Who doesn’t like an action-packed spy-thriller with mystery and likable characters? Even the not-so-likable characters too, who viewers love to hate with their diabolical or world-altering plans! With Netflix’s The Recruit starring Noah Centineo streaming from Dec. 16th, there’s plenty of time to get in the mood for other action-thriller series before it starts!
From Killing Eve to Andor, action thrillers can cross multiple genres, countries and even planets! However, they all follow the main character who gets entangled in a web of mystery, action and espionage and must survive the possible fallout. Often with an antagonist who is in a position of power set out to corrupt and destroy the foundations of society, our heroes are often placed in dire situations that don’t only threaten their life but many others!
‘Killing Eve’ (2018-2022)
Written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge of Fleabag, Killing Eve is a spy thriller with a bit of dark humor thrown-in. Following Sandra Oh as Eve, an MI6 undercover agent that is set with the task of investigating an assassin, Villanelle played by Jodie Comer.
Eve and Villanelle’s obsession with each other blurs the line between both sides of the law. The writing is brilliant with Villanelle’s charming and complex character. The power-play between them is like a dance which is incredibly engaging to watch! With four seasons and a completed series, there’s no waiting on the cliff-hanging season finale!
Something the British do so well is their crime drama and Bodyguard is no exception. Richard Madden plays Police Sergeant David Budd, an ex-army veteran who now works for the Royalty and Specialist Protection Branch with London’s Police Service. He is tasked with looking after the Home Secretary, Julia played by Keeley Hawes when he gets entangled in terrorism and power politics.
This limited series is a tense thriller that keeps building until the very end, leaving the biggest twist to the last minute. The web of people involved in the politics of home security makes this action-packed thriller easily bingable in a night!
Another Star Wars series to be released on Disney+ with high acclaim, Andor’s action and thriller storyline provide a new genre of the Star Wars Universe. Cassius, played by Diego Luna, is a thief that gets entangled in the story of how the Rebel Alliance is formed against the Galactic Empire.
Andor takes place five years before the important events that unfolded in Rogue One. It is a slow burn with all the hallmarks of an espionage thriller that delves into the politics of the Star Wars universe brilliantly with its uniquely gritty and consequential atmosphere.
Adapted from the books by Lee Child, Jack Reacher played by Alan Ritchson is an ex-military cop who lives a nomad life in America. Following the first book in the series, Reacher goes to a small town where he is arrested for a local murder that then pushes him into a web of conspiracy and corruption.
Praised for being closer to the book than the Tom Cruise films, Reacher is a no-fuss sort of show, it gets right into the action and very much like Reacher himself, doesn’t apologize for it. It is fast-paced and has a great cast which adds to the traditional 90s action film feel of the series.
Luther is a British crime thriller series with five seasons and a movie release set for early 2023. This intense show follows DCI John Luther played by Idris Elba, who struggles with his own volatile nature while trying to keep his personal life and job from falling apart.
This series delves into many different areas of Luther’s life, relationships, job, crime and corruption. What made this popular series stand out from others was his complicated relationship with the psychopathic Alice Morgan played by Ruth Wilson. Who not only helps him understand the criminals he’s chasing but also tries to convince Luther they are one and the same.
‘Squid Game’ (2021)
Korean-made Squid Game was released on Netflix with huge popularity domestically and internationally with its mix of action, thrills and mystery! The ensemble cast focuses mainly on Seong Gi-hun played by Lee Jung-jae, a down-and-out gambler who accepts a strange invitation to compete in a series of children’s games for money. The intensity raises when they realize that the games will cost them their lives.
This series is a little different from other political corruption thrillers, however, Squid Game has twists and turns that make both the action from the games to the mystery behind who participates and runs the games a wild and engaging ride from start to finish.
‘The Mosquito Coast’ (2021)
From the book of the same name, this series follows in the footsteps of Harrison Ford’s 1986 film. The Mosquito Coast follows the Fox family when Allie played by Justin Theroux and his wife Margot played by Melissa George pack up their family unexpectedly and flee to Mexico.
This political thriller and adventure have a unique angle to the original film and book, as it keeps the secret of why they are running from the US government for the whole first series. This builds the show’s suspense and lets the viewer’s imagination run wild with possibilities!
‘Burn Notice’ (2007-2013)
With seven seasons and a prequel film, Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe, the franchise follows Michael Westen, played by Jeffrey Donovan as he tries to find out who issued the burn notice. Throwing him out as a spy and into civilian life with no identity or money Michael has the help of his girlfriend Fiona played by Gabrielle Anwar and friend Sam Axe played by Bruce Campbell, in earning money as a private investigator to fund his investigation into who burned him.
This popular show had an over-arching espionage mystery and individual stories of his private investigating that engaged its fans for a long time. With well-written characters, including his mom played by Sharon Gless, this crime thriller felt homely, charming and fascinating!
‘Prison Break’ (2005-2017)
Prison Break followed Lincoln played by Dominic Pursell when he is wrongly convicted of murdering the brother of the Vice President of the United States. His only hope is his brother Michael, played by Wentworth Miller who devises an elaborate plan to break his brother out of prison.
This ambitious series had action, corruption and drama as Lincoln and Michaels’s master plan ebbs and flows between success and utter failure. Twists and turns make this a bingeworthy series, and with 4 seasons, a telemovie and another season released just shy of a decade later, there’s lots to discover!
‘Altered Carbon’ (2018-2020)
Adapted from a novel Altered Carbon is a science fiction action series that follows political operative Takeshi Kovacs, played by Joel Kinnaman, who is hired by wealthy Laurens Bancroft, played by James Purefoy, to investigate his own murder. With no memory of how it happened, he hires Kovacs to uncover the truth.
Altered Carbon is a mind-bending and gritty futuristic mystery that isn’t for the faint-hearted, as there is a lot of world-building that plays into the entire story. In a world where your consciousness and memories can be implanted into new bodies, the thriller aspect of this series is no one can be trusted.