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GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY
Photograph: Netflix

The 17 best mystery movies on Netflix right now

From whodunnits to total mind-scramblers, these are the best movies on Netflix to challenge your sleuthing skills

Matthew Singer
Written by
Matthew Singer
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Admit it, it’s a challenge to watch a movie at home these days completely unencumbered. The pandemic turned most of us into distracted movie watchers, throwing something on Netflix with the intent of paying attention, then winding up half-listening while messing around on our phones because, well, who’s going to tell us to stop?

Don’t worry, though. There is a cure, and it’s called the mystery movie. After all, a good mystery rewards undivided attention. Whether it’s a classic whodunnit, a psychological thriller, or a story so bizarre that the plot is a mystery unto itself, a mystery engages our wits and our eyes better than any other genre – and Netflix is chocked full of them. Here are the 17 best cinematic puzzles streaming right now.

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Best mystery movies on Netflix

  • Film

Not just one of the most underrated movies on Netflix, but one of the underrated movies of 2023 period, first-time director Juel Taylor’s sci-fi Blaxploitation mash-up has style to spare, originality up the wazoo and energy to burn. John Boyega is awesome as Fontaine, a good-natured drug dealer who gets into a shootout at a motel, seems to die, then reawakens at home as if nothing happened. With the help of a local pimp (Jamie Foxx) and sex worker (Teyonah Parris), he sets out to discover just what the hell is going on. You may assume the title counts as a spoiler, but trust us: you’ll see nothing about this movie coming.

  • Film
  • Drama

Any fan of Charlie Kaufman knows that his cinematic puzzles aren’t really meant to be ‘solved’. That’s especially true of his third film as writer-director: a surreal drama about a young woman going to visit her new boyfriend’s parents that pulls closer to Lynchian territory than anything he’s done before. Again, it’s best that you don’t try to untangle the story’s many knots – it will only frustrate. Give yourself over to the experience, though, and it’s like a dream you can’t dislodge.   

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Enola Holmes (2020)
Image: Netflix

3. Enola Holmes (2020)

With Stranger Things about to wrap up, it’s time to see which of the young cast ends up surviving in public consciousness beyond the show – but it’s already been clear for a while that Millie Bobby Brown is destined for even bigger things. She proves it in this delightful young adult detective story, playing Sherlock’s plucky teenage sister who turns out to have the sleuthing gene as well. The 2022 sequel is nearly as fun, and we’re willing to bet there’ll be more on the way.

Lost Girls (2020)
Michele K Short

4. Lost Girls (2020)

Documentarian Liz Garbus (Bobby Fischer Against the World) dramatises activist Mari Gilbert’s search for answers in the suspicious death of her daughter. Officers insisted it was a drug-related accident, despite evidence to the contrary, and her dogged insistence to dig out the truth ended up uncovering the murders of nearly a dozen sex workers on Long Island. Amy Ryan gives a raw, humane performance as Gilbert, barely keeping it together as she runs up against smug, indifferent cops, and Garbus’s barebones direction lets the emotion drive the story. 

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  • Film
  • Thrillers

The first Knives Out was a gloriously hammy tribute to the old-school murder mystery, a whodunnit that rehashed every cliché in the genre and had a grand time doing so. The follow-up modernises the details – a billionaire tech douche (Ed Norton) invites a bunch of his douchey friends to his private island, only to have one of them turn up dead – but it’s every bit as infectiously fun as the original. It’s a formula that lends itself to an assembly line of sequels – and as long as Daniel Craig and his goofy Foghorn Leghorn accent are involved, we say keep ’em coming.

  • Film
  • Comedy

Yellowjackets fans digging into the filmography of the Showtimes series’ standout Melanie Lynskey are advised to start with this jet black comedy thriller. Lynskey stars as a nursing assistant living in rural nowheresville who has had it up to here, and is finally gets pushed over the edge when her house is robbed while she’s at work. She teams up with her weirdo neighbour (Elijah Wood) to figure out who stole her stuff — and when the criminals involved turn out to be more than petty thieves, she takes out some long-simmering frustrations that don’t really have anything to do with her missing possessions. Hijinks ensue, along with some jarring moments of violence.  

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Forgotten (2017)
BA Entertainment

7. Forgotten (2017)

In this psychological thriller from South Korea – an ever-growing leader in the genre – a young man witnesses his brother being kidnapped, only to have him return 19 days later as a seemingly different person. It gets stranger from there. Like Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy, the Rube-Goldbergian plot machinations strain believability on paper, but when the movie’s on, the sheer intensity is enough to suck you in. 

  • Film
  • Horror

A ghost story with sociopolitical undertones, the compelling debut from director Remi Weekes follows a Sudanese couple seeking asylum in the UK. Placed in a run-down home in a tenement on the outskirts of London, the pair encounter racism, bureaucracy and an enigmatic force that may be even more sinister. 

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I Am All Girls (2021)
Image: Netflix

9. I Am All Girls (2021)

In movies, ‘inspired by actual events’ usually means ‘we’ve taken a small kernel of truth and stretched it to its breaking point.’ But for much of this South African production, about a detective teaming with a serial killer to bring down a child trafficking ring, the feeling is almost a little too real – by the time the action-flick shootouts begins, it’s almost a respite. A brutal but crucial watch.

Shimmer Lake (2017)
Netflix

10. Shimmer Lake (2017)

Looking at the cast of Oren Uziel’s debut feature, you might expect a Wet Hot American Summer riff, with a bunch of TV comics – Rainn Wilson, Rob Corddry, Adam Pally et al –  improvising around some kind of rustic locale. Instead, you get Memento by way of the Coen brothers. Uziel tracks a small-town sheriff’s investigation of a bank robbery gone wrong, which feels pretty standard until the reverse-chronology storytelling kicks in and the unexpected cast begin to do their thing. It’s perfect viewing for a do-nothing Saturday night.

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Mirage (2018)
Warner Brothers

11. Mirage (2018)

A little bit Poltergeist, a little bit that Simpsons Halloween vignette where Homer keeps going back in time and mucking up the present, this Spanish sci-fi thriller finds a woman communicating with a dead child via an old television set, a development that mucks up her own life. She must figure out how to fix the bend in space-time in order to set things right. Good luck!

The Perfection (2018)
Image: Netflix

12. The Perfection (2018)

Allison Williams and Logan Browning are rival concert cellists in this brutal, bizarre horror flick where the scares are at once psychological and very, very physical. It’s equally twisty and twisted, winding through an ill-fated trip to China then back to the music school where they were both trained, with a screwed-up reveal that you really don’t want to have spoiled for you.

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Fear Street (2021)
Photo: Netflix

13. Fear Street (2021)

This teen-oriented horror trilogy, based on Goosebumps scribe RL Stine’s other book series, remains relatively undiscovered, but it plays as a de facto companion piece for Stranger Things – and not just because one of the films features Sadie Sink, aka Max, Hawkins, Indiana’s No. 1 Kate Bush fan. Spread across multiple decades (and centuries), the movies follow a group of kids attempting to solve the central mystery of their small US town: why is the town cursed, and how do they stop it? 

I Am Mother (2019)
Image: Netflix

14. I Am Mother (2019)

What if your mother was Wall-E? That’s effectively the logline for this sci-fi Australian production about a girl (Clara Rugaard) born to a robot tasked with repopulating the earth following an extinction-level event. But when a stranger shows up outside their bunker, it raises questions about the true nature of their pseudo-familial relationship.

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What Did Jack Do? (2017)
Netflix

15. What Did Jack Do? (2017)

It’s David Lynch interrogating a monkey that’s been implicated in a murder. What else do you need to know?

Oxygen (2021)
Image: Shanna Besson/Netflix

16. Oxygen (2021)

If you saw the end of The Vanishing and said ‘This should be a whole movie!’, then this sci-fi thriller from French splatter maven Alexendre Aja is for you! A woman (Melanie Laurent) awakens inside a cryogenic chamber with no memory of how she got there and her oxygen levels rapidly depleting. She’s able to communicate with the outside world, but that doesn’t make her predicament any easier. Claustrophobics, keep a paper bag handy.

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The Call (2020)
Image: NAMKO

17. The Call (2020)

In this time-travelling chiller from South Korea, past traumas literally span generations. Two women living in completely different eras are able to speak over telephone and find themselves embroiled with a vicious serial killer. It’s a mind puzzle that’s interested in more than just tying viewers’ brains in a knot. 

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