Top 101 Film & TV Mysteries

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31 Responses to Top 101 Film & TV Mysteries

  1. Patrick says:

    I’m disappointed in you, Sergio. How could you leave out the 1980s version of ATTWN? ;) Though I am glad to see “Witness” on here– such an underappreciated movie!

    Happy birthday, and congrats on reaching this milestone!

  2. Patrick says:

    Oh, and I’d personally throw in the “Naked Gun” films as stupidly funny movies. Here are my favourite clips:

    • Hi Patrick, thanks very much for that – I would also want to include MURDER BY DEATH and DEAD MEN DON’T WEAR PLAID amongst the spoofs – but sometimes 101 just isn;t enough – I can’t believe how much stuff I left out …

  3. John says:

    Murder, She Said is a top film when considering ALL of crime films? Really? I dislike all of the Margaret Rutherford Marple movies even though this is the only one that is a real Jane Marple book. I especially hate Murder at the Gallop which is a travesty of an adaptation of MRS McGINTY’S DEAD. All copies of the film should be burned.

    I don’t understand why POINT BLANK is so lauded. I found it completely confusing with it’s shifting play with time sequences, dull for most of the movie, and couldn’t stand that shouting actor John Vernon. I haven’t read the Richard Stark book but I bet it’s much better and makes loads more sense.

    You’re missing some very good crime movies from the 40s and 50s: NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955) – Sergio, how could you pass this over? Shame on you. Maybe you’ve never seen it? Sublime, eerie, violent, beautiful. The most fascinating blend of moods in an almost unclassifiable movie but it’s definitely about crime. LADY FROM SHANGHAI (1947) – the climax in the hall of mirrors alone deserves a place a top crime film list, THE BIG HEAT (1953) w/ Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame in perhaps her best role ever plus Jeanette Nolan as a very different kind of bad girl, IN A LONELY PLACE (1950) Bogart and Grahame (again!) in the quintessential noir tragedy – a masterpiece. I think this far more defines noir than the typical movies others point to. UNION STATION (1950) very cinematic and gripping kidnap movie with behind the scenes look at the long gone profession of railway cops and a truly nasty villain. ON DANGEROUS GROUND (1952) – a fave of mine you know, WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS (1950) – another violent cop movie, THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE (1945) – one of the earliest serial killer movies and very creepy for the time. I should stop, shouldn’t I?

    1970s: Where’s KOLCHAK? A pivotal and pioneering crime series that influenced so many TV shows in the 1980s and 1990s. Maybe you consider that more fantasy or horror. I see it as the definitive genre bender for crime and horror.

    I’d pick MEMORIES OF MURDER if I had to include something from the Korean new wave films. Far more atmospheric, creepy and arresting than OLDBOY which was a headache to me. BRICK – (didn’t I go on about this before) – too quirky and self-consciously clever for me to really enjoy it. And I just couldn’t believe Lukas Haas as a teenager, sorry. MR BROOKS – retread. I’d list IDENTITY which is a the most original take on multiple personality in a murder mystery I’ve seen in a long time.

    Do I win an award for being incredibly long winded and opinionated here? Just don’t throw a pie in my face.

    • Dear John, thanks very much for the comments – well, I love NIGHT OF THE HUNTER too but decided I didn’t consider it a mystery enough for inclusion. You’re wrong about MURDER AT THE GALLOP though, in the sense that it’s an adaptation of AFTER THE FUNERAL – it’s MURDER MOST FOUL that adapts MRS McGINTY’S DEAD. I am a real sucker for 1960s black and white mystery movies and it’s just a bit of a family favourite – it’s not a great movie, not at all, but I like it. I actually quite like the ALPHABET MURDERS with Tony Randall as Poirot actually, just to give you an idea of what my tastes can run to. You list a whole bunch of really great Noir films and I would gladly include them all and another 50 frankly.

      Although I liked both NIGHT STALKER and NIGHT STRANGLER, the TV series never did it for me I’m afraid. I adore POINT BLANK but as an avant-garde classic rather than a thriller – the book is much more down to earth. The director’s cut of PAYBACK is a much closer adaptation from that sense (and is in its own right an excellent movie). I was a bit underwhelmed by IDENTITY, which is a nice variant of AND THEN THERE WERE NONE by way of Bates motel – I love films like that and did enjoy it a lot but I was more surprised by MR BROOKS.

      On the other hand, I really, really should have included SPIRAL STAIRCASE – that was a real omission, thanks for reminding me. Thanks for the feedback, greatly appreciated.

  4. John says:

    Oh, I almost forgot… Happy Birthday. I’d buy you a drink if you lived in Chicago. And we’d toast to the movies and the good old detective novel writers. Cheers and many happy returns!

  5. Mike Ripley says:

    Lists are for debating, as they usually fail to please any of the people any of the time and people do not read them closely enough, myself included. This is obviously why I cannot remember seeing HILL STREET BLUES or NYPD BLUE, or indeed any reference to THE OUTFIT (the 1993 riff on Donald Westlake’s ‘Parker’ books) or indeed that excellent British cop show BETWEEN THE LINES (1992-24). Must go back, read more slowly and find them…..

    • Der Mike, thanks for the comments – as always, greatly appreciated. I didn’t include either spy or police procedurals as I want to do a separate list for those soon … which is clearly cheating but there you go, but 101 is just not a big number after all …

  6. John says:

    Geez! I hated that Margaret Rutherford movie so much I didn’t even remember the correct title. I confess I had a bad day at work yesterday. The choleric office persona must’ve come home with me and took over when I was leaving my verbose rant of a “comment.” Hope I didn’t come off arrogant.

    • John mate, you must really hate that movie! On the other hand, small mix-up notwithstanding, I think you’re allowed to sound a bit arrogant as with great knowledge comes great … knowledge! Respect is due. Doesn’t stop me thinking MURDER SHE SAID is a damn good laugh though – and Ron Goodwin’s catchy theme music just cheers me up instantly!

  7. Winifred says:


    Now what about Harry O? I loved the Rockford Files but Harry O was in a different league altogether.
    I did like the Margaret Rutherford films but the BBC series with Joan Hickson was absolutely superb. What about Cadfael, Silent Witness, Spooks, Inspector Lewis & the lovely George Gentley? Well I suppose there’s only so much telly you can watch.

    • Hello Winifred, thanks for all that – HARRY O was a splendid show and I plan on reviewing the second pilot (SMILE JENNY, YOU’RE DEAD) very soon now that it is out on DVD – I ended up not including it just because I only really liked the first half of season 1 after which they started monkeying around with the show and I though it became much less distinctive – I wanted to include CITY OF ANGELS, the Wayne Rogers period detective series – ever see that? Only lasted half a season but I have really fond memories of it.SPOOKS will go on to my espionage post, coming shortly, while I have to admit to being a bit less keen on CADFAEL, LEWIS and GENTLEY though I really liked the first couple of seasons of PIE IN THE SKY when Samantha Janus was still on the show.

      Thanks very much for the feedback, much appreciated.


  8. le0pard13 says:

    So many great, and forgotten, films on your list! So glad to see the likes of HICKEY & BOGGS, CUTTER’S WAY, ZERO EFFECT, and THE LAST OF SHEILA there. Hell, anyone who names EDGE OF DARKNESS BBC miniseries and CHARADE in the same post is aces by me. Thanks.

  9. TomCat says:

    Happy belated birthday, Sergio, hopefully you had a fun day with lots of presents and cake. ;)

    That’s an impressive list you’ve compiled there and have to shamefully admit that I haven’t seen a lot of the stuff on there, however, I also noticed a few omissions. Midsomer Murders is a very uneven in quality, but there are enough good and interesting episodes (from the second season to before Barnaby got his third sidekick) to warrant a spot and Hustle should’ve definitely been on there as well. As for the classics, I always had a weakness for The Sign of Four and The Hound of the Baskervilles starring the late Sir Ian Richardson as Sherlock Holmes (highly recommended). I would also throw in the movies Theatre of Blood and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? just for the hell of it.

    • Thank you TomCat – had a lovely cake in the shape of a TARDIS which my nieces in particular adored! Not really a fan of MIDSOMMER MURDERS I’m afraid, though there are episodes written by the likes of Alan Plater, Anthony Horowitz and especially PJ Hammond which i have certainly enjoyed – I like Richardson as Holmes, but thought he was even better as Joseph Bell in the underrated MURDER ROOMS which probably would have been my choice for 102 – I always considered THEATRE OF BLOOD more as as a horror comedy than thriuller / mystery actually, though it is certainly good fun – and yes, I should have had some comedy in here, you’re quite right – thanks for suggesting ROGER RABBITT!


  10. Yvette says:

    Oh, so much to take in in one sitting.

    First things first: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Sergio!!! Hope it’s a great one. :)

    Many of these I haven’t seen for whatever reason. Some never appealed, some I just missed.

    But I did see lots of my favorites on your list. I was going to do a Mystery/Thriller List, but you’ve beaten me to the punch so I’m thinking your list has most of what I would have included. I’m still working on my 100 Best Mystery/Thriller books though. :)

    I’m not a fan of the Mr. Moto movies, though I love, love, love Charlie Chan and would have included a few more Chan films than you did. Not a fan of Psycho either. So that would not have made my list. I disliked THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES very much. (Actually, I hated everything about it except for the canaries.)

    I’ve never seen QUIET PLEASE, MURDER but I am definitely looking for it now. Sounds fun.

    I would have included my very favorite thriller, the remarkable, DIVA.

    Also would have included THE GHOSTBREAKERS with Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard. Also DARK PASSAGE starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. ABOVE SUSPICION starring Joan Crawford and Fred MacMurray, THE UNINVITED starring Ray Milland and Gail Russell. MINISTRY OF FEAR starring Ray Milland….hmm, I’m thinking I might make my own list up after all.

    Great thought provoking post!

    • Hi Yvette, thanks very much for the comments – DIVA is definitely an omission but in my defence it’s been so long since I’ve seen it that I really would have to check it to see if my opinion of it has changed in the last 30 years or so since I saw it! Sorry you don;t like the Motos and the PRIVATE SHERLOCK as I really love those. I definitely should have had a few more comedies I now realise and GHOST BREAKERS or CAT AND THE CANARY would have been great choices (or TOPPER RETURNS come to think of it, written By Jonathan Latimer …). It’s my list and I can’t believe I didn’t include THE GLASS KEY or its remake MILLER’S CROSSING. On the other hand, MINISTRY OF FEAR, like THE THIRD MAN, would fit into my forthcoming espionage list … Thanks for the suggestions!

  11. Maja says:

    Belated birthday greetings, Sergio!
    Thank you for including THE LAST OF SHEILA, an under-appreciated gem of a movie, as well as the late lamented television program, MEDIUM. I really can’t quibble with the rest of the list as you’ve included many of my own favourites (and suggested some films/tv shows I have yet to watch), but I think the film GUMSHOE (released in 1971), starring a young Albert Finney would have made a worthy (if quirky) addition to your list.

    • Dear Maja, thank you very much for the birthday wishes. Well, funny you should mention GUMSHOE … I of course originally included it in my list of Top 20 Private Eye movies, part of which i incorporated into my 101 list but I ended up cutting it when I needed the space – but it’s a great movie and a great personal favourite. LAST OF SHEILA is a real blast, isn’t it? It’s so insanely complicated a game that you can re-watch plenty of times and still not quite get a hang of it – thanks again for the good wishes chum.


  12. michael says:

    It is hard to limit yourself to 101 when you include TV and movies. Each has 101 worthy choices.

    No “Justified”? No “Sherlock”? No “Richard Diamond”? No T.H.E. Cat”?

    I am a fan of comedy mysteries so I would have had more of those on the list. But it was your birthday, and your list. I hope you had as much fun making the list as I did reading it.

    • Hello Michael, thanks very much for reading such long list! I like JUSTIFIED A lot (well, season 1 is all I’ve seen) and I LOVE the Gatiss / Moffat SHERLOCK as well but I tried to stay away from anything too recent, just to give perspective enough time to sink. Not only did I omit RICHARD DIAMOND but I also didn’t include PETER GUNN and what the hell happened to JOHNNY STACCATO, THE ROGUES, the wonderful DEPARTMENT S, MANNIX … They’ll have to wait for my 202nd post perhaps this time, next year

      • michael says:

        You could have a point about letting time pass before judgment. I recently came across a TIME magazine cover story about the 1959-60 TV detectives (10/26/59) where it referred to JOHNNY STACCATO as PETER GUNN with a piano.

        TIME has its archive on line for free viewing.

        Don’t miss season two of JUSTIFIED, it was better than season one, as hard as that is to believe.

        It is very very hard for me not to offer suggestions of TV series for list 202nd post, but I will wait until after you are done with your list before I start second guessing.

  13. Jeff Flugel says:

    Very cool, Sergio! I always enjoy reading lists of this sort, and you put out a good one here. Of course there are some titles I’d swap out for others (no mention of PRIME SUSPECT, ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, THE RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, MANNIX, THE OUTSIDER, PETER GUNN etc.) but that’s the nature of lists of this sort, and part of what makes them interesting. Glad to see you giving less talked about shows like DALGLIESH and CAMPION some much deserved attention. I’m interested, though – I see you included the Edward Petherbridge LORD PETER WIMSEY series in your list (I like this one too), but not the great Ian Carmichael one from the 70s…did you not care for the Carmichael series, or was it just a matter of running out of space? At any rate, personally speaking I’d have swapped it out for JONATHAN CREEK, which has some nice puzzles and a fun central protagonist, but is basically light fluff and marred by a terribly annoying succession of sidekicks. Just my opinion, of course… ;)

    Great post, thanks for making the effort to compile it!

    • Thanks very much Jeff – Peter Gunn should be there really as it’s a great show and just got cut for space. I’m not sure what version of The Outsider (several movie and TV shows use the title) you are referring to though – if you mean the Roy Huggins / Darren McGavin private eye series, I’ve never seen it I’m afraid. Is it out on DVD? I love Jonathan Creek both for its comedy and the great impossible crime plots, especially the first three seasons with Caroline Quentin so we are going to have to agree to disagree. I think the Carmichael version of Wimsey is good fun but not even remotely as good as the later one, though it is entertaining to see them together. I decided to draw the line at anthologies, again arbitrary really, so as to make the numbers fit – not a very good reason really other than it actually was my 101st post …

  14. BG says:

    Somehow, I think you missed Foyle’s War — a fine series.

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