Picking the 5 best murder mystery movies used to be easier because Hollywood made more of them. In fact, the best of the genre are still those from Hollywood’s Golden Age, with the occasional new film coming along for a spot on the list. Check out these great murder mystery movies, and don’t be afraid of the black and white.
- "Rope," 1948. Alfred Hitchcock could no doubt fill up most of a best-of list of suspense and murder mystery films, and many others probably come to mind, like "Rear Window" or "Vertigo," but "Rope" stands above even some of Hitchcock’s other bests. "Rope," essentially shot live to film with very few trademark Hitchcock edits, focuses on two friends who kill another friend, then place him in a chest in their apartment. The friends and relatives of the dead man come to dinner, not knowing the man has been killed or that hors d-oeuvres are being served on top of him. The tension builds as James Stewart slowly unravels the murder mystery.
- "And Then There Were None," 1945. This adaptation of the Agatha Christie novel has become so iconic that not only have many remakes been made, but the concept has found its way into our culture in other ways. Even the television series "Remington Steele" did a version of it. Later film versions were called "Ten Little Indians" and other things. The original, from 1945, followed the novel and a stage play. Ten people end up on an island at an estate. Their host never appears, but accuses them via recording all of being murderers. One by one, each character meets his or her death. Like any true murder mystery, the story only resolves at the very end.
- "Psycho," 1960. No one at the time—possibly other than Dennis Weaver in Orson Welles’ "Touch of Evil" two years earlier—could portray the frantic, barely contained Norman Bates character other than Anthony Perkins. Often classified as a horror film—and it does have horrific characteristics—"Psycho" is a true murder mystery. The murderer is only revealed at the very end. Few murder mystery movies provide quite this many creepy chills.
- "The Maltese Falcon," 1941. Most people forget that Sam Spade really is trying to find out who murdered his partner, Miles Archer, from the beginning of this murder mystery. The viewer goes in so many different directions guessing who has the famed statue, how much money is involved and how Humphrey Bogart might escape the evil clutches of Sidney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre that the murder of Archer becomes a lost point. That is, until the end when Spade explains it all and puts the murderer behind bars.
- "The Thin Man," 1934. Dashiell Hammett wrote only five novels in his life, yet "The Maltese Falcon" and one other make this list of the 5 best murder mystery movies. "The Thin Man," starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, appears much lighter than "The Maltese Falcon," but still centers on the murder of one man. It’s not even the man most people think it is until near the end. Despite the murder, the whole thing is done with charm and humor. Much of the witty dialogue was lifted directly from the novel. When Powell’s character, Nick Charles, is asked what he thinks of the mystery case as a detective, he says, “It’s putting me way behind in my drinking.” Who wouldn’t like that? The film was so successful it spawned five sequels and influenced mystery movies and books for decades to come.