• Total Nerd

20 Underrated Murder Mysteries That Make Us Feel Like Master Detectives

List RulesVote up the mysteries that truly get under your skin.

Have you ever imagined yourself as a Sherlock Holmes-level detective? If so, you probably enjoy murder mysteries. The genre has been around almost since the invention of movies, and it's proven to be extremely durable. From the films noir of the '40s and '50s, to the star-studded productions of the '70s, to the more recent Knives Out, audiences have long relished the opportunity to bring out their inner Miss Marples and solve some crimes. 

If you've seen all the usual suspects (pun intended), the following underrated murder mysteries will give you some new fodder for your detective fantasies. Many of these are true hidden gems that never quite got the attention they deserved. Others were hits - or at least hits among a target audience - upon their initial release, yet didn't quite break into the mainstream. And some are simply older films that younger people may not be hip to yet. Whatever the case, they offer plenty of fun and chills as you follow the clues.

Which of these murder mysteries are the most underrated? Vote up your picks. 

  • 1
    35 VOTES

    In the late 1960s, the Zodiac Killer carried out five confirmed murders, but claimed to have killed 37 people in total. He liked to taunt law enforcement by sending them impossible-to-decipher coded messages. The slayer was never caught, and although there are various theories about his identity, no one knows for sure.

    Director David Fincher told the story of three men obsessed with the case in his 2007 drama Zodiac. Robert Downey Jr. plays reporter Paul Avery, Jake Gyllenhaal is political cartoonist Robert Graysmith, and Mark Ruffalo is police inspector Dave Toschi. They try to figure out the messages and expose the person responsible, to no avail. 

    It may seem odd to call Zodiac underrated when it was highly acclaimed and is considered one of Fincher's best films. It only made $33 million at the domestic box office, though, and a lot of people still avoid it, thinking that it will contain upsetting violence. In reality, the film is restrained in that regard, focusing far more on the psychological toll that looking for the culprit takes on the central trio than on blood and gore.


    #18 of 253 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time#727 of 1,436 The Most Rewatchable Movies#19 of 57 The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories

  • 2
    7 VOTES

    In between the Evil Dead movies and the Spider-Man movies, Sam Raimi made a first-rate murder mystery called The Gift. Cate Blanchett plays Annie Wilson, a psychic who gets caught up in the search for a missing woman named Jessica King (Katie Holmes). When she turns up dead, the prime suspect is Donnie Barksdale (Reeves), a hateful man who had an affair with her. He's arrested, but Annie's visions suggest he might not be the person police are looking for. She tries to get to the bottom of things.

    As you would expect from Raimi, The Gift is very stylish. A sense of dread is pervasive in the movie thanks to the tone he sets. You also get the pleasure of seeing Keanu Reeves in a rare bad-guy role. He knocks your socks off playing against type. Above all, using psychic visions as a plot point allows for some eerie moments guaranteed to give you a chill.  


    #501 of 781 The Greatest Chick Flicks Ever Made#57 of 93 The Best Mindf*ck Movies#8 of 15 15 Underrated Keanu Reeves Performances That Remind Us Why We Love Him

  • 3
    24 VOTES

    Fourteen years before making one of the best all-star murder mysteries of our time, Knives Out, director Rian Johnson made another effort in the genre. Brick stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Brendan, a high school student who takes it upon himself to investigate the slaying of his ex-girlfriend. The quest takes him through various social cliques in his school, while also pitting him against "the Pin" (Lukas Haas), the resident drug dealer.

    The movie is an interesting amalgamation of The Breakfast Club and the crime novels of Dashiell Hammett. That may sound like an odd combo, but it works. The characters speak in stylized dialogue right out of an old hard-boiled detective story, yet the look at issues adolescents face in high school couldn't be more contemporary. And because the film takes its concept seriously rather than playing it as a joke, it stands apart as a true original.


    #127 of 249 The Best Whodunit Movies#43 of 126 The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time#12 of 60 The Very Best New Noir Movies

  • 4
    23 VOTES

    In The Nice Guys, Ryan Gosling plays shabby detective Holland March, and Russell Crowe is Jackson Healy, a goon who beats people up for money. They join forces to find Amelia Kuttner (Margaret Qualley), an adult film actress who supposedly perished in a car accident but may actually be in hiding from some very bad dudes. They quickly discover that her career in erotic entertainment is not entirely what it seems.

    Written and directed by Shane Black, The Nice Guys benefits from hilarious chemistry between March and Healy. In fact, they have their own distinct version of the old "odd couple" chemistry perfected by the likes of Abbott and Costello. Crowe and Gosling earn huge laughs together, while Angourie Rice steals scenes as March's 13-year-old daughter, who's way better at deciphering clues than he is. 

    The murder mystery is secondary to the interactions between the characters, but that's what makes the movie endlessly enjoyable to watch. When it's over, you'll immediately want to see these people in a sequel.