When it was released in 2018, A Quiet Place became one of the biggest surprise hits of that year. Directed by John Krasinski, the film was set in the aftermath of a global attack by deadly monsters who hunt their prey based on sound. The premise made for an almost dialogue-free thriller that had audiences on the edge of their seats the whole time.
That level of suspense is hard to pull off in films, but it can be so rewarding when done well.
Updated on June 23rd, 2021 by Colin McCormick: After a number of delays, fans finally got a chance to see the next installment of this franchise with the release of A Quiet Place Part II. The movie continues to explore the struggle for survival in a world in which any sound can be deadly. Given that the sequel more than lived up to the incredible suspense of the first movie, it makes sense to look at some of the other great movies that put audiences on the edge of their seats and cause them to hold their breath.
15 The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
The Oscar-winning thriller The Silence of the Lambs deserves special credit for making conversations between intelligent characters feel pulse-pounding with suspense. The whole movie has a foreboding quality but as soon as Hannibal Lecter is introduced, the audience is immediately put on edge.
The quid pro quo scenes between Lecter and Clarice Starling make the exchange of words feel incredibly intense. Anthony Hopkins’s performance is so chilling that Lecter feels like a threat despite being in prison the whole movie. And of course, there is the infamous night-vision chase scene at the end which is a masterful sequence of making the audience squirm.
14 The Shining (1980)
Despite what Stephen King himself thinks of the adaptation, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is seen as one of the greatest horror movies of all time. With an iconic performance from Jack Nicholson, the movie uses its isolated setting to brilliant use.
The movie might be less violent and boasts a smaller body count than most of these other movies, it is Nicholson’s gradual descent into violence that delivers the suspense. Kubrick’s willingness to let the tension build in drawn-out moments is incredibly effective.
13 It Follows (2014)
With one of the most interesting horror movie premises in recent memory, It Follows has become a modern masterpiece of the genre. It sets up the idea of a deadly supernatural threat who can look like anyone and that slowly pursues its target until catching and killing them.
The movie makes the sight of a person slowly walking towards the main character a terrifying sight. There is the feeling that the threat could be anyone and could come out of anywhere. Before long, the audience feels the same unrelenting terror as the main character.
12 Hereditary (2018)
Aris Aster has quickly established himself as one of the most interesting horror movie directors. His first movie, Hereditary, is another instant classic that is as uncomfortable for its family drama aspects as it is for its supernatural horror elements.
The movie follows a family devastated by a tragedy, but as they deal with their grief, they are haunted by an evil force. The raw emotion of the movie makes everything feel tense only to explode in small yet terrifying ways as the evil spirit reveals itself.
11 The Invisible Man (2020)
A remake of the classic Universal monster movie, The Invisible Man is a rare movie that makes the empty space in the screen feel unsettling. Elizabeth Moss stars as a woman who escapes an abusive relationship only to suspect her former boyfriend has found a way to become invisible and stalk her.
The question of whether or not someone else is in the room hangs over every scene. Moments of the camera panning to an empty chair are as effective as when the unseen villain makes his presence more deliberately known.
10 Don’t Breathe (2016)
The threat at the center of Don’t Breathe is very similar to the one in A Quiet Place. But perhaps more unsettling is that the monster in Don’t Breathe is human. The thriller follows a group of young adults who, out of desperation, attempt to rob the home of a blind man. Once inside the house, the man proves to be more terrifying than they ever could have imagined.
Watching this deadly and formidable manhunt these kids throughout his house as they attempt to remain quiet is incredibly unnerving. The movie keeps the audience locked in with clever sequences and disturbing reveals.
9 Sicario (2015)
On the surface, Sicario seems like a fairly typical crime film, but director Denis Villeneuve infuses it with nonstop tension from beginning to end. It centers around a determined FBI agent (Emily Blunt) who joins a covert government ops mission to battle a Mexican cartel. However, the mission soon becomes something bigger than she imagined.
There is a dread that hangs over every scene of the film, causing the audience to expect something terrible to happen at any moment. This creates a feeling of danger that serves the story wonderfully.
8 Sorcerer (1977)
This thriller from director William Friedkin (The Exorcist) was considered a financial disaster when it was released in 1977 but has since gone on to be considered a cult classic. It is also well-known for being one of the most nail-biting films of all time.
Set in a remote area of South America, the film follows a group of desperate men who agree to drive a shipment of highly explosive nitroglycerin across the unpredictable terrain. What follows is a surreal and epic adventure that will leave anyone breathless.
7 The Descent (2005)
Stemming from childhood, everybody seems to have a natural fear of the dark. That feeling of not being alone in the darkness is exploited expertly in The Descent. The film follows a group of girls who go spelunking together and come across grotesque flesh-eating creatures living in the depths of the caves.
The movie’s setting provides some of the best jump-scares in horror history and presents a feeling of unease throughout the story. A strong story and excellent character work help to make it something really special.
6 Green Room (2015)
Any movie that can turn Patrick Stewart into a terrifying neo-Nazi deserves a great deal of respect. Green Room follows a punk rock band who reluctantly takes a gig at a skinhead camp, but after making a shocking discovery, they find themselves trapped and hunted.
The movie throws the characters and audience into a claustrophobic setting from which there seems to be no escape. The violence is shocking and brutal in how quickly it happens. It is the kind of movie that will keeps fans up at night.
5 Whiplash (2014)
Whiplash does not seem to belong with the other films on this list. It is not an action movie, no one is trying to kill anyone else, yet it inspires a level of anxiety when watching it that few films ever have.
The movie stars Miles Teller as a young aspiring jazz drummer who joins a music class headed by a strict and volatile instructor (J.K. Simmons). As the story goes on, this instructor pushes his pupil to extremes through verbal and physical abuse all while insisting he’s only trying to get the best out of him. It is a powerful drama that raises interesting questions about the student-teacher relationship.
4 1917 (2019)
This gripping World War I movie is made to look like one continuous take as it follows two soldiers who make their way to the frontlines to stop their comrades from walking into an ambush.
Though the one-shot technique might sound like a gimmick, it turns a standard war film into an edge-of-the-seat suspense picture. This movie reminds the viewers how much edits can relieve tension in a scene and how much the tension builds when those edits are gone.
3 Rear Window (1954)
Many filmmakers have imitated–but failed to match–the iconic Alfred Hitchcock in terms of delivering suspense. He is a master of the genre who has proven effective with big stories as well as small. Rear Window is a brilliantly claustrophobic tale of a journalist confined to his room after breaking his leg in an accident. While spying on his neighbors to pass the time, he witnesses something he was never supposed to see.
The movie makes viewers feel the humidity of its summer setting which adds to the sweat-inducing nature of the story. Jimmy Stewart makes for a compelling lead, and the film is a brilliant example of telling an epic story with so little.
2 Gravity (2013)
The unpredictability of space provides the perfect setting for a suspenseful story where anything and everything can go wrong. Gravity stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as a pair of astronauts who find themselves floating alone in space after their shuttle is destroyed.
There is a hopelessness to seeing these two small people out in the vastness of space that immediately makes the viewer’s stomach drop. Arguably Alfonso Cuarón’s best film, this is a harrowing survival story with long takes that hardly lets the audience catch its breath at all.
1 No Country For Old Men (2007)
The Coen Brothers often infuse their films with a quirky sense of humor but there aren’t many laughs in this dark and violent crime film. No Country for Old Men stars Josh Brolin as a man who finds a suitcase full of money in the desert, which soon turns him into the target of an unstoppable killer (Javier Bardem).
The dark mood and brutal violence throughout give the feeling that danger is around every corner. Bardem’s unsettling performance adds to that feeling as he seems like an inhuman force of nature that is always lurking in the darkness.
MCU: 5 Times The Villains Were Overpowered (& 5 They Were Defeated Easily)
About The Author