As a cozy fan and mystery writer for kids, I do enjoy a good who-done-it film. Like my taste in books and TV, I enjoy mysteries that are less grisly, take me to intriguing settings, and play with a lighter tone. Here are some of my favorites, both new and old.
Released in 1985, Clue uses the classic board game to create a film that is part farce and part murder guessing-game. The film has stood the test of time to become a cult favorite because it's not just a send-up of the genre but creates an interesting puzzle for viewers. The charm rests in its performances--especially Tim Curry as the sly butler, Eileen Brennan (my personal favorite) as the chatty Mrs. Peacock, and Madeline Kahn as the icy Mrs.White. No matter which ending you choose (and the film has a few!), the movie is a riot.
4. Rear Window
Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 classic boasts the most extraordinary set on this list. Laid up in a stuffy downtown Manhattan apartment, Jimmy Stewart suspects that something is amiss in the building across the alley. Through his eyes, we see a diverse cast of city-dwellers--some of the living innocently and some up to no good. Hitchcock displays his famous, masterful touch at pacing, creating suspense without showing any violence on screen.
3. Man from Reno
This is the newest film to me on the list, but my first watch left a strong impression. Set in San Francisco, Dan Boyle's Man from Reno (2014) follows an excellent Ayako Fugitani as a famous mystery author from Japan who escapes to the Bay Area for some peace and quiet. While in the city, she meets the titular character and becomes captivated by an international mystery involving mistaken identities, murder, and smuggling. For movie fans who like a neo-noir thriller, Man from Reno is a keeper.
2. Mr. Holmes
Another new film, Mr. Holmes (2015) follows Sherlock through his last case as he faces retirement in the English countryside. The famous detective is brought to screen with skill by Ian McKellen, who manages to be sympathetic, charming, smart, and feeble. The central mystery in the film serves as a way for us to better understand Holmes's loneliness and fear of aging. Though fans who favor the quipping versions of Sherlock younger actors have brought to the big and small screen, I prefer the restrained approach in this movie.
1. Manhattan Murder Mystery
Of all the mystery films I have watched, I return to Woody Allen's 1993 gem, Manhattan Murder Mystery, the most. The film is especially charming for two reasons. First, Diane Keaton is magnetic as the bored housewife turned amateur sleuth who is convinced a murder has been committed in her apartment building. Allen has nice moments as her bumbling husband, but Keaton's performance drives the plot. Second, Allen knows how to film Manhattan, moving from the posh upper-east side to grittier downtown locations, accentuating the beauty and danger in both. Not to mention, the film has a sweet ending that has something to say about the possibility of reinvigorated love in a complicated world.
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