Ana de Armas in Knives Out

11 Best Murder Mystery Movies, Ranked

Flames, flames, flames, coming out of the side of my head...

Look, I’ve never murdered anyone. Yet. But if I did, I’d do so at a terrifying, yet stylish, dinner party at my horrifying mansion.

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Of course … I’d need to work for many years in finance, and build up a stock portfolio, to save enough money to buy a “fantastic mansion on a deserted island.” And, you know, I’d need to learn some carpentry and electrical skills to build secret passageways. Also, I’d have to become a master magician, studying at the Magic Castle, so, I could know how to make incredible illusions that will frighten and amaze. Then … yeah … I’d have to make a list of victims to invite. And to do that, I’m gonna need to make some enemies. Oh, and learn calligraphy for the alluring invitations they receive. Right! And I almost forgot, I should learn to cook luxury meals, just, you know, cause the cook will be murdered pretty quickly to get everyone all amped up. And we gotta eat, amirite? Shit. I probably am going to need to learn how to drive a boat, we will be going to an island in a monsoon. And after everyone’s dead, I’m gonna have to get to the mainland. Safety first. So, yeah. I can probably get all that done by the time I’m … 80? 85?

Oof. That’s, um … a really long time.

And if I’m being honest … at that point, I’m probably going to be ready to retire, right? I worked on Wall Street for like 25 years. I’ve got a mansion that I built myself. I’m a magician. I know 72 different ways to kill a man. I can drive a boat. What a life, you know? I deserve some time off. At the end of the day, I think I’ll just want a drink. And maybe a nap. I love naps.

But if you’re not me … and you do want to build your murder mansion and fill it with a group of your friends and/or strangers who could all be guilty of murder, here are some films to keep you inspired. Ranked.

(Note: I went with the classic “closed room” murder mystery for this list, there are lots of different kinds of murder mysteries, of course, but comparing Knives Out to say, Se7en, feels tough—so different.)

So, come on in! The creepy butler is fine. Would you like a drink? It’s not poison. I … swear.

11. No Exit

Woman hides by van in No Exit still
(20th Century Studios)

Okay, technically this isn’t a “closed room murder mystery”—they’re my rules, I can break them!—as the mystery is not a murder … but a kidnapping. Still, though, this film plays out very much like the classic murder mystery. Several strangers, all with secrets, end up stranded during a snowstorm at a rest stop. When one of them finds a kidnapped little girl in a van outside, the creepy thriller becomes a race to figure out which of her fellow travelers is a monster.

I enjoyed this movie, and there was at least one gasp-worthy twist, but I ranked it last because the best twists come in the middle of the film, and then it becomes more of a “stay alive and away from the killer” movie. Definitely a fun, rainy day watch, though.

10. Death on the Nile (2022)

The cast of Death on the Nile in a promo photo.
(20th Century Studios)

This is a fairly enjoyable adaptation of a book from the QUEEN of closed-room mysteries, Agatha Christie. The movie follows the famous detective, Hercule Poirot, who is invited onto a boat with a couple of newlyweds and their very nice friends—who all just happen to have a reason to want the bride dead (like ya do).

So, I liked this movie. There are a couple of decent twists. It’s stylish, well-acted, and I didn’t fall asleep while watching it (I have two small children, I don’t make it through a lot of movies these days—that’s HIGH PRAISE). On the negatives, though, it’s a bit slow-moving and takes so much time getting to the murder, and also there were the issues with its cast and the endless delays. And look, I came for a murder, give me the murder. THE PEOPLE WANT THEIR MURDER.

9. Crooked House

Cast of Agatha Christie Adaptation Crooked House (Brilliant Films)
(Brilliant Films)

Another Agatha Christie treat, this isn’t as well known as some of her other offerings, but I thought Crooked House was more fun than Death on the Nile. It is far campier, in a fun way, and because it’s not one of her books that has been adapted to death (see what I did there), I was genuinely shocked by the twist. The ending really did it for me, as it was creepy enough that it lingered in my mind and unsettled me for hours after.

8. The Last of Sheila

Cast of the Last of Sheila
(Hera Productions)

This is a wild movie, wild. And it’s bad, but somehow, that also makes it good? I can’t describe it, you just have to watch it, okay? Director Rian Johnson said it was a huge inspiration for Knives Out, and it’s kind of like that, but mixed with I Know What You Did Last Summer. The plot is that a year after their friend died in a hit-and-run car accident, a group of rich, terrible friends go to a yacht party to remember her. Of course, it’s not a party at all, but a twisted game to figure out which of them killed Sheila.

One of my favorite things about this movie is the first game they play—it starts with each of them getting a card that reveals their most terrible secret. Except, twist! It’s not their secret, it’s one of the other members of the group, and so they all are suspicious of each other now, trying to figure out whose secret matches who (one of them, of course, is I killed Sheila).

It’s a product of its time, there is stuff that will just make your jaw drop open, but it’s so campy, it’s hard to be too offended. One of the secrets is, “I’m a little child molester” and friends, I kid you not, that person is treated like the sanest and most trusted of them all, even after they find out. It is…wild. Watching this I kept screaming, “WHAT????” And that’s all I can say, you will keep screaming, WHAT????

7. Murder By Death

Murder by Death Cast around a dinner table
(Columbia Pictures)

Also a product of its time, keep that in mind, this classic murder mystery spoof involves a group of famous detectives (all parodies of literature detectives) who are invited to a party to solve a murder at a creepy mansion. Except, the murder hasn’t even happened yet.

There are some fabulous actors in this film, and it was written by Neil Simon, so some great bits. There was one scene with a hard-boiled detective that made me snort laugh, where he says. “I should know, I went to school on the streets. And looking down the barrel of a gun…was my teacher.” And everything is delivered with such gravitas that it’s very funny. The actual mystery is fun at first, there are some cool tricks employed, but the reveal is silly (and meant to be, but … I would have liked an actual reveal). And again, warning, it’s a screwball comedy in the 1970s, there are problematic jokes with ableism, racism, homophobia…really everything on your problematic bingo card. But as a classic comedy and murder mystery film, it’s still definitely worth the watch.

6. Murder on the Orient Express

murder on the orient express
(Paramount)

Another classic Agatha Christie Poirot mystery—this is always a fun watch (the original as well). But it’s middle of the road for me, if I’m being honest. The characters are fun mystery archetypes, there are some good twists, of course, and classic detective work, but, to be honest, Poirot is simply a bit of an irritating character for me. I appreciate him and his (meaning Christie’s) work in shaping the genre. And the mysteries are always tightly woven and satisfying, but that guy. Ugh. (He’s much worse to read, he’s supposed to be a bit of a know-it-all blowhard but it’s tough for me to get through reading his thoughts). You know, that said, all respect to the brilliant Branagh and it’s a well-acted movie, in a fun time period, on a train. Can’t really go too wrong.

5. Gosford Park

Gosford Park cast
(USA Films)

If Downton Abbey was about murder (wouldn’t be opposed, tbh), this would be the film. What to say? The cast is incredible, it’s extremely well written and directed—and it was nominated for seven Oscars for good reason. The world and characters are so fleshed out and interesting that, even though it’s a cast of about a million, you are captivated by their relationships, drama, and the distinct possibility that absolutely any of them could be a murderer. Plus, the ending packs an emotional punch. It’s amazing.

4. BBC’s miniseries version of ‘And Then There Were None’

And then there were none
(BBC)

There have been so many adaptations of Christie’s (arguably) most famous work, And Then There Were None, but this is by far the best I’ve seen. The BBC miniseries is gorgeously broody—with beautiful colors and sweeping, picturesque, yet dangerous, landscapes surrounding our victims. It is also wonderfully acted, with characters who have secrets bubbling right beneath surface, and you’re fascinated by all of them from go. This version does a terrific job of capturing the dread and creepiness of the situation (our characters find themselves in). And the flashbacks of their pasts are, often, downright disturbing. Really worth the watch.

3. Knives Out

Knives out cast
(T-Street)

This fantastic, modern whodunnit, is just great. It’s dark, it’s funny, the cast is fabulous, and the twists, especially with all these unreliable narrators, are often fun. Ultimately, some of the twists are a little obvious—it would have been great to really gasp at the murderer reveal. But it’s hard to care in this stylish, fun mystery. The class issues, the insidiousness of these people, the commentary on societal issues, it all just works so well. It might be recent, but Knives Out is one of the best the genre has to offer.

Identity

Identity movie
(Columbia Pictures)

God, I love this campy, bloody John Cusack film. Cusack plays a man (and former detective? I can’t remember but who cares) who ends up stranded in the rain with a group of mysterious travelers at a motel. All with secrets, of course. And when they start getting brutally murdered, one by one? It’s up to Cusack to figure out which one of them did it. This movie is wild, with twists upon twists upon twists, and while I tried my hardest, I just couldn’t see all of them coming. You’ll gasp, you’ll laugh, and you’ll have a goshdarn good time.

1. Clue

Most of Clue cast from 1985. Image: Paramount Pictures.
(Paramount)

I’ll never get over how much I love this movie, like the other older films, not all of the comedy holds up, but so much of it does. The actors are comedic geniuses, the twists are all so much fun, and it works as, not only a brilliant comedy but a brilliant mystery film.

So, enjoy—and as always, it’s me, Allison Sanchez, and I am your singing telegram-(GUNSHOT).

(featured image: Lionsgate)


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