Saturday, September 14, 2013
Best Mystery/Detective Movies
The Maltese Falcon (1941) John Houston directed Humphrey Bogart as private detective Sam Spade from the Dashiell Hammett novel. Houston was smart to not change the story and use most of the original dialogue Hammett wrote. Great supporting cast: Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sidney Greenstreet. Sam Spade gets caught up with three unscrupulous characters chasing down an medieval statuette.
The Big Sleep (1946) Howard Hawks directed Humphrey Bogart as private detective Philip Marlowe from the Raymond Chandler novel. The Big Sleep has Bogie and Bacall and some snappy banter. The story, while good, is a bit confusing and by the end you may not know exactly who killed who.
In the Heat of the Night (1967) Norman Jewison directed this racially charged movie with Sidney Poitier as Virgil Tibbs a Philadelphia homicide detective and Rod Steiger as a small-town police chief. Rod Steiger gets all the best lines: “I got the motive which was money and the body which is dead!”
Murder on the Orient Express (1974) Sidney Lumet directed this Agatha Christie story set on a train in 1935 Eastern Europe. Albert Finney as quirky Belgian detective Hercule Poirot leads an all-star cast in an old fashion whodunit.
Chinatown (1974) Roman Polanske directed this original screenplay by Robert Towne. The story takes place in 1937 Los Angeles and it is all about water. Jack Nicholson plays private detective J.J. Gittes and Faye Dunaway as the widow of a murdered husband. John Houston plays one of the most interesting bad guys, Noah Cross who says: “Course I'm respectable. I'm old. Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.”
Mississippi Burning (1988) Alan Parker directed this story written by Chris Gerlomo, which is loosely based on true events of a 1963 FBI investigation into the murders of three civil rights workers in Mississippi. A great team of Willem Dafoe as the straightlaced FBI investigator, and Gene Hackman, the ex-southern sheriff and now likeable FBI man. This is a racially charged detective movie with sociological redeeming values.
The Fugitive (1993) Andrew Davis directed this movie that was based on Roy Huggins' 1960s television series of the same name. Harrison Ford stars as Dr. Richard Kimble who is wrongly accused for the murder of his wife. While being transported to prison, a train accident allows Kimble to escape. He is vigorously pursued by U.S. Marshall Sam Gerard played by Tommy Lee Jones who has the better part.
Seven (1995) David Fincher directed this moody thriller written by Andrew Kevin Walker. Morgan Freeman plays Somerset, a detective who on his last week before retirement, investigates a series of bizarre murders based on the seven deadly sins. He is teamed up with Mills, a young detective played by Brad Pitt. From the title sequence on, Seven has a disturbing quality. The story begins on a rainy day, and the rain persists until almost the end of the movie.
The Usual Suspects (1995) Brian Singer directed this movie written by Christopher McQuarrie. Kevin Spacey plays small-time hood, Verbal Kint who tells his story to two investigators how the meeting of five men who meet in a police lineup ends up with almost all them dead, along with a bunch of Argentinian mobsters on a ship that was set ablaze. The movie has a strong cast with Gabrielle Byrne, Benicio del Toro, Stephen Baldwin, Pete Postelthwaite and Chazz Palminteri. Great twist at the end.
L A Confidential (1997) Curtis Hanson directed this James Ellroy novel set in 1953. Kevin Spacey and Russel Crowe lead an ensemble cast of police detective in Los Angeles. Kim Basinger is captivating as the Veronica Lake lookalike in a land of movie celebs, crooked politicians and LA’s less than finest. Parts of the movie depicts some true events. L A Confidential captures the period, and the perpetual grey in which these characters exist.
Gosford Park (2001) Directed by Robert Altman and written by Julian Fellowes. This Agatha Christie-like story takes place at a English country home in the 1930s. We see the British class system of self-absorbed upper class and their underestimated servants. It is a sleeper, with little action and only one murder. Strong ensemble cast: Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith, Derek Jacobi, Alan Bates, Clive Owen and Kristin Scott Thomas to name a few.
Honourable Mention: The Thin Man (1934) The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939) Soylent Green (1973) Brick (2005)
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