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"I suspect foul play, and I have eliminated no suspects."

"The family is truly desperate. And when people get desperate, the knives come out."
Benoit Blanc
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Knives Out is a 2019 mystery comedy thriller directed and written by Rian Johnson.

A modern take on the whodunnit murder mystery genre, the film is about a family gathering gone horribly awry when Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), a bestselling mystery author and patriarch of the wealthy Thrombey family, dies on his birthday by apparent suicide, and three detectives, officers Lt. Elliot (Lakeith Stanfield) and Trooper Wagner (Noah Segan), accompanied by renowned Gentleman Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), are sent to investigate the scene. Complicating matters are the fact that the Thrombeys are one Big, Screwed-Up Family, many of whom have motives to off their patriarch, and the man's last wills.

The star-studded cast also includes Ana de Armas as Harlan's nurse Marta, Jamie Lee Curtis and Michael Shannon as Harlan's children, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, and Riki Lindhome as Harlan's children-in-law, Chris Evans, Katherine Langford, and Jaeden Martell as Harlan's grandchildren, and Frank Oz as the family's lawyer.

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The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 7, 2019, and its wide release in North America followed on November 27. A couple months later, Johnson announced that he was starting work on a sequel, potentially starting a whole franchise about Blanc.

Tropers beware! Many of the trope names themselves are spoilers, so if you want to avoid them it's highly recommended you watch the film first.


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Knives Out contains examples of the following tropes:

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    A to H 
  • Accidental Murder: Subverted. It seems at first that Marta accidentally gave Harlan a lethal overdose of morphine, causing the man to hatch a complicated scheme so she wouldn't be implicated for murder, ending in Harlan slitting his own throat. It's later revealed that Ransom switched the liquids in Marta's medicine bottles, meaning she gave Harlan the proper medication after all, and only thought she had made a mistake because she was so good at her job that she instinctively could tell which bottle had the right medicine in it without looking at the labels.
  • Actually Pretty Funny:
    • Harlan playfully flips the Go board when Marta starts beating him and claims that her not going easy on him is elder abuse. Marta can't stop giggling as she calls him a Sore Loser.
    • When Ransom quips that Benoit Blanc is straight out of "CSI: KFC", Lt. Elliot snorts with amusement. Blanc himself is less impressed.
    • When Marta hands Blanc the toxicology report, she comments, "You're not much of a detective." Blanc replies, "Well, to be fair, you make a pretty lousy murderer." This gets a chuckle out of Marta.
  • Adult Fear:
    • Linda's reaction to her father's death. She suspects the police believe he was murdered and is insulted on her family's behalf when they press for information about Walt. Later, in private with Walt, she nearly cries when admitting that she can't believe he's really gone and is hoping this is just another game of his. It makes her anger at Marta for inheriting more understandable because Marta was his nurse and benefited from his death, or so Linda thinks. Then she finds out her son tried to kill her father and did kill one more person. Cue one last surprise: her husband is cheating on her and the last note from Harlan is breaking the bad news.
    • Marta's accidental "killing" of Harlan via incorrect medicine dosage, and then not being able to find an antitoxin within her supplies. Anybody, specifically anybody who actually worked/works in a medical field, in her shoes, would probably have their heart jump out of their chest several times over upon realizing (or, in this case, just believing) they had done that. Somewhat accented by how low-key it would have been as a mechanism of death compared to the perceived throat-slitting; less dramatic, sure, but more tragic and senseless.
  • The Alleged Car: Downplayed. Marta's car drives, but as she and Ransom discover, it is woefully unsuited for a police chase (she can barely get it to go 60 miles per hour while flooring it!).
    Marta: Do you regret helping me yet?
    Ransom: Well, I regret not taking the Beemer.
  • All for Nothing:
    • Played with in the case of Marta and Blanc. Blanc saw the bloodstain on Marta's shoe and suspected her as soon as they met, rendering the efforts to cover up the crime pointless. However, he did think she was somewhat involved until figuring out that it was actually Ransom who killed Harlan.
    • To a lesser extent, Ransom's plan failed the minute the toxicology reports were done. Harlan tested negative for a morphine overdose, which was why the police weren't taking the case seriously at first. Destroying the evidence of the report only created a window of ambiguity where Marta could be accused.
  • Ambiguous Ending: The movie ends with Ransom being hauled off to prison while Marta stands on the balcony of Thrombey Manor, drinking from Harlan's mug and looking down on his family. It leaves it vague exactly what Marta plans to do Harlan's inheritance, will she share it with his family or not give them a dime like Harlan intended? The important thing, though, is that it's up to her.
  • Ambiguous Syntax: Blanc's request to the Thrombeys to stay at the mansion until the investigation is officially done has this form.
    Joni: Can we ask why? Has something changed?
    Blanc: No.
    Joni: "No, it hasn't changed"? Or "no, we can't ask"?
  • Artistic License – Law:
    • Alan Stevens, the family attorney, insists that Harlan's will is airtight and can only be overturned by Marta being convicted of causing Harlan's death, but the film takes place in Massachusetts, which actually has laws to the contrary:
      • The fact that Harlan appears to have simply drawn up the will himself and given it to his lawyer in a sealed envelope means it was not properly witnessed and could be easily challenged in court. Massachusetts doesn't recognize holographic willsnote  as legitimate, which means his old will would stand unless he revoked or destroyed it, and even if he did, then the state would act as if he had no will.
      • Massachusetts also has an omitted child statute, meaning unless a child is expressly disinherited in the will, or it can be proved that their omission wasn't an accident, the child can then receive a portion of the probated estate. Neither Harlan’s will nor letter manifestly disinherits them, nor does the letter meet the standard of a codicil.note  Thus, Walt and Linda can claim since they were not expressly disinherited in the will and the will only states that everything goes to Marta, they are entitled to shares as omitted children. It might not work, and the probate judge might not go for it, but Alan should have suggested it instead of dismissing their chances outright.
    • A slayer statute just means the slayer can't inherit. It doesn't negate a will or bring a defunct one back. Ransom figured he could get around being disinherited by framing Marta for his crime and using the slayer statute against her. He assumed this would bring Harlan's previous will back or get him something in intestacy.note  However, even if it had worked and negated the will, then the state would treat it as if Harlan had no will. Under Massachusetts intestacy law, the assets would pass to Harlan's children: Linda, Walt and Meg (daughter of his deceased son, Neil) who were on board with his disinheritance anyway.
    • Alan lampshades a common bit of legal artistic license when he notes that it is not, in fact, necessary for the entire family to be read the will at the same time, but it was more convenient this time since they were all in the area anyway.
  • Artistic License – Pharmacology:
    • Marta mentions that Harlan's current regimen includes doses of 100 milligrams of ketorolac for the pain from a recent shoulder injury. Ketorolac is often used as a short-term painkiller, yes, but it is always given in lower doses (usually 15 to 30 milligrams).
    • A large dose of morphine will have noticeable effects long before the ten-minute mark. Ultimately subverted in that Harlan received the correct dose, and ended up displaying none of the described symptoms, immediate or eventual.
  • Ascended Fridge Horror: Fran and Marta have always been friends, smoking marijuana and enjoying each other's company off the clock. During The Summation, Marta is horrified when she realizes that a dying Fran wasn't accusing her of murdering Harlan, but rather "Hugh" aka Ransom. She then remembers that Ransom is an asshole and she trusted him for most of the movie. Her realization is partly Played for Laughs, but she's also saddened that Fran never hated her and mad at herself for enabling Harlan and Fran's killer.
  • Audible Sharpness: The knife makes a loud *zing* sound when used. (Specifically, Harlan slitting his throat with it.)
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: An interesting case where it works against the relevant party; while Marta believed that she mixed up Harlan's medication, the later toxicology analysis confirms that Marta gave him the correct medication despite the mixed-up labels, Blanc attributing that to Marta's skill as a nurse making her aware on a subconscious level of the minute differences between the two substances despite the labels.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other:
    • Linda, for all her arguments with Walt, defends him to the police and argues that he wouldn't have killed their father. She also refuses to be baited by their questions about his abilities or running of the business. Later they both hug and admit they are grieving their father.
    • Despite Ransom being estranged from his parents, Richard desperately tries to bribe the cops when it's revealed that Ransom was the murderer and is being arrested. It's no good and doesn't help his case but he does care.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • Marta's flashback starts with her being cross with Harlan, sniping at him to take his meds so she can go home, causing the audience to expect that this will be another flashback establishing the motive of a murder suspect. However, this settles into a friendly rapport, seemingly taking Marta off the table. This too turns out to be a bait and switch, and so does the film's entire premise as a whodunnit, when it turns out Marta did indeed kill Harlan — entirely by accident. The end of the film reveals a further bait-and-switch when it turns out that Ransom switched the labels on Harlan's medication as part of his plan to frame Marta.
    • At one point, we see an ominous close-up of a spot of blood on Marta's shoe which is used to imply that this will be somehow used by the Thrombeys to threaten or expose her. In fact, the next time it's brought up is at the end, when the truth has been revealed — when Blanc reveals that he knew all along that she was involved somehow, since he noticed the spot of blood the very first time they met.
    • This exchange between Blanc and Lt. Elliot at the beginning:
      Blanc: I'm here because this morning someone dodged a very important question.
      Lt. Elliot: Who?
      Blanc: Me. Linda asked who hired me. [...] I do not know.
    • Harlan makes a quip about how Ransom "can't tell the difference between a prop knife and a real one" mere minutes before he apparently commits suicide with a knife, implying that he might have faked his suicide only to die of another means.
  • Big Fancy House:
    • The large Thrombey manor, complete with a trick window and kitsch items on every corner. Detective Elliot calls it a real-life Clue board. The family takes pride in their (as they call it) "ancestral" home, even though Harlan simply bought it from a realtor in the '80s.
    • What we see of Ransom's house is a sleeker, more modern take on this trope, with nice furnishings and lots of natural light.
  • Big "NO!": Blanc does one in silent slow motion when Ransom stabs Marta. Subverted as it turns out to be a harmless stage dagger.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Ana de Armas is Cuban, but Marta and her family deliberately speak in a standardized, non-regional Spanish that preserves the mystery of where they're actually from.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Ransom is arrested, Marta is proven innocent of overdosing Harlan and the family is forced to accept that they have been disinherited. Even so, Harlan and Fran are dead, which has clearly shaken Marta since they were her friends. Linda gets an extra gut-punch on learning her husband was cheating on her as her son is getting led into a police car. Meanwhile, the Thrombeys' future is uncertain since they threatened Marta.
  • A Birthday, Not a Break: Harlan Thrombey, the family patriarch, died on his 85th birthday.
  • Blackmail Backfire:
    • After the will reading, and the revelation that Harlan left everything to Marta, Walt tries to get Marta to renounce the inheritance by threatening to reveal her mother's status to the authorities. He blows it by offering the carrot that if she co-operates the family has the resources to hire good lawyers to resolve her mother's situation, which leads her to realize that if she keeps the inheritance she'll have the resources to do the same without their help.
    • Fran, having known Ransom was the culprit all along, tries to blackmail him. He instead gives her a morphine overdose then tries to frame Marta up for this murder, too.
  • Blatant Lies: Blanc interrogates the Thrombey family members about confrontations they were each heard having with Harlan shortly before his death, for which they give transparently bad answers while the flashbacks show the truth. Blanc's line of questioning to Marta afterwards shows that he has seen through each lie completely.
    • Also as a Establishing Character Moment for Richard. Richard speaks at length about his respect for immigrants who "follow the rules" of immigration, citing Marta as an example. He then hands his empty dinner plate to Marta without saying a word, expecting her to take it as a maid would. Marta is a nurse, not a maid, Richard just doesn't care enough to know the difference.
  • Book-Ends: The movie begins and ends with a close-up of a "My House, My Rules, My Coffee" coffee mug. At the end, Marta holds the mug to the camera with only the words "My House" exposed.
  • Bourgeois Bohemian: Meg and Joni are wealthy liberals and are the kindest and least racist members of the family initially, but they are far from perfect. Joni runs a snake oil scheme that targets other liberals and has been scamming Harlan to double-dip on Meg's tuition. Meg studies social justice issues at an elite university, but doesn't live up to the ideals of what she studies. Once their inheritance and material privilege is threatened they pull an Enemy Mine with the conservative members of the family — though Meg is indicated to have a My God, What Have I Done? moment immediately afterwards and tearfully apologizes to Marta. Whether she's just a good actor or genuinely regrets it is left up in the air, but the narrative hints at the latter.
  • Brick Joke:
    • Harlan mentions that Ransom "plays life like a game, until he can't tell the difference between a prop knife and a real one." When Ransom tries to stab Marta, he unknowingly uses a prop knife rather than a real one.
    • In the first scene, we see Fran bring Harlan his coffee in a mug labeled "My house, my rules, my coffee." The last shot of the movie is Marta drinking from the same mug while looking down at Harlan's family from the balcony of Harlan's house, which he had just left to her.
    • When Linda finally deciphers her father's note detailing Richard's affair, she stares at him in hurt disbelief. In the next scene, he's got the beginnings of a black eye.
    • A very subtle Visual Pun: the knife display is shaped like a huge ring of knives with a space in the center. Blanc at one point compares the case to a donut, saying they both have holes in them. At one point during The Summation, the camera shows Blanc sitting in the chair in front of the knife display, with his head in the empty space. In other words, Blanc has filled the hole.
      • A double version occurs with the "donut inside of a donut" line of thought from Blanc. Blanc isn't the donut hole (being able to solve everything) but the donut inside of a donut hole (not knowing why he's hired) until the summation becomes the donut hole that fills the donut at last (revealing both who hired him and why). For more visual effect, Blanc's summation speech does not truly start until he's framed by the knife display.
  • The Butler Did It: Played with to hell and back. Marta, Harlan's nurse, believes she accidentally killed him, but she's the protagonist and the film initially follows her trying to cover up the crime. Then it turned out she didn't kill him, but Ransom had set her up to kill him.
  • The Cameo: Marta's sister, Alicia, watches a cop show featuring the voice of frequent Rian Johnson collaborator Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: Lying makes Marta feel so guilty that she can only go for a minute or two at the max without literally throwing up because it makes her feel so bad.
  • Car Chase: A silly one given that Marta is not an experienced getaway driver.
  • Cast Full of Rich People: The suspects are the rich Thrombeys, and their petty infighting drives much of the goings-on.
  • Casting Gag: Daniel Craig also played an investigator who at least partially investigated Christopher Plummer, who hired him, for the murder of a family member in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011).
  • Casual Danger Dialog: Harlan. When Marta first realizes she accidentally gave him thirty times the recommended morphine dose, he jots down symptoms of an overdose to use as a murder for a future book. Then calmly relays instructions to her so she won’t be charged for murder. Both the "casual" and the "dialogue" parts are foreshadowing: he's calm because he wasn't actually dying, and his musing about how this could be a potential way to kill someone were right on the money — Ransom had set Marta up to kill Harlan by previously switching the medicine.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Marta is introduced waking this way from a bad dream one week after Harlan's death.
  • Chekhov's Gag: While furnishing her alibi in Harlan's death, Marta is apparently caught when she and Nana see each other through a window. After a tense moment of silence, Mood Whiplash ensues when Nana says, "Ransom, are you back again already?" Marta thinks she's in the clear, but the specific wording — "back again" — provides Blanc a vital clue to unravelling the mystery.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Benoit Blanc's profile in The New Yorker is initially just used to contrast Linda (who read it) and Joni (who read a tweet about it). It turns out to have been the reason Ransom knew to hire him after Harlan's "suicide" made the news: he had read it too.
    • In a flashback, Harlan mentions during his Go game with Marta that Ransom "plays life like a game, until he can't tell the difference between a prop knife and a real one." At the end, Ransom grabs a knife from the decorative display to try and stab Marta, but it turns out to be a prop knife.
    • The drawer in which Fran keeps her secret stash of drugs, later containing the toxicology report that proves Marta didn't give Harlan a fatally wrong dose of medicine. As Meg puts it, "Who would open a clock?"
    • During the opening questioning scenes, the police officers pointedly show that they're recording the suspects on a cell phone. When Marta receives news of Fran's death, she uses this fact to get Ransom to admit guilt instead so the recording would catch it.
    • The letter Harlan threatened to present to Linda when confronting Richard over the affair he was having. Richard opens the letter after Harlan's death to discover it seemingly blank and leaves it on the desk in relief. At the end of the film, Linda discovers it and, having earlier discussed the games she had learned to use to communicate with her father, uses a lighter to decipher its secret message revealing Richard's adultery.
      • Related, at one point we see Linda fondly holding a stack of letters from her father on the same letterhead. Close inspection shows they're suffering from light burns and thermal damage from the lighter activating the ink.
      • Richard, angry over being duped, throws the vintage baseball on Harlan's desk out a nearby open window. Johnson points out in the in-theater commentary track that it's this small act of pettiness that undoes him, as Linda finds the ball and puts it back—thus giving her reason to enter Harlan's study and find the note.
    • At one point, the camera focuses on a tiny spot of blood on Marta's sneaker, in a way that suggests that this will come back to bite her.At the end, Benoit Blanc admits that he suspected Marta had some involvement in events from pretty much the first moment he met her ... because he noticed that spot of blood.
    • When Blanc meets Marta for the first time and sits across from her, he glances down as he sets his feet. This is where he saw the blood on Marta's shoe.
    • The fact that Ransom makes the hired help address him by his first name "Hugh". When Fran is found drugged, she apparently snarls "You did this!" but only later does Marta realize she was saying "Hugh did this!"
    • The torn-off toxicology report. The bottom of the page originally had a meeting time and place written on it. Ransom tore it off and sent Marta an email with a later meeting time so that he could get there first, kill Fran, and frame Marta for it.
    • During his introduction, Wagner apologizes that he will be recording all their conversations with his phone because it makes it easier to keep track of things. At the end Ransom suggests that he'll be able to deny he confessed to everything, Wagner reveals that he was recording Blanc's summation and Ransom's reaction to it.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • Nana is dismissed as a Scatterbrained Senior, with a dismissive remark from one of her grandchildren saying that no one has any idea how old she actually is. Although without malice, even Marta doesn't think much of her asking if Ransom has come back again, thinking this is just her senility at play. Blanc knows that Nana comprehends more than people think, and she becomes instrumental in piecing together everything that happened, as well as finding evidence that Ransom was more heavily involved than he seems. Meg and Fran also provide vital bits of information that move the story along.
    • Fran's cousin at the medical examiner's office is an example of this who is also The Ghost. They're only referred to in a throwaway line but procure the crucial bit of evidence that sets up the last act.
  • Chekhov's Hobby:
    • Ransom has some knowledge of criminal procedure from a summer he spent working as Harlan’s research assistant, which helps him realize the significance of the toxicology report and how it could compromise his plans.
    • Linda states during the initial interview that she and her father Harlan made communication something of a game to be solved. Her husband finds the letter that Harlan was going to give her that showed that he was cheating on Linda, but sees that it is apparently blank and assumes Harlan never wrote it. At the end, Linda finds the paper and realizing it was another note from her dad holds a lighter under the letter to make the invisible ink reveal itself, revealing to her the affair.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • Blanc deduces that Marta did not kill Harlan, even accidentally, due to how skilled she is as a nurse. With her knowledge of a medicine's viscosity and all, Ransom switching the labels didn't even matter in the end.
    • Not a voluntary trait per se, but Marta's condition of vomiting whenever she tells a lie. She gets a phone call from the hospital Fran was admitted to and declares that she's alive, prompting Ransom to confess to her attempted murder angrily. Marta then stops holding back and pukes all over him, revealing that she was lying, that Fran is dead, and Ransom has just confessed to killing her on recording.
    • During the initial questioning scenes, Walt said of Harlan, "the plots just popped into his head fully formed." Once he thought he took an overdose of morphine, Harlan spun an elaborate plot on the fly to help clear Marta.
    • An exasperated Harlan laments that Marta is the only person who can beat him at Go. She explains that it's because she doesn't play to beat him, but to make "a beautiful pattern". Marta "wins" at the end of the movie, solely inheriting Harlan's fortune, and she does it by always trying to do the most moral thing she can, rather than trying to screw over other people.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Ransom drops a fairly subdued (but hilarious) one into a family argument, pointing out one relative after another.note 
    Ransom: Eat shit; eat shit; definitely eat shit...
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    • During The Summation, Blanc says that although much of what has happened was tragic mischance, there was one person who acted with deliberate malice throughout; he pauses dramatically, and then calls, "Trooper Wagner!" Marta briefly thinks he's saying Wagner was the malicious agent, before realizing that Blanc has actually called for Wagner to escort that person into the room.
    • Trooper Wagner, a huge pop culture fan, spends most of his time thrilled to work a case related to the celebrated crime novelist Harlan Thrombey, rather than the fact that the case revolves around the apparent suicide and suspected murder of an eighty-five-year-old man.
  • Complexity Addiction:
    • Harlan's Fatal Flaw, in a way. If he had allowed Marta to call 911 instead of immediately concocting a detailed cover-up, it would have been discovered that she hadn't accidentally overdosed him after all.
    • Benoit Blanc, also. At the end, he reveals he had his suspicions about Marta since he first saw her (due to a tiny blood spatter on her shoe), but he's so wrapped up in getting to the bottom of who hired him that he does not immediately confront her, instead using her to ferret out that secret while also proving her innocence. It ends up being the right call, since the person who hired him was trying to frame Marta.
    • And Ransom. If he hadn't paid Benoit to investigate Harlan's "murder", the cops would have ruled it a suicide. The family would have contested the will regardless, and since (as mentioned above) it wasn't strictly valid, they all would have gotten a cut.
  • Condescending Compassion: Most of the family treats Marta very patronizingly, if they bother to treat her nicely at all. In particular, they all promise that's she part of the family and that they'll take care of her after Harlan's death. The thin veneer comes off when it's revealed Harlan has left all his assets to her. When Marta makes an exact promise to Meg, they don't take it well.
  • Cool Car: Ransom's 1972 BMW 3.0 CSi.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: As Benoit Blanc points out near the end of the film, the murder mystery never would have happened if Harlan had just listened to Marta and waited for an ambulance. But no, he had to be dramatic...
  • Decon-Recon Switch: The movie at first seems to be a deconstruction of the whodunnit as we find out thirty minutes in that Marta (accidentally) caused Harlan's death and most of the movie is her trying to cover up her tracks from Detective Blanc, who seems like a bit of a doofus. But then it's reconstructed when there was a murder attempt on Harlan that Marta unwittingly foiled while thinking she caused his death, and Blanc combines all the pieces in a final summation that indicts the true perpetrator, Ransom.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The film's marketing mostly focuses on the higher-profile actors like Chris Evans and Jamie Lee Curtis, and Benoit Blanc appears to be the lead at first. However, following a flashback it becomes clear that Marta is the movie's protagonist and emotional center. Blanc is a hero, though perhaps not the hero.
  • Destroy the Evidence:
    • When Marta realizes that Blanc is close to uncovering that she returned to the house after leaving it on the night that Harlan died, she starts to using her role as The Watson to deliberately compromise the evidence, such as trampling over her own footprints and using a magnet to wipe the video tape showing her car pulling off the road.
    • Ransom destroys the crime lab and what he thinks is the only copy of the toxicology report in an attempt to put the Evil Plan back on course.
  • Detectives Follow Footprints: When exploring the estate and coming up the back path, Trooper Wagner notes how muddy his boots will be after this. Blanc then realizes it hasn't rained in the week since Harlan's death, meaning these are good prints. He and the other officers look to seal off the area. It is defied when Marta, recognizing the same issue about ten seconds sooner, pulls further ahead to walk over her prints and then "mishears" the officers when they tell her to stop, purposely trampling over footprints on the way back to contaminate the crime scene and rendering them useless. To add insult to injury, the dogs run through that path.
  • Detective Mole: An instance where it is not the main detective leading the investigation, but The Watson. Blanc enlists the help of Marta to aid in his investigation, all the while she was under the impression that she was the murderer and works to muddle the clues every step of the way. In this instance the trope is also played with, in that Blanc suspected her all along and chose her as Watson because of it.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: Ransom, the most unpleasant, the most arrogant, the most distant, the most ambitious, and the most verbally abusive of the family, the bitterest about losing the fortune, AND the one who has had the most erratic, unexplainable movement during the party (such as leaving and reappearing at random times) is, in fact, the true killer.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Someone hired Benoit Blanc to investigate Harlan's death. Ransom assumed that the man would implicate Marta on charges of manslaughter. Benoit instead took his time to solve the case because he suspected the ulterior motive and eventually came to the truth. Why would a killer hire a professional detective again?
  • Disappointed by the Motive: Just after he and Wagner have interrogated the relatives, Elliot expresses this opinion. He can't think why any of Harlan's relatives would kill him for any reason besides just to make money. (Walt and Joni, the only two with ideas anyone can say go 'deeper', wanted respectively to rent the intellectual property rights to filmmakers and to secure more money for Meg's college tuition.)
  • Dodge by Braking: Knowing that her shitty car is no match for the police cruisers Marta brakes suddenly, making them overshoot her while she turns into an exit.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Ransom has an extremely strained relationship with his family. Yet at the end of the day, what really propelled him to frame Marta for murder is resenting the thought of an outsider like her inheriting property that he perceives to be theirs, and their birthright. Blanc even brings up that Harlan bought the house from a Pakistani realtor. Made even more glaring by the fact that Ransom is played by an actor best known for playing the personification of American values, and here he is denouncing a Latin woman getting what he sees as his birthright.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Harlan's kids and grandkids, if not Harlan himself, see Marta as a weak-willed servant whom they can dominate in one form or another. She shows she has some bite in her at three moments.
    • First, when Walt is blackmailing Marta and she musters enough courage to rub the fact that she's inherited his father's resources in his face. So, she doesn't need the family.
    • When confronting the antagonist, she lied to his face to get him to confess to his crimes. Then she purposely vomits all over Ransom.
    • The final one is observing the Thrombeys from the terrace on Harlan's house, quietly drinking from the "My House..." mug. They are without Harlan's money or property and she's letting them know she essentially controls their fate henceforth.
  • Dramatic Drop: Played with when Fran discovers Harlan's corpse at the beginning. The breakfast tray she's bringing him starts to slip out of her hands, but she fumblingly stops it falling all the way to the floor. Becomes a Chekhov's Gag at the end, when Marta uses the same cup that wasn't smashed to assert her dominance over the family.
  • Dramatic Irony: In one flashback Richard remarks that he's fine with "good" immigrants who come into the country legally, like Marta's family. But the audience knows that her mother is The Illegal, and shit hits the fan when the rest of the Thrombeys find out.
  • Driven to Suicide: Harlan Thrombey, apparently. And in actuality as well. However, the circumstances that resulted in his suicide are much, much more complicated than they appear, eventually bordering on Heroic (if Senseless) Sacrifice.
  • Driving Question: Not who killed Harlan Thrombey, we are shown what happened early in the film, but rather, who hired Benoit Blanc to look into an apparent suicide?
  • Drugs Are Good: Played for Laughs; Marta playfully asks, "Do you want to do some drugs?" while fixing up Harlan's pain medication, followed by Harlan wondering why he waited until he was in his 80s to start using morphine. It's made clear, though, that Harlan's morphine was prescribed for an injury and he's only taking prescribed doses. Marta, Fran, and Meg are also shown smoking pot together in a moment of bonding.
  • Dying Clue: Just before she loses consciousness, Fran attempts to tell Marta who attacked her. Marta hears what she says as "You did this," and only later realizes that it was "Hugh did this," pointing the finger at Hugh Ransom Drysdale.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Marta goes through a lot of shit, and two people die, but ultimately she does get Harlan's fortune and, it is implied, secures her mother's American citizenship.
  • Economy Cast: When the medical examiner's office gets burned down, the detectives from the Thrombey murder case are the only police seen around.
  • Emerging from the Shadows: When the interrogations begin, Blanc initially sits at the back of the room, occasionally playing a note hard on the piano, while Lieutenant Elliot actively questions everyone. Blanc steps up only when Linda calls attention to him.
  • Engineered Public Confession: Marta lies about Fran having survived Ransom's attack, prompting the latter to deliver an angry Just Between You and Me confessing to the attempted murder, which one of the detectives records on his phone.
  • Enter Stage Window: How Marta and Ransom get into the house undetected.
  • Establishing Series Moment: The movie opens with the story cliché of a housekeeper bringing tea to someone, only to discover a dead body. But instead of a scream or a Dramatic Drop, she catches the tray before she spills it, cursing. Immediately this hints that the ensuing murder mystery is going to be a Genre Savvy Affectionate Parody.
  • Ethnic Menial Labour: Marta is actually a highly skilled nurse, but the Thrombeys treat her like the maid.
  • Even Evil Can Be Loved: Despite their contentions, Richard tries to save Ransom from getting arrested.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Invoked by Marta. She says that none of the family members would have killed Harlan, no matter their contentions with him. She's right about all of them except Ransom.
    • Pretty much every family member is a shithead to some degree, but Jacob's Nazi views disgust everybody but his parents, and he's called both a Nazi and an "alt-right troll." Even Richard, who cheats on his wife and disparages anyone who tries to come into the country illegally (even dismissing the fact that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement puts immigrant children in cages) calls him a Nazi with clear contempt.
    • Joni, whose main flaw is her greed, is openly and loudly opposed to Richard's anti-immigration views, thinking he's contemptible for excusing the terrible treatment that immigrant adults and children alike are subjected to, and when he pulls Marta into the argument to use her as what he thinks is a shining example of someone whose family did immigration "right," she sympathetically tells her that she doesn't have to be a paragon for his views for the sake of being polite. In the same scene, Walt noticeably tries to stop Donna from going on a racist rant, and Linda tries to stop Richard from pulling Marta into the argument, saying to him, "Leave the poor girl out of this."
    • Inverted by Ransom. His motive for the murder was to ensure that everyone in his family got a piece of the fortune and that an outsider would never touch it. This disgusts everyone else.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good:
    • Lampshaded by Blanc, who notes that it never occurred to Ransom that Marta would be genuinely good enough to try and save the life of a witness who might implicate them in a crime.
    • Most of the Thrombeys suffer from this: they can't understand that Harlan left his fortune to Marta because he genuinely liked her, not because she "seduced" him. Nor does it seem to occur to any of them that she's the kind of person who'd use her inheritance to help them if they just asked instead of turning on her.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Downplayed. The dogs don't exactly detect evil, but they only bark at strangers. The fact that dogs were barking the night Harlan died is a sign that there was a stranger on the property. Played straight in that they bark at Ransom — the culprit — when he arrives, likely because he doesn't treat them well. Lampshaded by Blanc, who notes that he's always felt that dogs are excellent judges of character.
  • Eureka Moment: Marta has two.
    • First, when Meg mentions Fran's stash to her where she then finds the toxicology report.
    • During The Summation, Ransom drops the line "you have her confession" which seems to give Marta the idea to concoct her own Engineered Public Confession.
  • Exact Words: Marta offers to support Meg through school in almost the exact words that Meg used to promise that Marta would be taken care of. How well Meg takes it reflects on the sincerity with which the original promise was made.
    • When Great-Nana sees Marta climbing down the trellis, she remarks "Ransom, you're back again already?" It seems to be a joke about her being a Scatterbrained Senior...but the precise wording of the phrase proves to be a vital clue: she says "You're back again", revealing that he's already returned to the house once before.
  • Expospeak Gag: Blanc's line when he first interviews Marta:
    Blanc: And a little bird has told me ... how should I put this delicately? You have a regurgitive reaction to mistruthing.
  • Face Framed in Shadow: Benoit Blanc's face when talking to Marta in front of the house at night.
  • Fair-Play Whodunnit: The story gives you most of the clues necessary to figure out the villain before the climactic reveal. That said, it does monkey a bit with Ronald Knox's Ten Commandments of mystery fiction. Knox's Rule 8 is both directly violated (the viewer doesn't get to see the toxicology report that proves Harlan never took the fatal morphine overdose until The Summation) and turned on its head (the viewer learns about Marta's role in Harlan's death, complete with several critical pieces of evidence that point towards the true villain long before Blanc does).
  • Family Disunion: The family is all in town for Harlan's birthday party. Then he dies, so all of them have to stay in town for the duration of the ongoing investigation.
  • Family of Choice: Present as a theme. The remaining Thrombeys incessantly make a point of them being Harlan's "real" family and ergo more deserving of his possessions than Marta ever will be. However, through sheer compassion and dedication, she clearly becomes more like real family to him than his selfish, disloyal biological family. Reinforced also with Fran, another hired hand, who also goes to bat for Harlan at considerable risk to herself.
  • Financial Abuse: Played with. A major force driving the conflict is Harlan's tightness of fist with his estate and inheritance. He believes he's forcing his family to be self-sufficient instead of mooching off him and doing nothing, while they believe he's keeping them under his thumb while criticizing and controlling them and making boneheaded decisions, like not taking the opportunity to expand his franchise.
  • Flipping the Table: Harlan does this to give Marta a hard time while the two of them are playing Go. She finds it Actually Pretty Funny and is laughing about him being a Sore Loser.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: Played for Drama; the Thrombeys bitterly accuse Marta, Harlan's nurse, of "seducing" him when she is named the Unexpected Successor to his estate.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Marta brings up the signs of a deadly overdose of morphine when she realizes that she just gave Harlan over thirty times the normal dose. However, even as the minutes pile up, Harlan doesn't demonstrate any of the symptoms, even the initial ones. Sure enough, the toxicology report comes back clean, and Marta didn't administer an overdose despite the switched labels.
    • Marta is a nurse, and is apparently fairly competent — knowing all Harlan's meds and dosages (even quasi-legal ones) by heart. Any medically trained personnel worth their salt wouldn't have misplaced the emergency kit containing the antidote, especially when kits are (A) very obvious, and (B) have a compartment that would make it clear someone tampered with the most important of the meds. Sure enough, Ransom had sabotaged her medkit to steal the antidote.
    • When Marta and Harlan play Go, she tells him that she always beats him because he plays to win and she plays to make a beautiful pattern. Several times Marta unknowingly foils Ransom's plans by being a good and kind person rather than acting as selfish as the rest of the family.
    • Harlan makes a crack about knowing a real knife from a prop knife. In the end, Ransom tries to stab Marta, but discovers that he's using a prop knife.
    • Ransom forces all the Thrombeys' employees to call him "Hugh" because he's an asshole. This hints at the fact he is just as classist and unpleasant as the rest of the family, with his kindness to Marta being an act.
    • None of the family members would have profited at all from Harlan's death, because that would mean losing their income. Ransom is the one with the least stakes out of the family, and thus, has no such compunctions killing Harlan.
    • At the will reading, Ransom is shown smirking whilst playing with a chessboard. He's 'The Chessmaster' of the film; the one who orchestrated the entire plot to kill Harlan and frame Marta for it.
      • Chess is also a game you can only win by playing to win. When he's in control, he can manipulate Marta effortlessly, but whenever she acts on her own, playing her game her way, she sticks to the beauty and benevolence of her style of Go.
    • As Blanc is going over certain events on the night of Harlan's death, it's shown that during the night, Meg was woken by the sound of the family dogs barking. This is one of the only details that isn't explained by the flashback of Marta covering up Harlan's death, since the dogs liked her enough to be silent when she was sneaking through the yard. It's later revealed that they were barking at Ransom, who was attempting to sneak in to switch back the medication bottles.
    • Ransom says that he thought he was the only one who ever beat Harlan at Go. This sets up the final confrontation between Ransom and Marta, showing that she is smarter than he is and allows her to trick him into giving an Engineered Public Confession.
    • Several Thrombeys telling Marta that they wanted to invite her to Harlan's funeral but they were "outvoted." The first time it happened, it sounds sincere and apologetic, but its happening repeatedly, verbatim, is a hint that the family considers Marta an outsider and are completely willing to turn on her.
    • In his present-day introductory appearance, Ransom tells the officers to call him Ransom as only the help call him by his first name Hugh. At the blackmail location as a near-overdosed Fran (Harlan's housemaid) gasps "you did this" to Marta, it’s later revealed she was actually saying "Hugh did this", further revealing he was the one behind Harlan’s death and framing Marta.
    • No one in the family knows how old Great-Nana is, treat her like a Living Prop or a burden, and pretty much dismiss her when she mistakes people who walk by as Ransom. While it accurately shows how self-absorbed they are, her testimony at the end exonorates Marta and reveals Ransom's role in Harlan's "suicide" after Blanc shows her kindess and respect, showing how much the family messed up by considering her Beneath Notice.
    • The mug belonging to Harlan at the very beginning of the movie reads "My House, My Rules, My Coffee." This foreshadows much of what you need to know about the man. The family is completely dependent upon his wealth which he can gift or rescind to any of them as he sees fit.
    • Early on, Harlan makes a remark about people "impulsively unraveling the strings on their parachutes." This very habit winds up being his own undoing, with his shooting down of Marta calling the ambulance, which would have saved his life had he listened to her instead of indulging in his flair for the dramatic.
    • The interviews between the detectives and Linda, Ricard, and Walt. Walt claims he's worth something, Linda won't sell out her younger brother by saying he doesn't, then Smash Cut to Richard - a Thrombey by marriage to Linda - absolutely selling out Walt. The Thrombey nastiness is on display before Marta ever enters the picture. Walt later makes a veiled threat to Marta that means nothing, Linda treats Marta nicer than most at first but puts even family she disagrees with over her when the will is changed, and Richard ends up personifying the entire family's willingness to sell out Marta with the Slayer clause taking pride in family over outsiders.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • The way the light catches the letter Harlan had planned to give Linda briefly shows that it isn't blank. Later, Linda picks up a stack of letters from her father on the same letterhead. The letters all show heat damage from Linda's lighter. It's later revealed that a message was left on the letter in invisible ink.
    • Eagle-eyed viewers will spot a particularly damning piece of foreshadowing when the security footage is viewed — despite having stormed out of the party early, we never see Ransom's car heading down the driveway.
    • The fact the blackmail letter is torn across the bottom is extremely easy to dismiss when Marta opens it, but becomes very relevant during The Reveal.
    • In a less plot-relevant bonus, the blue arrow from Brick appears during the car chase.
  • Fun with Homophones: Ransom's first name Hugh sounds, especially with a Hispanic accent, a lot like "you." Marta specifically has to stress an English "H" when catching the detail aloud.
  • Gambit Pileup: When Blanc untangles the events surrounding Harlan's death, it ends up being one of these: Ransom is attempting to disinherit Marta by framing her for Harlan's death; Harlan's Thanatos Gambit is intended to save her from the consequences of aforementioned framing; and Fran is attempting to counter Ransom's plot. There's also another gambit going on (Marta's Xanatos Speed Chess attempts to cover Harlan's Thanatos Gambit), but this has already been resolved by the time Blanc gets to the bottom of everything.
  • Generation Xerox: Most of the younger Thrombeys are flanderized versions of their parents. This is to show how poor parenting and setting a bad example poisons the next generation. There's also ample irony in the parents not liking how their children turned out even if it's clear that the younger generation is simply imitating the older.
    • Jacob has clearly inherited his parents' racism, though he takes it to an extreme that even they find distasteful.
    • Meg's "SJW" degree is likely influenced by Joni's Bourgeois Bohemian lifestyle.
    • Ransom inherited his father's racism and his mother's (and by extension his grandfather's) intelligence. It's also implied that his lazy slacker lifestyle is partly due to Richard setting a poor example as a Gold Digger who does nothing but leech off his wife.
    • All the Thrombeys, of course, share a similar arrogant, selfish and entitled attitude.
  • Genre Savvy:
    • Harlan was a mystery writer and as such casually invokes mystery tropes around his home. He builds a trick window into his house, sends messages in invisible ink, and uses his knowledge of mystery plots to obscure the circumstances of his death in his last few minutes of life. Discussed at the end with regards to Marta, as Benoit points out that her kind heart was more important than Harlan's genre-savviness.
    • One of the cops notes that the mystery is playing out like one of Harlan's novels. He notes the trick window and Locked Room Mystery. When Benoit is giving The Summation in the climax, the cop says "Go on" with a Grin of Audacity.
  • Genre Throwback: To Agatha Christie-style detective fiction and murder mysteries. It's set in 2018 but has many of the trappings of the genre, including a man murdered in a Big Fancy House, a Poirot-esque Gentleman Detective, and a Big, Screwed-Up Family who all have motives. Lt. Elliot even refers to the estate as a "Clue board."
  • The Ghost:
    • Neil, Harlan's son who died fifteen years before the movie's events. He serves as his wife Joni and his daughter Meg's bridge to the Thrombeys.
    • Fran's cousin who works as a receptionist at the medical examiner's office. Through them she gets a copy of Harlan's toxicology report and attempts to blackmail the real killer, Ransom.
  • Gilligan Cut: When Linda realizes that Blanc is trying to bait out from her that Walt is not a Self-Made Man, she asserts that Walt works hard at the publishing company Harlan left to him and that none of the family would ever criticize him. Cut to Richard, who gleefully boasts about how lazy Walt is and the little amount of work he actually does with Harlan's novels.
  • Godwin's Law:
    • Joni invokes this while bickering about politics at Harlan's party; she doesn't name Adolf Hitler but refers to him obliquely as somebody whom people thought would "restore order" in Germany in the 1920s.
    • Other characters call Jacob a Nazi, using it as a derogative even though most of them are also pretty racist, just subtler and politer.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: Most of the Thrombey family do have a few redeeming traits, and it's clear that Harlan wasn't the best role model to them either. Even the actual murderer was planning to share Harlan's property with the rest of the family, not keep it all to themselves.
  • Hand Gagging: After the accidental poisoning, Harlan prevents Marta from arguing with him over the best course of action by covering her mouth with his hand.
  • Heel Realization:
    • When Ransom probes Marta for the reason everything was left to her. She states it had more to do with them (Ransom's family) than anything she did, referring to their greed, narcissism and entitlement. Ransom accepts this and acknowledges that he and his family are inadequate inheritors.He actually subscribed to that belief early on, believing his family to be hypocrites claiming to be “self-made” while they are almost entirely dependent on Harlan (or, in Richard’s case, on Linda). He himself has no trouble being or acknowledging that he is a Rich Idiot With No Day Job. He still wants the money, though, and in fact commits the murder purely to continue being one.
    • This is actually what sets off the conflict in the film is Harlan realizing that his constant support of his family has stunted them, making them dependent on him and unwilling to go out into the world and make something of themselves. He even suspects, subconsciously, that he did it to keep Walt under his thumb. Thus, he hopes by cutting them off they will be forced to take charge of their lives.
    • Meg apologizes to Marta for her actions over the course of the film, but it's ambiguous how sincere she's being.
  • Hollywood New England: Averted; the film is set in Massachusetts, but none of the obvious stereotypes appear. If you look closely during the car chase, you'll spot a bumper sticker celebrating Boston Bruins hockey player Patrice Bergeron, but that's it.
  • Hourglass Plot: The first time Marta is seen at the Thrombey house, she is looking upwards at the house and members of the family from the driveway. In the last scene, the surviving members of the Thrombey family are all standing in the same spot in the driveway, looking up at Marta on the balcony, nicely signifying that the roles have been reversed.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Marta's sister is watching a murder mystery on TV, and her mother angrily demands that she turn it off so that Marta won't be distressed by being reminded of Harlan's death. (What makes it hypocritical is that Marta is sitting right there and her mother has just reminded her of Harlan's death.)

    I to P 
  • Ice-Cream Koan:
    • While driving with Marta, Blanc reflects on how confusing the case is and compares it to a donut because they both have holes in the middle, and quickly descends into a rambling monologue where he compares the case to other things such as a tangled slinky. Later, after realizing Ransom is the killer and he had tried to frame Marta, Blanc compares the case to a donut with what appears to be a hole in the middle, but the hole is actually a smaller donut with another hole in the middle.
    • In the in-theater commentary track, Johnson notes during Blanc's "I follow the terminus of gravity's rainbow" speech that all great literary detectives have some sort of philosophical-sounding catchphrase that seems to explain their methods but doesn't actually mean anything—and Blanc's is no different.
  • Idiot Ball: Fran attempts to smoke out Ransom as the killer by arranging to meet him alone in a secluded area where he is able to easily overpower and murder her. Even if she did intend to blackmail him, it was still a dumb move.
  • Ignored Epiphany: Harlan realizes that all his children and several of his grandchildren have turned into a group of Jerkass Spoiled Brats and it's his fault for enabling them. He's especially horrified that Linda's husband is cheating on her, since Linda is a jerk but honorable. Rather than actually talk to any of them and admit he missed up, he cuts them all out of the will, pays one more year of college for Meg before she's cut off, and fires his own son without any notice when Walt genuinely wants to do better.
  • I Have the High Ground: At the end, Marta stands on the balcony of Harlan's house, which is now hers, looking at the Thrombeys as they watch Ransom being taken in custody, and they look back at her in utter defeat as they can't do anything to prevent her from inheriting Harlan's wealth. It gives her an air of victory, especially as she drinks from Harlan's mug while covering the last four words on it with her hand, only leaving "My house."
  • The Illegal: Marta's mother came to the U.S. illegally and is undocumented.
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction: Blanc is first introduced sitting quietly in the background as Lt. Elliot questions the witnesses. When one of them objects to his presence, he states that he's only there as a "respectful, quiet, passive observer" — and then immediately comes forward and takes over the questioning.
  • Inadequate Inheritor: It surprises nobody that Harlan writes Ransom out of his will. Leaving everything to Marta does shock the rest of the family, however.
  • Informed Attribute:
    • Ransom is marketed in some promotional clips as "a playboy." However, we never see him in a sexual or romantic context to prove this. He does show a combination of charm and manipulative tendencies to Marta, but it's clear he tricked her by playing into her kindness rather than any sort of attraction to him.
  • Joni's and Meg's "Marxist" politics are only described by others, and they seem fine being complicit in both coveting the inheritance and threatening to deport Marta's mother, though Meg seems to feel genuine guilt about it immediately afterwards and profusely apologizes to Marta. This is also low-key Hypocritical Humor.
  • Inheritance Murder: A variant: Ransom murdered Harlan because he'd been disinherited. If Marta was held legally responsible for Harlan's death, she'd lose the inheritance, and Harlan's assets would presumably be spread among the Thrombeys by the court.
  • Inspector Lestrade: Lt. Elliot's main purposes are to disagree with Blanc over whether or not Harlan's death is suicide and perform police procedures with Blanc and Marta in tow. Contrast with Trooper Wagner, who also contributes very little to the actual solving of the crime, but is nevertheless having an absolute ball with this Troperiffic mystery and thus goes along with all Blanc's theories.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Elderly Harlan and young Marta, who becomes as much his confidante as his nurse. She even says that he employed her because "he needed a friend."
  • Intro Dump: The film opens with the cops interviewing all the members of the family one at a time. This efficiently spells out who everyone is (except for Ransom, who is introduced later) and what their relationships are.
  • Invisible Writing: Richard is relieved to find that a note Harlan had written exposing his affair was just a bluff — a blank piece of paper in an envelope. At the end of the film, Linda lights a small flame under the note, revealing the writing and, thus, the affair.note 
  • Ironic Echo: When the family hears that Harlan decided to cut Ransom out of his will, they say it "might be the best thing that ever happened to you" (in that it might teach him self-sufficiency). Later, after discovering Harlan cut the rest of his family off as well and left all his assets to Marta, Ransom yells the same thing back at them before speeding away in his car with Marta.
  • It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": A downplayed example. Benoit Blanc says his last name with fairly correct French pronunciation ("Blanc" rhymes with "honk," though for strictly accurate pronunciation, the "c" should be silent). The first time someone mispronounces his name as "blank" (rhymes with "bank") he corrects them, but when the mistake keeps happening, he lets it slide.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: The other Thrombeys make snide comments about Meg's "post-modern Marxist" Degree in Useless, which is meant to portray them as insensitive and reactionary. However, she gets a major Oh, Crap! moment once she realizes she won't be able to pay off her college fees without an inheritance, given the low job prospects it provides. While such degrees may prove useful for budding social activists like her, only wealthier ones like her can afford them as they don't tend to provide reliable sources of income. The other Thrombeys have a point that Meg's degree apparently isn't very practical.
  • Joke Item: The knife Ransom grabs on the display in his murder attempt on Marta at the end turns out to be a stage knife, with a harmless blade that retracts upon hitting a surface.
  • Kill the Cutie: Poor Fran adored Harlan, but being discreet and trying to smoke out Ransom on her own ends up getting her killed for her efforts. Later subverted in the case of Marta.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Blanc tells Marta not to get too excited about the will reading, pointing out that, unlike in fiction, these affairs tend to be "like a community theater reading of tax code." After the reading turns into a twist-filled dramatic event, he shrugs and says it's "the exception that proves the rule."
  • Like Father, Like Son:
    • Richard is an Angry White Man who goes on a xenophobic and racist tirade during a crucial flashback. He only spares Marta because he believes she's one of the "good ones" whose family came to the USA completely legally and tries to rope her into agreeing with him in front of everyone. As it turns out, his son Ransom is also framing her for murder, and his rant about how his grandfather's property should go to the Thrombeys, as it's their birthright, draws marked parallels with Richard's hostility towards "outsiders."
    • Meg, like Joni, is an ostensibly socially conscious liberal who argues against prejudice towards minorities but is fully prepared to turn on them the moment her own way of life is threatened, though unlike her mother, she feels terrible about it, and apologizes profusely.
    • Jacob surprisingly takes after both his parents. It's clear that he takes after his mother from her brief and aggressive anti-immigration rant. However, despite appearing to be better than both of them, Walt also immediately turns on Marta and threatens to have her mother deported when he learns that she was Harlan's sole heir.
  • Lying to the Perp: Marta cons Ransom into believing that Fran survived his attack since he's much quicker to confess to attempted murder than to actual murder. Since this involves Marta lying about a phone call, it gets a little messy.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: When Harlan is told he's been given the wrong dosage and his life is in danger, he seems amused and inspired to work this into a novel. When he realizes that the drug that could save his life is missing, however, he becomes deadly serious. In hindsight, it's a sign that he wasn't actually dying.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Ransom's plan is to make Harlan's death look like an accident by Marta. He has her fooled for most of the movie.
  • Match Cut: A close-up of the seal of the chief medical examiner's office fades to a shot of that same seal on the side of the medical examiner's building, revealing the arson fire that took place.
  • Meaningful Background Event: While Marta is screwing up the courage to admit what happened to the Thrombeys, Blanc can be seen in the background opening and reading the toxicology report, which proves what really happened.
  • Medication Tampering: Harlan discusses with Marta what an effective means of murdering someone switching their medications would be. This happens after Marta has seemingly just injected him with a lethal dose of morphine after picking up the wrong vial. Later it is revealed that Ransom had earlier deliberately switched the labels on the vials of morphine and ketorolac so Marta would inject a fatal overdose. However, Marta instinctively picked up the correct vial without looking at the labels so no switch ever actually occurred.
  • Middle Name Basis: Hugh Ransom Thrombey-Drysdale chooses to go by "Ransom". He makes the family's employees call him by his first name which Fran does when Marta finds her.
  • Mistaken Nationality: Marta's family is referred to by members of the Thrombey family on separate occasions to have emigrated from multiple, presumably incorrect countries, including Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil (A country where the primary language is Portuguese). This is one of the hints that despite them claiming they care for her as a part of their family, the Thrombeys really don't and indeed are very xenophobic once circumstances turn against them. We never actually find out where her family are from.
  • Molotov Cocktail: The killer uses one to torch the medical examiner's office and destroy the remaining evidence.
  • Money Is Not Power:
    • At the end, when it's revealed that Ransom was responsible for Harlan's death, and killed Fran to cover his tracks, Richard is seen trying to give the two cops escorting Ransom to the squad car a large wad of cash to let him go. They scoff and continue their duties.
    • However subverted right at the end and invoked multiple times. Marta realizes that she can help her mother get citizenship with her new wealth and she is shown at the very end looming over the remaining family as the new owner of Harlan's estate.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • A good description of Marta’s final confrontation with the Thrombeys before the killer is exposed, as she is about to admit what happened to Harlan, despite the risk of arrest and the fact that doing this will cost her the inheritance, before Blanc steps in after reading the toxicology report to denounce them all and take Marta away, as he realises from the report that Marta actually did nothing to Harlan even by accident.
    • Later when Blanc deduces that Ransom was responsible for Harlan's death and tried to kill Fran by overdose, the scene is tense when the latter says that there will be a team of lawyers anyway and that they will take legal action. Marta then vomits all over his face, causing the detectives to laugh and realize that she was lying, and that Fran ended up overdosing.
  • Motive = Conclusive Evidence:
    • Initially subverted: Blanc tries to claim that the Thrombeys having a motive to murder Harlan is a good enough reason to investigate the case as a murder, rather than close it as a suicide. Lt. Elliot dismisses this as "weaksauce", forcing Blanc to admit that he's primarily motivated by his own curiosity over an anonymous envelope full of cash.
    • Played straight at the end, when Blanc and Marta manage to deduce Ransom's guilt using nothing but motive (he was the only one who knew about Harlan's new will) and his conspicuous absence from Harlan's birthday party and funeral.
  • Murder by Inaction: Subverted. Ransom set Marta up to find Fran dying of an overdose and assumed she would let her die to cover up her tracks. Marta hesitates only briefly, before calling an ambulance.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Ransom leaps rather quickly to murder as the solution for his and his family's "disinheritance" problem, rather than exploring other possible avenues.
  • Musical Theme Naming: The suspects and their spouses are named after musicians:
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • When Marta thinks that she killed Harlan after accidentally giving him the wrong dosage of medicine.
    • Meg appears to react like this after her family bullies her into blackmailing Marta over the inheritance with her mother's immigration status. Whether it was sincere or not is anyone's guess, but considering that she reacted like that immediately after (when only around her family) and is not shown to be a particularly good actor, it's implied her reaction is genuine.
  • Mysterious Employer: Benoit Blanc gets anonymously employed to investigate the suicide case, and the police think his obsession with their identity is a case of Skewed Priorities. It's actually a key part of resolving the mystery.
  • Narration Echo: When Elliot walks Blanc through his notes, his narration is accompanied by flashbacks in which the family members repeat his words.
    Elliot: He [Harlan] explained that they had just knocked over the Go board.
    Harlan: [to Joni in a flashback] I just knocked over the Go board.
  • Necro Cam: The Summation has flashbacks of how Ransom did the crime.
  • Never One Murder: Ransom murders Fran to prevent her sharing what she knows about what he did to Harlan.
  • Never Suicide: Zig-Zagging Trope. Harlan's death is initially believed to be a suicide, but detective Blanc is convinced it must be murder. It's then revealed that Marta accidentally gave him a lethal dose of morphine, rendering it accidental homicide. But then it comes out that she hadn't given him a lethal dose, so Harlan's death was due to him stabbing himself — so it was suicide. But Ransom had meant to kill him all along and blame it on Marta, so it was murder in a way.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailers present Blanc as the main protagonist and Marta as one of many supporting characters (in this one, she doesn't even have lines), when in the film itself it's the other way around.
  • Newscaster Cameo: When the news crews gather outside Marta's home, a clip is shown of a reporter on the TV broadcasting from outside the house. The reporter is local New England sports talk show host Gary Tanguay.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
    • Invoked but ultimately subverted with Marta's actions. Ransom wants her to believe she did this when she injected Harlan with the wrong medication. In fact, Marta could pick out the right medication despite the swapped labels.
    • However, this leads to Harlan playing it sadly straight: When Marta tells him she accidentally injected him with the wrong medication, he kills himself rather than let anyone suspect she was responsible. He refuses even to let her call the police. This would ultimately have revealed she had actually picked out the right medication and Harlan wasn't about to die at all.
    • Fran accidentally gave Ransom a means to frame Marta for her death by confronting him in a dark abandoned laundromat, rather than telling the cops what she saw on the day of the funeral. Her blackmailing him also led him to realize that someone else had access to the toxicology report, which motivated him to burn down the chief medical examiner's office.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!:
    • Played with, but ultimately averted with Ransom hiring Blanc. While he inadvertently provided Marta with the ally she needed to prove that she had nothing to do with Harlan's death when even Marta believed she had killed him, if he hadn't hired Blanc the affair would have been passed over as suicide and he wouldn't have successfully framed her anyway. But neither would Ransom have gone to jail.
    • Walt tries to intimidate and coerce Marta by revealing his knowledge of her mother's illegal status, and claiming that if she renounces the inheritance, they could drum up some real New York lawyers to help legalize her mother. However, Marta then realizes that with the inheritance, she herself could hire those lawyers to help her mother without the Thrombeys' help. She then slams the door on Walt, who's just lost one of the only real pieces of leverage the family had over her.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Used on several levels:
    • Harlan initially hired Marta as a part-time nurse but over time came to view her as a friend and confidante. The scene of him playfully joking with Marta and then sacrificing himself for her sake set up a significant contrast with his strict behavior as family patriarch. To a lesser extent, he was also perfectly cordial to Fran, which was why she was angry and devastated on realizing that Ransom meant to murder him.
    • Most of the Thrombeys act nice to Marta and the other servants, but in an ostentatious and rather condescending fashion that suggests it's mostly an act. Most notably, while several of them claim that Marta is "part of the family", each of them seems to have a different idea of what country Marta's family originates from (suggesting they're just assuming and have never bothered to find out), Linda and Walt both claim to have been "outvoted" on the subject of inviting Marta to the funeral, and while we see Richard call Marta over to join with the other family members in one flashback, a later one reveals that it's just to use her as a prop in a casually racist argument he is making.And, of course, when it's revealed that Harlan has left his entire fortune to Marta, then the façade drops away and the real entitled viciousness comes out.
    • Meg is a more complex and ambiguous version of this, as she seems genuine in her appreciation of Marta and Fran, treating Marta like a sister and partaking in Fran's weed stash. However, when push comes to shove she ends up siding with the rest of the family over Marta, and while she does seem to genuinely regret it, it can be debated whether she is sincere or is just better at putting up a mask of kindness and righteousness to mask her own nastiness, entitlement and privilege (though the narrative weight — since her immediate reaction is a guilty expression in the face of her family, and she's not mentioned/demonstrated to be a good actor — is towards the former).
    • Ransom is supposedly the opposite of this trope, but when we see him interacting with Marta he seems to be quite nice with her. It's all an act to manipulate her, and ultimately he's definitely not this trope. A plot point turns out to be that he makes the staff refer to him by his given name, Hugh "because he's an asshole."
    • Benoit Blanc is genuinely this trope, treating Marta with sincere respect and coming to form an actually friendly bond with her. This is established early on after he provokes her into a lie and is honestly startled and apologetic when doing so causes her to vomit, stating that he hadn't realised that she meant that "lying makes me vomit" literally.
  • No Adaptations Allowed: An In-Universe example. Harlan doesn't want any of his books adapted into films or television, although Walt insists there's good money since he got a deal from Netflix.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • The Thrombey family's repeated insistence that they are "self-made" and seeming obliviousness to the fact that they have spent their entire lives leeching off their patriarch in a variety of ways seems to be deliberately set up to mirror the Trump dynasty.
    • Likewise, no specific names come up during the political argument scene, but it's pretty clear that they're talking about Trump.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • Trooper Wagner admires a plot point of Harlan's involving "a cow and a shotgun."
    • Ransom knows about Marta's condition due to a Mafia game the family played on some Fourth of July, with no further details given.
  • Notable Non Sequitur: Just about every seemingly innocuous piece of conversation turns out to have some kind of significance to the plot, most not explained till The Summation. Examples include:
    • Ransom explaining that he makes the help call him Hugh.
    • The family complaining that Ransom didn't attend Harlan's funeral.
    • Fran describing the plot of a Hallmark movie starring Danica McKellar to Marta.
    • Fran mentioning her cousin who is a receptionist at the medical examiner's office.
  • Not Hyperbole: Marta claims that she has an involuntary habit of compulsive vomiting every time she tells a lie. After she answers falsely to one of Blanc's questions, her stomach immediately gurgles and she proceeds to puke into a potted plant right in front of them. The officers all react with alarm, saying they didn't realize she was being that literal.
  • Not So Different: Harlan notes that Ransom is a lot like himself as a younger man, which is implied to be one of the reasons why they particularly spark off each other. Harlan also ruefully muses that he could have encouraged Ransom's positive qualities more as a result.
    • The more politically left-leaning members of the Thrombey family - Meg and Joni - end up pretty happy teaming up with their right-wing relatives to prevent Marta - a Latina woman - from getting the estate they think is their birthright. This is a pretty overt critique of the hypocrisy of a lot of rich white liberals (see Spiritual Successor below). As noted elsewhere on this page, Meg, at least, seems to feel bad about it afterwards.
  • Not-So-Fake Prop Weapon: Inverted when Ransom tries to murder Marta.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Marta has this reaction when she thinks she has given Harlan an overdose of morphine.
    • During the climax when Ransom gloats that he can beat an attempted murder. When Marta's stomach gurgles loudly (indicating she just lied) Ransom reacts like she just pulled a gun on him.
    • Moments later Marta gets one of her own as Ransom lunges at her with a knife and the police are too far away to stop him.
    • Ransom then gets it again when he realizes the knife he tried to use to kill Marta is just a prop.
  • Once More, with Clarity!
    • Each character describes Harlan's birthday party as being an enjoyable fun time and the family as generally getting along. As Blanc questions each family member more and more, the true picture is revealed of a highly dysfunctional family dynamic.
    • Likewise, each character's story ends with them and their spouse/children the ones smiling and sitting behind/next to Harlan as the birthday cake is set down, indicating they are closest to him. As the real-life flashbacks show, probably either Marta or no one at all were next to him.
  • Only One Finds It Fun: When Blanc steps in and declares that Marta will not renounce her inheritance, the whole family looks devastated except for Great-Nana, who starts giggling.
  • Outliving One's Offspring:
    • Wanetta "Great Nana" Thrombey. A more unusual example than most as Harlan was 85 at death, and Nana herself is unlikely to be less than 100. But the trope is still in full effect. Especially when none of her grandchildren or great-grandchildren comforts her about the loss of Harlan.
    • Harlan himself outlived his elder son, Neil.
  • Passed-Over Inheritance: A week before his death, Harlan changed his will to disinherit his children and their spouses and children and give all his possessions to his immigrant caretaker Marta instead, sparking outrage among the family.
  • Pass the Popcorn: Ransom knew he would not inherit a cent from Harlan (because he told him). He attended the inheritance reading anyway in anticipation of his family's bickering. When Richard and Walt come to blows, he happily munches on cookies, while exclaiming "We gotta do this more often!"
  • Pastiche: Of Agatha Christie mysteries — Daniel Craig's Benoit Blanc has been overtly described a "new Poirot."
  • Pedal-to-the-Metal Shot: Done twice at the start and during the Car Chase with Marta hitting the pedal hard.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Even though Harlan has issues with most of his children, he is fond of Linda and doesn't have any quarrel with her onscreen. His cutting her out of the will was a form of Tough Love. In fact, when he finally leaves a letter with invisible ink revealing that Richard is cheating on her, he apologizes and says that his daughter deserves better.
    • Linda, despite her quarrels with Walt, defends him against the cops possibly insinuating that he may have killed their father.
    • Literally with Linda, who pets and plays with the dogs.
    • Later with Walt, who comforts Linda over their father's death.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: In-Universe, even the media get in on speculating that Harlan and Marta were having an affair, but their relationship truly was just a very strong, entirely platonic Intergenerational Friendship that winds up being the cornerstone of the whole plot.
  • Playing Gertrude: "Great Nana's" actress, K. Callan, is actually six years younger than Christopher Plummer.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain:
    • Ransom smugly calls Meg an "SJW" just for attending college for an unspecified degree rumored to be useless, is rude to and willing to kill the lower-class employee Fran, and says he doesn't want the Latina Marta to inherit his (all white) family's "ancestral home" (which his grandfather only purchased from a Pakistani real estate owner in the 1980s). Ultimately, though, his motivation was based purely on wanting a cut of Harlan's inheritance and making sure that Marta got none of it.
    • All the living adults in the Thrombey clan have a streak of this, bluntly debating immigration issues in front of Marta, regularly patronizing her, and later blackmailing her with her mother's undocumented status to get Harlan's inheritance. Walt even tells Marta that, if she gives the money back to the Thrombeys, they'll use their wealth to help Marta's mother become documented, clearly suspecting she's too stupid to use the money that way herself.
    • Jacob is regularly referred to as an "alt-right troll" and a "Nazi", but ultimately he has nothing to do with the murder.
    • Derogatory language and slurs against Marta abound, such as when Harlan's will is revealed and she gets called a whore.
  • Precision F-Strike: Uttered twice. Once by Richard (“Who the fuck is he?” when he first sees Blanc), then by Ransom (“Fuck my family”).
    • Also, after Ransom realizes he used a prop knife to try and murder Marta after she made him confess to Fran's murder.
      "Shit."
  • Product Placement:
    • Walt tells Harlan that Netflix is interested in licensing his books.
    • After throwing up, Marta tells Blanc that she wants to get some Scope (mouthwash).
    • Fran tells Meg that she's given up smoking weed since Meg bought her a Juul e-cigarette.

    Q to Z 
  • Rage Breaking Point: Marta for most of the movie has been scared, nervous or guilty about her involvement with Harlan's death. Then she learns that Ransom tried to kill Harlan and did kill Fran. Without raising her voice, on getting the call from the hospital that Fran died, she calmly lies to Ransom that Fran is alive to testify, provoking Ransom into Evil Gloating. After she vomits all over him, Marta calmly but angrily reveals that Ransom confessed to her murder.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: When Linda is being interviewed and waxing lyrical about how close she was with her father, we see a flashback of the birthday cake being served with Linda and her husband at Harlan's side. When Walt is being interviewed and waxing lyrical, we see the same flashback, but this time Walt and his family is at his father's side. Clearly one or both are lying, but we never find out which one.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • In the beginning, Harlan invokes this when Marta tries to call 911 for him. Even though it was an accident, she'll be indicted for manslaughter since he's dead anyway. Then it gets turned on its head; Benoit says that Harlan should have listened to Marta because the paramedics would have realized Harlan received the right medicine and the investigation would have revealed that her medical bag was tampered with.
    • Harlan's elaborate plan to prevent Marta from being a suspect is straight out of a murder mystery. However, Marta is a civilian with Genre Blindness and no training, so there are inevitably snags in the execution (like forgetting when to turn so the cameras don't catch her and slipping on the trellis, causing a broken piece of wood), which she finds herself having to cover up when Blanc starts sniffing around. Harlan does acknowledge that his plan is probably going to meet a few unexpected hurdles.
      • Additionally, the lines Harlan feeds Marta to avoid her Cannot Tell a Lie problems only works for a short time. The police inevitably have more questions and her anxiety still causes her to vomit.
    • Marta shakes off the police temporarily by squeezing her smaller, underpowered car through a couple of choke points, but as soon as she pulls to a stop, they catch up with her. Though this turns out to help her, since getting hauled in for questioning at precisely that moment disrupts Ransom's scheme.
    • Fran the housekeeper gets hold of Harlan's toxicology report before Blanc does, but doesn't understand what it says due to having no police or medical training.
    • At one point, the true murderer is forced to confront their blackmailer alone in a secluded place with no witnesses nearby, which turns out to a terrible idea for the blackmailer, Fran, who didn't account for the possibility of Ransom just physically overpowering and killing her.
    • The family takes pride in Harlan's Big Fancy House and considers it their "ancestral" home. When Blanc hears this, he bursts out laughing and points out that Harlan has only owned it since the '80s, when he actually became wealthy from his novels. A true Self-Made Man like him would have never been able to live in such a place beforehand.
    • The Summation may be a quintessential part of a whodunnit, but in practice, confronting a known killer with the fact that they're definitively going to jail is a sure recipe get them to lash out violently. If Ransom had picked a real knife, Marta would have been killed.
      • Nobody, let alone a man as famous for writing mystery novels as Harlan would never be so foolish as to leave dozens of dangerous weapons out in the open where anyone could reach. Most of the knives in his chair were props.
    • In the opening scene, housekeeper Fran comes across Harlan's body and gets about halfway through a Dramatic Drop before instinct catches up with her and she fumbles to catch the tray while cursing.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Blanc gets in a beauty of one when Marta says that the family have always treated her well (when they really haven't) and they smugly accept it, just after he reads the toxicology report that proves Harlan wasn't poisoned. His speech prevents Marta from confessing to wrongfully killing Harlan when she didn't.
    Blanc: Excuse me! You have not been good to her. You have all treated her like shit, to steal back a fortune that you lost, and she deserves. You’re a pack of vultures at the feast; knives out, beaks bloody! Well, you’re not getting bailed out, not this time. Miss Cabrera has decided, definitively, not to renounce the inheritance.
  • Red Herring: Early on after Harlan kills himself to cover up Marta's accidental poisoning of him, we see a drop of blood on her shoe. It never comes up until the very end after the true killer has been arrested when Blanc reveals that he knew she had some connection to Harlan's death because of it, but never brought it up.
  • Reverse Whodunnit: Played with. After Marta's Flashback, the film shifts to this as Marta desperately tries to cover her tracks. Of course, it turns back into a regular Whodunnit once it's revealed Marta only thinks she killed Harlan.
  • Rewatch Bonus: Most of Ransom's scenes, after we hear Blanc's summation.
    • Blanc's first scene with Marta has him look directly down at her shoes, proving that he knew she was connected to the crime almost immediately.
  • Rule of Three:
    • Once Marta's compulsive vomiting is established, we see it happen three more times:
    • Linda, a light sleeper, is woken by the sound of someone climbing the creaky stairs to Harlan's study three separate times during the flashback to the night of his death.
  • Running Gag:
    • None of the Thrombey family can remember which country Marta's family emigrated to the United States from, with Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Brazil all being referred to as her country of origin by different members. The audience isn't unambiguously told either.note 
    • The family members also routinely comfort Marta with the assurance that "we'll take care of you," that she's "part of the family," and that they wanted her at Harlan's funeral but were outvoted by the others, gradually making it clear none of them wanted her there.
  • Rustproof Blood: The spot of blood on Marta's shoe remains visibly red for several days after Harlan's death, even though it should have turned brown, but that is so the audience can make the same deduction that Blanc (who would recognize even a faded, brown bloodstain due to his experience) made. Rian Johnson knows that blood turns brown since it is a plot point in his earlier film The Brothers Bloom.
  • Saying Too Much:
    • In hindsight, Ransom fell victim to this when he told Marta that Harlan mentioned in their last conversation that Marta was the only person to beat Harlan at Go more regularly than Ransom did. As Harlan and Ransom's last conversation was about the will, that leads Blanc to the realisation that Ransom knew the truth about the will as there was otherwise no reason for Marta's name to be brought up in such a conversation.
    • Walt tries to force Marta's hand by threatening to expose Marta's mother as an illegal immigrant and have her deported. It might have worked had Walt not mentioned that the family would help Marta's mother with Harlan's resources if she renounced the inheritance. Instead, Marta says that since she now possesses his resources, she will help her mother by herself.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!:
    • Harlan strictly forbids any adaptations of his novels, to the chagrin of Walt, who sees them as a gold mine waiting to be tapped. One flashback to Harlan's party shows him brushing off Walt as he tries to explain that Netflix is offering a healthy sum and that "the window is closing."
    • In the climax Marta is ready to confess that she killed Harlan, forfeiting her inheritance from him and her family's place in America, until Blanc interrupts her.
  • Self-Serving Memory:
    • Both Linda and Walt have nearly identical flashbacks of their family (those who were present at Harlan's party, anyway) surrounding Harlan when his cake is presented to show how close they were to him. It's unclear which flashback is accurate if either of them was in the first place.
    • Richard, when talking to the police about Marta, flashes back to the party, as he warmly beckons her over to the cheerfully partying guests, whom she joins eagerly. A more extended flashback later on reveals that he summoned her to use as a prop for his racist argument in a heated debate and she was extremely uncomfortable the whole time.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: Harlan's suicide was meant to prevent anyone from finding out that Marta accidentally got the medication vials mixed up but it turned out to be this as Ransom already switched the medication in the vials so Marta gave him the correct dose anyway despite her mix-up.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The name of the victim, Harlan Thrombey, is a shout-out to the Choose Your Own Adventure detective story Who Killed Harlowe Thrombey? Him being a famous mystery writer as well could be a shout-out to author Harlan Coben.
    • Ransom is named after the protagonist of C. S. Lewis' Space Trilogy.
    • During the car chase scene, Ransom refers to Marta as "Baby Driver", a reference to another, similarly tightly plotted film.
    • Trooper Wagner comments that the grainy black-and-white security footage of Harlan's driveway looks like a Japanese horror movie and jokingly asks if they'll die seven days after watching it.
    • As explicated below under Titled After the Song, the film is named after a Radiohead song.
    • Thrombey's arrangement of knives (well, at least one is actually a prop) may be a reference to the Iron Throne from Game of Thrones.
    • Blanc cites Thomas Pynchon's Gravity’s Rainbow (specifically, the title's description of how objects fall to earth) as a metaphor for how he solves his cases. Although Blanc claims that no one has ever actually read Pynchon's novel, writer/director Rian Johnson has in fact read it. Twice. This is actually subtly reflected in the film within the narrative structure of the plot, though they don't have many thematic elements in common. The rocket models on Thrombey's shelves are a direct reference to Gravity's Rainbow, which opens with a description of a V-2 rocket flying to earth (and closes with a rocket destroying the text of the novel itself ... possibly). Johnson also acknowledged Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 and Vineland as direct inspirations on the plot, with the former centering around the execution of a will and ending on a rather ambiguous note, and the latter revolving around a Big, Screwed-Up Family.
    • Blanc's surname echoes the color-themed character names of Clue. Carried further in the promotional images, where all the characters are depicted dressed in block colors. In the film itself, Lt. Elliot derisively refers to the Thrombey estate as a "Clue board."
    • In one scene, Marta turns on the bathroom faucet and kneels in front of the toilet to heave. Writer/director Rian Johnson directed three episodes of a certain show on which two different characters performed this ritual.
    • During the early questioning sessions, Richard talks about how much he admires Marta, then quips, "Immigrants, we get the job done." After a Beat he adds, "Hamilton."
  • Silent Whisper: At the beginning of The Summation scene, Blanc whispers some instructions to Trooper Wagner. The audience doesn't hear what he says, and only finds out what the instructions were at the same time the other characters do.
  • Skewed Priorities:
    • Blanc, much to the chagrin of the police, seems more interested in figuring out who hired him to solve the mystery than actually uncovering what happened to Harlan Thrombey.
    • Harlan's reaction to learning he's overdosed on morphine is to question Marta about various medical details concerning death by morphine overdose, in order to take mental notes to potentially use it in a future novel. Of course, at this point he thinks that the mistake is reversible and that he'll be fine.
    • Overlapping with Dramatically Missing the Point, after hearing Marta's story about what really happened to Harlan, the first thing Ransom has to say about it is that he thought he was the only one who could beat Harlan at Go.
  • Spanner in the Works:
    • Ransom, to a criminal degree. Once he learns Harlan is going to leave everything to Marta, he not only sabotages her med bag (leading to Harlan's death), he also anonymously hires Blanc to investigate, assuming his investigation will lead to Marta's incarceration and the new will being nullified.
    • Marta ends up being this to Ransom's plan. He swapped Harlan's medicine around between the two bottles, expecting Marta to look at the bottle before administering it, but Marta was instinctively able to tell which medicine was which just from the color and viscosity of the liquid before realizing that she gave him the "wrong" medicine, thus making her 100% innocent of causing his death. This causes him to have to change his plans completely.
    • Harlan also becomes a spanner to Ransom's plan to murder him. Rather than let Marta get indicted, he constructed an elaborate plot to give her an alibi. Ransom is genuinely bowled over when he interrogates Marta about it.
    • Fran turns out to be a spanner in Ransom's plan when she notices him entering the attic as Harlan's funeral is going on.
    • Great-Nana is a spanner in both Ransom's plan and Marta's, since she spots both of them climbing down the trellis on the night of Harlan's death.
    • Benoit ends up being the ultimate spanner; Ransom hired him but underestimated that to a detective, it would seem Too Good to Be True that someone would want him to investigate a suicide in exchange for an envelope of cash. It seems like the anonymous client would have ulterior motives especially when that much money is involved. He decides to take his time solving the case, rather than accuse Marta the minute he sees blood on her shoe, because instinct tells him that Marta isn't a killer. It means that he pieces together exactly what Ransom did in the climax.
  • Spiritual Successor:
    • To Rian Johnson's first film, Brick, being another Deconstructive Parody of a popular subgenre of Detective Fiction, the British "cozy".
    • Also, to Get Out. A genre film that invokeddrops the anvil on how the patronizing, paternalistic brand of racism that is common in seemingly liberal-minded crowds of white people is Not So Different (perhaps worse in some ways) from its more violent and outwardly hateful variant. Whereas Get Out focused on the racism black Americans experience from this crowd, Knives Out focuses on the racism and xenophobia Hispanic Americans endure. Notably, both movies are filmed in and around large homes set in some unnamed Northeast/New England suburb, and Lakeith Stanfield plays supporting roles in both (Jamie Lee Curtis' character even shouts at his to "get out" in one scene).
  • Starts with a Suicide: Harlan's suicide kicks off the plot.
  • Stylistic Suck: The mystery show Marta's sister watches at the beginning of the movie has hilariously hammy dialog and appears to revolve around a ridiculously gruesome murder.
  • The Summation: A remarkably straight example in the climax, where Blanc spells out to Marta and Ransom exactly what happened.
  • Tag Line:
    • "A whodunnit like no one has ever dunnit."
    • Theatrical release poster: "Hell, any of them could have done it."
  • Take That!:
    • Linda describing herself as "self-made" when she started her business with a million-dollar loan from her father is a very deliberate dig at a certain American political figure.
    • Jacob Thrombey being an "alt-right troll" seems to be a willful jab at the wave of online harassers that went after Rian Johnson and several of the cast members of The Last Jedi.
    • Joni's holistic lifestyle brand, which promises vague concepts of well-being and has a pretentious, meaningless one-syllable name ("Flam") that Lt. Elliot clearly finds ridiculous, is a parody of Gwyneth Paltrow's brand Goop. Even the name itself suggests "flim-flam".
  • Tempting Fate: During his summation, Blanc waxes on about how Fran survived Ransom's attempt to kill her and will testify against him, right before Marta gets the call about Fran from the hospital.
  • Threat Backfire: Walt tries to intimidate Marta into giving up the money by threatening to have her mother deported and "only our lawyers and resources" could stop that. Marta immediately points out that she now controls all the family's lawyers and resources and without Harlan's fortune, the family will be lucky to afford a half-decent lawyer to go against the firms Marta can now hire.
  • Titled After the Song: Rian Johnson has confirmed that the film is named after the Radiohead song of the same name (from Amnesiac). The song doesn't have much to do with the actual plot of the film, though; Johnson just liked the song and thought it had a great title for a whodunnit.
  • Title Drop: Said by Blanc when describing how the Thrombeys are both like hungry vultures around their patriarch's corpse and quick to turn on one another (“Knives out, beaks bloodied”).
  • Too Dumb to Live: As Benoit puts it, "Poor Fran." She finds out that Ransom tampered with Marta's medical bag and correctly deduces that he had something to do with Harlan's death. Rather than telling the cops what she saw, she decides to send a blackmail note to Ransom with a photocopy of the top of the toxicology report. It's unclear if she meant to confront him dramatically or get money out of him, but either way, he knocks her out and overdoses her with morphine, planning to frame Marta for her death.
  • Too Much Alike: During a flashback, Harlan mentions that one of Ransom's issues is that he is too much like Harlan. This is later confirmed when it is revealed that they independently improvised nearly identical plans on the spot to accomplish their goals: be seen leaving the house, turn around out of camera, return, climb the trellis, and get to Harlan's study through the hidden window.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Harlan's coffee cup is this for Marta, as she is seen drinking from it in the very last scene of the movie.
  • Trailers Always Lie: That quote at the top of the page about knives coming out isn't actually in the movie. It's a trailer-only line.
  • Trauma Conga Line: The film is basically an extended Break the Cutie for Marta. She accidentally administers the wrong dosage of medicine to her rich boss Harlan and it kills him. He encourages her to lie to save her from getting into hot water with authorities, then slashes himself in front of the already-distressed Marta. When the Thrombeys find out she inherited all of Harlan's assets, nearly all of them turn against her, even the ones who seemed nice enough. She witnesses her co-worker Fran in a horrifying state of paralysis and near-death; she also mistakenly thinks Fran is blaming her for everything. Ransom also baits her into thinking she can trust him. He's actually the one behind the murders and framing Marta, who didn't even commit accidental murder because she was a sufficiently skilled nurse to have instinctively known the correct bottle to use in spite of Ransom switching them. No one could blame her after she ultimately maybe leaves most of the Thrombeys to fend for themselves.
  • Undying Loyalty: Because Harlan treated them well, Fran and Marta cared deeply for him. So much that Marta reluctantly carried out his plan to create an alibi for herself, and Fran investigated on her own why Ransom was tampering with his grandfather's medicine.
  • Unreliable Voiceover:
    • The witnesses (minus Marta) lie constantly to Blanc and the police, but the flashbacks always tell the truth — aside from a minor details (see "Rashomon"-Style above).
    • We also hear from Richard during his interview that the Thrombeys all consider Marta a part of the family and this is accompanied by a flashback to the party wherein we see Richard warmly inviting her over to join the rest of the family by the fireplace. However, when we later see this flashback play out again from Marta's perspective, we find out that Richard was actually cajoling her over in an attempt to bolster a political argument he was making about "good immigrants" and "bad immigrants" and even that he seemingly considers her a servant as he holds out his empty plate to her while he talks until she takes it.
  • Vertigo Effect: The effect is used when Ransom attacks Marta with a knife after she tricks him into confessing killing Fran.
  • Video Credits: The end credits show each actor with a painted portrait of their character.
  • Visual Pun: The trailer switches to somebody grabbing a real knife on the circular display after Benoit mentions that the family members "really love twisting the knife into one another."
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Marta and Harlan have this, oddly enough. In what little we glimpse of them alone together, Harlan gives her a hard time by flipping a Go table and needling her, with Marta giving as good as she gets; however, it's clear it's all good-natured, compared to Harlan's arguments with his true family. Marta states that the reason she got more hours working than strictly needed as a nurse was that he needed a friend.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Played straight with Marta multiple times, but then subverted HARD when she vomits on Ransom at the end, on-screen.
  • Wham Line: A variant, in that it isn't this trope when first spoken, but becomes the trope when repeated in a flashback: "Ransom, are you back again already?" At first it doesn't seem too important that Wanetta has mistaken Marta for Ransom, but the Wham part is the word "again"—which, as Benoit Blanc explains, means that Ransom had returned to the house before Marta left, which puts him at the crime scene.
    • Before that, Blanc to Ransom "Why did you hire me?"
  • What Happened to the Mouse?
    • While the film ends rather open-ended on how everyone moves forward, Nana is last seen laughing as Blanc states that none of the Thrombeys is getting a red cent of their patriarch's inheritance. Is she going to a nursing home? Is the family going to take care of her? Will Marta look after her now? Who knows?
    • When Harlan is given an injection of what he thinks is a lethal dose of morphine he thinks it's a good plot for a murder mystery and actually jots it down. What happens to the journal is never mentioned again, though if it were found by the detectives who supposedly searched the crime scene, his last entry would certainly have given them, or Benoit Blanc, pause for thought.
  • What You Are in the Dark:
    • Harlan is remarkable when trying to help his Only Friend Marta. He forcibly makes Marta hang up the phone and proves he would rather die than see her indicted for manslaughter by slashing his throat before she can convince him to change his mind. For all his flaws, he was fiercely loyal.
    • Ransom fails this. He learns from Harlan that the man is going to disinherit the family and leave everything to Marta. Rather than tell his family members, he concocts an elaborate plot to ensure that Marta cannot inherit and his family does instead.
    • Fran, bless her heart, fails this. She noticed Ransom tampering with Marta's medical bag and, on a hunch, asked her cousin who works for the CME for a copy of Harlan's toxicology report. Even though the numbers meant nothing to her, she thought it would be a good idea to confront Ransom and confirm he did try to frame Marta by killing Harlan. And she made sure to store a backup copy and tell Marta while dying.
    • Benoit knew from the start that Marta was involved in whatever happened to Harlan. Instead of confronting her, he employs her as an unofficial assistant because instinct told him that Marta wasn't a killer. Even though it wasn't any of his business, he stops Marta from giving up the fortune and calls the family out for how they treated her, once he realizes she's innocent.
    • Fran seemingly has proof Marta killed Harlan, and Marta can leave her to die and get out of trouble or save her and likely go to jail and risk her mother's deportation. Marta chooses to help, and is rewarded for it when it turns out Fran instead has proof of her innocence. Significantly, this scene is set in a dark and secluded area.
    • Linda during questioning. She notices that Benoit is baiting her with a remark about "all of the Thrombeys being self-made", to say what she really felt and thought about Walt, who was "only administering" the publishing house and not making film or TV deals. She gets angry at him and pointedly closes ranks by refusing to run the risk of incriminating her brother. Her husband, on the other hand...
  • Whodunnit: Deconstructed and reconstructed. We know the circumstances of Harlan's death well before the end of the film, and the detectives shrug off potential motives as too weak for murder (motives that are commonly true in other whodunnits). That said, the mystery of who hired Benoit is a Fair-Play Whodunnit.
  • Who Would Be Stupid Enough?: A variation; Linda sees right through Benoit's attempts to bait her into talking badly about Walt, and angrily berates him for thinking that she'd be stupid enough to fall for such an obvious ploy. Cut mid-sentence to her husband Richard demonstrating that he is exactly stupid enough to fall for that one.
  • Wimp Fight: Richard and Walter briefly go at it in this fashion.
  • Wiper Start: After the will is read, Marta rushes out of the house; pursued and badgered by the Thrombey family. She jumps in her car but is so flustered that she cannot get it started. She does, however, turn on the wipers.
  • Wrong Assumption: Both Ransom and Fran assume the toxicology report reveals that Harlan was given a massive morphine overdose. In fact, the toxicology came back clean because Marta gave Harlan the correct medication even though Ransom switched the labels.
  • Xanatos Gambit: While framing Marta seems to have been Ransom's Plan A, midway through the film he makes a deal with her to receive his share of the inheritance if he helps her cover up her guilt.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Ransom's plan fails almost immediately but he continues manipulating Marta and trying to salvage his plan. He does a fairly good job and would have likely succeeded had he not completely misread Marta's character.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: After feeling immense guilt for Harlan’s death in addition to getting lots of hate from the Thrombeys for most of the movie, Marta is told by Blanc during The Summation that the only thing she was guilty of is being a good nurse, as she didn’t actually kill Harlan. Moreover, he said she beat Ransom because she refused to play his game.
  • You Have Got to Be Kidding Me!: Line said by Marta when Harlan explains that she has to climb the wall of the house and enter via the trick window.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Richard was cheating on Linda and Harlan threatened to expose the affair.
  • Your Television Hates You: Every time Marta goes home, somebody's watching a murder mystery on TV.

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