People fighting to stay alive against overwhelming odds often makes for intense, gripping subject-matter when it comes to movies
And Netflix has plenty of top-notch examples when it comes to the survival thriller sphere.
With new ‘people vs shark’ film The Shallows hitting cinemas this week, it seems a good time to explore the best nail-biting offerings the streaming site has to offer.
Ranging all the way from sci-fi horrors to far-flung jungles and modern day war zones, these tales of humanity on the edge will have you on the edge of your seat.
After Deadpool, it’s probably difficult to picture Ryan Reynolds as anything other than the crimson suited quip-dealer, but fix your eyes on Rodrigo Cortés’ extraordinary 2010 psychological thriller Buried, and you’ll see him in a very different light.
The film follows Paul Conroy, an American truck driver working in Iraq who is kidnapped – and wakes up buried alive.
Set entirely inside Paul’s claustrophobic coffin, the protagonist must use every ounce of his wits, composure and bargaining power in his bid to escape. Together with Reynolds’ frantic, desperate performance, the movie does a great job of creating an atmosphere of genuine dread.
If you liked The Blair Witch Project, you’re going love Cloverfield, because although the forest setting has been ditched for an apocalyptic downtown New York backdrop, the found-footage camera technique and the nerve-wracking tension remain.
It’s impossible to accurately describe the monster that begins systematically destroying America’s most famous city, so let’s just say that it’s very big and very weird. Cloverfield is an action-packed onslaught featuring the Statue of Liberty as a roadblock, and more ‘frantic “let’s get out of here” running than you could shake a camera at.
A group of ordinary New Yorkers caught up in the catastrophe propel us through the mayhem.
Mel Gibson’s historical masterpiece is an emotional, hard-hitting drama in its gut-punching first act – and an epic, pulsating chase movie in its second.
Exploring the life of a 16th century indigenous Mayan tribe, and their struggle to survive when they are attacked by a force from the civilization’s sprawling, decadent city, you’ll be rooting for hero Jaguar Paw all the way in his bid to return to and save his pregnant wife and child.
You don’t get many movie set in 16th century Central America, and Apocalypto will most likely capture your interest with its unusual setting alone. But the genuinely interesting characters and the shocking situations they encounter make it extremely powerful.
The Purge: Anarchy
The Purge’s concept – that on one day each year, the entire population of the US is permitted to commit any crime imaginable – is scary, and the original movie reflected that.
But The Purge: Anarchy is far wilder than the first film, and features significantly more opportunities for our characters to get involved in action sequences, as well as a much keener eye for social and political satire.
It’s not just the upped action stakes that’s more evident though. Throughout the movie, we meet more characters and visit a far greater variety of locations than the first film as our desperate survivors career across an entire city, giving us an insight into what life would really be like for ordinary citizens on Purge Night.
Unlike most survival thrillers, there are no monsters or psycho killers in Kajaki. Instead, you’ll have to settle for good old fashioned drama, in this case revolving around a group of British soldiers who are unwittingly trapped by circumstance out in the battlefield.
As you’d imagine, it’s a brutally honest account of modern day war. At its heart though, the film is an tender account of young soldiers fighting in Afghanistan, resulting in a story about friendship and sacrifice.
Sci-fi horror is a niche and often ropey genre, so it’s refreshing to see such a fine example as Pandorum (starring a bearded Dennis Quaid, and the highly underrated Ben Foster) on Netflix at the minute.
It all starts with an atmosphere of moody mystery, as Foster’s corporal emerges from hypersleep on an epic intergalactic voyage, only to find the vast ship eerily deserted save for Quaid’s fellow flight officer. At least at first…
It’s no Alien, but Pandorum will serve you better than most if you’re looking for a futuristic thriller to get your heart pounding. It’s tense, clever and very, very frightening.