The best mystery movies include Se7en, The Sixth Sense, Knives Out, and The Usual Suspects
Any serious moviegoer knows there is nothing better than a good mystery movie. A classic film that engages from the start and continues to put you in right until the end credits roll. A good mystery will hide its clues in plain sight, though it may take more than one viewing to catch them all. A great mystery is not afraid to deliver that big plot twist right when you think you have a handle on the story.
Over the years, there have been numerous mystery movies that have kept audiences on the edge of their seats, trying to add up two and two, oftentimes coming up with five.
So, let’s take a look at the best mystery movies that will keep you guessing all the way to the end. Fear not, if you have not had the pleasure of seeing any of the films on the list, we won’t be giving away their endings.
THE BEST MYSTERY MOVIES TO KEEP YOU GUESSING ALL THE WAY TO THE END
10. Knives Out (2019)
When Knives Out was ready to hit theaters, the anticipation was lukewarm at best. How can anyone be blamed for the lack of excitement towards the mystery movie since writer/director Rian Johnson was fresh off the debacle that was Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi? Fans lost faith and jumped ship. Can’t blame them.
But then the movie hit the theaters. The reviews were fantastic, which piqued the interest of audiences across the country. Suddenly, Rian Johnson wasn’t as hated, although not forgiven, as his new film was amazingly entertaining.
The mystery is actually quite basic. It’s a whodunnit with a house full of suspects. The mystery surrounds wealthy novelist Harlan Thrombley (Christopher Plummer) and his apparent suicide. When private detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) arrives at the Thrombley mansion, he proceeds to make each family member uncomfortable with his detective techniques.
The family includes Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, and Ana de Armas as Marta, Harlan’s nurse. There is much more than meets the eye in this one.
9. Chinatown (1974)
Jack Nicholson arrives in the mystery movie Chinatown, playing one of his most memorable characters (aren’t they all?), Jake Gittes, a private investigator in 1937 who has been hired by Evelyn Mulwray to follow her husband because she believes he is having an affair.
Her husband Hollis is the chief engineer for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and one who is against building a new dam for safety concerns.
Gittes does his job, photographing Hollis in compromising positions. The next day, though, another lady visits him in his office claiming she is Evelyn Mulwray and is now threatening to sue him. When Gittes goes out to the reservoir to look for clues, Hollis’s body is found, apparently having drowned in the reservoir.
The whodunnit is on as Gittes finds himself in more trouble than he wished. The mystery deepens as Gittes figures out the Department of Water is up to no good. Then there is Evelyn. She is hiding something, and Gittes is determined to get it out of her. It’s a conclusion that just might send chills up your spine.
8. The Sixth Sense (1999)
The Sixth Sense put director M. Night Shyamalan on the map. It is a brilliantly conceived mystery that will leave your jaw dropping at its conclusion.
Bruce Willis stars as child psychologist Malcolm Crowe, a married man who returns home with his wife one night after being honored for all the work he has done in the field of child psychology. Upon returning home, he and his wife are confronted by Vincent Gray, a former patient. Gray is looking for answers and when Crowe doesn’t provide him with them, Gray shoots him.
A few months later, Crowe begins to work with a 9-year-old boy, Cole Sear. Cole is having issues both at home and at school. His single mother Lynn (Toni Collette) is worried about him.
After a school incident, Cole finally confides in Crowe, telling him that he sees dead people. Skeptical at first, Cole slowly begins to believe Cole. As they continue to work through it, Crowe convinces Cole that he should try to talk to these ghosts and help them on their way to their final destination.
Shyamalan also wrote the script for The Sixth Sense and has put together the ultimate in creepy mysteries. It’s another movie that delivers the clues, it is up to you to catch them.
7. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
In between his stints as 007 James Bond, Daniel Craig took on an earlier David Fincher mystery movie, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Based on the Stieg Larsson novel of the same name, Craig plays journalist Mikael Blomkvist, who is investigating a 40-year-old mystery as to what happened to a girl, Harriet, from the wealthy Vanger family. Rooney Mara is computer hacker Lisbeth Salander.
At the beginning of his investigation, Blomkvist moves into a cottage on Hedestad Island where the Vanger family has an estate. Once there, Blomkvist conducts interviews with members of the family while exploring the island.
While investigating, he calls upon Salander to become his research assistant. It pays off immediately as she is able to connect a list of names and numbers to you women who were brutally murdered between the years of 1947 and 1967. Now that they know a serial killer is responsible, they now need to know if Harriet was a victim.
Fincher handles the story well and Craig is good as always. The mystery surrounding Harriet will keep you guessing and the payoff is satisfying. Mara portrays Salander well, though did not reprise the role in the 2018 film, The Girl in the Spider’s Web. Instead, Claire Foy played Salander.
6. Gone Girl (2014)
Well, we’ve already talked about one David Fincher film, so why not add another great mystery movie to the list and talk about 2014’s Gone Girl? The film, based on the best-selling novel by Gillian Flynn, centers around married couple Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy (Rosamund Pike) Dunne. At first, the couple appears to be a happy one, but things change for the worse when, on their fifth anniversary, Amy goes missing.
Nick immediately becomes the number one suspect. As the investigation begins to dig deeper into their lives, it is revealed that not all were copacetic in the Dunne household. Seems Nick has been having an affair and once Amy found out, she put a plot into motion.
Each year at their anniversary, Amy crafts an elaborate treasure hunt for Nick. This time, she put the clues in each place where Nick and his mistress had sex. The die is cast, and Nick is about to pay the price.
Sometimes, mysteries can be too clever for their own good. Fincher’s Gone Girl skates that fine line. As the plot is revealed, you wouldn’t think the depravity could stoop so low. You would be wrong.
5. The Prestige (2006)
This is the second Christopher Nolan film to land on the best mystery to keep you guessing list. In The Prestige, Nolan once again works with Christian Bale, as well as Michael Caine, both of whom starred in Nolan’s Batman films. Here, Bale is joined by Hugh Jackman as two magicians who end up bitter enemies.
The film is set in Victorian London as Bale plays Alfred Borden and Jackman plays Robert Angier, two men who work as shills for a magician and who are guided by John Cutter (Caine), an engineer who is the mastermind behind the magic created on the stage.
Tragedy strikes during one performance when Angier’s wife Julia is performing a water tank trick that goes horribly wrong and she drowns. Angier blames Borden for tying the incorrect knot, causing Julia to drown. The former friends become bitter enemies.
Mystery begins to set in after both men begin their own careers as magicians. Borden has developed a magic trick he calls the Transported Man, where he appears to travel instantly from one wardrobe to another located across the stage.
Angier can’t figure out how Borden does it, but determined to come up with something similar, Angier finds a look-alike to help him with the trick. Although he is able to make it work, Angier is not satisfied.
The mystery intensifies when scientist Nicola Tesla (David Bowie) gets involved. Just how does the Transported Man work? The answer, in Christopher Nolan fashion, just may shock you.
4. Shutter Island (2010)
Shutter Island was the fourth collaboration between director Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio and the first and last mystery movie they would produce.
The film, set in the mid-‘50s, has DiCaprio’s Teddy Daniels, along with his partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), arriving at Ashecliffe Hospital for the criminally insane, located on Shutter Island. They are there to investigate the disappearance of Rachel Solando, a woman who drowned her three children.
As Teddy begins the investigation, he is haunted by migraine headaches and flashbacks to his days in the Army. He is also experiencing dreams of his wife Delores, who was killed in a fire by arsonist Andrew Laeddis. Teddy finally explained this to Chuck and tells him he believes that Laeddis is on the island.
The hospital’s staff are not as forthcoming as Teddy would like, but not long after they begin the investigation, Solando reappears. Teddy then breaks into a restricted area where he meets a patient who tells him that the hospital doctors are experimenting on the patients and that Teddy is being deceived.
Just as Teddy is getting a strange feeling about all that is going on around him, so is the audience. Something is just not right, and we aren’t sure who exactly is telling the truth. Scorsese keeps the mood dark and foreboding and when Teddy finally gets the answers he was seeking, they are ones we didn’t see coming.
3. Memento (2000)
You will need to invest heavily in Christopher Nolan’s first big feature film Memento, as this mystery movie takes you on a crazy ride. The film is told in a non-linear narrative fashion and uses both color and black and white to tell the story. The black and white sequences are told in chronological order while the color sequences tell the story in reverse. Confused?
Memento stars Guy Pierce as Leonard Shelby, a man with anterograde amnesia. When we first meet Leonard, he is speaking to someone we can’t see. Leonard tells this mystery person that he killed the attacker who raped and killed his wife, but a second attacker hit him over the head and was able to escape. Leonard thinks the name of the escaped attacker was “John G” or “James G”.
The blow to Leonard’s head caused his anterograde amnesia, or short-term memory loss, although he has full memories of his life before the attack. In order for Leonard to remember things, he has a system of pictures, notes, and tattoos in order to track the information he knows he won’t remember.
Nolan pulls off this style of mystery movie-making with flair. We know the end result at the beginning, that Leonard killed one of the attackers, but we don’t know the other one, so the mystery moving forward (or is it backward) is trying to determine who actually killed Leonard’s wife.
2. The Usual Suspects (1995)
Sometimes, it’s right there where everyone can see it. The clues are many and yet, you don’t realize it until the final curtain. The Usual Suspects is an ensemble mystery with great performances from each and every actor.
As far as mystery movies go, The Usual Suspects ranks up there with the best, although at first blush, it appears to be a crime caper. It tells the story of five criminals who are brought together on trumped-up charges, then choose to work together to get revenge.
Their revenge, a jewel heist, leads them to a man in California who fences jewelry and who also sets them up for another heist. When the heist goes bad, the five end up with synthetic heroin.
The men then discover their initial arrest was set up by a lawyer named Kobayashi, who works for a mysterious Turkish crime lord, Keyser Soze. Apparently and unknowingly, each man stole from Soze, and they now owe him one job to wipe the slate clean. The job is a virtual suicide mission, but one they are forced to complete.
The film stars Gabriel Byrne, Stephen Baldwin, Benicio del Toro, Kevin Pollak, Chaz Palminteri, and Kevin Spacey. You won’t see the twist coming in this Academy Award-winning mystery movie.
1. Se7en (1995)
Make no mistakes about it, David Fincher’s film, Se7en, is a gruesome watch and one of the best mystery movies out there. The film gets its name from the seven deadly sins and the serial killer using them does so with horrific results.
Morgan Freeman stars as William Somerset, a veteran detective who is ready and willing for retirement. Brad Pitt is his new partner, David Mills, whose impulsiveness, while well-intentioned, may eventually be a hindrance.
The two detectives join forces when a serial killer is murdering based on the seven deadly sins – lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. At the first murder, Somerset and Mills investigate a murder where the victim was an obese man who was forced to eat until his stomach burst. The word “gluttony” was found written on the wall.
The next day, another body was discovered with the word “greed”, the victim was forced to cut a pound of flesh from his body. The clues at this murder scene led the detectives to a third murder where the word sloth is found. It doesn’t take much more to convince them that the serial killer is following the seven deadly sins.
The mystery here is not a whodunnit-type mystery movie, because the killer reveals themselves. The mystery here is just how the seven deadly sins end. The anticipation is killer. When Brad Pitt asks, “What’s in the boxxxxxx???” it will leave you haunted. You’ve been warned.