99 shades of Noir (with notes).by un_samourai | created - 14 Mar 2011 | updated - 1 day ago | Public
Listed in order of preference, these are all the Noir/Neo-Noir that I recommend considering watching.
The tag 'Film Noir' is a subjective one. The style was only really identified and extensively written about after the classic cycle was already over. No one making a picture then (1940-1960) thought of it as a Noir. They probably thought of these films as "second feature crime thrillers".
Let's face it, we generally categorize to simply help find or avoid certain types of art/entertainment. My point being, Noir is an invented category, so let's not get too pedantic about which films are and are not Noirs. For further reading, I suggest Paul Schrader's wonderful essay from 1971, Notes On Film Noir.
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1. Classe Tous Risques (1960)
Not Rated | 103 min | Crime, Drama, Romance
Abel Davis is a criminal, hunted in Italy. The police are closing in, so he and his pal Raymond arrange to flee back to France with Abel's wife, Thérèse, and their two young sons. Abel and ... See full summary »
Votes: 2,544 | Gross: $0.09M
The same writer as the great Le Deuxieme Souffle. The first film Claude Sautet directed from start to finish is a knockout. His 'first' film "Bonjour Sourire!" being the taking over another director's ailing project.
This is one of the best Noirs of all time. Make it a top priority.
2. Le Deuxieme Souffle (1966)
Not Rated | 150 min | Crime, Drama
A gangster escapes jail and quickly makes plans to continue his criminal ways elsewhere, but a determined inspector is closing in.
Much better than it's reputation as a slightly second tier Melville film, this is one of the all time great crime films. It's (neo)noir heaven. Love it!!
3. Out of the Past (1947)
Not Rated | 97 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
A private eye escapes his past to run a gas station in a small town, but his past catches up with him. Now he must return to the big city world of danger, corruption, double crosses and duplicitous dames.
Certainly a contender for best noir of all time. A must see title if there ever was one. Robert Mitchum in the lead is magnetic, but very relatable. Jane Greer is simply one of the most alluring, and mendacious femme fatale's ever. I could go on and on. It has everything that make the noir genre so enjoyable.
4. Blade Runner (1982)
R | 117 min | Sci-Fi, Thriller
A blade runner must pursue and terminate four replicants who stole a ship in space and have returned to Earth to find their creator.
Votes: 584,621 | Gross: $27.00M
Of course this features high on the list. If you've never seen it, make it a priority (especially with the highly anticipated Blade Runner 2049 on the horizon).
This is one of the absolute best neo-noirs. The set-decoration, design, and special effects are notable, as is the gorgeous Vangelis score. Just what is it to be human? These days, I like the original theatrical cut with the very noir narration by Harrison Ford better than the director's cut, even though the ending is a bit more commercial.
5. Le Corbeau (1943)
Not Rated | 92 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
French village doctor becomes target of poison-pen letters sent to village leaders, accusing him of affairs and practicing abortion.
Votes: 7,317 | Gross: $0.03M
Better than 'Les Diaboliques' and 'Wages of Fear' in my opinion. It's a truly great noir thriller, in fact, it's simply one of the very best films period. I've had the pleasure of watching it three times, and it killed every time.
6. Army of Shadows (1969)
Not Rated | 145 min | Drama, War
An account of underground resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied France.
Votes: 16,802 | Gross: $0.74M
Probably the best Melville of all for it's pithy subject. The deminonde of the French Resistance is the subject, and it is fascinating, and grim. This is a good film to see if J.P. Melville's stylish, but spare film making is up your alley.
7. Pulp Fiction (1994)
R | 154 min | Crime, Drama
The lives of two mob hitmen, a boxer, a gangster's wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption.
Votes: 1,528,643 | Gross: $107.93M
It's a hard film to classify, but it certainly has a lot of Noir in it. It's more an experience than just a film. When watching this for the first time, you just don't now where Q.T. will take you next. I just watched this again, probably for the 8th time, and it knocked me out yet again.
It has enough content for two great films. The dialogue is marvelous, and so is the music selection. The non-chronological structure also works beautifully for this film.
This is one of two great Tarantino films (Reservoir Dogs being the other). For me, his subsequent films have not measured up to his first two pictures.
8. The Third Man (1949)
Not Rated | 93 min | Film-Noir, Mystery, Thriller
Pulp novelist Holly Martins travels to shadowy, postwar Vienna, only to find himself investigating the mysterious death of an old friend, Harry Lime.
Votes: 134,825 | Gross: $0.45M
The sewers of post war Vienna, and a zither score that you'll never forget. Welles is fabulous.
9. The Lady from Shanghai (1947)
Not Rated | 87 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
Fascinated by gorgeous Mrs. Bannister, seaman Michael O'Hara joins a bizarre yachting cruise, and ends up mired in a complex murder plot.
Votes: 21,894 | Gross: $0.01M
For me, this film is quite a bit better than Wells' 'Touch of Evil'. See it for the house of mirrors scene alone. It is certainly one of the best of all film Noirs. This picture is packed with wonderfully sleazy characters, and deceit is everywhere.
10. Pierrot le Fou (1965)
Not Rated | 110 min | Crime, Drama, Romance
Pierrot escapes his boring society and travels from Paris to the Mediterranean Sea with Marianne, a girl chased by hit-men from Algeria. They lead an unorthodox life, always on the run.
For art-house fans only.
Super original, and super fun, this noir colors WAY outside the lines. It is an example of how malleable the noir framework really is. There is a core entertainment to watching a couple on a doomed crime spree.
IMHO, this is the best J.L.Godard film.
11. Chinatown (1974)
R | 130 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller
A private detective hired to expose an adulterer finds himself caught up in a web of deceit, corruption, and murder.
Votes: 250,340 | Gross: $29.20M
A perfect neo-noir with a very powerful gut-punch of an ending added by Polanski to Robert Towne's script.
It could only be more Noir if it was shot in B&W. An essential film. One of Jack Nicholson's best roles as well (which is saying a lot!).
12. Le Samouraï (1967)
GP | 101 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
After Professional hitman Jef Costello is seen by witnesses his efforts to provide himself an alibi drive him further into a corner.
Votes: 36,477 | Gross: $0.04M
This is one of the 'coolest' films ever, and Alain Delon is the handsomest film star to grace the screen. Not for those who don't like to be left with a little mystery at the end of a film, as Melville almost always liked to do. I can see an influence of 'This Gun For Hire' in this picture, but Melville does it oh so much better.
13. Le Doulos (1963)
Not Rated | 108 min | Crime, Thriller
A burglar betraying other criminals, prepares for a big heist with a trusted friend that might be as untrustworthy as he.
Votes: 7,202 | Gross: $0.08M
Another great J.P. Melville film. A very grimy Paris, and a twisty story add up to another must see Melville film. I watched it again a day after seeing it for the first time.
14. Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)
PG-13 | 104 min | Comedy, Drama
An ophthalmologist's mistress threatens to reveal their affair to his wife while a married documentary filmmaker is infatuated with another woman.
Votes: 47,901 | Gross: $18.25M
Many compare it to Fyodor Dostoyevsky's writing, with good reason. For me, it's the best Woody Allen film. It could be seen as a very serious riff on film Noir. One of the things that makes it Woody's best, is aside from the main story of a crime (Landau, Houston), there is a secondary, lighter, funnier story line (Alda, Allen and Farrow) that balances out the heaviness of the Landau/Houston plot beautifully.
15. Revanche (2008)
Not Rated | 121 min | Crime, Drama, Romance
Ex-con Alex plans to flee to the South with his girl after a robbery. But something terrible happens and revenge seems inevitable.
For art-house fans only. It is a quiet, minimal film.
This is a great, great film noir, but it also to me seems to transcend the genre by sheer emotional depth. Those of you with shorter attention spans be warned though: this film has a European quietness/minimalness to it. Lots of still camera setups that are really beautifully framed. I just watched this film again, and loved it even more on second viewing.
16. No Country for Old Men (2007)
R | 122 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller
Violence and mayhem ensue after a hunter stumbles upon a drug deal gone wrong and more than two million dollars in cash near the Rio Grande.
Votes: 715,712 | Gross: $74.28M
Probably the best Coen brothers film. Excellent, excellent picture!
17. Ace in the Hole (1951)
Not Rated | 111 min | Drama, Film-Noir
A frustrated former big-city journalist now stuck working for an Albuquerque newspaper exploits a story about a man trapped in a cave to re-jump start his career, but the situation quickly escalates into an out-of-control circus.
Votes: 22,551 | Gross: $3.97M
Billy Wilder's follow-up to Sunset Boulevard (also excellent) is a terrific film. Kirk Douglas has been great in so many films. This is up there with his best. Cynicism , oportunism, and capitalism are the themes of this terrific, dark picture. It is my favorite Billy Wilder film, and is sadly underknown.
18. Mulholland Dr. (2001)
R | 147 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller
After a car wreck on the winding Mulholland Drive renders a woman amnesiac, she and a perky Hollywood-hopeful search for clues and answers across Los Angeles in a twisting venture beyond dreams and reality.
Votes: 274,197 | Gross: $7.22M
A terrific dark, disturbing, (solvable) puzzle. Naomi Watts is fantastic.
19. Notorious (1946)
Not Rated | 101 min | Drama, Film-Noir, Romance
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?
Votes: 81,309 | Gross: $10.46M
One of Hitch's best films. A must see.
20. Se7en (1995)
R | 127 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
Two detectives, a rookie and a veteran, hunt a serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins as his motives.
Votes: 1,193,507 | Gross: $100.13M
Simply one of my all time favorites. I remember several people saying they were rather disturbed after seeing this picture. Yes, it is dark stuff, but I just adore it. The opening credits are terrifically stylish.
21. Act of Violence (1949)
Passed | 82 min | Drama, Film-Noir, Thriller
An embittered, vengeful POW stalks his former commanding officer who betrayed his men's planned escape attempt from a Nazi prison camp.
This one's got just about everything, including social relevance, yet very few people champion this film. Do yourself a huge favor and see it.
22. Taxi Driver (1976)
R | 114 min | Crime, Drama
A mentally unstable veteran works as a nighttime taxi driver in New York City, where the perceived decadence and sleaze fuels his urge for violent action, while attempting to liberate a twelve-year-old prostitute.
Votes: 593,977 | Gross: $28.26M
There's got to be the odd person who's not gotten around to this picture. Only one of the best films ever committed to celluloid. A little caveat though: It's definitely got some very adult content.
23. The Limey (1999)
R | 89 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
An extremely volatile and dangerous Englishman goes to Los Angeles to find the man he considers responsible for his daughter's death.
Votes: 26,581 | Gross: $3.19M
Wonderful film. Steven Soderbergh's revenge film is on the art-house side of Noir, and is clearly inspired by the style of the film 'Point Blank' replete with flash-backs, and flash-forwards. I love Terrence Stamp in this, but it's got many great performances.
24. Le Cercle Rouge (1970)
Not Rated | 140 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller
After leaving prison, master thief Corey crosses paths with a notorious escapee and an alcoholic former policeman. The trio proceed to plot an elaborate heist.
Votes: 17,834 | Gross: $0.37M
Beautiful tones of color, great set decoration (as per usual with Melville) and the theme of comradery between thieves. One of the all time great heists as well. I do find that people either love or hate Mellville's films. They're certainly more quiet/minimal than most plot driven films.
As you see by my list, Melville is one of my very favorite directors.
25. The Killers (1946)
Not Rated | 103 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
Hit men kill an unresisting victim, and investigator Reardon uncovers his past involvement with beautiful, deadly Kitty Collins.
This may be a good film to use as an example of what a Noir is to those who don't know the term. It's one of the best.
26. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
R | 99 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller
After a simple jewelry heist goes terribly wrong, the surviving criminals begin to suspect that one of them is a police informant.
Votes: 772,758 | Gross: $2.83M
Almost Shakespearian in it's finale. The last flash-back in particular (Mr. White) is phenomenal! What a gem!
27. The Big Combo (1955)
Not Rated | 87 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
A police lt. is ordered to stop investigating deadly crime boss Mr. Brown, because he hasn't been able to get any hard evidence against him. He then goes after Brown's girlfriend who despises him, for information instead.
28. Rififi (1955)
Not Rated | 118 min | Crime, Thriller
Four men plan a technically perfect crime, but the human element intervenes...
Votes: 21,360 | Gross: $0.06M
It's a shame that Jules Dassin was blacklisted in the insane commie-hunt craze of McCarthyism.
The expressionistic shots near the end are just incredible. The silent heist is just excellent as well. It features a wonderfully cool, tough, protagonist played by Jean Servais.
Prix Méliès, French Syndicate of Cinema Critics Best Director, Cannes
29. Insomnia (1997)
Not Rated | 96 min | Crime, Mystery, Thriller
In a Norwegian city with a 24-hour daylight cycle a Swedish murder investigator has been brought in on a special case. Sleep deprived, he makes a horrible mistake which is discovered by the killer he has been hunting.
Votes: 11,383 | Gross: $0.22M
This is vastly superior to Christoper Nolan's remake in 2002 in every way. It has a really nice, spare, grey aesthetic to the look of the film, and what a wonderful central performance by Stellan Skarsgard. It also features an excellent electronic score. Very highly recommenced.
30. Key Largo (1948)
Not Rated | 100 min | Action, Crime, Drama
A man visits his old friend's hotel and finds a gangster running things. As a hurricane approaches, the two end up confronting each other.
So enjoyable to see time and time again. This type of role/performance is why Bogart is such a household name to this day.
31. Memento (2000)
R | 113 min | Mystery, Thriller
A man juggles searching for his wife's murderer and keeping his short-term memory loss from being an obstacle.
Votes: 972,580 | Gross: $25.54M
The pacing of the flash-backs in this Neo-Noir is simply too perfect for words. Love the ambient score as well.
32. Crossfire (1947)
Unrated | 86 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
A man is murdered, apparently by one of a group of demobilized soldiers he met in a bar. But which one? And why?
Votes: 6,274 | Gross: $1.30M
A message film that still works beautifully. Bravo. How many great film noirs featured Robert Ryan? He had a wonderful flexibility to what type of character he could play.
As a side note, Richard Conte and Richard Widmark, though not in this film, comes to mind as a similarly flexible noir actors.
33. The Killing (1956)
Not Rated | 85 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
Crooks plan and execute a daring race-track robbery.
This is a great early Stanley Kubrick heist film. I didn't think much of his 'Killer's Kiss' (to be fair, made on a tiny budget), but this film is terrific.
34. Bob le Flambeur (1956)
PG | 98 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller
After losing big, an aging gambler decides to assemble a team to rob a casino.
Votes: 8,697 | Gross: $0.02M
Pre new-wave gem. Very cool, early-ish J.P. Melville caper picture.
35. Heat (1995)
R | 170 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller
A group of professional bank robbers start to feel the heat from police when they unknowingly leave a clue at their latest heist, while both sides attempt to find balance between their personal and professional lives.
Votes: 493,706 | Gross: $67.44M
The bank job shoot out is a bit of heaven.
36. Nightcrawler (2014)
R | 118 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller
When Louis Bloom, a con man desperate for work, muscles into the world of L.A. crime journalism, he blurs the line between observer and participant to become the star of his own story.
Votes: 369,700 | Gross: $32.38M
What a great film. Love it! You'll never see the local crime news the same. Jake Gyllenhaal's cold grin is just unforgettable.
37. Farewell, My Lovely (1975)
R | 95 min | Crime, Mystery, Thriller
Los Angeles private eye Philip Marlowe is hired by paroled convict Moose Malloy to find his girlfriend Velma, former seedy nightclub dancer.
Having just seen this film for the second time, I was so impressed by it. This pretty much has the super high quality of "Chinatown" (another 70's era noir).
It's a more faithful film version of the same Chandler story as the film "Murder My Sweet". The set decoration, score, cinematography, acting, and storytelling are all excellent.
For some reason this film is really under-rated. It is a top notch neo-noir.
38. Casque d'Or (1952)
Not Rated | 94 min | Crime, Drama, Romance
In an open-air dance hall, the members of Leca's gang are relaxing with their ladies. One of them, Marie, aka "Casque d'Or" (Golden Helmet) meets Manda, a carpenter. Her man Roland belongs ... See full summary »
A belle epoque noir love story. Excellent in every way. Jacques Becker, who apprenticed as AD under Jean Renoir, was a fantastic director: Le Trou, Touchez Pas Au Grisbi and this film are all gold.
39. The Woman in the Window (1944)
Not Rated | 107 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
When a conservative middle-aged professor engages in a minor dalliance with a femme fatale, he is plunged into a nightmarish quicksand of blackmail and murder.
A more like-able film than "Scarlet Street" to be sure (with the same 3 principal actors). Very fun suspense film. Maybe the best of the Fritz Lang noirs. I watch it often.
40. Laura (1944)
Not Rated | 88 min | Drama, Film-Noir, Mystery
A police detective falls in love with the woman whose murder he is investigating.
It may be more detective/murder mystery, but it is considered a Noir by most critics so I've put it on my list. It is one of my most often watched films. Such a pleasant, easy to watch film. Oh yeah, and Gene Tierney is awfully easy on the eyes...
41. Kiss Me Deadly (1955)
Not Rated | 106 min | Crime, Film-Noir, Mystery
A doomed female hitchhiker pulls Mike Hammer into a deadly whirlpool of intrigue, revolving around a mysterious "great whatsit".
The crescendo of the classic noir cycle is realized in this wonderfully dark detective film. Highly recommended.
42. Hard Eight (1996)
R | 101 min | Crime, Drama
Professional gambler Sydney teaches John the tricks of the trade. John does well until he falls for cocktail waitress Clementine.
Votes: 33,095 | Gross: $0.22M
P T Anderson's Noir impresses from the first viewing, and holds up, no check that, it gets even better when subsequently viewed. I've heard that PTA was heavily influenced buy J.P. Melville's "Bob Le Flambeur". That makes sense to me.
I've the feeling this was very much a below the radar film. No one ever talks about this film, because next to no one has seen it. What a shame.
43. Ex Machina (2014)
R | 108 min | Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi
A young programmer is selected to participate in a ground-breaking experiment in synthetic intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breath-taking humanoid A.I.
Votes: 384,962 | Gross: $25.44M
Tech-noir heaven. Alicia Vicander is perfect as the cyborg femme fatale.
I like how the film keeps you guessing about the motives of Oscar Issac's character throughout the film.
44. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Not Rated | 100 min | Film-Noir, Mystery
A private detective takes on a case that involves him with three eccentric criminals, a gorgeous liar, and their quest for a priceless statuette.
Just a wonderful, non menacing, early Noir. The cast, with supporting players like Peter Lorre, and Sydney Greenstreet, add so much to this film, and keep me coming back for more. I probably watch it twice a year. Lots of twists and turns to the story keep things very interesting. Required viewing for the genre.
45. Drive (I) (2011)
R | 100 min | Crime, Drama
A mysterious Hollywood stuntman and mechanic moonlights as a getaway driver and finds himself in trouble when he helps out his neighbor.
Votes: 493,194 | Gross: $35.06M
A great genre film that's lifted to the level of best getaway driver film ever. It features a great love story, a couple of good car chases, wonderful cinematography, music, and editing, but be warned, it's a very violent film. I scarcely could have enjoyed it more.
46. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)
R | 122 min | Crime, Drama
Terence McDonagh is a drug- and gambling-addled detective in post-Katrina New Orleans investigating the killing of five Senegalese immigrants.
Votes: 68,831 | Gross: $1.70M
Werner Herzog's skewed cop film is great. Nicolas Cage is impressive in this, possibly as good as he was in 'Adaptation'. Keep in mind the thought of Herzog poking you in the rib with his elbow about 3/4 into the film though (can't say more than that without spoiling anything) and you should really enjoy this picture.
47. Bullitt (1968)
M/PG | 114 min | Action, Crime, Mystery
An all guts, no glory San Francisco cop becomes determined to find the underworld kingpin that killed the witness in his protection.
Votes: 52,038 | Gross: $42.30M
Wonderful score by Lalo Schifrin, and of course there's McQueen. Known for the car chase, and winning the best editing Oscar in '68, but the whole film is very enjoyable. The story, to me has a slightly elusive quality to it when all is said and done which lends the film well to repeated viewings.
48. Get Carter (1971)
R | 112 min | Crime, Thriller