Our love of murder mysteries is well documented on these pages (look no further than our annual 10,000+ words on “Best murders-to-stream” for very real proof of that statement) so, needless to say Knives Out release date is basically a national holiday (conveniently aligned with a national holiday that MAY make you think murderous thoughts toward your loved ones).
But, once you see it (on Wednesday, naturally) you may be in a real need for, well, MORE. So, here’s a handy list of some of the best, classic (and should-be-classic) locked-room whodunnits to keep that mystery train going all week (and winter) long.
But, before we start – first things first:
How do we define a whodunnit? A whodunit or whodunnit is “a complex, plot-driven variety of the detective story in which the puzzle regarding who committed the crime is the main focus” (according to Wikipedia). A locked room one is especially fun since space/amount of suspects are limited and invite more of a game-style approach to solving both from the characters AND the audience.
- Murder on The Orient Express (the 1974 version) – While the Kenneth Branagh version was servicable enough, I guess, the Sidney Lumet classic is well, a true classic. The train is stacked with the likes of Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Vanessa Redgrave, Sean Connery and more, and Albert Finney’s Poirot is UP there with David Suchet as a platonic ideal of the Belgian supersleuth. Plus, unlike the 2017 version, no one EVER feels the need to leave the train. Just as Agatha intended. In short, it is perfect.
- Deathtrap – More of a “who’ll do it?” that “whodunnit?”, this is another Sidney Lumet masterpiece, based on the Ira Levin play (the man who brough us Rosemary’s Baby, Stepford Wives AND Boys From Brasil) – this playwright centered romp with Michael Caine, (peak handsome) Christopher Reeve and Diane Cannon is pitch-black funny, weird, sexually liberated and features a nosy psychic next door, for good measure.
- Sleuth (the 1972 version) – Set in a British castle with Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier, and directed by All About Eve’s Joseph L. Mankiewicz is a classic game of cat and mouse that has twists inside its twists, and got nominated for 5 Academy Awards the year it came out. Kenneth Branagh tried to remake this one as well.
- Gosford Park – Written by Julian Fellowes, who went on to create Downton Abbey, and directed by Robert Altman, who knows his way around an ensemble cast, this murder mystery take on upstairs/downstairs dynamics inside a great British manner, is sly, charming, and, perhaps most importantly, does involve Maggie Smith AND Bob Balaban (as most of these really should).
- The Last of Sheila – Set on a yacht in the Mediterranean with James Coburn, Raquel Welch, Ian McShane and Diane Cannon features a script by Stephen Sondheim and Anthony Perkins (yes, THAT Anthony Perkins) is the ultimate romp of privilege, secrets and murder (and great summer casual outfit inspirations) and is one of Edgar Wright’s favorite films.
- Death on the Nile / Evil Under The Sun – Peter Ustinov’s Hercule Poirot in these Guy Hamilton adaptations of Agatha Christie classics (Death on the Nile is the next in line for the Branagh adaptation treatment) is maybe the jauntiest interpretation of the detective on screen. Add to that the exotic locations (Egypt! Possibly Montengero?), an assortment of truly epic suspects (Mia Farrow! Maggie Smith! Jane Birkin! Angela Lansbury! David Niven! I could keep going!) and there is almost no funner way to digest your holiday meal next to a murder. We recommend a double feature. Bookended by naps.
- The Mirror Crack’d – And if you are in the mood for a triple Guy Hamilton Agatha Christie feature, dare we point you in the direction of this Angela Lansbury-as-Miss-Marple moment where the rivalry of two movie stars (Kim Novak and Elizabeth Taylor, because people didn’t mess around with casting in those days) on set in the enchanting, but death-prone village of St. Mary Mead serves as backdrop for a rather sinister cocktail party murder. Rock Hudson and Tony Curtis round out the cast.
- Murder by Death – Set in a gothic mansion owned by Truman Capote, this Neil Simon written romp featuring some of the most famous detective characters ever written presented with the ultimate game of murder and deceit. Maggie Smith, Peter Sellers, David Niven and Peter Falk are in the cast.
PLUS, of course:
- Clue – Which you can save for dessert: