Detective stories aren’t just bound to be boring and dry investigations into one sordid case after another it would seem. This was especially true in the 90s when a lot of people were simply clambering for films to be filled with as much action, drama, suspense, and thrill as they could possibly contain. Such films were often disturbing in some ways and surprising in others, but they were almost always a thrill to watch since a lot of them kept a person guessing right up until the big reveal, which at times didn’t come until the movie was just about over. When that reveal did come however there were only a few people that seemed as though they’d guessed it all along, while several others tried to play it up as though they’d done so. Detective films in the 90s were a trip largely because the director was looking to juke the average person out of their socks with a surprising twist.
Here are some of the greatest detective stories of the 90s.
5. L.A. Confidential
Some movies can’t resist putting the protagonists at odds with one another simply because it’s a great story and tends to allow the antagonist to run amok for a while until they get too cocky or slip up somehow. When the good guys fight it usually counts as a win for the bad guys largely because they become less the focus than the unrealized goal that needs to be reached. The protagonists going at it with one another is a very strong lure for many people since it’s not typically supposed to happen, but egos have a way of tripping over one another and even the good guys have overly big egos sometimes.
A big part of the detective story is when the protagonist and the antagonist go at one another with the full knowledge that they are aware of each other and will continue the dance that will go back and forth until one of them is no more. The great part about this film is that De Niro and Pacino are two of the greatest actors of their time, and as a result you get a film that is supercharged and ready to go from the start. Add in stars like Val Kilmer and Tom Sizemore as support and you’ve got an absolutely awesome cast that is going to deliver a top notch movie that should be thrilling from beginning to end.
3. The Usual Suspects
There are also detective films that are really more criminally-driven than anything even though the detective element is still there. In The Usual Suspects the detective is attempting to get the whole story of how a supposed drug deal, minus the drugs, went so bad as to produce a dock full of bodies but no explanation. When you pit a criminal that is always two to three steps ahead of the detective and can make up stories about his life on the fly then you get a situation in which the detective, who believes he’s in control, is really little more than a dupe that is allowing himself to be led along by the nose.
2. The Silence of the Lambs
Criminals that are smart enough to play mind games and win nine times out of ten are not to be meddled with. A lot of people still forget that Dr. Lecter was not the main bad guy in this film, but it’s hard to think of him as anything but since he’s the most dangerous and the most capable when it comes to playing his games with the FBI, especially Starling. While she’s being primed to be one of the top agents in the field she’s still no match for Lecter, though thanks to her unflagging ability to be polite she’s never been next on the menu. That being said, she did almost become the next victim of Buffalo Bill, and might have if not for the fact that as one of the main protagonists he was kind of a bungling fool.
This goes down as one of the most diabolical and in some cases evil film ever made since despite what John Doe thought he was doing his methods were flat out cruel and unusual in the highest regard. If not for Somerset, Mills would have been chasing this guy around the entire movie and would have never gotten any closer. It takes a person that’s seen how the city they live in breathe and function to really understand the depravity of which its people are possible. Somerset didn’t like his lot in life, but he accepted it and fought the good fight. Mills unfortunately wanted the world to make sense, and once he got a taste of the madness he simply couldn’t handle it.
Detective movies can be a lot of fun, but they can also be unspeakably dark.