Must Watch Mystery Thriller Movies

Movie Plot Twist

Movies have the power to entertain, thrill and excite, but nothing gets our blood flowing more than an intricately woven, thrilling mystery film. Movies that leave us guessing tend to be the most engaging and entertaining, and mystery-thriller films offer an adrenaline rush and then some, as every moment of the movie you are trying to connect the dots, which are usually revealed, only in the end. Here is a list of some must-watch Mystery Thriller movies, in no particular order.

The Prestige (2006)

On top of the list, is Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige. This movie starring Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman and Michael Caine follows the lives of two rival magicians in Victorian England, whose intense competition turns deadly. Their competition reaches new heights and they must create the most extravagant and inexplicable illusions to outdo each other. The film is packed with moments that keep you guessing and by the end, you’ll be in shock, as you realize how much you have been manipulated by these masterful illusionists.

Shutter Island (2010)

Shutter Island is directed by Martin Scorsese, and stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo. The plot is based on the novel of the same name written by Dennis Lehane. Official US Marshal Teddy Daniels is investigating the disappearance of multiple patients from a mental hospital on Shutter Island. The movie is full of nail-biting suspense and unpredictable plot twists, which will keep you on your toes until the very end.

Inception (2010)

Christopher Nolan strikes again with another mind-bending mystery thriller Inception. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, it revolves around Dom Cobb, who is a thief with an amazing skill. He is the best in the world at the dangerous art of extracting information from the minds of his subjects by entering into their dreams. The movie is full of surrealistic moments, which will make you doubt what is actually happening. Inception leaves you guessing until the very last moment, as there is always something waiting for you, just around the corner.

Se7en (1995)

Directed by David Fincher, Se7en might just be one of the darkest and most thrilling movies on this list. It stars Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey as detectives. The movie follows two detectives as they try to catch a serial killer, who epitomizes the seven deadly sins. What makes Se7en so unique and thrilling, is that it keeps its cards close to its chest until the very end. It has a truly dark, yet brilliantly crafted plot, which unravels in a way no other thriller film has managed to do.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig star in this movie based on the book by the same name. A mystery unravels as a journalist is hired by an elderly tycoon to investigate a 40-year-old unsolved murder. The movie is a study of the relationship between human darkness and evil. The plot is full of twists and turns, which makes the movie an unpredictable, thrilling adventure, after which you may still feel the lingering effects.

The Lives of Others (2006)

The Lives of Others, is one of the greatest mystery thrillers coming out of Germany. It features Ulrich Mühe in the lead role and Sebastian Koch. The movie is set in 1984 East Germany, where a Stasi agent is tasked with spying on a prominent playwright. This movie will keep you glued to your seat with its intense and thrilling plot that reveals itself slowly. The Lives of Others is a great example of a thriller, which is genuinely gripping and thought-provoking at the same time.

Memento (2000)

Memento is another classic from director Christopher Nolan. It stars Guy Pearce and is a psychological thriller about a man suffering from anterograde amnesia as a result of a violent injury. He must use notes, tattoos and Polaroid photos to remember facts and identify the people he encounters. The movie is mind-boggling, as it goes forward and backward in time, which leaves you with a lasting impression.

Suspense Beyond Thin Lines

Outside the box thinking is what Mystery thrillers are all about, giving the audience a fresh perspective on the concept of mystery and thrilling them to the fullest. Keeping this in mind a few other options worth watching would be: Donnie Darko, Survivor, Oldboy, The Usual Suspects, The Sixth Sense, Primal Fear, The Silence of the Lambs, Secret Window and The Game. All these masterpieces have narratives that never let you predict the ultimate outcome and keep you guessing, till the very end.

The Science of Suspense

A popular trend in mystery thrillers is the use of suspense, and scientists have studied this phenomenon to understand its inner workings. According to a study conducted by Scientists, suspense is created by maintaining uncertainty, surprise and hope. A viewer is often guided to formulate and manipulate expectations, and as the story progresses, the creators keep the viewers’ expectations in flux and ensure that the audience does not know what is actually going to happen. This is done by providing information about the story in a very ambiguous way, leading to a more unexpected result.

The Right Tools for the Job

When making a mystery thriller, the film-makers need to ensure that they have the correct tools for the job. Music is an important element for suspenseful build-up and conflict resolution scenes. Music in a thriller film often consists of deep base rhythms that have a Hitchcock effect and create tension in the audience. Additionally, the right camera angles and lenses can help deliver the desired effect of suspense, helping the audience to visualize certain scenes in a certain way.

The Best Story-telling

The best mystery thriller movies use a creative approach to storytelling to engage the audience. Plot twists are a common element of mystery thrillers and are one of the most effective tools in engaging the audience. It is important to ensure that the plot has enough twists, turns and surprises that keep the audience hooked, and does not give away too much information to make the story predictable. A good mystery thriller should also have a strong ending that ties together all of the storylines.

An Undying Genre

Mystery Thrillers have been around since the silent era with films like The Cat and the Canary being released in the late 1920s, but the genre has continuously evolved over the years and with modern technology, it has become even more mesmerizing. As the years go by, the audience demands more innovative, thrilling and suspenseful movies, and hence, the genre has continued to thrive, making it one of the most popular Genres of contemporary times.

The Effects of Stakes

Mystery-thrillers often use stakes to create tension. The higher the stakes the more tense the audience can become. This is an effective tool to make viewers interested in the story and keep them guessing as to what’s going to happen next. Stakes can also be used to create an emotional connection to the protagonist, thus immersing viewers in the story. This makes viewers emotionally invested in the story and creates suspense, because they are not sure if their hero will prevail or not.

The Appeal of Formatting

Formatting is an important part of a mystery thriller movie. The movie should be structured in such a way that it creates a sense of anticipation and leaves the audience guessing. The structure of the movie should focus on the build-up of suspense and the revelations of information at an appropriate time. This will ensure that viewers remain informed, but not given too much information, helping to keep the mystery alive.

The Taste of Stylization

Stylization is also integral to a mystery thriller movie. With the use of a unique narrative style and camera movements, such as hand-held and wide-angle shots, the film-makers can create a real sense of suspense and unease. A distinct color palette can also be used to create a certain atmosphere within the movie. By applying these stylistic elements correctly, film-makers can create a sense of dread and intrigue, leaving the audience on the edge of their seat till the end of the movie.

Vicki Strouth is a life-long film enthusiast, having grown up watching classic cinema in her childhood. She has since gone on to pursue writing about films and movie news, with her work being published on various online platforms. She is passionate about supporting independent filmmakers and highlighting important stories from around the world. She has also written a successful book about classic movies from Hollywood's Golden Age era. Vicki currently lives in Seattle, where she continues to explore films of all genres and eras.

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