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5 Movies like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Mysteries with a Killer Script

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Dale Barham itcherWhat makes a good mystery? An intriguing premise is always a good start, as is a host of fine actors. Movies like ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’, ‘Prisoners’ and ‘The Ghost Writer’ prove that above all, the most imperative thing is a riveting script. Trust me, there are few crime thrillers out there that are as well written or compelling as the ones on this list. ~ Dale Barham

No Time for a Toilet Break!

‘The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo’ is an absolute phenomenon. Adapted from the Stieg Larsson novel, it centres around a disgraced reporter named Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) who is offered a chance to clear his name by wealthy entrepreneur, Henrik Vanger. Invited to his Vanger’s vast estate, Blomkvist is tasked with solving the mystery of his niece’s murder over 40 years ago.

Vanger suspects that it was a member of his own family who murdered the girl and wants nothing more than to find some closure on the matter. As Blomkvist begins his investigation, he enlists the help of Lisbeth Salander (a transformative Rooney Mara), a damaged but brilliant sleuth who feels a moral and personal connection to the devastating case.

While the Swedish adaptation is brilliant in its own right, the American redo simply stands head and shoulders above it. With David Fincher on board, the movie receives all of the director’s  typical nuances, including his penchant for creating a suffocating atmosphere and flawless pacing.

With a brilliant adapted script to work with, this might be the most underrated film in Fincher’s entire oeuvre.

You can find some great books like ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ in this article.

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Movies Similar to ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’…

‘Prisoners’ (Denis Villeneuve, 2013)

Hugh Jackman plays the father of a girl who goes missing with her friend while playing in the street. The police quickly apprehend a suspect, but release him due to lack of evidence. Of course, that’s not going to sit well with the irate father, who’s no closer to finding his daughter.

Frustrated with the lack of movement in the case, he decides to take matters into his own hands, abducting the supposedly innocent suspect with the hope he can force the truth out of him.

Meanwhile, an unorthodox detective (Jake Gyllenhaal) tries to stay within the means of the law as he scours suspects and events that could lead to the discovery of the missing girls.

Cold and bleak, ‘Prisoners’ is an absolute heavyweight of the mystery crime genre. If Roger Deakins’ masterfully dreary cinematography doesn’t put a chill up your spine, the tightly wound narrative and slow moral destruction of a family man definitely will!

Similarity Match: 95%
As with ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’, there’s something bigger at work here than just one missing person case. Both films have uncomfortable foreboding as they tread towards the conclusion, but ‘Prisoners’ is the more concise and eventful of the two.

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‘The Ghost Writer’ (Roman Polanski, 2010)

Ewan McGregor stars a ghostwriter who is simply a cut above others in his field. That’s why he’s selected to pen the memoirs of one Adam Long, a former British prime minister.

Thinking it’s the opportunity of his career, McGregor agrees to write the book, but it’s not long before he stumbles across evidence suggesting his client murdered the previous ghostwriter to stop a damning secret from being revealed.

Agonisingly paced and invariably gripping, ‘The Ghost Writer’ is one of the sharpest movies of the last decade. By all accounts, this is definitely a movie any budding screenwriters (or fans of good writing in general) will appreciate.

Similarity Match: 90%
Once again, you’ve got a writer in peril when they stumble into a web of secrets and conspiracies. However, this time, it’s politicians who are seemingly at the root of all evil. As if you needed another reason to distrust them!

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‘Tell No One’ (Guillaume Canet, 2006)

‘Tell No One’ is a painstakingly crafted French film about a woman, Margot, who was killed eight years ago. Her husband, Alexandre, has never been able to get over his loss and still continues to grieve. Already mentally fragile, he finds himself becoming the prime suspect in a murder case when two bodies are discovered near his home – and that’s where things get interesting.

On the same day, Alexandre receives an email from an unknown sender which appears to show his wife alive and well. With nothing but a cryptic message instructing him to “tell no one”, Alexandre goes on the run to clear his name and possibly find his beloved.

To say any more would spoil the complexity and genius of this movie. Prepare to get acquainted with the edge of your seat!

Similarity Match: 80%
Just like in ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’, there’s more to a murder case than meets the eye. However, ‘Tell No One’ dives deeper into the themes of grief and mourning, before sending its protagonist on the run for his life.

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‘Brick’ (Rian Johnson, 2006)

When teenager Joseph Gordon-Levitt gets a pleading and almost-terrified phone call from his ex, he doesn’t think too much of it. But when her dead body is found not long after, he realises something is definitely wrong with the whole stinking picture.

He sets out to solve the murder by himself, integrating himself in high-school cliques and coming face-to-face with some of the most unsavoury characters at school. His detective work leads him to a small-time drug dealer who may hold the clue to solving the mystery of the girl’s death.

Written and directed by Rian Johnson (before he busied himself with ‘Star Wars: Episode VIII’), ‘Brick’ seamlessly marries elements of the high-school genre with classic film noir, resulting in an original and engrossing concept.

Similarity Match: 70%
‘Brick’ is undoubtedly the grittier of the two movies. It takes itself as seriously (while still remaining completely tongue-in-cheek) and is just as bleak, but it’s a much more minimalist picture on the whole, complete with a unique script.

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If You Like ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’, You Will Like…

If you loved the way the Swedish weather and landscape lent itself to the mood and tone of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’, you might enjoy its similarly morose appearance in this next suggestion.

‘Let the Right One In’ (Tomas Alfredson, 2008)

Oskar is a sensitive and tormented 12-year-old boy living with his mother in sterile Sweden suburbia. He’s always being picked on by school bullies and has never had much luck with friends.

One night, he meets his new neighbour, Eli, a quiet but moody character who’s just moved in next door. As a friendship blossoms between the two, Eli reveals that she isn’t like every other girl, and that she may have had a hand in a series of grizzly local killings.

Coming-of-age dramas have never been so bloodthirsty!

Snowy, cold and uninvitingly brisk, Sweden once again finds itself reflecting the darker corners of the human condition. However, this time, there’s an added supernatural twist to go with all the murder.

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I Didn’t See That Coming!

Whether you solved the mysteries before the protagonist or got caught completely by surprise, there’s no denying that films like ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ are as gripping as they are harrowing. There’s nothing quite like a good thriller to sink your teeth into, and it’s even better when they have a script which allows them to bite right back!

Can you think of any other cleverly written movies like these?

Let me know in the comments section below!

Hi, I’m Dale and I’m a Blu-Ray addict. When I’m not obsessively fixating over the ever-growing mountain of movies taking up most of the front room, I’m usually writing about all things Hollywood. Go figure, huh? If I’m not glued to the television watching ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ for the billionth time, you can probably find me crooning in my hard-rocking blues band or having inane conversations with the resident cats.
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