This weekend sees the release of The Snowman, a whodunit thriller based on Joe Nesbo’s best-selling novel of the same name. The flick is directed by Swedish filmmaker Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In, Tinker Tailor Solider Spy) and stars Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, J.K. Simmons, and Val Kilmer. With so much notable talent involved, one can’t help but get excited.

Unfortunately, The Snowman is getting murdered by critics and Alfredson has  recently gone on record as saying that the production was rushed and that he wasn’t able to shoot all the footage he needed to tell the story.

In lieu of this sad revelation, I’ve stitched together a list of some of the best movies the murder mystery genre has to offer as alternative viewing options. Save your hard-earned money and actually enjoy yourself with one (or all) of these unique whodunit flicks:

5.) Blood and Black Lace (1964)


Director: Mario Bava

What’s it about?

A mysterious masked killer brutally picks off fashion models at a Roman beauty pageant one by one.

What makes it unique?

Though lite on story, Blood and Black Lace seduces viewers with dazzling, dreamlike aesthetics and its mysterious murderer dispatches his victims in shocking, blood-soaked fashion (especially for its time). Italian filmmaker Mario Bava (A Bay of Blood, Black Sunday) trained as a painter before transitioning into filmmaking and it shows. Each frame is a canvas gushing with eye-popping colors and contrasting deep shadows with intimately detailed wardrobes and backdrops. It also features one of cinema’s first masked serial killers.

4.) The Ghost Writer (2010)


Director: Roman Polanski

What’s it about?

A ghost writer is hired to complete the memoirs of a former British Prime minister. It seems like the gig of a lifetime until he begins to uncover evidence that suggest his late predecessor knew some dangerous secrets.

What makes it unique?

Out of any other film on this list, The Ghost Writer probably best fits the mold when it comes to what you expect from a political murder mystery. It’s polished, perplexing, dark, sexy, scandalous, and tense. What makes this film unique is how tightly all those expectations are serviced by the overall narrative in conjunction with a strong leading performance by Ewan McGregor.

3.) Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)


Director: Shane Black

What’s it about?

After a botched robbery, a thief mistakenly cons his way into the lead role in an upcoming film. Producers fly him to set in L.A. where he meets up with a private eye and gets tangled up in a murder case.

What makes it unique?

Writer/Director Shane Black (The Nice Guys, Iron Man 3) is a filmmaker with a singular vision. He packs this neo-noir satire with his signature wit and humor without ever losing sight of what makes his characters feel real. Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer are electric together on screen and both tastefully tow the line between drama and comedy. In short: this quirky film is a personality that you should associate yourself with. You’ll be happy you did.

2.) Source Code (2011)


Director: Duncan Jones (Fun fact: Jones is the son of David Bowie)

What’s it about?

A soldier wakes up in the body of another man and discovers he is part of an experimental government program which allows him to continually relive the same 8 minutes prior to the explosion of a commuter train. His task: hunt down the bomber and save the lives of everybody on board.

What makes it unique?

With such a convoluted, repetitive premise, Source Code is a film that just shouldn’t work, yet does. A lot of that credit goes to Jones, who perfectly mixes heady sci-fi with heartwarming romance. You don’t mind the familiar Groundhog Day shtick of the whole thing because Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Monaghan are so irresistibly charming together. They make each encounter feel new. Plus Jones has a steady handle on the pacing of his action sequences when it comes time for the film to kick into high gear, so you’re never too caught up in the mind-bending minutia of it all.

1.) Mother (2010)


Director: Bong Joon-ho

What’s it about?

A desperate mother tries to exonerate her mentally handicapped son of murder by hunting down the killer who framed him for the grizzly slaying of a young girl.

What makes it unique?

Writer/director Bong Joon-ho (Snowpiercer, The Host, Okja) has perfected the balance of humor and heart palpitating tension. Mother doesn’t shy away from the darker, more brutal elements of its story, but it’s also not overbearingly serious. Also, the performances are outstanding. In particular,  Hye-ja Kim wrecks it as the titular Mother, giving such a varied performance.

Did you see The Snowman? If so, did you regret not checking out one of these flicks instead? What murder mysteries would you include on your list? Let me know in the comments below!


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