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Film Noir Index

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An index for Film Noir films.


Proto-Noir

  • Crime and Punishment is often considered the first noir story, being the first novel to focus on the suffocation and isolation of modern urban life, as well as on the psychological profiles of criminals.
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  • The Sherlock Holmes novels and short stories helped popularize the detective genre, and the series is the Trope Namer for the Sherlock Scan. Not quite noir, but it certainly wouldn't be here without the series.
  • The Mysteries of Paris by Eugene Sue pretty much started the whole modern Urban Crime/Mystery/Adventure genre
  • The Vampire Countess, by Paul Féval, is ambiguous about its supernatural elements: the title character may just be a Manipulative Bitch con woman and a Femme Fatale. Also has a Noir-style Anti-Hero who knocks up a teenage girl who falls in love with him, but he is then seduced by the Femme Fatale. And it in general depicts the seedy underworld of 1804 Paris.
    • John Devil by the same author, while not as Noir like in general, does anticipate the classic Femme Fatale in the Detective's office scene.
  • Some of the darker Arsène Lupin stories, particularly 813
  • Little Caesar (1931), a crime drama depicting the rise and fall of an organized crime leader.
  • M (1931), a German Expressionistic movie by Fritz Lang, starring Peter Lorre as a peculiarly sympathetic Serial Killer. Not quite noir, but getting there.
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  • The Public Enemy (1931). Following the exploits of a hoodlum from entry-level crimes, to his rise in the crime ranks, and to his eventual demise. A Depression Gangster film where the tensions are related to the hoodlum and his "good family" who complain about his lifestyle.
  • Freaks (1932), a horror film. Excluding all the slice-of-life scenes that take up the majority of it, the actual plot is pretty noirish.
  • I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932). A random man is caught up in a robbery and the legal system never ceases to hunt him down. An anti-establishment film with a famous finale.
  • The Last Will of Dr. Mabuse (1933). A sequel to an earlier film and a story where the eponymous Diabolical Mastermind seems to control an entire gang while incarcerated.
  • The Thin Man (1934). A Mystery Fiction film based on a Dashiell Hammett novel. While more light-hearted than proper noirs, it is still considered one of the best adaptations of the hard-boiled literary genre.
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  • La Bete Humaine (1937). A proto-noir about a violently jealous husband, his faithless wife, and her lover whom she asks to murder her husbands. Much of the Film Noir set-up, but different in that the lover does not murder the husband, but instead has a mental breakdown which leads to a different murder.
  • Angels with Dirty Faces (1938). Crime film which famously uses the Had to Come to Prison to Be a Crook plot. A child criminal is caught for a petty crime and is sent to reform school. He stays in the system for life, going in and out of prison through his adulthood and eventually executed. A fellow child criminal who was never caught became a priest.
  • The Roaring Twenties (1939). Crime thriller covering the Prohibition era.

"Classic" Noirs

  • Rebecca (1940). A mystery thriller with Gothic Horror elements. A number of film critics, such as Patrick Brion, regard it as "the first true film noir" and others term it a "gothic noir".
  • Stranger On The Third Floor (1940). Often cited as "the first true film noir" due to including many of the relevant tropes and cinematographic techniques. A B-Movie and a box office flop at the time of release , it was re-appraised decades later. It is now considered groundbreaking.
  • They Drive by Night (1940). Often cited as a noir, mostly for Ida Lupino's great Femme Fatale, Lana Carlsen.
  • Citizen Kane (1941). While often excluded from lists, its visual style and "voice-over driven narrative structure" are widely cited as extremely influential to the genre.
  • High Sierra (1941). Considered as a transition film between the 1930s gangster films and the 1940s films noir. First leading role and Star-Making Role for Humphrey Bogart, who had already made a career of playing gangsters in crime films.
  • I Wake Up Screaming (1941)
  • The Maltese Falcon (1941). The third film adaptation of the same Dashiell Hammett novel, the second leading role for Humphrey Bogart, and the directorial debut of John Huston. An iconic depiction of the Hardboiled Detective and a major hit for the film noir genre.
  • Cat People (1942) is a film noir disguised as a horror film. It inspired the film noir style that would dominate RKO Pictures during the 1940s.
  • This Gun for Hire (1942). Based on a Graham Greene novel, though with some material reworked for wartime-propaganda reasons. Professional Killer Philip Raven completes an assignment and is then double-crossed by his latest employer. He sets out to get revenge. Meanwhile, Nightclub Singer Ellen Graham is recruited by the federal authorities to spy on her current boss, who is suspected to be a fifth columnist. Raven and Graham are unknowingly Working the Same Case and their paths cross. A major hit for the film noir genre, and the film which turned Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake into "reliable box office draws".
  • Casablanca (1943). Wartime drama which has been listed as another major influence on the genre. The lighting and visuals were similar but darker to those of The Maltese Falcon. The setting in a shady and exotic bar of Morocco, the cynical and world-weary protagonist, the adulterous undertones of the main Love Triangle, a narrative populated by gangsters, black marketeers, con-artists, corrupt cops, and fleeing refugees willing to make deals to save their skins all add to the general mood of melancholy and pessimism. Casablanca as depicted here is a City Noir. Or in the words of Sheri Chinen Biesen, "a cramped, crowded, where an underworld climate and abundant dubious nocturnal activity proliferate".
  • Double Indemnity (1944). A successful but bored insurance salesman falls for a woman in an unhappy marriage, and the two conspire to commit The Perfect Crime by getting her husband to buy an accident insurance policy, and then making sure he meets an untimely end. A film notorious for pushing the envelope on The Hays Code restrictions to its limits. Despite an activist campaign "imploring the public to stay away on moral grounds", the film was a major critical and box office hit. It paved the way for further dark, controversial films and directly inspired imitators. Often seen as the Trope Codifier for films noir.
  • Laura (1944). Advertising executive Laura Hunt is seemingly murdered within her own apartment. A police detective investigating the case becomes intrigued with her life and personality. An interest which becomes obsessive. Somewhat atypical for the genre in shifting focus from the criminal underworld to the privileged classes of New York City and their own shady side. A stylish depiction of glamour, obsession, and suggestive sexuality.
  • Gaslight (1944). In Victorian London, a Con Man (and a male version of the Femme Fatale) marries a young woman solely to get hold of her late aunt's fortune. He almost succeeds by dimming the gas lamps in the house and convincing his wife (when she notices) that she is going mad - in fact, this is the Trope Namer for the Gaslighting method of psychological torment.
  • The Mask of Dimitrios (1944). Based on the novel of the same name. Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet trace the life of international criminal Dimitrios Makropoulos, whose body has just washed up in the Bosphorus. Or has it?
  • Murder, My Sweet (1944). The first film adaptation of a Philip Marlowe novel and one of the highly-regarded depictions of the Hardboiled Detective in cinema. The so-called "standard private eye formula" (of seeking a missing person and ending up personally involved in a bizarre case) tends to follow the lead of this film.
  • The Woman in the Window (1944). A married, middle-aged man falls for a Femme Fatale, and is involved in a fight with her current boyfriend. He kills the man in self-defense and soon discovers that he can not get away with it. On the surface a conservative parable on acting on repressed desires and paying a price for it. It has been argued however that director Fritz Lang aimed to depict the thin line between respectability and immorality, and how an ordinary person can be caught in a web of murder and intrigue. Another key theme to the film noir genre.
  • Detour (1945). A so-called "Poverty Row" production (a term used for low-budget films by lesser-tier studios) which is now hailed as a major critical hit in the genre and the masterpiece of director Edgar G. Ulmer. Al Roberts, a New York pianist, impulsively decides to hitch-hike his way to California, where he hopes to reunite with a former lover. He is eventually picked-up by professional gambler Charles Haskell, Jr. who is also heading to California in hopes of "a big payoff". Haskell actually wanted a second driver in the car, to allow himself some much-needed sleep. He keeps popping pills during their journey through the Arizona desert, and does not survive it. He dies in his sleep, the cause of death never specified. Roberts decides to claim the identity and property of the dead man for himself. He knows nothing, however, about the loose ends in the real Haskell's life and complications soon arise. The film is often described as a deconstruction of the phrase "Go West, young man", and the idea of heading West in search of a better life. There are four important characters in the film who head West in pursuit of their dreams. All end up either dead or with their dreams thoroughly crushed.
  • Fallen Angel (1945). Directed by Otto Preminger. A Con Man is mixed in the murder of his Femme Fatale girlfriend as he tries to woo a Naïve Everygirl for her fortune.
  • Leave Her to Heaven (1945). A psychological thriller about romantic obsession featuring Gene Tierney, Cornel Wilde and Vincent Price, and an early example of full color noir.
  • Mildred Pierce (1945). The film opens with the murder of Monte Beragon. His widow Mildred then narrates her story. A story which starts with the end of a previous marriage in a divorce, her winning custody over her daughters, and her efforts to financially support them. Unfortunately, elder daughter Veda is a Fille Fatale and the mother-daughter relationship is not a particularly healthy one. The prevailing mood of "pessimism and paranoia", the visual style, and the convoluted narrative have earned the film a place among the better known entries of the genre. Though an entry where the two main female characters dominate the narrative and family relationships take center stage.
  • Scarlet Street (1945). Directed by Fritz Lang. A mild-mannered bank clerk falls for a Femme Fatale, who teams with her sleazy boyfriend to bleed him for money.
  • The Big Sleep (1946). A Philip Marlowe film, particularly noted for its "labyrinthine" complexity and enigmatic ambiguity.
  • The Blue Dahlia (1946). A Navy officer returns from war service to discover that his son is dead (due to a traffic accident) and his wife unfaithful. When said wife is found murdered, the widower becomes one of several suspects in this murder case. The film is noted for its jaded view of what awaits the returning veterans of World War II, broken homes and nothing to return to. The protagonist himself has violent tendencies which are not particularly helping him adjust to civilian life even before the mystery begins.
  • Gilda (1946). A film set in the decadent atmosphere of post-war Buenos Aires. At its heart is a love-hate relationship between the male lead (and narrator) Johnny Farrell and female lead Gilda. A relationship with what critics call "dark and disturbing sadomasochistic sexual currents" which takes over the plot.
  • The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946). An adaptation of a James M. Cain novel. A male drifter and the female manager of a rural diner have a passionate affair. But there is still the problem of her loveless marriage to a much older man, who actually owns the diner. They decide to murder him and fulfill their dreams. But the dream soon turns into a living nightmare for them.
  • The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946). The film is one of the better known films noir of Barbara Stanwyck and Lizabeth Scott, who were both major stars in the genre.
  • The Stranger (1946). An Orson Welles entry in the genre. A Nazi Hunter tracks an escaped high-ranking Nazi, notorious for his success in remaining relatively anonymous, to a suburban neighbourhood in Connecticut. The fugitive, having settled down and married the daughter of a Supreme Court Justice, is quite keen on keeping his true identity as a war criminal secret, and a dangerous psychological duel between the detective and the escapee begins, with his wife caught in the middle.
  • The Killers (1946). A life insurance investigator takes a closer look at a murder case, and finds out that the victim is linked to a past robbery and $250,000 in cash.
  • Brute Force (1947). A Jules Dassin film starring Burt Lancaster as Joe Collins, a convicted felon who's trying to escape Westgate Penitentiary to see his dying wife. It includes one of the cruelest prison guards ever in the form of Captain Munsey (played by Hume Cronyn).
  • Crossfire (1947). A detective investigates the murder of a Jewish man, which involves a group of soldiers from the local Army base. One of the first Hollywood films to deal with anti-Semitism as a theme.
  • Dark Passage (1947). A bleak adaptation of a David Goodis novel. A man wrongly convicted of murdering his own wife escapes prison. He hopes to Clear His Name but the goal remains out of reach for most of the film. The film was one of the earliest to extensively use subjective camera angles to hide the face of the protagonist. This obscuring technique is used for about 1/3 of its duration. It was also notable for defying Hays Code standards in its finale. The actual murderer commits suicide. The protagonist never clears his name and remains the main suspect of an additional murder. Instead of a stereotypical "justice prevails" ending, the man will remain a fugitive for life. The film originally received mixed reviews, but has since gained a pretty good reputation.
  • Dead Reckoning (1947). Two paratroopers return from World War II and learn they are about to receive medals for their honorable service. Johnny Drake seems terrified of the notion that his picture will appear in the press and attempts to disappear. His incinerated corpse is later discovered, though his death is deemed accidental. His surviving friend Warren Murdock is not convinced. He wants to know what caused his friend to disappear and why the man was killed. Murdock soon finds himself framed for murder and caught in a web of intrigue, dating to the years before the War. Coral "Dusty" Chandler, the Femme Fatale of the film, is considered among the most notable examples in the genre, and is often discussed in reviews of misogynistic elements in films noir. Several film critics insist there is a Homoerotic Subtext in the relationship between Drake and Murdoch, which gets the film frequently included in reviews of gender identity in film noir.
  • Dishonored Lady (1947). The director of a magazine (Hedy Lamarr) attempts to leave her hedonistic life behind, but her efforts on making a new life seem hampered when a former lover finds her and she is later accused of his murder.
  • A Double Life (1947). Ronald Colman won his only Oscar for his performance as an actor who's acting method has disastrous results for his personal life.
  • Kiss of Death (1947). The film begins with family man Nick Bianco in dire financial straights. His status as an ex-convict leaves him unemployable, despite his decision to live an honest life. His inability to provide for his daughters causes him to join a criminal gang, and take part in a jewel heist. When an alarm is set off and the police arrives, Nick is injured and captured. He decides to protect the identities of his associates and take the fall for them. He does so with the understanding that his gang will take care of his wife and underage daughters. A couple of years later, Nick learns that the gang eventually abandoned his family. His broke wife committed suicide, and his daughters have become wards of an orphanage. He decides to co-operate with the authorities to earn a parole, a decision which will endanger his life. Noted for its realistic, almost documentary style, depiction of New York City. The film is currently mostly mentioned for a memorable secondary character: Tommy Udo, a Psycho for Hire with a distinctive laugh (a high-pitched falsetto), best used when disposing victims in sadistic ways, a character often compared to The Joker.
  • The Lady from Shanghai (1947). Another Orson Welles entry in the genre. While in Central Park, seaman Michael O'Hara chances on a beautiful woman being assaulted. He rescues Elsa Bannister and is then offered a job on the yacht of her husband. Then a partner of said husband offers Michael a substantial sum of money, in exchange for helping him to fake his death. By taking this deal, Michael is caught in a trap. Just about every character seems to have his own agenda, in a film noted for its complex narrative, multiple agendas, and groundbreaking cinematography.
  • Lady in the Lake (1947). Robert Montgomery directs this hard-boiled Raymond Chandler mystery with Ur-Example use of a film shot entirely in P.O.V. Cam.
  • Nightmare Alley (1947). Stanton Carlisle works at a Crappy Carnival but has ambitions to improve his life. He seduces an older woman, has-been Fortune Teller Mademoiselle Zeena, to learn the secrets that had once made her a star. Then abandons her to start a lucrative career as a Phony Psychic and Con Man. An alliance with amoral psychologist Lilith Ritter will help him prey on her wealthy patients. But then his greatest scheme backfires. His guild-ridden wife Molly exposes him to their latest victim, effectively ending his career. Lilith cheats him out of his share for their schemes and financially ruins him. A flop at the time of release, currently listed among the classics of the genre.
  • Nora Prentiss (1947).
  • Out of the Past (1947). In a small town in California, retired Private Detective Jeff Bailey romances local girl Ann Miller. When a figure from his past arrives and invites him to a meeting, Jeff accepts and takes Ann with him. He narrates to her a convoluted tale from his Dark and Troubled Past, including his former infatuation with Femme Fatale Kathie Moffat, and involvement with various shady characters. In the present, Kathie and several of these characters are also in California. The plots and schemes from his tale are still ongoing, and he still has a role to play in them. A film notorious for its complex script and ambiguity concerning the motivations and thought processes of every character, Jeff included.
  • Ride the Pink Horse (1947). A man is out for revenge in a small Mexican border town.
  • They Made Me a Fugitive (1947). Small time hustler, Trevor Howard, smuggles goods for a gangster but gets framed for manslaughter. He eventually escapes from prison to get revenge.
  • The Web (1947). A bodyguard who killed a man defending his client starts to suspect that there was something more to the incident.
  • Force of Evil (1948). The drama tells of a lawyer, Joe Morse, working on the side for a powerful gangster, Ben Tucker, who wishes to consolidate and control the numbers racket in New York. This means assuming control of the many smaller numbers rackets, one of which is run by Morse's older brother Leo Morse. In trying to both to look out for his brother and getting his own sizeable piece of the action, Morse soon finds himself getting in way too deep. Noted for its religious motifs, especially its many references to the story of Cain and Abel.
  • Key Largo (1948). Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall square off against Edward G. Robinson, who plays a mob boss who's long past his prime (in a send-up of the role that made him famous).
  • I Want to Live! (1948).
  • Road House (1948). Robert Widmark falls for a singer, Ida Lupino, but she's in love with his best friend.
  • Secret Beyond the Door (1948).
  • Sorry Wrong Number (1948).
  • Act of Violence (1949). Two shell shocked veterans deal with their Dark and Troubled Past, as one seeks revenge, and another tries to atone for his sins.
  • Beyond the Forest (1949). A woman bored with life in a small town squeezes her husband to pay their bills so she can visit Chicago, but that soon proves to be the beginning of a violent conflict. Famous for star Bette Davis line "What a dump!" being remembered as being pronounced far more enthusiastically than it actually was said in the film.
  • The Reckless Moment (1949). Max Ophuls' last American film, and it stars Joan Bennett and James Mason.
  • Stray Dog (1949), directed by Akira Kurosawa and set amidst the ruins of postwar Tokyo.
  • The Third Man (1949).
  • Too Late for Tears (1949). Lizabeth Scott is the epitome of the Femme Fatale in this film.
  • White Heat (1949). James Cagney stars in this complex, psychological take on his typical gangster persona. Famous for his final line.
  • The Window (1949). A young boy with a habit of Crying Wolf sees his neighbors commit murder and is unable to convince his parents or the police that he is telling the truth.
  • The Asphalt Jungle (1950). One of the quintessential heist films, with a nice Retroactive Recognition role for Marilyn Monroe.
  • D.O.A. (1950). (Source of the above picture) A man walks into a police station to report a murder...his murder. He goes on to tell his story. Remade in 1988, but you may know its rough 2009 incarnation: Crank.
  • Gun Crazy (1950).
  • In a Lonely Place (1950).
  • Night and the City (1950).
  • No Man of Her Own (1950). Directed by Mitchell Leisen and starring Barbara Stanwyck.
  • Sunset Boulevard (1950). Satire of Hollywood and the passing nature of fame, especially for silent-era stars.
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950). An Otto Preminger film, reuniting Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney in this take on a violent cop who covers up a murder.
  • Whirlpool (1950). Another Otto Preminger outing with Gene Tierney. Here she's a kleptomaniac involved in a murder due to hypnoses.
  • Woman on the Run (1950). Ann Sheridan stars as a woman desperately looking for her husband who witnessed a murder.
  • Ace in the Hole (1951). A disgraced reporter, eager for a comeback, turns a man trapped by a cave-in into a media circus.
  • Thunder on the Hill (1951).
  • Clash by Night (1952). A woman returns to her hometown, marries, and has a secret affair.
  • On Dangerous Ground (1952). A brutal cop falls in love with the blind sister of a murderer.
  • The Bigamist (1953). A lonely travelling salesman marries Ida Lupino but he's already married to Joan Fontaine.
  • 99 River Street (1953). A cabbie and former boxer must team up with an actress friend after his wife's body gets dumped in the back of his taxi to frame him. Essentially a film homage to the more pulp-oriented writings of the era.
  • Angel Face (1953).
  • The Hitch-Hiker (1953). A psycho kidnaps two friends on a fishing trip and forces them at gunpoint to drive him to Mexico. This film has the distinction of being the first film noir directed by a woman, Ida Lupino.
  • Niagara (1953). When two couples are visiting Niagara Falls, tensions between one wife and her husband reach the level of murder. Arguably the film that put Marilyn Monroe on the map, alongside Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire.
  • Pickup on South Street (1953). Samuel Fuller-directed film about a hoodlum who is given a chance to redeem himself by fighting against a Communist ring.
  • The Big Combo (1955).
  • Kiss Me Deadly (1955). Adaptation of Mickey Spillane's novel, with a heavily rewritten narrative involving nuclear secrets.
  • The Night of the Hunter (1955).
  • The Killing (1956). Stanley Kubrick heist film famous for its non-linear plot and for sort-of providing inspiration for Reservoir Dogs.
  • A Kiss Before Dying (1956), adapted from the novel by Ira Levin. Remade in 1991.
  • Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956) .
  • While the City Sleeps (1956). A Fritz Lang noir with touches of comedy.
  • Sweet Smell of Success (1957).
  • The Wrong Man (1957). Alfred Hitchcock film starring Henry Fonda as a man falsely accused of murder because he happens to look like the real deal.
  • Touch of Evil (1958). Usually cited as the last of the greatest film of the "classic noir" era. Orson Welles and Charlton Heston star in a dark tale of police corruption and moral ambiguity on the Mexican-American border.
  • The Crimson Kimono (1959). Another Samuel Fuller-directed film, about two cops trying to solve a murder in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo district. A film dealing with society's perception of race, it was in many ways socially ahead of its time.
  • Odds Against Tomorrow (1959). Often cited as the one of the very last, if not the last film of the "classic noir" era, and known for being the first noir with a black protagonist. A heist film with a heavy dose of social commentary about racism. Stars Harry Belafonte in a non-musical role.

Post-Classic and Neo-Noir


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