The best thrillers to watch on Netflix this February

A man in a brown suit standing by a pair of police officer holding a man in a grey suit back as he stares into the back of a car with a body visible in the foreground.
Image: Warner Home Video

Custody battles, crime waves, and conspiracies that go all the way to the top

Greetings, Polygon readers!

February is here, and while the cold weather might be beginning to break, there’s plenty of good thrillers on Netflix to watch if you’re looking to set your blood cold. We’ve plunged back into the depths of the streamer’s catalog to bring you the very best of what Netflix has to offer when it comes to thrillers this month, and might I say, these picks are good.

This month’s selections include a German martial arts thriller about a cage fighter punching his way to his daughter’s birthday, a neo-noir crime drama starring Guy Pearce and Russell Crowe, and one of the best conspiracy thrillers of the 1970s. Here’s our list of the best thrillers to watch on Netflix in February.

Editor’s Pick: Sixty Minutes

A man with blond hair performs a high-knee strike into another man’s abdomen while another man runs away in the distance. Photo: Reiner Bajo/Netflix

Director: Oliver Kienle
Cast: Emilio Sakraya, Dennis Mojen, Marie Mouroum

Sometimes, what you want is an economical thriller with a tight premise. That’s what the German Netflix original Sixty Minutes has to offer. In it, a fighter (played by two-time German karate champion Emilio Sakraya) has exactly one hour to get to his ex-wife’s house for his daughter’s birthday party. If he doesn’t make it in time, she’ll file for sole custody. And the fighter has another problem: He’s about to step into the ring, and there are some seedy people with a lot of money on the fight.

Sixty Minutes executes this premise well, leaning on Sakraya’s skill as a fighter and as an actor for a sub-90 minute thrill ride. While still falling prey to some of the tropes of the “custody thriller,” Sixty Minutes smartly subverts them by being realistic about the protagonist’s shortcomings as a father. All the while, it cleverly uses modern technology (like cell phones and scooters) to advance the narrative, and delivers some kick-ass fight sequences along the way. If you’re looking for a straightforward piece of genre cinema that knows exactly what it’s going for, check this one out. —Pete Volk

L.A. Confidential

A close-up shot of Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) wearing a tie with slicked-back hair standing next to a doorframe. Image: Warner Home Video

Director: Curtis Hanson
Cast: Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kevin Spacey

If you, like myself, count yourself as a fan of period detective thrillers like Chinatown and Devil in a Blue Dress, Curtis Hanson’s neo-noir crime thriller is an easy sell. Based on James Ellroy’s novel of the same name, the film follows a trio of police officers in 1950s Los Angeles whose respective investigations converge on a deadly conspiracy between organized crime and the city’s government.

Guy Pearce stars as Ed Exley, the son of a prominent detective looking to make a name for himself as an institutional reformer, who butts heads with Wendell “Bud” White (Russell Crowe), a veteran officer with a personal vendetta and a penchant for... let’s just say, less than reputable police tactics. The animosity shared between the two and their opposing approaches is one of the great propulsive forces behind the film’s story, culminating in a explosive third act face-off that sees the pair grappling with one another through a deceptive ploy on part of the film’s antagonist. Top that off with a pair of excellent supporting performance by Danny DeVito as a sleazy tabloid muckraker and Kim Basinger as cool and calculating call girl, and it’s no wonder L.A. Confidential is considering an enduring classic. —Toussaint Egan

The Parallax View

Warren Beatty as Lee Carter, sitting in a white chair staring at a bright screen. Image: Paramount Home Entertainment

Director: Alan J. Pakula
Cast: Warren Beatty, Hume Cronyn, William Daniels

The second installment in what would later come to be known as Alan J. Pakula’s thematic “paranoia trilogy,” The Parallax View is arguably the defining conspiracy thriller of the era that defined the genre. The film stars Warren Beatty as Lee Carter, an investigative journalist who witnesses the assassination of an aspiring presidential candidate atop the Seattle Space Needle. After a string of other witnesses begin to die due to mysterious circumstances, Lee is inadvertently set on the trail of a corporation he believes is responsible for orchestrating the assassination. Pakula’s film is a taut, bracing political thriller complimented by memorable production design and Gordon Willis’ impeccable cinematography. If you’re looking for a chilling investigative mystery that’s brilliantly shot to boot, The Parallax View connects all those dots and then some. —TE

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