Hello, dear Film Noir addicts (or not)! We’re now half-way through #Noirvember and, so far, I have only published one blog post for the occasion that you can read here. The other day on Letterboxd I made a list of all the films noirs I had seen so far and came to realize it was more than 100! Honestly, that surprised me! Due to these circumstances, I thought it would be a good occasion now to precisely do a top 100 of my favourites! Believe me, it was not an easy task (and it’s the kind of list that could change next month), but I’m pretty happy with the final list.
Before we go on with the list, please read this little disclaimer (it’s important!):
There are these films that everybody will agree that they are noirs, such as The Big Sleep or Gilda. And then, there are these films that we never really know where to place them. Some people, including film noir theorists and specialists, say they are, some people say they are not. It’s quite a situation! This might be explained by the fact that Noir is a film movement and not a genre, so its horizons are quite broad. So, when going through that list, don’t try to analyse too much. Remember that I mostly post it for fun and that I’m not here trying to re-define the film noir theory.
I based my list on Letterboxd on Wikipedia’s list of films noirs. I thought it would be a good compromise. I hadn’t initially noticed it, but even the Wikipedia article itself says that this list might be controversial. So, they are not themselves saying they hold the truth about what is a film noir or not:
“Film noir is not a clearly defined genre […]. Therefore, the composition of this list may be controversial. To minimize dispute the films included here should preferably feature a footnote linking to a reliable, published source which states that the mentioned film is considered to be a film noir by an expert in this field, e.g.” (1)
I think that’s a helpful statement! There are two or three films from this list, however, that I personally really couldn’t see as noir so they are not included.
However, I didn’t include things like neo-noir or films made before 1940, neither did I included very distinctive genres that borrow from noirs such as western noir, comedy noir, or sci-fi noir.
As always, remember that this list is about my favourite films noirs. I’m not claiming that these are the best noirs (ok, some clearly are of course), but only that I love/like them. It’s very subjective and a matter of personal tastes. Thank you for respecting that.
Also, you might be surprised not to see some obvious titles on this list. I will give you some explanations at the end. Not now, because I don’t want to spoil the list for you!
Ok, here we go!
100. Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958)
99. Rage in Heaven (W.S. Van Dyke, 1941)
98. La Forteresse (Fedor Ozep, 1947)
PS: the film itself was not included on the Wikipedia list but an English version, Whispering City, was shot simultaenously on the same locations, with the same director (but different actors). And that version was included on the list.
97. The Bigamist (Ida Lupino, 1953)
96. Detour (Edgar George Ulmer, 1945)
95. All My Sons (Irving Reis, 1948)
94. The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949)
93. The Lady from Shanghai (Orson Wells, 1947)
92. Too Late for Tears (Byron Haskin, 1949)
91. Thieves’ Highway (Jules Dassin, 1949)
90. Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (Louis Malle, 1958)
89. Angel Face (Otto Preminger, 1952)
88. Dishonored Lady (Robert Stevenson, 1947)
87. Kansas City Confidential (Phil Karlson, 1952)
86. The Scar aka Hollow Triumph (Steve Sekely, 1948)
85. Crossfire ( Edward Dmytryk, 1947)
84. Odd Man Out (Carol Reed, 1947)
83. Union Station (Rudolph Maté, 1950)
82. The Big Combo ( Joseph H. Lewis, 1955)
81. High Sierra (Raoul Wals, 1941)
80. The Stranger (Orson Welles, 1946)
79. Caught (Max Ophüls, 1949)
78. The Window (Ted Tetzlaff, 1949)
77. The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, 1941)
76. Black Widow (Nunnally Johnson, 1954)
75. Les Diaboliques (Henri Georges-Clouzot, 1955)
74. The Reckless Moment (Max Ophüls, 1949)
73. The Big Sleep (Howard Hawks, 1946)
72. The Locket (John Brahm, 1946)
71. Crashout (Lewis R. Foster, 1955)
70. Secret Beyond the Door (Fritz Lang, 1948)
69. Sweet Smell of Success (Alexander Mackendrick, 1957)
68. Somewhere in the Night (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1946)
67. Pickup on South Street (Samuel Fuller, 1953)
66. Key Largo (John Huston, 1948)
65. I Confess (Alfred Hitchcock, 1953)
64. Laura (Otto Preminger, 1944)
63. The Lost Weekend (Billy Wilder, 1945)
62. No Way Out (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1950)
61. A Blueprint for Murder (Andrew L. Stone, 1953)
60. In a Lonely Place (Nicholas Ray, 1950)
59. Notorious (Alfred Hitchcock, 1946)
58. Gilda (Charles Vidor, 1946)
57. Clash by Night (Fritz Lang, 1952)
56. The Wrong Man (Alfred Hitchcock, 1956)
55. Where the Sidewalk Ends (Otto Preminger, 1950)
54. Suddenly (Lewis Allen, 1954)
53. Dark Passage (Delmer Daves, 1947)
52. Decoy (Jack Bernhard, 1946)
51. Niagara (Henry Hathaway, 1953)
50. Backfire (Vincent Sherman, 1950)
49. Born to Be Bad (Nicholas Ray, 1950)
48. Suspicion (Alfred Hitchcock, 1941)
47. This Gun for Hire (Frank Tuttle, 1942)
46. Don’t Bother to Knock (Roy Ward Baker, 1952)
45. Kiss the Blood Off My Hands (Norman Foster, 1948)
44. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
43. Champion (Mark Robson, 1949)
42. The Letter (William Wyler, 1940)
41. The Dark Mirror (Robert Siodmak, 1946)
40. Gun Crazy (Joseph H. Lewis, 1950)
39. The Strange Loves of Martha Ivers (Lewis Milestone, 1946)
38. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (Fritz Lang, 1956)
37. Born to Kill (Robert Wise, 1947)
36. On Dangerous Ground (Nicholas Ray, 1951)
35. Act of Violence (Fred Zinnemann, 1948)
34. Detective Story (William Wyler, 1951)
33. The Blue Dahlia (George Marshall, 1946)
32. The House on Telegraph Hill (Robert Wise, 1951)
31. The Asphalt Jungle (John Huston, 1950)
30. Boomerang! (Elia Kazan, 1947)
29. Kiss of Death (Henry Hathaway, 1947)
28. Mildred Pierce (Michael Curtiz, 1945)
27. The Big Heat (Fritz Lang, 1953)
26. The Woman in the Window (Fritz Lang, 1944)
25. Ace in the Hole (Billy Wilder, 1951)
24. Gaslight (George Cukor, 1944)
23. The Killing (Stanley Kubrick, 1956)
22. Scarlet Street (Fritz Lang,1945)
21. Phantom Lady (Robert Siodmak, 1944)
20. Sorry, Wrong Number (Anatole Litvak, 1948)
19. The Desperate Hours (William Wyler, 1955)
18. The Big Clock (John Farrow, 1948)
17. The Spiral Staircase (Robert Siodmak, 1946)
16. Leave Her to Heaven (John M. Stahl, 1945)
15. Brute Force (Jules Dassin, 1947)
14. Call Northside 777 (Henry Hathaway, 1948)
13. Ministry of Fear (Fritz Lang, 1944)
12. The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955)
11. 14 Hours (Henry Hathaway, 1951)
10. Spellbound (Alfred Hitchcock, 1945)
9. The Blue Gardenia (Fritz Lang, 1953)
8. White Heat (Raoul Walsh, 1949)
7. The Naked City (Jules Dassin, 1948)
6. They Drive by Night (Raoul Walsh, 1940)
5. Shadow of a Doubt (Alfred Hitchcock, 1943)
4. Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940)
3. Strangers On a Train (Alfred Hitchcock, 1951)
2. Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950)
- Kiss Me Deadly (Robert Aldrich, 1955)
That’s it! I hope you’re not too shocked! Hahaha! I would love to know what are some of your favourite films noirs in the comments!
About the obvious titles that are not on this list:
Double Indemnity and Out of the Past: Although I agree that these are perfect examples of the film noir movement, they have personally never been favourites of mine. And believe me, I’ve tried more than once. But if I was making a more objective list, what I think are the best (in opposition to favourite) films noirs, they could definitely be included. So, I’m not saying they are bad films!
The Postman Always Ring Twice: I still have to see that film (I know, I know). Actually, I said to myself “maybe I should see it and then make the list”, but my impatience took the lead. When I had this class on Film Noir, my teacher showed us the beginning of Ossessione, the middle of The Postman Always Ring Twice (1946), and the end of the 1981’s remake. So, I kind of saw a reconstruction of the film but that doesn’t really count.
The Killers: I’ve seen that film! But it was so long ago. I probably didn’t even know what a film noir was at the time. There are films that I don’t remember much, but I remember liking them, so I included them on the list. About The Killers, the only thing I remember is the opening scene, but then I couldn’t even say if I liked it or not (I think I found it alright). So, it definitely deserves another watch but, for now, I just wouldn’t have known where to place it on the list.
Murder, My Sweet: I have mixed feelings about this one. I kind of like it but I’m not mad about it either. That’s why it’s not on the list.
Journey into Fear: *Sigh* The film initially WAS on my list at #100, but then I realized I had completely forgotten to include another one. But it definitely deserves an honourable mention.
Anthony Mann’s noirs: I’ve come to the conclusion that I definitely was not a fan of Anthony Mann (except for The Man from Laramie-not a noir). Sorry!
But, if you want a complete list of the films noirs I’ve seen, just check my Letterboxd list here!
I hope that answered the questions you might have had about this list!
(1) “List of film noir titles.” Wikipedia. October 30, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_film_noir_titles. Accessed Nov. 15, 2019.