The 15 Best Murder Mystery Movies For the Detective in You

From classic noirs to inventive modern twists, can you solve these whodunits before the credits roll?

The 15 Best Murder Mystery Movies For the Detective in You
The 15 Best Murder Mystery Movies For the Detective in You

Most Thursday nights in college, my film major friends and I would get together for movie night and spend at least an hour debating which movie to watch. The one genre that would save us from endless arguing and make everyone happy? The murder mystery.

The perfect blend of thrilling, sexy, intriguing, and often funny, murder mysteries will have even the most passive viewers stuck to the screen, wanting more. Murder mysteries are the best kind of puzzle, challenging the audience to string clues together to unravel some meaning at the heart of the story. We jump through hoop after hoop, following each lead and testing our intuition. Can you get to the bottom of the case, or will you fall for the red herring? Can you anticipate the twists and turns the story may take, or do you think you’ve got it all figured out from the beginning?

Grab your magnifying glass and your trusty sidekick (a cocktail will do just fine), and gear up for these 15 mystery thrillers, horrors, and whodunits that are sure to keep you guessing until the very end.

Se7en

Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman star as detectives following the twisted trail of a serial killer who targets his victims based on the seven deadly sins. Featuring Pitt in one of his most iconic roles as the short-fused rookie detective, Se7en is a dark, brutal, and exciting crime tale.

Knives Out

Director Rian Johnson and his all-star ensemble cast (Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, Michael Shannon, Daniel Craig) revive the Agatha Christie-style murder mystery in this whodunit about a wealthy family whose crime novelist patriarch has suspiciously died. It’s a delightful, winding story combining elements of Succession and Clue, where millions of dollars are at stake and everyone is a suspect.

The Nice Guys

Shane Black’s neo-noir comedy thriller follows struggling private investigator Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and hired muscle Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) as unlikely partners working together on the case of a missing girl (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’s Margaret Qualley) and the death of a porn star. As everyone involved in the case is killed off one by one, March and Healy realize they may be in over their heads.

Game Night

A murder mystery party quickly turns real when its host, Brooks (Kyle Chandler), is kidnapped. Max (Jason Bateman), Annie (Rachel McAdams), and their friends must follow the clues to save Brooks before it’s too late, embarking on a wild adventure that involves underground fight clubs, Fabergé eggs, and their creepy neighbor, Gary (Jesse Plemons).

Clue

Based on the board game, this 1985 black comedy follows a group of seven strangers who become suspects after one of them is murdered. As the body count rises, you’re invited to play the game and figure out just who’s responsible—Colonel Mustard in the library with the candlestick? The film features three different endings, just to keep you on your toes.

Happy Death Day

Part Groundhog Day time loop, part mystery thriller, Blumhouse hit Happy Death Day is an inventive twist on the classic genre. After a masked killer murders her on her birthday, college student Tree must relive the day again and again until she can find the identity of her killer and save her life.

L.A. Confidential

Set in 1950s Los Angeles, L.A. Confidential is a neo-noir about three police officers (Guy Pearce, Russell Crowe, and Kevin Spacey) whose investigation of a series of murders unravels into a mysterious web of corruption and lies. It all makes for an award-winning film about corrupt cops, the Hollywood scene, and the crime hidden beneath the surface of sunny California.

Gone Girl

Based on Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novel, Gone Girl is the kind of film that leaves you utterly stunned once it’s over. Ben Affleck plays Nick Dunne, a college professor and writer whose seemingly-perfect marriage with his beautiful wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), begins to unravel when Amy mysteriously disappears. Nick quickly becomes a suspect, and as perspectives shift throughout the narrative, you won’t know what to believe. It’s a dark and thrilling tale about love, respect, sex, violence, and modern American marriage.

Fargo

Frances McDormand gives an Oscar-winning performance as a pregnant Minnesota cop hot on the trail of two murderers in this classic Coen brothers dark comedy. If you don’t immediately think of Fargo when you see a woodchipper or hear “You betcha,” you should give it a watch right now. With its strong cast (Steve Buscemi, William H. Macy) and icy white backdrop, Fargo is an apt movie to cozy up to.

Scream

The original film in Wes Craven’s iconic 1990s slasher franchise, Scream follows a high school girl, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), and her friends as a masked killer terrorizes their small California town. Clever dialogue and frequent meta-references make Scream more than your garden-variety bloody slasher film. Even dedicated students of the horror movie genre will find themselves falling prey to jump scares and speculation over who could be hiding beneath the ghostface mask.

Zodiac

Is Ted Cruz the Zodiac killer? Maybe. This film doesn’t address it. Nonetheless, director David Fincher’s 2007 film is a gripping take on the story of the infamous serial killer who terrorized San Francisco in the late 1960s and ’70s, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., and Mark Ruffalo.

The Long Goodbye

Robert Altman’s 1973 take on the Raymond Chandler classic mystery novel is a total Los Angeles ‘stoner-noir’ trip. Private investigator Philip Marlowe does a favor for a friend and finds himself entangled in an intertwining web of suspicious deaths. Featuring a jazzy soundtrack, naked yogi-hippie neighbors, a finicky orange cat, and an early uncredited Arnold Schwarzenegger cameo The Long Goodbye is a worthy addition to your watchlist.

The Maltese Falcon

The 1941 film noir stars Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade, a private investigator who takes on a case after his partner is murdered. From the dangerous and beautiful femme fatale (Mary Astor) to the a valuable falcon statuette at the center of the mystery, The Maltese Falcon is a Hollywood classic well worth a watch.

Brick

Long before Knives Out, Rian Johnson tried his hand at neo-noir in the 2005 cult classic Brick, starring a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt as high school student-turned-detective Brendan. After a troubling call with his terrified ex-girlfriend Emily, Brendan follows a trail of strange clues throughout his suburban California neighborhood to get to the bottom of Emily’s case.

Murder on the Orient Express

In this award-winning adaptation of the Agatha Christie novel, Detective Hercule Poirot is on a journey home when a wealthy American businessman is murdered aboard his train. Halted on the track by a snowstorm with an unknown killer hiding aboard in plain sight, every eclectic passenger is a suspect and Poirot must solve the mystery.

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