Film & TV
Agatha Christie’s body of work is vast and full of iconic characters. After all, who could forget Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple? Nearly all of the author's works have been adapted into movies, TV shows, or plays—the most recent of which is 2018's Ordeal by Innocence, a three-part BBC miniseries starring Bill Nighy and Anna Chancellor. The miniseries, based on Christie's novel of the same name, centers on the murder of wealthy philanthropist Rachel Argyll, and is available to stateside sleuths on Amazon Prime.
With each, the source material is top notch. Yet not all adaptations are created equal (ahem—2017's Murder on the Orient Express, anyone?). To save you the trouble of weeding through the muck, we rounded up the seven best movies based on Agatha Christie books.
Murder on the Orient Express
One of the best and most famous entries in Christie’s Hercule Poirot series, Murder on the Orient Express is also, in our humble opinion, the best movie adaptation of a Christie novel to date. There are a lot of moving parts to this mystery, quite literally, as Poirot must solve the murder of a fellow passenger while traveling aboard the Orient Express. Director Sydney Lumet led his star-studded cast in a brilliant ensemble performance, headed by a wonderful Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot. Murder received six Academy Award nominations, winning one: Best Supporting Actress, for Ingrid Bergman.
A remake of this classic film was released in November 2017, with an equally A-list ensemble cast: we can only hope it does its predecessor justice.
And Then There Were None
This novel is widely considered Christie’s masterpiece, and it has been adapted for the screen multiple times. The 1945 black-and-white adaption, however, is a true suspense classic, earning it the number two spot on this list. We’d be remiss not to also mention the 2015 mini-series adaptation, which was released to rave reviews across the board. In this chilling tale, 10 strangers are invited to an isolated island by a mysterious host, only to find that they are being killed off, one by one.
Witness for the Prosecution
Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich, Charles Laughton, and Elsa Lanchester star in this Academy Award-nominated, noir-esque courtroom drama. Set in Britain, a barrister takes on a murder case, defending an American war veteran convicted of killing his wealthy acquaintance. Christie originally penned Witness as a short story. The author then adapted her own story for the stage. The resulting play was the inspiration for the film.
Death on the Nile
Like Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile is a Hercule Poirot mystery. Also like Murder, the story involves a murder aboard a moving vessel, in this case, a boat, after which the passengers suddenly become the suspects. Both films also feature ensemble casts filled with A-list actors. Though not quite as well received as Murder, Death is still a wonderfully fun movie, with entertaining performances from its stars and a great turn from Peter Ustinov as Poirot.
Murder, She Said
The first of the Miss Marple adaptations to make this list, Murder, She Said, was based on the Christie novel 4:50 from Paddington. Though Christie, herself, disliked this adaptation, it currently holds an 83% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and was generally well received by critics, who found it highly entertaining, if a bit silly. In this Miss Marple adventure, the amateur sleuth, traveling by train, witnesses a woman being strangled between cars. When the authorities find no evidence to support Miss Marple’s story, she takes it upon herself to solve the crime.
Evil Under the Sun
Another Poirot adaptation with another A-list ensemble cast, Evil Under the Sun features Peter Ustinov as Poirot for the second time. This time around, Poirot is investigating a murder and a missing diamond at an exclusive island resort. Ustinov would go on to portray the Belgian detective another four times, in both made-for-TV-movies and feature films.
Murder at the Gallop
The sequel to Murder, She Said, Murder at the Gallop is based on Christie’s novel After the Funeral, which actually featured Hercule Poirot, not Miss Marple, as is the case in the film. Significantly lighter and more comedic than the suspenseful Poirot films, Murder at the Gallop sees Miss Marple investigating a supposedly natural death that she finds highly suspicious.
Featured still from "Murder on the Orient Express" via Paramount Pictures