10 best puzzle movies, according to AFI

the Institute of American Cinema published numerous Top 10 lists in 2008 for various categories of films, including for the mystery genre. As you would expect from such a prestigious organization, most of these films are classics, with some only dating back decades. Many of them have been preserved by the Library of Congress because of their cultural, historical, and aesthetic significance, and their scripts have been rated as the best of all time by the Writers Guild of America.

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Mysteries like Blue velvet and Rear window have had an impact on viewers, box office numbers and the film industry, but which are so exceptional that AFI considers them the best of the best?

ten The Usual Suspects (1995)


Suspects are among the usual suspects

The usual suspects is a neo-noir single survivor thriller that chronicles the events leading up to a gruesome shootout, which began when five criminals met in a seemingly random police training. Debuted at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival, the film had a limited theatrical release, using word of mouth advertising.

A hit, the film received praise for being expertly shot and edited, as well as starting out with a simple plot before stacking up on layers. Writer Christopher McQuarrie won an Oscar for Best Screenplay and Kevin Spacey won the award for Best Supporting Actor. The usual suspects has many memorable quotes which makes it a favorite among mystery fans.

9 Dial M for Murder (1954)


Grace Kelly in Dial M for Murder

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Dial M for murder focuses on a former tennis player trying to organize the murder of his wife after learning of his affair. The film stars Grace Kelly in what is considered one of her best performances. Based on a play by Frederick Knott, the film grossed $ 2.7 million at the box office and received generally positive reviews from critics.

A New York Times Critic calls the film a technical triumph starring good actors, adding that Hitchcock presented the material in a remarkable way. It holds a Certified Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where it is considered a sophisticated and scary thriller. Also considered a classic stage thriller, it has been adapted several times, the film was remade in 1998 as A perfect murder, and it has been referenced in several media books.


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8 Blue velvet (1986)


Excerpt from the movie Blue Velvet.

David Lynch mixes psychological horror and film noir with Blue velvet. The discovery of a severed human ear found in a field leads a young man in an investigation linked to a beautiful and mysterious nightclub singer, and a group of psychotic criminals who have kidnapped his child. It received a divided response initially, with many finding its content objectionable.

Lynch was then nominated for an Oscar for Best Director and the film achieved cult status. The film has received many different interpretations, exploring themes of the femme fatale and the seemingly unstoppable villain. It has been described as dark and eerie by many publications due to its dreamlike quality. Many have rated it as one of the greatest American films ever made and it is widely regarded as one of Lynch’s best films.


seven North by Northwest (1959)


Another characteristic of Hitchcock, from north to north-west tells the story of a New York City publicist who runs away after being mistaken for a government agent by a group of foreign spies and falls in love with a woman whose loyalty he begins to doubt. It was the third MGM film to be shot in VistaVision, a higher resolution of the widescreen format.

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from north to north-west opened at Radio City Music Hall, becoming the number one film at the U.S. box office, and stayed at Music Hall for seven weeks, according to a Variety article. Critics call it captivating, suspenseful, and visually iconic. A three-time Oscar nominee, it’s often listed as one of the greatest movies of all time as well as one of the best classic spy movies, thanks to Hitchcock. The film was an influence on the James Bond franchise and inspired the name of the annual South by Southwest music festival.


6 The Maltese Falcon (1941)


John Huston made his directorial debut with The Maltese Falcon, based on the Dashiell Hammett novel, and the 1931 film of the same name. Humphrey Bogart plays San Francisco detective Sam Spade, who takes on an affair that involves him with three eccentric criminals, a handsome liar, and their quest for a priceless statuette, with the stakes rising after the murder of his partner.

The film was to critical acclaim, with Variety Calling it an intriguing and entertaining murder mystery, demonstrating excellence in writing, directing, acting and editing. The film holds a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics calling it suspenseful and brilliantly cast, and one of the most influential blacks.


5 The Third Man (1950)


orson-welles-the-third-man

The third man is a British film noir that follows novelist Holly Martins as she travels to gloomy post-war Vienna, only to find himself investigated in the death of an old friend, Harry Lime. It was the most popular film at the UK box office and it premiered in the US to an overwhelmingly positive reception.

Critics call it an atmospheric thriller, one of the undisputed masterpieces of cinema with iconic performances. The film has a large fan base and a legacy, with the character of Harry Lime receiving a prequel TV series and a British radio show. There is also a private museum called the Third Man Museum in Vienna’s 4th district, where fans can view original collections based on the film.


4 Laura (1944)


Gene Tierney in Laura

Based on the detective novel of the same name by Vera Caspary, this film tells the story of a police detective who falls in love with the memory of the woman whose murder he is investigating. It was nominated for five Oscars, winning the award for best black and white photography.

Laura was adapted into a radio play, presented on three different programs. There were also two TV adaptations and a Bollywood remake in 2005. Considered one of the most famous black films of the 1940s, it is described as a psychological portrayal of obsession and a well-crafted murder mystery.




3 Rear window (1954)


With Grace Kelly, Rear window is about a photographer in a wheelchair who spies on his neighbors from the window of his apartment in the courtyard of Greenwich Village. Despite his girlfriend’s skepticism, he becomes convinced that one of them has committed a murder. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, it was written by John Michael Hayes, based on the short story “It Had to Be Murder” by Cornell Woolrich.

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The film has been analyzed for its underlying themes, including voyeurism. It was redone in 1998, and a modern narrative, Disturbance, was released in 2007. Rear window was a box office success, with critics calling it tense and exciting, and the most densely allegorical of Hitchcock films.


2 Chinatown (1974)


Jack Nicholson in Chinatown

This neo-noir mystery directed by Roman Polanski stars Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway. Chinese district follows a police detective hired to expose adultery in 1930s Los Angeles, who finds himself caught up in a network of deception, corruption and murder. According to Money projections, the film was inspired by the water wars in California.

The film was nominated for eleven Oscars, winning the award for Best Original Screenplay and winning four Golden Globes. Chinese district is Polanski’s last film in America and presents a multi-level story that is part mystery and part psychological drama. According to Hollywood interview, Robert Townsend’s screenplay has become legendary among critics and filmmakers, often cited as one of the best examples in the business.


1 Vertigo (1958)


A floating head during a dream in Vertigo

The fourth Hitchcock movie on this list, fear of heights, is based on the French novel From the dead. The film follows a former San Francisco Police detective as he juggles his personal demons and becomes obsessed with the hauntingly beautiful woman he has been hired to follow, who can be deeply disturbed.

fear of heights open to mixed reviews, but is now considered a classic Hitchcock film and one of the defining works of his career. It explores the themes of psychological obsession and male aggression. Critics call it an unpredictable and scary thriller, praising its style and atmosphere. According to the British Film Institute, it replaced Citizen Kane like the greatest movie ever made.

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