If you're looking for a dark and brooding detective movie rather than a gimmicky, upbeat detective story, these are your top ten recommendations. The original poster requested films that resemble the ambiance of Se7en rather than an upbeat Knives Out mystery.
1. Mystic River
The most upvoted movie suggestion was Clint Eastwood's 2003 film Mystic River starring Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, and Kevin Bacon. Three men who were childhood friends find themselves torn apart when one of the men's daughters dies, leading to the discovery of a crime 25 years earlier. Penn and Robbins both won Academy Awards for their roles in this movie, and it's earned a solid 7.9 on IMDb.
2. L.A. Confidential
This 1997 film is based on the book of the same name. Three police officers of varying personalities investigate a series of murders with their own approaches to justice. It won Oscars for Best Writing of an Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress.
One movie-watcher describes it as pretty dark, while another person it's a perfect film back to front. It's 8.2 rating on IMDb places it as the #117 top-rated movie on the database.
3. The Silence of the Lambs
The Silence of the Lambs is widely recognized in cinematic history due to its five Oscar wins. Often hailed as one of the greatest movies ever made, the story revolves around a young female FBI trainee striving to succeed in a male-dominated environment. To capture a serial killer who targets women, she is compelled to seek assistance from a cannibalistic murderer. Its impressive 8.6 IMDb rating firmly positions it among the top 22 films.
4. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
This one is a sore subject for me as someone that looked forward to Fincher's sequels which never came. Multiple people mentioned The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but they didn't clarify if they meant the original Swedish version or the American adaption directed by David Fincher. Both films are outstanding in their respective ways, with the American one being in English, while the other is presented in Swedish. The story revolves around a man joining forces with Lisbeth Salander, a female hacker, to unravel the enigma surrounding a woman who disappeared four decades ago.
A few people suggest the 1999 film “8MM,” which is about a private investigator who a wealthy widow hires to determine if a snuff film depicting the murder of a girl is real or not. It stars Nicholas Cage, and a few commenters describe it as very dark. It has a not-bad rating of 6.5 on IMDb.
If you don't mind watching films with subtitles on, this Japanese psychological thriller will haunt you. One commenter claims it's the greatest dark detective movie they've ever seen.
A detective investigates a string of gruesome murders committed by people under hypnosis who can't remember their actions. The same commenter calls it unsettling and refers to it as one of the greatest horror movies of the last 30 years.
7. Kiss Me Deadly
Directed by Robert Aldrich, Kiss Me Deadly is a 1955 film noir that one commenter describes as being about a detective who tries to uncover the mystery surrounding a Pandora's Box that the people in the film desire but which makes them go crazy. This film is rated 7.5 on IMDb. According to a user, this movie served as a partial inspiration for Tarantino's Pulp Fiction.
8. Angel Heart
One person says you can't go much darker than Angel Heart. It's a 1987 film about a private investigator, played by Mickey Rourke, who Robert De Niro hires to track down a singer named Johnny Favorite. Things take an unexpected turn when he starts questioning people linked to Favorite. Others agreed it's “very dark” and a great recommendation.
9. Shutter Island
Directed by the legendary Martin Scorsese, Shutter Island had a huge cultural impact. It's in the top 142 movies on IMDb with a rating of 8.2. The movie takes place in 1954 — a US Marshal, played by Leo DiCaprio, investigates the disappearance of a murderer that escaped from an asylum at Shutter Island. However, through his exploration, he makes shocking discoveries about the place.
10. Gone Girl
A couple of people list Gone Girl in their comments. Adapted from the book written by Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl is a story about how Nick Dunne becomes the focus of scrutinizing media attention once his wife Amy disappears, as they suspect he had something to do with it. Rated 8.1 on IMDb and nominated for an Oscar, Gone Girl is one of Fincher's best films. It's brooding, gripping, and shocking.
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We've all been there – sitting through a movie that we can't help but cringe at, but somehow it still manages to hold a special place in our hearts.