So you’ve had some extra time on your hands lately, been cooped up in your inheritted Victorian mansion, and as you’ve watched the waves crashing onto the bleak beach below the cliff upon which your abode is perched, you’ve gotten to thinking that there’s only one sure-fire way to spice up your life: inviting 10 eccentric strangers to your house to be systematically killed off in creative ways until only one remains (or none, or two, or whatever—it’s really up to you). You spend weeks planning for the event—purchasing crossbows, recording creepy personalized video messages for the guests, making sure the kitchen staff knows to make that delicious raspberry tart that you like—and now the big day has finally arrived. The guests have all pulled up in their Studebagers or horse-drawn carriages or what have you…but what’s this? Oh no, they’re all standing around awkwardly in the entryway, not talking to each other! And you’ve suddenly forgotten how to speak the language and can only utter the phrase “urnmff”, which wasn’t the sinister greeting you were hoping for. This is worse than that time at junior prom when you got stuck holding all the popular girls’ purses so that they “wouldn’t get stolen”! You’re tempted to just start the inventive murders now to end the humiliation, but that giant Rube Goldberg machine that you rigged up isn’t set to go off for another 24 hours, so you’re stuck trying to entertain the guests until then. But don’t panic! There is one easy way to appease your guests—have them bond by watching a series of movies about other maniacal billionaires who play psychological games with their visitors. Here are 5 such movies to get the party started.
And Then There Were None (1945)
You might as well kick things off with a classic, amiright? This movie was adapted from an Agatha Christie novel in which ten strangers accept an invitation to visit the isolated island home of a mysterious stranger (because there’s nothing suspicious about that kind of invitation…). Before long, the invitees are introduced to a very politically incorrect song about ten little Indians being killed off in various ways, and then—you guessed it—the guests begin getting killed off in those same ways. The great part about this movie and the novel it was adapted from is the way it examines the suspicion amongst the guests, who quickly realize that as the only ones on the island, one of them has to be their mysterious host and the murderer. It turns into a psychological thriller (albeit a slightly slower-paced pyschological thriller than most of the contemporary films in the genre) that will get your guests shooting furtive glances at one another. Nothing like diverting suspicion from yourself.
Murder by Death (1976)
I personally haven’t seen this movie in about 10 years, but I remember liking it for it’s quirky sense of humor as well as the presence of Peter Sellers and Maggie Smith. Also, spoiler alert: Truman Capote plays the eccentric host in what might be one of the most uncomfortable cameos of all time. I love Capote’s writing, but I’ve never felt the need to see him materializing into a room in a nightmarish flash of disco-era strobe lights. If you can get beyond that, though, the movie’s quite funny and puts a twist on this murder-mansion subgenre by focusing on five detectives who are competing against one another to solve the creepy house’s mystery.
This one follows a bit of a different format; instead of a group of strangers coming together in a house, it’s just Jude Law going to Michael Caine’s house and being put through all kinds of mind games. The film is a remake of the 1972 original (which I’ll admit I haven’t seen), which was itself based on a play, and you can definitely tell the script originated with a play due to the long stretches of dramatic dialogue and the mostly contained setting, but sometimes that shit can be awesome, and your guests might appreciate the somewhat claustrophobic feel of the movie.
Gosford Park (2001)
One of your guests has just complained about this barrage of murder-mansion films and is now going on about how he/she wishes that he/she was watching Downton Abbey instead. (This is actually a pretty likely scenario, because everyone loves Downton Abbey). Don’t fret—just screen Gosford Park instead. It deals with intrigue in an English country house while examining the lives of both servants and aristocrats and Maggie Smith is in this one too, so it’s basically Downton Abbey with murder.
If ever there was a feel-good murder-mansion movie, this is it. Also, kudos to Clue for actually being a clever and well-written movie that is based on a board game (and yes, that’s a passive-aggressive jab at Battleship and whatever other awful board game movies are likely to come out in the next few years). This one’s particularly fun because it has multiple endings in which different characters are found guilty of murder. Keep your guests laughing while also keeping them on their toes.
I hope you find that you’ve really bonded with your guests after watching these 5 movies with them. Maybe you will have even reappraised your life choice to be a murdering billionaire. After all, you and your new chums had some good laughs and enjoyed some delicious canapes, and maybe friendship is all you need to fill the void in your life that you’ve been trying for years to fill with money. If this is the case, you should probably make an excuse to leave the room now so that you can subtly disable the trip wire and crossbow that would set your Rube Goldberg device in action.