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Unmissable murder mystery films for every thriller fan

Unmissable murder mystery films for every thriller fan

Consider yourself a whodunnit aficionado? See how many of these murder mystery films you've watched, from comic thrillers to classic detective cases

The summer period is renowned for its huge blockbusters, with superhero spectacle, action-packed fantasy and nightmare-fuelled horror usually rounding out the season.

But with the colder months drawing in and autumn on the way, it truly is the era of the murder mystery. This year is promising to be a fantastic one for the genre, with a few notable releases inbound. 

Rian Johnson’s Knives Out (2019) sequel, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (2022), is now available to watch on Netflix.

If the return of Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc seems too far away, then Millie Bobby Brown will be sleuthing in the titular role of the Enola Holmes (2020) sequel, Enola Holmes 2.

Plus, packing an all star cast, September 16 launches the season with See How They Run (2022), an original entry into the genre, set in the 1950s. 

Needless to say, there’s plenty for audiences to get their teeth stuck into, as they chew through some of the biggest mysteries of the year.

Glass Onion, Enola Holmes and See How They Run represent great diversity within the film category. To truly prepare for such a line-up, we’re diving straight into the archives to see which murder mystery giants are worth the re-watch!

What makes a fantastic whodunnit stand out? These releases may just have the answer. 

New murder mysteries

Still of Knives Out. From left, Daniel Craig, LaKeith Stanfield and Noah Segan stand in autumnal forestCredit: Claire Folger. In Knives Out, Daniel Craig plays a detective investigating the death of a crime novelist, aided by LaKeith Stanfield and Noah Segan

Starting your journey into the genre can be pretty daunting, but with the size of the franchises that audiences get to revisit this year, it’s probably best to begin with the releases mentioned above. 

Johnson’s first foray into Benoit Blanc’s universe was Knives Out, a contemporary story about the sudden death of famous mystery novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer).

With the Thrombey family circling his great wealth like vultures, Harlan’s nurse, Marta Cabrera (Ana De Armas) is caught in the middle of the chaos.

"Enola Holmes is a period piece with an edge, discussing issues of gender and politics"

Visually, it’s a stunning watch for the fall, and is a true whodunnit in every sense. The genius writing keeps you on your toes, and Cabrera’s hilarious natural lie-detector sorts the facts from the devious fiction. The originality of the piece is incredibly refreshing.

In that same vein, Netflix’s take on the Holmes family was entirely unexpected but completely revolutionary. Enola Holmes is a period piece with an edge, discussing issues of gender, politics and growing up in a world that vilified differences, especially in young women.

It is bold, fearless in its storytelling techniques, and Brown’s charismatic leadership rounds out a superb cast that includes Helena Bonham Carter and Henry Cavill as Holmes’ mother and brother respectively. It’s a familiar tale with a new lease of life. 

Thriller comedies

Despite the darkness in the murderous details of these mysteries, the genre also lends itself to some surprising black humour or the occasional light-hearted adventure tale.

Clue (1985), based on the classic board game, is a perfect example of the meshing of the two genres. Meta in some respects, it’s incredible how the film’s plot manages to line up so accurately yet naturally in hilarious displays with the original game. 

While Clue might rely on the conventions of dark humour in its narrative beats, both Murder Mystery (2019) and Hot Fuzz (2007) offer alternative points of view.

"Hot Fuzz starts as a murder mystery dripping with twisted comedy before emerging as a fast-paced police thriller"

The former is portrayed as a high-spirited action adventure boasting bona fide stars in Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler, who attempt to navigate the world of amatuer detective work to save their own skin.

The latter is a surprising buddy cop picture starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, which starts as a murder mystery dripping with twisted comedy before emerging as a fast-paced police thriller.

Each variation never fails to poke fun at the usual twists of murder mysteries with a nod and a wink. 

Stylised whodunnits

Still from Death of the Nile Disney adaptation, with characters ballroom dancing to pianoCourtesy of Disney+. The new Death on the Nile adaptation tells the classic whodunnit story with a more contemporary visual style

Alternatively, there have been recent attempts to add some flare to the conventions of a whodunnit by adding a sense of scale and stylish visuals.

While See How They Run might be attempting something similar, Kenneth Branagh’s vision of Agatha Christie’s classic works is a brilliant modern example.

Both Murder on the Orient Express (2017) and Death on the Nile (2022) redefine how audiences view the adaptations, preserving the integrity of the novels, while imbuing them with expert filmmaking techniques and an all-star cast. 

Bad Times at the El Royale (2018) follows a similar path. While it’s certainly got the substance, the visual style is what sticks with audiences, as the unnerving plot escalates to the rain-soaked arrival of Chris Hemsworth’s cult leader.

The shot of the lonely motel and the secrets it keeps is the one visual needed to tell this sweeping, bloody and artistically stunning story. 

Murder mystery refresh

Then there’s the genre twists. Those classics that have taken what a murder mystery is and combined it with something completely unique—maybe another genre entirely that wouldn’t traditionally mesh as well as dark comedy.

The bizarre animated world of Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) encapsulates that idea, with the bunny in question unearthing the truth about the disappearing cartoons in an unexpectedly brilliant combination of styles.

"The bunny in question unearths the truth about the disappearing cartoons in an unexpectedly brilliant combination of styles"

Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight (2015) achieves something similar. It merges the structure of a detective piece with the setting, dialogue and characteristics of a traditional western. A killer lurks within that claustrophobic group of strangers.  

If you’re planning on solving the clues of Glass Onion, Enola Holmes 2 or See How They Run this season, then this expansive range of releases make a perfect introduction to the absolute breadth of the genre.

From the hilarious highs of a dark comedy, to the visual spectacles of large-scale storytelling and the genre twists that can flip it all on its head, there’s something magical about unravelling the plot threads of a murder mystery in all its guises. 

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