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The American Film Institute defines “mystery” as a genre that revolves around the solution of a crime. This is a too small definition of the genre as it leaves out a great movie that is centered on the mystery of “Rosebud”. Of course, the movie I am referring to is Citizen Kane, a movie twice honored as the best American movie of all time on AFI’s own 100 Years…100 Movies list.

AFI Top 10 Top 10

Mystery

Vertigo

1. Vertigo

Receiving mixed reviews upon release, Vertigo has since been considered one of Hitchcock’s best and his most personal film. It’s no surprise that this movie tops the list. AFI has previously honored this movie as #61 on its 100 Years…100 Movies list, #18 on its 100 Years…100 Thrills, #18 on its 100 Years…100 Passions, #12 on its 100 Years…100 Scores and #9 on its 100 Years…100 Movies – 10th Anniversary Edition.

Chinatown

2. Chinatown

Director Roman Polanski and screenwriter Robert Towne clashed over the ending of this classic. In the end, they shot the ending Polanski’s way and the rest is history as this has become a modern day noir classic. AFI has previously recognized this movie as #19 on its 100 Years…100 Movies list, #16 on its 100 Years…100 Thrills, #16 on its 100 Years…100 Heroes & Villains, #74 on its 100 Years…100 Movie Quotes, #9 on its 100 Years…100 Movie Scores and #21 on its 100 Years…100 Movies – 10th Anniversary Edition.

Rear Window

3. Rear Window

In a perverse twist, Hitchcock casts good natured Everyman James Stewart as a wheelchair bound peeping tom in this suspense thriller and makes voyeurs out of the audience. Obsession at its best. AFI honored this movie as #42 on its 100 Years…100 Movies, #14 on its 100 Years…100 Thrills and #48 on its 100 Years…100 Movies – 10th Anniversary Edition.

Laura

4. Laura

The Moose has never seen this movie but Roger Ebert lists it as one of his Great Movies. AFI has also previously recognized this movie as #73 on its 100 Years…100 Thrills list and #7 on its 100 Years…100 Movie Scores.

The Third Man

5. The Third Man

If there were ever a suspense thriller that could possibly rival those of Alfred Hitchcock, this is it. Featuring one of the most powerful movie entrances ever filmed, The Third Man is a masterpiece waiting for audiences to rediscover it. AFI has previously honored this movie as #57 on its 100 Years…100 Movies list, #75 on its 100 Years…100 Thrills and #37 on its 100 Years…100 Heroes & Villains.

The Maltese Falcon

6. The Maltese Falcon

This is the movie that defined Humphrey Bogart’s person until the end of his career. His hard boiled Sam Spade is easily one of his most vivid characters and The Maltese Falcon has often been called the first film noir. AFI previously recognized this movie as #23 on its 100 Years…100 Movies list, #26 on its 100 Years…100 Thrills, #14 on its 100 Years…100 Movie Quotes and #31 on its 100 Years…100 Movies – 10th Anniversary Edition.

North By Northwest

7. North By Northwest

This classic starring Cary Grant and directed by Alfred Hitchcock set the template for the future James Bond movies as well as countless other suspense thrillers. Filled with countless iconic scenes from the train ride with Eva Marie Saint to the crop duster scene to the chase across Mount Rushmore, there’s no denying this movie’s place on this list. AFI previously honored this as #40 on its 100 Years…100 Movies, #4 on its 100 Years…100 Thrills and #55 on its 100 Years…100 Movies – 10th Anniversary Edition.

Blue Velvet

8. Blue Velvet

You’ll be hard pressed to find a more bizarre mystery set in an ideal town as in David Lynch’s twisted Blue Velvet. You’ll never look at Dennis Hopper the same again. AFI previously recognized this as #96 on its 100 Years…100 Thrills list and #36 on its 100 Years…100 Heroes & Villains.

Dial M For Murder

9. Dial M for Murder

Hitchcock has yet another entry on this list with this adaptation of a stage play starring Grace Kelly. This movie touched a nerve with many women and it should. It’s well crafted terror and suspense at its finest. AFI previously honored this movie as #48 on its 100 Years…100 Thrills list.

The Usual Suspects

10. The Usual Suspects

What this movie is doing on this list is beyond me. Sure, it’s enjoyable to a point, but the surprise twist ending both makes and breaks this movie as there’s little replay value to it once you know the surprise. AFI previously recognized this movie as #48 on its 100 Years…100 Heroes & Villains list.

COMMENTS

A look at the list of winners makes you wonder if the AFI has combined the mystery genre with the thriller and film noir genre. Of course, Alfred Hitchcock dominated the list with four movies on the list. This is one of the few lists the AFI has put out with almost no clunkers; the only one on this list being The Usual Suspects.

If it were up to the Moose, I would replace The Usual Suspects with The Conversation and Dial M for Murder with Alfred Hitchcock’s remake of his own film The Man Who Knew Too Much; I would also remove all numerical rankings and leave it as the ten best mystery films.

Other great films that merit consideration but don’t quite make the prestigious top 10 would be: Alfred Hitchcock’s Suspicion, The Big Sleep, House of Games, Sleuth and The Fugitive.

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