The best mystery and thriller movies of 2022 demonstrate a range of approaches to the genre, from the comedic to the serious, the sprawling to the intimate. There are old-fashioned detectives gathering clues and solving mysteries, and there are action heroes battling forces beyond their understanding. All of these movies provide suspense, intrigue, and excitement, with something to satisfy every type of mystery and thriller fan.
It took more than 30 years to bring novelist Gregory Mcdonald’s investigative reporter and amateur detective Irwin “Fletch” Fletcher back to the screen, but Confess, Fletch proves that it was worth the wait. Jon Hamm is perfectly cast as Fletch, playing a more sardonic, less goofy version than Chevy Chase did. The stellar supporting cast includes Marcia Gay Harden (sporting a gloriously inscrutable accent), Roy Wood Jr., Lucy Punch, and Hamm’s Mad Men co-star John Slattery. They fill out a hilariously absurd mystery that begins with Fletch finding a dead body in the Boston apartment he’s renting. If you like this movie, read this book.
Emily the Criminal
This was the year of Aubrey Plaza, and Emily the Criminal is a showcase for her dramatic skills, playing a debt-riddled gig worker who resorts to a surprisingly lucrative life of crime. With student loans to pay off and no job prospects, Plaza’s Emily accepts an offer to work for a credit-card fraud ring, quickly rising in the ranks and establishing her own criminal enterprise. Writer-director John Patton Ford delivers incisive commentary about modern capitalism along with a suspenseful story, led by Plaza’s intense, off-kilter performance. If you like this movie, read this book.
Pandemic restrictions have led to some creative filmmaking, including single-location, small-cast thrillers like Charlie McDowell’s Windfall. There are only three nameless characters onscreen for the majority of the movie: Jason Segel as a small-time criminal who breaks into the empty vacation home of a wealthy tech mogul, and Jesse Plemons and Lily Collins as the CEO and his wife, who arrive unexpectedly. McDowell and the cast create an unpredictable and often dryly amusing dynamic among the three characters, as they all attempt to turn the ever-changing situation to their advantage. If you like this movie, read this book.
Decision to Leave
The latest movie from South Korean auteur Park Chan-wook is less graphic than the violent, often sexually explicit thrillers he’s known for (including Oldboy and The Handmaiden), but it’s no less gripping. It’s a noir-tinged procedural starring Park Hae-il as a police detective who becomes personally involved with a woman he’s investigating for murder. Tang Wei gives a fascinating performance as the quiet femme fatale, whose own personal struggles seem to be leading her to a tragic end. Park composes astonishing, elaborate images that match the characters’ inner turmoil.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Writer-director Rian Johnson firmly establishes Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) as the next great movie detective with Glass Onion, the sequel to his 2019 hit Knives Out. Blanc returns to investigate another murder among the ultra-rich, in this case on a private island owned by tech billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton). Miles’ colorful associates, played by actors including Kate Hudson, Kathryn Hahn, Dave Bautista, and Janelle Monáe, are all suspects, as Blanc navigates the group’s complicated, bitter dynamic. The intricate story is full of delightful humor and satisfying twists, leaving the audience eager for more Blanc mysteries. If you like this movie, read this book.
Set entirely within an unassuming Chicago tailor’s shop, The Outfit places seemingly mild-mannered English tailor Leonard Burling (Mark Rylance) at the center of a mob war. Gangsters use the shop to pass information, and they take refuge there when a rival faction mounts an attack. Both Leonard and his assistant Mable (Zoey Deutch) are more dangerous than they seem, and everyone is working their own hidden agenda. There are double-crosses and triple-crosses as the fastidious Leonard (who fancies himself a “cutter,” not a tailor) just tries to keep the business he worked so hard to build from going up in flames. If you like this movie, read this book.
The latest installment in the long-running Predator franchise is also the best since the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger original. It works because it takes the concept back to basics, without any of the baggage of the later movies. This time, the alien hunter comes to 18th-century North America, where it faces off against a formidable Native American warrior played by Amber Midthunder. Director Dan Trachtenberg delivers lean, minimalist action, making the Predator into a mysterious, dangerous monster again, and Midthunder makes for a believably fierce opponent. The plot is simple but effective, and the visuals are stylish without becoming distracting. If you like this movie, read this book.
This darkly comedic thriller stars Ralph Fiennes as a superstar chef who invites a select group of patrons to his ultra-exclusive restaurant located on a private island. They experience a one-of-a-kind menu that involves manipulation and murder, in a takedown of gourmet snobbery and conspicuous consumption. Anya Taylor-Joy plays an uninvited attendee who throws the chef’s careful plans into disarray. The movie mixes deadpan humor with mounting suspense, introducing a collection of terrible people who probably deserve what’s coming to them. Fiennes brings soulful melancholy to his nihilistic character, and Taylor-Joy holds the movie together with a layered, nuanced performance. If you like this movie, read this book.
Prolific filmmaker Steven Soderbergh turns in a lean, efficient thriller about the perils of modern technology. Zoe Kravitz stars as an agoraphobic Seattle tech worker, who’s drawn into a sinister conspiracy when she hears what she thinks is evidence of a crime on an audio stream from a virtual assistant known as Kimi. As she investigates the source of the audio, she’s targeted by powerful, dangerous people. Half the movie takes place solely inside the main character’s apartment, which builds the tension for the fast-paced final act. Soderbergh executes the familiar conspiracy thriller elements with style and skill. If you like this movie, read this book.
Catch the Fair One
Former professional boxer Kali Reis makes an impressive film debut as star and co-writer of this tough, socially conscious crime thriller. She plays a recovering addict and ex-fighter now working as a waitress, who’s determined to track down her missing sister, even as authorities have given up. Reis’ Kaylee risks her own life to infiltrate a human trafficking operation, so she can find the truth about her sister and exact revenge on the men responsible. The movie combines action and suspense with a timely message about the crisis in missing and murdered Indigenous women. If you like this movie, read this book.
What to Read Next
Josh Bell is a freelance writer and movie/TV critic based in Las Vegas. He’s the former film editor of Las Vegas Weekly and the former TV comedies guide for About.com. He has written about movies, TV, and pop culture for Vulture, Polygon, CBR, Inverse, Crooked Marquee, and more. With comedian Jason Harris, he co-hosts the podcast Awesome Movie Year.