1.a style or genre of cinematographic film marked by a mood of pessimism, fatalism, and menace. The term was originally applied (by a group of French critics) to American thriller or detective films made in the period 1944–54 and to the work of directors such as Orson Welles, Fritz Lang, and Billy Wilder.
Who doesn’t enjoy a film noir every once I a while? I know I do. Very much. But it was not always so. I did not come to really appreciate the methodology, relevance and unique attributes that permeate this amazing and shadowy genre until the late 1980’s.
That was when I started to seek out and purchase classic black and white thrillers on VHS then graduated, eventually, to Laser-discs when I purchased “The Maltese Falcon” from director John Huston. After watching that film my interest and respect for noir was solidified forever. Since then I have watched and re-visited many noir titles from different film directors who all had different but singular visions.
Noir has been know to come in many forms and incarnations, but ultimately, despite the approach, the films consists of some of the same lasting qualifications and they seem to follow some rules and “hard boiled” conventions and characteristics: Femme fatales, isolation, stark angles, the night, crime, deception, light and shadow, mysterious women, stalwart men, fog, private eyes, distortions, evil henchmen and so on and so on. These are all pretty much in your basic noir classic.
I have gathered here some noir films that, over the years, I have come to really love and watch often or whenever I can. Some titles I have not seen in some time but they have left a considerable impression. I hope you enjoy the Top 10 and please let me know which are some of your favorite noir classics! Thanks and on to the list!
Vic’s Top 10: Noir Films
10 – The Big Heat (1953)
Directed by Fritz Lang
Tough cop Dave Bannion takes on a politically powerful crime syndicate.
9 – The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
A major heist goes off as planned, until bad luck and double crosses cause everything to unravel.
8 – Touch of Evil (1958)
A stark, perverse story of murder, kidnapping, and police corruption in a Mexican border town.
7 – They Live by Night (1948)
An escaped convict is injured and is helped by a woman with whom he has an ill-fated relationship.
6 – (Tie) Suspicion (1941) and Notorious (1946)
A shy young English woman marries a charming gentleman, then begins to suspect him of trying to kill her.
A woman is asked to spy on a group of Nazi friends in South America. How far will she have to go to ingratiate herself with them?
5 – Double Indemnity (1944)
An insurance rep lets himself be talked into a murder/insurance fraud scheme that arouses an insurance investigator’s suspicions.
4 – The Big Sleep (1946)
Private detective Philip Marlowe is hired by a rich family. Before the complex case is over, he’s seen murder, blackmail, and what might be love.
3 – Chinatown (1974)
A private detective hired to expose an adulterer finds himself caught up in a web of deceit, corruption and murder.
2 – The Maltese Falcon (1941)
A private detective takes on a case that involves him with three eccentric criminals, a gorgeous liar, and their quest for a priceless statuette.
1 – (Tie) The Third Man (1949) and Citizen Kane (1941)
Directed by Carol Reed and Orson Welles
Pulp novelist Holly Martins travels to shadowy, postwar Vienna, only to find himself investigating the mysterious death of an old friend, black-market opportunist Harry Lime. Following the death of a publishing tycoon, news reporters scramble to discover the meaning of his final utterance.
Honorable Mentions –
Blood Simple, The Killing, In a Lonely Place, Out of the Past , The Wrong Man, Strangers on a Train , The Lost Weekend , White Heat , Blade Runner , Odd Man Out / Murder my Sweet, Dark Passage, Vertigo
Let’s not forget: “Sunset Boulevard” from Billy Wilder! (Thanks to Bill from Crash Palace Productions)
Enjoy some selected Noir trailers below!
Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it. This one was a blast to put together. I still need to re-visit some of these films. A few I haven’t watched since my VHS days but they have left an incredible impression.
Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate it!
Nice post. I’ve only seen one of these films but I’ve always been curious about the genre and what to watch. I guess I should start with the Hitchcock films, can’t go wrong there 🙂
Yes! Start with those, Mike. They are 2 strong Hitchcock films and personify what the noir genre is all about. But be warned (in a good way), these are Hitchcock films and they each have that unique style and mood that sometimes defies the convention that this genre is known for. But, they are incredibly significant.
I hope you enjoy them. Keep me posted and thanks for swinging by, bro!
Great post, Vic. I too have always enjoyed film noir, most of the time. Yet, I have never seen any of these in their entirety. I have tried to make it through Citizen Kane a number of times, since so many call it the greatest film of all time, but I just can’t. Something about it hasn’t ever worked for me. Not sure.
The rest of your list? I haven’t even heard of some of them.
If you get a chance check out “Sweet Smell of Success” with Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis. Definitely underrated, and probably my favorite Noir.
I recall that one! From Wilder, no? I saw it on TCM a few months back but it aired quite late and I never finished it. I will definitely track it down and finish it.
Thanks for stopping by and checking out my list. I appreciate it!
Hi Vic. I believe that “Sweet Smell of Success” is Alexander Mackendrick, or something like that. Perhaps “Ace in the Hole” (which I have not seen) is the Wilder one you are thinking of?
Yes! That must be the one. Thanks for clarifying that up. I got my wires crossed there. I do remember Ace in the Hole somewhat but it’s been a long time. I may actually re-visit that one soon and do a Vic’s Classics review. Thanks! 🙂
Never really considered Kane as a film noir, but this is the sort of list I love reading!
Glad you enjoyed the list! It was fun to put together. As far as Kane, many actually don’t classify it as noir but I feel strongly enough to include it as such. So many elements like the narrative, the structure and the photography all clearly point to it being noir. Also, it was very entrenched in German expressionism.
I appreciate you checking in. Very happy you liked the post 🙂 Thanks a lot!
Reblogged this on deaconsden.
I’ve seen…umm…all of these. They were each amazing and I loved them very much. My favorite parts were the various murders and mystery!
Okay, I am lying through my teeth. My knowledge of film noir appears to be quite poor! I seen Citizen Kane in school but that is about it! One day…one day….I must make an effort to learn about these!
LOL! Noirs are great movies to watch. CK is easily the most accessible of them all but there are quite a few out there that are very significant and rewarding. So many of today’s thrillers (mostly dark crime thrillers) and mysteries owe much to these older films.
It may take some doing to totally get into them and they are kind of an acquired taste but you can’t go wrong with some of the titles on this list.
Thanks for checking in and for your awesome comment, man! 🙂
Nice list! Even though I love the genre, I was worried that I haven’t seen very many film noir titles, but was relieved to discover how many of these I’ve watched. Still so many left to discover, but I think your list is the perfect starting point. Great job!
You can definitely use the list to jump into some great examples of the genre. Many, for example, have seen Kane and know it well, but may not know about the other great Welles films: Touch of Evil and The Third Man.
Or even that Wilder, Lang and Hawks have made some amazing entries in Noir. Yes, there are still some out there very worthy of a re-visit or discovery. I am always coming across one or two on TCM that I have overlooked in the past.
I appreciate you checking in, Barry! Thanks very much and it was great to hear from you. Enjoy your weekend 🙂
A wonderful genre of film and I can’t argue with any of them. Have you seen the director’s version of Touch of Evil? It’s practically a different film.
I just ordered the blu ray which has 3 cuts of the film. I can’t wait to see the DC of it! I will review it eventually.
Glad you liked the post, Maurice. I appreciate you stopping in. Always glad to hear from you!
I freaking LOVE the layout of this post, and the text, etc. Looks like a good list of films to get to!
Thank you Zoe!!! I appreciate that very much.
This post was definitely the most fun to layout in recent days. I wanted to convey something really special when putting it together and I tried to make it stand out since I love the genre so much.
Let me know if you get around to seeing any of these! Thanks for stopping in and for the nice words. It was great to hear from you! 🙂
Always a pleasure!
Well, you certainly succeeded there!
I will do what I can 😀
Excellent list, Vic! And I greatly appreciate some of the movies on this list I’ve yet to see. Just curious: What about SUNSET BOULEVARD? That fine still blows my mind.
Keep doing what you do, because you do it well.
Oh man, I thought I had Sunset Boulevard in my honorable mentions list. That is a great film! One of Billy Wilder’s best movies and I haven’t watched it in a very long time. Wow, maybe over 20 years or so. Need to re-visit it. I will add it to the list, Bill. Thanks and I’m glad you enjoyed the post bro! I appreciate you checking in.