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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phUxnXGhEiI
This 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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3wjJcuGsVE
Directed 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 MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson at their best.
The film was nominated at the Oscars in se7en categories!
3. Laura (1944)
Film Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6f8jRplej8
With 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 Tierney, Clifton Webb and stunning Dana Andrews.
The film won Oscar in the best Cinematography category.
4. Mildred Pierce (1945)
Film Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjK97CqVqWA
Great 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 Crawford, Jack Carson, Zachary Scott, Ann 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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8f4UOtLf5Q
Alfred 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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjJlBnfyiI4
One 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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HjMDg1Z9_gA
When 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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3XA5FEKIx4
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 Ford, Gloria Grahame and Jocelyn Brando playing their parts.
9. The Night Of the Hunter (1955)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8dX6ZKJe2o
Robert 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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAe1CJWH_B8
One of Stanley Kubrick‘s earlier films and a perfect example of Film Noir.
Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray, Vince 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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-Oqn2hMp1M
Performances by Charlton Heston, Janet 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).
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Poster courtesy: www.imdb.com, www.impawards.com.