Murder mystery movies have seen a large resurgence in recent times. We’ve all been there at some point: in front of a screen, sleuth hat firmly on, trying to put the pieces before the plot unravels and the case is solved. We all have tried to beat Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Benoit Blanc, Detective Takabe, Inspector Crowe, and other detectives on screen, hoping to crack the case before they did.
The whodunit genre dates back to the 1930s, and these murder mysteries remained largely popular for a major chunk of the last century. However, they went out of fashion for the most part — with only a few scattered releases — up until a couple of years back when they made a welcome comeback thanks to directors like Rian Johnson and Kenneth Branagh.
Coupled with its glorious past and recent resurgence, the genre has continued. So, for those whose introduction to this particular brand of murder mysteries is defined by latest additions like Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, and Death on the Nile, we’ve put together a list of the 10 best whodunit movies, both new and old, to get you better acquainted with the genre.
10. Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!
This Dibakar Banerjee-directed 2015 Indian Hindi-language mystery action thriller sees detective Byomkesh Bakshi getting hired by Ajit Kumar Banerjee, the son of a missing scientist who is curious to find out what’s gone wrong with his missing father. Bakshi is incredibly witty here, carefully putting the pieces and unraveling a murder all against the backdrop of air raids and subterfuge of wartime Calcutta.
9. Bad Times at the El Royale
Many good murder mysteries thrive with a stellar ensemble cast, and in Drew Goddard’s Bad Times at the El Royale, Dakota Johnson, Chris Hemsworth, Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Jon Hamm, Cailee Spaeny, and Lewis Pullman all contribute to a fascinating story about seven strangers in a hotel located along the California–Nevada border. They all converge there for one last shot at redemption, but as things unravel, their dark personal secrets begin to intersect.
8. Knives Out
This 2019 American mystery film follows an ensemble cast of Katherine Langford, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Christopher Plummer, Jaeden Martell, Toni Collette, LaKeith Stanfield, and Don Johnson, who are all connected as part of a wealthy, dysfunctional family. When the patriarch of the family dies, the intelligent Benoit Blanc, played by Daniel Craig, is brought in to sniff out any foul play. But what unfolds is far more enticing than any ming-boggling murder mystery.
Zodiac is a David Fincher-directed 2007 American mystery thriller that tells the story of one of the United States’ most infamous unsolved crimes — the murders committed by the anonymous Zodiac Killer, a serial killer who terrorized the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1960s. The killer, who sent taunting letters and cards to regional newspapers, is said to have murdered five known victims though the killer claimed that the actual number was thirty-seven. This movie follows the manhunt for the notorious killer, and it’s been highly praised for its historical accuracy.
6. Murder By Decree
Jack the Ripper, sometimes referred to as the Whitechapel Murderer and Leather Apron, is one of the infamous serial killers from the 1880s. The unidentified serial killer was active in and around the Whitechapel district of London and this 1979 mystery thriller film directed by Bob Clark gives the famous duo Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson the task to solve his murders. While trying to untangle the mess, the duo is sucked into the world of the Freemasons, who are littered across the police hierarchy and government, and Annie Crook, a highly suspicious woman locked up in a mental facility.
In March of 2001, the British-American screenwriter and author, Jonathan Nolan, published a brilliant short story called Memento mori in Esquire magazine. This short story is what Jonathan’s brother, Christopher Nolan, expanded on to deliver one of the best American neo-noir mystery thrillers ever. Memento follows Leonard Shelby, a man who suffers from anterograde amnesia and attempts to find the people who attacked and murdered his wife. The main attraction here is the film’s nonlinear narrative, which makes it both a challenging and intriguing watch.
The Coen brothers, Jack and Ethan, have a number of insanely good movies under their belt, but 1996’s Fargo, a black comedy crime film, remains one of the very best. Here, Marge Gunderson, played by the brilliant Frances McDormand, is a seemingly mundane but intuitive pregnant Minnesota police chief who investigates a triple homicide. Gunderson may not possess much flair, but what she does have is a potent sixth sense and enough cynicism to believe the unassuming local car salesman is connected to the triple homicide.
Kiyoshi Kurosawa is well known for his contributions to the Japanese film industry. His catalog includes several strong releases, but perhaps his most thrilling offering remains Cure, a 1997 psychological thriller that stars Kōji Yakusho, Anna Nakagawa, Masato Hagiwara, and Tsuyoshi Ujiki. Here, Detective Kenichi Takabe tries to solve a string of gruesome murders where an X is carved into the neck of each victim. This movie has been highly influential since its release and it’s been said to have heavily influenced Japanese horror media in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
2. Murder, She Said
Largely based on Agatha Christie’s 1957 novel 4.50 from Paddington, Murder, She Said is a 1961 comedy and murder mystery directed by George Pollock. The film, which features names like Arthur Kennedy, Muriel Pavlow, James Robertson Justice, Stringer Davis, and Margaret Rutherford, follows Miss Marple, a woman who witnesses the strangling of a young woman on another train. This prompts Marple to follow the corpse to a nearby country pile and attempt to solve the murder. Murder, She Said manages to brilliantly combine fun with just the right tension, suspense, and gruesomeness needed for an excellent whodunit.
1. Memories Of Murder
Bong Joon-ho is, undoubtedly, one of the most talented and influential film directors in the world, and one of his best works is his second feature film, Memories Of Murder. This incredibly tense South Korean crime thriller is loosely based on the story of Korea’s first confirmed serial murders. It follows local detectives Park and Seo, who are trying to solve the murders as the bodies pile up. Memories of Murder has earned numerous awards and nominations and is currently regarded as one of the best Asian movies ever made.
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The 10 best whodunit movies of all time to set your inner Sherlock loose
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