Mystery movies are a film genre in which the nature of an event, usually a murder or other crime, remains unknown until the end of the story. Usually within a close circle of suspects, each suspect has a motive for the crime. The protagonist is commonly a detective who ultimately solves the mystery through a rational analysis of the facts. Mystery movies can be detective stories where the focus is on the mystery or thriller component as well as its rational part as a Giallo movie. Mystery movies can be hardboiled detective stories, focusing on action and a realistic look. There are several commonalities between mystery movies and thriller movies.
An early work of mystery fiction, ETA Hoffmann’s Das Fräulein von Scuderi (1819), had an impact on Edgar Allan Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841) as Voltaire’s Zadig ( 1747). Wilkie Collins’ novel The Woman in White was published in 1860, while The Moonstone (1868) is generally regarded as her artwork. In 1887 Arthur Conan Doyle introduced Sherlock Holmes, whose mysteries would actually be responsible for the considerable appeal in this category. In 1901 Maurice Leblanc produced the gentle robber, Arsène Lupine. The category began to broaden with the growth of pulp novels and publications. An essential contribution to mystery fiction in the 1920s was the growth of Edward Stratemeyer’s adolescent mystery. Stratemeyer initially created the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew puzzles written under the pseudonyms Franklin W. Dixon and Carolyn Keene. The 1920s also spawned one of the foremost mystery writers, Agatha Christie, whose works include Murder on the Orient Express (1934), Death on the Nile (1937), and other best-selling mystery novels. The appeal of pulp publications in the 1940s and 1930s increased the interest rate in mystery fiction. Pulp publications declined in popularity in the 1950s with the arrival of television.
Detective Mystery Movies
Detective movies share some similarities with mystery movies because they also have a puzzle to solve, hints, false leads, some stories revolve around a detective. Detective films include retired and experienced detectives, while mystery movie almost exclusively includes amateur detectives. The story focuses on the detective and how the crime was solved, while the mystery movie focuses on identifying the perpetrator and how the crime was committed.
Mystery and Crime Movies
Crime is a category of film that chronicles true crimes committed by real individuals. Based on fact, it shares more similarities with docufiction than the mystery movie category. Unlike mystery movies, it doesn’t focus much on identifying the criminal and doesn’t have false leads, but often focuses on how the perpetrator was caught and also the motivations behind his actions.
The legal thriller or judicial story is also associated with investigative fiction. The justice system itself is a big part of these movies, becoming like a real character at times. In the legal thriller, the judicial process plays a very vital role and is a crucial component of the story.
Mystery Movies and Crime Drama
Several detective movies have cops as the main characters. These stories depict a group of law enforcement officers investigating more than one case simultaneously, providing a comparison to the detective archetype as a superhero. Many of these are Crime Movies; in others, the criminal is known, and it’s a story involving cops and detectives to get enough evidence.
A flipped detective story, also called a “howcatchem,” is a murder mystery story in which the criminal is revealed or defined at the outset. The next tale recounts the detective’s work to solve the mystery. There may also be other puzzles, such as why the crime was committed, that are clarified or solved during the storytelling. This style is the opposite of the more traditional “whodunit”, where all information about the perpetrator is not revealed until the end of the story.
Mystery Movies and the Hardboiled
In the late 1920s, Al Capone and the Mafia sparked an interest in crime in America. Popular pulp fiction publications and film producers took advantage of this. In the 1930s, the private detective category was fully embraced by American authors. Among the main creators of this style was Dashiell Hammett with his famous private detective character, Sam Spade. His style of crime fiction has been described as “hardboiled,” which is referred to as a genre that tells of criminals in the modern big city, a world of alienated and outsiders: a widespread American sensation at the time.
In the late 1930s, Raymond Chandler augmented the character with his private eye Philip Marlowe, who brought a much more intimate version of the sleuth than Hammett’s tales. A number of films have been made about the personality of Philip Marlowe. Ross Macdonald, pseudonym of Kenneth Millar, has once again updated the character with his investigator Lew Archer. Like various other “hardboiled” authors, Macdonald intended to offer an impact of realistic aspect in sexuality and violence.
The 1966 film Harper starring Paul Newman was based on Lew Archer’s initial story The Moving Target (1949). Newman repeated the role in The Drowning Pool in 1976. Michael Collins, pen name of Dennis Lynds, is generally regarded as the writer who brought the genre into the modern age. His private eye, Dan Fortune, was associated with the exact same type of tales from Hammett, Chandler and Macdonald, but Collins took a sociological bent. His stories were much more intimate than those of his forerunners.
Mystery Movies to Watch
Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1943)
Sherlock Holmes infiltrates the Nazis to help a researcher, Tobel, save himself in Switzerland. The researcher has developed a high-precision bomb that may be the tool that will help win the war. To prevent the creation from falling into the hands of the Nazis, he produces an encrypted code and sends a piece to 3 other researchers who don’t know each other. Shot during the Second World War, it is a film influenced by the war propaganda of the time, used in a political design to explain the so-called “smart weapons”.
Sherlock Holmes and the Woman in Green (1945)
A serial killer kills women and cuts off their little fingers. Sherlock Holmes and Watson begin to investigate. A man, George Fenwick, is hypnotized and convinced that he is the perpetrator of the crimes. Testing his belief, he discovers a woman’s little finger in his pockets. His daughter informs Holmes that she saw her father burying something in the garden looking suspicious. When the woman searches the hole, she discovers a human little finger in it. The man is discovered killed shortly after.
Terror by Night (1946)
The thirteenth film about Sherlock Holmes starring Basil Rathbone, protagonist of a long series of films about the English detective produced by universal. Holmes and Watson must protect the precious diamond the star of Rhodesia on a train journey to Scotland. A boy turns up dead and the diamond vanishes. On board are numerous strange characters such as a girl carrying the coffin of her recently deceased mother. The experience of Sherlock Holmes this time does not take place in the fog of Victorian London, but in the 1940s. Fascinating setting closed inside a train. Mystery movie with a fun Watson character. Good last twist.
Dressed to Kill (1946)
3 music boxes playing various variations of the exact same tune cost a house auction. A band of thugs is devised to catch them and even eliminate them if necessary: inside the music boxes there are secret codes. Holmes discovers that the music boxes have actually been auctioned and goes to the home of whoever bought the second one to begin his examination: he discovers that the types of musical notes belong to the letters of the alphabet. All 3 strokes are necessary in order to understand the message.
Rear Window (1954)
Rear Window is a 1954 American mystery and thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and written by John Michael Hayes based on Cornell Woolrich’s 1942 short story “It Had to Be Murder”. Originally launched by Paramount Pictures, the film stars James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter and Raymond Burr. It was screened at the 1954 Venice Film Festival. The film is considered by many spectators, critics and scholars to be one of Hitchcock’s best films and one of best movies ever made. It garnered 4 Academy Award nominations and was ranked #42 on AFI’s 100 Films list, and in 1997 was inducted into the US National Film Registry in the Library of Congress.
Psycho is a mystery movie and psychological thriller 1960 Alfred Hitchcock. The screenplay for the film, written by Joseph Stefano, was based on the 1959 book of the same name by Robert Bloch. The film stars Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, John Gavin and Martin Balsam. The plot centers on an encounter between runaway gangster Marion Crane (Leigh) and shy motel owner Norman Bates (Perkins) and its aftermath, in which a private detective (Balsam), Marion fan Sam Loomis ( Gavin) and his sister Lila (Miles) investigate his disappearance. Psycho was seen as a departure from Hitchcock’s earlier film North by Northwest, as it was shot on a smaller budget in black and white by his television series team Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The film was initially considered questionable and garnered mixed reviews, but audience interest and impressive box office earnings triggered a significant and major reevaluation. Psycho was nominated for 4 Academy Awards including Best Supporting Actress for Leigh and Best Director for Hitchcock.
The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963)
Directed by Italian director Mario Bava, the film stars John Saxon as Dr. Marcello Bassi and Letícia Román as Nora Davis. The plot centers around a woman named Nora, who travels to Rome and witnesses a murder. Several more murders follow, connected with a series of victims chosen in alphabetical order. The Girl Who Knew Too Much is an investigative mystery movie, a mix of thriller, fear and sensuality.
On vacation, Nora Davis (Letícia Román) has flown to Rome to visit her sick elderly aunt. Nora’s aunt is treated by Dr. Marcello Bassi (John Saxon). Nora’s aunt dies on the night of Nora’s arrival and the woman goes to the nearby health facility to notify Dr. Bassi. During the journey she is robbed in the Spanish Steps. He sees the body of a dead woman and a bearded man pulls a knife from the woman’s back. Nora reports him to the authorities, but they find no evidence and think he is hallucinating.
Blood and Black Lace (1964)
Blood and Black Lace is a 1964 mystery movie directed by Mario Bava and starring Eva Bartok and Cameron Mitchell. The story follows the ruthless murders of a masked killer in a desperate attempt to obtain a revealing diary of scandals. Isabella, a model for Christian Haute Couture, a Roman fashion house, is walking at night when she is eliminated by a killer using a mask, black hat and raincoat. Inspector Silvestri questions Massimo Morlacchi, co-director of the fashion house together with the recently widowed Countess Cristiana Cuomo. Silvestri discovers that the woman was a drug addict who had actually attempted to kick her addiction.
Planet of the Vampires (1965)
It’s a sci-fi mystery movie of 1965. It is reported among the best Italian science fiction films and as a source of motivation for the making of Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979). To handle a low-budget plan, Mario Bava masterfully uses scary elements with a sense of mystery and menace. With a series of artisanal methods, the director produces a world of shadows and mists, ready to be removed with a flash or a cry of fear.
2 large interplanetary ships, on an exploratory voyage to unknown places, receive an SOS from Aura, an unknown and uninhabited world. The two ships, the Galliot and the Argos, land and find a planet that appears desolate and dead. While descending to the surface, the members of the Argos group are suddenly possessed by an unknown force that drives them to eliminate each other. Captain Markary manages to resist, providing to awaken the other staff member from the violent hypnotic state.
In the Heat of the Night (1967)
It’s a mystery movie drama 1967 American Norman Jewison. It is based on John Ball’s 1965 book of the same name and tells the story of Virgil Tibbs, a black Philadelphia detective, who ends up being associated with a murder investigation in a Mississippi town. It stars Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger and was produced by Walter Mirisch. The screenplay for the film was composed by Stirling Silliphant. It won 5 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The film is so culturally significant that the US National Film Registry has actually preserved it in the Library of Congress.
Orgasm is a 1969 mystery movie directed by Umberto Lenzi and starring Carroll Baker, Lou Castel and Colette Descombes. American Catherine West arrives in Italy from New York anticipated by numerous journalists following the death in a car accident of her husband Robert, a Texas oil baron who left her his $200 million property. He retires to an Italian villa rented by his austere lawyer, Brian Sanders. Catherine meets Peter Donovan, a young American from Boston whose car has broken down nearby. Catherine is initially cold towards his romantic advances. Peter quickly manages to seduce her and the two begin an affair.
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)
It’s a Giallo film and mystery movie of 1970 directed by Dario Argento, in his directorial debut. The film is the forefather of Italian yellow films and was very successful upon its release. It was also a success outside Italy. Sam Dalmas is an American writer vacationing in Rome with his English girlfriend, Julia, who is going through writer’s block and is on the verge of returning to America, however he witnesses a girl being attacked in an art gallery by of a strange fellow who wears black gloves and a raincoat. Trying to reach him, Sam is trapped between 2 mechanically operated glass doors and can only see the man escape. The girl, Monica Ranieri, was attacked and the cops took Sam’s passport to prevent him from leaving the country. The criminal is believed to be a serial killer who is killing women all over the city and Sam is an important witness.
What did you do to Solange? (1972)
What Have You Done to Solange? is a 1972 thriller directed by Massimo Dallamano and starring Fabio Testi, Karin Baal, Joachim Fuchsberger, Cristina Galbó and Camille Keaton. The plot follows a series of violent murders that take place in a Catholic girls’ school in London. While on a boat with her instructor Enrico Rosseni, Elizabeth Seccles sees a little boy stabbing a lady in the woods of the nearby coast. Rosseni convinces Elisabetta to keep quiet about what she saw. Another lady, an intern at the same college, is subsequently eliminated by the same killer. Not long after, Elizabeth is eliminated in her bathroom. Authorities believe it was Rosseni, who admits his affair with Herta. Rosseni is exonerated: the victims had in fact all seen a priest and were friends with a lady named Solange, who had started attending school the previous term but had then inexplicably disappeared.
The Thing (1982)
This remake of The Thing From Another World is a dark and claustrophobic horror mystery movie about a group of researchers at an Antarctic station who are captured by a killer alien who can mimic any kind of living thing. The characters in the film no longer have anyone to rely on. Thanks to unique special effects, direction by John Carpenter and a constant feeling of angst in virtually every scene, The Thing is a work of art in science fiction horror, although the film was underrated by critics and audiences at the time of its exit.
Blue Velvet (1986)
Blue Velvet is a 1986 American mystery-thriller film written and directed by David Lynch. The film stars Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper and Laura Dern, and takes its name from the 1951 song of the same name. The film tells the story of a young college student who, returning home to visit his sick father, finds in a field a severed human ear. The Ear then leads him to uncover a criminal conspiracy and enter a romantic relationship with a struggling singer.
Videodrome is a 1983 Canadian science fiction horror-mystery movie written and directed by David Cronenberg and starring James Woods, Sonja Smits and Debbie Harry. Max Renn is the head of CIVIC-TV, a mysterious television station in Toronto. CIVIC-TV’s motorist Harlan introduces Max to Videodrome, a plotless program broadcast from Malaysia that shows people seriously injured and even killed. Believing this to be the future of television, Max orders Harlan to start using the program without a license.
Videodrome was Cronenberg’s first film to gain support from a Hollywood studio. With the higher budget of his previous films, the film was a box office bust, recouping just $2.1 million from a $5.9 million budget plan. It is currently considered a cult classic, hailed as one of Cronenberg’s best, as well as a pivotal example of body horror and science fiction.
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Eyes Wide Shut is a 1999 mystery drama film directed, produced and co-written by Stanley Kubrick. It is based on the 1926 novel Traumnovelle (Dream Story) by Arthur Schnitzler, shifting the setting of the story from early 20th century Vienna to 1990s New York City. When his wife (Nicole Kidman) reveals that she thought about having an affair a year ago, her husband, a doctor (Tom Cruise), is shocked. Then begins a one-night stand, during which he infiltrates a masked orgy of an unnamed secret society.
Kubrick obtained the recording rights to Dream Story in the 1960s, considering it an ideal text for a film adaptation about sexual relations. When he worked with author Frederic Raphael on the adaptation, he reinstated production in the 1990s. The film was shot primarily in England at Pinewood Studios. The film’s production holds the record for longest film shoot.
Memento is a 2000 American mystery-thriller film written and directed by Christopher Nolan and produced by Suzanne and Jennifer Todd. The screenplay for the film is based on a story by Nolan’s brother Jonathan Nolan. Person Pearce plays Leonard Shelby, a man who struggles with anterograde amnesia, which leads to short-term amnesia and an inability to form new memories. He’s looking for the people who attacked him and killed his wife, using an elaborate system of tattoos and Polaroid photos to keep track of the details he can’t keep in mind. Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano co-starred in the film. The non-linear story of the film exists as 2 different sets of scenes scattered throughout the film: a black and white set that is revealed chronologically, and a color set shown in reverse order that mimics the mood of the protagonist. The two series meet at the end of the film, producing a coherent story.
Mulholland Drive (2001)
Mulholland Drive is a mystery movie surrealist 2001 written and directed by David Lynch and starring Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, Justin Theroux, Ann Miller, Mark Pellegrino and Robert Forster. It tells the story of an ambitious actress named Betty Elms (Watts), who has just arrived in Los Angeles, who meets a woman (Harring) recovering from a car accident. The story follows a number of other situations and characters, including a Hollywood director (Theroux). The two women team up to attempt to discover the identity of the woman who has suffered amnesia.
Donnie Darko (2001)
Donnie Darko is a mystery movie and psychological thriller 2001 American science fiction Richard Kelly and produced by Flower Films. In the cast Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, Mary McDonnell, Katharine Ross, Patrick Swayze, Noah Wyle, Stu Stone, Daveigh Chase, James Duval and Seth Rogen. Set in October 1988, the film follows Donnie Darko, a mentally troubled teenager who avoids a freak accident by sleepwalking. He has visions of Frank, a strange figure in a bunny suit who informs him that the world will end in just over 28 days.
When Kelly finished film school he began composing the script in late 1997. He took the idea of a jet engine falling on a house with no one understanding its origin and built the story around it. Kelly asked to direct the film himself and had difficulty finding producers until 2000, when Barrymore’s Flower Films agreed to produce it on a $4.5 million budget. Recording lasted 28 days in the 2000 summer season, mostly in California.
Shutter Island (2010)
Shutter Island is a 2010 mystery and psychological thriller film directed by Martin Scorsese and adapted by Laeta Kalogridis, based on the 2003 book of the same name by Dennis Lehane. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Deputy U.S. Marshal Edward “Teddy” Daniels, who is investigating a psychiatric center on Shutter Island after one of the patients goes missing. Mark Ruffalo plays his partner and fellow deputy marshal, Ben Kingsley is the center’s chief psychiatrist, Max von Sydow is a German physician, and Michelle Williams is Daniels’ wife. Released on February 19, 2010, the film garnered mostly favorable reviews from critics, was chosen by the National Board of Review as one of the Top 10 Movies of 2010, and grossed $299 million worldwide.
Gone Girl (2014)
Gone Girl is a 2014 American psychological mystery-thriller film directed by David Fincher and written by Gillian Flynn, based on her 2012 book of the same name. Set in Missouri, the story is a mystery that follows the events surrounding Nick Dunne (played by Ben Affleck), who ends up being the prime suspect in the unexpected disappearance of his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike). The film also stars Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry. Gone Girl premiered as the opening film at the 52nd New York Film Festival. It was a commercial and major success, earning $369 million worldwide against a spending plan of $61 million, becoming Fincher’s highest-grossing film.
Get out (2017)
It’s a mystery movie and psychological horror film 2017 American Jordan Peele in his directorial pitch. In the cast Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Lil Rel Howery, LaKeith Stanfield, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Stephen Root and Catherine Keener. The plot follows a young black man (Kaluuya), who reveals terrible mysteries when he meets the family of his white girlfriend (Williams).
The film received critical praise for its screenplay, directing, acting. It was a significant hit, earning $255 million worldwide on a $4.5 million budget plan, with net proceeds of $124.3 million, making it the tenth most successful film of 2017. Peele won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay at the 90th Academy Awards, with extra nominations for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor (Kaluuya).
Suspiria is a 2018 supernatural horror-mystery movie directed by Luca Guadagnino with a screenplay by David Kajganich, inspired by Dario Argento’s 1977 Italian film of the same name. It stars Dakota Johnson as an American girl who enrolls in a prominent Berlin dance academy run by a coven of witches. Tilda Swinton co-stars in 3 roles, as the school’s choreographer, as a psychotherapist associated with the academy, and as the head of the witches’ coven. Mia Goth, Elena Fokina and Chloë Grace Moretz appear in supporting roles as schoolgirls. Jessica Harper, star of the initial film, has a cameo. A dark mystery revolves around a world-famous dance school, which will involve the director, a young dancer and a psychotherapist. Some will understand the problem. Others will eventually awaken.
Hereditary is a 2018 American psychological horror-mystery movie written and directed by Ari Aster in his directorial debut. In the cast Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro and Gabriel Byrne play members of a family haunted by a supernatural entity after the death of their grandmother. Aster developed the film as a family drama. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and received rave reviews, with particular praise for Collette’s performances and Aster’s direction. It is considered by many to be one of the best recent horror films.
Employee’s Mystery (2019)
It is a 2019 Italian dramatic and dystopian mystery movie directed by Fabio Del Greco. Someone wants to control the life of the employee Giuseppe Russo: the products he buys, his political and religious faith, his private life, even his dreams. But he will do anything to get out of control, not become a product himself and find the true self. An “Orwellian” and intricate film on digital social control with effective images of the past of the protagonist, played by the director himself, at different moments in his life.