Top 10 Unsolved Movie Murders!

Last Updated on August 3, 2021

Do I really have to ask? Is there even a shadow of a chance that any of you have NOT been as utterly transfixed as we are with HBO’s docu-drama series THE JINX: THE LIFE AND DEATHS OF ROBERT DURST? Wow. What a crazily captivating, stranger-than-fiction crime saga that only grows more compelling by the day. Riveting stuff. At last blush, old doddering Bob is being held in Louisiana on possession charges of 5 zips of herb and an unpermitted handgun…and still awaits extradition to Los Angeles where he’s been charged with first degree murder. Newest word is he’s now on suicide watch. Could this mean he’s planning to plead insanity? Could be…

Anyway, with this ever-fascinating true-crime tale unfolding before our eyes, however exploitative, we thought it’d be cool to reexamine some horrific cinematic cold cases our damn selves! You down? Good! Clear your desk, roll up your sleeves, light a smoke and get busy with our Top 10 Unsolved Movie Murders!


Almost went with Atom Egoyan’s out and out dramatization of the West Memphis Three in THE DEVIL’S KNOT – but because PURGATORY, the third leg in HBO’s PARADISE LOST trilogy is so damn powerful, it need be praised as such. Falsely convicted in 1993 of murdering three young boys in West Memphis, Arkansas – PURGATORY depicts how the accused – Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, were finally released from prison on what’s called an Alford Plea. It essentially says that in order to be released, you still have to admit guilt. Shockingly unjust, but true. And worse yet, with the admission of guilt, the case remains closed, which likely means the real killer could very well still be out there somewhere. Terrifying!

#2. ZODIAC (2007)

Said it before, will resound it once more: ZODIAC might be Fincher’s best movie. It’s a superbly acted, deftly directed, slyly nuanced true-crime tour de force. So goddamn good! Based on the infamous Zodiac Killer who serially slaughtered a spate of people in the bay area of California in the late 60s and early 70s, Fincher wisely stayed true to the reality that the culprit was never found. Never identified. But the movie is less about capturing the killer and instead concerned with the obsessive, arduous day-to-day task of trying to – the false leads and dead end clues, the political red-tape, the paranoia, the fatigue, the passage of time that erodes the accuracy of eye-witness testimony, etc. It’s like the real-life murder-mystery version of ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN. Love it!

#3. FROM HELL (2001)

Strike this one up as an all encompassing salute to the infamy of Jack The Ripper…and all the cinematic adaptations of this ever elusive murder-mystery. Be it JACK THE RIPPER with Klaus Kinski or the TV series of the same name with Michael Caine, the story of an unfound serial killer, or killers, who slit the throats and eviscerated a slew of prostitutes in the Whitechapel district of London in 1888 is quite possibly the greatest unsolved mystery ever on record. And while the Johnny Depp flick conveniently fingers a culprit to wrap up a pat Hollywood ending to satisfy viewers, the real life “From Hell” letter sent to Scotland Yard detective George Lusk is totally authentic. In that letter, Lusk received half of a harvested human kidney said to be from one of Jack The Ripper’s victims.

#4. ALL GOOD THINGS (2010)

It’s true ALL GOOD THINGS must end, but all good things must begin somewhere too. And thanks to Andrew Jarecki making a sympathetic enough dramatization of Robert Durst’s infamous trifecta of unsolved mysteries in that flick, THE JINX, and by proxy this here investigative litany (of equal import, I know), has been born. Really, if it weren’t for the existence of ALL GOOD THINGS, Bob Durst wouldn’t feel in safe enough company to JINX himself on camera about what has transpired in the 33 years since his first wife Kathy’s disappearance. Granted, the fictionalized version tried to condense and jam-pack the film with too much stuff, which is exactly why THE JINX works so well as an exhaustive 6-part miniseries. Now we await the “must end” part of the equation!


Anyone catch the low-key remake of THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN that came out last year? I must say, I was pleasantly surprised! It also goes without saying that we’re big fans of the 1976 original around here, even if it does have a sort of dated, episodic made-for-TV feel. But just as it inspired the inaugural Jason Voorhees facade in F13 Part 2 – a one-eyed burlap sack – THE TOWN was in turn inspired by the real life case of The Phantom Killer (or the Phantom Slayer), who in 10 week span in 1946, left 5 of the 8 people he brutally accosted deader than Dillinger. Also known as the Texarkana Moonlight Murders, to this day, almost 70 years later, a killer has yet to be identified or apprehended.

#6. SUMMER OF SAM (1999)

The ungodly amount of homoerotic 70s dance numbers from Adrien Brody notwithstanding, SUMMER OF SAM is truly one of Spike Lee’s dankest joints! Set during the record setting heat-wave in 1977 New York, Lee paints a vivid portrait of the angst-ridden, paranoia-fueled terror that the .44 Caliber Killer incurred on the city. David Berkowitz, aka Son of Sam, killed six people and wounded another seven, claiming a demon who possessed his neighbor’s pet dog told him to do it. But in the movie, it’s hardly about Son of Sam, or even his indiscriminate shooting-spree. Nope. It’s all about the zeitgeist, the characters on the margins and fringes of victimhood, the energy and vibrations in the air at the time. The strength is in its evocation of what it felt like to live and breathe in the city at the time.

#7. BLACK DHALIA (2006)

I’m not sure exactly when Brian De Palma became a somewhat subpar filmmaker, but I have a sneaking suspicion it was right around the time he took on one of the most infamous unsolved murder mysteries of all time, THE BLACK DAHLIA. That said, cop a peek above, my man still sure knows how to mutilate a corpse like nobody’s business! Of course, the title Black Dahlia refers to the nickname given to Elizabeth Short – a real life woman whose bizarrely gruesome death in 1947 Los Angeles (in my backyard Leimert Park no less) became a highly publicized ordeal. The killer was never found, and the term Black Dahlia perpetuated as a catchphrase for lurid crimes that went beyond simple description. The flick marked the 50th anniversary of the case, next year makes it 60!

#8. GOSFORD PARK (2001)

Leave it to the great Bob Altman to flip the conventions of a lavish mansion-set murder-mystery on its knotty dome-piece and absolutely change THE RULES OF THE GAME. Now, to be clear, in GOSFORD PARK we the audience eventually find out who committed murder by poison, but to the lot of other characters in the film, most importantly the nosy constables, it remains an enigma indeed. Moreover, the red-herring of a knife-stabbing as the cause of death only tangles the webs of deceit even further, and add another layer of mystery and intrigue to the overall experience. Then of course there is the massive ensemble, sumptuous sets and subtle social commentary about the ruling vs. the working class. Shite’s DOWNTON ABBEY with a murder mystery!

#9. THE STRANGLER (1964)

Get this, in 1964, while the real life Boston Strangler was still tallying what ended up being a baker’s dozen female victims – director Burt Topper made a movie about the very subject as it was happening. In fact, “too soon” was the grisly topical that producers forced Topper to drop Boston from the title as originally planned, and made them use an unknown city in the film instead. But the story about a madman lurking around a metropolis, savagely raping women and choking them to death with their nylon stockings, stayed true. Then, later that year, a man named Albert DeSalvo was eventually apprehended as the killer. He was turned into the subject of the actually titled 1968 movie THE BOSTON STRANGLER, in which Tony Curtis played the DeSalvo.


Okay okay, so this isn’t a terribly impressive movie on its own, but since it was directly encouraged by the real life case of the Alphabet Murders, we’re terribly humbled to kick this wicked gala off with a true cold case. Also known as the Double Initial Murders, the crime refers to a perpetrator who killed three people in Rochester, New York in the early 70s and was never caught. His alliterative victims – Carmen Colon, Wanda Walkowicz and Michelle Maenza – landed him the murderous moniker of the Alphabet killer. Then in 1977, similar crimes were committed in California, resulting in the arrest and ultimate sentence of death of one Joseph Naso. It’s unclear whether or not he was responsible for Rochester however. Strangely, a ’65 pic called THE ALPHABET MURDERS predates all of this madness!

Tags: Hollywood

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