski's The General. In return, he'll be released early.

Everything goes off plan when an undercover officer is killed, and Koslow's family is threatened. He is put in a precarious situation between the mafia and the FBI, uncertain who he can trust. This film's star-studded cast shines brightly, complementing Kinnaman's excellent performance. Rosamund Pike stars as Wilcox, Koslow's FBI connection; Common stars as Detective Grens, who investigates the undercover officer's death; Clive Owen stars as the crooked Montgomery; and Anna de Armas plays Sofia, Koslow's wife. It's a movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

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If you are in the mood for a dark and moody crime thriller, you'll want to watch Prisoners, starring Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Paul Dano, and other incredible actors. Jackman plays Keller Dover, whose young daughter and her best friend are missing. The only lead is an old RV that had been parked on the street earlier that day. The driver, Dano's Alex Jones, is arrested by the police, but they have no direct evidence he was involved in the kidnappings.

Jackman's Dover takes matters into his own hands in his fight to find his daughter and her friend. This movie will leave you wondering how far you would go in the same circumstances. While Jackman is a shockingly troubling character to watch, Gyllenhaal plays an equally disturbing part. Both give their best performances in this film, making it one of the best Netflix crime thrillers available.

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L.A. Confidential

Another can't-miss crime thriller available on Netflix is L.A. Confidential. It tells the story of three cops, each with their own unique background and motivation. Guy Pearce's Ed Exley is determined to uncover crooked officers. Russell Crowe's Bud White uses questionable means to bring about justice. Meanwhile, Kevin Spacey's Jack Vincennes shares real cases with a popular TV show in exchange for money.

Each narrative comes together when the three officers investigate a robbery that resulted in murder at a local L.A. diner. The captivating cinematography displays a vivid recreation of 1950s LA. It's no surprise the movie won an Oscar for Best Picture in 1998. Be sure to watch for Kim Basinger's portrayal of Lynn Bracken. She earned an Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for that performance. 

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Nicole Pyles is a writer in Portland, Oregon. She loves movies, especially Lifetime movies, obscure TV movies, and disaster flicks. Her writing has been featured in Better Homes and Gardens, Mental Floss, WOW! Women on Writing, Ripley's Believe it or Not, and more. When she isn't watching movies, she's spending time with family, reading, and writing short stories. Say hi on Twitter @BeingTheWriter.