27 Murder Mystery Movies That Will Satisfy Your Inner Detective

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We're living in a golden age of true crime documentaries, podcasts, TV shows, and books. Which means, no surprise, that the murder mystery film is making a resurgence in popularity. The classic genre has some major standouts over the last several decades, and the typical whodunit setup—several people in a house, one dies, a detective has to solve the crime—has expanded to include truly unique settings and stories. That's a good thing: It means that a lot of these mysteries can play with form and framing while they still give you that perfect twist ending. There are a couple horror films, one action movie, and a number of dramas on this list. The one thing they have in common? A killer mystery.

What's great is that fictional whodunits can satisfy your crime-solving, clue-finding itch without the sad (and, if we're being honest, somewhat problematic) true-life aspects of true crime. Here are 23 murder mystery movies that will have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. (No major spoilers lie ahead for any of these mind-bending films, particularly the whodunit part. But if you don't want to know ANYTHING about the plot, go watch before you read.)

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'Knives Out' (2019)

Starring: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, LaKeith Stanfield, Christopher Plummer, and Katherine Langford.

The mystery: Harlan Thrombey, famous author and aging patriarch of a needy, pissed off family, kills himself. Or does he? Detective Benoit Blanc (Craig) is hired to investigate, and absolutely everyone has a motive. As the story unwinds, the plot takes...let's call it an unusual turn that actually, truly, pays off. This is a terrific example of a modern spin on the classic genre.

'Death on the Nile' (1978)

Starring: Peter Ustinov, Maggie Smith, Angela Lansbury, Bette Davis, Mia Farrow, David Niven, George Kennedy, and Jack Warden.

The mystery: There's a remake coming out, hopefully in 2020, so familiarize yourself with the story now. A woman steals her best friend's husband and ends up dead—only her BFF didn't do it. So who did? Mia Farrow (playing the best friend) is quite good in this, channeling the perfect balance of intense and hysterical. But the cast is also packed with unbelievable talent, including a gloriously young Maggie Smith and Angela Lansbury—not the first time the latter appears on this list.

'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang' (2005)

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer, Michelle Monaghan, and Corbin Bernsen.

The mystery: Harry Lockhart (Downey Jr.) is a thief who gets mistaken for an actor. He's subsequently thrown into the glamorous, murder-y world of Hollywood, complete with a mystery involving his childhood crush. Director Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Iron Man 3) somehow manages to make all of that funny, and this heralded the triumphant return of Downey Jr. as one of the best actors of our time.

'Charade' (1963)

Starring: Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Walter Matthau, James Coburn, and George Kennedy.

The mystery: Often deemed "The best Hitchcock movie Hitchcock never made," this actually is a mystery, comedy, and romance all wrapped into one movie. Never fear, the premise is still intensely interesting: A woman's husband dies unexpectedly, and mysterious men come after her too. A handsome stranger (Grant) wants to help...or does he?

'Happy Death Day' (2017)

Starring: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Rachel Matthews, and Charles Aitken.

The mystery: Is this a traditional murder mystery setup? Absolutely not. Is it a great mystery movie? You bet. In a Groundhog Day-like scenario, Tree (Rothe) is seeking out a murder. The victim? Tree. Every morning she goes in search of her murderer, trying to beat the clock and somehow survive to tomorrow. I'd argue the premise makes the whodunit even more interesting.

'Chinatown' (1974)

Starring: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Hillerman, Perry Lopez, Burt Young, and John Huston.

The mystery: LA private eye J.J. "Jake" Gittes (Nicholson) is hired by a woman named Evelyn Mulwray to investigate her husband's suspected infidelity, but the case takes a turn when Jake meets the real Mrs. Mulwray (this one played by Dunaway) and finds himself investigating Mr. Mulwray's sudden death. It's a multilayered story about corruption, cruelty, and deception at every level of society.

'Gosford Park' (2001)

Starring: Charles Dance, Stephen Fry, Michael Gambon, Richard E. Grant, Derek Jacobi, Kelly Macdonald, Helen Mirren, Jeremy Northam, Clive Owen, Ryan Phillippe, Maggie Smith, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Emily Watson.

The mystery: Sir William (respectable, deeply immoral) hosts a shooting party at his grand estate that swiftly turns lethal. This whodunit explores the rigid British class system of the 1930s, with the wealthy above stairs and the servants below. It also really goes there with a frank and often brutal look at sexual politics.

'Sherlock Holmes' (2009)

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong, and Eddie Marsan.

The mystery: Sherlock Holmes is the original detective, and some of Arthur Conan Doyle's stories are the best whodunits out there. Many films have been made of the super-sleuth, but this one (directed by Guy Ritchie) gives it a much-needed shot of adrenaline. Ritualistic killings are going on in London, and it seems like the culprit's obvious. Then shit gets weird, and more bodies start piling up.

'The Fugitive' (1993)

Starring: Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones, Sela Ward, Joe Pantoliano, Andreas Katsulas, and Jeroen Krabbé.

The mystery: Harrison Ford's a doctor wrongly convicted for murdering his wife—so, as you do, he escapes and sets out to investigate the crime himself. Tommy Lee Jones is the U.S. Marshall who comes after him, reluctantly starting to realize the man he's chasing might be innocent after all. It's not the typical "ten people in a room—figure out who the killer is" kind of story, but the modified format works incredibly well. Having the man convicted of the crime investigate the crime is a brilliant framework, and Ford carries it off perfectly.

'A Simple Favor'

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding, Andrew Rannells, Linda Cardellini, Rupert Friend, and Jean Smart.

The mystery: Two moms become friends, then one goes missing. The hunt to figure out what's happened (and who the woman really is) begins. No spoilers on who dies—yes, it's included on a murder mystery list for a reason—or why the mystery's so compelling. But just trust me on this one; It's actually kind of brilliant. And, guys: Blake Lively is really funny (and so is the film, contrary to what the trailer might make you believe). Don't sleep on this one.

'And Then There Were None' (1945)

Starring: C. Aubrey Smith, Judith Anderson, Mischa Auer, June Duprez, Barry Fitzgerald, Walter Huston, and Louis Hayward.

The mystery: A few things here (including the original title Ten Little Indians) are a smidge dated, but bear with it. This is considered to be one of if not the greatest Agatha Christie novels of all time, and the plot holds up all these decades later. Ten people are invited to an island. Each of them is responsible for a death, for which they were not punished. Each begins to die, one by one. Who's killing them? Just wait—Christie once said she was so proud of the work she'd put in to get the ending right, and it really shows.

'Murder on the Orient Express' (1974)

Starring: Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Martin Balsam, Ingrid Bergman, Jacqueline Bisset, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Wendy Hiller, Anthony Perkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Rachel Roberts, Richard Widmark, and Michael York.

The mystery: A billionaire is murdered on a trip on the Orient Express while famed detective Hercule Poirot happens to be on board. He sets about trying to solve the mystery, with everyone in the car proving to be a suspect. The 2017 remake is perfectly fine, but the original really channels Agatha Christie's vision perfectly.

'Psycho' (1960)

Starring: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, John Gavin, Vera Miles, and Martin Balsam.

The mystery: This horror film is also the ultimate murder mystery, in part because of who the murderee is (no spoilers, even though you've probably seen that pivotal scene). Hitchcock's insistence on an unconventional narrative structure shoots the story forward—and he leaves red herrings all throughout the film to make the ending feel genuinely surprising even now.

'Seven' (1995)

Starring: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, John C. McGinley, and Kevin Spacey.

The mystery: A serial killer starts a seven deadly sins-themed murder spree, and two detectives (Freeman and Pitt) have to try to solve the case before he strikes again. The film's now known for a few key scenes, but the plot's underrated and very tense. Watch out if you're squeamish, though.

'The Mirror Crack'd' (1980)

Starring: Angela Lansbury, Kim Novak, Elizabeth Taylor, Geraldine Chaplin, Tony Curtis, Edward Fox, Rock Hudson, and Pierce Brosnan.

The mystery: The film's about two warring actresses (sooo the premise has aged well) who are starring in the same film together. Poison, meant for one of them, ends up killing another woman—so who's the culprit? This is the only time Angela Lansbury played the classic Agatha Christie character Miss Marple. But she is glorious in it—and you can see the seeds of the 1980s-90s TV series Murder She Wrote, in which Lansbury basically played a modern version of the character. Elizabeth Taylor rants and rages with characteristic flair, and if you're not familiar with her work, here's a great place to start.

'Clue' (1895)

Starring: Eileen Brennan, Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Martin Mull, and Lesley Ann Warren.

The mystery: This comedy, based on the classic board game, follows a group of guests at a dinner party who all suspect each other when their host is murdered. It's one of the rare instances in which a game adaptation actually works, and the original theatrical release had multiple endings distributed out randomly to audiences. (The version you'll watch will have all three, one after the other.)

'The Big Sleep' (1946)

Starring: Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.

The mystery: Private investigator Philip Marlowe (Bogart) is hired by General Sternwood to help fix the issue of his daughter, Carmen's, gambling debts. Marlowe turns to the general's older daughter, Vivian (Bacall), who reveals that the situation is much more twisty than it appears. The film really dives into how a crime is solved; With literary legend William Faulkner cowriting, the story's aged well.

'Zodiac' (2007)

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Edwards, Brian Cox, Charles Fleischer, Zach Grenier, Philip Baker Hall, Elias Koteas, James LeGros, Donal Logue, John Carroll Lynch, Dermot Mulroney, Candy Clark, and Chloë Sevigny.

The mystery: Director David Fincher's 2007 film took on the still officially unsolved murders of the Zodiac Killer. The film is long and windy, but doesn't feel it. If the lack of closure makes you wary of seeing it, don't let that deter you. This film's as riveting as it gets.

'Mystic River' (2003)

Starring: Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden, and Laura Linney.

The mystery: An ex-con's daughter is murdered and two of his childhood friends are connected to the case, prompting him to conduct his own investigation into the murder. The mood is dark and twisted, with a true gut punch of an ending (no spoilers here, though).

'Rear Window' (1954)

Starring: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter, and Raymond Burr.

The mystery: A newspaper photographer with a broken leg passes the time during his recovery by observing his neighbors through his window. When he witnesses what he believes to be a murder, he goes to work solving the crime himself. By this point, Hitchcock is absolutely nailing the "murder mystery with a twist" genre.

'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' (2011)

Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgård, Steven Berkoff, Robin Wright, Yorick van Wageningen, and Joely Richardson.

The mystery: A disgraced financial reporter and a genius hacker team up to investigate a 40-year-old murder case. Fair warning—it gets violent, including sexual violence throughout. But if you've got the stomach for it, this remake and book adaptation channels the depth and horror of the subject matter.

'The Usual Suspects' (1995)

Starring: Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Chazz Palminteri, Kevin Pollak, Pete Postlethwaite, Kevin Spacey, Suzy Amis, Benicio del Toro, and Giancarlo Esposito.

The mystery: Kint (Kevin Spacey) attempts to convince the feds that a mythic crime lord named Keyser Soze pulled him and and his four partners into a multi-million dollar heist that led to a fatal explosion in San Pedro Harbor. Known at the time for one of the biggest surprise endings ever, it's aged into a pretty flawless mystery that hides all its cards until the very, very end.

'Gone Girl' (2014)

Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, and Tyler Perry.

The mystery: A man (Affleck) is the prime suspect in his wife's disappearance and apparent murder, but things are definitely not what they appear. David Fincher really understands what made the book so powerful, and structuring it in a similar way means there are multiple jaw-dropping twists throughout the windy story.

'Dial M for Murder' (1954)

Starring: Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, Robert Cummings, and John Williams.

The mystery: A man plots the perfect murder to get rid of his adulterous wife, but is backed into a corner when his wife fights back and kills her assassin in self-defense. Another Hitchcock classic, the plot starts out twisty and only gets twistier.

'The Maltese Falcon' (1941)

Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Gladys George, Peter Lorre, Barton MacLane, Lee Patrick, and Sydney Greenstreet.

The mystery: Detective Sam Spade (Bogart) takes on a case that turns out to be more than he bargained for when his partner ends up murdered—Sam is threatened and told he must find the valuable statue at the center of the crime spree.

'Primal Fear' (1996)

Starring: Richard Gere, Edward Norton, Laura Linney, John Mahoney, Alfre Woodard, and Frances McDormand.

The mystery: When the Archbishop of Chicago is murdered, a media-hungry attorney takes on the case, defending the alter boy who is the prime suspect in the case. Norton (only 27 at the time and in his film debut) gives a star-making performance as a young alter boy who's more than meets the eye.

'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' (1988)

Starring: Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, Charles Fleischer, Stubby Kaye, and Joanna Cassidy.

The mystery: Not every murder mystery has to be super-serious, clearly. Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a family-friendly take on classic noirs, as a detective works to find out, well, who framed Roger Rabbit—and who really committed the murder the toon is accused of. The effects have aged a little, but the story's still a good one.


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