Rian Johnson had just written and directed Star Wars: The Last Jedi when he shifted his attentions to one of the most enduringly popular genres on the planet: the murder mystery.
With Knives Out, Johnson put his unique spin on the whodunits Agatha Christie had turned into an artform in the 20th Century. Yes, the tropes were familiar – the bickering family members, the many and varied motives, the unexpected plot twists – but he also added his own brand of humor to proceedings. Most importantly, he created a truly memorable detective to get to the bottom of the case in the form of Daniel Craig’s wonderfully eccentric Benoit Blanc. It was such a successful formula that a follow-up was inevitable.
Hotly anticipated sequel Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is due to land on Netflix on December 23 (after a brief run in theaters starting November 23). But, just in case you can’t wait that long, we’ve assembled a list of seven movies that come close to emulating Knives Out’s fun mystery vibe. The films below are a mix of period drama, film noir, and reinventions of classic genres, but they do have one thing in common – all of them contain murder and in some shape or form. We suspect foul play!
Years before he traveled through time in Looper and visited a galaxy far, far away in The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson made his movie debut with this 2005 murder mystery.
Just as Knives Out riffs on Agatha Christie-style whodunits, Brick is a high-school homage to the hard-boiled detective fiction of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a teen investigating the murder of his ex-girlfriend, negotiating film noir staples such as femmes fatales and labyrinthine plotlines as he tries to solve the case. The result is a smart, twisty crime drama with its very own lexicon of cool teen slang. Stream it now on Starz in the US.
Battleship wasn’t the first movie inspired by a board game. Dice-driven whodunit Clue (known as Cluedo in the UK) got an unlikely big-screen outing back in 1985, and it shares more DNA with Knives Out than any other film on this list.
In this comedic spin on murder mystery tropes, six strangers with color-coded names (and a penchant for candlesticks, daggers, and lead pipes) arrive at a sinister mansion where murder is afoot.
Tim Curry steals the show as resident butler Wadworth, and his performance helps the film achieve levels of cultishness to rival his own Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’s also worth noting that the movie was released in various theaters with one of three alternative endings, just to prolong the mystery that little bit longer. Even better, it's available to rent and/or buy on various platforms.
Netflix found another star vehicle for Millie Bobby Brown – star of Stranger Things and who'll be back for Stranger Things season 5 soon – with this entertaining Victorian-era adventure.
Of course, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle never wrote about Sherlock Holmes’ genius younger sister Enola, so it’s no surprise that the cases here (involving a wayward young aristocrat and Enola’s missing mum) aren’t quite up there with the World’s Greatest Detective’s most memorable outings. Even so, the film hits all the right action beats, with Brown having plenty of fun as the fourth-wall-breaking teen sleuth.
A sequel, creatively titled Enola Holmes 2, is also available on Netflix. If you fancy another non-canon trip into Holmes family history, it’s worth hunting down the Steven Spielberg-produced Young Sherlock Holmes.
Ever since their 1984 debut Blood Simple, Joel and Ethan Coen have been telling stories of criminals who find themselves way out of their depth. This Oscar-winning drama is the movie that made the world sit up and take notice of their unique talents, a darkly comedic tale of kidnaps, double-crosses, and awe-inspiring ineptitude.
Frances McDormand is the standout as the super-smart, heavily pregnant chief of police Marge Gunderson, but the entire ensemble makes the most of the Coens’ twisty plot and wonderfully idiosyncratic dialogue.
Four seasons of Noah Hawley’s brilliant TV spin-off (set in the same chilly continuity) are available to stream on Hulu in the US and Prime Video in the UK. Watch it now on the digital platform of your choice.
Julian Fellowes had a test run for his upstairs/downstairs smash hit Downtown Abbey, when he wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for this tale of murder on a country estate. Stephen Fry’s comedically inept Inspector Thompson is unlikely to win a place on any “world’s greatest detective” lists, but that’s kind of the point in a whodunit where who did it isn’t all that important.
Instead – and perhaps this isn’t surprising given Fellowes’ subsequent career trajectory – the mystery plays second fiddle to the script’s exploration of the British class system. It’s a theme the movie’s legendary American director Robert Altman (M*A*S*H, The Player) embraced to the max. Stream it now on Disney Plus.
Murder on the Orient Express
Rian Johnson assembled a stellar ensemble cast for Knives Out, but not even Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, and company could compete with the all-out star power of Murder on the Orient Express.
Taking the likes of Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench, and Willem Dafoe along for the ride, director-star Kenneth Branagh brought plenty of ’30s style to his otherwise by-the-numbers retelling of Agatha Christie’s classic mystery.
The most memorable thing about the movie is arguably Branagh’s impressive/ridiculous (delete as appropriate) Hercule Poirot facial hair, though his take on the legendary Belgian detective is no match for David Suchet’s definitive turn in the long-running Poirot TV series.
Like Murder, Branagh’s subsequent adaptation of Death on the Nile is also available on Disney Plus.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
While its technical prowess tends to grab the headlines, Robert Zemeckis’s live-action/animation crossover is a brilliant detective story in its own right – albeit one with an accident-prone cartoon rabbit at its heart.
With a murder set against a backdrop of sinister property developers in old-school Hollywood, the plot is straight out of Chinatown, while Londoner Bob Hoskins proves himself to be one of cinema's great American PIs. The fact that Who Framed Roger Rabbit (the missing question mark is not a typo) also features Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, and pretty much every other classic ’toon you can think of is just the icing on the cake. Like many of the above, it's available to stream on Disney Plus.
For more Knives out and/or Netflix-based content, check out the best Netflix movies around. Alternatively, read up on every new Netflix movie coming out in 2022, or check out the first teaser for Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.
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Richard is a freelance journalist specialising in movies and TV, primarily of the sci-fi and fantasy variety. An early encounter with a certain galaxy far, far away started a lifelong love affair with outer space, and these days Richard's happiest geeking out about Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel and other long-running pop culture franchises. In a previous life he was editor of legendary sci-fi magazine SFX, where he got to interview many of the biggest names in the business – though he'll always have a soft spot for Jeff Goldblum who (somewhat bizarrely) thought Richard's name was Winter.