Knives Out First Reviews: Rian Johnson Revives the Murder Mystery with Razor-Sharp Script and Killer Cast

Critics at the Toronto International Film Festival say there are clues everywhere that Knives Out is one of the year's best: from Daniel Craig's performance to the movie's smart political satire.

by | September 8, 2019 | Comments

Following up his critically acclaimed Star Wars sequel, 2017’s The Last Jedi, writer/director Rian Johnson premiered his new mystery movie Knives Out (2019) 97% at the Toronto International Film Festival on Saturday night to multiple standing ovations. And the first reviews out of the gate are in tune with that immediate reception. Critics love this movie, so far, from its wholly delightful ensemble cast and their big comedic performances to the smart suspense of the storytelling, which keeps viewers guessing until the film’s final moments. Many were even quick to claim that this will be high on year-end lists.

Here’s what critics are saying about Knives Out:

How much fun is Knives Out?

Knives Out is pure fun from beginning to end and a popcorn crunching whodunit of the highest accord.” – Carla Renata, The Curvy Film Critic

“It’s a total blast.” – Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm

“This juicy comedy thriller is a treat from start to finish.” – David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

“It’s one of the most purely satisfying and enjoyable moviegoing experiences I’ve had in recent memory.” – Adam Chitwood, Collider

Knives Out is one of the most purely entertaining films in years.” – Brian Tallerico,

“This one is a crowd-pleaser.” – Joe Lipett, Bloody Disgusting

Is it full of surprises?

“Johnson’s script is loaded with more twists and turns than a roller coaster.” – Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm

“The audience is kept on their toes from the first frame to the last, as this tale weaves its way through twists and turns leading to a shocking conclusion you will never see coming.” – Carla Renata, The Curvy Film Critic

“There are reveals that tip the standard structure on its head in ways that prove wickedly disorienting.” – Benjamin Lee, Guardian

“Johnson’s screenplay in many ways is the star here, with its well-oiled plot mechanics and guileful twists and turns, constantly pulling the rug out from under the audience as much as the characters.” – David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

“Even if you do somehow manage to piece the whole thing together in advance, there’s no way of predicting the joy of watching it all unfold.” – David Ehrlich, IndieWire

“The thing that makes this a better mousetrap than most isn’t the complexity, but the fact he’s managed to rig it without the usual cheese.” – Peter Debruge, Variety

Knives Out

(Photo by Claire Folger, Lionsgate)

Will mystery fans love it?

“Rian Johnson shows that there’s life left in the genre.“ – Peter Debruge, Variety

“There’s nothing better than a whodunit mystery movie, but in the hands of a writer-director like Rian Johnson, the enjoyment is heightened.” – Jason Guerrasio, Business Insider

Knives Out is, above all, a celebration of murder mysteries that puts on a fairly nifty impression of one itself.” – Tim Grierson, Screen International

Knives Out a more playful and far more contemporary renewal of the genre than Kenneth Branagh’s pageant-like 2017 Orient Express remake.” – David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

“This isn’t just Murder on the Orient Express with cell phones, but rather a room-shaking crowdpleaser that reckons with how fresh Agatha Christie’s books felt to those who read them in their time.” – David Ehrlich, IndieWire

“It’s a film that works because of Johnson’s palpable love for the genre, but he never allows the film to become too meta or referential.”Brian Tallerico,

“It’s such a rare pleasure to see a director so in love with a genre without slipping into Tarantinoesque fanboy indulgence.” – Benjamin Lee, Guardian

And it’s hilarious, too?

“Certainly one of the best laugh riots in 2019.” – Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

“[It’s] a very funny movie where even the most throwaway jokes are later exhumed with vital importance.” David Ehrlich, IndieWire

Knives Out

(Photo by Claire Folger, Lionsgate)

How’s the (incredibly stacked) class?

“The real treat of Knives Out is watching this incredible cast ham it up and have a clearly great time doing it.” – Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm

“The whole cast is in on the over-the-top fun…all these actors get their time to shine.” – Jason Guerrasio, Business Insider

“There’s not a weak link in the ensemble.” – David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

“There’s not only not a single weak link in the entire ensemble, it’s also kind of impossible to choose an acting MVP.” – Adam Chitwood, Collider

“Recognizable yet incisive casting, each actor perfectly matched to their role.” – Benjamin Lee, Guardian

“Some of the cast gets lost…it’s a large ensemble piece and your fave may get short shrift. – Brian Tallerico,

And specifically, how is Daniel Craig?

“This is one of the most enjoyable characters Craig has ever played, and here’s hoping he starts doing more and more comedy now that his Bond days are drawing to a close.” – Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm

“It’s enough to make the Bond actor’s yee-haw prisoner turn in Logan Lucky feel like a warm-up routine.” – David Ehrlich, IndieWire

“The actor seems determined to amuse himself, going overboard with the character, much as he did in Logan Lucky (although there, at least, it played to more amusing effect).” – Peter Debruge, Variety

“I would put his work here in a similar place to what he did in Logan Lucky.  He can certainly surprise us every now and then!” – Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

“Craig never entirely breaks free of the straitjacket of his knowingly preposterous role — he’s a little too stiff to be truly freewheeling.” – Tim Grierson, Screen International

Knives Out

Director Rian Johnson with Chris Evans and Ana de Armas. (Photo by Claire Folger, © Lionsgate)

But this is really Ana de Armas’ movie, right?

“Ana de Armas is a surprising standout.” – Adam Chitwood, Collider

Ana De Armas is spectacular.” – Carla Renata, The Curvy Film Critic

“De Armas shines as the hired help plunged into the middle of a murder investigation.” – Tim Grierson, Screen International

“Sweet, charming, and adept at some great physical comedy, de Armas is a treat to watch.” – Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm

Any others who stand out?

“Jamie Lee Curtis does amazing work for laughs by delivering a deadpan performance.  It’s amazing.” – Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

“Collette punches past the rafters, through the roof, and enters Earth’s lower orbit, combining faux-spirituality, liberal elitism, and emotionally stunted neediness into a whirlwind of hilarious inanity.” – Jake Cole, Slant

“The local cops played by Lakeith Stanfield and Noah Segandeserve their own spin-off movie.” – Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm

Which below-the-line talents make an impression?

“It’s a testament to Bob Ducsay’s editing that not only does the film fly by, but each scene featuring the massive ensemble feels even-handed and clear.” – Adam Chitwood, Collider

“The Thrombey estate is an art director’s dream, as production designer David Crank imagines a mansion that only a mystery novelist could fashion for himself.” – Peter Debruge, Variety

Knives Out

(Photo by Claire Folger, Lionsgate)

Does the movie get political?

“[It’s] grand statement about America and our current moment…the first film to take on the significance of a President Trump without lapsing into corny preachiness.” – Charles Bramesco, The Playlist

“The film’s true lacerations concern those inflicted by the elite on themselves in Johnson’s expert parody of whodunnit class politics.” – Jake Cole, Slant

“Some of [the] attempts to give the film a contemporary, Trump’s America spin are a little too clunky, other similar touches work so well that you’re willing to forget them.” – Benjamin Lee, Guardian

“The rich-folks jabs provide the film’s cheapest laughs.” – Peter Debruge, Variety

“Thanks to an impeccable script, game actors and plenty of laughs, though, the messaging goes down easy.” – Joe Lipett, Bloody Disgusting

Any criticisms – at all?

“This thriller can sometimes be too mechanical — a breezy exercise if not always an emotionally satisfying one.” – Tim Grierson, Screen International

“Spending so much time with [Ana de Armas] when the time could be spent with the film’s larger than life personalities is admittedly frustrating.” – Joe Lipett, Bloody Disgusting

We hear there’s a final shot for the ages… 

“My God does Johnson stick the landing with one of the best final shots of the year.” – Brian Tallerico,

“[It’s an] all-timer of a final shot.” – David Ehrlich, IndieWire

“[Johnson]’s assembled a dazzling contraption that, if twisted in just the right way, pops open to reveal a nugget of wisdom crystallized by the cathartic final shot.” Charles Bramesco, The Playlist

Will we want to see it again (and again)?

“When it ends you’ll immediately want to get back on.” – Adam Chitwood, Collider

“I cannot wait to see this laugh riot again!” – Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

Knives Out premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 7, 2019. It will be in theaters November 27, 2019.


Knives Out (2019)

Adjusted Score: 117.413%
Critics Consensus: Knives Out sharpens old murder-mystery tropes with a keenly assembled suspense outing that makes brilliant use of writer-director Rian Johnson's stellar ensemble.
Synopsis: Acclaimed writer and director Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper, Star Wars: The Last Jedi) pays tribute to mystery mastermind Agatha Christie... [More]
Directed By: Rian Johnson

Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.

Tag Cloud

robots transformers worst TCA Winter 2020 game show IFC Podcast Schedule See It Skip It teaser 72 Emmy Awards richard e. Grant political drama DirecTV BAFTA spy thriller vampires Mary Tyler Moore Opinion discovery Marvel Marvel Studios Hallmark Christmas movies psychological thriller Song of Ice and Fire Drama politics The Arrangement adaptation YouTube Mary Poppins Returns documentaries Reality Sundance TV Epix medical drama X-Men Film crime war Nat Geo period drama elevated horror Women's History Month Britbox GLAAD screen actors guild Character Guide A24 Turner Classic Movies Tomatazos archives boxing talk show 99% zero dark thirty golden globes A&E Sony Pictures Academy Awards miniseries TruTV nbcuniversal SXSW free movies deadpool 4/20 Rom-Com satire anime mockumentary based on movie Nickelodeon VH1 APB Bravo finale 71st Emmy Awards Disney WGN documentary what to watch travel Mystery Thanksgiving obituary nfl emmy awards spinoff renewed TV shows latino DC streaming service dceu Fantasy Warner Bros. reviews remakes Fox Searchlight Pixar animated Paramount venice FXX Lionsgate dragons TIFF GIFs sequels canceled adventure franchise technology Binge Guide cops comic books Food Network Heroines social media Mary poppins CNN ratings cars diversity 2017 football Sci-Fi Valentine's Day Dark Horse Comics Amazon Prime Crackle Disney Plus doctor who Music Cosplay comedies Animation Emmys SDCC biography Walt Disney Pictures asian-american rotten harry potter mission: impossible WarnerMedia Starz series scary movies National Geographic movies Video Games dc The Witch french CBS All Access TCM FX on Hulu tv talk BBC PBS Alien toronto Chernobyl Tarantino Stephen King movie Masterpiece 2015 indiana jones The Walking Dead Television Critics Association Spring TV south america slashers Lifetime Christmas movies DC Universe justice league halloween tv Holiday 2016 Martial Arts science fiction Amazon Prime Video VOD Vudu Quiz Writers Guild of America Creative Arts Emmys Awards Tour Grammys Elton John comiccon Turner TLC The Purge The CW japanese Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Arrowverse best Family reboot Holidays breaking bad dark Logo TCA Awards Awards Pop TV CBS Brie Larson Lucasfilm E! crime drama Best and Worst HBO Max cancelled TV shows binge Travel Channel supernatural Oscars theme song sports 2018 Year in Review Ghostbusters Hear Us Out Cartoon Network Syfy Tumblr Kids & Family mutant book Teen video San Diego Comic-Con worst movies CW Seed cancelled TV series Paramount Network Anna Paquin 20th Century Fox FX zombie dramedy First Look directors spanish language Captain marvel Star Trek rt archives 24 frames Superheroes VICE Premiere Dates cooking RT21 Sneak Peek Reality Competition Star Wars Western DGA Crunchyroll sequel Trailer Marathons stand-up comedy IFC Films Red Carpet 007 twilight rotten movies we love Horror Lifetime Sundance Pirates The Academy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt sag awards Apple Columbia Pictures SundanceTV festival spider-man Disney Channel YA New York Comic Con Biopics MCU Pop psycho NBC MSNBC a nightmare on elm street video on demand Watching Series composers cats Interview jamie lee curtis Freeform El Rey Baby Yoda Musicals black Ovation independent BET child's play nature cinemax ESPN TV renewals facebook classics boxoffice YouTube Red quibi anthology USA Disney streaming service E3 historical drama blockbuster First Reviews Fall TV AMC police drama hollywood critics space ghosts Endgame cancelled ID cartoon Mudbound Set visit blaxploitation Comedy Mindy Kaling batman screenings werewolf Showtime disaster game of thrones Calendar Action Universal Emmy Nominations james bond CMT green book criterion 2019 Marvel Television Summer ITV LGBTQ Rocky fast and furious Countdown Amazon Esquire Black Mirror Christmas films Hallmark Box Office BBC One Pet Sematary casting stoner Winter TV HBO Go docudrama Spectrum Originals serial killer President Rock kids strong female leads 2020 Toys Disney+ Disney Plus Election comics romantic comedy australia ABC aliens Comic Book Certified Fresh name the review revenge cults TBS TCA Nominations unscripted Black History Month versus Trivia Ellie Kemper canceled TV shows Spike PlayStation NYCC festivals crime thriller Acorn TV FOX RT History Winners streaming crossover Country Film Festival Amazon Studios fresh TV Hulu toy story Superheroe Netflix Christmas movies Avengers joker singing competition Musical universal monsters natural history Pride Month 21st Century Fox Netflix GoT Apple TV+ foreign Comics on TV children's TV superhero witnail Shondaland DC Comics PaleyFest History TCA 2017 italian HBO Discovery Channel BET Awards Rocketman Fox News Shudder christmas movies Photos comic spain Funimation hispanic halloween TNT Trophy Talk Super Bowl parents ABC Family Polls and Games Comedy Central zombies sitcom YouTube Premium OneApp thriller TV Land indie USA Network BBC America Peacock chucky romance scorecard television LGBT all-time news spanish die hard Infographic Adult Swim hist Cannes cancelled television Television Academy Sundance Now true crime Apple TV Plus Extras concert laika stop motion OWN 45 American Society of Cinematographers dogs award winner MTV Classic Film Tubi