Making a great murder-mystery movie is an art form. The raw materials are so wildly familiar to anyone who’s ever hosted a game night – someone’s been slain, one (or more) of a cast of characters did it, and someone will be along to solve it – that the art really comes in mining surprises from the template. Ensuring it doesn’t all feel like a big-screen version of Clue, even when it actually is a big-screen version of Clue.
But many filmmakers have been doing it pretty darn well. With the odd lull, this bloody corner of cinema has been thriving expansively since the 1930s, accommodating everything from moody film noirs, to cries for social or racial justice, to comedy capers, to the sheer overblown fun of those star-studded Agatha Christie flicks. Who knew it would be such a ride to watch a phalanx of A-listers jostle for screentime while a man with outlandish facial hair works out who has offed one of their number?
Predictably, for the land of Christie, Graham Greene, Sherlock Holmes and Alfred Hitchcock, the Brits have often pointed the way in this field. But Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and co have helped Hollywood has come to the murder party in a big way too, leaving a litany of suspiciously positioned bodies in its wake. And now, with the release of movies like Knives Out, Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, and Knives Out 2 on its way, the murder-mystery is back in a big way. But which are the classics of their kind and which should be released without questioning? We’ve rounded up 40 of the most unusual suspects.
Contributors: Phil de Semlyen, Matthew Singer, Annette Richardson, Ashanti Omkar
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