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15 Best Mystery Movies On HBO Max [October 2021]

Some of the greatest mystery stories and their fundamental questions will never be paralleled. Who is Rosebud in "Citizen Kane"? In "Reservoir Dogs," how did the heist really go wrong, and who is the traitor? Who's killing the vigilantes in "Watchmen"? Perhaps the greatest question of all, however, is this: Which movie should we watch tonight?

If you have an HBO Max membership and a penchant for titillating mysteries, this conundrum is a lot more easily solved than your average noir caper. The streaming platform is home to an impressive catalogue of mystery movies, from the classics that defined the genre in the early decades of cinema to film adaptations of modern novels. And if you think that generations of cinematic enigmas have burnt through the most compelling mystery plot points, think again. The auteurs of the genre have remained as innovative as ever over the years, and on HBO Max, you can enjoy some of the best they have to offer.

Updated on October 6, 2021: HBO Max has a constantly evolving library of films, and we've updated this list to reflect the best mystery movies that the streaming service currently has available. Once you've watched and solved them all, check back each month to see what new puzzles HBO Max has in store.

Gone Baby Gone

In Ben Affleck's directorial debut, he showed us that he really knew how to put a good mystery together and keep it interesting from beginning to end. Of course, the stellar performances of cast members like Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, and Amy Ryan certainly helped. As for the plot, "Gone Baby Gone" follows the abduction of a young girl from her own home and the efforts of two private investigators to track her down. It's a simple premise that Affleck achieves with unnerving grace and one that shines a harsh light on ideas of morality.

12 Monkeys

There are a lot of fairly straightforward mystery movies on this list, but there are also a few whose thrills take place in genres outside the traditional noir, neo-noir, or crime film. For example, "12 Monkeys" is a science fiction flick, and the fantastical elements up the ante for the movie's thrills.

The mystery in "12 Monkeys" arises in large part from its convoluted timeline (the main character routinely wakes up in a different year) and copious plot twists. Even without all of those confusing bells and whistles, the plot is interesting and enigmatic, following a post-apocalyptic man sent back in time to try to find a virus so scientists can develop a cure before it's released and destroys humanity. But as he digs deeper into who actually caused the end of the world, he falls down a rabbit hole full of mind-bending sci-fi mysteries.

  • Starring: Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt

  • Director: Terry Gilliam

  • Year: 1995

  • Runtime: 129 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%

North by Northwest

Alfred Hitchcock was a master of the suspense film, and the man knew how to spin a riveting mystery tale. For proof, look no further than "North by Northwest." It's one of the classics of the spy thriller genre, and by definition, it has a heavy element of mystery.

In this case, it's a question of mistaken identity. Thriller laureate Cary Grant plays an ad executive who finds himself hunted down as he flees across the country after being mistaken for a government agent. But who is chasing him exactly, what is their ultimate goal, and who can our hero trust? As you might guess, the movie asks all sorts of thrilling questions and provides some of the best action sequences in mystery history.

  • Starring: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason

  • Director: Alfred Hitchcock

  • Year: 1959

  • Runtime: 136 minutes

  • Rating: TV-PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%

Reservoir Dogs

It's difficult to think of a more iconic first feature than Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs." It's got all of the hallmarks that eventually made the director famous — a byzantine storyline, gratuitous violence, and memorable, darkly humorous dialogue.

The film is a mystery, but the people trying to solve it aren't the police: They're the criminals themselves. A group of men attempt to execute a diamond heist, and it goes horribly wrong, leading to the inevitable conclusion that there's a rat in their midst. But when none of them know the others' real names and trust is in short supply, finding out who's really responsible for the disaster is an increasingly dangerous game.

  • Starring: Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi

  • Director: Quentin Tarantino

  • Year: 1992

  • Runtime: 99 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

Rashomon

The greatest mystery stories linger in the mind long after they've concluded. "Rashomon," however, operates on an entirely different level, lingering in the cultural consciousness in the form of our own terminology. 

Perhaps you've heard of the "Rashomon effect," the phenomenon in which "the same event is described in significantly different (often contradictory) ways by different people." Well, this subjective, unreliable narration is at the heart of "Rashomon," a film that's told from four different perspectives as each person describes, in vastly different ways, the murder of a samurai. Upon its release, the film grabbed the world's attention and put Japanese cinema on the map, and all these years later, this mysterious film is still a masterpiece.

  • Starring: Toshiro Mifune, Machiko Kyō, Masayuki Mori

  • Director: Akira Kurosawa

  • Year: 1950

  • Runtime: 88 minutes

  • Rating: TV-PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%

Mystic River

"Mystic River" revolves around a mystery with a background that spans generations. The murder of a girl in a Boston neighborhood sparks all sorts of memories between the girl's father and his former childhood friends, as the new tragedy recalls a trauma they shared in their youth.

The most compelling part about this film is the surprising human element. The motivations of each of the former friends — and even of the killer — are intensely psychological and are as genuinely moving as they are disturbing.

Citizen Kane

This film is frequently touted as one of the best movies of all time, making the mystery movie genre anything but a guilty pleasure. There are few films whose influence can be invoked with a single word like "Rosebud."

The mystery of Rosebud, the cryptic final word uttered by Welles' affluent newspaper publisher on his deathbed, is at the center of "Citizen Kane." A reporter attempts to trace Charles Foster Kane's life to unearth this word's significance, and it's such a compelling mystery that it's still debated to this day.

  • Starring: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Comingore

  • Director: Orson Welles

  • Year: 1941

  • Runtime: 119 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 99%

The Maltese Falcon

Eight decades and counting after its 1941 premiere, "The Maltese Falcon" enjoys a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. After all, it's one of the greatest film noirs ever made, largely thanks to its impeccable casting (including Humphrey Bogart at the top of his game) and its intricate plot. 

That intricacy cannot be overstated. The film starts with Humphrey Bogart's detective, Sam Spade, taking a case from your classic femme fatale. Soon, though, as questions and bodies begin to pile up, he suspects that there's much more going on than he originally anticipated — and it all revolves around a bejeweled falcon.

  • Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre

  • Director: John Huston

  • Year: 1941

  • Runtime: 100 minutes

  • Rating: TV-PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

Insomnia

It may not be Christopher Nolan's most famous work, and it lacks the massive scale of his other movies that start with "In-" (like "Inception" and "Interstellar"). But "Insomnia" is a gripping psychological thriller whose strengths lie in both the intimacy of its smaller scope and the isolation of its Alaska setting, where two homicide detectives arrive from LA to investigate a murder. Oh, and its all-star cast doesn't hurt. After all, it takes a lot of skill to navigate the complex psychological states of the detectives as they wrestle with their own demons, a psychopathic killer, and the never-ending Alaska sun.

Watchmen

However you feel about Zack Snyder's individual films in the DC Universe, which often garner quite mixed reactions, you can't say that "Watchmen" isn't unique. It's a superhero film told in the style of a noir or maybe vice versa. Either way, it's a moody, complex, and compelling story set in an alternate past where former superheroes are being hunted by a serial killer — though this mystery is only one part of a far-reaching conspiracy.

  • Starring: Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Jackie Earle Haley

  • Director: Zack Snyder

  • Year: 2009

  • Runtime: 162 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 65%

Solaris

A science fiction mystery, "Solaris" takes place in the orbit of the planet Solaris and revolves around the inexplicable psychological decline of the three-man crew onboard — and later, of the very psychologist assigned to investigate the situation. Director Andrei Tarkovsky brings a uniquely human element to this art house-style film that makes the tension seem all the more real.

  • Starring: Donatas Banionis, Natalya Bondarchuk, Jüri Järvet

  • Director: Andrei Tarkovsky

  • Year: 1972

  • Runtime: 166 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

Blow-Up

Believe it or not, the life of a fashion photographer can get kind of boring. At least, that's how the protagonist of "Blow-Up" seems to feel when he shirks his duties for the day and wanders around Greenwich, eventually winding up in a park. Things get pretty exciting after that, though, because in the course of taking photos of two lovers, photographer Thomas unwittingly captures evidence of what he believes to be a murder.

This film is also your chance to catch the Yardbirds in concert if you weren't around in the 1960s, and it's genuinely entertaining for other reasons as well. It's vibrant and visually engaging, but at the same time, it seems like a dream.

  • Starring: David Hemmings, Vanessa Redgrave, Sarah Miles

  • Director: Michelangelo Antonioni

  • Year: 1966

  • Runtime: 111 minutes

  • Rating: TV-MA

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%

Red Dragon

Though he's behind bars for most of the film and not the subject of the principal investigation, Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter is the true star of "The Silence of the Lambs," and he's probably the name you most associate with the film. If you feel like you didn't get enough of him in the iconic psychological thriller, we have some good news: "Red Dragon" serves as a prequel that starts right before Lecter was institutionalized!

It's a nice look a bit further into his backstory, though it does follow the familiar storyline of Lecter helping another investigator solve a case. This time, it's the legendary Will Graham, and he's tracking down a deranged family murderer known as the Tooth Fairy (but who calls himself the Red Dragon). Still, for those who want another serial killer mystery with even more incomparable Hannibal Lecter energy, it's a great watch featuring some familiar faces.

The 39 Steps

Alfred Hitchcock's "The 39 Steps" was released all the way back in 1935. Even after all these years, its legacy still endures in its influence on just about every entry into mystery and thriller cinema since.

This film features a relatable hero we all want to root for, then complicates this image by forcing him into an impossible situation where he must rescue his country while at the same time being falsely accused of murder. It's as exciting to watch today as it was in the 1930s — perhaps even more so, because you're witnessing an integral part of film history.

  • Starring: Robert Donat, Madeleine Carroll, Lucie Mannheim

  • Director: Alfred Hitchcock

  • Year: 1935

  • Runtime: 87 minutes

  • Rating: TV-G

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%

L'Avventura

Michelangelo Antonioni is a name that the average American audience member might not know, but they should because he's directed some of the very best mystery movies of all time. He has a way of masterminding suspense and intrigue in a way that's much more abstract and ethereal than the hard-boiled noir film.

For proof, check out "L'Avventura." The critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes calls it a "bewitchingly ambiguous milestone." But "bewitching" is absolutely a compliment. The tale kicks off when a girl goes missing on a boating trip, prompting her friend and her love to search for her. But the mysterious plot is beautifully buoyed by the film's abstract visual and atmospheric qualities.

  • Starring: Monica Vitti, Gabriele Ferzetti, Lea Massari

  • Director: Michelangelo Antonioni

  • Year: 1960

  • Runtime: 143 minutes

  • Rating: TV-PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%