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Mystery film


Mystery film

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The Maltese Falcon is a classic black-and-white era detective film. The Maltese Falcon is a classic black-and-white era detective film.

Mystery film is a sub-genre of the more general category of crime film. It focuses on the efforts of the Detective, private investigator or amateur sleuth to solve the mysterious circumstances of a crime by means of clues, investigation, and clever deduction. The successful mystery film often conceals the identity of the perpetrator until late in the story, then adds an element of suspense during the apprehension of the suspect.

Suspense is often maintained as an important plot element. This can be done through the use of the sound track, camera angles, heavy shadows, and surprising plot twists. Alfred Hitchcock used all of these techniques, but would sometimes allow the audience in on a pending threat then draw out the moment for dramatic effect.

Mystery novels have proven to be a good medium for translation into film. The sleuth often forms a strong leading character, and the plots can include elements of drama, suspense, character development, uncertainty and surprise twists. The locales of the mystery tale are often of a mundane variety, requiring little in the way of expensive special effects. Successful mystery writers can produce a series of books based on the same sleuth character, providing rich material for sequels.

Until at least the 1980s, women in mystery films have often served a dual role, providing a relationship with the detective and frequently playing the part of woman-in-peril. The women in these films are often resourceful individuals, being self-reliant, determined and as often duplicitous. They can provide the triggers for the events that follow, or serve as an element of suspense as helpless victims.



Undoubtedly the most famous of the amateur detectives to reach the silver screen was Sherlock Holmes. He first appeared in 1903, and has been portrayed by a multitude of actors. Other famous sleuths include Charlie Chan and Hercule Poirot.

Following World War II, film noir came into style and proved a popular medium for the professional hired detective, or private eye. Humphrey Bogart was particularly notable for playing this role, including Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon.

In Klute, a prostitute helps a detective solve a murder mystery. In Klute, a prostitute helps a detective solve a murder mystery.

The 1960s and 1970s saw a resurgence of the Police Detective film, which were styles after the earlier film noir era. Among the notable mystery detective films of this period were In the Heat of the Night (1967), Bullitt (1968), Klute (1971) and Chinatown (1974). The 1970s and 1980s also saw something of the return of the serial films, with the Dirty Harry and Lethal Weapon series. In 1971, The French Connection was an Academy Award-winning mystery film.

In addition to standard mystery films, some movies have intermixed with other genres. The comedic Blake Edwards' Pink Panther series starring Peter Sellars as Inspector Clouseau mixed comedy with mystery, while the medieval era Brother Cadfael series of television mysteries appeared as a form of historical fiction. The Dick Tracy films had elements of science fiction, while Blade Runner and Outland were primarily science fiction action films.

Mystery films


The Thin Man (1934)
The Thirty-Nine Steps (1935)
Charlie Chan at the Opera (1936)
The Arsenal Stadium Mystery (1939)
The Saint Strikes Back (1939)


Rebecca (1940)
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
The Falcon Takes Over (1942)
Sherlock Holmes Faces Death (1942)
Farewell, My Lovely (1944)
Gaslight (1944)
Laura (1944)
Murder My Sweet (1944)
And Then There Were None (1945)
The Big Sleep (1946)


Strangers on a Train (1951)
Rear Window (1954)
Kiss Me Deadly (1955)
12 Angry Men (1957)
Vertigo (1958)


  • Charade (1963)


Klute (1971)
Chinatown (1974)
Murder on the Orient Express (1974)
Death on the Nile (1978)


Cutter's Way (1981)
Blade Runner (1982)
The Name of the Rose (1986)


Basic Instinct (1992)
Devil in a Blue Dress (1995)
Kiss The Girls (1997)


Along Came a Spider (2001)
Gosford Park (2001)
Minority Report (2002)


  • Michael R. Pitts, Famous Movie Detectives, 1979, Scarecrow Press, ISBN 0-8108-1236-3.
  • Ted Sennett, Great Hollywood Movies, 1986, ISBN 0-8109-8075-4.

See also

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Movies, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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