Jul 24, 2023

The 14 best thriller series on Hulu (August 2023)

Pity the TV watchers of yore, who had to wait an excruciatingly long week to find out what happened next after a thrilling episode of TV offered yet another cliffhanger. Now, even series formerly spread across 26-episode seasons can be (conceivably) binged over a long weekend, thanks to streaming services like Hulu.

The streamer offers many of the thriller show greats, from true crime-inspired miniseries to malevolent adolescents to sci-fi classics. If you're in the mood to kill an hour (or five), here are the best thriller series on Hulu.

All nine seasons of Fox's long-running, real-time thriller series are available on Hulu, so you can binge-watch the nine eventful days from the life of CTU agent Jack Bauer (until, unlike Jack, you're finally felled by sleep). In each nail-biting season, Jack takes on a seemingly unstoppable terrorist threat against the U.S. with the help of his many uncanny resources. Along the way, a myriad of nefarious plots are revealed, allies become foes, and Jack barely has time to breathe as he pulls off one unbelievable stunt after another.

Back when the series premiered in 2001, EW's critic enthused, "The idea of combining Jack's professional and personal crises and placing them within a pressure-cooker time frame (a digital clock showing elapsed time punctuates the start and finish of each commercial break) gives the series a momentum that's both emotional and action oriented." —Gwen Inhat

Where to watch 24: Hulu

EW grade: B+ (read the review)

Cast: Kiefer Sutherland, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Carlos Bernard, Dennis Haysbert, Elisha Cuthbert, James Morrison, Reiko Aylesworth

Related content: Kiefer Sutherland is happy to return as Jack in a 24 revival, but he has a bolder idea

This true crime miniseries tells the harrowing story of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, a teenager who was duped into constant medical assistance she didn't actually need by her mother Dee Dee. Upon learning she was lied to, Gypsy and her boyfriend hatch a plan to murder her mother. The gripping eight-episode series delves into how Gypsy executed this act behind Dee Dee's back while also navigating her burgeoning sexuality and exploring the real world outside her mother's grasp. Joey King's triumphant turn as Gypsy is arguably her best performance yet, while Patricia Arquette won an Emmy for playing the manipulative Dee Dee. —K.J.

Where to watch The Act: Hulu

Cast: Patricia Arquette, Joey King, AnnaSophia Robb, Chloë Sevigny, Calum Worthy

Related content: Patricia Arquette is an obsessed mother in true-crime anthology The Act: First look

While the premise may sound gimmicky — married KGB spies living in America at the height of the Cold War with a next-door neighbor who happens to work for the FBI — this nuanced drama series is anything but. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys deliver some of TV's best performances of the 2010s as Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, whose commitment to their cause is tested over six riveting seasons, especially when it comes to their unsuspecting kids. While there's plenty of fun to be had between the espionage and the many, many wigs, the best part of The Americans is its slow-burn dramatic tension, rewarding patient viewers tenfold. —K.J.

Where to watch The Americans: Hulu

EW grade: B+ (read the review)

Cast: Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Holly Taylor, Keidrich Sellati, Noah Emmerich

Related content: Matthew Rhys revealed a drunken prank he played on The Americans writers

Legendary TV creator David E. Kelley followed up his huge Big Little Lies success with this ABC drama, based on The Highway book series by C.J. Box. The Montana-based series (actually shot in New Mexico) focuses on this wide-open region where people keep mysteriously disappearing as detectives Jenny Hoyt and Cassie Dewell attempt to find out why.

The show made a name for itself by offing one of its biggest name stars in the first episode, Hitchcock-style, and featured similar surprising character deaths throughout. As series writer Maria Sten told EW, "I think it's safe to assume that on Big Sky you should be concerned for everybody's safety at all times." In the third and final season, subtitled Deadly Trails, Supernatural's Jensen Ackles joined the cast as the new sheriff and Reba McEntire climbed aboard as a regular named Sunny Brick, as a certain hiking region turned treacherous. —G.I.

Where to watch Big Sky: Hulu

Cast: Katheryn Winnick, Kylie Bunbury, Brian Geraghty, Valerie Mahaffey, Dedee Pfeiffer, Natalie Alyn Lind, Jesse James Keitel, Jade Pettyjohn, John Carroll Lynch, Ryan Phillippe

Related content: Reba McEntire says her Big Sky character is unlike anything we've seen her play before

"For [Stephen] King fans, the world of Castle Rock will be inescapably familiar," described EW's critic. "Spending time here feels, in many ways, like coming home — with all the excitement and dread such a visit entails." The two-season Hulu series weaves in various elements from King's own multiverse — with Shawshank Prison at the heart of it all — into new narratives, like Castle Rock-born defense attorney Henry Deaver returning to defend a Shawshank inmate, or the disturbing backstory of Misery's Annie Wilkes. The multitude of King elements — including impressive turns by Sissy Spacek (Carrie) and Tim Robbins (The Shawshank Redemption) — makes for a series that's a sure bet for genre fans, even when they're not spotting the many Easter egg nods to the "King of Horror." —G.I.

Where to watch Castle Rock: Hulu

EW grade: A– (read the review)

Cast: André Holland, Melanie Lynskey, Bill Skarsgård, Jane Levy, Sissy Spacek, Lizzy Caplan, Paul Sparks, Barkhad Abdi, Yusra Warsama, Elsie Fisher, Matthew Alan, Tim Robbins

Related content: Castle Rock boss on that devastating Sissy Spacek showcase episode

The first season of Freeform's Cruel Summer, cleverly told over the span of three years, focuses on two teens who, at first, couldn't appear to be more different: golden girl Kate Wallis and nerdy wannabe Jeanette Turner. Then, Kate disappears, and Jeanette ascends to her place in the social strata. But did Jeanette actually have anything to do with Kate's disappearance? Therein lies the joy of watching this series, as EW's critic notes, "...creator Bert V. Royal (Easy A) presents a twisty, suspenseful thriller by using the concept to illuminate the characters — not the other way around." Cruel Summer shuffles its datelines to tantalizingly unfurl various parts of the story while luring you into its central mystery; if you can walk away without binge-watching the whole first season, you're stronger than we are. —G.I.

Where to watch Cruel Summer: Hulu

EW grade: B+ (read the review)

Cast: Olivia Holt, Chiara Aurelia, Froy Gutierrez, Harley Quinn Smith, Brooklyn Sudano, Blake Lee, Allius Barnes, Nathaniel Ashton, Michael Landes

Related content: How Cruel Summer reinvented itself after 1 season

Inspired by the 1996 Coen brothers film of the same name, this anthology series starts in the snowy titular town in North Dakota and eventually branches out to 1950s-era Kansas City. Each season involves a long-seething family resentment, probably a crime syndicate, and an unexpected incident that quickly spirals out of control. (See: quaint married couple Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons getting in way over their heads in season 2; and Chris Rock as a crime boss trying to make an alliance with the Italian mob in season 4.) But between its separete story lines, Fargo always boasts an unfailingly impressive cast of heavy hitters, including Billy Bob Thornton, Uzo Aduba, and Ewan McGregor playing twins, to name just a few. —G.I.

Where to watch Fargo: Hulu

EW grade: N/A (read the review)

Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Allison Tolman, Colin Hanks, Martin Freeman, Kirsten Dunst, Patrick Wilson, Jesse Plemons, Jean Smart, Ted Danson, Ewan McGregor, Carrie Coon, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, David Thewlis, Chris Rock, Jessie Buckley, Jason Schwartzman, Ben Whishaw

Related content: Everything we know so far about Fargo season 5

Yet another series benefiting from the binge model is the iconic Lost, which certainly took its own sweet time delving into the various fates of the Oceanic Flight 815 crash survivors left stranded on a deserted island. Remember the Dharma Initiative? The smoke monster? The various Wizard of Oz references? Yes, the series is still a bit of a stumper, but we have to admit, it's a pretty fun one that kept TV audiences riveted for years. And the chance to follow-up one puzzling episode immediately with another is also pretty addictive. When you figure it all out on a second viewing, fill us in, won't you? —G.I.

Where to watch Lost: Hulu

EW grade: N/A (read the review)

Cast: Naveen Andrews, Emilie de Ravin, Matthew Fox, Jorge Garcia, Maggie Grace, Josh Holloway, Malcolm David Kelley, Daniel Dae Kim, Yunjin Kim, Evangeline Lilly, Dominic Monaghan, Terry O'Quinn, Harold Perrineau, Ian Somerhalder

Related content: How Sun and Jin's relationship went from problematic to transcendent on Lost

Longtime collaborators Steve Martin and Martin Short team up with Selena Gomez as Charles, Oliver, and Mabel, three neighbors who produce a true crime podcast about cracking the various cases of their historic New York City apartment building, the Arconia. The suspects in Only Murders rotate as fast as any Agatha Christie mystery, while the charming banter between the three leads (as well as an inspiring collection of autumnal coats and sweaters) keeps you riveted. In season 2, Amy Schumer calls Only Murders in the Building's meta podcast "cozy murder," which is really the perfect description of the series overall. Plus, the star-fueled cameos and guest spots are never less than exemplary, featuring Tina Fey, Nathan Lane, Shirley MacLaine, Jane Lynch, Sting, and more. —G.I.

Where to watch Only Murders in the Building: Hulu

EW grade: B (read the review)

Cast: Steve Martin, Martin Short, Selena Gomez, Aaron Dominguez, Amy Ryan, Cara Delevingne, Adina Verson

Related content: Meryl Streep joins Only Murders in the Building stars in season 3 tease

Following the success of The Americans, co-creators Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg developed this psychological miniseries about a therapist named Alan (Steve Carell) who is held hostage by a serial killer patient, Sam (Domhnall Gleeson). Sam is intent on curbing his killer instincts, chaining Alan to the floor of his basement and forcing him to conduct therapy sessions while detained. From there, a game of cat and mouse unfolds, with Alan trying desperately to find a way out without letting Sam on for fear of retaliation. Carell and Gleeson's delicate back-and-forths make for increasingly compelling television as each episode plays out like a chapter of a great suspense novel, giving the viewer just enough information at just the right time. —K.J.

Where to watch The Patient: Hulu

Cast: Steve Carell, Domhnall Gleeson, Linda Emond

Related content: Steve Carell is a therapist held hostage by a serial killer in The Patient trailer

"When everything you love has been stolen from you, sometimes all you have left is revenge," explains our protagonist in the pilot. This juicy primetime soap centers on a young woman named Emily, whose arrival at the Hamptons is motivated by a desire to get back at the people who framed her late father for a crime he didn't commit. She sets her sights on Victoria, the matriarch of the influential Grayson family who led the betrayal, setting in motion a rollercoaster of events with many wild twists and turns along the way. EW's critic mused: "At its best, the show suggests a kind of Lost-ification of Bravo's Real Housewives franchise: It conjures up a world where social homicide might actually turn into actual homicide." —K.J.

Where to watch Revenge: Hulu

EW grade: N/A (read the review)

Cast: Madeleine Stowe, Emily VanCamp, Gabriel Mann, Henry Czerny, Ashley Madekwe, Nick Wechsler, Josh Bowman, Connor Paolo, Christa B. Allen

Related content: Emily VanCamp: Revenge gave her 4 'unbelievable years'

While on hiatus between seasons of Mad Men, Elisabeth Moss managed to turn in a hypnotic performance as Robin Griffin, a detective in a small New Zealand lakeside village searching for a missing 12-year-old pregnant girl. While she pokes and prods the secrets of the uneasy, tight-knit small town, long-hidden incidents from her own traumatic past also come to light.

This Jane Campion creation is slow-moving but still fraught with tension, especially when Robin crosses paths with enigmatic guru GJ (Campion's Oscar-winning The Piano star Holly Hunter). As you admire the idyllic landscape and Moss' strong performance, Top of the Lake will almost lull you into peaceful complacency… before jolting you right out of it. The acclaimed first season was followed by another that moves the action to Australia, Top of the Lake: China Girl, featuring Nicole Kidman. —G.I.

Where to watch Top of the Lake: Hulu

EW grade: A– (read the review)

Cast: Elisabeth Moss, David Wenham, Peter Mullan, Thomas M. Wright, Holly Hunter, Gwendoline Christie, David Dencik, Ewen Leslie, Alice Englert, Nicole Kidman

Related content: Jane Campion wins Best Director and marks historic Oscar triumph for women

Andrew Garfield stars in this acclaimed miniseries as (fictional) Det. Jeb Pyre, whose devout Mormon faith is shaken to the core as he investigates the (real-life) murders of Brenda Lafferty and her 15-month-old daughter, related to a dangerously radical religious sect. Based on Jon Krakauer's 2003 nonfiction bestseller, the chilling series even provides depictions of Joseph Smith's founding of Mormonism.

The story hits close to home for showrunner Dustin Lance Black, who grew up in the church, telling EW, "How did the past plant the seeds of a crime that would take place in the '80s? The founders of this faith in the 19th century decided on the laws and the rules, and how did that turn to bloodshed later?… I had to present not just the Lafferty story, but also the history of the Mormon church and how that's pertinent in terms of solving the case in 1984." —G.I.

Where to watch Under the Banner of Heaven: Hulu

EW grade: N/A

Cast: Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Daisy Edgar-Jones, Denise Gough, Wyatt Russell

Related content: Under the Banner of Heaven's Andrew Garfield on what sets his character apart from other true-crime detectives

This supernatural cult favorite series offers unparalleled thrills and chills with each episode, as government agents — cynical Scully (Gillian Anderson) and truth-seeker Mulder (David Duchovny) — probe the existence of aliens and other otherworldly creatures. Back in 1993, EW's critic was an early fan, writing, "The X-Files is the most paranoid, subversive show on TV right now… There's marvelous tension between Anderson — who is dubious about these events — and Duchovny, who has the haunted, imploring look of a true believer."

The series stoked its conspiracies over several seasons, powered by Mulder's search for his sister and elusive characters like the Cigarette Smoking Man. But we still have trouble scrubbing memorable "monsters of the week" like Flukeman, the Darkness Mites, and that "Home" family from our brains. The Friday night Fox series provided loads of nightmare fuel for grade-schoolers, and now it's ready to spook a whole new generation with ideal sleepover binge viewing. —G.I.

Where to watch The X-Files: Hulu

EW grade: B+ (read the review)

Cast: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Robert Patrick, Annabeth Gish, Mitch Pileggi

Related content: The 25 best episodes of The X-Files