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14 Best Murder Mystery Movies of This Decade

October 23, 2019
11 min read

If you have grown up reading Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys, and then graduated to Sherlock Holmes and Miss Marple cases, you must be the one to savour a good murder mystery. While this has always been a rich genre, in recent years, as the storytellers have shown more interest in other forms of storytelling, a certain scarcity has been felt in the murder mystery department. Despite this, the past decade has seen some truly great works and some films have managed to keep the spark alive. Here is the list of the best murder mystery films of this decade (2010-2019):

14. Happy Death Day (2017)

This slasher drama from Blumhouse Productions sets the stage for a perfect murder mystery. Solving the murder of others is easy, but the pressure truly mounts when your own life is at stake. What would you do if someone was killing you repeatedly, and you had just one day to identify the murderer? And worse, if it was on your birthday! Theresa Gelbman wakes up in her dorm room after drinking heavily the previous night. It is her birthday and it goes as usual. But the end of it, she is killed. Then, she wakes up and finds herself at the beginning of the same day. She is killed again and again and again. And the cycle won’t stop until she finds out who’s doing it.

13. Small Town Crime (2017)

Mike Kendall was once a bright-eyed cop, convinced that he could bring justice in the world. However, things changed, he grew up and realised that the world is a lot more messed up than he could handle. He falls to alcoholism and gives up his career. One night, while walking back home, he discovers the dead body of a woman. While this is not his case, he feels compelled to solve it. He is reminded of the faith he had in the justice system and uses this opportunity to redeem himself for not living up to the job. He jumps into the investigation with all he has, but what he doesn’t realise is that he is walking into the mouth of danger. Not only that, but he is also putting his family in harm’s way.

12. Sinister (2012)

Though it falls into the horror genre, ‘Sinister’ plays out like a psychological murder mystery. The crimes are brutal and horrific, and it is the act that terrifies us more than the supernatural presence in the story. It stars Ethan Hawke as a true-crime writer, Ellison Oswald. He had, once, been a successful author, but his glory days are way past him.  He has become desperate for another hit and finds potential in a mysterious case of the disappearance of a kid and the murder of the rest of the family. Short on finances, yet determined to research and possibly even solve the case, he moves into the house of the murders, a fact not known by the rest of the members of the family. As he begins to spend more time on the case, he discovers that a number of other horrific cases are also related to this one.

11. The Absent One (2014)

Two twins had been murdered in 1994. One of them was raped and the case had become a big deal in media. The culprit was apprehended and it was marked closed. However, the father of the victims refused to accept the result. He stayed on it for years, and when finally, something did come across, he killed himself. But not before sending out all of his findings to Detective Morck. Though initially hesitant of picking up an already solved case, the detective is drawn into it after he picks up on the glaring mistakes and a seemingly easy conviction for the murderer. As he digs deeper, he realises that there are bigger powers at play here, and the revelation will shake the foundations of their tight-knit community.

10. The Invisible Guest (2016)

This film follows a murder investigation where the perpetrator is already pinned down by the cops, with overwhelming evidence against him. However, the man is completely unaware of the events that transpired on the night of the crime and hires a defense attorney to help him solve it. The man is Adrian Doria, a businessman who had been having an affair with a woman named Laura. He broke it off after some time but was alarmed when someone started blackmailing him. In order to pay off the blackmailer, he was called to a hotel. When Adrian enters the hotel room, he doesn’t find anyone there and is then knocked unconscious. As soon as he wakes up, he finds Laura dead in the bathroom and the cops immediately arrive to arrest him.

9. Side Effects (2013)

Emily Taylor suffers from severe bouts of depression, and her situation is aggravated when her husband is released from jail. Emily attempts suicide, following which is assigned to the care of Jonathan Banks, a psychiatrist. He gives her antidepressants and tries all sorts of meds with her, but nothing works. To get more context of what is wrong with Emily, he reaches out to her previous psychiatrist, who suggests an experimental drug to him. In the hopes that it will bring her some comfort, he prescribes it to Emily. The only side effect that she exhibits after it is sleepwalking. That should not have been that big of a problem, but Emily commits murder after taking the pill.

8. 1922 (2017)

The works of Stephen King are almost always involved with the darkness of death and the effect it has on people. Despite falling in the category of horror, they have an element of real life, a part that the reader can relate to despite the nefarious entities surrounding the characters. But there are some works in which King completely strips off the supernatural element and relies just on the psychology of his characters to deliver a dark tale. ‘1922’ is one of those stories. While the “mystery” of the culprits is known to us, it is the aftermath that drives this film. It tells the story of a man who wants to get rid of his wife. So, he conspires with his son, and, for their own reasons, one night, they kill her. But the guilt weighs heavy on them and it plays all sorts of tricks.

7. Wind River (2017)

Starring Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner, ‘Wind River’ is set in the Indian Reservation in Wyoming where an 18-year-old girl’s dead body is discovered in the snow. It becomes difficult to track down the place where the crime took place because there are no establishments, domestic or industrial, for miles. FBI agent, Jane Banner, is sent down to look into the matter, and she takes the help of Cory Lambert, an expert tracker and the man who had found the corpse. Jane discovers that years ago, Cory’s teenage daughter had disappeared as well, and the case was never solved. She wonders if there is any connection between the two, while it comes to light that the other girl had been brutally raped before she ran away and succumbed to hypothermia in the snow.

6. Marshland (2014)

Set in 1980, ‘Marshland’ has two detectives on a dark case that begins to meddle with their peace of mind. During the town festivities, two teenage girls go missing. Pedro Suarez and Juan Robles are sent to look into the matter. Already going through a tough time in their personal lives, the detectives have a problem creating a picture of the victims. They seem to have different image for their family members while the rest of the community paints them in different colours. This obscurity is further highlighted when their raped and tortured bodies are discovered in the marshland. They start looking into the romantic relationships of the girls and come to the conclusion a lot more was going on with them than what everyone else knew about.

5. A Conspiracy of Faith (2016)

Based on the novel of the same name by Hans Peter Moland, ‘A Conspiracy of Faith’ is the third instalment in the Department Q series. The chain of events is kicked off when a message in a bottle arrives at the police station. It is eight years old and has been written in blood. It leads the detectives to an old case and pulling at its strings further unravels a number of other similar incidents. Turns out, children have been missing from religious groups, and their town is not the only victim of it. It has been happening all over the country. What makes it worse, and shadier is that almost of all of these cases have gone unreported. What is happening to these children? And why doesn’t anyone care to bring it to the attention of the cops?

4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Directed by David Fincher and based on the book of the same name by Steig Larsson, ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ follows the investigation into the disappearance of a woman who had gone missing forty years ago. Daniel Craig plays the role of Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who is sought out by a businessman to find out what happened to his grandniece. Blomkvist is assisted by a genius hacker, Lisbeth Salander, who is going through a difficult phase in her life. As they dig into the history of the victim’s family and her relationships, they also come across a number of other cases where women had been murdered. While this points towards the presence of a serial killer, Blomkvist believes that the culprit of their case is someone close to the victim.

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3. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

This Academy Award-nominated film gives a look into the lives of the families of the victims, waiting for justice while trying to cope with their grief. It is written and directed by Martin McDonagh, who has previously made films like ‘In Bruges’ and ‘Seven Psychopaths’. In ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri’, he uses his penchant for dark comedy to bring a graver tone to the story. It is not your regular murder mystery, but is more shocking and moving than most. Frances McDormand, who won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role, plays the character of Mildred Hayes. Her teenage daughter, Angela, had been raped and murdered several months ago. The complacency of the cops to bring the case to a conclusion, or even move it forward by a little bit, angers and frustrates her. Instead of just sitting around and waiting for someone to do something, she decides to get hold of their attention, all the while wondering if there is ever a chance for the truth to come out.

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2. Gone Girl (2014)

Based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn, ‘Gone Girl’ begins with the disappearance of Amy Dunne. It is their fifth wedding anniversary and Nick can’t find Amy anywhere. Moreover, the condition of their house suggests that there had been a struggle. Enough blood is found on the scene to conclude that Amy has been killed. However, her corpse is yet to be located. It doesn’t take much for the cops to decipher that something was quite wrong in Nick and Amy’s marriage and that he not only had the means but also a lot of reasons to get her out of his way. He becomes a prime suspect, but Nick knows that his wife was not as innocent as the press and everyone else was making her out to be.

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1. Knives Out (2019)

Directed by Rian Johnson, ‘Knives Out’ boasts an all-star cast of Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield and Christopher Plummer. The film follows the premise of what you could call a good old murder mystery but offers a different take than seen before. It begins with a wealthy man inviting his family to celebrate his 85th birthday. While the party goes rather smoothly, trouble shows up the next day. The old man’s dead body is discovered and a detective is called in to solve the case. All the family members have had some form of an altercation with the victim in the past which places them all in the list of suspects.

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