Deception and Drama: 15 Riveting Movies Exploring Betrayal

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Nothing gets the heart beating faster than watching a thriller with a good twist and a cathartic reveal. The undercover actor plot narrative is a difficult one to write, but when screenwriters do it well, the results can be inspiring. Film fans shared their favorite movies where a group unveils a hidden traitor or rat. Here are 15 of their top picks.

1. The Departed (2006)

The Departed
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon star alongside a depraved Jack Nicholson in this gritty depiction of the Irish Mob and Boston Police Department. Martin Scorsese's award-winning movie is long, expertly acted, and brilliantly written.

2. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

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Image Credit: Focus Features.

Gary Oldman shines in this movie about Cold War-era British secret service officers who have discovered a Soviet mole within their ranks. Oldman's retired espionage specialist returns to the fold to help find this dangerous spook.

3. The Thing (1982)

The Thing 1982
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

John Carpenter's chilling masterpiece is set on a remote Antarctica research base, where a malicious alien host takes over the body of those it destroys. The setting plays a big part in the paranoia and outright terror of this movie.

4. The Hateful Eight (2015)

Hateful Eight 1
Image Credit: The Weinstein Company.

Tarantino gets his customary nod on this list. He just loves those spy-among-us narratives. In this helping, we find a bounty hunter escorting his prize through wintery Wyoming in frontier-era America. His luck looks set to run out when he and his bounty must stay the night with some unsavory characters in a shelter.

5. City on Fire (1987)

City on Fire
Image Credit: Cinema City & Films Co.

Anybody who has studied Quentin Tarantino knows that Reservoir Dogs wouldn't exist without City on Fire. The Hong Kong cop movie follows the exploits of a detective assigned to one last case, wherein he goes undercover with a gang to rob jewelry stores.

6. The Faculty (1998)

The Faculty 1998
Image Credit: Miramax Films.

On an American high school campus, students come up against aliens in this violent gorefest. The premise is clever: students must fight against time to uncover who among them are the deadly creatures. Spoiler alert: it's the teachers.

7. Donnie Brasco (1997)

Donnie Brasco 1
Image Credit: Sony Pictures.

One of the most underrated undercover cop movies ever, Donnie Brasco is the true story of FBI agent Joe Pistone, who forges a relationship with Bonanno crime family members in the '70s. Johnny Depp and Al Pacino are remarkable in this tense, violent crime drama.

8. Gosford Park (2001)

Gosford Park 2 Universal Studios MSN
Image Credit: Universal Studios.

Robert Altman's ensemble cast gives us a period drama set in the decadent '30s Britain. Featuring a motley crew of socialites and grandees, the film glides with slickness as a bumbling inspector and his sidekick attempt to find the party host's murderer.

9. Knives Out (2019)

Knives Out 1
Image Credit: Lionsgate.

Daniel Craig‘s wavering southern accent aside, Knives Out is a modern-day whodunnit. All the traits of a murder-mystery film are there: the family reunion in an old mansion; class warfare-driven jealousy, a hint of racism, and a gang of colorful characters all vying for a piece of their inheritance.

10. 12 Angry Men (1957)

12 angry men
Image Credit: MGM.

A New York City homicide trial becomes delayed after one skeptical juror refuses to buy the story about a young Hispanic suspect considered guilty by his 11 jury colleagues. In one of his greatest films, Henry Fonda gives us the performance of his lifetime.

11. Werewolves Within (2021)

Werewolves Within
Image Credit: IFC Films.

Based on a famous video game, Werewolves Within has a premise made for horror. A snowstorm traps feuding townsfolk in the local tavern as they tell stories of a mysterious beast pillaging the town. You can guess what happens.

12. Cell 211 (2009)

Cell 211
Image Credit: Paramount.

In this high-tension Spanish movie, the imposter comes in the form of a corrections officer who is embroiled in a deadly jail riot. To survive, he must befriend the prison riot's leader and convince him he is a new prisoner.

13. Shallow Grave (1994)

shallow grave
Image Credit: The Rank Organisation.

In Edinburgh, three friends are looking for a flatmate — when the new guy moves in, it doesn't take long for him to drop dead. Worried about what to do, the roommates discover the new guy had a lot of cash on him and they keep the money. But while that sounds nice, the money brings darker things to the friend group.

14. Matchstick Men (2003)

Matchstick Men Nicolas Cage, Alison Lohman
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Nicolas Cage plays Roy, a con artist, who pulls off lucrative hustles with his accomplice. Just as they're about to pull off one of their biggest ones yet, Roy's teenage daughter shows up in his life and makes everything a lot more difficult.

15. The Grifters (1990)

the grifters
Image Credit: Miramax.

Conning people can be a dangerous game. When Roy Dillon (John Cusack) is hospitalized for a con he committed, his estranged con artist of a mother (Anjelica Huston) comes back around and discovers his new girlfriend might be trying to con him.

Source: Reddit.

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Raised in England and with a career background in international education, Ben now lives in Southern Spain with his wife and son, having lived on three continents, including Africa, Asia, and North America. He has worked diverse jobs ranging from traveling film projectionist to landscape gardener.

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