Top 10 1990s Murder Investigations

Murder and Mayhem. There’s a killer on the loose and someone is out to catch him or her. Will the murderer be brought to justice in Top 10 Films’ favourite 1990’s Murder Investigations?

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“Elementary, my dear Watson” – those immortal lines forever associated with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous sleuth but never actually spoken by him – is the perfect introduction to Top 10 Films’ list of mystery and murder. The nineties were a particularly good decade for the murder-mystery movie as thrill-seeking audiences enjoyed the sight of some decidedly nasty but undeniably inventive killers alluding police. But for every Hannibal Lector there’s usually a Clarice Starling, a power-figure fighting to uphold the law and put the killer in jail. These are my favourite 1990’s murder investigations.

Here are a few more lists on Top 10 Films you might be interested in: Top 10 Blockbusters of the 1990s | Top 10 Christmas Films of the 1990s | Top 10 Science-Fiction Films of the 1990s | Top 10 1990’s Films I’d Like to See in Theaters

10. The Bone Collector (Noyce, 1999)

Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie (a twosome that, given the media’s penchant for compounding names, could be called “Denzelina”) team up to solve a murder-mystery involving a number of killings in New York City. The unique nature of this partnership is that one is paralysed and bedridden while the other carries out the investigation, connected by two-way radio.

9. Kiss The Girls (Fleder, 1997)

Morgan Freeman delivers a fine performance as writer James Patterson’s detective Alex Cross. He is assigned to track down the person responsible for abducting and murdering a number of beautiful women in North Carolina.

8. Basic Instinct (Verhoeven, 1992)

Michael Douglas gets too close to his chief murder suspect Sharon Stone in Paul Verhoeven’s sexually charged thriller. Stone is mouth-dribble-inducing in her portrayal of a beautiful novelist with a penchant for rough sex and ice picks.

7. Primal Fear (Hoblit, 1996)

Richard Gere stops chasing Julia Roberts for a moment and tries to defend Edward Norton’s alter boy after the young man is accused of viciously murdering an archbishop. The film features a “killer” twist!

6. The Fugitive (Davis, 1993)

Harrison Ford loves to play characters accused of murder – rightly or wrongly. In The Fugitive he’s on the run as he tries to clear his name after being accused of murdering his wife. Exciting, action-packed and fuelled by the mystery of who committed the crime, the film is a simple pleasure with top-notch performances.

5. Presumed Innocent (Pakula, 1990)

Harrison Ford has an affair with the wrong woman in Presumed Innocent (has he been taking cues from Michael Douglas?). After his colleague and former lover is found brutally murdered, the man who played Indiana Jones and Han Solo is hauled before a judge as the culprit. He must fight to clear his name as director Alan Pakula plays with audience expectation – did he do it? If not, who did?

4. JFK (Stone, 1991)

One of the most talked about murder investigations ever was adapted for film by Oliver Stone in 1991. Who shot John F. Kennedy? Why did they do it? And, who helped them commit the crime?

3. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (Lynch, 1992)

Director David Lynch weaves this strange tale concerning the investigation into the murder of Teresa Banks. The story precedes the events that take place in Lynch’s Twin Peaks television series and follows the same macabre, dreamy aesthetic that unsettles and disorientates.

2. Seven (Fincher, 1995)

Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt go on the hunt for a killer targeting victims based on the seven deadly sins. There is an impenetrable darkness about the film, both in its execution and its visual aesthetic. The twisted conclusion always delights, no matter how many times you’ve seen the film.

1. Silence of the Lambs (Demme, 1991)

Jonathan Demme’s classy adaptation of Thomas Harris novel isn’t just one of the best films of the 1990s, it is one of the best films of the last fifty years. Staggering performances from Jodie Foster as a rookie FBI agent assigned to hunt a sadistic serial killer, and Anthony Hopkins as institutionalised cannibal Dr. Hannibal Lector, form the basis of this icy thriller.

Discover More: Top 10 Alfred Hitchcock Films

Here are a few more lists on Top 10 Films you might be interested in: Top 10 blockbusters of the 1990s | Top 10 Christmas Films of the 1990s | Top 10 Science-Fiction Films of the 1990s | Top 10 1990’s Films I’d Like to See in Theaters

Written and compiled by Daniel Stephens.

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Your turn – what are your favourite murder investigation films from the 1990s?

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About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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  1. Avatar
    Lindsay Reply

    Amazing list! I’m a huuuuge fan of 90’s crime thrillers and I think this list nailed it. I don’t think I have seen Presumed Innocent so I’ll add that to my Need to See list. I’ve also never seen Fire Walk but not for lack of trying. I just want to get through all of Twin Peaks but I’m taking forever to get around to it.

  2. Avatar
    Evan Crean Reply

    Great list. Bone Collector, Seven, Silence of the Lambs, and Presumed Innocent are my favorites that made it. Presumed Innocent especially got me good on the first viewing with the reveal of the killer at the end.

  3. Avatar
    Pete Reply

    Primal Fear is awesome! And you can’t beat The Silence of the Lambs so great choice for number one! Though Seven is pretty damn close. Actually I might switch them around! I really need to see JFK and Twin Peaks still.

  4. Avatar
    Rodney Reply

    Yes, yes and yes. Silence of The Lambs would probably top a list of ANY decade crime films. I wasn’t expecting Twin Peaks at all, so that surprised me. Great list Dan. Glad to see The Bone Collector in there too…

  5. Avatar
    Mark Reply

    In relation to JFK, I suggest there’s enough evidence now to say Carlos Marcello killed him, the Mafia was pretty much behind it and they did it to stop RFK’s Cosa Nostra witch hunt (revenge for the Bay of Pigs betrayal may also been a motive, but it wasn’t the main one). Also, Oswald’s role was not as clear cut as both the Warren Commission and Stone made it out to be, which is a shame as Gary Oldman’s performance during the court room flashback reconstruction is one of the film’s highlights.

  6. Avatar
    The Focused Filmographer Reply

    aww, no Alex Cross (2012)? haha. j/k.

    Great list here, Dan! I agree with the ones I’ve seen. Seems like I’ve still got a couple to catch up on.

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  8. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    Fantastic, fantastic, fantastic list. Anyone that remembers Primal Fear as one of the greats is really on the ball. One of the truly underated films. And Basic Instinct is a terrific film also.

    Nice list Dan!! Love it.

  9. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    One thing I thought was really interesting about Basic Instinct is that Catherine Tremell is much hotter than Sharon Stone. Strange, because, well they are obviously the same person. But it’s true. Sharon Stone was very attractive in her day, but Tremell just oozed sexuality. Maybe it’s just a personal observation, but it’s something that’s always stayed with me.

  10. Avatar
    Neal Damiano Reply

    Great list Dan, I can’t think of any film I would add, you’re right on!

  11. Avatar
    Neal Damiano Reply

    Flawless list Dan, the only thing I would change personally, I would have Seven at number 1 & Silence of the Lambs at 2. I love Seven it’s one of my favorite psychological suspense films. Again, excellent list & choices!!

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