A good mystery film will keep audiences spellbound until the credits roll. However, it can be difficult to build a well-crafted mystery story that makes sense and yet doesn’t reveal the big reveal too soon. Not all films of the genre are equally effective at success.
In some cases, the type of story being told makes it difficult to surprise audiences. In other cases, genre tropes help audiences sort things out long before the characters in the film. And when everyone can connect the dots before the final act, it kills a lot of suspense.
ten Zodiac (2007)
David Fincher has directed a number of killer films, but Zodiac It was the first time he had faced an actual serial killer. It tells the story of the police and journalists who for decades investigated the infamous Zodiac Killer case in the San Francisco area.
It is somewhat unfair to distinguish this movie as predictable as it is based on a true story. But it’s actually a testament to excellence Zodiac is. Everyone knows the movie is going to end without the killer being identified, but it still manages to be a compelling story.
9 The Irishman (2019)
This is another movie which is based on a true story, but unlike Zodiac, Irish does not hesitate to draw his own conclusions about the identity of the killer. Martin Scorsese’s mob film tells the story of Robert De Niro’s Frank, a low-level gangster who befriends the powerful criminal character Jimmy Hoffa, played by Al Pacino.
The mystery is not whether Hoffa will be killed, but rather the circumstances of his death. However, it appears very early on that despite their friendship and despite the lack of historical evidence, it will ultimately be Frank who pulls the trigger.
8 Batman: Mask of Fantasy (1993)
Although the live action Batman movies get all the attention, animated adventure Batman: Mask of Fantasy, is still one of the most fascinating stories of the Caped Crusader. It also features a big new villain, Phantasm, who seeks revenge on Gotham’s crime bosses.
The movie is a great look at Batman’s origins and his psychology as a hero, but the mystery of who hides behind Phantasm’s mask isn’t quite as compelling. While audiences are supposed to think it is Carl Beaumont, it is actually his daughter, Andrea, which was pretty obvious as she returned to Gotham just as the murders began.
seven Take Lives (2004)
Despite the participation of talented actors, most people will probably have forgotten about the mystery thriller Take lives, for good reason. Angelina Jolie plays a detective investigating a killer who assumes the identity of his victims. Ethan Hawke plays the role of an eyewitness who assists in the case.
Kiefer Sutherland plays the man the public is supposed to think is the killer. But given that Sutherland has virtually no screen time, it becomes clear that he’s a red herring and Hawke is the real killer.
6 Telephone box (2002)
The underrated thriller Telephone booth manages to tell an intense story from a single frame. Colin Farrell plays an arrogant agent who picks up a ringing phone booth and is told by the voice on the other end of the line that he will be shot if he leaves the booth.
At the end of the film, the police locate the sniper who apparently committed suicide. It is revealed that he is a pizza delivery boy that Farrell was rude to earlier. But the majority of fans didn’t buy this for a second and it is soon revealed that the real sniper has run away.
5 Woman at the Window (2021)
The recent Netflix thriller the Woman at the window features a star cast of incredible actors like Amy Adams and Julianne Moore, most of whom are wasted in a boring story. Adams plays a woman with agoraphobia who thinks she sees her neighbor being murdered only to have her own sanity questioned.
While it’s supposed to be wondering if this troubled woman imagined all of this, the movie never really delves into that possibility and it’s obvious there’s some trickery in the works. The fact that they picked an actor in his twenties to play the teenage neighbor also shows that he’s the killer.
4 The Island of the Shutters (2010)
Shutter island is one of the most popular collaborations between Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese. DiCaprio plays a US Marshal assigned to a case involving a patient missing from a mental institution.
The film is an engrossing and well-played thriller, so it doesn’t matter if the answer to all of this is to look the audience in the face from the start. With the story taking place exclusively in a mental institution and the main character showing that he doesn’t have a good grasp of reality, it doesn’t take long to see that DiCaprio is, in fact, a patient there.
3 Red Dragon (2002)
Although not as iconic as Thesilenceofthelambs, the prequel Red Dragon is a fairly entertaining first mystery starring Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter. Alongside Hopkins, Edward Norton plays Will Graham, an FBI agent investigating a dangerous killer named Dolarhyde, played by Ralph Fiennes.
At the climax, Dolarhyde apparently kills himself after setting his house on fire. But when the main villain’s death occurs offscreen without confirmation, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s to come. Indeed, Dolarhyde survived and he attempts to kill Will before being shot for good.
2 Salt (2010)
Salt is another Angelina Jolie mystery, although it’s actually rather underrated. She plays a CIA agent identified as a Russian spy and flees. She then seems to be preparing to carry out an attack on the United States.
The film is set as if Salt really is a villain, but nothing is given of his own motivation or what lies behind this plot. It makes audiences think that more is going on and that she’s probably playing badly for some reason. Indeed, she is in fact trying to denounce other spies working in the government.
1 Knives Out (2019)
Rian Johnson’s extremely entertaining thriller Knives Out is inspired by a number of detective films such as Index and Gosford Park while giving its own twist to this kind of story. In fact, the truth behind the murder is apparently revealed in the first act, which is odd for a crime film.
It’s a great way to destabilize audiences from the start, but it also makes them start to think there’s yet another twist to come. So even though audiences are told that the murder was just an accident by sweet Marta, it’s hard not to suspect that jerk Ransom, played by Chris Evans, is actually behind it all.
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