Best Mystery Movies

WTOP Film Critic Jason Fraley ranks the best mystery movies of all time in the gallery below.

Not seeing your favorite movie? It’s probably in a different genre! Check out the full list here.

30. ‘Knives Out’ (2019) – Rian Johnson

After his sci-fi breakout “Looper” and his polarizing “The Last Jedi,” Rian Johnson showed his mystery chops with this unconventional whodunit.

29. ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ (1974) – Sidney Lumet

Albert Finney interrogates Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery and an Oscar-winning Ingrid Bergman on Agatha Christie’s original murder mystery train.

28. ‘The Lady Vanishes’ (1938) – Alfred Hitchcock

Hitchcock’s best film from his British period showcases many of his techniques to come, as an elderly lady disappears from a train.

27. ‘The Thin Man’ (1934) – W.S. Van Dyke

William Powell and Myrna Loy are absolutely iconic as Nick and Nora Charles, who investigate a murder case for the fun of it, alongside their dog Asta.

 26. ‘To Catch a Thief’ (1955) – Alfred Hitchcock 

Cary Grant and Grace Kelly make romantic fireworks while trying to solve the mystery of a cat burglar. Tragically, the same windy roads of the French Riviera are where Princess Grace would later die in a car crash.

25. ‘Bad Day at Black Rock’ (1955) – John Sturges

Spencer Tracy’s one-armed stranger arrives by train to a small town with a terrible past that the citizens want to keep secret by any means necessary.

24. ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ (2009) – Niels Arden Oplev

The Swedish original remains superior to David Fincher’s remake, giving us Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander before “Prometheus.”

23. ‘Last Year at Marienbad’ (1961) – Alain Resnais

Not for everyone, French New Wave master Alain Resnais messes with time as a nameless man and woman try to determine whether they may or may not have met last year at Marienbad, but don’t expect any clear answers.

22. ‘Mulholland Drive’ (2001) – David Lynch

David Lynch’s most mind-blowing film remains this bizarre mystery about an amnesiac woman and a Hollywood hopeful who search for clues across Los Angeles, blurring dreams and reality.

21. ‘Mystic River’ (2002) – Clint Eastwood

Sean Penn won an Oscar as the grieving father of a murdered daughter. Childhood best friend Kevin Bacon tries solving the case and Tim Robbins is a most unusual suspect.

20. ‘Zodiac’ (2007) – David Fincher

Jake Gyllenhaal tracks San Francisco’s infamous Zodiac Killer in this underrated serial-killer mystery by the master David Fincher.

19. ‘Rebecca’ (1940) – Alfred Hitchcock

Joan Fontaine is haunted by the legacy of Laurence Olivier’s late wife Rebecca, whom the chilling Mrs. Danvers clearly preferred in Daphne du Maurier’s gothic estate Manderley.

18. ‘Gone Girl’ (2014) – David Fincher

Decades from now, we’ll look back at Rosamund Pike’s disappearing performance in the same light as Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction.”

17. ‘L’Avventura’ (1960) – Michelangelo Antonioni

Simultaneously gutsy and frustrating, Antonioni had the guts to set up a missing woman mystery that is never solved, vying for social observations instead in this Cannes Grand Jury Prize winner.

16. ‘The Vanishing’ (1988) – George Sluizer

A woman vanishes at a gas station during a road trip in this Dutch mystery that spawned a decent Hollywood remake with Jeff Bridges, Keifer Sutherland and Sandra Bullock.

15. ‘Talk to Her’ (2002) – Pedro Almodovar

Two men care for two women who are both in comas as Almodovar’s Oscar-winning script builds to one of the most disturbing revelations in recent memory.

14. ‘The Crying Game’ (1992) – Neil Jordan

A British soldier is kidnapped by IRA terrorists in this Oscar-winning script with one of the most shocking twists of all time.

13. ‘The Usual Suspects’ (1995) – Bryan Singer

Who is Keyser Soze? That’s the question behind Christopher McQuarrie’s genius script where “the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist.”

12. ‘The Lives of Others’ (2006) – Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

This German mystery won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film about a secret agent becoming obsessed while conducting surveillance in 1984 East Berlin.

11. ‘The Conversation’ (1974) – Francis Ford Coppola

Gene Hackman’s surveillance expert Harry Caul has a crisis of conscience when he suspects that a couple will be murdered in a role he loosely reprised with Will Smith in “Enemy of the State.”

10. ‘In the Heat of the Night’ (1967) – Norman Jewison

Sidney Poitier’s determined detective (who demanded, “They call me Mr. Tibbs!”) should have won the Oscar over Rod Steiger as the two solved a small-town murder case in segregated Mississippi.

9. ‘Prisoners’ (2013) – Denis Villeneuve

Villeneuve’s child-abduction mystery gets better with repeat viewings thanks to a cast of Hugh Jackman, Viola Davis, Terrence Howard, Paul Dano, Melissa Leo and Jake Gyllenhaal.

8. ‘M’ (1931) – Fritz Lang

Fritz Lang’s early German talkie features brilliant visual storytelling as a frustrated police pursue a serial child murderer, memorably played by the slimy Peter Lorre in whistling silhouette.

7. ‘Caché’ (2005) – Michael Haneke

Haneke weaves a chilling mystery about a French married couple that receives surveillance videotapes showing their daily activities.

6. ‘Blow-Up’ (1966) – Michelangelo Antonioni

Inspired by “Rear Window,” Antonioni follows a fab London pop-art photographer who thinks he’s captured a park murder, influencing everything from “The Omen” to “Blow-Out” to “Austin Powers.”

5. ‘Memento’ (2000) – Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan’s breakthrough film is told in reverse order, as Guy Pearce plays a man with short-term memory loss who must tattoo clues and take Polaroids to track down his wife’s killer.

4. ‘Blue Velvet’ (1986) – David Lynch

This wonderfully weird film plunged Kyle MacLachlan and Laura Dern into suburbia’s dark underbelly, guided by a nightmarish Dennis Hopper and a mysterious Isabella Rossellini.

3. ‘Rear Window’ (1954) – Alfred Hitchcock

This suspenseful murder mystery is a voyeuristic allegory of the filmmaking process, as Jimmy Stewart cuts from window to window with his eyes, oblivious to the saving grace behind him (Grace Kelly).

2. ‘Se7en’ (1996) – David Fincher

“What’s in the box?” David Fincher crafts crime-mystery perfection as Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt track a serial killer who punishes the seven deadly sins as a warning against society’s moral decay.

1. ‘Vertigo’ (1958) – Alfred Hitchcock

You haven’t seen “Vertigo” until you’ve seen it again. Critics and audiences didn’t grasp its brilliance upon release, but Hitchcock’s masterpiece is now frequently voted the greatest movie of all time, a tale of ghostly possession on the surface that’s really about man’s desire for possession of women. Hitchcock’s own “male gaze” obsessions are on full display in this spiraling tragedy of lost love culminating in a circling kiss in symbolic green light — all set to Bernard Herrmann’s haunting score.

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Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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