Noir Films

Noir films have a special place in my heart. I always enjoy the deep shadows, the twisty plots and the femme fatales. Having just watched a film noir classic, Gun Crazy, I decided to countdown my favorite film noir.

5. Kiss Me Deadly

This film is a mixture of hard boiled detective film and science fiction. However you do not know that it is science fiction until the end of the film. From the first breathless film, the viewer is thrown into this world that the protagonist is trying desperately to make sense of. No one is telling him anything, he gets beaten up several times and then there is the whole problem of this glowing suitcase. If you consider yourself a film buff and you haven’t watched this film yet, then you are severely lacking in your duties, sir (or m’am).

4. Sunset Blvd.

Because this list is of my favorite film noir, this film is only fourth. That being said,  it is an amazing film with an outstanding performance by Gloria Swanson who is the ultimate femme fatale. This is the textbook definition of well executed film noir.

3. Rififi

This bank heist film is one of the most expert heist films I have ever seen. The sequence where they break into the bank safe from the room above and slowly and painstakingly open it, is one of the best sequences in cinema history. This Parisian film noir showcases a song entitled Rififi that sort floats through the whole film, bringing a sense of forlornment and doom to the event unfolding. It is a great film.

2. Sweet Smell of Success

This is easiest one of my favorite films of all time. The quick dialogue, the sinisterness of Burt Lancaster’s character, and the life of a two bit publicist is all unusual and what makes this film great. I never thought that a publicist’s life could be rife with film noir conentions, but I was dead wrong.

1. All of Jean-Pierre Melville films (Bob le Flambeur, Le Doulos, Army of Shadows, Le Samourai and Le Cercle Rouge)

Above are the films that I have seen that were directed by Melville. All of these films fall neatly into film noir conventions and yet all of them have a twist to the conventions that makes the film better then their companions. In Bob le Flambeur, it is the compulsion to gamble. In Le Doulos, it is the playing against type of the popular actor Jean-Paul Belmondo. In Army of Shadows, it is setting the French Resistance against the backdrop of film noir conventions. In Le Samourai, it is the atmospheric and presicion of the main character’s actions that determine the course of events not outside forces. In Le Cercle Rouge, it is the fact it is shot in color. Jean-Pierre Melville is a master in creating suspenseful and interesting films that I tend to go back to again and again. And he loves those trench coats.

Honorable Mentions

– The Killing

– The Killers

– Gun Crazy

– The Third Man

– Ace in the Hole

– The Maltese Falcon

– Laura


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