As a movie lover, there’s nothing more exciting for me than a great mystery flick. The thrill of a nice plot twist, the curiosity that comes with learning what’s going on as the characters do, the final wow factor – you can’t get that with any other kind of movie. It feels like Christmas every time you watch a good mystery flick, am I right?
Well, why not combine that this holiday season? I’m presenting you the ultimate list of the ten best Christmas mystery movies, ranked from worst to best according to IMDb ratings. Enjoy!
10. Silent Night (2012)
IMDb rating: 5.2/10
What it’s about: In a small, remote town in the American Midwest, a serial killer dressed as Santa Claus is going around and killing people in the most violent, non-jolly ways. To make it worse, he’s doing it on Christmas Eve, and he’s killing men, women, and children. To make it worst, the deputy in charge of the investigation was supposed to have a day off.
Why you should watch it: To kick off our list, Silent Night is actually a horror comedy that’s a mix of a holiday setting, a classic who-done-it storyline, and jokes that will have you laughing out loud despite the topic not being all that jolly. It’s not the best movie on the list, but it’s nice to unwind and satisfy your mystery appetite without having to think too hard.
9. A Christmas Horror Story (2015)
IMDb rating: 5.8/10
What it’s about: A Christmas Horror Story actually follows four intertwined but separate stories, all happening on Christmas Eve and all leading up to a final culmination where they connect. The stories follow a family that brings home a new Christmas tree (and something else), a student making a jolly documentary, an evil Christmas spirit, and a Santa who slays evil for a living.
Why you should watch it: The execution of the movie might not be the most brilliant piece of cinematography you’ll ever see, but it’s a super fun, nightmarish concept, with a single narrator/radio host telling you all the mysterious stories. And the best part about it is that the host is played by the legendary Star Trek actor, William Shatner. Yes, Captain Kirk is in the building!
8. The Children (2008)
What it’s about: Elaine, Jonah, and their three kids decide to go on a Christmas holiday throughout New Year and spend it with relatives in an isolated country home. The relatives, Chloe and Robbie, also have two kids.
It’s all peaceful and lovely, but things take a horrific turn after the kids, one by one, seemingly start falling ill and then turn incredibly violent, attacking their parents and wanting to kill them.
Why you should watch it: What starts as a soft, idyllic family reunion film turns into a super violent bloody horror. And you have no idea why, and almost to the very end, you have no clue what in the world is going on. It would be a much better movie hadn’t I seen the ending, but I’m not here to nitpick. You’ll have fun and get the chills, especially if you find kids creepy, I guess.
7. Unlocking Christmas (2020)
What it’s about: Dr. Kate Stafford works at a small town hospital known as Cedar Park. Things take a mysterious turn after a weird key and a holiday riddle arrive on both her and her colleague Kevin’s doorsteps. They embark on an adventure to ‘unlock Christmas,’ and along the way, a romance buds between them.
Why you should watch it: I feel like we got off on quite a horror-ish foot with the first couple of entries on this list. So, Unlocking Christmas might come in as refreshing since it’s far from a horror flick (well, depending on who you ask). Unlocking Christmas is a mysterious, lighthearted romantic TV movie that will simply get you into a holiday mood – not more, not less.
6. Lady In The Lake (1946)
IMDb rating: 6.5/10
What it’s about: Lady in the Lake follows Phillip Marlowe, an investigator hired by a lady editor of a crime magazine to help find the wife of the magazine’s chief publisher. She supposedly ran to Mexico, but a string of murders will prove that it might not be the case.
Why you should watch it: It’s a very old movie, but no Christmas mystery list would be complete without Lady in the Lake. Not because it’s a nice film but because it was revolutionary for the future of cinematography. The director, Robert Montgomery, was the first to implement first-person filming, where the camera serves as the eyes of the character.
It’s not the best movie ever created with the technique, but it was the first, and you’ll certainly enjoy the thrilling mystery as it unravels throughout the film.
5. Inside (2007)
IMDb rating: 6.7/10
What it’s about: Originally titled À l’intérieur, this horror mystery is a classic directed by Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury. It follows a nine-month pregnant woman who lost her husband a couple of months ago and battles anxiety. To make matters worse, she’s tormented by a strange, mysterious woman who broke into her home, wanting to take her unborn child.
Why you should watch it: I have to be honest, this one was a bit hard to watch at certain moments, but honestly, it’s one of my favorites from the list. It all happens on Christmas Eve, which only emphasizes the contrast between the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ and the darkest time in the entire life of our lead character.
The movie is thrilling, and mysterious, and unlike many movies from this list, it actually has a phenomenal ending. If you’re down with the French new wave, I highly recommend this flick.
4. The Gift (2015)
IMDb rating: 7.0/10
What it’s about: Right around Christmas, a married couple, Simon and Robyn, were high school sweethearts that stayed together. Suddenly, they run into Gordo, their weird former classmate, who starts leaving mysterious presents on their doorstep. The story slowly uncovers 20-year-old secrets in the most disturbing way you can imagine.
Why you should watch it: The Gift is one of those movies that will leave you sitting and staring at the screen for about an hour after the end credits role. I find the rating quite low, actually, because the plot twists and reveals just blew me away.
Granted, the only Christmasy thing about the film is that it happens to unfold around Christmas, but it’s one of the best psychological mystery thrillers of the past decade, hands down.
3. The Thin Man (1934)
IMDb rating: 7.9/10
What it’s about: Nick Charles is a former New York detective who returned to the city with his rich wife Nora and started investigating crimes – namely, a murder case – as it revolved around people they know.
Why you should watch it: The comedy mystery was a start of a long series of iconic Thin Man movies that will have you intrigued and baffled at one moment and laughing out loud at the other. It all happens around Christmas, and even the soundtrack includes many holiday classics such as Jingle Bells.
I mean, it’s incredibly old-school cinematography, but the characters are just iconic, and it was, I reckon, the first time we got that awesome killer-reveal-in-front-of-everyone plot line, something that Hercule Poirot grew famous for. Speaking of Poirot…
2. Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (1994)
IMDb rating: 8.0/10
What it’s about: The famous detective Poirot is summoned after a patriarch of a dysfunctional, rich family got his throat slashed, seemingly by one of his adult kids, right before a family reunion for Christmas. Poirot is there to solve the crime the only way Poirot knows how – in a phenomenal, mysterious fashion!
Why you should watch it: Technically, this is the first episode of the sixth season of the Poirot series, but it lasts 100 minutes, so it certainly fits the bill of a full-length movie. It doesn’t get much better when talking about mystery flicks than David Suchet’s Hercule Poirot, and this one revolves around Christmas, so that’s pretty much all you need to know to watch it this holiday season.
1. Die Hard (1988)
IMDb rating: 8.2/10
What it’s about: John McClane is an NYPD police officer who gets tangled in a horrible crime, where his estranged wife and several others are kidnapped by terrorists during a Christmas party at the Nakatomi Plaza. McClane will soon realize that he might be more acquainted with the terrorist leader than he initially thought.
Why you should watch it: The debate about whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie or not will end – but it is. It is a Christmas movie. Now, whether it’s a mystery is up to debate, especially because we all know the movie by heart, but if you’re actually watching Die Hard for the first time, some of the major plot twists might catch you off guard.
Alan Rickman’s antagonist is absolutely spot on, and the film sprouted a franchise of films, itching having its own unique magic – but none ever quite as spectacular as the first.