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Recommendations

Action/Adventures | Comedies | Crime/Noirs | Dramas | Epics | Family Films | Holiday Films | Musicals | Suspense/Mysteries | Romances | Romantic Comedies | Tear-Jerkers | Westerns

 Suspense/Mystery Films:
In my opinion, good mystery films are not those that make you flinch or jump out of your seat all of a sudden. They are those that either keep you guessing or lure you into thinking you know what's going to happen when you really don't. Classic Hollywood was especially gifted when it came to such films, and today they just don't make 'em like they used to. Check out a few of these suspense/ mystery masterpieces.
SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943)

In my opinion, Hitchcock at his best. This film is deceptive because throughout the viewer knows what is happening. The genius is in the way Hitch make us feel powerless to help the protagonist out of her harrowing situation-- as if we'd know how even if we could. Teresa Wright in her finest performance complemented by Joseph Cotten as the villain-in-residence and a host of colorful supporting characters including Patricia Collinge, Henry Travers and Hume Cronyn. A few dated editing annoyances, but otherwise a must-see.

REBECCA (1940)

My second favorite from the master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock. Adapting Daphne de Maurier's novel to the screen was a bit rocky due to some of the content, but Hitch did a fine job given the Production Code restrictions of the time. Joan Fontaine is great as the innocent and lost Second Mrs. de Winter as are Laurence Olivier as her tormented husband and George Sanders as that cousin Favell who just keeps popping up now and then. Best of all however, is Judith Anderson who gives an absolutely stellar performance as Mrs. Danvers, the housekeeper. Find out what really happened to Rebecca and then read the book to see what her fate was in de Maurier's version. The difference is in the details.

HOUSE OF WAX (1953)

The king of 1950s horror films, Vincent Price turns in my favorite of his performances as the curator of a wax museum who has more than supplies of wax in his closet. Originally released in 3-D, I have to admit I've never had the pleasure of seeing it that way, but it's still an experience in two-dimensions.

GASLIGHT (1944)Review

Another film where you know what's going on the whole time but don't necessarily know why. Charles Boyer is obviously trying to drive Ingrid Bergman crazy by making her think she's losing her mind, but it's still chilling to watch, and you can't help but wonder where the clues to his motive have been dropped. Bergman is great and fun supporting characters Angela Lansbury and Dame May Whitty provide some nice comic relief. Only a well-made film can have the effects this one does.

THE THIRD MAN (1949)

Proof that a good mystery film doesn't always have to be accompanied by haunting organ music. This is a most unusual film-- Joseph Cotten comes to post-war Vienna looking for a friend (Orson Welles) only to discover he has mysteriously been killed in a car accident. When the details don't really add up, Cotten goes in search of the truth-- and then there's this girl (Alida Valli) whom you really don't know what to think of. It's the music that really makes this film one of a kind however. Check out what zither music can do to enhance a thriller-- a risk few filmmakers today would take.

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (1974)

A whodunit that is virtually impossible to figure out, but Albert Finney (almost unrecognizable as Hercule Poirot) manages to solve the crime and lets us in on the answer at the end so we don't feel left out. The seventies had a bit of a negative effect on some of the production aspects of this film, but the all-star cast (including Ingrid Bergman, Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, Vanessa Redgrave, and Richard Widmark) make this Agatha Christie adaptation entertaining.

Also:

  • THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR (1947)
  • I CONFESS (1953)
  • IVY (1947)
  • LIFEBOAT (1944)
  • THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1956)
  • NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959)
  • NOTORIOUS (1946)
  • OSS (1946)
  • PSYCHO (1960)
  • REAR WINDOW (1954)
  • SABOTEUR (1942)
  • STAGE FRIGHT (1950)
  • STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951)
  • SUSPICION (1941)
  • VERTIGO (1958)
  • WATCHER IN THE WOODS (1986)
  • THE WRONG MAN (1957)

Return to the Index of Recommended Films.

 

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Last updated: March 10, 2011.
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