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12 Essential Mystery & Thriller Movies For Die-Hard Fans of the Genre

Relive the biggest plot twists in cinema history.

essential mystery thriller movies
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  • Photo Credit: PolyGram Filmed Entertainment

Mystery and thriller lovers are always on the lookout for the next mind-blowing hit. But have you seen all the greats that came before? Whether you're a long-time genre buff or someone who's just starting to explore this corner of media, there are absolute pillars of mystery and thriller film history that are essential viewing. From noir classics to recent staples, we at Murder & Mayhem have you covered. Here are 12 must-see mystery and thriller films from across time.

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

A classic in the film noir genre, The Maltese Falcon follows San Francisco PI Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart). Femme fatale Ruth Wonderly (Mary Astor) comes to the office of Spade and his partner, Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) claiming she needs help finding her missing sister. But when Archer is killed and Wonderly is revealed to be a liar, Spade gets tangled up in a more complicated case of eccentric criminals and a priceless statuette.

Rear Window (1954)

Master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock delivered an iconic thriller with Rear Window. Photographer L. B. Jefferies (James Stewart) is bound to a wheelchair as he recovers from a broken leg. To keep himself occupied, he spies on his neighbors from the safety of his Greenwich Village apartment. However, he soon becomes convinced that one of his neighbors has committed a murder. Despite the misgivings of his girlfriend, Lisa (Grace Kelley), the couple starts to investigate the strange happenings across the courtyard.

Clue (1985)

A comedy classic based on the beloved board game of the same name, the film follows six strangers who are brought together at a mysterious mansion for a dinner party. When their host for the evening is murdered, they must sort out which among them committed the crime. But as more bodies pile up, paranoia soars even higher.

The Fugitive (1993)

Vascular surgeon Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) arrives home one evening to discover his wife has been murdered. Misleading evidence leads to his conviction for the murder. Sentenced to death row, Kimble escapes to find his wife's true killer. U.S. Deputy Marshal Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) is hot on his trail, launching a massive manhunt to bring him back in.

The Usual Suspects (1995)

When it comes to a collection of must-see mystery and thriller movies, this film is... well, one of the usual suspects. Small-time con man Roger "Verbal" Kint (Kevin Spacey) gives a statement to the police as one of only two people who survived a horrific fire and massacre aboard a ship. The complicated chain of events began when five criminals were thrown together at a random police lineup, leading them to the boat and into the web of influence of a criminal mastermind known as Keyser Söze.

The Green Mile (1999)

Based on the book of the same name by Stephen King, this dark story follows the inmates and officers at Cold Mountain Penitentiary's death row, nicknamed "The Green Mile," in 1935. One of the new charges to the unit is a towering Black man named John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan), charged with the rape and murder of two young white girls. However, as John displays a miraculous gift, the officers begin to doubt his guilt.

Mulholland Drive (2001)

After surviving a car accident on Mulholland drive, a woman (Laura Harring) is left without any memory of who she is. Calling herself Rita and finding her way into an apartment, she strikes up a friendship with aspiring actress Betty Elms (Naomi Watts). Together the women set out to find the truth about Rita's identity.

The Prestige (2006)

In 1890s London, two magicians, Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale), are locked in a bitter rivalry. Desperate to devise the perfect teleportation trick, they sacrifice everything to outsmart the other and get there first. Unfortunately, their feud propels them to tragic results.

The Departed (2005)

In South Boston, a mole, Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) has been groomed by the Irish mob to infiltrate the Massachusetts State Police. As Sullivan is covertly tucked away working in the Special Investigations Unit, another cop, Billy Costigan Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) is sent undercover to the mob to figure out the identity of the mole. Stakes rocket sky-high as both men have their lives on the line.

Gone Girl (2014)

Based on the book of the same name by Gillian Flynn, this twisted film follows Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) in the aftermath of his wife's (Rosamund Pike) disappearance. As evidence points to her murder—at the hands of Nick, no less—a media circus erupts around the case. Navigating a genius web of lies and traps, Nick searches for the truth.

Parasite (2019)

This dark comedy thriller from Bong Joon-ho took home the academy award for Best Picture in 2020—the first non-English language film to win the award. In Seoul, the Kim family lives together in poverty. The son of the family, Ki-woo (Choi Woo-sik) poses as a university student in order to get a job tutoring the daughter of the wealthy Park family. Soon, each member of the Kim family infiltrates the Park staff, taking advantage of the family's luxuries. But the symbiotic relationship between the two families is abruptly thrown into chaos—to devastating effects.

Knives Out (2019)

After the prominent patriarch (Christopher Plummer) of the Thrombey family dies under suspicious circumstances, eccentric detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is brought in to solve the case. As the wealthy family turns against each other over the fate of the family fortune, Blanc seeks the help of the victim's anxious nurse, Marta (Ana de Armas). If you can't get enough of Detective Blanc, check out the sequel, Glass Onion, on Netflix December 23rd.