If you’re watching a good mystery, you may find yourself examining the clues and trying to solve the puzzle before the on-screen characters get a chance to. It’s almost an irresistible urge to one-up the famous detectives or the hapless heroines and heroes who find themselves way over their heads. Not every mystery is a cerebral challenge, but it is a refreshing change from the stories that give you all of the answers upfront. And if you’re looking to scratch your desire for this particular genre, Netflix has an excellent selection of mystery movies to tide you over. You don’t have to follow the clues to read it — just keep scrolling down.
Mr. Robot fans will probably want to check out Rami Malek’s indie mystery Buster’s Mal Heart. Malek plays the title role, Buster, a weird loner who eludes police in the mountains by breaking into homes and looting the kitchens for food. But rather than simply explain how an unassuming man named Jonah became the eccentric Buster, the film offers up surreal glimpses of his life that may or may not be true. A conspiracy nut named Brown (DJ Qualls) may have fed Buster’s delusions, but he’s taken that way of life and literally ran with it.
Rotten Tomatoes: 72%
Stars: Rami Malek, DJ Qualls, Kate Lyn Sheil, Sukha Belle Potter, Lin Shaye
Director: Sarah Adina Smith
Runtime: 96 minutes
Do you know those lighthearted mysteries with low stakes that leave you with a good feeling at the end of the movie? Mystic River isn’t one of those. It’s a harrowing tale of three men: James “Jimmy” Markum (Sean Penn), Dave Boyle (Tim Robbins), and Detective Sean Devine (Kevin Bacon). They were inseparable friends as children, until Dave was kidnapped and sexually assaulted for days. In the present, Jimmy’s daughter, Katie (Emmy Rossum), is brutally murdered, and Dave is at the top of his suspect list. As Sean attempts to definitively solve Katie’s murder, Jimmy prepares to hunt down the killer himself and deliver his own brand of justice.
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Stars: Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden
Director: Clint Eastwood
Runtime: 138 minutes
The Legacy of the Bones is the middle chapter of the Spanish-language Baztán Trilogy, which started with The Invisible Guardian and ended with Offering to the Storm (both of which are also on Netflix). But if you’re willing to read subtitles, then you don’t have any reason to be intimidated by this largely stand-alone movie. All you really need to know is that Amaia Salazar (Marta Etura) is a detective who is married to James (Benn Northover), and she’s just given birth to their son, Ibai. Upon returning to active duty, Amaia is assigned to investigate a series of shocking suicides that are somehow connected. Unfortunately for Amaia, this mystery hits very close to home for her, as she discovers that her mother, Rosario (Miren Gaztanaga), is involved in a way that she could never have predicted.
Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Stars: Marta Etura, Elvira Mínguez, Francesc Orella, Miren Gaztanaga, Marta Larralde
Director: Fernando González Molina
Runtime: 119 minutes
I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House is a ghost story … or perhaps Lily Saylor (Ruth Wilson) is just losing her mind. After being hired as a live-in nurse, Lily finds herself taking care of Iris Blum (Paula Prentiss), a world-famous horror novelist whose mind has largely been lost to dementia. Almost immediately, Lily begins noticing strange and unusual things happening in the house. She also suspects that the protagonist of Iris’ most popular novel, Polly Parsons (Lucy Boynton), may have been a real person — and a very real ghost. But who killed Polly? And why does her spirit linger?
Rotten Tomatoes: 58%
Stars: Ruth Wilson, Bob Balaban, Lucy Boynton, Paula Prentiss
Director: Osgood Perkins
Runtime: 87 minutes
In State of Play, Congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck) is devastated to learn that one of his staff members, Sonia Baker (Maria Thayer), has died from an apparent suicide. The thing is that Stephen knows that Sonia wasn’t suicidal because he was having an affair with her. To get answers, Stephen enlists his old friend, Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe), who is now an investigative reporter. Another reporter, Della Frye (Rachel McAdams), also looks into Sonia’s death and a few seemingly unrelated murders. But as the mystery deepens, neither Della nor Cal know who they can trust.
Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
Stars: Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright Penn, Jason Bateman, Jeff Daniels
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Runtime: 127 minutes
Who is The Clovehitch Killer? That question hangs over the small town of Clarksville, Kentucky, a decade after the killer murdered 10 women. A teenager named Tyler Burnside (Charlie Plummer) inadvertently starts his own investigation when he comes across a previously undiscovered piece of evidence. After Tyler joins forces with another teen investigator, Kassi (Madisen Beaty), he comes to suspect that his own father, Don Burnside (Dylan McDermott), may be the killer. And even if Don is innocent, the evidence leading back to the Burnside family suggests that one of their own is directly to blame for the murders. Before Tyler and Kassi can put the pieces together, they have to decide if they can trust Don.
Rotten Tomatoes: 77%
Stars: Dylan McDermott, Charlie Plummer, Samantha Mathis, Madisen Beaty
Director: Duncan Skiles
Runtime: 110 minutes
Nearly five decades after its release, Chinatown remains one of the best mystery movies ever made. Jack Nicholson was at the top of his game as J. J. “Jake” Gittes, a private investigator in Los Angeles during the late ‘30s. After being tricked into following Hollis I. Mulwray (Darrell Zwerling) before his demise, Jake is hired by Hollis’ wife, Evelyn Cross Mulwray (Faye Dunaway), to find out who killed him. Evelyn’s powerful father, Noah Cross (John Huston), also offers Jake a big payday if he can find Noah’s missing mistress, Katherine Cross (Belinda Palmer). The scale of the conspiracy is far above Jake’s pay grade, but the truth about Katherine pushes Jake to risk everything to save Evelyn.
Rotten Tomatoes: 99%
Stars: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Hillerman, Perry Lopez, John Huston
Director: Roman Polanski
Runtime: 131 minutes
Although Mindhorn is admittedly a comedy first and foremost, there is a mystery at the heart of this film. Julian Barratt stars as Richard Thorncroft, a washed-up actor who once starred in a TV series as Detective Bruce Mindhorn, the man with an optical lie detector. Over two decades after Julian’s heyday, an escaped maniac, Paul Melly (Russell Tovey), demands a meeting with Detective Mindhorn. Julian seizes on the chance to be relevant again, and he quickly alienates the local police. However, not even Julian could predict that Paul has evidence of an actual crime that goes much higher than anyone believed. But can Julian really live up to his Mindhorn character and solve the mystery?
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Stars: Julian Barratt, Essie Davis, Kenneth Branagh, Andrea Riseborough, Steve Coogan, Russell Tovey
Director: Sean Foley
Runtime: 89 minutes
Teenager Enola Holmes (Millie Bobby Brown) is the exceptional younger sister of world-renowned detective Sherlock Holmes (Henry Cavill). When her mother disappears on Enola’s 16th birthday, the intelligent youth uses all of her mystery-solving abilities to track down the Holmes matriarch, all while unearthing a deeper conspiracy at play in Victorian-era London. Featuring a stellar lead performance from Brown as the titular character, Enola Holmes is a quick-on-its-feet adaptation of the first book in author Nancy Springer’s Enola Holmes Mysteries series. And, like any major film success, there’s already a sequel in the works.
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Stars: Millie Bobby Brown, Sam Claflin, Henry Cavill
Director: Harry Bradbeer
Runtime: 123 minutes
After a car crash that sends him into a four-day coma, Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) can’t convince anyone of his identity. Worse is that there’s an army of assassins hellbent on taking the bio-technician down. Desperate to uncover the truth behind the price on his head, Martin finds himself at the center of a high-stakes conspiracy, orchestrated by a ruthless terrorist organization. Action-laced and packed with plenty of questions we need answers to, Unknown is perhaps best recognized as another Liam Neeson action-star vehicle, but there’s more than meets the eye here. It’s atmospheric and engaging — we highly recommend.
Rotten Tomatoes: 55%
Stars: Liam Neeson, January Jones, Diane Kruger
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Runtime: 113 minutes
Based on Dennis Lehane’s 2003 novel of the same name, Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island stars Leonardo DiCaprio as U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels. Dispatched to the island facility Ashecliffe Hospital with his partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), the two investigators are tasked with finding an escaped murderess from the maze-like asylum. As their case deepens, Teddy and Chuck unearth a trail of clues that points to a series of disturbing events that occurred on the hospital grounds. As Teddy begins experiencing horrid flashbacks to his time at war and visions of his wife’s demise, the plot begins to thicken in ways the determined U.S. Marshal could never imagine. A tense and visceral thriller from start to finish, Shutter Island is just as engrossing more than a decade after its initial release.
Rotten Tomatoes: 68%
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley
Director: Martin Scorsese
Runtime: 138 minutes
Dr. Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) and a teenager named Martin (Barry Keoghan) are not friends or family, but “uncomfortably close” is a phrase one might use to describe their dynamic. As their strained relationship begins intruding more and more on the socialite doctor’s livelihood, Steven advises Martin to stop visiting him. Well, it turns out you should keep your enemies close, as Martin has a horrific plan for the doctor’s well-to-do family, a malicious act centered on Steven’s children. If Steven doesn’t do as Martin says, the consequences will be dire. The Killing of a Sacred Deer offers no concrete answers to the blasphemous and bizarre mystery that unfolds over two hours, but it’s one that’ll stay in your brain for weeks and months afterward.
Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Stars: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Raffey Cassidy
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Runtime: 121 minutes
Based on Shirley Jackson’s 1962 novel of the same name, We Have Always Lived in the Castle follows Merricat (Taissa Farmiga) and Constance Blackwood (Alexandra Daddario), two sisters living in the titular family chateau with their dear Uncle Julian (Crispin Glover). When their cousin Charles (Sebastian Stan) arrives at the estate, the charismatic swindler isn’t subtle in revealing his intentions to claim the family fortune. But as Merricat begins retaliating against her malicious relative, the castle becomes less of an empowering stronghold for the Blackwood sisters and more of an imposing prison. Director Stacie Passon delivers a fitting homage to Shirley Jackson’s novel, complete with a quiet narrative and towering visuals that make us feel trapped in this dark fable world.
Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Stars: Taissa Farmiga, Alexandra Daddario, Crispin Glover
Director: Stacie Passon
Runtime: 96 minutes
Lucy Fly (Alicia Vikander) is an American translator working at a Japanese manufacturing company. Suspected of foul play when her expat friend Lily (Riley Keough) goes missing, Lucy is questioned by authorities. But as the third person in a love triangle with Lily and a local photographer, Teiji Matsuda (Naoki Kobayashi), Lucy believes the latter to be at fault for Lily’s disappearance, a theory she’ll have a more-than-difficult time selling to Japanese law enforcement. A fine blend of mystery, melodrama, and thriller elements, Earthquake Bird is a Netflix exclusive, and a polished one at that. Slightly formulaic, its lack of groundbreaking originality is made up for by the acting chops of both Vikander and Keough.
Rotten Tomatoes: 50%
Stars: Alicia Vikander, Riley Keough, Jack Huston
Director: Wash Westmoreland
Runtime: 107 minutes
Based on a true and long-spanning unsolved crime, Lost Girls stars Amy Ryan as Mari Gilbert, the mother of teenager Shannan Gilbert (Sarah Wisser). When her child goes missing, Mari urges Long Island authorities to track down the girl. Taking matters into her own hands, Mari discovers that her daughter’s whereabouts may be linked to a series of unsolved cases involving a number of murdered sex workers. A moody narrative that negates over-sensationalizing the crime that inspired it in favor of authentic character work, Lost Girls leans on the strength of its small ensemble cast and Liz Garbus’ minimalist directing style to ensnare, enrage, and devastate us.
Rotten Tomatoes: 73%
Stars: Amy Ryan, Thomasin McKenzie, Lola Kirke
Director: Liz Garbus
Runtime: 95 minutes