Top 6: Mysteries Where the Mystery Is Unimportant

Posted in Top 6 at 4:59 am by Sam

Our Top 6 list for Episode 15 is a strange one: mysteries where the mystery isn’t important. It sounds paradoxical, but actually a number of genre films have ulterior motives and only cling to a genre’s framework to take advantage of our preconceived familiarity. In a mystery comedy, for example, the mystery provides the forward impetus of a story, but the heart of the film is in the laughs. There are all sorts of reasons why the mystery in a mystery film might not be what’s important about it, and we attempt to explore a diversity of scenarios in our lists.

Do you have favorites of your own? What about other genres of films where the key component of the genre doesn’t really seem to be the point?

As always, we recommend listening to the episode before reading further.

  1. Rear Window (1954)
  2. The Big Sleep (1946)
  3. Blowup (1966)
  4. The Conversation (1974)
  5. The Big Lebowski (1998)
  6. Clue (1985)
  1. 12 Angry Men (1957)
  2. Blowup (1966)
  3. Gosford Park (2001)
  4. L’Avventura (1960)
  5. A Shot In the Dark (1964)
  6. Murder By Death (1976)


  1. Grishny (156) said,

    January 9, 2007 at 10:52 am

    I think it would be fun if you guys would post what your Top Six lists are going to be about in advance. Then we listeners could spend some time thinking about what our own top six in that category would be prior to hearing and possibly being influenced by your choices. Then there would be an additional element of fun in listening to the podcast and seeing how our own personal picks line up with yours.

    You two obviously spend a significant amount of time thinking about your top six lists for each show, compiling lists of options and narrowing them down into the final selections, whereas we get maybe five or ten seconds to think about the category each week in between segments after you announce what the category is. Sure we could show some restraint, pause the podcast and spend some time pondering over our own thoughts, but who wants to do that when we already have to wait a week between each show. :)

  2. wintermute (157) said,

    January 9, 2007 at 2:01 pm

    Grish: I have to say, I’m rather taken with that idea.

  3. Eric (44) said,

    January 10, 2007 at 6:09 am

    Rear Window is a totally non-obvious but brilliant choice. Many of Hitchcock’s films would work. I think another great movie, if a little bit off-putting, is Picnic at Hanging Rock. It’s a weird movie where a group of Australian schoolgirls disappear, and everyone else’s lives are torn apart because of it. (It’s also, oddly enough, one of the few movies where the director’s cut removed material instead of adding it). A+++ WOULD BUY AGAIN

  4. Sam (405) said,

    January 12, 2007 at 10:23 am

    This was my favorite Top 6 segment to record thus far. I think mostly it was just fun to think about, and so many great, great movies came to mind in thinking about it. The Big Sleep. 12 Angry Men. Blowup. A Shot In the Dark. And I still missed a favorite of mine, Clue, which would have supplanted Murder By Death in my #6 slot, plus things like Rear Window (one of the greatest films of all time) that I had to prune just by making the criteria so strict that I had a manageable pool of titles to select from. In any case, it was fun to think about so many of my favorite movies in a new sort of way. I wouldn’t want to do this kind of Top 6 list every week, but as a rule of thumb I think they’re my favorite: some broad topic that throws a monkeywrench into the formula. Mysteries with unimportant mysteries. Romances that aren’t sappy. Horror movies where you don’t see anything scary. It gets you thinking about how you can both follow and break the familiar formulas, and thinking about movies that feel like genre movies but are really doing something different.

    Then second part of what made this Top 6 list fun for me was the recording of it, where Stephen and I (perhaps quite apparently, when you listen to it) had such a great time hearing each other’s picks roll out. I knew Stephen would have The Big Sleep on his list, because he used it as an example when he described the topic to me, but other than that, I was surprised by his every choice — that kind of “Oh yeah, that’s a great pick!” reaction — and that made it a lot of fun.

    (As a side note, we alternate choosing the Top 6 topics. The segments get mixed up when they’re placed in episodes, so it’s not like one of us does all the odd-numbered episodes, and one of us does all the even-numbered episodes, but here’s a tip: whichever one of us introduces the segment is the one that chose the topic.)

    Grishny, I like your idea, and I think what we’ll try to do is give out the next Top 6 topic in the closing remarks of each episode. I’m toying with the idea of putting something on the “Top 6 Lists” page, too, maybe a line at the top that lists the topic for the following week. But we’ll have to get up to Episode 18 or so before these things will kick in. For now, I’ll tell you that next week’s Top 6 topic is going to be the Top 6 Computer Movies. I look forward to your comments in the next Top 6 thread about all the movies we will slap our foreheads over forgetting.

  5. Nevermore (17) said,

    January 24, 2007 at 12:22 am

    I guess, to a lesser extent “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” could fit loosely into this category. While I thought that, on the whole, the film was a horrible representation of the books, the mystery element is sidelined by the dark humour of the movie. True, the mystery isn’t a big plot key to begin with, but it is there and it seems to me that the movie fits the category. But it would NOT be in my Top Six. And even though I can’t list six to begin with, it still has no right to be there.

    In fact, I’m not really sure what would be. I guess “Rear Window” would be a pick, but I can’t think of any others. Yet, that is.

    21 weeks to go…

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