The 8 Best Detective Movies Of All Time
8. Gone Baby Gone (2007)
Director: Ben Affleck
Starring: Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris
What it’s about: Private investigator Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) is hired to track down missing three-year-old Amanda. Soon, Patrick finds himself uncovering a tangle of lies, deceit, and blackmail.
Why it made the list: While this film didn’t make as much of a splash as the other films on this list, Gone Baby Gone is a thriller that is more than just an exciting watch – it raises important questions about morality and the meaning of home.
7. Memories Of Murder (2003)
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Starring: Song Kang-ho, Kim Sang-kyung, Kim Roi-ha
What it’s about: Based on a true story, this Korean detective movie follows two detectives as they attempt to solve the case of Korea’s very first serial murders.
Why it made the list: You may have heard of Bong Joon-ho recently with the release of his latest critically acclaimed film Parasite. Like Parasite and many of his other films, Memories Of Murder is a moody, style-heavy black comedy/drama of epic proportions.
6. Fargo (1996)
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen
Starring: Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare, Harve Presnell
What it’s about: Car salesman Jerry deals with his debt problem by concocting an elaborate plan to hire two goons to kidnap his wife and extort his father-in-law for money. However, things go awry when the kidnappers kill a state trooper and several other witnesses. This movie may not seem like a detective film on paper, but it is propelled forward by the indomitable Frances McDormand who plays the very pregnant police chief Marge Gunderson.
Why it made the list: At a time when crime and detective movies were becoming predictable, Fargo shook things up in Hollywood. The dark comedy is kooky but wry and the actors deliver fantastic performances all around. And those accents. Who can forget those accents?
5. The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)
Director: Jonathan Demme
Starring: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn
What it’s about: While the FBI hunts down the serial killer Buffalo Bill, trainee Clarice Starling is assigned to interview cannibal and serial killer Hannibal Lecter in the hopes of understanding the psyche and motivations of a killer.
Why it made the list: As far as good detective movies go, you can’t go wrong with this one. The Silence of the Lambs is regarded by both critics and filmgoers alike as one of the best films of all time. Why? Many attribute the film’s success to Anthony Hopkins creepy portrayal of Hannibal Lecter. It was so good that it scored Hopkins an Academy Award for Best Actor despite him only having 16 minutes of screen time.
4. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, Charles Fleischer
What it’s about: Toon star Roger Rabbit is framed for the murder of cartoon studio head RK Maroon. Now, the jaded and alcoholic detective Eddie Valiant must help exonerate Roger by proving his innocence, all while the pair get chased down by Judge Doom’s Toon Patrol.
Why it made the list: While we can’t say that Roger Rabbit pioneered comedy-detective movies, we can say that the film was one of the first ones to marry animation and live-action. Roger Rabbit is a film laden with mystery and intrigue, but it’s also laugh-out-loud funny thanks to the classic slapstick, Looney Toons-style comedy.
3. Zodiac (2007)
Director: David Fincher
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Chloe Sevigny
What it’s about: Based on the true story of the Zodiac Killer – a serial killer who claimed to have murdered 37 people in San Francisco from 1960 to 1970 – the film follows a cartoonist (Gyllenhaal) and reporter (Downey Jr.) from a local paper as they decipher the clues left behind by the madman.
Why it made the list: David Fincher is an incredibly meticulous director, and this intense attention to detail shines through in Zodiac. The level of detail he puts into accurately portraying the killer, the investigators, and even life in the ‘70s is as unmatched as his dedication to great cinematography.
2. Se7en (1995)
Director: David Fincher
Starring: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow
What it’s about: A young and idealistic detective (Pitt) pairs up with a hard-boiled but jaded cop on the cusp of retiring (Freeman) to investigate a string of murders that reflect the seven deadly sins.
Why it made the list: For a film released in 1995, Se7en remains one of the most compelling and original murder thriller movies to date. The crimes done by the serial killer John Doe are so gruesome and despicable that you have to wonder what was going through screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker’s head when he came up with them.
1. Memento (2002)
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano
What it’s about: Leonard Shelby, a man with short term memory loss, attempts to avenge his slain wife by finding and killing her murderer. The only problem is, he can’t retain enough memories to put the pieces together.
Why it made the list: What makes Memento one of the most famous investigation movies of all time isn’t its plot. Rather, Memento is so memorable because of the way the story is told: in reverse. The story is told through two sequences – a black and white sequence that is told from beginning to end, and a coloured sequence that tells the story in reverse chronological order. These don’t just reflect Leonard’s fragmented memory, they also keep us questioning the truth.