27 Murder Mystery Movies That Will Awaken Your Inner Sleuth
It doesn’t matter what your real-life job is—everyone becomes a detective the minute there’s a mystery afoot. When presented with a real-world murder mystery, we take to Reddit to collectively pore over every detail we’ve been presented with—and dig up new ones, too. And if you’re doubting that statement at all, just think back to the phenomenons that were Serial, Making a Murderer, and Tiger King. Sometimes it doesn’t even take a hit podcast or viral documentary to rally the internet sleuths. Just look at Don’t F*ck With Cats, the story of a group of internet detectives who cracked a real-life murder basically in real time, long before the tale became the subject of a Netflix series.
If you prefer your murder mysteries with lower stakes, however, there’s always the world of fiction to turn to. And murder mysteries have a long, storied history in the realm of fiction, meaning there are plenty of options to choose from and keep your amateur detective brain working in high gear. In film, murder mysteries have taken every conceivable form. There are comedies, like Clue and the aptly titled Netflix hit Murder Mystery. There are dark, twisty, psychologically challenging murder mystery tales, like Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. And there are those movies that strike the kind of tone that makes you feel like you’re living in a classic mystery novel, like Murder on the Orient Express and Knives Out. Whatever your mystery mood is, this list of some of the best murder mystery movies of all time has you covered.
Basic Instinct (1992)
This movie is all about a police detective investigating (and having a relationship with) the widow of a former rockstar who may or may not have brutally murdered her husband. Ah, romance!
Dark Places (2015)
Based on Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name, it follows the story of Libby Day who, when she was eight, told police that her brother was responsible for her parents’ murder. But now that she’s grown up, she’s not so sure that’s the truth.
A Simple Favor (2018)
Blake Lively is perfection in the role of Emily—the super cool, mysterious mom who just up and vanishes one day. But as things progress, they get a little more murder-y and a whole lot more confusing.
In the Heat of the Night (1967)
Virgil Tibbs, a Black police detective in Philadelphia, is wrongfully accused of murder by a racist police chief in Mississippi. Once he proves his innocence, he joins up with the police chief to figure out exactly who the real killer is.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Serial killer Buffalo Bill is on the loose, and young FBI trainee Clarice Starling is trying to catch him. She has to enlist the help of another cannibalistic serial killer to give her some insight that could help her find him. And yes, this is the movie where the iconic line of “Hello, Clarice” comes from.
Based on the very real (and still very much unsolved) Zodiac Killer case, this movie will have you wanting to solve the crime IRL. It’s also got a stacked cast with Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, and Robert Downey Jr. in leading roles.
Audrey Hepburn stuns in this movie as Regina “Reggie” Lampert, an American expat in Paris whose husband turns up murdered right as he was trying to leave the city. He had mysteriously sold off all of his belongings, but the money is missing. You’ll come for the mystery but stay for the rapport between Audrey and Cary Grant.
Yes, like the classic murder mystery board game. This comedy murder mystery comes complete with multiple endings and a plot that will have you laughing and guessing start to finish.
Gone Girl (2014)
Based on Gillian Flynn’s best seller of the same name, Gone Girl is a murder mystery that also tackles some of life’s bigger mysteries—like what goes on in the dark, deep soul of a troubled marriage.
Knives Out (2019)
This highly stylized murder mystery was an instant classic, and Ana de Armas is a damn delight.
The Girl on the Train (2016)
How do you solve a murder when you’re the only witness and you can’t trust your own memory? That’s the conundrum Emily Blunt faces in The Girl on the Train.
Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
Agatha Christie’s boldly mustachioed Hercule Poirot is one of literature’s most famous detectives, and Kenneth Branagh brought him to life for his most well-known case in 2017’s remake of Murder on the Orient Express.
Murder Mystery (2019)
Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston reunited for Netflix’s Murder Mystery in 2019, playing a married couple who try to get out of their rut by finally going on their long-delayed honeymoon. Along the way, the meet a wealthy playboy who invites them into his world—which is promptly turned upside down by a mysterious murder.
Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)
Darkly funny and also just plain dark, Bad Times at the El Royale is the kind of movie that transports you to another world and keeps you on your toes. It doesn’t hurt that the movie features an all-star ensemble cast who all bring their A+ game.
Dark Places (2015)
If you love Gone Girl, you should check out Dark Places, which is also based on a novel by Gillian Flynn. This time, instead of dissecting marriage, Flynn turns her razor on other family relationships and the way our own memories can deceive us.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
Anyone who thinks murder stories can’t be family-friendly is clearly forgetting about Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the best partially animated noir film the world will ever see.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Based on the Stieg Larsson novel of the same name, this adaptation starring Rooney Mara as hacker extraordinaire Lisbeth Salander is one of the great modern mysteries.
Shutter Island (2010)
If you like your murder mysteries with a side of serious mindf*ck, Shutter Island is definitely what you’ve been looking for. The movie stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo, and you truly won’t know what is even going on until the very end—but in a good, satisfying way.
Primal Fear (1996)
This movie basically launched Edward Norton’s career, and once you see his incredible performance in it, you’ll understand why. Plus, it has one of the most unexpected endings in movie history.
If you don’t think of Scream as a murder mystery, then you need to expand your thinking about murder mysteries. Because, honestly, hands up if you didn’t see the true identity of Ghostface coming.
The teen-focused remake of Rear Window the world didn’t realize it desperately needed until it was here.
Old Boy (2003)
This South Korean thriller isn’t just an amazing, enthralling murder mystery. It’s also widely considered one of the best films of the 2000s.
Mysteries can be just as compelling and head-scratching when they’re told in reverse, and Memento proved that.
This Hitchcock classic shocked audiences from start to finish and basically invented the modern twist ending.
Along Came a Spider (2001)
This was Morgan Freeman’s second time playing famous book detective Alex Cross, after 1997’s Kiss the Girls. Both are great, but Along Came a Spider’s mystery will grip you—and have you trying to solve it right along with Morgan.
The Fugitive (1993)
Harrison Ford plays a man wrongfully accused of murdering his wife in this classic action movie. Naturally, he needs to figure out who really did the deed and clear his name.
A Perfect Getaway (2009)
This movie, starring Timothy Olyphant, Milla Jovovich, Steve Zahn, and a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth, flew under the radar, but if you love mysteries with endings that you didn’t see coming but totally should have seen coming, watch it immediately.
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