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Every Hercule Poirot Movie Ever Made

1974 Murder on the Orient ExpressLike with Shakespeare, Scrooge, and Sherlock, there is never a shortage of adaptations of Agatha Christie’s novels. Christie’s first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, just celebrated its 100th anniversary, which means that that there have already been several generations’ worth of people to introduce to her work. And the entertainment industry has delivered—there have been over 50 Agatha Christie movies over the past century.

So it stands to reason that since Hercule Poirot was featured in the majority of Agatha Christie’s books, he is also the subject of most of the adaptations. For those of you unfamiliar with the character of Poirot, he is a middle-aged Belgian man living in England, who is fastidious in appearance, and whose keen gift for solving crimes makes him highly sought after, because he is considered the world’s greatest detective. In all, Poirot appeared in 33 novels, 2 plays, and more than 50 short stories published between 1920 and 1975.

Like with Shakespeare, Scrooge, and Sherlock, there is never a shortage of adaptations of Agatha Christie’s novels. Christie’s first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, just celebrated its 100th anniversary, which means that that there have already been several generations’ worth of people to introduce to her work. And the entertainment industry has delivered—there have been over 50 Agatha Christie movies over the past century!

So it stands to reason that since Hercule Poirot was featured in the majority of Agatha Christie’s books, he is also the subject of most of the adaptations. For those of you unfamiliar with the character of Poirot, he is a middle-aged Belgian man living in England, who is fastidious in appearance, and whose keen gift for solving crimes makes him highly sought after, because he is considered the world’s greatest detective. In all, Poirot appeared in 33 novels, 2 plays, and more than 50 short stories published between 1920 and 1975.

There was an amazing Poirot series called Agatha Christie’s Poirot that aired on British television from 1989 to 2013. The episodes were taken from both Poirot’s novels and stories. It starred David Suchet as the famous Belgian detective, and it is widely considered the best Poirot performance to date. And John Malkovich recently starred as Poirot in the The ABC Murders mini-series for Amazon Prime. (I thought Malkovich did a good job playing a detective, just not the one he was supposed to be. It didn’t feel like a Poirot performance to me. Sorry, John.)

As far as performers who have played Hercule Poirot in theatrical adaptations, Kenneth Branagh is the latest actor to tackle the “little man with enormous moustaches,” as Christie described him in Murder on the Orient Express. Indeed, in the 2017 adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express, Branagh sports the largest Poirot moustaches yet, looking very much like he has a gray Lhasa Apso glued to the lower half of his face. (Seriously—it’s mesmerizing.)

Not only did Branagh star in Murder on the Orient Express, he also directed the film. And he is set to repeat his double duties with a new Poirot movie: Death on the Nile, based on another of Christie’s most famous books, will also star Gal Godot, Annette Bening, and Letitia Wright, and is tentatively scheduled for release in 2021. Besides these two recent Poirot films, there have been 14 other films to make it to the screen featuring everyone’s favorite Belgian detective. Here is a look at a few of the notable performances to check out, whether you’re a diehard Agatha Christie fan, you’re looking to get into her work, or you just like to watch a good mystery.

Alibi (1931)Alibi (1931)

This was the first screen adaptation of work by Agatha Christie. It’s actually based on the 1928 stage production of the same name, which was in turn based on Christie’s 1926 novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. The book is narrated by a doctor, who tells the story of the murder of—wait for it—Roger Ackroyd and the investigation by Hercule Poirot. Austin Trevor played Poirot in the movie, and he claimed that he was hired simply because he could speak with a French accent. Sadly, there are no copies of this remaining, but it seemed worth mentioning because it is the first.

Murder on the Orient Express (1974)Murder on the Orient Express (1974)

Albert Finney stepped into the role of Poirot for this film, about a stabbing death aboard a snowed-in train. It has an incredible supporting cast, including Vanessa Redgrave, Sean Connery, Anthony Perkins, John Gielgud, and Ingrid Bergman. It received six nominations at the 47th Academy Awards, for Best Actor (Finney), Best Supporting Actress (Bergman), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design, of which Bergman was the only winner. Of all the Poirot performances, I would say Finney’s is the most exaggerated. (Also, his lacquered hair gave me nightmares as a kid.) Christie, who died in 1976, stated that this film and the 1957 version of Witness for the Prosecution were the only adaptations of her work that she liked.

Death on the Nile (1978)Death on the Nile (1978)

Finney was unavailable for the next planned Poirot film, so Peter Ustinov stepped into the little Belgian detective’s shoes. His portrayal of Poirot was a bit softer, a bit less pronounced. This adaptation of the 1937 classic Christie novel sees Poirot’s vacation trip down the Nile through Egypt interrupted by the murder of a young heiress aboard their boat. The all-star cast includes Maggie Smith, Angela Lansbury, Bette Davis, Mia Farrow, and David Niven, and the film won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design at the 51st Academy Awards. It’s also the highest-rated Christie film on IMDB.

Evil Under the Sun (1982)Evil Under the Sun (1982)

Ustinov once again returned for his second of six performances as Hercule Poirot. This time, Poirot’s beachside vacation at a swanky resort is cut short by the murder of a millionaire’s mistress. As he seeks answers, another guest is murdered, and Poirot realizes the killer must be among one of the eight guests. Maggie Smith also appears in this Christie film, along with Diana Rigg and Roddy McDowell. (This movie made me determined never to go sunbathing when I grew up.)

More Poirot Films

The other Poirot films are Black Coffee (1931), The Lacquered Box (1932), Lord Edgware Dies (1934), Murder in Three Acts (1986), Dead Man’s Folly (1986), Appointment with Death (1988), Murder on the Orient Express (2001) (with Alfred Molina as Poiort), and The Great Alibi (2008). There’s also Thirteen at Dinner (1985), which features David Suchet, who went on to play Poirot in the long-running television series. And also notably The Alphabet Murders (1964), with Tony Randall of The Odd Couple as Poirot. The film’s poster features a very 1960s-looking movie poster with a blonde woman in hot pants holding a gun, and the movie also has the distinction of being the lowest-rated Poirot film on IMDB.

And there are also two films that are actually Poirot stories but for some reason feature Christie’s other famous detective, Miss Marple, in Poirot’s role: Murder at the Gallop (1963) and Murder Most Foul (1964). And as a bonus recommendation for all you Agatha Christie lovers out there, I highly suggest checking out the French series Les Petits Meurtres d’Agatha Christie. The first two seasons are based on works by Christie, but instead features different investigators.

Liberty Hardy is a Book Riot senior contributing editor, co-host of All the Books, and above all else, a ravenous reader. She resides in Maine with her husband and her three cats, and she knows a lot about Agatha Christie.