The best thrillers to watch on Netflix this May

We’re in the dead middle of May and on the cusp of several huge releases to the usher in the summer season. If you’re looking for a trio of blood-chilling, adrenaline-pumping, and heart-racing thrillers to tide you over until this year’s summer blockbusters, you’ve come to the right place.

This month’s selections include Todd Haynes’ 2019 legal thriller based on real-life events, an explosive action thriller starring Scott Adkins, and a steamy neo-noir featuring a charismatic performance by a young Jeff Bridges.

Editor’s pick: Dark Waters

A man in a dark overcoat looking over his shoulder with a look of concern next to a man standing beside a flatbed truck in Dark Waters. Photo: Mary Cybulski/Focus Features

Director: Todd Haynes
Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins

Fans of Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway, and director Todd Haynes all seemed to miss one of their finer works of the last few years: Dark Waters, a legal thriller that does for teflon pans what All the President’s Men did for presidents’ men.

Based on an equally riveting New York Times Magazine expose, and adapted by Matthew Michael Carnahan (The Kingdom), Dark Waters stars Ruffalo as Robert Billet, a real life corporate defense lawyer who is basically guilt tripped into investigating a string of unusual deaths in West Virginia. But as he begrudgingly pokes around, Billet finds that each death traces back to a chemical plant owned by DuPont, and what unravels is one of the great atrocities committed on American soil by a major corporation. Billet knows he can’t stay quiet, but doing so flips his career and life at home upside down.

It’s simple but riveting drama, conducted by Haynes in an usually buttoned up style (fans might expect the psychological delirium of Safe or May December). In different hands, without a sensitivity to the human plight and a curiosity for how cracking open a case like this actually works, Dark Waters would be fodder for Peacock docuseries shlock. But Ruffalo, haggard and relentless, and Hathaway, playing an almost throw away part as his supportive but drained wife, burrow so much deeper than what an hour of Law & Order could do. And yes, I tossed all my teflon pans afterward. —Matt Patches

One More Shot

Scott Adkins wears a bulletproof vest and holds a gun while going up an airport escalator in One More Shot. Image: Sony Pictures Entertainment

Director: James Nunn
Cast: Scott Adkins, Michael Jai White, Alexis Knapp

The 2021 movie One Shot took a chance on an experiment: A tactical military action thriller all presented in one take. Star Scott Adkins and director James Nunn reunited for the sequel, One More Shot, which takes the solid foundation and ideas of the first movie and expands on them in a more successful end result. Crucially, the sequel is set in an airport, which adds a different dimension to the action and the one-shot gimmick. It was also a big logistical hassle, as the movie was filmed in a working airport. The fights are great (especially one set on a moving train, using the hand rails as weapons and movement aids), and Adkins’ physical performance in these movies is breathtaking. It’s among the more immersive action thrillers you will find. –Pete Volk

Against All Odds

A bearded man and a short-haired woman posing in front of a Yucatan pyramid in Against All Odds. Image: New Visions/Columbia Pictures

Director: Taylor Hackford
Cast: Rachel Ward, Jeff Bridges, James Woods

If you’re looking for a steamy, slow-burn drama with picturesque sights and great performances, Taylor Hackford’s 1984 thriller will totally be in your bag. Based on the novel by Daniel Mainwaring, Against All Odds stars Jeff Bridges as Terry Brogan, an aging football player who is cut from his team after suffering a debilitating injury. With no other options, he accepts a job from Jake (James Woods), a notorious gambler, to find his ex-lover Jessie (Rachel Ward), who happens to be the daughter of Terry’s ex-boss.

Bridges and Ward have terrific on-screen chemistry together as their relationship deepens, and Woods predictably nails it home as a smooth-talking villain with a talent for conniving and manipulation. As if that weren’t enough, the film itself was pivotal in the creation of 2010’s Tron: Legacy — director Joseph Kosinski modelled the character of CLU after Bridges’ performance in Against All Odds. All in all, it’s a damn solid thriller. —Toussaint Egan