Thursday, December 22, 2011

40 Essential Film Noir 1940-1960


Defintions of film noir vary, but I’ve taken it to mean a black-and-white American crime drama from 1940-1960 with a bleak or anxious mood, a fatalistic hero or anti-hero, and very expressive high-contrast lighting. They are often derived from hardboiled crime fiction, and include a femme fatale and a complex structure involving flashbacks. The following films have most or all of these elements, and they are also a lot of fun to watch.

It’s often been claimed that film noir was a result of a certain cynical mood in post-war America, with returning soldiers traumatised by their war experiences, or anxious about how they could fit back into society, and about women’s new roles (hence the high proportion of double-crossing females in these films). On the other hand there’s no doubt  Double Indemnity (1944) and a few other films from before 1945 were indeed film noir.


1.         Act of Violence (Fred Zinnemann, 1949)
2.         The Asphalt Jungle (John Huston, 1950)
3.         The Big Clock (John Farrow, 1948)
4.         The Big Heat (Fritz Lang, 1953)
5.         The Big Sleep (Howard Hawks, 1946)
6.         The Blue Dahlia (George Marshall, 1946)
7.         Boomerang (Elia  Kazan, 1947)
8.         Brute Force (Jules Dassin, 1947)
9.         The Captive City (Robert Wise, 1952)
10.       Criss Cross (Robert Siodmak, 1949)
11.       D.O.A. (Rudolph Mate, 1950)
12.       Dark Passage (Delmer Daves, 1947)
13.       Dead Reckoning (John Cromwell, 1947)
14.       Detour (Edgar G.Ulmer, 1945)
15.       Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944)
16.       Force of Evil (Abraham  Polonsky, 1948)
17.       Gilda (Charles Vidor, 1946)
18.       Gun Crazy (Joseph H. Lewis, 1950)
19.       The Killers (Robert Siodmak, 1946)
20.       Kiss Me Deadly (Robert Aldrich, 1955)
21.       Kiss of Death (Henry Hath¬away, 1947)
22.       The Lady from Shanghai (Orson Welles, 1948)
23.       The Lady in the Lake (Robert Montgomery, 1947)
24.       Laura (Otto Preminger, 1944)
25.       The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, 1941)
26.       Mildred Pierce (Michael Curtiz, 1945)
27.       Murder, My Sweet (Edward Dmytryk, 1944)
28.       The Naked City (Jules Dassin, 1948)
29.       Odds Against Tomorrow (Robert Wise, 1959)
30.       On Dangerous Ground (Nicholas Ray, 1952)
31.       Out of the Past (Jacques Tourneur, 1947)
32.       Panic In The Streets (Elia Kazan, 1950)
33.       Pickup on South Street (Samuel Fuller, 1953)
34.       The Postman Always Rings Twice (Tay Garnett, 1946)
35.       The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (Lewis Milestone, 1946)
36.       Stranger on the Third Floor (Boris Ingster, 1940)
37.       The Woman in the Window (Fritz Lang, 1944)
38.       They Live by Night (Nicholas Ray, 1949)
39.       This Gun for Hire (Frank Turtle, 1942)
40.       Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958)




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