Best of Film Noir (Black Cinema)

Best of Film Noir

Written by Souranath Banerjee.

Best of Film Noir: Around 1946 Nino Frank, a French film critic first coined the term ‘Film Noir’ to define the series of stylized, high contrast black and white American films of that particular era.

Dark shadows, flickering neon signs, cheap urban settings, dingy alleys and backdoors, claustrophobic interiors, cynical looking men (mostly private detectives or street smart hustlers) wearing long overcoats drinking away, treacherous foxy women (femme fatales)  wearing a mask of innocence seducing away, corruption and betrayal, guns and murders, the certainty of unhappy endings and of course lots and lots of cigarettes. 

Enter the world of Film Noir (literal meaning ‘Black Cinema‘).

And here is a list of some of the best and most popular Film Noirs Hollywood ever produced.

1. The Maltese Falcon (1941).

Film Trailer:

Maltese-Falcon-posterThis particular film directed by John Huston (his debut) is said to have started the trend and set the mood for the innumerable Film Noirs that dominated Hollywood for the next two decades.

A perfectly twisted murder mystery.

Humphrey Bogart with his crooked handsome looks and the trademark nasal tone soon became the most popular Film Noir star of that era. 

2. Double Indemnity (1944).

Film Trailer:

double-indemnity-posterDirected by one of my favorite director Billy Wilder, this film is remembered to be the ultimate Film Noir that ever existed!

Brilliant script with superbly corrupted characters full of lust and deceit. Fred MacMurrayBarbara StanwyckEdward G. Robinson at their best.

The film was nominated at the Oscars in se7en categories!

3. Laura (1944)

Film Trailer:

laura-posterWith lots of flashbacks and surprise twists in the plot this film tells the mysterious story of a detective falling for the woman whose murder he is investigating!

Directed by Otto Preminger and superb performances by Gene TierneyClifton Webb and stunning Dana Andrews.

The film won Oscar in the best Cinematography category.

4. Mildred Pierce (1945)

Film Trailer:

mildred-pierce-posterGreat storytelling, brilliant acting, chilling suspense and also an unexpected twist in the end. Yes, it has all of these and much more.

Class performances by Joan CrawfordJack CarsonZachary ScottAnn Blyth.

Directed by Michael Curtiz, one of the best emotional Hollywood classics and of course a super cool Film Noir.

5. Notorious (1946).

Film Trailer:

notorious-posterAlfred Hitchcock joins the Film Noir wagon and gives us one of the best of this genre.

This film is a classic tale of love and betrayal – of trust and deceit; a dangerous spy game with the risk of frightening consequences if ever get caught.

Starring Cary Grant and beautiful Ingrid Bergman, very romantic and probably the best spy film ever.

6. The Big Sleep (1946)

Film Trailer:

big-sleep-posterOne of Humphrey Bogart‘s most famous performance and also a most prominent example of Film Noir.

Directed by the master director Howard Hawks this film plunges us into a whirlpool of darkness where blackmail and murder goes hand in hand. 

Lauren Bacall and Martha Vickers all at their best in this gripping thriller.

7. The Third Man (1949)

Film Trailer:

The-Third-Man-posterWhen Joseph Cotten learns of his friend’s mysterious death he suspects foul play and is in search of the mysterious third man who might be present at the time of death.

One of the most popular member of this genre, the film is a perfect thriller with Orson Welles in one of his notorious performances.

Directed by Carol Reed the film is a classic by it’s own right.

8. The Big Heat (1953)

Film Trailer:


With vengeance in his mind a cop goes after the city’s most dangerous crime syndicate.

A dirty game of politics and power  challenged by one man’s passion and a thirst for revenge; a film as brutal and vicious as it gets.

Directed by Fritz Lang (who specialized in such dark stories), with Glenn FordGloria Grahame and Jocelyn Brando playing their parts. 

9. The Night Of the Hunter (1955)

Film trailer:

night-of-the-hunter-posterRobert Mitchum is determined to get his hands on some hidden money but the children won’t share their secret.

Directed by Charles Laughton this dark film has chilling moments of suspense.

Playing with shadows and silhouettes (the chiaroscuro
lighting technique) has always been an integral part of Film Noir but this one takes it to a different level.

10. The Killing (1956)

Film trailer:

killing-posterOne of Stanley Kubrick‘s earlier films and a perfect example of Film Noir.

Sterling HaydenColeen GrayVince Edwards playing their parts.

Classic drama full of tension and thrill, edited in a non-linear fashion.

This film is considered to be a huge influence on future non-linear films – the likes of Reservoir Dogs (1992) and Pulp Fiction (1994).

11. Touch of Evil (1958)

Film Trailer:

touch-of-evil-posterPerformances by Charlton HestonJanet Leigh and Orson Welles – a thriller that is said to be the last of Hollywood’s favorite genre.

Directed by Orson Welles himself, it has kidnapping, corruption, murder and revenge. As the poster says – it is the story of the strangest vengeance that was ever planned!

A true classic to end the golden era of Film Noirs.

Even in the recent past a few films successfully managed to capture the nostalgia of the classic Film Noirs.

A few examples of such Neo-Noirs are The French Connection (1971), Chinatown (1974), Taxi Driver (1976), Blood Simple (1984), L.A.Confidential (1997), Blade Runner (1982), Memento (2000), Mulholland Drive (2001), A History of Violence (2005), Sin City (2005).

Similar Interest: Best Hollywood Classic Romantic Films

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Similar Interest: Best Bollywood Classics

Poster courtesy:

Court (2014)

Court review.

My Ratings: 4.3/5.

Debutant writer/directer Chaitanya Tamhane‘s film Court recently won the National Award (Golden Lotus Award) in the Best Feature Film category. 

court-posterThe film and it’s director have also won numerous prestigious awards in various national/international film festivals – thanks to producer Vivek Gomber for his belief in uncompromising, intelligent cinema.

Yes, Court is no doubt an astutely sarcastic take on our country’s judicial system. 

A script so uniquely underplayed and yet so effective to it’s purpose – something very rare in Indian cinema.

A court-room drama that revolves around folk-singer Narayan Kamble’s (Vira Sathidar) prosecution, he being accused of singing songs that provoked a sewage worker into committing suicide! Abetment of suicide in judicial terms.

Court-poster1Geetanjali Kulkarni the public prosecutor, Vivek Gomber the defense lawyer, Pradeep Joshi the judge and a few other supporting characters – perfect casting and brilliant performances.

But what really makes the film Court outstanding (apart from the script) is the way it’s been shot.

Intelligent establishing shots, long takes of day-to-day events, numerous reaction shots of people and detailed production design – all these make the film so real that it adds a certain voyeuristic quality to it. Honestly at times it felt like i was actually sitting in the same court room where the aged folk-singer is on trial.

Court-poster3Very believable characters with glimpses of his/her personal lives (shown just enough to give an essence of that character).

And a special mention of the superbly sarcastic ending where the film cleverly conveys the message that no matter how much noise you make, it’s impossible to wake up the judicial system of India.    

A marathi film (story and characters all based in Maharashtra) but Court is also multilingual – characters speak Marathi, English, Gujarati and Hindi.

116 min of thought provoking cinema with a documentary type realism – very much recommended.



Margarita, with a Straw (2014)

Margarita, with a Straw review.

My Ratings: 4.2/5.

Good news for the cinema-lovers.

Shonali Bose the director of Amu (2005) is back (almost after a decade) with her second film Margarita, with a Straw.

Co-directed by Nilesh Maniyar, the film Margarita, with a Straw is probably one of the best made films you will see this year. 

Margarita-with-a-StrawStory of a college-going girl named Laila (Kalki Koechlin) who is a talented lyricist and a gifted chess player; a girl who is not afraid to fall in love, even to explore outside the stereotypical norms of our society; who is determined to live life in her own way.

And also, Laila is permanently on a wheelchair, a young girl with cerebral palsy.   

Margarita, with a straw is one such rare cinema that treats a sensitive topic of disability with the right proportion of sympathy, dignity and sentimentality. Never goes over-the-top, so natural and intuitive, very emotional yet perfectly balanced.

And what a brilliant performance by Kalki Koechlin! Her innocence, her vulnerability, her dialogue delivery, her body language, expressions, her smile – she is the reason to watch this film.

All the other actors also did great – Revathy as Laila’s mom, Sayani Gupta as Laila’s girlfriend deserves special mention. 

Margarita-with-a-Straw-posterResul Pookutty comes in for sound design, great script, captivating performances and overall the joy of watching a good cinema.

A comparison with Aamir Khan‘s Taare Zameen Par (2007) is inevitable i guess.

The challenges and the determination to overcome these obstacles by a dyslexic kid Ishaan Awasthi (Darsheel Safary) in a certain way seems similar to that of Laila’s struggle to fit-in but of course due to the age difference of the characters their perspectives and needs are completely different.

And speaking of ‘needs’ and desires, Margarita, with a straw is probably the only Indian film that dares to explore the sexual urges of a disabled person and also makes us realize that their attractions and infatuations are in no ways different from any of us.

A 100 min film with an extraordinary first half, a good second half and a bit pretentious ending. Overall a must watch.


Dharam Sankat Mein (2015)

Dharam Sankat Mein review.

My Ratings: 1.5/5.

Imagine OMG: Oh My God! (2012) without the unique storyline, the innovative dialogues and Akshay Kumar.

Imagine PK (2014) with only it’s preachiness but no bhojpuri speaking Aamir Khan or sexy Anushka Sharma or the cool music to add fun to the film.

Unfortunately that’s Dharam Sankat Mein for you.

dharam-sankat-mein-poster1Paresh Rawal (the anti-dharmic family man) and his sarcastic comments on religion and scrupulous God-men are kept intact in this film (though his one-liners are not so well-written/funny as it was in OMG: Oh My God!).

And then Annu Kapoor and an overdramatic Naseeruddin Shah is being added but underutilized. Sadly enough, somewhere down the lane all these superb actors become victims of a poor script.

But again i have to admit the basic story line of the film sounds interesting though.

dharam-sankat-mein-poster2Dharampal (Paresh Rawal), a man who is by birth a muslim but brought up by a Hindu family tries his best to adopt to both the religions to achieve his goals. Nawab Mehmood Nazeem Ali Shah Khan Bahadur (Annu Kapoor), his neighbor gives him a helping hand.

A plot that could have been easily built up into something good but instead it turned out to be an illogical, repetitive and highly predictable film.

Only a hand-full of dialogues and a few comic scenes generates laughs in the cinema hall, specially the ones between Paresh Rawal and Annu Kapoor (such talented actors!).

Cinematographer turned director Fuwad Khan for his debut film had the right intentions, a good plot and a great casting. Better script and execution would have helped a lot. 

A comedy with high morale but low entertainment value.

A Most Violent Year (2014)

My Ratings: 4/5.

1981, statistically the crime rate in New York City at it’s peak, it was indeed A Most Violent Year.

most-violent-year-poster3And that was the year when the Morales family, Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) and Anna Morales (Jessica Chastain) were desperately struggling to maintain stability in their life (both professional and personal).

Targeted by his rivals (who hijacked his trucks and sold the oil) and harassed by the New York Police Department (who wants to investigate into his business) Abel Morales, an immigrant oil businessman seems to be in the verge of loosing everything he has worked so hard for in his life.

An unique combination of a ruthless business man and the protective family man, Oscar Isaac plays the role of his lifetime. And Jessica Chastain, currently being one of the best actress in Hollywood played her part to perfection. 


A total contrast to most of the latest action-crime films – A Most Violent Year is a thriller that maintains the tension and suspense till the end without showing any excessive gory violence or bloodshed.

Directed by J.C. Chandor this is one of the most matured crime drama of the recent times. 

Similar to the Godfather trilogy, the film portrays the moral dilemma of those brooding mafia leaders who will do anything to protect their families from their business related hazards.

Be patient while you watch A Most Violent Year, then only you will really enjoy the film.

P.S. – Originally Javier Bardem and Charlize Theron were considered for the lead roles!

Furious 7 (2015)

My Ratings: 4/5.

‘This time it ain’t just about being fast’

The film Fast & Furious 7 (according to director James Wan it’s titled Furious 7 referencing the Seven Samurai) is exactly what it promises to be – sexy cars, hot girls, wacky action and also a perfect emotional tale of love and friendship.

Fast-and-Furious-7-Poster3Made as a sequel to the last installment (Fast & Furious 6), this time Jason Statham joins the party as the badass big-brother of Luke Evans‘s character and he is all set to take care of his brother’s unfinished business.

Jason Statham later teamed up with Djimon Hounsou are probably the deadliest opponents ever who had a face-off with our usual Fast & Furious gang Vin DieselPaul WalkerDwayne JohnsonMichelle RodriguezLudacrisTyrese Gibson (though Sung Kang didn’t have much scope for action this time).

Nathalie Emmanuel as the sexy hacker, Kurt Russell as the mysterious Mr.Nobody and Iggy Azalea in a cameo – all did hit the right notes. 

Fast-and-Furious-7-Poster1And thus in this twisted, adrenalin pumping ride for revenge we experience some of the best action sequences and i am sure by the end of the film you will be convinced that ‘cars do fly’.

Director James Wan who took a break from the horror genre ( his earlier films being Dead Silence (2007)The Conjuring (2013) and the Insidious series) did an awesome job with this brilliant action pact drama.

Credit goes to the cinematographers Marc Spicer and Stephen F. Windon for the dynamic action shots taken (especially in those hand-to-hand combat sequences) where the camera moves in perfect sync with the actors and enhances the impact of their actions.

Fast-and-Furious-7-Poster2Cool editing and exotic soundtracks to match the pace of the film, Furious 7 is a high-voltage power house of entertainment that keeps you to the very edge of your seat.

A respectful dedication to the beloved actor Paul Walker (who was killed in a car crash on November 30, 2013) while the film was half way in the making.

A must for the F&F fanclub but for those who are not a die-hard fan of the Fast & Furious franchise (like me), even they can enjoy this one as simply a cool action flick.

Fast & Furious 7 – a ride worth taking.

Note: Body doubles, stunt doubles, and CGI were used to complete the film following Paul Walker‘s death.

Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! (2015)

My Ratings: 3.9/5.

Sometimes in the anticipation of fulfilling our expectations we seem to surrender ourselves to a particular art form even before we have truly experienced it.

For me in this case, being a huge fan of both Byomkesh Bakshy (detective) and Dibakar Banerjee (director), i realized that even before watching the film Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! i somehow knew that this would be a cinema of superlative excellence.

But then again such emotional pre-asumptions could be dangerous.

detective-byomkesh-bakshy-poster1Well, i surely won’t go that far by saying that Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! failed to live up to my expectations but i have to admit that the climax and specially the post-climax melodrama could have been handled better.

But first things first, this is THE best, most-detailed and flawless period film i have ever seen!

Thanks to awesome production designing by Vandana Kataria and superb Vfx by Prana Studios.

From the unique Kolkata trams to the Life magazine displayed in a bookshop, from the logo in tea cup to the hoardings and advertisements in the streets, the color/texture of the buildings, the typical style of wearing dhotis and sarees, the cars and their number plates, even the make of a revolver – all takes you back to an era that we have only read but never seen before.

Nostalgic Kolkata in the early 40s – a city traumatized by the World-War II, ripped and torn apart by the internal power struggle for freedom from the British Raj.

And in such turbulent times, in the midst of outraged freedom fighters and violent Japanese opium smugglers, a young man seems to be investigating a peculiar case of a chemist’s disappearance.

Detective_Byomkesh_Bakshi_poster4Dibakar Banerjee chooses to portray Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay‘s famous fictional sleuth as an inexperienced, just-out-of-college, curious, restless, impulsive youth – Byomkesh Bakshy, the legendary detective in the making. 

And Sushant Singh Rajput does a great job, he is absolutely sure of what is wanted from him and delivers spot on. Even the other actors Anand Tiwari (as Watson), and then Neeraj KabiSwastika MukherjeeDivya Menon all have given their best.

Cool background score by Sneha Khanwalkar and great frames captured by Dibakar’s favorite cinematographer Nikos Andritsakis.  

Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! is no doubt a decent thriller, technically flawless but the overall plot and editing could have been sharper.

A good film that easily had the potential to be a great one.

A girl walks home alone at night (2014)

My Ratings: 3.5/5.

A girl walks home alone at night is the first ever Iranian Vampire Film and that too a classy Black and White one!

Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour this one is not exactly the stereotype ‘horror’ film but it’s kind of a musical-romantic-horror mix (a new genre i guess). It’s very cinematic with awesome music, good performances and less dialogues.

Very much like Frank Miller‘s Sin City (2005) this film also creates it’s own dark, violent world where each character has their very own trademarks.

a-girl-walks-home-alone-poster1Incidentally in a place called the Bad City, a vampire girl (who keeps walking alone at night) pick-and-choose only the bad people and clenches her thirst for blood.

And soon, surprisingly enough this vampire girl (Sheila Vand) falls in love!

With a mediocre story line and only a handful of characters the film still manages to hold your attention (more or less) with the sheer quality of it’s beautiful black and white images. Lyle Vincent the cinematographer deserves a salute for such a visual treat.

Then again the treatment of the film is slow – a bit too slow at times. But i guess the outstanding use of music compensates all that (more or less). Songs (especially those electro-pop sound tracks) that are so perfectly synced with the actions and movements of the characters keeps the momentum going.

The farsi language and the Arabic style graffitis combined with a touch of feminism and a somewhat unsatisfying ending – nothing beyond being just a ‘really cool’ film.

All the actors Dominic RainsArash MarandiMozhan MarnòMarshall Manesh performed well and they all have the rare capacity to hold the moment without the use of dialogues.

Overall A girl walks home alone at night is a stylized film no doubt but could have been much better with some more spice in the plot and more clarity for the characters.

Wild Tales (2014)

Wild Tales review.

My Ratings: 4.3/5.

Wild Tales, Spanish title ‘Relatos salvajes’ is an anthology with six individual short films, all of which having a common theme of retribution and vengeance.

wild-tales-posterThese films, all six of them, are wicked (literally wild tales), satirical and even deranged to some extent but again at the same time they are clever, hilarious and highly entertaining.

Be it the passengers on an airplane or a loan-shark who enters a restaurant, two egoistic drivers on a highway or a frustrated citizen who also happens to be a demolition expert, a kid from a rich family who commits a hit and run or an unusual wedding ceremony – the various tales told in this film are brutal yet real.

All these stories are stretched to extremes but yet they somehow seem to be believable!

wild-tales-poster1Most of the characters in these short films are psychologically twisted and are brilliantly portrayed by actors like Ricardo DarínErica RivasDarío GrandinettiDiego GentileMaría MarullLeonardo SbaragliaMónica Villa and others.

Wild Tales competed for the Palme d’Or award at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and was also nominated as the Best Foreign Language Film for last year’s Oscars.

Awesome music composed by Gustavo Santaolalla which perfectly compliments the innovative work of writer/director Damián Szifrón.

Wild Tales – a superbly entertaining black comedy that shouldn’t be missed at any cost.