Have you ever watched an ensemble movie where its emotional currency was made by leveraging clever character deceits into major plot points? Well, here are a number of memorable examples for your ranking pleasure. These are ensemble movies - mostly comedies and/or mysteries, oftentimes espionage or con artist adventures - in which allegiances shift as characters discover they may not have as clear a grasp on who exactly their friends and enemies are as they had hoped.
Almost everyone in these movies could be a villain or a hero, and every single movie features a variety of double-crosses (and, in the case of the only Best Picture Oscar-winner represented, one triple-cross that's revealed in a throwaway line and surprisingly never really explored).
Rank the movies you most (and least) trust to leave you wanting more!
- 1231 VOTESPhoto: Paramount Pictures
Board game adaptations have no right to be this good, but here we are. In the brilliant mystery/comedy Clue, six strangers are blackmailed into attending a mysterious dinner at a New England mansion, supposedly to be feted by their blackmailer, Mr. Body. Each character is given an alias (and thus we get the names from the game), to preserve their identities, although we figure out who everyone is, more or less, eventually.
As the various staff members around the mansion (as well as certain visitors throughout the night) begin to be bumped off, the characters begin to discover that a lot of them actually are much more connected than they initially suspected, and soon everyone could be the killer.
And everyone is right to be suspicious.
The fun thing about Clue is... it has three endings! Almost all our key characters get to be a killer at one point or another.
- 2234 VOTESPhoto: Miramax
Quentin Tarantino, a maestro of underworld narratives, naturally occupies plenty of territory when it comes to this kind of story. His feature directorial debut, Reservoir Dogs, supplies an intriguing, time-jumping take on the moments preceding and following a botched bank robbery, as the crew (and the audience) slowly realizes there was a traitor in their anonymous midst. Most of the crooks knew the father-son duo who hired them - "Nice Guy" Eddie Cabot (Chris Penn) and his father Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney) - before, from separate jobs, but in the interest of preserving everyone's identity, they have been assigned random names with a color theme. The guy nicknamed "Mr. Pink" (Steve Buscemi) is none too happy about this.
Allegiances form and are broken. A hostage has been taken by Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen), and is tormented quite tunefully, though most of the other surviving thieves loathe his methods. Many of the survivors off each other as their plans fall apart and people's loyalties are challenged.
We indeed discover the cop among them, and realize the lengths he went to in order to infiltrate their number. As time runs out for him in more ways than one, we root for a key friendship, a bond he has formed with another thief under false pretenses - one that just might keep him alive, if he can maintain the lie.
- 3152 VOTESPhoto: Columbia Pictures
In the tricky psychological thriller Identity, where nothing is as it seems (there is an almost preposterous twist at the end so bonkers that it's actually fun, although you cannot take the movie as seriously as you might have before), 10 strangers meet in a remote motel on a dark and stormy night. There appears to be a mysterious slayer in their midst, picking them off one by one.
Among the strangers are cop-turned-limo driver Ed Dakota (John Cusack), prostitute-turned-farmer Paris Nevada (Amanda Peet), and Samuel Rhodes (Ray Liotta), an escaped con pretending to be a cop, escorting his fellow con, Maine (Jake Busey), in a clever ruse. As characters attempt to flee, they discover that they seem to be tethered to the area surrounding the motel, as if trapped in purgatory.
And in a way, they are.
Everyone soon suspects almost everyone else of being the killer, and in a way, everyone is right...
The spoiler: Everyone IS the killer - because each character is one of 10 split personalities occupying the brain of psychotic death row inmate Malcolm Rivers (Pruitt Taylor Vince). As each character knocks off the other, we hope that the one left standing numbers among the better people living in Malcolm's head - but we kind of doubt the movie will let us off the hook that readily.
- 4210 VOTESPhoto: Lionsgate
When bestselling mystery novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found with his throat cut the night after an 85th birthday soiree, ingenious private eye Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) arrives at the scene, disrupting the police investigation. The cops are convinced Harlan has taken his own life, but Benoit insightfully detects that something more sinister is afoot. Soon, everyone who attended his birthday party is a suspect, and almost no one seems entirely innocent, aside from his good-hearted nurse Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas).
We soon discover that Marta, in fact, could be responsible for Harlan's demise, having actually given him too much morphine. Harlan decided to cut his own throat and have Marta depart discreetly, as she is secretly more beloved by Harlan than any of his own children.
Eventually we realize that, though all of Harlan's covetous blood relatives (and would-be heirs) could have a motive to want him dead, only one actually plotted his demise by staging the morphine mix-up, hoping for Marta to be blamed.