The 20 Best Mystery Movies That Every Whodunnit Fan Needs to See
These flicks will keep you guessing until the very last frame.
The best mystery movies all have one thing in common: They make you feel like a detective, even if you've never cracked a case in real life. But let us assure you: There's no shame in idolizing those on-screen code-breakers and clue-hunters. And while we may not all be professional private investigators, we can still put our problem-solving skills to the test when we're streaming at home. So, from classic whodunnits to mind-warping modern thrillers, here are our favorite mystery movies, which are guaranteed to keep you guessing until the very end. And for flicks that will have you sleeping with the lights on, check out The Scariest Movies '90s Kids Can't Forget.
Jimmy Stewart stars as a cop-turned-private-detective plagued by an intense fear of heights and the condition that this Alfred Hitchcock classic is named after. Kim Novak is the mysterious woman—his client's wife—that he's hired to look into. In the 1958 film, New Yorker critic Richard Brody writes, the legendary filmmaker "unfurls his own obsessions: the tragic difference between friendship and love, the seductive power of style and disguise, the proximity of lust and madness, and the inseparability of sex from suspense, danger, and death." Are you intrigued yet?
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One of the most famous detectives in the fictional realm, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes was brought back to the big screen again in 2009 thanks to director Guy Ritchie. With Robert Downey Jr. in the lead role and Jude Law along for the ride as Holmes' sidekick, Dr. Watson, the famous sleuth must solve the mystery around Lord Blackfoot (Mark Strong), a man who has risen from the grave with an evil plan in mind. The game is afoot, friends!
If you were suddenly suffering from almost complete amnesia, you would want to find out who you really were, wouldn't you? That's the question that one character faces in David Lynch's 2001 film Mulholland Drive. Laura Harring plays a woman who loses her memory after a car crash. While in a haze, she befriends an aspiring actress from the Midwest (Naomi Watts), who attempts to help her solve the mystery around her identity. But as they try to uncover the truth, the two women stumble into a world that's less a Hollywood dream and more a trippy nightmare.
For flicks that have aged faster than you thought, check out 30 Beloved Movies You Won't Believe Are 30 Years Old.
Writer/director Rian Johnson pays tribute to the ensemble whodunnits of the past while also turning them on their heads with his 2019 hit Knives Out. Daniel Craig gives us his best and most bombastic Southern accent to play gentleman detective Benoit Blanc, who's hired by an anonymous client to investigate the death of mystery novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer). With a house full of relatives with bones to pick with the old man, he has plenty of suspects to contend with. But believe us when we say that Knives Out won't deliver the kind of investigation you're expecting.
The hunt is on in this 1993 feature adaptation of the classic TV series The Fugitive. In the film that was nominated for seven Academy Awards, Harrison Ford takes on the role of Dr. Richard Kimble, a man who is framed and convicted for the murder of his wife. Going on the run, he's determined to track down the real killer while a relentless U.S. Marshal (Tommy Lee Jones, who won the Oscar) stays hot on his trail.
For stars who transformed themselves for their work, check out 14 Actors Who Looked Unrecognizable in Major Movies.
There are seven deadly sins that are apparently the root of all evil: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth. And in 1995's Se7en, Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman play a pair of detectives tasked with capturing a serial killer who murders based on the infamous immoral list. But beware—this crime thriller is considered a neo-noir horror film, so it can get rather gory.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Whether or not you've seen the original 2009 Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, starring Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist, you still need to watch the American version that was released two years later. With Daniel Craig playing disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist and Rooney Mara as vigilante hacker Lisbeth Salander, the story follows the two as they investigate the twisted disappearance of a woman 40 years earlier.
For actors who've dabbled in the scary stuff, check out 30 Celebrities You Forgot Were in Horror Movies.
The Third Man
In this 1949 noir penned by Graham Greene, Joseph Cotten stars as an American man who travels to Vienna, Austria when a friend offers him a job. To his surprise, he's told that his old pal Harry Lime (Orson Welles) is dead—but the truth behind the man's sudden disappearance is much stranger and more disturbing than that.
The Da Vinci Code
In this 2006 film based on the bestselling book of the same name, a murder at the Louvre in Paris sparks an investigation that unfolds via clues hidden in the art of Leonardo da Vinci and exposes a possible cover-up that leads all the way back to the life of Jesus. You can follow your viewing of The Da Vinci Code with 2009's Angels & Demons, which again stars Tom Hanks in the lead role, this time alongside Star Wars alum Ewan McGregor.
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The Usual Suspects
Released in 1995, The Usual Suspects—with its infamously great twist ending—is now a cult classic. While we're introduced via those who've encountered him to the vicious crime lord Keyser Soze, we're taken through a twisted plot that will leave you unsure of anything except for the fact that "the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist."
Leonardo DiCaprio delivers some of his best work under the direction of Martin Scorsese, and that was made obvious once again in 2010's Shutter Island. DiCaprio plays Teddy Daniels, a U.S. Marshal sent to an asylum for the criminally insane along with his partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) to investigate the seemingly impossible and inexplicable disappearance of a murderer. But while there, they begin to uncover facts that will leave you as desperate as Teddy is to figure out what secrets the island harbors.
Plenty of movies have been inspired by Agatha Christie's 1939 classic mystery novel And Then There Were None and 2003's Identity does it yet again. This psychological thriller stars John Cusack as a man who is stranded in an isolated motel in the middle of the Nevada desert along with a group of nine others when a storm hits. Their stay takes a deadly turn when someone starts killing the guests, one by one, just as they discover they share an unexpected connection.
If your friends can never figure out what to get you for your birthday, then you might want to ask them to watch 1997's The Game with you. In the mystery thriller directed by David Fincher, Michael Douglas plays Nicholas Van Orton, a successful San Francisco banker who is haunted by his father's death by suicide at the age of 48. On Nicholas' own 48th birthday, his estranged brother (Sean Penn) shows up with a gift that sets off a series of wild events. Not only is there a twist at every possible turn, each one will keep you deep within the story's puzzle until the very end.
Another mystery thriller from Fincher, Gone Girl stars Ben Affleck as a man who becomes the primary suspect in the disappearance of his wife as all the clues left behind point to him. Based on the novel by Gillian Flynn, the 2012 film also features tantalizing performances by Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, and Tyler Perry and proves that the simplest answer isn't always the correct one.
Murder on the Orient Express
Kenneth Branagh works the signature mustache of Christie's Hercule Poirot in the 2017 remake of Murder on the Orient Express. The actor (who also directs) known for his Shakespearean-level performance chops is accompanied onscreen by an all-star cast including Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer, Tom Bateman, and Daisy Ridley as their characters board a train that will become the scene of a murder before arriving at its final destination.
The Sixth Sense
If you've always thought about using your sleuthing skills to become a paranormal detective, then you need to watch (or re-watch) The Sixth Sense. Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, the film stars Bruce Willis as a child psychologist who meets a young boy (Haley Joel Osment) who, well, sees dead people. The film earned six Oscar nominations partially due to the unexpected ending which we definitely won't spoil for you if you've somehow managed to avoid it. Simply put, it's one of the best mystery movies of all time.
The chase is on again for Tommy Lee Jones in 1999's Double Jeopardy, only this time he's on the trail of Ashely Judd. When Judd's character is convicted of her husband's murder only to (surprise!) find out that he's still alive and responsible for framing her, she does her time and is released fully aware of the fact that—thanks to the law that shares a name with the movie—she can shoot her ex "in the middle of Mardi Gras" and no one can do a thing about it.
You may not have thought that a political dispute over aqueducts in California could have led to one of the most acclaimed movie mysteries of all time, but that's exactly what inspired 1974's Chinatown. Jack Nicholson plays Jack Gittes, who gets caught up in enough political and dark family drama in one case to last a private investigator the rest of his lifetime. Faye Dunaway costars.
It's not uncommon for people to use tattoos as a way to remind them of things they don't want to forget. But 2000's Memento takes that idea one step further with Guy Pearce's character, a man with short-term memory loss who inks his body with clues to his wife's death so that he can be reminded of every detail and track down her killer. The mystery thriller also stars Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano who appeared in The Matrix together just one year earlier and put filmmaker Christopher Nolan on the map.
One of the best mystery movies of all time is based on one of the best family games of all time. In the beloved murder mystery comedy, Colonel Mustard (Martin Mull), Mrs. White (Madeline Kahn), Mrs. Peacock (Eileen Brennan), Mr. Green (Michael McKean), Professor Plum (Christopher Lloyd), and Miss Scarlet (Lesley Ann Warren) join the butler Wadsworth (Tim Curry) and Yvette the maid (Colleen Camp) for a dinner party that begins with the murder of their host. But was it Colonel Mustard in the library with a candlestick? We'll never tell!