Crime Fiction Starter Pack: 10 Must-Watch Thrillers on OTTs

From edgy to daft, here are some of our favourite crime capers from Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+ Hotstar and other streaming platforms
Crime Fiction Starter Pack: 10 Must-Watch Thrillers on OTTs

For all the violence and mayhem that is characteristic of the genre, there’s something tremendously comforting about crime fiction. Once upon a time, it was all about restoring order after the disruption caused by criminals and the good guys were invariably detectives and law-enforcement officials. In recent years, the trend has shifted to make heroes out of underdogs who thumb their noses at the powerful. Crime thrillers and capers paint a portrait of society that highlights the inequalities and offer cheeky, irreverent ways to turn the tables on what is considered the norm. There’s a sense of satisfaction we get from figuring out the solution to twisty plots, and watching heroes outwit the system in order to get away with their crimes. Or maybe we’re just drawn to the vicarious adrenaline rush that comes from watching a fictional someone’s head being blown off. 

Here are some of the best of crime fiction, streaming at a platform near you.  

Kaminey (2009)

Streaming on: Netflix 

Vishal Bhardwaj’s Kaminey gave us yet another grisly look at Mumbai, but one that was distinct from how the city had been depicted in noir films of the past. Crawling in its underbelly are a motley group of ambitious small-time criminals, zealous politicians and beleaguered lovers. The film unfolds around a pair of twins  – Guddu and Charlie (Shahid Kapoor in a double role) – each with a speech impediment. Guddu stutters and Charlie has a lisp. The two are as different as chalk and cheese: Charlie is always on the hunt for a shortcut to make more money, while all Guddu wants is to secure a future with the love of his life, Sweety (Priyanka Chopra). Each has a bloodthirsty man chasing him and when one twin is mistaken for the other, chaos ensues. Kaminey has a deliciously dark energy that is specific to the flavours of North India, making it one of Bollywood’s seminal crime capers. The addictive music album, with composition by Bhardwaj and lyrics by Gulzar, is simply the cherry on top. 

The Gentlemen (2019) 

Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video 

You can’t have a list of crime capers without a Guy Ritchie film. The Gentlemen is about Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey), who was born into poverty before he won a scholarship to Oxford, dropped out and created a drug-empire through the illegal sale of cannabis and violence. When the criminal magnate decides to sell his business to finally retire, he sets off a deadly chain of events, ranging from a group of YouTubers attacking his weed lab to Pearson being blackmailed by a private investigator through a tell-all screenplay called “Bush” (because, marijuana). Through his characters, Ritchie introduces a gaggle of wildcards and lets them chase each other in wild circles, resulting in guns, gore, glory and some regrettable casual racism. All in all, a trademark Guy Ritchie film. 

Lootcase (2020)

Streaming on: Disney+ Hotstar 

What do you get when a middle-class man finds a suitcase filled with stolen loot? A Lootcase. If that made you involuntarily chuckle, the film’s sublimely daft narrative might just be up your alley. Nandan (Kunal Khemu) is an aam aadmi (common man) who believes that “hum logo ka sirf duty badalta hai, kismat nahi (For people like us, only our job changes, never our destiny)” — until a suitcase filled with Rs 10 crore falls at his feet. The said suitcase is wanted by two parties: A ruthless don (Vijay Raaz) with impeccable taste – the man wears tailored suits and binges on National Geographic – and a passive-aggressive politician (Gajraj Rao). The two send their men after Nandan, leading to a world of hilarious trouble. With brilliant performances by Khemu, Raaz, Rao and Rasika Dugal, the film is an all-out entertainer. 

Kaalakaandi (2018)

Streaming on: Disney+ Hotstar 

Akshat Verma’s directorial debut Kaalakaandi is an irreverent cocktail of lust, greed and intoxication. Each of Verma’s madcap protagonists is battling an inner demon: The guilt of cheating on a doting fiancee, the horror of taking lives, and the deadly weight of greed. Leading the pack is Rileen (Saif Ali Khan) who, upon getting the diagnosis of stomach cancer, understandably goes off his rocker. With only a month to live, Rileen vows to do whatever he wishes to, beginning with ingesting some LSD. A few hours later, he is sporting a frilly boa scarf, has his hair up in multiple little ponies and has asked a transwoman to strip for him. The film echoes the reckless fun of Delhi Belly (written by Verma) and while this film might not have the latter’s cult status, it definitely has its energy. 

Uncut Gems (2019)

Streaming on: Netflix 

Writer-director duo Josh and Benny Safdie are masters of orchestrating chaos. The Safdie Brothers allow their characters – lowlifes who win you over with their ugliness and vulnerability – to lead the screenplay, instead of the other way around. A nail-biting narrative emerges and nothing exemplifies this tension like the duo’s last fiction feature Uncut Gems. The film revolves around Howard Rattner (Adam Sandler), whose life is a frenetic dance of betting illegal money, losing unceremoniously and evading the people he owes said illegal money. Over the course of the roughly two-hour narrative, the Safdies weave a terrifying portrait of addiction: Howard is beaten, tortured and humiliated. But this misery is overshadowed by his dogged determination to shortcut his way to riches, virtually miming the journey of an underdog and making you care about his success. And that, perhaps, is the Safdies’ biggest victory. 

Andhadhun (2018)

Streaming on: Netflix 

One of the most brilliant crime thrillers to emerge in recent years, Andhadhun has earned a well-deserved seat on many crime thriller lists. Here’s why: Writer-director Sriram Raghavan has a devilish mind and a deep, nerdy love for cinema. Both these traits come together to create a riotous neo-noir film, filled with morally ambiguous characters who lie, cheat and crash cars in the landscape of his unpredictable world. While its open ending set the internet ablaze at the time of its release, we love the film for its edge-of-the-seat thrills and a narrative that refuses to stop raising the stakes. In Raghavan’s universe, every action has at least two deadly reactions and nothing is as it seems. Also, the film has Tabu as a femme fatale, which is as good a reason as any to watch a film. 

Snatch (2000)

Streaming on: BookMyShow Stream 

Released a year after Ritchie’s hugely popular debut Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998), Snatch is effectively the older film’s rowdier sibling. There is an ensemble cast, convoluted overlapping storylines and gory violence (there’s a drinking game here — one shot for each time a character throws a punch. You’ll be plastered in no time). There’s Brad Pitt sporting an indecipherable accent. There are characters with names like Franky Four Fingers, Gorgeous George and Bullet Tooth Tony. Dead bodies are chopped up and fed to pigs. All of this, when combined with a narrative that moves at breakneck speed, seems like an elaborate joke Ritchie seems to be playing on us. But that’s the charm. The plot can seem difficult to understand in one go, but Ritchie’s fandom would ask you to sit back, give it a re-watch and enjoy the stylistic flourishes. 

In Bruges (2008) 

Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video 

Much like Martin McDonagh’s most recent The Banshees of Inisherin (2022), his debut feature film In Bruges has moments that are both touchingly sad and shockingly violent. The net result is a curiously human tale, granting its own meaning to the genre of a crime thriller. Take, for example, the pivotal scene that leads Dublin hitmen Ray (Colin Farell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) to hide out in the city of Bruges, in Belgium. Ray is ordered to kill a priest and he does so in a confessional stand, after confessing to the same priest what he’s about to do. Soon after, he accidentally kills a small boy and reads the notes the boy had made for his own confession. Here Farell does his signature confused-eyebrows thing, brilliantly injecting humour into an otherwise dark scene. Most of In Bruges plays out as a comical conflict between not knowing whether one should laugh or cry. Yes, it’s a crime thriller but McDonagh graces it with guilt, friendship and laugh-out-loud humour. 

99 (2009)

Streaming on: Youtube 

Writer-director duo Raj and DK’s first Hindi feature 99 had glimpses of the gloriously offbeat narratives they are known for today. The film revolves around two small-time criminals (Kunal Khemu and Cyrus Broacha) who are forced to work for a local bookie after they crash his Merc. When they’re sent to recover a loan from Rahul (Boman Irani), an incorrigible liar and an insatiable gambler, they get entangled in his schemes and consequently sink deeper into the world of crime. With unpredictable characters and humour that is distinct to their personalities, 99 is an underrated gem. 

Super Deluxe (2019)

Streaming on: Netflix 

A boyfriend dies during the heat of sex, pinned under the wife whose husband will be home any moment. A transwoman meets her son, a boy who first knew her as his father. A horny teenage boy discovers a life-upending secret while watching porn. A man battles faith and family after a near-death experience. Before Super Deluxe, never had Tamil cinema been this dichotomous – grand and intimate, fixed and ever-moving, restrained and reckless. Thiagarajan Kumararaja’s brilliant multi-narrative film is written by four different writers – Mysskin, Nalan Kumarasamy, Neelan Sekar and the director himself – with each being in the dark about the other’s story for much of the film’s development. What emerges is an all-consuming kaleidoscope that touches upon religion, gender, young love and heroism. While Super Deluxe is much more than ‘just’ crime fiction, this genre-bending marvel is fuelled by neo-noir energy and we’ll take any excuse to put it on a must-watch list. 

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