The ABC's of Film Noir
The ABC's of Film Noir

Forty Essential Film Noir Classics

I have trouble stopping at 40 on this Forty Essential Film Noir Classics. I will continue to update the list as more movies are added.

I wanted to add a definition for Film noir, so I went to the great movie critic Roger Ebert.  I have shortened his definitions but included the link below so you can read the complete original.

1. A French term meaning “black film,” or film of the night.

2. Doesn’t mislead you into thinking there will be a happy ending.

3. Locations that reek of the night, of shadows, of alleys, of the back doors of fancy places.

4. Cigarettes. Everybody in film noir is always smoking. The best smoking movie of all time is Out of the Past, in which Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas smoke furiously at each other.

Out of the Past (1947) - Forty Film Noir Classics

Out of the Past (1947) – Forty Film Noir Classics

5. Women who would just as soon kill you as love you, and vice versa. This is priceless JEC.

6. For women: low necklines, floppy hats, mascara, lipstick, boudoirs, calling the doorman by his first name, high heels, red dresses, having gangsters as boyfriends, having soft spots for alcoholic private eyes, and sprawling dead on the floor with every limb meticulously arranged and every hair in place.

7. For men: fedoras, suits and ties, shabby residential hotels with a neon sign blinking through the window, buying yourself a drink out of the office bottle, cars with running boards, all-night diners, on first-name terms with homicide cops, knowing a lot of people whose descriptions end in “ies,” such as bookies, newsies, junkies, alkys, jockeys and cabbies.

8. Movies either shot in black and white, or feeling like they were.

9. Relationships in which love is only the final flop card in the poker game of death.

10. The most American film genre, because no society could have created a world so filled with doom, fate, fear, and betrayal, unless it were essentially naive and optimistic.

Noir Fest

My RateTitleYearComment
Maltese Falcon (1941)
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
1941The best of ALL the Film Noir. Humphrey Bogart is amazing so is everyone else…
Double Indemnity (1944)
Double Indemnity (1944)
1944Foolish insurance man meets one of the best femme fatale in this must see drama...
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
1950A young man is murdered after he gets involved with a much older actress.
Out of the Past (1947)
Out of the Past (1947)
1947The best femme fatale ever...
5The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)1946Infidelity and murder...
6The Asphalt Jungle (1950)1950Gritty heist drama as everything falls apart...
7Touch of Evil (1958)1958Orson Welles directed this masterpieces that starred Charleton Heston as Mexican detective...
D.O.A. (1950) poster
D.O.A. (1949)
1949A "who done it" like you have never seen before…
Brute Force (1947)
Brute Force (1947)
1947Prisoners obsessed with a pin-up tell their tale as they wait to escape. Burt Lancaster leads a fantastic cast with Hume Cronin as a sadistic guard…
Ace in the Hole (1952)
Ace in the Hole (1952)
1951A savage critique of corrupt mass media. Kirk Douglas is on fire…
11The Big Sleep (1946)1946Detective Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart) is hired by a wealthy client. By the end of the case, there is murder, blackmail, and maybe love…
13All the King's Men (1949)1949Southern politics the real way…

Shield for Murder (1954)
1954Crooked cop Detective Lt. Barney Nolan (Edmond O'Brien) murders and robs a bookie so he can start a new life with his girlfriend Patty (Marla English) while cops Sgt. Mark Brewster (John Agar) and Capt. Gunnarson (Emile Meyer) follow the clues. Also, features Carolyn Jones and Claude Akins. Super intense Film Noir
The Narrow Margin (1952) poster
The Narrow Margin (1952)
1952Set on a train, this is the classic Film Noir featuring Marie Windsor and Charles McGraw
Laura (1944)
Laura (1944)
1944Gene Tierney is an iridescent angel and Dana Andrews a stolid cop who nails the killer after falling for a dead dame...
17The Killing (1956)1956Sterling Hayden is amazing in the tale of a robbery gone horribly wrong...
18The Killers (1946)1946Burt Lancaster in his file debut is amazing...
Key Largo (1947)
Key Largo (1948)
1948Gangsters and a hurricane in the Florida Keys. Plus Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall…

Three Strangers (1946)
1946Three strangers get involved with a Chinese goddess idol and have very different results. The 8th pairing of Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet.
21Sweet Smell of Success (1957)1957Ambition and betrayal stripped of all pretense...
22The Naked City (1948)1948Two New York City detectives investigating a suicide that turns out to be murder...
23The Lady from Shanghai (1947)1947Orson Welles' brilliant jigsaw with a femme fatale that is one of the greatest...

The Big Heat (1953)
1953A tough cop, played by Glenn Ford takes on a well-connected mob. Gloria Grahame is great in this film…
Dark Passage (1947)
Dark Passage (1947)
1947An escaped convict and his helper starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall…
The Big Combo (1955)
The Big Combo (1955)
1955Obsessed cop hunts down a psychotic crime boss...
27The Stranger (1946)1946Orson Welles directs and stars as a War Crimes Commission investigator travels to New England in search of Nazis. t to find an infamous Nazi...
Fallen Angel (1945)
1945Dana Andrews, Linda Darnell, and John Carridine...
I Want to Live! (1958)
I Want to Live! (1958)
1958I Want to Live! (1958) is a gritty Film Noir that focuses on the femme side of the story. Susan Hayward is amazing as the condemned woman…

The Maltese Falcon (1931)
1931The original version of the classic movie that would come 10 years later. This version is very good and true to the story. Not a true Film Noir.

Requiem For A Heavyweight (1962)
1962A washed-up boxer suffers to help his gambling manager…

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)
1946A lustful vixen (Barbara Stanwyck), a dipsomaniac ( Kirk Douglas) in his first film, a tough guy (Van Heflin), and dame (Lizabeth Scott) that had nothing but bad breaks intersect in The Strange Loves of Martha Ivers (1946)

The Set-Up (1949)
1949Robert Ryan is great as washed-up boxer in Robert Wise's sharp expose of the fight game. Brooding and intense Film Noir classic.

The Harder They Fall (1956)
1956This is a gritty boxing Film-Noir without a series femme fatale. This movie was Humphrey Bogart last film. Rod Steiger led a vicious crew of gangsters. Real boxers rounded out the crew. Mark Robson directed this tale of corruption and betrayal in the sweet science...

The Blue Gardenia (1953)
1953A woman blacks out while drinking and thinks she may have killed the man that tried to sexually assault her

The Prowler (1951)
1951Van Heflin plays a killer cop out to steal Evelyn Keyes' character form her husband and start a new life.
37Gilda (1946)1946A small-time hood goes to work in a casino only to find his new boss is married to his ex-lover...

The Phenix City Story (1955)
1955The entire town is corrupt. Alabama! ...
The Shanghai Gesture (1941)
The Shanghai Gesture (1941)
1941Set in a Chinesse gambling den, Gene Tierney, Victor Mature, Ona Muson, and Walter Huston are amazing…
40High Sierra (1941)1941A thief, after being released from prison, is hired by his old boss to learn an inept group in the robbery of a mountain resort...
41Caged (1950)1950This film has a great female cast. Set in a woman's prison this film has a very dark ending...
42White Heat (1949)1949Cagney plays a psychopathic con with a mother complex trying to break out of prison to rejoin his old gang. The ending goes off with a bang...
43In a Lonely Place (1950)1950Nick Ray deftly explores effect of isolation, frustration, and anxiety on the creative psyche as noir entrapment...
44Dead Reckoning (1947)1947A soldier flees rather than receive the Medal of Honor, his war buddy, played by Humphrey Bogart goes to his buddy's hometown where love and murder follow…
Dark Waters (1944)
Dark Waters (1944)
1944Merle Oberon, Franchot Tone, and Thomas Mitchell in an interesting Gothic- Film Noir set in bayous of Louisiana.

Mystery Street (1950)
1950Ricardo Montalban is this Film Noir criminal forensic investigation story…
47Nightmare Alley (1947)1947One of the greatest, yet subdued, femme-fatale, she uses greed instead of sex to drive a man to the lowest depths possible at the end of a Gin bottle…
Blood Money (1933) poster
Blood Money (1933)
1933Frances Dee plays a kleptomaniac that get between a bail bondsman and his girlfriend. Norish but not a Film Noir.

The Garment Jungle (1957)
1957Garment factory owner, with the help of his son and union finally stands ups to organized crime.

The Petrified Forest (1936)
1936A wonderful pre-noir film with an oustanding performance by Humphrey Bogart as a deranged criminal. Cast includes Bette Davis and Leslie Howard…

Forty Essential Film Noir Classics

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