Feeling like some light murder mystery to fill those long winter evenings? We’ve got you covered with these titles that’ll keep you wondering who did it while also totally falling for their investigators and casts of unorthodox characters. We’ve included stories that feature adept investigators, mustachioed detectives, teenage sleuths of Holmes lineage and even total amateurs.
Gosford Park (2001)
Fan of Downton Abbey? Then you need to check out this Robert Altman film penned by Downton‘s creator and writer Julian Fellowes. It’s set during a hunting party celebrated throughout a weekend in Gosford Park and attended by an array of British aristocrats and their staff. But when the host at Gosford turns up dead, chaos ensues as you try to understand who may be responsible for the deed.
The movie features Maggie Smith playing a prickly lady with unrealistic standards, not unlike her Dowager Countess. You can rent Gosford Park from Amazon, iTunes and other usual streaming services.
Pushing Daisies (2007-2009)
This Bryan Fuller (Hannibal) dramedy sadly only lasted for a couple of seasons on ABC before being canceled — during a time in which streaming services were not prevalent or in the habit of picking up canceled fan-favorite shows. The show is now available on HBO Max.
Lee Pace stars here as Ned, a pie-maker. He has the ability to bring dead things back to life with just a touch. But touching beings a second time renders them inanimate forever. His unusual gift makes him the perfect companion for private investigator Emerson Cod (Chi McBride), who needs help questioning his murder victims. Their first case together is the death of Chuck (Anna Friel), Ned’s childhood friend and first love. He brings her back to life but is unable to let her go again, and the two of them pine for each other — unable to ever touch.
This contemporary adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic private detective character made stars out of Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) and Martin Freeman (Watson).
The BBC show, which in the U.S. aired as a PBS Masterpiece series, ran for four seasons of no more than four episodes each. But the long, feature-length episodes sure managed to portray Sherlock and Watson in full detail and sketched very complex and difficult-to-solve cases inspired by Doyle’s original novels.
I’ll admit this is one of the least “light” offerings on this list. Even if you watch Luther with the lights fully on, you may still want to check under your bed before going to sleep. This BBC show, which you can watch on Britbox and Starz if you’re in the U.S., follows London Detective Chief Inspector John Luther (Idris Elba) as he’s having one of the worst days of his life: He’s back at work after a breakdown, his wife Zoe (Indira Varma) has left him and he crosses paths with the obsessive and murderous Alice (Ruth Wilson).
The Neil Cross-created show aired its fifth season in 2019, and even though the rumors about a season six kept popping up for a while, the troubled detective’s fate will be revealed in a Netflix movie also starring Cynthia Erivo and Andy Serkis.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
And please excuse me for suggesting another not-exactly-light watch. This David Fincher-directed adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s Swedish bestselling novel of the same name stars Rooney Mara (Carol) as the hacker and lover of all things black Lisbeth Salander and Daniel Craig (No Time to Die) as investigative journalist and Larsson’s alter ego Mikael Blomkvist.
We already mentioned this film, which is now streaming on Hulu, when we talked about book adaptation decisions that have upset fans. It’s not that Fincher’s version of this tale is disappointing, but The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is only the first one of the Nordic noir series Millennium and we never had Fincher-directed movie adaptations of books two and three.
Since Larsson’s passing and due to the international success of the novels, the series of books was continued by David Lagercrantz with three more installments. The first of them — The Girl in the Spider’s Web — was adapted for the screen with Claire Foy (The Crown) as Salander.
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012-2015)
This Australian production, which you can see on Acorn TV, is based on Kerry Greenwood’s series of mystery books and follows socialite-turned-private investigator Phryne Fisher. The show is set in 1920s Melbourne and is worth a watch if only for the period clothes, shoes and hats.
Essie Davis (Babyteeth) plays the unconventional and glamorous Fisher, an independent woman who loves a good mystery and finds herself always in the path of Detective Inspector Jack Robinson (Nathan Page). The show has three seasons, featuring a case per episode. The follow-up film Miss Fisher & the Crypt of Tears was released last year and is set in Jerusalem and London.
Before Olivia Colman played several queens, won an Oscar, was nominated for a second one, amassed four Emmy nominations and managed to win one of them, she starred alongside David Tennant in Broadchurch. Set in a fictional British coastal town in Dorset, Broadchurch follows Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller (Colman) and Detective Inspector Alec Hardy (Tennant) as they investigate the death of an 11-year-old boy who appears at the base of a cliff overlooking the local beach.
The investigation spanned the first season of the show, which has two more seasons and even an American adaptation, titled Gracepoint, that sees Tennant playing the lead detective once again. The three seasons of Broadchurch are now available on Netflix.
Gone Girl (2014)
This David Fincher-directed movie of Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novel of the same name and adapted screenplay stars Rosamund Pike as the Gone Girl herself, Amy Dunne. Ben Affleck is her husband, Nick Dunne. The couple is forced to leave New York City for Missouri when they both lose their jobs. While Amy disappears from their home one day after months of apparent unhappiness, all signs seem to point to Nick as the culprit — and even the killer.
It’s difficult to predict the very unexpected twists in this movie that definitely didn’t make it to our list of upsetting book adaptations. The stellar cast is rounded out by Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris, Carrie Coon and Kim Dickens. Gone Girl is streaming on Hulu.
This Amazon Prime original show is based on Michael Connelly’s best-selling detective series and stars Titus Welliver as Harry Bosch, a Los Angeles Police Department homicide detective haunted by his own past.
The show also stars very prominently the city of Los Angeles and features one murder to solve per season. Bosch has just finished its seven-season run at Amazon, but the character of Bosch will be next seen in a spinoff series for Amazon’s ad-supported streaming service IMDb TV.
This supernatural procedural show stars Tom Ellis as Lucifer, the Devil himself. He decides to leave Hell and ends up in Los Angeles, where he owns a nightclub. His ability to make people tell him exactly what they want gets him a gig as a consultant with the Los Angeles Police Department, not that he needs the extra money or anything like that. But Lucifer helps Detective Chloe Decker (Lauren German) resolve murders while undeniable chemistry develops between the two of them.
This is one of those series that has gotten much better with age. It started airing on Fox for the first three seasons and, after being canceled, was then picked up by Netflix. I particularly enjoyed a very creative fifth season that saw not only new characters — Dennis Haysbert playing God was perfect casting — but also a noir black and white episode set in the 1940s and a musical one in which the cast sings and dances to “Another One Bites the Dust.”
Lucifer‘s sixth and last season premiered on Netflix on September 10, 2021.
Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
Irish filmmaker Kenneth Branagh directs and acts in this star-packed adaptation of Agatha Christie’s quintessential whodunit. Branagh dons the mustache and the affectation to play infamous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, who is forced to investigate a murder when someone turns up dead on the train he was riding from Istanbul to Calais en route to London.
And while this adaptation may not appease all of Christie’s fans — the film has a 53% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes and is a bit heavy on the CGI front — you can always opt for the 1974 adaptation directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Sean Connery, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael York, Jacqueline Bisset and Anthony Perkins. The 2017 version of this story can be rented on Amazon and iTunes. The 1974 one is available on Hulu.
Big Little Lies (2017-2019)
This HBO adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s bestselling novel was supposed to be a limited series. Executive produced by and starring Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, the TV version of Big Little Lies was developed by showrunner David E. Kelley (Ally McBeal). The show also stars Shailene Woodley, Zoë Kravitz and Laura Dern as the moms, all with very different backgrounds, at an elementary school in Monterey, California. Season one managed to unveil not only the identity of the person whose death is being investigated but also who was responsible for the crime.
Season two incorporated Meryl Streep as Kidman’s disagreeable mother-in-law and managed to give us quite memeable moments, including Dern’s Renata proclaiming: “I will NOT not be rich!” But Big Little Lies would have probably been a better show if it had stuck to its original limited series plan. Let’s hope the also murderous Mare of Easttown doesn’t go the unnecessary second-season route due to its success and Emmy wins.
And in case you were wondering, even though it stars Kidman, is run by Kelley and is based on a Moriarty book, Nine Perfect Strangers won’t exactly quench your thirst for more Big Little Lies.
Murder Mystery (2019)
This summer movie hit was released on Netflix in June of 2019 and, at the time, broke viewing records for the streaming service: More than 30 million households watched the movie in the first three days after its release. Starring Jennifer Aniston as a hardworking New York hairdresser and Adam Sandler as her clueless-cop husband, Murder Mystery sees the couple finally crossing the pond and taking a European vacation after 15 years of being married.
Almost by chance, they end up being invited to the luxury yacht of billionaire Malcolm Quince (Terence Stamp), who’s vacationing on the Mediterranean with his many heirs. When Quince turns up dead, the Americans are framed for the murder, and they need to figure out who did it to clear their names.
The movie mixes a broad sense of humor with a lot of winks to traditional mystery tropes — from a deathly library to a train called Orient Express. Plus, the production shot on location in Italy, so the film is a great watch if you just want to escape and turn your brain off.
Knives Out (2019)
Everything that Murder on the Orient Express didn’t quite get right, Knives Out did, satirizing the genre while also bringing new life to it. This homage to classic whodunits penned and directed by Rian Johnson (Looper) stars Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jaime Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette, LaKeith Stanfield and Christopher Plummer and packs a few surprising plot twists.
The movie was such a success — it grossed more than $310 million worldwide and boasts a 97% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes — that Netflix famously closed a $400 million deal for Knives Out 2 and 3 with Craig returning as detective Benoit Blanc and Johnson writing and directing.
Knives Out is available on Prime Video.
Enola Holmes (2020)
Based on Nancy Springer’s young adult book series and featuring Sherlock Holmes’ younger sister Enola Holmes, this Netflix movie stars Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things) in the titular role. She’s a runaway teenager who escapes to London, trying to figure out the disappearance of her mother Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter) — and ending up entangled in another case with the also teenaged Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge).
Netflix has already picked up Enola Holmes for a sequel movie.
Only Murders in the Building (2021- )
This joyful comedy encapsulates murder mysteries at their best and most irreverent. Set in a ritzy apartment building on New York’s Upper West Side, it stars Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez. They’re three neighbors and perfect strangers with not much in common other than the fact that they’re living in the place where a murder could have been committed and they all love true-crime podcasts.
The Hulu show — you can read our review here — boasts an impressive ensemble cast including Tina Fey, Amy Ryan, Nathan Lane, Da’Vine Joy Randolph and even Sting. Plus, it manages to fit in a lot of very meta-references about the podcasting world and some of its obsessive fans. The show has already been renewed for a second season.