Knives Out is a fantastic example of the country house murder mystery. It has an amazing ensemble cast and a particularly mysterious mystery (check out our review here), so if you like that sort of thing, we’ve put together a list of similar films that you must see.
Murder on the Orient Express (1974)
The best known of the many, many adaptations of this famous Agatha Christie novel, it just edges out the David Suchet version by a whisker. Directed by the great Sidney Lumet, Poirot is played by the venerable Albert Finney who is on the famous train when he is drawn into a murder most foul. Given that the suspect pool is limited to twelve suspects as no one else is on the train, the mystery would seem to not be much of one, but as always there is a twist. Complicating matters is the story of a kidnapped child who was murdered years before and the fact that the murdered man was thoroughly unlikeable.
Poirot is drawn towards the puzzle, but also to discovering who the killer is and connecting the old murder to the new. Another star-studded cast makes this a treat with the likes of Sir John Gielgud, Sean Connery, Lauren Bacall and Ingrid Bergman amongst the cast of stars bringing all these characters to life. The resolution to the mystery, well known by now to anyone with a passing knowledge of Christie’s works, does not affect the film at all as Lumet expertly keeps you wondering and entranced.
Before Battleship, Hollywood tried to turn a popular boardgame into a film via Jonathan Lynn’s excellent, yet financially unsuccessful Clue. Taking the basic premise of the boardgame, solving a locked room murder mystery, the film uses one of the greatest comedic ensemble casts ever assembled to take you on a tour de force of farce and murder. Led by the always brilliant Tim Curry and Madeline Khan, the cast shines as they stumble from room to room and revelation to revelation as they try and uncover which one of the many suspects is the killer as they all had a reason to want Mr Boddy dead.
The film does not, in any way manner or form take itself seriously, but instead plays up the absurdity of the locked room/country mansion mystery for laughs and entertainment and the cast delivers those in abundance. Unlike Knives Out each character gets to shine, no mean feat given the shorter run time of around an hour and a half. In that time, you forget to actually try and solve the mystery as the viewer instead just rolling along with the roller coaster.
The film was also one of the first to pioneer alternate endings as there are three resolutions to the murder which played in different theatres. Luckily with the release of the film on DVD and now Blu-Ray you get all three endings for your pleasure. Ryan Reynolds has a big job in front of him to recreate the excellent comedy when he finally decides to film his reboot, but until then, enjoy this classic.
The ABC Murders
So, I’m cheating by including this one as it is feature length but was made for TV. Featuring David Suchet in his best known role as Poirot, and honestly he is still the best actor to have portrayed the master detective, the story finds Poirot and his sidekicks Major Hastings and Chief Inspector Japp racing against time and reason to prevent the alphabetical murders that each letter sent to Poirot predicts. At first the crimes seem to be the work of a serial killer, one seriously injured during The Great War, but as always a simpler less esoteric motive is uncovered as Poirot exercises the little grey cells to separate the sensational from the mundane.
This BBC adaptation of Agatha Christie’s works is loved the world over and Suchet is rightly lauded as the greatest Poirot yet, possibly ever. Even Kenneth Branagh’s recent successful turn as the detective did not stop fans from comparing him to Suchet. His portrayal of the little egg shaped man with particular habits and eccentricities ensured that he played the role for thirteen series from 1989 to 2013 when Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case aired in which an ageing Poirot solves one last murder which takes place at the hotel at which Poirot lives out his last years. Joined once again by his friend Hastings, Poirot solves his last case.
Any fan, new or old, to murder mysteries owes it to themselves to track down this show, and this episode in particular, to experience the joy of David Suchet as Poirot for themselves.
The Hound of the Baskervilles (1989)
Yeah, another cheat, sue me, but like David Suchet, Jeremy Brett is considered by most to be the greatest Sherlock Holmes of all time. Taking Holmes and Watson out to the country to investigate the mystery of an old family curse and the supposed hellhound that haunts them we get a classic Holmes mystery of murder and intrigue that starts as an opaque and seemingly unsolvable mystery, but ends up having a far more prosaic and mundane motive attached.
I won’t spoil the more than century old story, but suffice to say that Brett as Sherlock is at his brilliant best leading Watson on a bit of a merry if infuriating chase through the British countryside while trying to keep the Baskerville heir from meeting the same grisly end as his predecessor in the jaws of the demonic Baskerville hound.
Honourable Mention: Game Night
If you are looking for a current, dark comedic take on the ensemble mystery genre look no further than Game Night. Continuing his win streak as a modern film comedian, Jason Bateman leads this ensemble cast of suburban game enthusiasts as they are led on a game of cat and mouse with drug runners as their night of fun during a murder mystery evening turns into a real kidnapping with life and death stakes that takes them across town trying to simply survive and find out why they are now the target of these ruthless drug lords. The film is darkly comedic as these in over their head suburbanites find that despite the stakes, life and death stakes remember, they are having fun and are quite good at this whole mystery and avoiding near death thing.
The film is insanely funny and just plain insane at times and is another great addition to any watch list especially when you are looking for something to watch with your special someone.
Grumpy Old Man who still collects toys (THEY. ARE. NOT. DOLLS), PC Gamer lured to the Dark Side of console gaming, comic book reader and fan of all things pop culture.
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