8 Best Forensic Movies for the Analytical Mind

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Since the dawn of shows such as CSI and its numerous spinoffs, North America has been obsessed with forensic science. However, it has created a lot of myths about the field of forensics and how DNA compositions actually work:

  • If an episode is to be believed, criminals leave their DNA and hair fibers and, to a lesser, more disgusting extent, semen everywhere. No matter the crime, you can be sure the perpetrator did something uncouth there that made them easier to track down. This has become such a pop culture hit that criminals have taken to writing down ways to avoid being tracked by dumping crime scenes and bodies with bleach to avoid capture. The facts of criminal forensic science are much more complicated, however, leading criminals to foolishly manage to leave even more evidence than they intend.
  • The other major myth is that CSI teams operate like police officers, tracking down the criminals themselves. In fact, their job begins at the crime scene and ends in the lab, leaving professional detectives to do the arresting. The very first detective story can be attributed to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Murders in Rue Morgue, in which a body is found brutalized with no visible entry or exit point obvious. The detective deduces that the killer, while meticulous, was also an escaped Orangutan from the zoo who entered the apartmnent through a chimney.

Still, the general public interest in the science behind crimes has led to a deluge of forensic science-based films. Here are some of the best forensic movies for the analytical mind:

1. The 39 Steps (1935)

Surprisingly, his is one of the best forensic movies that originated from a time where forensic technology is still developing. Alfred Hitchcock’s cross-country thriller can be considered one of the earliest forensic crime films, as Richard Hannay, armed only with a mysterious map drawn on his hand, investigates the death of a woman who was recently in his company. Be sure you get Hitchcock’s original and not the remake, which makes drastic changes to the plot and hews closer to the director’s classic “Wrong Man” set up.

2. The Bone Collector (1999)

This schlocky Denzel Washington thriller features the actor as a quadriplegic, using Angelina Jolie as his eyes and ears while investigating a string of killings in New York City. The plot is silly, the twists ridiculous, but Washington’s insights into the details of the killings are a lot of fun to piece together. The two lead characters are soon to feature in a television show.

3. The Day of the Jackal (1973)

Much has been written about internation assasin Carlos “The Jackal”, but few are as well made as this teriffic spy thriller. And much of the investigation in tracking the killer has to do with forensic evidence: bullet-riddled cars, failed assassination attempts, conterfiet documents and other details are what lead our protaganist to unravel an upcoming crime. This is one of the best forensic movies where all the storylines are just pieced together meticulously. Avoid the Richard Gere/Bruce Willis “remake” altogether, which sacrifices the carefully structured investigation for ridiculous action set pieces.

4. The Usual Suspects (1995)

The notorious twist ending to this pot boiler is solved using a forensic sketch artist, who draws a portrait of the mysterious Keyser Soze shortly before his identity is realized by both the lead detective and the audience. Without spoiling too much about the plot, this is one of the best forensic movies to watch.

5. Seven (1995)

Director David Fincher can be called a lot of things, and meticulous certainly is one of them. In short, Seven follows two detectives on the trail of a killer who murders those he considers guilty of one of the seven deadly sins. Despite the investigation ending at the killer’s own whim, the lead up covers all the bases of forensic investigation including fingerprinting, blood splatter patterns, and standard databasing. That’s until the killer just up and decides to confess, setting in motion an endgame you’ll never see coming.

6. Zodiac (2007)

What’s fascinating about Zodiac is not that by the end we still don’t have a clear idea of who the killer is, but that we are given some pretty good guesses through old fashioned detective and newspaper work. From three separate perspectives, the facts of the case, the caliber of the bullets and psychological MO are deciphered and broken down.

7. Fracture (2007)

Fracture is the movie to watch when you want to get away with murder through forensics. Throughout the course of the film, a wily Anthony Hopkins manipulates evidence to his favour in order to get away with shooting his wife. All the evidence comes together and falls apart like a diabolical rube-goldberg machine. He shatters the logic of everything from the gun fired, the motives of investigators and the chain of custody. It may be a little hard to believe by the end, but it’s a fun ride while it lasts.

8. Minority Report (2002)

Anyone interested in present day forensic investigation must surely be interested what it will look like in the future, and Steven Spielberg’s sci/fi thriller gives us a reasonable glimpse at how difficult it may one day be to get away with any crime.

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