How to Make a Successful Crime Thriller


We’ve already seen Shutter Island and The Ghost Writer. We’re anxiously awaiting the U.S. release of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo later this month. We’re not sure why, but there’s something about the gritty mystery of crime thrillers that keeps us coming back, even though we know the conventions and can usually see what’s coming a mile away. Perhaps that’s part of the appeal. In that spirit, check out our guidelines for producing a thrilling box office hit. Add anything that we’ve missed in the comments.

1. Hire a well-known, attractive lead male actor who can look pensive and deliver comedic, tension-relieving lines. Good options are Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Robert Downey Jr., and Ewan McGregor.

2. Give your protagonist one of three careers: writer, detective, or cop.

3. Make sure your bad guy is a well-known actor that people don’t think of as a bad guy. If you can get Kevin Spacey, that would be best. Matt Damon is a decent back-up option.

4. Introduce a random character at the beginning of your movie. Bring that person back at the end for an “ah-ha” moment.

5. You’ve really only got two options for setting: an urban city with a huge population or small town with a tiny population. Even better: Shoot it on an island.

6. The lighting should only be in hues of gray and blue. This will not only set the mood, but will ensure that your bloodier scenes really pop.

7. There needs to be a love interest who is only tangentially related to the main plot. Or at the very least, a gratuitous sex scene. Preferably both.

8. If there’s a way to make it a government conspiracy, do it. If not, your film must be about organized crime.

9. There needs to be at least one graphically violent scene and one chase scene. A graphically violent chase scene does not count.

10. Have a “mind-blowing” twist at the end. If you get stumped, base your film on a successful crime thriller novel.