From cryptic, moody thrillers featuring doppelgangers to criminal masterminds undertaking bank heists, this list encompasses a wide range of mystery thrillers.
The crime/thriller genre continues to be a clear favourite among film aficionados and the reasons are quite simple. The genre not only incorporates familiar and recognisable tropes for the viewers but also boasts great leeway to defy or subvert their expectations. On top of that, its semantics allow writers to marry genre conventions with that of comedy, romance or drama to create & popularize newer subgenres.
The OTT space, in particular, has become highly conducive for the genre to thrive and it'd be safe to say that there is absolutely no dearth of thrillers out there. You might go down the rabbit hole and binge on countless films but there's still a great possibility that you have missed out on a few hidden gems. So, what we have done is put together a list of eight highly underrated mystery thrillers that are most definitely worth your time and money. Here we go:
The Vast of Night (2019) - Amazon Prime Video
This criminally underrated mystery film is set in the 1950s in a small and intimate town in USA's New Mexico. When high school student Fay Crocker encounters a mysterious audio signal during her late night shift at the local audio station, she quickly alerts the town's very flamboyant and charming disc jockey Everett Sloan to make sense of what's happening. The two teenagers then take on the task to decipher the audio signal and the brewing strangeness in the air and go on a life-changing expedition that spans only a single night! Andrew Patterson directs this beautiful film that is loosely based on the infamous Kecksburg UFO incident in the 1960s.
A Simple Favour (2018) - Netflix
Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick star in this deceptively taut thriller that just keeps giving. When Kendrick's goody-two-shoes vlogger mom Stephanie meets the charismatic and equally mysterious Emily on an odd day, the two end up becoming the thickest of friends with the latter, quite obviously, influencing the former with her charm. However, when Emily suddenly disappears one day, Stephanie launches her own investigation and encounters one shocker after another. Paul Feig directs the film.
Velvet Buzzsaw (2019) - Netflix
Set in the world of high art and its many vibrant facets, Dan Gilroy's Velvet Buzzsaw not only satirizes the very world it is set in but also subverts the genre conventions. When a budding art dealer/agent accidentally finds the vast artwork of a relatively unknown artist, greed takes over the main players of the game who then choose to claim fame and fortune from this discovery. However, a strange supernatural force begins to penalize them all in unimaginable ways and wreaks havoc in their lives. The cast includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, John Malkovich, Toni Collette, Zawe Ashton and several other talented names.
Inside Man (2006) - Netflix
Not many would have expected Spike Lee to take on a bank heist film but when the auteur did try his hand at it, he did not fail to spring a few pleasant surprises. Clive Owen stars as the criminal mastermind Dalton Russell who has held several innocent people as hostages in exchange for something very precious. Denzel Washington's Detective Keith Frazier must handle the negotiation tactfully, without causing much damage, but his attempts turn futile when the heist grows more and more complicated. Jodie Foster, Willem Dafoe, Christopher Plummer, and others, too, star in this superb thriller emerging from the discerning mind of Spike Lee.
Vivarium (2019) - Amazon Prime Video/MX Player
What would you do if you are suddenly forced to raise a mysterious 'human-like creature'? And let's say you are already growing suspicious of your seemingly 'perfect' neighbourhood. Lorcan Finnegan's Vivarium is a juicy, mind-bending crime thriller that baffles you at first but then gradually draws you into its cryptic maze of a world. Jesse Eisenberg does what only Jesse Eisenberg can do and he is ably supported by his on-screen partner Imogen Poots as the young married couple goes hand-in-hand to solve this bizarre puzzle.
The Stranger (2022) - Netflix
Undercover cops have a separate legion of fans to their name but Joel Edgerton's Mark Frame is forced to deal with a kind of emotional burden that very few policemen have had to. Based on the non-fiction book 'The Sting: The Undercover Operation That Caught Daniel Morcombe's Killer' by Kate Kyriacou, this Australian psychological crime thriller digs deep into a real-life child abduction case and draws a rather compelling human portrait. Sean Harris stars in the other lead role and much of the film's credibility stems from the on-screen chemistry he shares with Edgerton. A must-watch if you enjoy slow burners.
Enemy (2013) - Amazon Prime Video
When Jake Gyllenhaal's Adam Bell rents out a DVD at the recommendation of a colleague, he ends up spotting a bit player in the film who looks exactly like him. Unwilling to let go of this encounter, Adam then tracks down his doppelganger Anthony and slowly starts to live his life, unbeknownst to everyone else. However, things soon slip out of control as Anthony finds out the truth and poses a rather preposterous proposal to Adam. Canadian maestro Denis Villeneuve directs this supremely moody and alluring film that just refuses to let go of you, even when you are long done watching it.