The best of the “whodunit”
Few things in life make me happier than a good whodunit. A sprawling location for a setting that serves as a character itself, a dozen or so colourful characters, prodigious detectives, suspense, plot twists – there is little that isn't exciting about an edge-of-the-seat mystery.
Here are my favourites.
Murder by Death (1976)
A blind butler sticking stamps all wrong on invitation envelopes and hoping people will show up, a woman whose nurse is clearly older and sicker than she is, a father who sends his son across a bridge to check if it's broken – the comedy of this mystery/thriller is quite unique. It wouldn't even suffice to say it's dark humour; it's out-of-the-box and plain absurd.
This movie is a pastiche of the whodunit genre. When five detectives and their companions are summoned to a mansion and are challenged by the host to solve a mystery, you soon realise each of the detectives in the film are spoofs of different famous literary detectives.
As the drama escalates, each detective presents their own theories to the case, and the story slowly pokes fun at the tropes many famous mystery authors use in their writings.
Fun fact: Author Truman Capote appears in this film.
Remember the board game "Clue" by the Parker Brothers? This movie is based on that game and brings to life the characters of Colonel Mustard, Professor Plum, Miss Scarlet, and the like. Six strangers arriving at a mansion having to solve a mystery equipped with the props their characters are given in the original board game is the kind of set up mystery nerds dream of.
The humour of this film ranges from dark to plain bizarre, but the gags and jokes always deliver, no matter how over the top. The back and forth banter, both verbal and physical comedy by the cast, only adds to the absolute chaos that ensues in the mansion.
Fun fact: This film is famous for having three alternate endings – three different solutions to the problem are presented, leaving you to decide which one you want to believe in.
Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
Agatha Christie is called the "Queen of Crime" for good reason. Every movie on this list is heavily influenced by her works. Murder on the Orient Express, as an adaption of her novel of the same name, is mostly true to its source.
The Agatha Christie fandom is split over director Kenneth Branagh himself playing iconic detective Hercule Poirot, and I agree with those who believe he isn't very believable as Poirot in this film. Regardless, this mystery aboard a moving train where ten strangers all become suspects of a murder does not do disservice to one of Christie's most suspenseful stories.
Honourable mentions: Gosford Park, an excellent ensemble drama; Death on the Nile, the second in what is likely to be a Branagh-directed Christie trilogy; Knives Out, perhaps the weakest of the films on this list but with a sequel on the way; and Murder Mystery, Netflix's own parody of this genre.
Mrittika wants to know which your favourite murder mystery is. Reach her at [email protected]