With movies like The Batman and Death on the Nile having released this year to varying degrees of success, it’s clear that audiences still love well-crafted mysteries. From classic thrillers to scavenger hunts, a good mystery has the power to envelop its audience’s mind and challenge their critical thinking, resulting in a thrilling experience.
Since most modern mysteries are reserved for a more mature crowd, it can be difficult to find an appropriate crime film for the whole family. Luckily, Ranker has compiled the best Disney-made mysteries (including Pixar gems and lesser-known live-action movies) that are perfect for detectives of all ages.
Note: Ranking lists are live and continue to accumulate votes, so some rankings may have changed after this posting.
ten Coco (2017)
The central mystery of coconut involves a boy named Miguel whose quest for musical stardom lands him in the land of the dead. Under the assumption that his great-great-grandfather is the famous musician Ernesto de la Cruz, he tries to find Ernesto in order to gain his blessing so he can return home.
While the film’s mystery may not be the most complex, its execution is top-notch. Coco’s inventive character design, dynamic world, and heartfelt themes of forgiveness and family only elevate the mystery and make it that much more impactful. When the truth about Miguel’s family’s past is finally revealed, it’s both shocking and heartbreaking to prove that the mystery’s conclusion was well written and deserved.
9 That damn cat! (1965)
A wonderful combination of suspense and slapstick, That damn cat! creates a story about a cat solving a crime that is both entertaining and delightful. This lesser-known Disney film sees a cunning housecat stumble upon a pair of bank robbers who are holding a bank teller hostage. The victim uses her watch to send a “HEL-” message around the cat’s collar in hopes that her owner will save her.
Beyond the hilarity involving the tenacious feline, this movie’s central mystery is handled quite seriously, and there are moments of real tension that might surprise casual Disney fans.
8 National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007)
Following national treasure continues the adventures of Ben Gates and his reluctant crew as they attempt to clear the name of Gate’s ancestor after he was named a conspirator in the Lincoln assassination. In this episode, the group uncovers an elaborate series of clues that seem to lead to the location of the mythical City of Gold while simultaneously trying to evade a devious black market dealer.
Nicolas Cage is more charismatic than ever as he leads the ensemble back through high-stakes chases, thrilling heists and even the kidnapping of the US President. The mystery at the center of the film is fun and inventive, drawing the audience on the ride as the group moves from one beautiful setting to another. Although the film was not well received by critics, the film was a commercial success.
seven The Spinners of the Moon (1964)
Hayley Mills plays a young woman named Nikky who travels with her aunt to the island of Crete to rest and relax, but soon finds herself entangled in an elaborate jewelry trafficking ring and a handsome stranger named Mark.
Even though The Moon Turners is aimed at younger audiences, there are many adult themes throughout the film. The danger Nikky finds herself in is treated very seriously, with many sequences filled with tangible tension and violence. While the overall mystery of the jewelry smuggling ring isn’t hard to solve, Mark’s character acts as an alluring piece of the puzzle and keeps the movie from being predictable. Although the film is not considered one of Hayley Mill’s best films, her performance is still worth watching.
6 The Lifeguards (1977)
Bernard and Bianca are two mice in New York who work for the international organization known as the Rescue Aid Society. They receive a distressed message from a young orphan, Penny, who is being held captive by an evil pawnbroker with the nefarious intent of using her to recover a priceless diamond. The mice accept the mission and try to locate her before it’s too late.
Rescuers is one of the most forgotten Disney films of all time. It’s a touching and thrilling film that’s not only beautifully animated but also wonderfully original. Not only are the main characters of Bianca and Bernard fully realized, but their smarts and drive also make the film even more entertaining. Rescuers was a box office success, and critics found the film to be a return to form for Walt Disney Studios.
5 Zootopia (2016)
Rookie bunny cop Judy Hopps has 48 hours to solve the disappearance of Emmitt Otterton, an otter who is the last of 14 predators to go missing. With the help of fox trickster Nick Wilde, she tries to piece together the pieces of this unusual mystery, racing against time trying to crack the case before other innocent animals are harmed.
zootopia ensures that the mystery is not only captivating but also socially significant. Beyond the well-constructed mystery, zootopia deals with tough real-world issues, teaches children about discrimination, racism and prejudice in the workplace. With each clue the duo uncovers, a part of their character is also revealed, which helps to develop deeper themes of acceptance and inclusion.
4 The Rescuers From Below (1990)
Bernard and Bianca are called to Australia to save a young boy, Cody, from an evil poacher named McLeach, who is on the hunt for the rare eagle, Marahute. With the help of colorful animals, Bernard and Bianca work tirelessly to find Cody and save him from the clutches of the relentless McLeach before he can capture and kill Marahute.
The Rescuers Below remains as thrilling and entertaining as its predecessor. The trade in New York for the vast expanse of outback Australia results in some truly stunning animation, with praise for the flight sequences. The story beats may seem similar, but the additional characters of Wilbur and Jake provide a much-appreciated comedy addition that would delight even the most cynical audience member.
3 Holes (2003)
Based on the best-selling book of the same name, Holes follows Stanley Yelnats as he is sent to a juvenile detention center for a crime he did not commit. Supervised by the abusive warden Walker, he and the other prisoners are forced to dig holes every day, without knowing why.
Holes is considered Shia LaBeouf’s best film and rightly so. LaBeouf and the rest of the stellar cast deliver incredible performances that help anchor some of the most over-the-top streaks. The film’s mystery is solved through a harrowing flashback that changes the tone from an innocuous YA adaptation to a culturally relevant discussion of inequality in America. Not only does the film have a great mystery, but it also has something important to say.
2 The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
An underrated gem from Disney’s 80s, The Great Mouse Detective follows the famous detective, with his trusted associate Dr. Dawson, as he uses his deductive reasoning to solve the case of a missing toymaker. Meanwhile, his nemesis Rattigan uses the Toymaker as a way to take over the mouse world.
The Great Mouse Detective is heavily influenced by the canon of Sherlock Holmes. In addition to multiple references to the legendary detective, Holmes’ dog, Toby, is included as a supporting character bringing this story into the same world. The film takes the best elements of classic Sherlock mysteries and turns them into a whimsical and thrilling adventure for the whole family.
1 National Treasure (2004)
Ben Gates, historian and treasure hunter is doubled by a colleague to whom he entrusts his knowledge of the mythical Treasure of the Templars. When the next clue to finding the treasure is on the back of the Declaration of Independence, Gates realizes he must steal the document in order to prevent the treasure from falling into the wrong hands.
national treasure takes the mystery genre and mixes it with an exciting adventure through American history. When the triggering incident occurs, the film picks up speed and never stops, giving audiences the perfect blend of intrigue, action and levity. Cage stands out with its campy and heartfelt performance, proving why this film was named one of Cage’s best films to date.
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