Best Film Noir Movies
Brandon Groppi: It’s been a while but HERE I AM! Film Noir is one of my favorite genres. If there was any one film I’d show anyone to show them the epitome of film noir that film would have to be Billy Wilder’s DOUBLE INDEMNITY. One Billy Wilder’s best films. This film has every aspect of film noir in it. Now back to the recesses of film school I go!
Eric Norcross: Not to deliberately contrast all of the popular films being chosen, but I’m going to go with Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville (1965). This French New Wave is largely a science fiction endeavor, but done in a noir style. What fascinates me about this film is that it was made in and around Paris, which is not a city one would typically think of when they think of a noir setting, but it works wonderfully.
Ruby Le Rouge: I love film noir, but the first film that jumped into my mind would be Blade Runner. A mash up of noir and science fiction, it captures all the feel of a film noir flick, and follows the rules to a T, with murderous dames hiding behind an innocent blonde facade, and misunderstood true hearted brunettes stealing the heart of the path beaten gun for hire. It’s not often that over 30 years passes with out a movie becoming dated, but this film still feels timeless, and remains my favorite work by Ridley Scott.
Caleb Masters: Old school Noir has never quite been my cup of tea, but there’s a number of more contemporary films that have really brought some interesting ideas to the classic genre. My personal favorite is Alex Proyas’s mash-up with Sci-fi, Dark City. Dark City plays almost exactly like a detective film with a fantastical twist. Who are the strangers and how to they manipulate time and space? Do you know the way to Shell Beach?
Dark City is a true puzzle waiting to be solved and it’s not even until halfway through the movie that you realize what forces you’re actually dealing with. It’s a very under-appreciated classic that makes a perfect marriage between two genres that could not be further apart. Everything from the dialog to the set design and lighting is noir, but the larger forces at work always play to classic sci-fi explanations. This is a must see film for film buffs and people interested in studying the evolution of the genre as it hits the 90s.
Derek Johns: Since L.A. Confidential also happens to be one of my top five favorite movies, picking this film was an easy decision. Kevin Spacey may have top billing here but the real stars were the then unknown Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce as Bud White and Edmund Exley. On the surface they appear to have different goals and operate on opposite sides of the law but in reality they are far more complex (much like the film itself). Less than coincidentally, after watching this film for the first time a few years ago, I began to follow Pearce’s career with a much greater interest. The film also boasts an intelligent script, an excellent supporting cast (including an Oscar winning performance from Kim Basinger) and fantastic pacing. This may have been released in 1997 but in my opinion this would’ve blended right in with the days of Bogey. How did this ever lose to Titanic again?
Mike Luxemburg: Has anyone said Brick yet? Who cares? I’m saying it anyway. That movie is fantastic. It really understands the function of the visual tricks we associate with noir. Rather than appearing black and white and in the rain, Brick provides a suburban space with the same sort of menace that the best noirs stash around every street corner. The performances are spectacular across the board. Rian Johnson brings the best out of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Noah Segan (as usual). The plotting of the story matches up with all of the rules of the genre, betrayals, informants, interrogations, even the construction of a “castle in the sky”, or safe place for exchanging information. This movie is one of my all time favorites, 100%
The Third Man
Bethany Lewis: I’m choosing Carol Reed’s The Third Man (1949). It is not only a very different kind of film noir, but really one of the most interesting movies in existence. It is unique for its tone, its zither soundtrack, and the historical moment of its time and setting. The action is set in modern Vienna, which a few short years after the end of WWII was still partly in ruin and split into the four allied sections (US, UK, France, and Soviet Union). This is incorporated into the plot of the movie, and as a result a rare time in Viennese history was preserved on film. It’s darkly humorous tone is enhanced by Anton Karas’ zither score and by Reed’s ubiquitous dizzying dutch angles. The story moves along in a kind of vaguely morose and plodding way while the characters wallow in their own sense of displacement. Top all that off with that fact that the movie stars Joseph Cotton as Holly and Orson Welles as the mysterious Harry Lime and you have one heck of a movie. I was lucky enough to catch a late showing of The Third Man in Vienna a couple years back, and seeing it in the city in which it was filmed is an experience like no other.
Shawn S. Lealos: Orson Welles co-stars in this Carol Reed directed movie about murder and intrigue. Joseph Cotton stars as Holly Martins, a pulp fiction writer who travels to Vienna to visit an old friend. When he arrives, he learns that his friend, Harry Lime (Welles) has died, and police tell him to return home. However, Holly is arrogant and feels he is smarter than everyone investigating the case. What makes him the perfect character is that he never knows what is really going on, so when he learns that Harry is still alive, he ends up falling hard. There is a scene at a ferris wheel with Harry delivering a spectacular line of dialogue that Welles improvised. It is, in my opinion, the best dialogue ever spoken in a movie. This movie is just perfect.