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12 Movies to Watch After You See ‘Gone Girl’

By  · Published on October 3rd, 2014

Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl

20th Century Fox

The first rule of Gone Girl is you don’t reveal spoilers about Gone Girl. At least not without warning or proper cover for where those spoilers might be found. So, more than most weeks’ editions of Movies to Watch, this one really urges you not to look at the list of titles without having seen the new film in focus. I’m not even tagging the post with any of my selections as keywords.

On the other side of the table, there is a possibility that I could spoil some of the movies on the list by including them here. I’ve tried to avoid doing so, and I’ve tried to avoid elaborating on any connections between movies that ruins those I’m recommending, as the assumption is that you haven’t seen the 12 picks (there’s one movie from last year that I wound up eliminating on account of the reason for linking it probably spoils it). Anything really old, though, is fair game. There’s one in particular here that is such a classic that its plot twist is quite common knowledge.

This week I’ve kept the recommendations linked by director or actor to a minimum since the theme and plot of the Gillian Flynn adaptation is a more interesting angle than the careers of Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike and David Fincher. I shouldn’t have to waste slots to tell you to watch Gone Baby Gone, The World’s End or any of the director’s prior, better films, most especially Fight Club and Zodiac.

Once again, you should only read further – even to skim or take a peek – if you’ve seen Gone Girl or if you just don’t care.

The Thin Man (1934)

Let’s start off with a light one, as far as connections go. W.S. Van Dyke’s adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s detective novel introduces moviegoers to Nick and Nora Charles (portrayed so delightfully by William Powell and Myrna Loy), who would go on to lead five more installments in the popular film franchise. Here the start out jobless, Nick having quit his career as a private detective in order that they should both just live off Nora’s inherited wealth. It’s a happier situation than in Gone Girl, where Nick and Amy Dunne (Affleck and Pike) have both lost their jobs and are kept going thanks to her inherited wealth in the form of a trust fund. Both The Thin Man and Gone Girl are mysteries (the latter for a while, at least), albeit very different sorts. Definitely watch it before the eventual Johnny Depp-led remake comes out.

The Staircase (2004)

The parallels between Gone Girl and this classic documentary miniseries might end after the first act, but the initial premise of both are very alike. Each involves a man whose wife has seemingly been murdered and who increasingly becomes the prime suspect in the case. And in both, the media is a big influence on public opinion of the guy (of course, this is common in real life, and Captivated is another doc that brilliantly captures this issue). Flynn’s book “Gone Girl” is known for being quite the page-turner, and I’ve always sold The Staircase as the visual equivalent. It’s difficult to start the eight-part film and not stick with the whole thing until it’s over. Each new episode is like a chapter in the book, the kind of book where there may as well not be chapter breaks since the story is too riveting to stop reading at designated pausing points. For more on the link between Gone Girl and The Staircase, which was directed by Oscar winner Jean-Xavier de Lestrade (Murder on a Sunday Morning), see this week’s Doc Option column on Nonfics.

To Die For (1995)

Based on the real case that’s depicted in Captivated, this Gus Van Sant movie is about a woman (Nicole Kidman) who has her teen lover (Joaquin Phoenix) and his friends (Casey Affleck and Alison Folland) kill her husband (Matt Dillon) for her. The murder plot and the psychopathic female lead are what easily associate this with Gone Girl, but otherwise I’d have wanted to go with almost any Kidman movie, particularly one of those where she’s an icy cold lady in the suburbs. In another universe, Kidman surely plays the part of Amy in the adaptation of Flynn’s book. I’m glad we live in the universe where she didn’t, however, because I’d have seen the truth about her character from a mile away.

Ruthless People (1986)

When Nick Dunne first discovers his wife has seemingly been kidnapped, he feels some relief and happiness, as he tells his sister later. And that sister (Carrie Coon), earlier, had made a comment about how Amy is such a bitch that the kidnappers will probably just return her soon out of annoyance with her. Such an idea is the plot of a classic O. Henry story titled “The Ransom of Red Chief,” which also served as inspiration for this Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker black comedy starring Danny DeVito as a man who wants to murder his wife (Bette Midler), also a woman of wealth by inheritance, who lucks out by returning home one day to find that she’s been abducted. When her kidnappers (Helen Slater and Judge Reinhold) request a ransom, he has no interest in paying it because he’s glad she’s gone and can now just be with his mistress (Anita Morris). Meanwhile, initially the kidnappers have their hands full with the loud and horrible victim. Hilarity continues to ensue.

Dark Passage (1947)

Humphrey Bogart stars in this film noir scripted and directed by Delmer Daves based on the novel by David Goodis. At the beginning, he’s in prison for the murder of his wife, a crime he claims to be innocent of, and then he escapes. And winds up finding shelter with Lauren Bacall, of course. As in Gone Girl, in this film there’s a mistress who made things worse for Bogie’s case by testifying against him out of spite for his rejection of her. Unlike Gone Girl, this is more of a wrongfully accused man on the run story, and Bogie’s character even gets plastic surgery to help him hide out. Of course, if I’m going to recommend one such film involving a man framed for killing his wife, I might as well also mention Frenzy and The Fugitive. I hear the third Taken movie (Tak3n) will also have such a plot.

Laura (1944)

Otto Preminger’s classic film noir is one that can’t help but be spoiled for new viewers. It’s not about a final twist, and the revelation comes in such an iconic scene that many have probably seen it before seeing the whole feature (sort of like, though less famously, the shower scene being such common knowledge and familiar to people before they’ve seen Psycho). The title character (played by Gene Tierney) is believed to have been murdered, and the investigation is underway by a police detective who begins to fall for the victim. And then she shows up, like a ghost or an apparition in a dream, when he’s napping at her apartment. If only the revelation of Amy being alive in Gone Girl was so memorable.

Tell No One (2006)

At one time, Affleck was attached to direct an English-language adaptation of Harlan Coben’s 1995 bestseller “Tell No One,” which would also be sort of a remake of this Hitchcockian French version by Guillaume Canet. Fortunately he’s off that project, as it’s a little too close to Gone Girl in its basic premise (but not plot). There’s also an abduction and likely murder of a woman (Marie-Josee Croze) whose husband (Francois Cluzet) is later a suspect in the case. Then there’s the much stronger parallel in the possibility that the wife in Tell No One also might actually be alive, the notion teased in a video sent to the man on the anniversary of her death. Both movies are full of twists and turns and both are ultimately as much about the couple’s relationship as they are about a murder a mystery. Watch this great film before the still-planned Hollywood version, which now may be directed by Gavin O’Connor and star Liam Neeson.

Double Jeopardy (1999)

Sort of a reversal of the situation in Gone Girl, this underrated thriller stars Ashley Judd as a woman set up for the murder of her husband (Bruce Greenwood). And just as Amy turns out to be alive in Gone Girl, the husband here is also not actually murdered. That’s not a spoiler for this one, though, because the whole premise of the movie (and the title also heavily indicates where the story goes) is that Judd’s character finds out while in prison that he’s still alive and then carries out her time, getting out early on parole, so that she can then actually murder him and sort of get away with it by having already paid the price.

The House of Yes (1997)

There is speculation made in Gone Girl by the Nancy Grace type media personality (Missi Pyle) that Nick and his sister are a little too close and might be committing “twincest.” It’s not true, but the term and the concept of twin-based incest are, particularly in Asian mythology. Of course it’s been a plot twist in an episode of Law & Order: SVU, and it’s also something revealed about siblings in this dysfunctional-family movie played by Parker Posey and Josh Hamilton.

Revolutionary Road (2008)

Gone Girl is ultimately a movie about a dysfunctional marriage. Before it goes totally off the rails, though, we witness the disintegration of the relationship, at least according to Amy’s untrustworthy diary narrative. Her flashbacks, if mostly made up, could have easily been informed by this adaptation of Richard Yates’s classic 1961 novel. The couple here (played by Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio) start at a party in a similar manner to how Nick and Amy meet. They’re similarly New Yorkers who wind up miserable in the suburbs and we watch as their marriage falls apart, and there’s a pregnancy involved. The rest of Gone Girl goes in another direction, but I haven’t been able to help wondering how the movie would have played if directed by Sam Mendes.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

If we’re going to include any films related to the supremely messed-up marriage in Gone Girl, we have to also recommend this exhausting Mike Nichols adaptation of Edward Albee’s play. Real-life dysfunctional couple Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who were famously married then divorced and then remarried, perfectly fill the roles of Martha and George, who take us on a roller coaster of drama as they host a younger couple late one night. A lot of their strife stems from the wife’s disappointment with the husband’s progress in life and the fact that she’s from better stock. At some point Amy should have just called Nick “a flop.” I’m also including this film because the play is part of actress Carrie Coon’s sudden rise in notability. She earned a Tony nomination last year for playing the part of Honey (Sandy Dennis in the film version).

One in a Million (2012)

While we’re talking about Coon, here’s a recommendation of her only other film besides Gone Girl. The actress has been a success on stage and is now also a main part of HBO’s series The Leftovers, but otherwise she isn’t very well known. I’d never seen her before seeing Gone Girl and was impressed with her in the part of Nick’s sister, Margo, aka “Go.” I looked her up afterward and was disappointed to find so little else to enjoy her in. This film is just 14-minutes in length. Directed by Scott Smith, the short stars Coon as a woman getting married who keeps seeing the “ghost” of an old bandmate. She’s definitely the best part of it, and now I’m even more wanting to see her do more work, preferably continuing on the level of film she’s breaking out with. For now, watch One in a Million below via its production company’s Vimeo account.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.