The Usual Suspects is perhaps one of the greatest noir films ever made. From its sleek and unrelenting visual style to its eerie music and its unapologetically unreliable narrator, “The Usual Suspects” is a movie that sticks with us long after we have finished watching it. The ending twist, now famous as one of the greatest twists in cinema history, is a stroke of writing genius. Here is a list of ten movies similar to The Usual Suspects that our recommendations and have in one way or another, have recreated the same atmosphere of tension and suspense. You can watch several of these movies like The Usual Suspects on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.
12. The Conversation (1974)
Directed by the legendary director Francis Ford Coppola himself and starring Gene Hackman, “The Conversation” is one of the tensest and neurotic movies of that decade. It stars Gene Hackman as Henry Caul, a paranoid surveillance expert who has the crisis of faith after he suspects that the couple he has been spying on might be murdered. The movie makes you feel the restlessness and paranoia of a man with severe trust issues. His loneliness and uneasiness are brilliantly showcased in the film through the slow and eerie atmosphere which slowly unravels to reveal the shady truth. It is a brilliant character study which highlights the troubled state of the mind of the protagonist and the ending scene will haunt you long after the movie is over.
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11. Chinatown (1974)
This Roman Polanski directed thriller follows Jake Gittes, portrayed by Jack Nicholson, as he gets caught up in a web of conspiracies and corruption when he takes on a seemingly simple job. The film is set up many traits of film noir genre. The execution of the plot is handled masterfully as the audience puts together the pieces of the puzzle along with the protagonist. The story provides many twists and turns to keep the viewers engrossed and with a sterling performance from Nicholson, the film is a must watch for any fan of the noir genre.
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10. Blow Out (1981)
The list wouldn’t be complete without an entry from Brian De Palma. Starring John Travolta as a sound effects technician who accidentally records audio evidence of an assassination, the film has now achieved cult status. The characters, initially naïve go on a dark path which makes the audience increasingly uneasy yet somehow even more interested. Being a Brian De Palma film, you can find all of his psychological tension and paranoia deeply rooted in the film. Often overlooked, this movie is definitely worth viewing.
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9. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
The debut film of the mastermind director Quentin Tarantino, the film follows a group of bank robbers who regroup at a shelter after a heist gone terribly wrong. Quentin Tarantino himself described the movie as a study of paranoia. The movie brilliantly captures all of Tarantino’s trademark tropes including his dark humor, his violence, and all the pop culture references. The movie is a unique as it follows a highly non-linear story structure but reaches a cohesive conclusion. Much like The Usual Suspects, the film also features shifting allegiances and several twists and turns.
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8. Se7en (1995)
Directed by David Fincher and starring Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt as two killers in pursuit of a serial killer who seems to choose his targets based on the Seven Deadly sins; the movie starts off as another procedural but indeed is vastly different. The standing points of this movie are the performances by Freeman and Pitt. Both have starkly contrasting personalities. Freeman is a rugged, tired, seen it all cop who is on the brink of retirement when this case is thrown in his lap. Pitt is the hotshot young detective with a bright career ahead of him who desperately seeks to gain respect and recognition. Throw in David Fincher’s brilliant direction and we have ourselves an explicitly dark and engrossing masterpiece. The final act of the film is where it truly stands out from any other detective movie. Unexpected and brutal in its execution, the scene must be experienced on our own.
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7. L.A.Confendential (1997)
Based on James Ellroy’s novel of the same name, the film stars Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kim Basinger and Danny DeVito. After a mysterious massacre at a diner, infamous as the “Nightingale Murders”, three detectives in 1950s Los Angeles with vastly different personas must put aside their differences to find out what truly happened. The standout of the film is its harsh depiction of 1950s cop life- the violence, the glamour and of course the shady stuff. The few books to film adaptations which might be as good if not better than the actual book itself. The film does a brilliant job of building up the tension and suspense to keep the viewers engrossed until the end.
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6. Memento (2000)
Christopher Nolan’s directorial debut was everything we’d come to expect from the director. Starring Guy Pearce as Leonard Shelby as a man suffering from anterograde amnesia who is on the hunt for the man responsible for the death of his wife and his amnesiac condition. The movie is a standout in the “unreliable narrator” genre as it follows a highly unconventional and unique approach to highlight the confusion and frustration in the mind of the protagonist. The film has two segments- the colored segments, which are moving in reverse order, and the colored segments which proceed chronologically. The two segments finally meet up at the end where the entire twist is revealed. A unique viewing experience, few movies make us think as much as Memento.
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5. The Prestige (2006)
Directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale as two magicians in the 19th century who developed a deadly rivalry. Obsessed with creating the best onstage illusion both try different methods to outsmart and humiliate the other until the results become unforgettably tragic. The sheer brilliance of the film is in its story structure and execution which continuously leaves the audience puzzled and in search of answers. The title refers to the final act in a magicians trick. The film beautifully captures the feelings of hate, guilt, jealousy, paranoia and in the end is a character study of how far can people go to infringe superiority. Though the film encompasses many traits found in the noir genre, it is not a typical noir film. Rather it is something totally unique.
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4. Shutter Island (2010)
One of the more recent entries on this list, the film stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo as two U.S. Marshalls who travel to a secluded mental asylum to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a patient. Directed by the legendary director Martin Scorsese, the film has a beautifully crafted atmosphere of suspense and fear. The great part of Shutter Island is that it works as a noir and as a horror as well, thereby creating a splendid and visually striking tone. Shutter Island is a love letter to anyone who loves the classic noir stories as well as anyone who enjoys suspenseful and chilling stories.
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3. In Bruges
‘In Bruges’ is a modern masterpiece and something that will be revered as a classic, decades from now. McDonagh’s style of using typical Irishmen against the backdrop of a grim quintessential European setting to illustrate themes of death, purgatory, sacrifice and love produces a very matured farcical story, that could very well be considered among the greatest screenplays of this century, owing to his history as a playwright.
The trio of Farrell, Gleeson and Fiennes are at the helm, with their un-criminal mien adding a delightful touch to confrontations and elevated by dialogues that can only be bettered by Monty Python, in terms of quotability. The cinematography is flawless and exhibits Bruges like a shadow looming behind the characters, a vague personification of death, which is very reminiscent of Bergman’s Seventh Seal. The ambiguity in which it leaves you, is of a very compound nature, asking you to ponder over its metaphoric reality. Sounds similar to ambiguous reality in The Usual Suspects?
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2. Gone Girl (2014)
Perhaps the one movie which most may have seen; not to include on this list will be shame nonetheless. Perhaps the best noir film in recent times, Gone Girl features David Fincher at the height of his powers. Every aspect, from his steely cold color pallet to his eerie and techno trance music are included in this film. Starring Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne as a man who becomes the prime suspect after his wife Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) mysteriously disappears. The film follows the subsequent investigation and how media can influence the general perception of the public. Bone-chilling and eerily suspenseful, Gone Girl is an engrossing experience which must not be missed.
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1. American Psycho
The first thing that flashes in most minds when they hear the name Christian Bale is ‘The Dark Knight’. However, truly, nothing comes close to Bale’s Oscar worthy performance in ‘American Psycho’. American Psycho is a very misunderstood movie, and even incessantly accused of being a quirky slasher flick. It’s a hysterical den of iniquity, honestly, but that shouldn’t deviate from the fact that it’s one of the greatest character studies ever put on the big screen. It’s a grisly satirical take on Manhattan in the 70s with a domineering emphasis on the puppy lifestyle.
The whole movie takes place through a first person p.o.v, with constant echoing voice-overs brilliantly signifying the massive space between the real Bateman and his image. Everything from the title to the most tense moments reeks of comical castigation for Patrick Bateman, a fantastic irony for his flawed search for catharsis. Bale’s wide range of emotions perfectly conveys Bateman’s fragile state and his inner struggles, which is on full-fledged display during two remarkable monologues within a span of 10 minutes. Mary Harron’s only masterpiece, ‘American Psycho’ is as confounding as ‘The Usual Suspects’
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