RANKED! Our 20 Favorite Mystery Thriller Movies of the Last 20 Years
“I don’t know what the fuck is going on and I’m scared.” That’s essentially what a good mystery thriller is trying to get you to say. It’s the sort of movie that throws a sense of dread and a handful of twists your way; it’s exciting, confusing, and riveting. Without these types of stories, cinema would just be all sunshine, rainbows, and gratuitous horror. The past 20 years have been filled with prime examples of mysterious and thrilling flicks—here are our top 20.
Cover Photo: Miramax
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We don't think anyone has solved the mystery at the core of Annihilation yet, and that's probably the point. It's ambitious, ambiguous, and thrilling to a fault.
Ten strangers are mysteriously murdered at an isolated hotel while a convict named Malcolm Rivers awaits execution. Cue big twist that connects the two.
18. 'Gone Baby Gone'
Ben Affleck's directorial debut adapted Dennis Lehane's 1998 novel Gone, Baby, Gone. The Boston-centric film stars Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan as two private investigators searching for a young girl who has gone missing.
17. 'Minority Report'
Steven Spielberg directs Tom Cruise as he stops murders before they happen until he gets accused of a crime he has no intention of committing. There's a flaw in the system and Tom Cruise must run—per usual.
16. 'Wind River'
This poignant, deeply moving film follows an FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) and a wildlife officer (Jeremy Renner) as they investigate the death of an 18-year-old woman in Wind River, Wyoming.
15. 'Get Out'
This was a thrilling, mysterious, haunting, and horrifying directorial debut from Jordan Peele.
In the '60s and '70s, a reporter (Jake Gyllenhaal), along with a handful of other journalists and investigators, becomes obsessed with discovering the identity of the notorious Zodiac killer.
13. 'The Machinist'
This is the one where Christian Bale exhibited a startling devotion to his craft by losing a bunch of weight; but hey, it's a crucial plot point, right?
12. 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo'
Both the 2009 and 2011 adaptations of Stieg Larsson's novel of the same name are awesome, but David Fincher's 2011 film is better. They follow journalist Mikael Blomkvist and brilliant investigator Lisbeth Salander as they attempt to solve a 40-year-old disappearance.
11. 'The Bourne Identity'
In a film that spawned a franchise, a man with amnesia (Matt Damon) attempts to discover who he is. Spoiler alert: he's a super-assassin.
10. 'Mulholland Drive'
Amnesia, identity crises, and a dream-like vibe that framed the whole story, we still have no idea what actually happened in this film. Classic David Lynch.
9. 'Mystic River'
When the daughter of ex-con Jimmy Marcus (Sean Penn) is murdered, he decides to take the law into his own hands. The resulting tale is one of friendship, crime, and legacy.
8. 'Donnie Darko'
Basically, a sleepwalking teenager named Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) meets a demon rabbit named Frank who tells him the world is going to end in 28 days. Most of the film is spent wondering about the psychological state of Donnie and his world.
Hugh Jackson plays a distraught father dealing with his daughter's recent disappearance and Jake Gyllenhaal plays the lead detective tasked with finding her. Complex, thrilling and disturbing, Prisoners shakes you to the core.
6. 'Black Swan'
Darren Aronofsky directs Natalie Portman in a thriller that dissects one's need for validation. It’s beautiful and poetic and visceral. The film’s finale will leave you scratching your head with goosebumps on your arm.
5. 'Shutter Island'
Throw Leonardo DiCaprio in a Scorsese film and you know it’s going to be good. The dynamic duo tells us the story of U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and his partner (Mark Ruffalo) as they investigate mysterious and terrible things occurring at the remote Ashecliffe Hospital.
4. 'Gone Girl'
Nick Dunne’s (Ben Affleck) wife goes missing and he’s the prime suspect. Before this, he and his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) appeared to be the perfect couple; however, looks can be deceiving. Spoiler alert: she's straight-up crazy.
3. 'Oldboy' (The Original)
A drunk is abducted and thrown in an isolated cell for 15 years with only a TV to keep him company. He is rendered unconscious whenever another person must enter his cell. When he is suddenly released, he must track down the people responsible for his imprisonment and find out “what the fuck is going on.”
2. 'No Country for Old Men'
This Coen brothers masterpiece (based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy) follows a hunter (Josh Brolin) who stumbles upon the aftermath of a drug deal gone South. He takes the money he finds in the mess and hits the road; on his tail are a psychotic hit man (Javier Bardem) and an aging sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones). Brilliant performances and poignant themes make this not-so-mysterious crime thriller worth mentioning.
Christopher Nolan's classic about a man suffering from a rare form of memory loss while simultaneously trying to solve his wife's rape and murder takes the cake. It's the beginning of Nolan's epic, mysterious, and thrilling cinematic trajectory.