In the world of literary and cinematic detectives, Hercule Poirot stands tall, not only for his brilliant mind but also for his distinctive appearance. Crafted by the great British author Agatha Christie, this Belgian investigator has graced the pages of 33 novels, starred in over 50 short stories and brought his enigmatic presence to the big screen through various iconic actors.
Since his debut in the 1930s, Poirot has undergone a remarkable transformation on celluloid, played by a number of talents including Austin Trevor, John Moffatt, Albert Finney, Peter Ustinov, David Suchet, Kenneth Branagh and many others.
While some of his early cinematic adventures may have slipped into history, the iconic image of Poirot, with his meticulously waxed moustache, pink-tipped nose, piercing green eyes and impeccably tailored attire, ensures that this sleuth is not one to be forgotten that easily.
Now with the release of A Haunting in Venice, marking Kenneth Branagh’s return as both actor and director, the Belgian detective, once again, comes back to life on the silver screen. So, as his legacy continues, we have curated a list of the finest Hercule Poirot movies that make for the perfect (and most thrilling) movie night binge-watch.
The best Hercule Poirot movies that are perfect for a movie night
We delved deep into IMDb‘s archives to unearth a list of Poirot’s cinematic mysteries. From the classic Alibi of 1931 to the recent A Haunting in Venice, released just a few days ago on September 15, these are Poirot’s top-rated movie adventures that continue to captivate and intrigue fans.
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Murder by Death (1976)
IMDb rating: 7.3
When everyone is summoned to the mysterious Lionel Twain’s castle for an unusual dinner party, they are informed of Twain’s audacious plan to stage an unsolvable murder within the mansion at the stroke of midnight, offering a prize of USD 1 million to the detective who can crack the case. However, when Twain’s blind butler, Bensonmum (Alec Guinness), meets an untimely demise long before midnight, the stakes are raised for the trapped sleuths.
Written by Neil Simon and brought to life by director Robert Moore, this spoof of the super sleuth genre is a whimsical and entertaining romp about the world of detectives, complete with unexpected twists and a dose of irreverent humour.
Adding to the 1976 film’s appeal is its ensemble of A-list stars that take on the personas of thinly disguised iconic detectives. Peter Falk channels his inner Sam Spade, Oscar winners David Niven and Maggie Smith take on Nick and Nora Charles, Elsa Lanchester embodies the quirky Miss Marbles and regrettably, Peter Sellers dons grotesquely offensive makeup to portray a Charlie Chan caricature. James Coco delivers a particularly charming performance as Milo Perrier, a character clearly inspired by the iconic Poirot.
IMDb rating: 7.2
Alibi is a fine testament to Agatha Christie‘s literary legacy and is, without question, one of the best Hercule Poirot movies.
Adapted from Michael Morton’s 1928 play and Christie’s 1926 novel, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, this cinematic gem was meticulously brought to life by director Leslie S. Hiscott.
The film was a suicide mystery shot around a tranquil countryside. What truly set Alibi apart was its pioneering use of ambient sounds, a groundbreaking cinematic element in the early days of talkies. The film immersed audiences in a world where every creak and whisper held a clue, transforming the audiences into amateur detectives.
As for the casting, Austin Trevor embodied the enigmatic Hercule Poirot and Franklin Dyall played the ill-fated Sir Roger Ackroyd. Elizabeth Allan and J.H. Roberts rounded out the ensemble cast, adding depth to this captivating narrative.
Death on the Nile (1978)
IMDb rating: 7.2
Agatha Christie’s 1937 novel, Death on the Nile, has seen not one but two riveting movie adaptations: the first helmed by John Gillermin in 1978 and another by Kenneth Branagh (you’ll be reading that name a lot!) in 2022. In both versions, the inimitable Hercule Poirot finds himself thrust into an enthralling mystery while on a leisurely cruise ride in the ancient land of Egypt.
In the 1978 film, the story unfolds on a luxurious Nile River cruise, where the rich heiress Linnet Ridgeway, played by Lois Chiles, meets a chilling demise. Enter the esteemed Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (essayed here by Peter Ustinov) and his trusted companion Colonel Race (David Niven) who embark on a mission to unravel the mystery of Linnet’s murder.
As Poirot delves into the series of clues, a peculiar array of potential culprits emerges. However, just as the detective begins to piece together this web of deception, fate intervenes, and several suspects meet an untimely death, deepening the mystery surrounding the identity of the killer.
Murder on the Orient Express (1974)
IMDb rating: 7.2
Directed by the legendary Sidney Lumet, Murder on the Orient Express marks yet another cinematic showcase for the brilliance of Poirot.
Albert Finney graces us with his presence as the iconic Hercule Poirot and is joined by a constellation of Hollywood stars from the Golden Age including Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman (who won an Oscar for her performance), Sean Connery, Anthony Perkins, Jacqueline Bisset and Jean-Pierre Cassel.
As for the plot, the film weaves a captivating narrative. A luxurious European journey swiftly transforms into a race against time to unravel a murder mystery unfolding within the confines of a train. As an avalanche halts the Orient Express in its tracks, the world’s preeminent detective, Hercule Poirot, steps in to interrogate passengers and scour for clues, determined to prevent the killer from striking again.
Interestingly, this cinematic gem was made on a modest USD 1.4 million budget, yet it defied expectations, amassing a remarkable USD 36 million in North America alone.
Evil Under the Sun (1982)
IMDb rating: 7
Evil Under the Sun stands out among Agatha Christie’s reimagined adaptations for its audacious opening scene. As the story unfolds – beginning with a lifeless body – the cast of colourful and eccentric suspects takes centre stage. Each character, portrayed by a stellar actor including the likes of Dame Maggie Smith, Dame Diana Rigg, Sylvia Miles, James Mason and Jane Birkin, weaves a web of intrigue.
Yet, it’s Peter Ustinov’s character Hercule Poirot who steals the spotlight, presenting a delightful blend of intellectual prowess and physical clumsiness. His portrayal is a symphony of charisma and charm that resonates even when he’s off-screen.
A Haunting in Venice (2023)
IMDb rating: 6.8
Kenneth Branagh’s latest Poirot movie, A Haunting in Venice, delves into grief as a guiding theme. Based on the 1969 novel Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie and set in post-World War II Italy, the film has a melancholic sense of impending doom.
The film’s plot unfolds during a séance in a supposedly cursed palazzo, becoming a classic locked-room mystery with eerie elements and suspenseful camera work. Also in the film, Poirot, once again portrayed by Branagh, is grappling with grief for his lost love. Branagh aims to strip Poirot of cosy mysteries, revealing a character grounded in postwar realities. This portrayal explores grief, darkness and Poirot’s enduring enigma with mournful introspection, making it more than a typical Christie adaptation.
Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
IMDb rating: 6.5
In 2017, Kenneth Branagh directed and starred in the remake of Murder on the Orient Express, the first of his modern adaptations of Agatha Christie’s iconic novels. The film presents a star-studded ensemble cast, including Oscar-winner Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Johnny Depp, Oscar-winner Judi Dench, Josh Gad, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer and Daisy Ridley.
While Branagh infused a fresh perspective and contemporary relevance into Christie’s timeless story, some of his directorial choices significantly deviated from the source material, garnering the film mixed reviews. For those approaching the narrative for the first time, Lumet’s 1974 adaptation may offer a more engaging experience.
While Branagh doesn’t necessarily reinvent the story, he does provide a visually captivating retelling of the earlier adaptation. With a cast that’s nothing short of stellar, Branagh’s direction infuses the closed-room murder mystery with the thrill of a Hollywood blockbuster. He portrays Poirot as an adventurous detective who just happens to have a profound love for his own iconic moustache. What’s not to love?
Death on the Nile (2022)
IMDb rating: 6.3
This is the more recent interpretation of Christie’s iconic novel. In this 2022 film, Kenneth Branagh, once again, not only donned the role of Poirot but also directed the film, bringing a fresh perspective to the classic tale. With a CGI-packed extravaganza and Gal Gadot playing the opulent Linnet Ridgeway-Doyle, this film is one of the best Hercule Poirot movies to put on your watchlist.
While the 2022 version managed to work at the box office, it garnered mixed reviews in comparison to its predecessor. Despite its visual grandeur and stellar cast, some critics found it slightly less enthralling than the 1978 rendition.
Murder in Three Acts (1986)
IMDb rating: 6.3
Adapted from Agatha Christie’s 1934 novel Three Act Tragedy, Gary Nelson’s Murder in Three Acts is a cleverly made murder mystery. The film stars Peter Ustinov returning as detective Hercule Poirot, alongside Jonathan Cecil, Tony Curtis and Emma Samms.
The story unfolds during a retired movie star’s soirée in the exotic locale of Acapulco, Mexico. Poirot and his companion Hastings bear witness to a chilling double poisoning, claiming the lives of Reverend Stephen Babbington and Dr Strange, a renowned nerve specialist. Tasked with unravelling the mystery, Poirot must discern the elusive connection between these two victims to unveil the identity of the cunning murderer.
In this riveting tale, the seasoned Belgian sleuth embarks on a quest to expose the poisoner lurking within the confines of a villa owned by a retired actor.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
– Where can one watch Hercule Poirot movies?
You can watch Hercule Poirot movies on various streaming platforms like Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, or by renting or purchasing them on digital platforms like Google Play Movies and iTunes.
– Which is the highest-rated Hercule Poirot movie according to IMDb?
According to IMDb, the highest-rated Hercule Poirot movie is Murder on the Orient Express (1974), with a rating of 7.2.
– Which is the best Hercule Poirot movie?
Determining the best Hercule Poirot movie is subjective and depends on personal preferences. Some highly regarded Poirot movies include Murder on the Orient Express (1974), Death on the Nile (1978) and Alibi (1931).
(Header and feature image courtesy: IMDb/A Haunting In Venice)