A good mystery or thriller movie can turn your whole night around. Whether you’re bored or simply want to escape the daily grind for a few hours, a gripping film is a surefire way to get your heart racing and your blood pumping—in short, to make you feel more alive than ever. And what a time it is to be alive: 2019 graced us with a wide selection of films that kept us on edge, and kept us guessing. Whether you choose a sweeping crime drama like Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman or lighter fare like the modern classic Knives Out, you’ll definitely find something to glue you to the screen in our run-down of the 13 best mystery and thriller movies of 2019.
The story of larger-than-life couple Bonnie and Clyde has been told again and again, and will likely continue to be told well into the future, but The Highwaymen puts a fresh groove on a well-trodden stretch of road. The film stars Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson as Frank Hamer and Maney Gault, two Texas rangers who led the posse that tracked down and eventually killed Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow in 1934. We get to know Bonnie and Clyde so well in this depiction that we can’t help but cheer for the anti-heroes, and even mourn their inevitable on-screen demise.
A modern take on a good old-fashioned whodunit murder mystery, Knives Out has a star-studded cast almost too long to list. A wealthy crime novelist, played by Christopher Plummer, invites his family to gather for his 85th birthday celebration, and is found dead the next morning. What unravels from there is a Hitchcockian search for clues as each member of the family points to the next as being the guilty party.
It’s a good sign when audiences are still talking about a movie months after it was released, and that’s definitely the case with Joker. A dark exposé of the devilish clown made famous in the Batman comic books and movies, Joker shows us an origin story we haven’t seen before. Joaquin Phoenix plays Arthur Fleck, a troubled, struggling comic, whose failures push him to his breaking point—and beyond.
The highly anticipated Martin Scorsese epic, The Irishman, is Netflix’s crown jewel of 2019. Nearly three and a half hours long, this crime drama based on supposedly true events reunites Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, using innovative anti-aging software to allow the actors to portray their younger selves in a believable (enough) way. Breaking away from the standard mob boss plot line, The Irishman deals primarily with blue collar workers turned criminals and their love/hate relationship with union leader Jimmy Hoffa, excellently played here by Al Pacino.
The uncertainty of space, and the anxiety that it produces in us, will always make for an interesting jumping-off point for a film. In Ad Astra, a series of power surges cause damage to the solar system, putting life as we know it at risk. Major Roy McBride, played by Brad Pitt, nearly dies as a result of one of these surges, but rallies to restore balance to the universe.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Hollywood has seen a lot through the years: the rise of the superstar, the origins of big budget movie studios, crime, drugs, Charles Manson. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood touches upon all of that and more. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt play Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth in what many would call Quentin Tarantino’s most ambitious film yet.
Queen & Slim
Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith deliver electrifying performances in this fugitive thriller with a ripped-from-the-headlines premise. Queen (Turner-Smith) and Slim (Kaluuya) are wrapping up an awkward and forgettable first date when they’re pulled over by the police. The situation soon spirals out of control: shots are fired, and Slim kills a cop in self-defense. Terrified for their lives, the two flee the scene. Unbeknownst to them, however, the event was captured on video. When it goes viral, Queen and Slim become modern-day outlaws and powerful symbols of the strained race relations in America.
A terrifying story of a road trip gone wrong, Fractured will have you second guessing any upcoming family outings. Sam Worthington plays Ray Monroe, an average guy who stops at a rest area during a Thanksgiving trip with his wife and daughter, only to find himself in a waking nightmare that brings his sanity into question.
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
When it was announced that former teen heartthrob Zac Efron would be portraying Ted Bundy in this crime thriller, many film fans had valid reservations. Minutes into watching Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, those doubts are put to rest. Efron nails his performance of Bundy, a young man whose charming demeanor was at odds with the gruesome crimes he was executed for. Watch the movie to marvel at how Bundy was able to get away with murder for as long as he did, right under the nose of an unsuspecting long-time girlfriend.
The title of this film, when first announced in the summer of 2018, was 17 bridges. During an appearance on Ellen, the star of the film, Chadwick Boseman, explained that the change in the title occurred when production realized there are actually 21 bridges that connect to the island of Manhattan, not 17. The plot of this movie centers around Boseman’s character, an NYPD detective, who shuts down all routes into and out of Manhattan in an effort to trap and arrest two dangerous suspects.
Based on the 1999 novel by Jonathan Lethem, Motherless Brooklyn is an eccentric crime drama that was beautifully produced and directed by Edward Norton, who also stars in the film. Norton’s character, Lionel Essrog, is a detective with Tourette’s syndrome and a photographic memory. Rounding out the cast is Bobby Cannavale, as fellow detective Tony Vermonte, and Bruce Willis, who plays their boss, Frank Minna.
M. Night Shyamalan, known for his buzzworthy plot twists and surprise endings, continues his dark superhero story arc with Glass. Along the same lines as Joker, this film about seemingly ordinary men who can (or think they can) do extraordinary things will stay on your mind long after the credits roll. Samuel L. Jackson plays Elijah Price, AKA Mr. Glass, a comic book fan and super villain who was born with a condition that makes his bones extremely breakable. Bruce Willis, his polar opposite, plays David Dunn, a hero living a “normal” life while using his newly discovered enhanced strength to fight crimes.
Ready or Not
Samara Weaving plays Grace Le Domas, a newly married woman whose hopes of wedded bliss come to an end very quickly. As part of a twisted wedding ritual, she’s hunted by her husband’s family members and is forced to fight for her life. Mark O’Brien plays the husband, and among the hunters are the fantastic Adam Brody and Andie MacDowell. Bloody, bizarre, and at times even funny, this is the perfect popcorn movie.
Featured still from "Ready or Not" via Fox Searchlight Pictures