‘Knives Out’ is a mystery-comedy movie that presents a contemporary take on the whodunit genre. It is inspired by the works of Agatha Christie and has been warmly received for its intricate plot, engaging characters played by talented actors and amusing satire of a popular genre.
The movie follows a family whose members gather for a reunion cum birthday party of the family’s patriarch, the wealthy novelist, Harlan Thombrey. The next morning, when Thombrey is mysteriously found dead, the family members become top suspects in a murder investigation headed by a private investigator, Benoit Blanc. The character of Benoit Blanc played to perfection by Daniel Craig, has been inspired by Christie’s fictional detective, Hercule Poirot.
It was writer, director, and producer, Rian Johnson’s love for Agatha Christie that urged him to develop this project. Johnson is known for directing the 2017 Star Wars movie, ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi.’
Apart from Daniel Craig, this movie stars a bunch of exceptional A-listers including Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ana de Armas, Don Johnson, and Michael Shannon. The movie has been dubbed as a near-perfect murder mystery and is genuinely entertaining despite the outdated genre that it tries to satirize. Such a feat is rare due to the fact that both, mystery and satire are overcrowded genres and resultantly, have an extremely high bar for quality. If you enjoy whodunits and need more movies from that category that employs a lighthearted, satirical approach, you should definitely watch the following seven films. Many of them are available for streaming on Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu.
7. Black Dynamite (2009)
‘Black Dynamite’ is one laugh-out-loud flick that you should see at all costs. To begin with, it features an African-American protagonist performing skilled martial arts stunts in a comic manner that is similar to the humor of Jackie Chan’s comedy movies. Moreover, it is a quality parody of the blaxploitation genre, a kind of movie that glorifies the African-American subculture and often romanticizes the ghetto.
The movie follows a former CIA agent, Black Dynamite who is skilled in martial arts. After Black Dynamite’s brother is murdered by a shady drug-dealing organization, he decides to clean the streets and wipe out a new drug from the market himself. It is scripted by and stars Michael Jai White as the titular protagonist.
6. The Nice Guys (2016)
‘The Nice Guys’ is a neo-noir black comedy movie that stars Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe in leading roles. Apart from a suspenseful subplot, the movie mainly serves as a parody of the buddy cop genre. It follows a couple of private detectives, Healy and March.
While investigating the case of a pornographic actress who reportedly committed suicide, the detective duo discovers a conspiracy of epic proportions. The movie was lauded by critics with particular praise going towards the chemistry between Gosling and Crowe. In fact, Gosling was even compared to Nicholas Cage for his role.
5. Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993)
‘Manhattan Murder Mystery’ is a comedy-mystery movie that is directed by the veteran filmmaker, Woody Allen. He developed the idea for this 1993 movie from an early draft of his 1997 romcom, ‘Annie Hall’ that was not satisfactory. It follows a married couple, Larry and Carol Lipton living in Manhattan whose neighbor’s wife dies mysteriously.
Carol decides to investigate the murder without the support of his husband. However, when her friend starts to help her, Larry gets jealous and joins Carol in the investigation. Woody Allen acted in ‘Manhattan Murder Mystery’ as well, playing the character of Larry Lipton. Diane Keaton, who was Allen’s ex at the time played the role of Carol Lipton. The movie was praised for the lead actors’ impeccable chemistry and performance apart from its gentle, escapist tone.
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4. Game Night (2018)
‘Game Night’ is an American mystery black comedy that was released last year. It satirizes the serious tone of mystery movies in its poster itself, thanks to the words, “this is not a game.” The movie follows a group of friends who participate in a couples’ game night every week. Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams lead the cast as Max and Annie, a couple.
When Max’s brother hosts a murder mystery, the stakes get invariably raised when he gets kidnapped. As Max, Annie and their competitive couple-friends set out to solve the mystery and rescue Brooks, they discover something unknown about Brooks and the game. The movie received praise for its tight plotting that delivered genuinely shocking twists and turns and its ability to land silly humor at the same time.
3. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
A homage to neo-noir movies, ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ is a black comedy crime film that premiered in 2005. It is partially based on the novel, ‘Bodies Are Where You Find Them’ by Brett Halliday. It follows a thief who masquerades as an actor and becomes friends with a private investigator. However, his friendship leads to him getting sucked into a murder investigation in Hollywood that also draws in a struggling actress.
The movie received widespread critical acclaim and was noted for its decently sketched out characters and entertaining plot. Robert Downey Jr.’s performance was even dubbed as one of his most enjoyable ones.
2. Murder by Death (1976)
This 1976 comedy mystery is a parody of the whodunit genre and includes multiple references to popular mystery and whodunit stories. It follows five world-class detectives who are invited to a wealthy but mysterious man to play a murder mystery game with a $1 million reward for the winner. However, when the millionaire’s butler dies unexpectedly before the game can commence, the detectives and their associates are pushed into solving an actual mystery and face life-threatening danger while doing so.
The five detectives portrayed are satirical caricatures of famous, fictional detectives- providing an acclaimed allusion to the genre that the movie is a parody of. For instance, Milo Perrier and Jessica Marbles are caricatures of Agatha Christie’s characters, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple respectively. The movie was praised by critics for its smooth screenplay, background music, performances by its ensemble cast and hilariously re-watchable humor.
‘Murder by Death’ stars Peter Sellers as Inspector Sidney Wang (a caricature of Earl Derr Biggers’ Chinese detective, Charlie Chan), Maggie Smith as Dora Charleston and Truman Capote as the multi-millionaire, Lionel Twain. “By the time the world’s greatest detectives figure out whodunnit,” the movie’s poster warns, “…you could die laughing!”
1. A Shot in the Dark (1964)
If you love the pairing of comedy and mystery, you should have surely heard of Inspector Jacques Clouseau- the incompetent, absent-minded and chaotic police detective with a pronounced French accent. If not, the ‘Pink Panther’ film series is one franchise that you should get to bingeing right away.
The beloved character first appeared in the 1963 movie, ‘The Pink Panther’ in a supporting role. However, Peter Sellers’ rib-tickling performance in ‘The Pink Panther’ spurred a series of films and television series, starting with ‘A Shot in the Dark’ that focused on Jacques Clouseau. The 1964 film follows the detective as he is sent to investigate a murder whose biggest suspect is a woman named Maria Gambrelli. However, after Clouseau lets Maria free, thinking that she is innocent due to her beauty, several other people get murdered with Maria being the prime suspect in each case.
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