Deciding on the best mystery movies of all time may be a mystery unto itself. Devotees of suspense, thrillers, whodunits, and horror films will no doubt have their own solutions to such a puzzle.
Stacker compiled data on all mystery movies to come up with a Stacker score—a weighted index split evenly between IMDb and Metacritic scores. To qualify, the film had to be listed as a mystery on IMDb, have a Metascore, and have at least 2,500 votes. Ties were broken by Metascore, and further ties were broken by IMDb user rating. Every movie on the list has been considered according to the history and development of mystery films.
Some of the best are based on true crime, like “Zodiac,” about a killer who terrorized Northern California in the late 1960s and was never found. “Sicario” is based on the real-life U.S.-led war on drugs on the United States-Mexico border, and “Reversal of Fortune” draws from the story of Claus von Bulow, accused of trying to kill his socialite wife, Sunny.
Some are entirely unrealistic and futuristic, like the “The Wailing” or “Bacurau,” about a Brazilian village that starts disappearing from maps. The future is portrayed as horribly frightening and uninviting in such mysteries as “Ghost in the Shell” and “Minority Report.”
Animation breeds its own hits, like “Zootopia,” Japanese science fiction anime like “Paprika,” or the steampunk setting of “April and the Extraordinary World.” Film noir holds its own with such favorites as “The Postman Always Rings Twice” and “Double Indemnity.”
The 21st century shows its strength at the back of the list, but only manages to squeeze four films into the top 25 among the greats. Not surprisingly, Alfred Hitchcock holds the most claim to great movie mysteries, with far and away more favorites on the list than any other director, with “Rebecca,” “Suspicion,” “The Birds,” “The 39 Steps,” “North by Northwest,” “Psycho,” “Vertigo,” and “Rear Window.”
But many of the best mysteries simply tell a great story, filled with unexpected twists and clever surprises that make moviegoers want to watch them again and again. That’s why movies like “The Usual Suspects,” “Mystic River,” “The Bourne Ultimatum,” “The Fugitive,” “The Lives of Others,” “Chinatown,” and “Apocalypse Now” are consistent favorites.
Hold onto your seats, enjoy, and beware of a few spoilers that may follow.
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