Film noir is a genre of dark and serious film. It typically features crime, violence and the threat of death or other calamity.

The protagonist is an anti-hero who becomes embroiled in a web of crime and intrigue.

Film Noir was popularized by Hollywood during the 1940’s to 1950’s with films like Double Indemnity (1944), Murder My Sweet (1944) and The Big Sleep (1946).

These were all directed by greats such as Billy Wilder, Howard Hawkes, John Huston, Fritz Lang, Otto Preminger, and many more.

What Is Film Noir?

Film Noir is a genre of film that has been around since the 1940s. A film noir usually tells about a detective, private investigator or someone who has committed a crime and tries to find out who they are and why they did it.

Film noir films typically have dark themes, including crime, betrayal, and paranoia.

Best Film Noir Movies

Film Noir is a genre of movies that are typically black and white. They’re gritty, hard-boiled, cynical films with an underlying sense of fatalism.

The suspenseful and emotionally charged films of film noir are some of the most captivating in cinematic history.

The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, 1941)

The Maltese Falcon is a 1941 film directed by John Huston.

The plot revolves around three groups of people who are after the titular statuette, which has been both stolen and forged over time.

Bogart, as detective Sam Spade, attempts to find out what happened and who committed the crime in order to keep it from happening again.

This film is an excellent example of how a mystery can be told through cinematic means rather than just words on paper.”

Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950)

Sunset Boulevard is a 1950 American black-and-white film noir directed and co-written by Billy Wilder.

The movie stars William Holden as Joe Gillis, an unsuccessful writer who becomes bankrupt and suicidal because of his chronic gambling addiction;

Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond, a silent film star from the 1920s trying to make a comeback; Erich von Stroheim as Max Von Mayerling, her loyal servant; Nancy Olson as Betty Schaefer,

Joe’s love interest; Fred Clark as Butch Mueller, Norma’s director and ex-husband; Jack Webb (in his acting debut) as Cecil B. DeMille. Life on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood is full of twists for Joe Gillis when he has to take care

The film Sunset Boulevard is a classic. It’s a black and white, Hollywood film noir.

Sunset Boulevard
  • Fred Clark, Anna Q. Nilsson, Lloyd Gough (Actors)
  • Billy Wilder (Director)
  • English, Portuguese, Spanish, French (Subtitles)
  • Audience Rating: Unrated (Not Rated)



What Are Film Noir Movies?

Film noir is a type of movie that was popular during the 1940s and 1950s. The term “film noir” comes from French words for “black film.”

These movies usually have dark, moody shots and are often filled with violence.

What makes film noirs so intriguing is that they’re not just about good guys vs bad guys or even heroes vs villains.

They can be as complex as any other genre of film, but they also have this dark edge to them which really sets them apart from other types of movies.



The Big Sleep (Howard Hawks, 1946)

Howard Hawks’ film noir masterpiece, The Big Sleep (1946), has been called “the most famous detective story of all time” and the epitome of 1940s Los Angeles.

A key protagonist is private investigator Philip Marlowe, played by Humphrey Bogart. Recently released on Blu-ray in a new restoration supervised by film historian William K.Everson, it’s an opportunity not to be missed for cinephiles and classic Hollywood buffs alike.

To understand why this movie was so groundbreaking when it came out, we need to take a look at some of the context surrounding its release.

The year before The Big Sleep premiered, 1946, was an enormous year for Hollywood.

World War II had just ended and there were many returning soldiers looking to settle back into their lives after years abroad fighting in what would become known as “the good war”.

There were also many women who had spent those same years working in factories or on farms while their husbands were away.”

The characterizations are not always convincing, there are plot holes that you could drive a truck through, and some scenes have obvious controversial themes in relation to modern norms. However, the film is an absolute classic of the film noir genre.

The story follows Marlowe as he investigates corruption at City Hall, which leads him into an underworld of gambling and prostitution that ends up putting his life in danger.

The Big Sleep
  • Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, John Ridgely (Actors)
  • Howard Hawks (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • English (Publication Language)

Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944)

Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity (1944) is another classic example of the film noir genre.

It has all the hallmarks: an amoral protagonist who commits murder for personal gain, a femme fatale seductress to tempt him, and an ostensibly happy ending that is anything but.

Double Indemnity is a 1944 film by Billy Wilder, starring Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck.

The story of the film focuses on an insurance agent who begins to have an affair with his client’s wife in order to collect the double indemnity clause in her husband’s policy.

It was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won three, including that for Best Screenplay.

The plot revolves around Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray), an employee at Consolidated Life Insurance Company who sells fire insurance policies with a lucrative “double indemnity” clause which pays out twice when someone dies from accidental means or suicide within two years of purchasing one of these policies.

Double Indemnity [Blu-ray]
  • Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson (Actors)
  • Billy Wilder (Director) - Billy Wilder (Writer) - Joseph Sistrom (Producer)
  • French, Spanish (Subtitles)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

Kiss Me Deadly (Robert Aldrich, 1955)

If you’re looking for something sweet and light, then this might not be the film for you.

Kiss Me Deadly is a dark and gritty film noir that has been called one of the most influential films in Hollywood history.

The story centers on Mike Hammer, a tough private investigator who gets mixed up with femme fatale Velda–a beautiful woman with ties to both crime bosses and government officials.


The main plot of this film revolves around three men and one woman who find themselves involved in a murder plot with some serious implications for the future of society as they know it.

This film was groundbreaking because it was one of the first movies to use violence and sexuality in a shocking way which pushed boundaries on American cinema at the time.

Kiss Me Deadly also marked the end of film noir with its dark tone throughout most of the film’s running time but still showed some light during certain scenes.

Kiss Me Deadly (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Ralph Meeker, Cloris Leachman, Gaby Rodgers (Actors)
  • Robert Aldrich (Director)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

The Big Heat (Fritz Lang, 1953)

In Fritz Lang’s “The Big Heat”, a detective named Dave Bannion (Glenn Ford) investigates the death of his partner.

The film is an excellent example of early noir films because it has many elements that are typical to this genre, such as the use of shadows and dark colors and characters who find themselves in morally questionable situations.

The Big Heat is a classic American Noir film by Fritz Lang, released in 1953. It follows a cop who is investigating the death of his partner.

He finds himself in a deadly pursuit of revenge against those responsible. The film explores themes of crime and corruption within an urban setting and violence as one man’s only justice.

It stars Glenn Ford, Lee Marvin, Gloria Grahame, and Anne Francis.

The Big Heat
  • Glenn Ford, Sydney Boehm, Gloria Grahame (Actors)
  • Fritz Lang (Director) - Richard Metzger (Producer)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)

The Big Combo (Joseph H Lewis, 1955)

Do you remember the last time you saw a film so good, it left you with an adrenaline rush? The Big Combo is one of those films.

This 1955 crime thriller has all the elements that make for an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride: corruption in high places, fast cars and guns to die for.

It’s also got a double dose of Hollywood star power from Robert Mitchum and Lee Marvin as two rival gangsters who want each other dead.

You won’t have any idea what will happen next because this movie doesn’t play by anyone’s rules but its own!

Joseph H Lewis’ The Big Combo is a classic noir film that stars Richard Conte as Tony Rome.

The Big Combo [Blu-ray] [Region A & B & C]
  • Cornel Wilde, Richard Conte, Brian Donlevy (Actors)
  • English (Publication Language)

Detour (Edgar G Ulmer, 1945)

The film Detour is a Hollywood B-movie that was released in 1945. It has since been deemed one of the most influential films to come out of the 1940s and it is considered a landmark in terms of style, technique, and storytelling.

The protagonist Tom Neal stars as Frank Bigelow who gets mixed up with murder after he accepts a ride from a hitchhiker played by Ann Savage.

When they stop for gas, she shoots her husband while he sleeps on the back seat.

She then tells Frank that she needs him to get rid of the body and drive them both across country without stopping so that they can escape together because she knows no one will believe her story if they are caught again.

Detour is a film noir that was directed by Edgar G Ulmer in 1945. The movie stars Tom Neal, Ann Savage, and Claudia Drake.

Detour (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
  • Detour (Criterion Collection)
  • Tom Neal, Ann Savage (Actors)
  • Edgar G. Ulmer (Director)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

Murder My Sweet (Edward Dmytryk, 1944)

Murder My Sweet is a 1944 film directed by Edward Dmytryk. The film stars Dick Powell and Claire Trevor as two detectives, Philip Marlowe and Lieutenant Nulty.

They are investigating the murder of a man who had been found shot in his apartment.

This movie is considered to be film noir because it has many of the typical tropes that are associated with this genre: dark lighting, an anti-hero protagonist, femme fatales, and criminals in high society.

There are certain aspects of Murder My Sweet that make it stand out from other films in the noir genre including its upbeat ending which makes for a stark contrast to most films where bad things happen to good people.

Murder My Sweet is a noir classic that has been considered by many to be the best adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s novel Farewell, My Lovely.

Murder, My Sweet [Blu-ray]
  • Dick Powell, Claire Trevor, Anne Shirley (Actors)
  • Edward Dmytryk (Director)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

Laura (Otto Preminger, 1944)

Laura is a 1944 film directed by Otto Preminger. The movie stars Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, and Clifton Webb.

Set in the American South, Laura is about a detective who falls in love with the title character and investigates her murder. It was written by Jay Dratler, Samuel Taylor and Betty Reinhardt.

The story centers on New York City Police Lieutenant Mark McPherson (played by Dana Andrews) investigating the brutal murder of Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney).

As he delves deeper into the mystery surrounding her death he becomes more obsessed with solving it not only for justice but also to keep his mind off of how much he misses her.

Preminger’s film noir is a gem of cinema history that has been routinely overlooked by historians and film critics alike.

Although it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, it lost to another 1944 release: Michael Curtiz’ romantic drama about an incorrigible rake, “Mildred Pierce.”

The Killers (Robert Siodmak, 1946)

In 1946, director Robert Siodmak released The Killers.

This film has been described as one of the most influential American films of all time and it is often cited as being a precursor to many modern action-packed thrillers.

This was an adaptation of the Ernest Hemingway novel and starred Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner, and Edmond O’Brien.

The story follows two hitmen who are on their way to kill a man in Florida named Ole Andreson.

The Killers (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
  • Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner, Lee Marvin (Actors)
  • Robert Siodmak (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

Night and the City (Jules Dassin, 1950)

Night and the City is a quintessential film noir. Jules Dassin’s film features an atmosphere that is dark, corrupt, and morally ambiguous.

The protagonist of the story is Jake Fratelli (played by Richard Widmark), a professional thief who has to navigate through the back streets of London in order to find his way home with money he stole from one of his clients.”

The soundtrack was composed by Miklós Rózsa, known for creating soundtracks for films such as Ben-Hur and Spellbound.

In Night and the City, there are many elements that make it stand out among other noirs: sociopaths being protagonists instead of antagonists; moral ambiguity; mobsters as characters, and more.

Night and the City [Blu-ray]
  • Richard Widmark, Gene Tierney, Googie Withers (Actors)
  • Jules Dassin (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958)

Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil (1958) is another classic of cinema and of the film noir genre.

The setting takes place in the border town of Los Robles, where a bomb has been planted and will explode at 10:30pm that night. Officials are trying to find out who did it before time runs out.

The tone of the film is tense and dark, with a feeling of foreboding that pervades throughout.

The protagonist’s obsession with his own failures, as well as his wife’s inability to understand him or share in his pain leaves the viewer feeling hopeless for both characters.

The movie was inspired by Mexico’s border town Ciudad Juarez, where many women were being murdered under shady circumstances at the time it was made.

It stars Charlton Heston as detective Mike Vargas, Janet Leigh as his wife Susie Varga, and Marlene Dietrich as Mercedes Lamero-the femme fatale who killed her daughter.

Touch of Evil (1958) (Masters of Cinema) [Blu-ray]
  • Touch of Evil - 2-Disc Set
  • Touch of Evil - 2-Disc Set
  • Charlton Heston, Orson Welles, Akim Tamiroff (Actors)
  • Orson Welles (Director) - Touch of Evil - 2-Disc Set (Producer)
  • English (Subtitle)

Sweet Smell of Success (Alexander Mackendrick, 1957)

This 1957 film tells the story of a young man, Joe Lampton (Tony Britton), who has an affair with his boss’s wife.

He is caught and fired but in the end he realizes that love was worth more than success.

Director Alexander Mackendrick’s use of moral ambiguity, foreshadowing, and dramatic irony all create an atmosphere in which we cannot fully trust anyone.

The movie has an aura of mystery that allows us to think critically about what is happening on screen.

It also features some beautiful camera work as well as tense scenes with very little dialogue, making it perfect for a rainy day when you’re looking for something to watch but don’t want anything too heavy or long-winded.

Sweet Smell of Success (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison (Actors)
  • Alexander Mackendrick (Director)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

The Killing (Stanley Kubrick, 1956)

The Killing is a 1956 film noir directed by Stanley Kubrick and produced by James B. Harris. It was written by Kubrick and Jim Thompson and based on the novel Clean Break by Lionel White.

The drama stars Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray, Vince Edwards, Jay C. Flippen, Elisha Cook Jr., Marie Windsor and Timothy Carey.

The film centers on a meticulously-planned racetrack robbery that goes awry when the criminals are unable to break open the safe in time.

It was his first work for a major Hollywood studio, MGM, and helped establish him as a figure in the film industry.

Although it shared many aspects of film noir with previous work by Huston and Lang, its use of voice-over narration drew comparisons to Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil (1958) and Citizen Kane (1941).

Although it received positive reviews upon its release, critical opinion has become more favorable since then.

The Killing (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
  • The Killing - Blu-ray Brand New
  • Sterling Hayden, Vince Edwards, Elisha Cook Jr. (Actors)
  • Stanley Kubrick (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • English (Publication Language)

Criss Cross (Robert Siodomak, 1949)

Criss Cross is a 1949 film written and directed by Robert Siodmak. It tells the story of a private detective who is hired to investigate the death of a man, who appears to be murdered in his own home.

Written and produced by David Goodis, Criss Cross was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Writing (Screenplay) and Best Sound Recording.

Criss Cross is a 1949 American film directed by Robert Siodmak. The film was written by Charles Schnee, based on the novel Criss Cross by James Hadley Chase. It stars Burt Lancaster, Yvonne De Carlo, and Dan Duryea.

The plot of Criss Cross revolves around an ex-convict who has been out of prison for three years after serving time for robbery and murder.

He’s living in poverty with his wife when he decides to pull off one more job to make enough money to get them out of their situation.

This leads him into a complicated web of intrigue that includes betrayal, adultery, blackmail, violence, and death among other things – all wrapped up in a twist ending you’ll never believe!

Nightmare Alley (Edmund Goulding, 1947)

In 1947, Edmund Goulding released a film adaptation of William Lindsay Gresham’s novel Nightmare Alley.

The story follows the rise and fall of a con man who is trying to use his skills as an escape artist to get into show business.

The movie covers the story of psychologist Dr. Stanton (Power) who ends up working in the carnival as a fortune teller to earn enough money for his wife’s medical bills.”

The film also stars Coleen Gray, Alan Hale Jr., Evelyn Keyes, William Challee, and Anita Louise.

After a series of unfortunate events with his wife, Dr. Stanton decides to take matters into his own hands and become an escape artist.

Nightmare Alley (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
  • Tyrone Power, Joan Blondell, Coleen Gray (Actors)
  • Edmund Goulding (Director)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

Out of the Past (Jacques Tourneur, 1947)

Jacques Tourneur’s Out of the Past is a film noir with a lot to say about 20th century America.

This film is not only an excellent example of the film noir genre but also stands out as one that offers commentary on the difficult state of American society at this time.

The protagonist, Jeff Markham (Robert Mitchum), spends much of his time reflecting on his past and what led him to be where he now finds himself: hunted by both the police and those who want him dead.

He grapples with how easy it can be for someone like himself – such as in their lackadaisical attitude toward societal norms – to become involved in criminal activity without ever realizing it until they are too far gone.

Out of the Past
  • Out Of The Past - Blu-ray Used Like New
  • Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, Kirk Douglas (Actors)
  • Jacques Tourneur (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • English (Publication Language)

The Asphalt Jungle (John Huston, 1950)

The Asphalt Jungle is a 1950 film noir directed by John Huston and released by United Artists.

It stars Sterling Hayden, Jean Hagen, James Whitmore, Sam Jaffe, and Louis Calhern.

The screenplay was written by Ben Maddow and John Huston from the novel of the same name by W. R. Burnett.

The movie tells the story of an ex-convict Roy Earle (Hayden) who became a detective to investigate his friend Doc’s murder in order to clear himself as he becomes involved with criminals again after being fired from police work for brutality against suspects during interrogation.

The Asphalt Jungle (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
  • Sterling Hayden, Marilyn Monroe (Actors)
  • John Huston (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

In a Lonely Place (Nicholas Ray, 1951)

In the film, In a Lonely Place (Nicholas Ray, 1951), there is an eerie sense of isolation in the protagonist’s life.

This feeling is amplified by his neighbors’ reluctance to have him over for dinner and his constant fear of being found out as a murderer.

The loneliness felt by the main character is one that many people can relate to; however, it becomes much more complicated when you are isolated from even those closest to you.

The film In a Lonely Place is one of the best films from Hollywood’s Golden Age.

This film was released in 1951 and stars Humphrey Bogart as Dixon Steele, a screenwriter who has been blacklisted because he refuses to testify before Congress about his political affiliations.

In a Lonely Place (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
  • In A Lonely Place (Criterion)
  • Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame, Frank Lovejoy (Actors)
  • Nicholas Ray (Director)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

Common Motifs Of Classic Film Noir Films

The style of film noir is a cinematic one, characterized by its distinctive lighting and the use of dark shadows to produce deep chiaroscuro effects.

Film noir also employs many themes found in hardboiled detective novels, such as femmes fatales, corrupt city officials, private investigators with rough edges, and flawed heroes.

It typically includes a reversal of idealized justice or happy endings for the good guy.

The term “film noir” means “dark movie” in French; it was coined by film critics who noticed that most films released after World War II were darker than their predecessors.

Noir films are a genre of film that is characterized by darkness, moral ambiguity, and a general sense of pessimism.

Noir films take this idea to new heights with their dark and moody atmosphere which makes audiences feel like they’re being sucked into another world altogether.

These movies often feature characters who are unable to escape their fate or find redemption for past sins – a hopelessness that reflects the era in which these

These types of movies are characterized by their cynical tone and downbeat moods.

They usually feature antiheroes – morally ambiguous protagonists who are not above committing crimes themselves in order to get what they want or stop someone else from doing so.

Ready to learn about more Film History & Film Movements?