Drama

The Best Cerebral Crime Movies, Ranked 

Ranker Film
Updated December 29, 2019 1.2k votes 171 voters 6.2k views 57 items

List Rules Vote up your favorite crime movies that take a little brainpower to fully enjoy.

This list contains information on the best cerebral crime movies, ranked from best to worst by user votes. The best cerebral crime films come in many forms. Some smart crime movies are about solving a mystery while other good cerebral crime films feature deadly surprises at every turn. A few of the best cerebral crime films even took home Academy Awards.

What films will you find on this top smart crime movies list? Zodiac has to be at the top. This 2007 David Fincher film examines the real-life story of the Zodiac Killer from the perspective of the journalists and police officers who were trying to catch him. Haunting and menacing in its production, Zodiac patiently details the madness induced by tracking a serial killer. Fight Club – also by Fincher – is another great cerebral crime movie.

Irreversible is completely unique in its story-telling as it reveals the moments before and after a brutal crime occurs in reverse order. Other top films featured on this best cerebral crime movies list include Seven, The Usual Suspects, and Minority Report.

Which cerebral crime movie do you think deserves the top spot on this list? Give your favorites a thumbs up and please add any good features we may have missed.

list ordered by
1
The Silence of the Lambs... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Cerebral Crime Movies, Ranked
Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Chris Isaak

Released: 1991

Directed by: Jonathan Demme

The Silence of the Lambs is a 1991 American thriller film that blends elements of the crime and horror genres. Directed by Jonathan Demme and starring Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, and Scott ...more

More The Silence of the Lambs 

#1 of 254 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time You've Been Watching Silence Of The Lambs Wrong For Years: It's A Comedylisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

2
Seven is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Cerebral Crime Movies, Ranked
Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow, Morgan Freeman

Released: 1995

Directed by: David Fincher

Seven is a 1995 American psychological thriller film directed by David Fincher. The film stars Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, with Gwyneth Paltrow, R. Lee Ermey, John C. McGinley, and Kevin ...more

More Seven 

#107 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #17 of 157 The Best Movies You Never Want to Watch Again

3
Fight Club is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Cerebral Crime Movies, Ranked
Brad Pitt, Jared Leto, Helena Bonham Carter

Released: 1999

Directed by: David Fincher

Fight Club is a 1999 film based on the 1996 novel of the same name by Chuck Palahniuk. The film was directed by David Fincher, and stars Brad Pitt, Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter. Norton ...more

More Fight Club 

#8 of 254 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #24 of 351 The Best Movies Based On Books 'Fight Club' Fan Theories That Just Might Be True

4
No Country for Old Men ... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Cerebral Crime Movies, Ranked
Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones, Woody Harrelson

Released: 2007

Directed by: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

No Country for Old Men is a 2007 American neo-western neo-noir thriller film directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy. Mayhem ensue after a hunter (Josh Brolin) ...more

More No Country for Old Men 

#17 of 254 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #50 of 157 The Best Movies You Never Want to Watch Againlisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

5
American History X is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Cerebral Crime Movies, Ranked
Edward Norton, Edward Furlong, Beverly DAngelo

Released: 1998

Directed by: Tony Kaye

American History X is a 1998 American drama film directed by Tony Kaye and written by David McKenna. It stars Edward Norton and Edward Furlong, and co-stars Fairuza Balk, Stacy Keach, Elliott ...more

More American History X 

#206 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #216 of 460 The Most Quotable Movies of All Time

6
The Departed is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Cerebral Crime Movies, Ranked
Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Alec Baldwin

Released: 2006

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

The Departed is a 2006 American crime drama film directed by Martin Scorsese, and a remake of the 2002 Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs. Irish Mob boss Francis "Frank" Costello (Jack ...more

More The Departed 

#380 of 599 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Made All The Evidence Matt Damon's Character In The Departed Is Secretly Gaylisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

7
The Usual Suspects is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Cerebral Crime Movies, Ranked
Kevin Spacey, Benicio del Toro, Gabriel Byrne

Released: 1994

Directed by: Bryan Singer

The Usual Suspects is a 1995 German-American neo-noir crime thriller film directed by Bryan Singer and written by Christopher McQuarrie. It stars Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Benicio del ...more

More The Usual Suspects 

#9 of 254 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #124 of 599 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Madelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

8
Memento is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Cerebral Crime Movies, Ranked
Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano

Released: 2000

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Memento is a 2000 American neo-noir psychological thriller film directed by Christopher Nolan. The screenplay was written by Nolan based on his younger brother Jonathan Nolan's short story ...more

More Memento 

#7 of 254 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #62 of 157 The Best Movies You Never Want to Watch Again #179 of 599 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Made

9
Gone Girl is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Cerebral Crime Movies, Ranked
Ben Affleck, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry

Released: 2014

Directed by: David Fincher

Gone Girl is a 2014 American psychological thriller film directed by David Fincher and adapted by Gillian Flynn from her 2012 novel of the same name. It stars Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. Set ...more

More Gone Girl 

#16 of 254 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #3 of 33 25+ Great Movies About Depressing Couples #12 of 15 Bartenders In Movies, Ranked By Whether You'd Want Them To Pour You Another One

10
A Clockwork Orange is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Cerebral Crime Movies, Ranked
Malcolm McDowell, Warren Clarke, Steven Berkoff

Released: 1971

Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

A Clockwork Orange is a 1971 dystopian crime film adapted, produced, and directed by Stanley Kubrick, based on Anthony Burgess's 1962 novella A Clockwork Orange. It employs disturbing, violent ...more

More A Clockwork Orange 

#50 of 351 The Best Movies Based On Books #329 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies Kubrick And Codpieces: Behind The Scenes Of 'A Clockwork Orange'

11
Mystic River is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Cerebral Crime Movies, Ranked
Emmy Rossum, Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon

Released: 2003

Directed by: Clint Eastwood

Mystic River is a 2003 American mystery drama film directed and scored by Clint Eastwood. It stars Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden, and Laura Linney. ...more

More Mystic River 

#25 of 254 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #144 of 243 Critically Acclaimed Movies That Kinda Sucklisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

12
Rear Window is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Cerebral Crime Movies, Ranked
Grace Kelly, James Stewart, Alfred Hitchcock

Released: 1954

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

Rear Window is a 1954 American mystery thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and written by John Michael Hayes based on Cornell Woolrich's 1942 short story. Originally released by Paramount ...more

More Rear Window 

#279 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #367 of 803 The Greatest Chick Flicks Ever Made

13
American Psycho is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Cerebral Crime Movies, Ranked
Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe, Jared Leto

Released: 2000

Directed by: Mary Harron

American Psycho is a 2000 American neo-noir satirical psychological horror film directed by Mary Harron, based on the 1991 novel by Bret Easton Ellis. Wealthy New York City investment banking ...more

More American Psycho 

#13 of 254 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #516 of 1,009 The All-Time Greatest Comedy Films

14
Zodiac is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Cerebral Crime Movies, Ranked
Robert Downey Jr., Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo

Released: 2007

Directed by: David Fincher

Zodiac is a 2007 American mystery-thriller film directed by David Fincher and based on Robert Graysmith's non-fiction book of the same name. Zodiac tells the story of the manhunt for a person ...more

More Zodiac 

#125 of 710 The Best Movies Roger Ebert Gave Four Stars #34 of 236 The Best Movies Based on True Stories

15
Split is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Cerebral Crime Movies, Ranked
James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley

Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan

Split is a 2016 American psychological horror thriller film directed and written by M. Night Shyamalan. After a wholesome teen birthday party, three girls are taken in broad daylight: friends ...more

More Split 

#148 of 184 The Best Superhero Movies Ever Made #3 of 75 The Best Blumhouse Productions Movies

16
Primal Fear is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Cerebral Crime Movies, Ranked
Edward Norton, Richard Gere, Laura Linney

Released: 1996

Directed by: Gregory Hoblit

Primal Fear is a 1996 American neo-noir thriller film, based on William Diehl's 1993 novel of the same name and directed by Gregory Hoblit. The film tells the story of Chicago defense attorney ...more

More Primal Fear 

#5 of 24 The Best Movies with Twist Endings #22 of 59 The Best Movies Where the Bad Guy Wins

17
L.A. Confidential is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Cerebral Crime Movies, Ranked
Siersha 2 added Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Kim Basinger

Released: 1997

Directed by: Curtis Hanson

L.A. Confidential is a 1997 neo-noir film based on James Ellroy's 1990 novel of the same title, the third book in his L.A. Quartet series. Like the book, the film tells the story of a group of ...more

More L.A. Confidential 

#150 of 265 The Best Ensemble Movies #67 of 710 The Best Movies Roger Ebert Gave Four Starslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

18
Touch of Evil is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Cerebral Crime Movies, Ranked
Siersha 2 added Charlton Heston, Orson Welles, Marlene Dietrich

Released: 1958

Directed by: Orson Welles

Touch of Evil is a 1958 American thriller film, written, directed by, and co-starring Orson Welles. The screenplay was loosely based on the novel Badge of Evil by Whit Masterson. Along with ...more

More Touch of Evil 

#976 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #18 of 36 The Greatest Classic Noir Movies, Ranked

19
Gone Baby Gone is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Cerebral Crime Movies, Ranked
Morgan Freeman, Michelle Monaghan, Ed Harris

Released: 2007

Directed by: Ben Affleck

Gone Baby Gone is a 2007 American neo-noir mystery film directed by Ben Affleck and starring his brother Casey Affleck. The screenplay by Ben Affleck and Aaron Stockard is based on the novel of ...more

More Gone Baby Gone 

#75 of 254 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #20 of 24 The Best Movies with Twist Endings

20
Frailty is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Cerebral Crime Movies, Ranked
Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Powers Boothe

Released: 2001

Directed by: Bill Paxton

Frailty is a 2002 psychological thriller film, directed by and starring Bill Paxton, and co-starring Matthew McConaughey. It marks Paxton's directorial debut. The plot focuses on the strange ...more

More Frailty 

#373 of 624 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies #873 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies

21
City of God is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Cerebral Crime Movies, Ranked
Siersha 2 added Alice Braga, Seu Jorge, Matheus Nachtergaele

Released: 2002

Directed by: Fernando Meirelles

City of God is a 2002 Brazilian crime drama film directed by Fernando Meirelles and co-directed by Kátia Lund, released in its home country in 2002 and worldwide in 2003. The story was ...more

More City of God 

#97 of 722 The Best Black Movies Ever Made, Ranked #3 of 136 The Greatest Movies in World Cinema History

22
The Girl with the Dragon... is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Cerebral Crime Movies, Ranked
Noomi Rapace, Marika Lagercrantz, Lena Endre

Released: 2009

Directed by: Niels Arden Oplev

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a 2009 Swedish drama thriller film based on the novel of the same name by Swedish author/journalist Stieg Larsson. It is the first book in the trilogy known as ...more
23
Prisoners is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Cerebral Crime Movies, Ranked
Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Maria Bello

Released: 2013

Directed by: Denis Villeneuve

Prisoners is a 2013 American drama thriller film directed by Denis Villeneuve. Two young girls in Pennsylvania are kidnapped and the father of one of the girls, Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman), must ...more

More Prisoners 

#665 of 799 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #67 of 157 The Best Movies You Never Want to Watch Again

24
BlacKkKlansman is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Cerebral Crime Movies, Ranked
Siersha 2 added John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier

Released: 2018

Directed by: Spike Lee

BlacKkKlansman is a 2018 American crime drama film directed by Spike Lee, based on the book by Ron Stallworth. An African American detective (John David Washington) in Colorado Springs, Colorado ...more

More BlacKkKlansman 

#29 of 105 The Best New Comedy Movies of the Last Few Years How A Black Cop Actually Infiltrated The KKK In The '70s, According To Ron Stallworth Himselflisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

25
Minority Report is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Cerebral Crime Movies, Ranked
Cameron Diaz, Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell

Released: 2002

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Minority Report is a 2002 American neo-noir science fiction mystery-thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg and loosely based on the short story of the same name by Philip K. Dick. It is set ...more

More Minority Report 

#11 of 33 The Best Steven Spielberg Movies #107 of 710 The Best Movies Roger Ebert Gave Four Stars Every Warning Sci-Fi Writer Philip K. Dick Gave Us About Technology That Is Coming True