15 Best Mystery Movies On HBO Max

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 December 30, 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.

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%

The Big Easy

Hollywood of the '80s and '90s generated many throwbacks to mid-century film noir, filled with labyrinthine twists, grizzled male detectives who get way too personally involved with their female associates, all kinds of double crosses, and plenty of mood music. "The Big Easy" has all of that, plus some modern and risqué twists. Sultry New Orleans is the setting for our story, which sees a hard-nosed district attorney (Ellen Barkin) and a hotshot police detective (Dennis Quaid) work among wildly corrupt colleagues. Professionalism and leisure intertwine for the pair, even when they aren't trying to figure out who killed a mob underling and a bunch of drug dealers.

  • Starring: Dennis Quaid, Ellen Barkin, John Goodman

  • Director: Jim McBride

  • Year: 1986

  • Runtime: 101 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%


Road rage takes on a whole new meaning in a thriller that follows a man searching for his missing wife after a suspicious confrontation on the road. Rotten Tomatoes critics describe the film as "brainy." It's likely "Breakdown" earned that designation by virtue of its ingenious tension, which it derives as much from the interpersonal dynamics at play as from the mystery itself.

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%

Cop Land

To fully appreciate "Cop Land," some context is required. At the time of its release, Sylvester Stallone was coming off a decade of critically lambasted films. When he opted to star in this intense police mystery alongside tough guy titans like Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel, he reminded filmgoers how he became a movie star in the first place. He plays against type as Freddy Heflin, the low-key sheriff of a small New Jersey town where a lot of corrupt New York City cops happen to live. One of those officers' nephews gets embroiled in a hate crime, the cover-up goes awry, and it's up to Internal Affairs and Heflin to find out what really happened.

Dressed to Kill

Films of the same title have tried and failed, but Brian De Palma hit on the winning formula in 1980 when he made the visually and intellectually captivating "Dressed to Kill." Like many mysteries, this one starts out with someone in the wrong place at the wrong time. In this case, it's a sex worker named Liz who witnesses a murder and finds suspicion falling wrongfully on her instead — all while the real killer seeks to eliminate her.

  • Starring: Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen

  • Director: Brian De Palma

  • Year: 1980

  • Runtime: 105 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 81%


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.

The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain

Unlike many of the films on this list, "The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain" is tragically based on a true story, so we know how it ends. Less apparent to laymen before the film's release, however, were the events that led up to Chamberlain's death. The mystery lies in the dynamics and decisions among the police officers dispatched to Chamberlain's house after the disabled veteran's medical alert device was mistakenly triggered.

As the story unfolds, the tension and suspense are so real that, despite knowing the outcome, the viewer hopes against hope for something different. A poignant statement on race, power, and policing for the modern age, this movie solves the mystery of what happened and why — and demands that viewers imagine better.

  • Starring: Frankie Faison, Steve O'Connell, Enrico Natale

  • Director: David Midell

  • Year: 2020

  • Runtime: 83 minutes

  • Rating: Not Rated

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%


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%

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%

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.

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%


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%


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%