Somebody’s dead and there’s hell to pay. Or, somebody’s dead and there are pieces to pick up. Either way, somebody’s dead and the people, including you, want to know who’s responsible. The murder-mystery genre has been a staple of American entertainment since at least the first half of the 19th century, and the creative inspiration it provides shows no signs of stopping. Murder junkies looking for their murder fixes, look no further: We’ve compiled a list of the best murder-mystery docs, movies, and tv shows on Netflix (US) right now:
The Art of War
Wesley Snipes is a United Nations operative framed for the murder of a Chinese ambassador in Canadian director Christian Duguay’s pulpy action-spy thriller. Don’t think too hard about this one: the magic is in the post- Mission:Impossible stunt work and Snipes’s ice cold one-liners.
By the end of Netflix’s true-crime documentary series, you won’t know who, exactly, strapped a homemade bomb around the neck of a poor pizza delivery guy, or why. What you will know, however, is a new limit to the human capacity for complicated acts of cruelty.
Sir Anthony Hopkins stars as a genius engineer who squares off against a hotshot prosecutor in Gregory Hoblit’s 2007 legal thriller. After the wealthy older man murders his wife, the case seems open and shut. The burden of proof, however, is far heavier than either man anticipated, and this battle of the wits will leave you guessing until the end.
After a man is taken in by the cops without warning, what ensues is a formally experimental procedural whodunit that takes place primarily inside one interrogation room. The ever-haunting Hugo Weaving stars in this Australian thriller from 1998, putting The Matrix’s Agent Smith on the opposite side of the detective’s table.
Is a top-level Catholic Church cover-up connected to the unsolved disappearance of a Baltimore nun? That question, and more, will leave you feeling haunted and icky after all seven episodes of this Netflix true-crime docuseries flow past you like the blood-elevator in The Shining. Feels bad, man.
Scandinavian noir makes for excellent American remakes, as evidenced by The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, The Bridge, and this moody saga that began on AMC and ended on Netflix. The critically underutilized Mireille Enos excels as homicide detective Sarah Linden, who gets on the case of a Seattle teen whose disappearance may have connections to a political campaign.
Alongside 1992’s slow-burning The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, the late filmmaker Curtis Hanson made an indelible impression on American cinema with this neo-noir detective story starring the ensemble cast of Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kim Basinger, Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito, James Cromwell, Simon Baker, and David Straithairn. Deliberate and meticulous, the in-over-his-head detective story has rarely been handled with such style and finesse.
Nicole Kidman bares it all in superstar filmmaker Lee Daniels’s 2012 trash-treasure, also starring Matthew McConaughey and Zac Efron. Stark and unassuming, this dramatic, southern-fried murder mystery will keep you guessing until the bitter end. Also, can we get more Macy Gray, please?
The granddaddy of gritty, gruesome 90s noirs centers Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman as detectives on the hunt for an Old Testament-inspired sadist. If you haven’t seen Seven, you’ll never forget the ending. If you have, it’s worth revisiting for the production designers’ incredible attention to detail.
Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s true-crime documentary series, which began in 2004, now has a home at Netflix. This means the tragic story of Kathleen Peterson’s 2001 death gets even more murky with new episodes. If you’re interested in the birth of modern true-crime TV, take a trip up—or down—The Staircase.
The Thin Blue Line
On a dark, Texas road in 1976, a police officer was gunned down in cold blood and the wrong man was brought in for the crime. Documentary filmmaker Errol Morris uses masterfully-executed recreations—seriously, this is one they teach you about in film school—to give a rich, thrilling, and necessarily nuanced portrait of a uniquely American nightmare scenario.
Although it’s more of a supernatural horror story than your average murder-mystery, don’t let The Wailing’s police-whodunit elements lull you into a false sense of security. Yes, a cop visits a small South Korean village to investigate a series of strange deaths. Yes, detective work abounds as the mystery deepens. No, the culprit of this terrifying tale is not exactly human.
Without a doubt the best murder-mystery of 2017 was a stark neo-noir set on a frozen reservation in Wyoming. What this film lacked in acclaim due to the seriously unlucky timing of having its Oscar season release collapsed by its Weinstein Company pedigree, it makes up for in breathtaking cinematography, heartstring-pulling acting, and the grace with which it attempts to honestly present the current living conditions for America’s original inhabitants. You won’t forget Wind River anytime soon, and that’s exactly why writer-director Taylor Sheridan is one of the best in the business today.
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