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The best mystery movies you can watch on Netflix right now

We are living in the most uncertain of times. The good news is that — even as we wait to see if the world can find a way to keep itself together — we are also living in a time that allows for endless distractions and entertainments to keep even our most foolish of fears at bay.

As has historically been the case, movies are ground zero for many in search of either. These days more than ever before, that includes chilling at home and indulging in a few hours of binge culture insanity. While there's seemingly no end to what cinematic treasures one can uncover in the rapidly evolving land of streaming, we can't help but feel that such uncertainty makes it as good a time as ever to dive into a good old fashioned mystery movie. And the good news is, there are mysteries-a-plenty just begging to be discovered on Netflix.

From perplexing psychological puzzles to harrowing whodunits and bewildering narrative brooders, these are the best mystery movies you can watch on Netflix right now.

The Discovery

If there's a singular mystery that's puzzled and frequently terrified humankind since we started walking upright, it's the one about what exactly happens to us when we die. Not surprisingly, that very topic has featured heavily in the world of cinema pretty much since pictures started moving. Still, few of those movies have been brave enough to tackle the mysteries of the afterlife as directly as Charlie McDowell's The Discovery.

Featuring a stacked cast (including Rooney Mara, Jason Segel, Robert Redford, Riley Keough, Jesse Plemmons, and Mary Steenburgen), The Discovery is set in a not too distant future where a scientist named Thomas Harbor (Redford) has proven conclusively that the afterlife does, indeed, exist. Unfortunately, he doesn't know exactly where or what it really is. In the wake of mass suicides by folks eager to find out for themselves, those answers become more vital than ever.

Years after the discovery, Harbor's deeply skeptical son (Segel) and an enigmatic young woman (Mara) arrive at the scientist's research compound, and find the search for answers has led to the invention of a device designed to record the afterlife experience. From there, The Discovery only gets weirder. We mean that in the best possible way, for the record, with The Discovery using its central mystery to frame a beautifully textured, grounded in reality character study steeped in simmering small-scale dramas, grandiose theological commentary, and a dash of heart-wrenching romance. It also happens to be a first-rate slice of hard sci-fi cinema.

Session 9

The name Brad Anderson likely doesn't carry much in the way of reverence for most movie lovers. It does, however, carry more weight among the horror/thriller set, because he's got a couple of killer genre gems shining in his resume (see The Machinist, Transsiberian). But if you don't yet recognize Brad Anderson's name, it's time you got familiar not just with his name, but also his largely impressive body of work, because he's a filmmaker of rare (if egregiously overlooked) skill.

Genre cred aside, Anderson actually broke through on the strength of a pair of first-rate rom-coms with 1998's Next Stop Wonderland and 2000's Happy Accidents. He broke bleak (and then some) for 2001's slow-burning indie brooder Session 9, proving that his prior successes were no fluke, and that he had more to offer the movies than just quippy dialogue and heart-felt finales.

Fans of Anderson's breakthrough films were likely shocked by the relentlessly eerie, suffocatingly atmospheric tone of Session 9 (about an asbestos removal crew clearing out an abandoned psychiatric hospital), and were no doubt floored by the film's unflinchingly morose tone. Equal parts psychological thriller and haunted house chiller, Session 9 so effectively shrouds its narrative in mystery that some viewers might find themselves as lost in the story's sallow exploration of soul-decaying trauma as the characters trapped within. Stick with it, because when Session 9 pulls the rug out from under you, it does so in a way that'll leave your head spinning for days after.

It Comes At Night

For many films that dabble in enigmatic thrills and moral conundrums, the mystery is the whole point of the story. Sometimes, however, the mystery is merely a tool used to set in motion a far more ambitious narrative. In the case of Trey Edward Shults' trauma-inducing thriller It Comes At Night, a singularly horrifying mystery serves merely as the entry point for several more small-scale dramas driven by fear, paranoia, and a desperate need to protect the things that matter most.

Of the film's overarching mystery, we'll tell you that the story unfolds in the aftermath of a pandemic event that's eliminated untold numbers of the world's population. Of It Comes At Night's numerous small-scale mysteries, we'll offer that the film follows a man and his family riding things out in a secluded cabin in the woods, only to find their rigorously structured life upended by the arrival of another family.

As is the case with virtually every film on this list, we're hesitant to say any more, because it's really best to enter into It Comes At Night with as little information as possible. Just know that as the film's minor mysteries begin to unravel, a far more grueling picture of humanity unfolds within them. Know as well that those mysteries are all the more consuming thanks to the steely, low-key direction of burgeoning auteur Shults — not to mention bravura turns from Christopher Abbott, Riley Keough, Carmen Ejogo, and Joel Edgerton.

Freaks

One of the key ingredients of any great mystery story is fear of the unknown. And as far as that particular fear goes, Zach Lipovsky and Adam B. Stein's cleverly self-contained sci-fi drama Freaks is more steeped in it than most. In fact, it's that particular fear that drives not just the overarching narrative of the film, but also every brazen twist and turn within its cryptic construct.

That's as true of the major twists as it is of the seemingly minor ones as well. Though we'd warn you that even the most minor of details in Freaks can have a major impact on the story. Of that story, it involves one brave little girl (Lexy Kolker) who's being kept in total seclusion from the world by her increasingly paranoid father (Emile Hirsch) in the aftermath of what's presumed to be some sort of apocalyptic event.

As the story unfolds, we begin to learn the world outside isn't exactly what the father has made of it. That doesn't necessarily mean it's safe for either to be spending much time out there, of course. We're ending our synopsis there, because Freaks is a legit puzzle box of a film whose pieces eventually form a twisted picture beyond the imagination. As such, part of the fun of the film is watching the often brilliant ways in which Lipovsky and Stein place each piece, allowing the mysteries of Freaks to reveal themselves at a pace that's simultaneously slow-burning and brashly kinetic.

Everybody Knows

In a perfect world, the name Asghar Farhadi would already carry the same sort of weight and reverence as that of Fincher or Aronofsky. Though his name is highly regarded in the realm of international cinema, Farhadi hasn't found the same notoriety with North American audiences just yet. With any luck the director's subtle yet savagely tense thriller Everybody Knows will change that.

Set largely in a small Spanish village, every word of dialogue in Everybody Knows is spoken in Spanish. Hopefully that fact won't put you off, because outside of a potential one-inch language barrier, Everybody Knows is very much a classic sort of thriller — one as steeped in long-buried secrets and mysteries as it is in true-blooded pulse-pounding thrills.

Thrills aside, Farhadi takes the slow-burn approach with Everybody Knows, using the first 30 minutes of the film — which follows a family gathering for a wedding — to build an intricately constructed house of cards around the inter-familial relationships. If you know anything about Farhadi's work, you know he's uniquely in tune with knowing when and how to dismantle his cinematic houses. Everybody Knows' world begins to crumble when a beloved family member goes missing. In the wake of the disappearance, deep dark secrets begin to find the light, and Everybody Knows becomes that rarest of mysteries whose tightly wound narrative unfurls with Shakespearean weight. Along the way, Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem also deliver two of their finest performances to date.

Wheelman

We freely admit that we might be slightly bending the strictest definition of "mystery movie" with the inclusion of Netflix's full-throttle actioner Wheelman on this list, because plot isn't really the point of the film. But if you'll bear with us, we think we can twist your opinion on Wheelman, because at the core of the film's taut narrative is, in fact, a marvelously constructed mystery.

That narrative follows a skilled getaway driver (Frank Grillo) who's fresh out of prison and back on the job purely as a means to pay off debts owed to local mobsters. One of his first gigs behind the wheel is a bank heist that — surprise, surprise — does not go as planned. In the aftermath of the bank melee, the nameless driver is stuck with a bag full of mob money, and no way to reach the man who put him on the job.

To make matters worse, the driver is getting calls from a mysterious stranger demanding the money be delivered to him, or his ex-wife and daughter will pay the price. Set almost entirely inside the confines of the man's car, and told with a breathless sense of urgency, Wheelman's mysteries unfold with a steady hand, an unapologetic tough guy's acting tough aesthetic, and an insatiable appetite for anarchy. Along the way, Wheelman all but reinvents the action movie by framing its chaotic spirit with what's essentially an Agatha Christie-styled mystery. And yes, that's every bit as exciting as it sounds.

Hold the Dark

By now, you should be well acquainted with the name Jeremy Saulnier. If not, we'd urge you to stop reading this instant, go to Netflix, and feast on the astonishing one-two throat punch delivered by his 2013 and 2015 thrillers Blue Ruin and Green Room.

Once you've gotten caught up on Saulnier's wildly original, beyond tense cinematic style, stick around Netflix for a little longer and treat yourself to the director's latest beastly brooder, Hold the Dark. Even though it lacks some of the visceral energy of his prior works, Hold the Dark is as accomplished a mystery film as you'll find streaming.

Set largely among the gorgeous but utterly unforgiving vistas of the Alaskan wilderness, Hold the Dark follows famed wolf expert Russell Core (Jeffrey Wright) who's called to an isolated village after a six-year-old boy is lost and presumed killed by a pack of wolves. Once he arrives, Core finds nothing is quite what it seems with the town, the case itself, or the missing boy's Mother (Riley Keough). As Core continues his investigation, Saulnier twists Hold the Dark from a stark missing persons masterpiece into a full-on Heart of Darkness-style metaphysical odyssey complete with a finale that will leave you baffled, breathless, and broken in equal measure.

The Endless

There are few narrative constructs quite as welcoming to personal mysteries as those centered around cults. That has a lot to do with the fact that the cult mentality remains as puzzling as the typically enigmatic figures who front the cults themselves. Though Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead's 2017 Lovecraftian stunner The Endless takes the enigmatic leader mostly out of the equation, their film remains a no less sinister psychological study of cult mentality — one that happens to be so consumed by abstract supernatural mysteries you're likely to drive yourself batty trying to solve them all.

Our best advice to viewers desperate to solve the mysteries of The Endless is not to try. Rather, just sit back and enjoy the macabre mystical journey Benson and Moorehead have conjured with this low-budget marvel (see also 2014's Spring). Just as a teaser, we'll offer that The Endless follows a pair of brothers who, years after breaking free from the "alien death cult" with which they spent much of their youth, are called back into the fold by, well, we're not entirely sure what.

To be clear, even if we were, we wouldn't tell you, because The Endless is the sort of film that only works if you enter its narrative with a wholly blank slate. Please just take our word for it that The Endless is well worth the ride — even if it leaves you just as confounded by its shocking finale as you were when the manic madness began.

The Wicker Man

As far as cinematic sub-genres go, "daytime horror" continues to be the one which most frequently disturbs even the staunchest of genre aficionados. After all, as unsettling as horror movies can get when things begin going bump in the night, seeing those things bump around in the light of day is often twice as disturbing. Though we've seen a few notable additions to the "daytime horror" set of late (see Ari Aster's mind-blowing Midsommar), the gold standard remains Robin Hardy's masterful 1973 thriller The Wicker Man.

As it happens, Hardy's film is also a near flawless mystery movie whose unholy secrets aren't revealed until its jaw-dropping final moments. If you haven't seen Hardy's original Wicker Man for yourself (and we'd urge you to avoid the inadvertently comical 2006 Nicolas Cage remake at all costs), the film follows a devout detective who's dispatched to an isolated Scottish island to track down a missing girl — only when he arrives, the townsfolk are quick to claim the girl isn't missing, because she never existed.

From that central mystery, Hardy weaves an intricately spun web of intrigue that finds said detective (portrayed by Edward Woodward) unknowingly playing fly to a bloodthirsty spider. We won't say much else of The Wicker Man's plot, but we can tell you that Pagan theology is at the center of this sinister tale, and that the film's final twist is the stuff of cinematic legend.

The Interview

He's featured prominently in two of the biggest trilogies in movie history, and even portrayed one of the MCU's original big bads, but there was a time when Hugo Weaving was just a little-known actor trying to make his way in the Australian indie scene. And while common knowledge would offer that Weaving's rise to prominence came when he suited up as Agent Smith in 1999's The Matrix, the truth is it actually began with a wickedly duplicitous turn in 1998's Aussie thriller The Interview.

There's a good chance you haven't even heard of The Interview, so let us tell you two things: it's a first rate crime thriller fueled by a fascinating central mystery, and it features what may be the best performance of Hugo Weaving's career.

We should also tell you that, like many of the great mystery films out there, The Interview's narrative takes the "unreliable narrator" approach. Said narrator is Weaving's Edward Fleming, a seemingly poor soul who's fallen on hard times. The film is contained almost entirely within an interrogation room, with Fleming playing the part of wrongfully accused as a pair of forceful detectives present their case. About halfway through The Interview, something happens that spins the entire narrative on its head. In turn, The Interview unravels into a daring cat and mouse game that has as much in common with The Usual Suspects as the work of Agatha Christie.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe

For fans of the horror genre, the last decade or so has been one of the richest in history, with fresh instant classics as artistically ambitious as they are deeply disturbing, arriving in theaters every single year. As thrilling as the genre itself has become, the trailblazing filmmakers behind some of those films are proving every bit as exciting. One of the more unsung names among them is Norwegian auteur André Øvredal. After blowing the doors off the found footage genre with 2010's utterly brilliant Trollhunter, Øvredal returned to land of the creepy for his 2016 followup, The Autopsy of Jane Doe.

While it doesn't innovate with quite as much zeal as Trollhunter, the film still finds Øvredal taking a bold new approach to relatively tired genre tropes, this time in service of casting a manic web of menace over the mystery-thriller-horror subset.

Of The Autopsy of Jane Doe, we'll say that Øvredal ably subverts every genre trope he can conjure within the film's bracingly eerie narrative; which follows a father and son coroner team (Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch) who set about to identify the titular femme and figure out how she was killed. Like the best horror mysteries, answers only raise more questions in The Autopsy of Jane Doe as the film ominously propels itself toward a shockingly sinister finale as thrilling as it is terrifying.

Zodiac

It's all but impossible to believe that nearly 15 years have passed since David Fincher first turned his keenly cinematic eye on the time-honored genre of true-crime mystery. Given the infamously meticulous auteur's proclivity for twisty, pitch-black stories in which it's genuinely difficult to get one's bearings, it's also a bit surprising that it took as long as it did for Fincher to turn his gaze in that direction.

Though he'd been working steadily in the music video realm since the mid-'80s, it took until the new millennium before the right true crime mystery came Fincher's way. Not surprisingly, he made the most of the moment, delivering what many consider one of the best the genre has ever produced. The film in question is Fincher's immaculate 2007 thriller Zodiac, which details the years-long manhunt to find the man behind the brutal killing spree that terrified the San Francisco area throughout the late '60s and early '70s.

Adapted from Robert Graysmith's book of the same name, Zodiac finds Jake Gyllenhaal (in perhaps his finest performance) portraying Graysmith himself as the whip-smart former cartoonist slipped headlong into his own obsessive hunt for the taunting Zodiac killer. Fincher approaches that hunt with the same obsessive manner as the man driving the narrative. In doing so, he delivers a harrowing first-person account of perhaps the most compelling true crime mystery in U.S. history, if only because the Zodiac killer has never been captured.

The Ritual

Directed with a simmering menace and fractious energy by genre up-and-comer David Bruckner (soon to helm the Hellraiser remake), 2017's The Ritual follows a disparate group of college pals who, a year after a tragic death, come together to pay respects to their dearly departed buddy. They do so by hitting the far reaches of the Swedish wilderness for a camping and hiking expedition. Needless to say, once the men enter the deep, dark woods of Sweden, they're plunged headfirst into a supernatural hellscape the likes of which must be seen to be believed.

Less a proper mystery than a film fueled by one "holy f**k, what's happening here?" moment after another, The Ritual fully revels in its unholy mysteries (conjured from Scandinavian folklore and mythology) for much of its 94-minute runtime. When those mysteries are laid bare in the film's final act, well, nothing can fully prepare you for that unveiling, so we'll simply leave you to discover it on your own. Please trust us that it's worth the wait.

The One I Love

Over the course of the past 15 years, indie wunderkinds Mark and Jay Duplass have firmly established themselves as the no-budget kings of the Hollywood underground. They've done so by writing, directing, and starring in a string of audaciously original indie films stretching across every genre. They've also dedicated themselves to giving up-and-coming filmmakers a crack at showbiz by producing micro-budget flicks too fringe for the mainstream.

Charlie McDowell's gonzo anti rom-com fantasy The One I Love is among the best of those movies. Produced on a reported $100,000 budget, The One I Love finds troubled married couple Sophie and Ethan (Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass) struggling to save their relationship, and deep in the throes of couples' therapy. When their therapist (Ted Danson) recommends a weekend away at a posh, secluded estate, the desperate duo jump at the chance to rekindle the romantic fires.

Upon arriving, Sophie and Ethan do seemingly begin to spark their emotional and physical connections, but it quickly becomes unclear whether or not they're actually connecting with each other. At the risk of appearing to play coy, we're gonna let our synopsis dangle on that last sentence, because the mystery driving McDowell's daringly evocative The One I Love is one best explored with as little information as possible. Just know that the film categorically refuses to fit into any one narrative box. Know too that McDowell and Co. take no uncertain pleasure in pulling the rug from under viewers at every turn.

Under the Skin

There are certain movies which, by their very design, seek to shake viewers to the core. Some use schlocky jump scares and gore. Others take a full-on sensory overload approach, exposing viewers to ceaseless waves of visual and audio cues built to keep knuckles white, pulses racing, and minds off kilter. Jonathan Glazer's mystifying sci-fi shocker Under the Skin is firmly the latter, and those who've wandered blindly into its dark, sultry waters have frequently exited feeling but a husk of the person they were when they entered.

If you're wondering what people find so unnerving about Glazer's film, we'll say it's not one specific thing as much as the culmination of everything (sonically, visually, conceptually, theologically, even erotically) that the boundary-pushing auteur presents in Under the Skin. We can also sat that, as relentlessly disturbing as the film proves to be from moment to moment, if you can find a way to go with Under the Skin's dispassionately destructive ebbs and flows, it's also one of the most singularly enthralling cinematic experiences available to human kind.

As with most of the movies on this list, we're not gonna say much about Under the Skin's narrative. Unlike most of movies on this list, that's less about spoilers and more a matter of not really being able to condense the eerily ethereal mysteries of Under the Skin into mere words. Just know that an alien creature is involved, and that the film features Scarlett Johansson in what may be her finest performance — even if it's simultaneously her weirdest.

The Invitation

There's a lot to be said for a filmmaker taking the slow-burn approach on a mystery movie. In fact, the genre itself tends to encourage letting the unknown simmer just long enough to burrow into viewers' brains before letting the narrative boil over into, well, whatever emotional hellscape said filmmaker is planning to unleash in their film. And in terms of starkly slow-burning hellscapes that have come and gone in the mystery genre over the years, few have burned quite as destructively — or burrowed quite as deep — as Karyn Kusama's propulsively somber study in grief, The Invitation.

Part bracing chamber drama and part tightly-wound psychological thriller, The Invitation follows the story of Will (Logan Marshall-Green), who's accepted an invitation for himself and his girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) to attend a dinner party at the home of his ex-wife, Eden (Tammy Blanchard), and her new husband, David (Michael Huisman). With their old friends all joining the party, Will expects nothing but good vibes. But while the night kicks off jubilantly, an ominous energy begins to seep through every single moment, and it quickly becomes clear Eden and David have very specific reasons for getting the gang together.

Yes, that reason is every bit as troubling as you think. And yes, everyone on this party's guest list is in imminent danger. As the tragedy unfolds, Kusama meticulously ratchets up the tension and guides The Invitation toward a finale as genuinely shocking as it is utterly inescapable, with viewers left to wonder if anyone will make it out alive.

In the Shadow of the Moon

Philadelphia, 1988. Ambitious beat cop and soon-to-be father Thomas Lockhart (Boyd Holbrook) and his charmingly unmotivated partner (Bokeem Woodbine) happen upon a rash of wildly unusual deaths that tease the possibility of a serial killer. When that possibility is confirmed, the night takes a turn for the surreal. After being trapped by Lockhart, the fiercely motivated killer (Cleopatra Coleman) shockingly reveals intimate details of Lockhart's life.

Nine years later, Lockhart has made detective, and is in utter shock when — on the anniversary of the fateful night — the killer resurfaces for a fresh wave of murders. Those shocking events occur in the first 20 minutes or so of Jim Mickle's sci-fi thriller In the Shadow of the Moon, and set the stage for a taut anti-procedural which spins the who-done-it formula on its head by focusing as much of its time on the whys of the case as the whos. Oh, and it also introduces a classic science fiction plot device into the equation.

In the Shadow of the Moon's seemingly disparate narrative tools prove as vital to its fateful story as you'd think, with Mickle utilizing each to build an intricately orchestrated sci-fi house of cards that feels much bigger than it is. In doing so, he delivers a cleverly observed puzzle box of a film, assembled with the detail-oriented eye of a detective to present a devastating view of the future — even if the film's inherent paradoxical quandaries ultimately crumble under the weight of serious scrutiny.

Cam

Given that much of the world spends more time than ever carefully crafting online personas — and in turn worrying about said persona being somehow corrupted — you'd think the movie biz would have already mined that fertile narrative quandary for all it's worth. And while the occasional Catfish (2010) or Searching (2018) does indeed slip into cinematic consciousness, the "online horror" genre still remains largely unexplored in any significant way.

Director Daniel Goldhaber's 2018 Netflix creeper Cam is one of the few "online horror" flicks that not only gets the chill factor spot on, but also has significant things to say about modern culture both online and off. Set in the hyper-competitive world of online "camgirls," Cam follows a particularly ambitious performer named Alice (Madeline Brewer) who, under the guise of her alter ego Lola_Lola, has risen through the ranks of the camgirl elite. After reaching the pinnacle of her craft, however, a look-a-like performer swoops in and begins stealing Lola_Lola's devoted fanbase.

From that point, Cam begins to get weird in ways you really cannot anticipate. In turn, Goldhaber and screenwriter Isa Mazzei (working from her own experiences as a camgirl) use that clever setup to deliver a twisted psychological mystery that's equal parts searing expose on the plight of online sex workers and harrowing doppelgänger thriller — one that fearlessly raises more questions than it ever answers. It'll leave you questioning how much of yourself you actually want to put into the world via the internet.

I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House

If there's one inherent truth about the mystery genre on the whole, it's that mood and atmosphere can make or break a movie. If you're a fan of Osgood Perkins' work (see also The Blackcoat's Daughter), you already know that mood and atmosphere are sort of his specialty. But just in case you haven't caught up with his 2017 haunted house thriller I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, you should know that it's all but consumed by both.

As such, Perkins' bone-chilling I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House is also sort of a masterwork of minimalist horror. The burgeoning auteur indeed keeps his sophomore film surprisingly compact, utilizing just a single location and three central characters to sow the sinister seeds of a brooding psychological thriller, fueled by a finely-spun fiction bleeding horrifically into real world drama.

That drama opens with Ruth Wilson's Lily taking a job as a live-in nurse to a famed horror novelist (Paula Prentiss). The moment Lily moves into the house, unsettling events begin to occur that may or may not be tied to the macabre narrative of the writer's most famous book. As the story unfolds, it becomes increasingly unclear whether that book is fiction at all, and the answer may not bode well for anyone in the house. In exploring that possibility, Perkins crafts a bold, meticulously-paced haunted house chiller with gothic energy to spare.