From Cure (1997) to Psycho (1960), these are the best murder mystery movies ever made.
There’s a disarming thrill in a well crafted murder mystery that keeps us riveted. The hunt for a fictional murderer’s identity, narrated with enough suspense, can keep us thoroughly invested in a story. Edgar Allan Poe is often regarded as the author who laid foundations to modern detective fiction. Murder mysteries were popularized in the mid-nineteenth century as the inexpensive dime novels provided great entertainment to readers. In England and the US, the great adventures of the fictitious sleuths reached its zenith in the earlier 20th century. Authors like Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, G.K. Chesterton crafted vibrant tales, where the identity of the criminal is kept a secret till the end.
In cinema, right after the growth of talkies, murder mysteries and detective fiction became the most sought-out genre after the Western and rom-com. The subversive art of Alfred Hitchcock stood the test of time and earned him the moniker ‘Master of Suspense’. Despite the fact that audiences’ preferences for certain film genres shift over time, they’re always up for a compelling murder mystery. Whodunits have only grown astronomically in this age of on-demand digital content. In light of that, here’s our extensive list of some of the best murder mystery movies:
Best Murder Mystery Movies, Ranked
50. Suspect X (2008)
Hiroshi Nishitani’s Suspect X is a faithful adaptation of Keigo Higashino’s best-selling Japanese mystery novel. It’s the first big-screen outing of Higashino’s fictional character Manabu Yukawa, a genius physicist carrying the nickname ‘Detective Galileo’. The narrative revolves around the discovery of an unidentifiable male body. But when the identity of the corpse is established, a crafty cat-and-mouse game begins between Yukawa and his old friend Ishigami, a genius mathematician. Suspect X is a highly cerebral mystery that gets more twisted as we gradually learn about Ishigami’s schemes.
49. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
Robert Zemeckis’ supremely entertaining mystery is based on Gary K. Wolf’s novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit? It’s set in an alternate world in 1947, where humans live alongside cartoon creatures. The latter live in a place called Toontown. Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins), a grumpy gumshoe, is hired by a Toontown resident Jessica to spy on her supposedly unfaithful husband, Roger Rabbit. But when Roger is accused of murder, Eddie uncovers a larger conspiracy set against the Toons?. Zemeckis’ mix of live-action and animation was a technical marvel of its time.
48. Tell No One (2006)
French filmmaker Guillaume Canet’s mystery drama is based on Harlan Coben’s best-selling novel. Dr. Alex Beck’s idyllic night with his wife Margot at the French countryside is interrupted when he is struck with a blunt object. Margot is brutally murdered, and initially the police suspects Alex. But then it’s believed to be the work of a serial-killer. Dr. Alex is left dumbfounded when he receives a mysterious email from an anonymous sender, eight years later, warning him to “tell no one”. It’s a well-made pulpy mystery that’s packed with some wonderful and unexpected twists.
47. Clue (1985)
Jonathan Lynn’s Clue is a madcap murder mystery which also satirizes our obsession for whodunits. Based on the popular board game, Clue opens with six guests arriving for a dinner party at a Gothic mansion. The guests soon discover that they are somehow linked to each other and some of them begin to die. The film is over-the-top fun because it isn’t really about nabbing the culprit or to understand their motive. It rather offers us three wacky endings and pokes fun at the implausibility of each scenario.
46. And Then There Were None (1945)
Rene Clair’s And There Were None is an adaptation of Agathe Christie’s most famous 1939 novel. In this fast-paced mystery, ten people are gathered at a manor house, situated on an isolated island. Seven of them are guests of their mysterious host, Mr. Owens, and the rest are invited in a professional capacity. The host, however, is missing and the guests begin to get murdered one after another. The 1945 version is clearly one of the best adaptations of the novel. Rene Clair smoothes out some of the preposterous elements in Christie’s story.
45. Hot Fuzz (2007)
Edgar Wright’s exuberant and complex small-town murder mystery also works as a brilliant parody of whodunits and detective fiction. Hot Fuzz opens with uptight London police officer Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) getting transferred to a sleepy English town. The crime rate is abysmally low in the town, although the accident rate is pretty high. Nicholas’ investigation of the ‘accidents’ unveil a larger conspiracy involving the town’s powerful people. Wright’s inventive visual gags and Pegg’s quirky lead performance keeps us invested in the proceedings.
44. Murder on the Orient Express (1974)
Sidney Lumet’s Murder on the Orient Express is an engrossing adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1934 novel. It’s a detective Hercule Poirot mystery, who investigates a murder in the luxury train that’s stranded due to a snow storm. The smart and eccentric Belgian detective (Albert Finney) interrogates twelve murder suspects. The case gets increasingly complex until an implausible scenario seems to provide the perfect solution. The film features a great ensemble cast including Sean Connery, Ingrid Bergman, Lauren Bacall, and Anthony Perkins.
43. The Fugitive (1993)
Andrew Davis’ Fugitive revolves around a surgeon named Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford), who arrives home one day to find his wife murdered. He tries to nab the mysterious one-armed assailant who killed her. But the murderer escapes and police are convinced Dr. Richard is the culprit. However, the surgeon flees from imprisonment and tries to prove his innocence. The film is full of nerve-wracking stunts and thrilling cat-and-mouse games. The Fugitive is the big-screen adaptation of a popular 1960s TV series.
42. Brick (2005)
Long before his blockbuster hit Knives Out, Rian Johnson made a noirish mystery in a high school backdrop. Brick opens with teenager Brendan setting out to find his missing ex-girlfriend Emily, who has phoned him for help. Soon, Brendan finds Emily dead in a storm-drain tunnel. Brendan resolves to look for the offender within the underworld of high-school heroin pushers because Emily had a drug addiction. Made on a shoestring budget, Brick offers a tightly plotted gumshoe-style narrative that reflects the angst of modern teenagers.
41. The Last of Sheila (1973)
Herbert Ross’ witty and clever whodunit was written by music composer Stephen Sondheim and actor Anthony Perkins. The film opens with the hit-and-run death of Sheila, a gossip columnist who is married to a rich and powerful Hollywood producer Clinton Greene. A year later, Clinton invites six of his friends to spend a week on his yacht. He conducts an elaborate game that might reveal clues about his wife’s killer. The Last of Sheila features a complex mystery that holds up pretty well even when closely scrutinised.
40. Blow Out (1981)
Brian De Palma’s sleek mystery thriller shares motifs and themes with Antonioni’s Blow-Up and Coppola’s The Conversation. Similar to those films, an ordinary man accidentally come across a possible murder. In fact, all these movies were inspired by the conspiracies surrounding Kennedy assassination. In Blow Out, John Travolta plays Jack Terry, a movie sound man. While recording outdoor sounds for a film, Terry witnesses a traffic accident which claims the life of a congressman. He’s also recorded the accident and believes it could be a political murder.
39. The Name of the Rose (1986)
Long before the sensational claims of Dan Brown, Italian novelist Umberto Eco deeply explored the dark secrets of Catholic Church in his 1980 novel. In Jean-Jacques Annaud’s adaptation of the historical murder mystery, Sean Connery plays 14th century Franciscan monk William. He comes to a remote Italian monastery to attend a conference. But William gets embroiled in an investigation concerning the mysterious deaths of monks. He must find the truth in time, or the superstition and religious hysteria might set off a dangerous witch-hunt.
38. Gosford Park (2001)
Robert Altman’s Gosford Park is partly inspired by Agatha Christie’s whodunit mysteries and somewhat based on Jean Renoir’s Rules of the Game (1939). Interestingly, Julian Fellowes’ complex script unfolds from the perspective of the rich guests’ servants. The narrative is set in a 1930s English countryside resort. The guests are there for a weekend of bird shooting. Unfortunately, a murder is committed in the grounds of the resort. Altman employs an ordinary murder mystery plot to deliver an extraordinary, multi-layered social satire.
37. The Pledge (2001)
Sean Penn’s tense morality drama is based on Swiss author Friedrich Durrenmatt’s 1958 novella. It opens like a typical procedural and a serial-killer thriller. Jerry Black, a small-town detective nearing retirement investigates the rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl. A mentally unstable man, believed to be the perpetrator is caught, and the case is shut. But Jerry discovers that the child’s murder is part of a series of similar killings. However, Jerry’s unofficial investigation takes him to a dark and lonely place, where his obsession gradually consumes him.
36. Sleepy Hollow (1999)
The painterly Gothic aesthetics of Tim Burton in Sleepy Hollow keep us thoroughly invested in this twisted mystery. It’s based on American author Washington Irving’s 1820 short story. Set in 1799, the film revolves around police constable Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp). The New York-based policeman is transferred to a small village called Sleepy Hollow. There he investigates the brutal deaths of locals who are supposedly decapitated by a Headless Horseman. Tim Burton gracefully blends his trademark quirky, macabre tone with a gripping murder mystery.
35. The Nice Guys (2016)
Shane’s Black delightful detective comedy is set in 1977 Los Angeles. Russell Crowe plays Jackson Healy, a macho detective. Ryan Gosling is Holland March, a sensitive and amateur private investigator. Their paths cross while investigating the death of an adult film star. The case takes them to the seedy side of tinsel town. But Nice Guys is less about the mystery and more about the witty one-liners and charming lead performances. Ryan Gosling is particularly brilliant with his superb comic timing. Shane Black has previously made a similar mystery comedy titled Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
34. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
David Fincher’s psychological thriller was based on Swedish novelist Stieg Larsson’s 2005 novel. It revolves around Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), a disgraced journalist. A wealthy businessman, Henrik Vagner hires Blomkvist to investigate the presumed murder of his grand-niece, Harriet. Harriet was 16 when she disappeared 40 years before. Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a brilliant yet antisocial investigator aids Blomkvist in the cold case. Similar to Se7en & Zodiac, Fincher’s keen eye for blending style and substance turns this into an intense experience.
33. Scream (1996)
Wes Craven’s Scream tells the tale of a masked killer on the loose in small-town America. The psychopathic killer targets students at the local high school. A student named Sidney Prescott is particularly stalked by the killer, who is dubbed in the media as ‘Ghostface’. Kevin Williamson’s script was inspired by Gainesville college students’ murder in 1990. The script packs clever references and homage to teen slasher flicks. The final half-hour takes us on an emotional rollercoaster with a spellbinding twist.
32. Knives Out (2019)
Rian Johnson’s clever locked-room mystery is blessed with a starry cast and intriguing red herrings. The narrative focuses on the alleged suicide of an octogenarian patriarch, Harlan Thrombey. Harlan is an extraordinarily rich murder-mystery novelist. An eccentric PI named Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) investigates the case, and feels something is not quite right. Tensions soar high as Mr. Blanc reveals the bad blood in the family. Writer-director Johnson uses familiar murder mystery plot elements to zero-in on complex themes like class warfare, greed, and discrimination.
31. The Hateful Eight (2015)
In Hateful Eight, Quentin Tarantino uses locked-room mystery set-up to discuss themes such as revenge, justice, racial conflicts, and oppression. It’s set in a stark, wintry landscape in post-Civil War Wyoming. The first-third of the narrative establishes the arrival of the individuals to a broken-down cabin and their respective identities. Once Tarantino perfectly sets-up the arena, he unveils nastier secrets and unleashes nauseating violence. Though the filmmaker’s trademark energy isn’t fully present here, the riveting and emotionally moving ending makes up for the flaws.
30. Mother (2009)
Bong Joon-ho’s unsettling murder mystery revolves around a mentally challenged youngster, Do-jun, and his overprotective mother. One day, Do-jun is arrested by the police in relation to the murder of a local school girl. To prove her son’s innocence, the mother follows the clues across the town to find the real culprit. What she uncovers is the shocking dysfunctionality of the town. Mother is an intricately crafted film that subverts set rules of murder mystery sub-genre. Kim Hye-ja’s performance in the titular role is utterly transfixing.
29. Witness for the Prosecution (1957)
Billy Wilder’s courtroom drama is based on Agatha Christie’s 1953 play of the same name. The narrative revolves around a veteran British Barrister named Wilfrid Robarts (Charles Laughton). Despite recovering from a heart attack, he can’t resist defending Leonard Vole (Tyrone Power), a man accused of murdering a wealthy widow. Though Robarts believes Vole is innocent, it turns out to be the most unusual criminal case. Wilder’s razor-sharp script and genuinely surprising plot twists are the biggest strengths of the film.
28. Charade (1963)
Stanley Donen, known for directing classic musicals like Singin’ in the Rain and Funny Face, has helmed this wonderful Hitchcock-style thriller. The highlight of the film is the elegant, charismatic duo, Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant. The narrative focuses on Regina Lampert, who’s about to divorce her husband. But the man is murdered and it’s revealed that he was involved in a robbery years before. With the help of the handsome Peter Joshua, Regina tries to find the murderer and the hidden loot.
27. In the Heat of the Night (1967)
Norman Jewison’s In the Heat of the Night is a neo-noir murder mystery, set in a racist US Southern town. A courageous and erudite African-American detective named Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier) is sent to investigate a homicide. The bigoted local police chief, Gillespie (Rod Steiger) is openly hostile to the presence of Mr. Tibbs. The film was based on John Ball’s 1965 novel of the same name. The central mystery was finely built around the racially explosive environment of the 1960s.
26. Prisoners (2013)
Denis Villeneuve’s abduction thriller is set in Pennsylvania, where two young girls from neighbouring families disappear. Detective Loki apprehends a suspect, although there’s no evidence to hold him. Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman), father of one of the missing girls, resorts to extreme measures by kidnapping the prime suspect. Subsequently, we are taken through a moral maze, where every character suffers from grief and a traumatic past. Prisoners closely observe the mental state of criminals and show how a crisis of faith can turn ordinary people into monsters.
25. Les Diaboliques (1955)
Henri-Georges Clouzot’s psychological thriller features an intriguing twist that’s as famous as the twist in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Les Diaboloques revolves around an abusive schoolmaster. After putting up with his sadistic behaviour for years, the schoolmaster’s wife and mistress join forces to kill him and dump his body. But after drowning the schoolmaster, his corpse mysteriously vanishes. Those who love a good mystery must see Les Diaboliques twice. The second time will allow you to pay close attention to the slow build-up that leads to a surprising finale.
24. Murder, My Sweet (1944)
Edward Dmytryk’s influential film-noir was based on Raymond Chandler’s 1940 novel Farewell, My Lovely. It was a detective Philip Marlowe mystery, and Dick Powell graciously played the central character. The narrative opens at a police station, and Marlowe recounts the events that led to multiple homicides. It all starts with a violent thug Moose Malloy hiring Marlowe to find his missing girlfriend, Velma. The convoluted plot thickens further when Marlowe neglects the search for Velma to take up a case involving stolen jewellery.
23. The Big Sleep (1946)
Howard Hawks’ convoluted yet wholly lovable film-noir is based on Raymond Chandler’s 1939 novel. It was the first Chandler novel that introduced us to the world-weary private eye Philip Marlowe. Humphrey Bogart offers a scene-stealing performance as Marlowe, who is hired by an ailing wealthy man to find his missing son-in-law. Marlowe, however, gets himself involved in the affairs of his client’s two daughters and uncovers a web of murders and black-mailing schemes. At times, the mystery gets irritatingly incoherent. Yet the performances and the visuals keep us occupied.
22. Blow-Up (1966)
Michelangelo Antonioni’s slow-burn arthouse drama uses the murder mystery format to question the elusiveness of reality. A London fashion photographer casually strolls through a park and secretly takes snapshots of a man and woman embracing. There is no ulterior motive behind his act. But when he develops the photo in his studio, the photographer wonders if he has accidentally captured a murder. What follows is an existential nightmare that wrecks the photographer. Overall, this is a mystery with no clear-cut closure or some form of justice.
21. Gone Girl (2014)
David Fincher’s terrifying psychological thriller is based on Gillian Flynn’s best-selling book. The narrative revolves around Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), a man who may or may not be involved in the disappearance of his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike). He is hounded by the media. In fact, the investigation only raises suspicion on Nick’s involvement. But wait there’s more! Things soon take a shocking, intricate turn. Though Gone Girl starts off as a mystery, it gradually becomes a pointed satire on American media and modern marriage.
20. Laura (1944)
Otto Preminger’s fantastic film noir opens like a simple murder mystery. The titular character is found dead in her apartment. Detective McPherson (Dana Andrews) is called to investigate the case. Laura seems to be a friendly and popular woman. There’s a jealous mentor and an insecure boyfriend. But they don’t seem to hold any grudges as much as to murder her. Meanwhile, McPherson falls in love with his mental image of the dead woman. To intensify the mystery, the cynical detective’s strange, uncontrollable impulse gets even stranger following a major twist.
19. The Long Goodbye (1973)
The Long Goodbye is the sixth novel in Raymond Chandler’s private investigator Philip Marlowe series. Robert Altman’s adaptation unfolds in 70s LA, and Elliott Gould brilliantly plays the laconic PI Marlowe. The lonely gumshoe one day helps his friend Lennox by driving him over the border into Mexico. After returning, cops question Marlowe over the death of Lennox’s wife. Meanwhile, Marlowe also takes a missing persons case. The Long Goodbye isn’t a typical murder mystery. It’s fairly convoluted and is more rewarding in the re-viewings.
18. Mystic River (2003)
Clint Eastwood’s riveting crime drama is centred on the gruesome murder of a young woman named Katie. She is the daughter of a former Boston gangster, Jimmy. The crime forces Jimmy and his two childhood friends, Sean and Dave, to confront a terrible secret from their shared past. Mystic River is based on Dennis Lehane’s ambitious novel of the same name. Clint Eastwood uses a murder investigation and a father’s quest for vengeance to meditate on themes such as trauma, grief, and repression.
17. The Secret in Their Eyes (2009)
Juan Jose Campanella’s multi-layered thriller is based on Argentine author Eduardo Sacheri’s 2005 novel. It is set in the year 1999 as a retired legal counsellor Benjamin Esposito uses an old, unresolved case to write a novel. In 1974, a young woman is brutally raped and murdered. The reason he remembers the case is due to the husband’s fixation to seeing his wife’s killer brought to justice. Benjamin’s investigation in the 1970s also gets mixed up in Argentina’s authoritarian politics. But in 1999, Benjamin makes a startling discovery about the cold case.
16. The Conversation (1974)
Francis Ford Coppola’s paranoid thriller tackles the themes of surveillance and its consequences. It was made just before the Watergate scandal broke. But even in the CCTV surveillance-era, The Conversation remains timely and thoroughly gripping. The narrative focuses on Harry Caul (Gene Hackman), a lonely, surveillance expert. He takes the job of monitoring a couple having an affair. But soon Harry suspects that the couple could be murdered. He further gets caught in a dangerous web of deception. The film doesn’t offer any easy resolution, but raises vital questions about voyeurism.
15. The Usual Suspects (1995)
Bryan Singer’s expertly narrated neo-noir is set in the aftermath of an explosion and gunfight at a Californian harbour. Twenty-seven men die in the incident, and the only witness is a timid con-man named Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey). A Customs investigator questions Verbal on how and why he associated himself with the gang. Verbal’s chilling story refers to the elusive criminal mastermind named Keyser Soze. But who is this trickster and what’s his real identity? Repeat viewings are necessary to understand the depth of the film’s conflicts and characterization.
14. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Hollywood’s heavyweight filmmaker John Huston’s directorial debut was an adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s complex hard-boiled detective novel. The Maltese Falcon is one of the early film noirs and featured Hollywood’s beloved tough-guy Humphrey Bogart. Bogart’s amoral PI Sam Spade learns of his partner Miles Archer’s murder. More betrayals and murders follow as Sam uncovers the identities of greedy criminals looking for an invaluable falcon statuette. The titular Falcon is one of the popular examples of MacGuffin – an object or plot device often used in mystery stories to drive the narrative forward.
13. Cure (1997)
In Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s maddening murder mystery, a string of horrific murders are committed by different people. Two things stand common in all the murders: the perpetrators cut ‘X’ into their victims’ neck; and all perpetrators have no memory of committing the crime. However, detective Kenichi Takabe soon catches a drifter, who seems to have hypnotized the people into committing the brutal murders. But who is this drifter and what’s his motive? Cure provides a deeply haunting experience and tackles complex themes such as memory and repression.
12. Memento (2000)
Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending mystery, on the outset, seems like an average revenge story. Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) follows clues to find the man who murdered his beloved wife. However, one major detail complicates Leonard’s quest: he suffers from short-term memory loss. In fact, this inability to form new memories takes Leonard and us on a strange journey, where the man’s motives and methods are closely scrutinised. Nolan’s occasionally confusing yet astounding script uses a standard mystery plot to deal with themes such as memory and obsession.
11. Rashomon (1950)
Akira Kurosawa’s influential masterpiece Rashomon narrates the murder of a medieval-era samurai and the rape of his wife. A callous bandit (Toshiro Mifune) is picked up as the perpetrator and a trial is conducted. Though the case sounds simple, in the trial the incident is narrated through different perspectives. Interestingly, each of the versions differs in important ways. The attempt to find the objective truth remains elusive till the end. Kurosawa uses the mystery surrounding a brutal crime to comment on the subjectivity of human memory.
10. M (1931)
Fritz Lang’s riveting thriller M was one of the earliest murder mysteries and serial-killer movies. It was said to be inspired by the real-life case of Dusseldorf serial-killer Peter Kurten. The narrative focuses on the unrest in an unnamed German town as a child murderer is on the prowl. The terror brought upon by the murderer is such that the police even work with people from criminal underground to get a lead. Lang used the murder mystery narrative structure to deliver his portrait of an unjust society.
9. Zodiac (2007)
David Fincher’s 2007 thriller focuses on the exhaustive search for a serial-killer, who preyed upon young couples in Northern California between the late 1960s and 1970s. The killer taunts police by sending letters to the media. The letters also contain cryptograms and his plans for future murders. James Vanderbilt’s script was based on Robert Graysmith’s two non-fiction books. The narrative revolves around a set of characters, who are deeply drawn into the Zodiac mystery. Fincher closely observes the toll it takes on these characters.
Where to Watch: Netflix
8. L.A. Confidential (1997)
Curtis Hanson’s extremely brilliant neo-noir is based on James Ellroy’s sprawling 1990 crime novel. The narrative is set in early 1950s L.A., and follows the story of three different cops. Kevin Spacey plays Jack Vincennes, a corrupt showbiz cop. Russell Crowe plays Bud White, a thuggish cop who takes the law into his own hands. And Guy Pearce is the smug and straight-laced cop Ed Exley. The three cops’ lives are intertwined when a massacre happens at downtown LA’s Nite Owl cafe.
7. The Third Man (1949)
Carol Reed’s 1949 masterpiece is an richly atmospheric murder mystery set in post-war Vienna. It takes us into the dark world of espionage, murder, and black marketeering. The narrative revolves around American Holly Martins, who takes up his friend Harry Lime’s (Orson Welles) invitation to arrive at Vienna. Upon arrival, Martins learns that Harry has died under suspicious circumstances though an accident is ruled out. Written by novelist Graham Greene, The Third Man is best known for incredible twists and Reed’s expressionistic visuals.
6. Rear Window (1954)
Alfred Hitchcock’s classic murder mystery is strengthened by James Stewart’s robust lead performance as L.B. Jeffries. The actor plays a magazine photographer, who is temporarily confined to his apartment after an accident. Jeffries’ voyeuristic tendency of observing his neighbors leaves him with a nagging doubt. He believes that his neighbor in the opposite apartment might have murdered his wife. Hitchcock’s Rear Window remains timeless for more than solving the mystery, the filmmaker is interested in contemplating the basic human nature.
5. Chinatown (1974)
Robert Towne and Roman Polanski’s script for Chinatown is often celebrated as one of the greatest movie scripts. They bring such coherence and clarity to this sprawling tale of murder and corruption. The narrative is set in 1930s Los Angeles. A woman named Mrs. Evelyn Mulwray requests the services of PI Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) to expose her husband’s infidelity. But Jake feels that he is hired to follow Mulwray for different reasons. And the sleuth soon gets embroiled in the city’s water politics.
4. Se7en (1995)
David Fincher’s bleak and nihilistic murder mystery follows the crimes of a serial killer, who sets up theatrical crime scenes inspired by the seven deadly sins. William Somerset (Morgan Freeman), a veteran detective, and his young partner Detective Mills (Brad Pitt) meticulously follow the clues in order to nab the psychopath. Andrew Kevin Walker’s script is remarkably taut and ends on an extremely disturbing note. Besides, the gritty and compelling imagery introduced us for the first time to the visual mastery of David Fincher.
3. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Jonathan Demme’s seminal serial-killer thriller isn’t a whodunit. We the audience know who is committing the ghastly murders. But FBI rookie Clarice Sterling’s (Jodie Foster) pursuit for the serial-killer’s identity and the paths she takes to understand his motive makes Silence of the Lambs a darkly fascinating film. What’s particularly effective about this mystery is the game of wits between Clarice and the ingenious psychopath Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). Hannibal ‘the cannibal’ offers vital clues to understand the psychology of a fellow serial-killer.
2. Memories of Murder (2003)
South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho’s haunting murder mystery is based on the real-life case of Korea’s first-recorded serial-killer. Set in a small provincial town in 1980s Korea, two incompatible detectives hunt for a serial rapist and murderer. The killer strikes on rainy nights and usually targets women dressed in red. Bong’s phenomenal writing and direction constantly brings a fresh perspective to the murder mystery genre. Memories of Murder deftly observes the collective failures of society that allows serial-murderers to remain free and undetected.
1. Psycho (1960)
Psycho, based on Robert Bloch’s eponymous novel, is the crowning achievement in Alfred Hitchcock’s filmmaking career. The murder mystery and slasher flick opens with a secretary embezzling $40,000 from her employer’s rich client. She goes on the run and checks into a run-down remote motel, owned by a young man named Norman Bates. What follows is a chilling story of murder and madness. Psycho evoked terror through ingenious visual design and editing techniques. It has one of the greatest and famous twist endings of all time.
There we are! If you’re done with these, check out Primal Fear (1996), Bad Times at the El Royale (2016), Basic Instinct (1992), The Hound of Baskervilles (1959), Sherlock Holmes (2009), A Simple Favour (2018), Death on the Nile (1978), The Inugami Family (1976), Evil Under the Sun (1982), and Identity (2003).
An ardent cinephile, who truly believes in the transformative power and shared-dream experience of cinema. He blogs at ‘Passion for Movies.’