Essential Films Noir

FilmsNoir.Net’s list of the 235 essential films noir. Titles with an asterisk have been reviewed on FilmsNoir.Net – full reviews here and capsule reviews here.

The list is not definitive. There are gaps. Missing are neo-noirs, a few French noirs, and directors such as Hitchcock. There are varied reasons but mostly the gaps are due to my personal preference, or because some films are not fresh enough in my mind and need to be watched again with their candidacy here in mind.

The list is in two parts:

  1. The 71 all-time great films noir – rated 5-stars
  2. The 164  runners-up – rated 4 or 4.5 stars

5 star Noirs 

*La Nuit du Carrefour 1931 France Aka ‘Night at the Crossroads’. Early Jean Renoir poetics. Magically delicious femme-noir and a brilliant car chase at night. Moody and bizarrre!
*You Only Live Once 1937 US Fritz Lang and Hollywood kick-start poetic realism! Henry Fonda and Sylvia Sidney are the doomed lovers on the run.
*Hotel du Nord 1938 France Poetic realist melodrama of lives at a downtown Paris hotel. As moody as noir with a darkly absurd resolution.
*Port of Shadows 1938 France Aka Le Quai des brumes. Fate a dank existential fog ensnares doomed lovers Jean Gabin and Michèle Morgan after one night of happiness.
*I Wake Up Screaming 1941 US Early crooked cop psycho-noir. Redolent noir motifs, dark shadows, off-kilter framing and expressionist imagery.
*The Maltese Falcon 1941 US Bogart as Sam Spade the quintessential noir protagonist. A loner on the edge of polite society, sorely tempted to transgress but declines and is neither saved nor redeemed.
*Ossessione 1942 Italy Demands and rewards multiple viewings. Visconti has taken a hard-boiled story and imbued it with intelligence, polemic, a humanist outrage, and above all, a deep compassion for the human predicament.
*Journey Into Fear 1943 US Moody Orson Welles’ noir. Exotic locales, sexy dames, weird villains, politics, wisdom, philosophy, and a wry humor.
*The Seventh Victim 1943 US “Despair behind, and death before doth cast”. The terror of an empty existence. Brilliant Lewton gothic melodrama.
*Christmas Holiday 1944 US Director Robert Siodmak smashes genre conventions by unleashing a wild expressionist ambience in a bizarre story of obsession and guilt thathas you appalled yet enthralled. Full of bizarre surprises.
*Double Indemnity 1944 US All the elements of the archetypal film noir  are distilled into a gothic LA tale of greed, sex, and betrayal.
*Laura 1944 US Gene Tierney is an exquisite iridescent angel and Dana Andrews a stolid cop who nails the killer after falling for a dead dame.
*Murder, My Sweet 1944 US (Aka Farewell, my Lovely). The most noir fun you will ever have. Raymond Chandler’s prose crackles with moody noir direction from Edward Dmytryk.
*The Way You Wanted Me 1944 Finland “Sellaisena kuin sinä minut halusit” (original title). A dark frenzied tale of a fallen woman, The Way You Wanted Me careens across roads of melodrama at the speed of light. Hyper-expressionism and a tragedy played out in dark nights of the soul.
*Mildred Pierce 1945 US Joan Crawford in classy melodrama by Michael Curtiz lensed by Ernest Haller. Self-made woman escapes morass of greed.
*The Lost Weekend 1945 US ‘Most men lead lives of quiet desperation. I can’t take quiet desperation.’ Ray Milland against type on a bender.
*Ride the Pink Horse 1946 US Disillusioned WW2 vet arrives in a New Mexico town to blackmail a war racketeer. Imbued with a rare humanity.
*Scarlet Street 1946 US Classic noir from Fritz Lang. Unremitting in its pessimism. A dark mood and pervading doom of devastating intensity.
*The Big Sleep 1946 US Love’s Vengeance Lost. Darker than Dmytryk’s Murder, My Sweet. Bogart is tougher, more driven, and morally suspect.
*The Killers 1946 US Siodmak’s classic noir. Burt Lancaster’s masterful debut performance in a tragedy of a decent man destroyed by fate.
*The Postman Always Rings Twice 1946 US Fate ensures adulterous lovers who murder the woman’s husband, suffer definite and final retribution.
*Body and Soul 1947 US A masterwork. Melodramatic expose of the fight game and a savage indictment of money capitalism. Garfield’s picture.
*Brighton Rock 1947 UK Greatest British noir is dark and chilling. A cinematic tour-de-force: from the direction and cinematography to top cast and editing.
*Nightmare Alley 1947 US Predatory femme-fatale uses greed not sex to trap her prey in a hell of hangmen at the bottom of an empty gin bottle.
*Nora Prentiss 1947 US Doctor is plunged into a dark pool of noir angst in a turbo-charged melodrama of tortured loyalty and thwarted passion.
*Odd Man Out 1947 UK Betrayal, avarice, and spirituality are all given a place in this tale of an IRA heist gone wrong. The poetry is in the dark yet glistening visuals as we follow fugitive James Mason on his path through Ulster at night and in the rain.
*Out of the Past 1947 US Quintessential film noir. Inspired direction, exquisite expressionist cinematography, and legendary Mitchum and Greer.
*The Gangster 1947 US Hell of a b-movie. Very dark noir ‘opera’ brutally critiques the ‘entrepreneurial spirit’. Bravado Dalton Trumbo script.
*The Lady From Shanghai 1947 US Orson Welles’ brilliant jigsaw noir with a femme-fatale to die for and a script so sharp you relish every scene.
*T-Men 1947 US Mann and Alton offer a visionary descent into a noir realm of dark tenements, nightclubs, mobsters, and hellish steam baths.
*Act of Violence 1948 US Long-shot and deep focus climax filmed night-for-night on a railway platform: the stuff noirs are made of.
*Drunken Angel  1948 Japan Aka ‘Yoidore tenshi’. Kurosawa noir. A loser doctor with soul takes on the fetid moral swamp of Yakuza degradation.
*Force of Evil 1948 US Polonsky transcends noir in a tragic allegory on greed and family. Garfield adds signature honesty and gritty complexity .
*Hollow Triumph 1948 US Baroque journey to perdition traversing a noir topography redolent with noir archetypes. Audacious and enthralling.
*Raw Deal 1948 US Sublime noir from Anthony Mann and John Alton. Knockout cast in a strong story stunningly rendered as expressionist art.
*They Live by Night 1948 US Nicholas Ray’s first feature. A tragedy of Shakespearean dimensions which transcends film noir.
*Too Late For Tears 1948 US Preposterous chance event launches wild descent into dark avarice and eroticised violence as relentless as fate.
*Bitter Rice 1949 Italy Aka ‘Riso Amaro’. Classic neo-realist socialist melodrama. Homme-fatale destroys a passionate innocent. A bad girl is redeemed and homme-fatale meets a gruesome noir end in an abattoir.
*Border Incident 1949 US Subversive expressionist noir from Dir Anthony Mann DP John Alton and writer John C Higgin indicts US agribusiness.
*Criss-Cross 1949 US Accomplished noir showcased by Siodmak’s masterful aerial opening shot into parking lot onto a passing car exposing the doomed lovers to thespotlight.
*Stray Dog 1949 Japan Aka ‘Nora inu’. Kurosawa’s ying and yang take on reality informs this 5-star noir: the pursuer could as easily have been the pursued.
*The Reckless Moment 1949 US Max Ophuls takes a blackmail story and infuses it with a complexity and subtlety rarely matched in film noir.
*The Set-Up 1949 US Robert Ryan is great as washed-up boxer in Robert Wise’ sharp expose of the fight game. Brooding and intense noir classic.
*The Third Man 1949 UK Sublime. An engaging cavalcade of characters in a human comedy of love, friendship, and the imperatives of conscience.
*Thieves’ Highway 1949 US Moody Richard Conte hauling fruit to Frisco. Rich socio-realist melodrama from Jules Dassin and A.I. Bezzerides. AAA.
*Une Si Jolie Petite Plage 1949 France Aka ‘Riptide’. Iron in the soul: savage irony, withering subversion, and desolation mark the rain-sodden angst of a young man’s end.
*White Heat 1949 US Fission Noir. Taut electric thriller straps you in an emotional strait-jacket released only in the final explosive frames.
*Breaking Point 1950 US Great John Garfield vehicle with strong social subtext. Much stronger than from the same source To Have and Have Not.
*Caged 1950 US Eleanor Parker leads a great female cast in a dark women’s prison picture with a savage climax and a gutsy downbeat ending.
*D.O.A. 1950 US Gritty on-the-street in-your-face melodrama of innocent act a decent man’s un-doing. Edmund O’Brien is intense. The goons rock!
*In A Lonely Place 1950 US Nick Ray deftly explores effect of isolation, frustration, and anxiety on the creative psyche as noir entrapment.
*Night And the City 1950 US/UK Dassin’s stark existential journey played out in the dark dives of post-war London as a quintessential noir city.
*Sunset Boulevard 1950 US Wilder’s sympathetic story of four decent people each sadly complicit in the inevitable doom that will engulf them.
*The Asphalt Jungle 1950 US Quintessential heist movie transcends melodrama and noir. A police siren wails: “Sounds like a soul in hell.”
*The Sound of Fury 1950 US Great noir! Outdoes Lang’s Fury and brilliantly prefigures Wilder’s Ace in the Hole. Climactic mob scenes mesmerise.
*On Dangerous Ground 1951 US City cop battling inner demons is sent to ‘Siberia’. A film of dark beauty and haunting characterisations.
*The Prowler 1951 US Van Heflin is homme-fatale in Trumbo thriller. Director Losey is unforgiving. Each squalid act is suffocatingly framed.
*Ace in the Hole 1952 US A savage critique of a corrupted and corrupting modern mass media. Billy Wilder’s best movie. Kirk Douglas owns it.
*Clash By Night 1952 US Cheating wife Stanwyck faces the music. Fritz Lang puts sexual license and existential entitlement on trial and wins.
*The Big Heat 1953 US Gloria Grahame as existential hero in Fritz Lang’s brooding socio-realist noir critique.
*Crime Wave 1954 US Andre de Toth noir masterwork set on the streets of LA is so authentic it plays for real with each character deeply drawn.
*Kiss Me Deadly 1955 US Anti-fascist Hollywood Dada. Aldrich’s surreal noir a totally weird yet compelling exploration of urban paranoia.
*Rififi 1955 France Dassin’s classic heist thriller culminating in the terrific final scenes of a car desperately careening through Paris streets.
*The Big Combo 1955 US “I live in a maze… a strange blind backward maze’. Obsessed cop hunts down a psychotic crime boss in the best noir of 50s.
*Sweet Smell of Success 1957 US DP James Wong Howe’s sharpest picture. As bracing as vinegar and cold as ice. Ambition stripped of all pretense.
*Touch of Evil 1958 US Welles’ masterwork is a disconnected emotionally remote study of moral dissipation. Crisp b&w lensing by Russell Metty.
*Odds Against Tomorrow 1959 US A work of art from Rober Wise. New York City and its industrial fringe are quasi-protagonists that harbor the angst and desperation of lifeoutside the mainstream – sordid dreams of the last big heist that will fix everything.
*Underworld USA 1961 US Fast and furious pulp from Sam Fuller. Revenge finds redemption in death up a back alley the genesis of dark vengeance.
*Requiem For A Heavyweight 1962 US Rod Serling’s screenplay is lucid and economical. A washed-up boxer scenario in just under 82 minutes builds a closely realised character study, supported by a cast that delivers soulfully and with a leanness that is rarely matched.
*The Pawnbroker 1964 US The screenplay weaves the past and the present by juxtaposition and is economic when words are needed. Rod Steiger’s portrayal of Nazi death-camp survivor is a tour-de-force and his nominations for an Oscar and other accolades richly deserved.
*A Colt is My Passport 1967 Japan Aka ‘Koruto wa ore no pasupoto’. Hip acid Nikkatsu noir with surreal spaghetti-western score.
*Klute 1971 US Alan J. Pakula’s signature reworking of classic noir motifs in a masterly study of urban paranoia and alienation. Jane Fonda earned an Oscar for her brilliant portrayal of articulate b-girl the target of mystery psychopath.

4/4.5 star Noirs

All movies have a snap review .

*La Chienne 1931 France
*City Streets 1931 US
*Fury 1936 US
*Guele d’Amour (aka Ladykiller) 1937 France
*Pépé le Moko 1937 France
Stolen Death 1938 Finland
La Bête Humaine 1938 France
*Blind Alley 1939 US
Le Jour se Lève 1939 France
*Macao,L’enfer Du Jeu (aka ‘Gambling Hell’) 1939 France
*Stranger on the 3rd Floor 1940 US
*Blues in the Night 1941 US
*High Sierra 1941 US
*The Face Behind the Mask 1941 US
Cross of Love 1942 Finland
*This Gun For Hire 1942 US
*The Fallen Sparrow 1943 US
*The Ghost Ship 1943 US
*Betrayed (aka ‘When Strangers Marry’) 1944 US
*Moontide 1944 US
*Phantom Lady 1944 US
The Mask of Dimitrios 1944 US
*The Woman in the Window 1944 US
*Cornered 1945 US
*Detour 1945 US
*Fallen Angel 1945 US
Leave Her to Heaven 1945 US
*My Name Is Julia Ross 1945 US
*Black Angel 1946 US
*Deadline at Dawn 1946 US
*Deception 1946 US
*Decoy 1946 US
*Gilda 1946 US
*High Wall 1946 US
*Night Editor 1946 US
Panique 1946 France
Suspense 1946 US
*The Blue Dahlia 1946 US
*The Chase 1946 US
*The Dark Corner 1946 US
*The Dark Mirror 1946 US
*The House on 92nd Street 1946 US
*Jigsaw 1946 US
*The Locket 1946 US
*The Strange Love of Martha Ivers 1946 US
*The Stranger 1946 US
*Born to Kill 1947 US
Brute Force 1947 US
*Dark Passage 1947 US
*Dark 1947 US
*Dead Reckoning 1947 US
*Desperate 1947 US
*Kiss of Death 1947 US
*The Devil Thumbs a Ride 1947 US
Odd Man Out 1947 US
*Railroaded 1947 US
*Shoot To Kill 1947 US
*The Long Night 1947 US
*The Unsuspected 1947 US
*The Woman On the Beach 1947 US
*They Made Me a Fugitive 1947 UK
*Secret Beyond the Door 1948 US
*Blood on the Moon 1948 US
*They Won’t Believe Me 1947 US
*Bob le Flambuer 1956 France
*Call Northside 777 1948 US
Cry of the City 1948 US
*I Love Trouble 1948 US
*I Walk Alone 1948 US
*Key Largo 1948 US
*Kiss the Blood Off My Hands 1948 US
*Moonrise 1948 US
*Night Has a Thousand Eyes 1948 US
*Pitfall 1948 US
*Road House 1948 US
*Ruthless 1948 US
Senza pietà (Aka Without Pity) 1948 Italy
*The Amazing Mr. X 1948 US
*The Big Clock 1948 US
*The Iron Curtain 1948 US
*The Naked City 1948 US
*A Woman’s Secret 1949 US
*Alias Nick Beal 1949 US
*Caught 1949 US
*Follow Me Quietly 1949 US
*I Married a Communist 1949 US
*The Big Steal 1949 US
*The Bribe 1949 US
*The Clay Pigeon 1949 US
*The Man Who Cheated Himself 1949 US
*Salón México 1949 Mexico
*The Window 1949 US
*Whirlpool 1949 US
*Armored Car Robbery 1950 US
*Gambling House 1950 US
*Gun Crazy 1950 US
*Manèges 1950 France
*No Man of Her Own 1950 US
*No Way Out 1950 US
*Panic In the Streets 1950 US
*Side Street 1950 US
*Tension 1950 US
*The File On Thelma Jordan 1950 US
*The Killer That Stalked New York 1950 US
*The Second Woman 1950 US
*The Tattooed Stranger 1950 US
*Union Station 1950 US
*Walk Softly, Stranger 1950 US
*Where Danger Lives 1950 US
*Where the Sidewalk Ends 1950 US
*Woman on the Run 1950 US
*Young Man with a Horn 1950 US
*Detective Story 1951 US
*He Ran All the Way 1951 US
His Kind of Woman 1951 US
*I Can Get It for You Wholesale 1951 US
*I was a Communist for the FBI 1951 US
*Roadblock 1951 US
*The Big Night 1951 US
*The Well 1951 US
*Tomorrow Is Another Day 1951 US
*Angel Face 1952 US
Kansas City Confidential 1952 US
*Scandal Sheet 1952 US
*The Narrow Margin 1952 US
*The Sniper 1952 US
*The Thief 1952 US
*99 River Street 1953 US
*Pickup On South Street 1953 US
Split Second 1953 US
*The Blue Gardenia 1953 US
*The Glass Wall 1953 US
*The Hitch-Hiker 1953 US
*Human Desire 1954 US
*Pushover 1954 US
*The Good Die Young 1954 UK
Touchez pas au Grisbi 1954 France
*Witness to Murder 1954 US
*The Burglar 1955 US
*World For Ransom 1955 US
Bob le Flambeur 1956 France
*The Phenix City Story 1955 US
*Patterns 1956 US
People of No Importance (aka ‘Gens san Importance’) 1956 France
*Ubiytsy (‘The Killers’) 1956 USSR
The Wrong Man 1956 US
*The Killing 1956 US
*Voici le temps des assassin (aka ‘Deadlier Than the Male’) 1956 France
While the City Sleeps 1956 US
*Elevator to the Gallows 1958 France
*Endless Desire 1958 Japan
*Tread Softly Stranger 1958 UK
Underworld Beauty (aka ‘Ankokugai no bijo’) 1958 Japan
*The Crimson Kimono 1959 US
*Deux hommes dans Manhattan (aka ‘Two Men in Manhattan’) 1959 France
The Bad Sleep Well (aka ‘Warui yatsu hodo yoku nemuru’) 1960 Japan
Shoot the Piano Player 1960 France
Blast of Silence 1961 US
*Le Doulos 1962 France
*The Trial 1962 France
*High and Low (aka Tengoku to jigok) 1963 Japan
*The Naked Kiss 1964 US
*Memento 2000 US


  1. Todd T

    Wow, what an engaging and useful list! Especially like the pithy encapsulation. I have seen about 50 of your top 65 and will make an effort to see the others ASAP. Maybe bc I am a Mitchum fan, I think Angel Face is top tier, and I’m guessing for Night of the Hunter not to make your top 200, you don’t classify it as noir. I Wake Up Screaming should def be in your second tier, I think, for Laird Cregar’s performance alone, plus some good B&W photography. Great list!

  2. Shane Solow

    Superb list. A number of good films here I did not know about. If I might suggest a film not on your list …. I think “The Suspect” directed by Robert Siodmak with Charles Laughton is another excellent noir.

  3. Charles Michener

    Great, great list. But where’s the greatest noir film since “Double Indemnity” – Polanski’s “Chinatown?”

  4. Charles two reasons. Firstly Polanski made a ‘genre’ movie that is a segue on noir not a film noir, and secondly I don’t consider it that great a film. I readily admit this is a minority view. Thanks. Tony

  5. Nick Dorgan

    Great list and great site! I look forward to watching them all. I notice a lack of Alfred Hitchcock, with the exception of “The Wrong Man”. Are you not a fan or do his other classics not qualify for the list?

  6. Thanks Nick. The list is not exhaustive as I add a movie only afer a recent viewing. I need to revisit the Hitchcock noirs such as The Wrong Man and Strangers on a Train.

  7. John Jay

    Fantastic list, I’ve been chipping away at it for a while now. A few thoughts:

    The Narrow Margin had so many errors in editing and the story (Charles McGraw completely forgets about Marie Windsor at the end…) that I feel it shouldn’t even be in the Second Tier.

    Conversely, Gun Crazy and The Naked City should be First Tier for certain. The photography and editing in Dassin’s classic are legendary and the lines the actors deliver offer exceptional social commentary.

    Gun Crazy just a great movie with great action, acting, and emotion. Peggy Cummins is very convincing in her role.

  8. Hey John. Thanks for your input.

    The Narrow Margin was butchered by the meddling of Howard Hughes, and contuinity does suffer, but overall it is solid and deserves recognition for the reasons I cover in my review:

    My placements for Gun Crazy and The Naked City are I admit open to strong dispute. My reviews for each of the movies:, and, give some insight to my reasoning.

  9. cigar joe

    Check out The Enforcer (1951) it was off my radar. Directed by Bretaigne Windust (Raoul Walsh uncredited) written by Martin Rackin, an Ensemble Film Noir that stars a plethora of film noir alumni, Humphrey Bogart, Zero Mostel, Ted de Corsia, Everett Sloane, Roy Roberts, Don Beddoe, Jack Lambert, and other colorful character actors.

    I had never heard of it before and was pleasantly surprised. The story loosely based on Murder Inc. begins when Rico (Ted de Corsia) the main witness on a murder trial survives a sniper attack only to fall to his death accidentally the night before the trial. DA (Bogart) and his right hand man (Roy Roberts) fine comb the case records attempting to find some other clue against the defendant Mendoza (Everett Sloane). From this point on it’s one of the few noirs with the classic devise of a flashback inside of a flashback telling you how the police investigation was advanced to bust up Murder Inc.

  10. cigar joe

    P.S. (The Enforcer) Very moody cinematography throughout that compliments the story and cast, by Director of Photography Robert Burks (Tomorrow Is Another Day), who was known later for his collaborations with Hitchcock (North by Northwest, Vertigo, The Wrong Man, Rear Window, Strangers on a Train). 8/10

  11. Hay Ray. I did a capsule review back in 2010 and it is not here as I didn’t think it was that great… sorry :)

    The Enforcer (1951) Bogart as an activist DA pursues Murder Inc in a noirish police procedural. The first time the sinister usage of ‘contract’ was spoken on the screen. Bogart sadly just goes through the motions, but the motley crew of contract killers display a truly disturbing pathology.

  12. Lee

    Great, great lists, love the the terse analyses. Tremendous resource! Double Indemnity, out of the past, lady from shanghai, maltese falcon, big heat, sunset Blvd. & postman always rings twice are some of my faves. Need to see more of the films on these lists! A few comments, I fell Laura is vastly overrated, and Dark Passage should have made the 2nd tier at least. Enjoyable Bogey/Bacall vehicle. Film noir 4ever!

  13. Thanks Lee. Great to have your feedback. The unique scenario gives Laura a spot. Now that you mention it Dark Passage does merit a place in the supplementary list – I will update soonest. Tony

  14. Drew

    I’d like to echo everyone’s comments – great, helpful list and a valuable resource. I’m now using this as my film noir grocery list.

    Of course as a fellow lover of noir, I have my favorites that I think should have a spot on the list. The Lineup is a sharp, at times brutal noir that still managed to shock me. Murder by contract is a clever, quirky, and influential film with a cool score.

    Thanks for this, Tony – I plan to be a regular visitor to the site.

  15. Thanks Drew. Great to have you on board :)

    The list is fluid and and far from final. I still have a backlog of movies to watch or revisit, and the two you mention are on that list.


  16. Lee

    Hey Tony, I just noticed there’s no Hitch on this list (unless I’m mistaken). Films like Shadow of a Doubt, Strangers on a Train, spellbound, and Notorious often are mentioned when Noir is discussed as some of the better examples. So far of those I’ve only seen “Strangers” as yet, and it didn’t really seem all that “noir” to me, though it had some elements. I think it is quite a good (but not great, IMO) film. If I were in charge of the lists I might have thrown it on the second tier, due to its historical significance, but I don’t disagree with its exclusion. So I’m just wondering: are you not such a great Hitchcock fan, or perhaps don’t think any of his films are noir, or are there other reasons for no Hitch films?

  17. Lee, I am not a fan of Hitchcock. Truth be told I find him cold and manipulative. I accept this is an eccentric position. Still no reason to exclude his movies. But yes, I really need to revisit his films from a noir perspective. Thanks for bringing this up. Sometimes I need to be kick-started :)

  18. William Gnoss

    Hi Tony:
    Thanks for all the research and effort you have put into this list, I am going to translate it to excel so I will be able to sort it for purposes of trying to find those films I have not yet seen or been able to acquire (altho there are a lot on You Tube). Surely, you can whittle the list down into your personal 15 favorites?

  19. Lee

    Yeah Tony I’d like to see your top-20 as well! I have started to formulate a list of my top films but as a Noir neophyte I need to see many, more before I could do a final list. I guess I could throw a preliminary top-10 out there: 1. Double Indemnity 2. Maltese Falcon 3.Sunset Blvd. 4. Out of the Past. 5. The Big heat 6. White Heat 7. Lady From Shanghai 8. Scarlet Street 9. Kiss Me Deadly. 10 Secret beyond the Door. But again, so many Noirs as yet unseen. I hope I can replace some of these with even better films!

  20. Guys, this is my top 25 in alphabetical order. Ranking them would be abitrary as there is little if anything between them.

    Act of Violence, 1948, US
    The Asphalt Jungle, 1950, US
    The Big Combo, 1955, US
    The Big Heat, 1953, US
    The Big Sleep, 1946, US
    Body and Soul, 1947, US
    Double Indemnity, 1944, US
    Force of Evil, 1948, US
    Kiss Me Deadly, 1955, US
    The Lady From Shanghai, 1947, US
    The Maltese Falcon, 1941, US
    Murder My Sweet, 1944, US
    Night And the City, 1950, US/UK
    Odds Against Tomorrow, 1959, US
    On Dangerous Ground, 1951, US
    Out of the Past, 1947, US
    Port of Shadows, 1938, France
    The Prowler, 1951, US
    The Set-Up, 1949, US
    Raw Deal, 1948, US
    Ride the Pink Horse, 1946, US
    Rififi, 1955, France
    Sweet Smell of Success, 1957, US
    The Third Man, 1949, UK
    T-Men, 1947, US


  21. Lee

    Hey Tony, I am writing to lobby on behalf of Diabolique. Just saw this masterpiece. Oh wow!! It blew me away. I mean, this is why I watch films, to be completely in the moment. To have my eyes wide open, unable to blink, and my jaw on the floor. In addition to being a flat out masterpiece, to me it has the black heart of noir beating within, for sure. So just curious, why no placement in your lists? For my money, it belongs with the 5-star cornerstones of the genre.

  22. Hey Lee. Yes, my lists are light on French noirs of the 50s and 60s. The main reason is that I haven’t caught up with any recently, and I only add a movie to a list after re-watching it. Chabrol definitely deserves my attention.

  23. Alan

    I’m pleased Tony that you have chosen a top25 list . Top ten lists leaves little scope . 4 films on your list I haven’t viewed ,looking forward to checking them out . I notice that you omitted Touch of Evil and included The Lady from Shanghai . Many critics and bloggers singled out the incoherence of the narrative in the second half of the film . For a tampered (butchered flick ) it’s style and acting ,direction , is an artistic treat /marvel. A great resource website ,thank you .

  24. Thank you Alan. Much appreciated. Any list will be to some extent arbitrary and always idiosyncratic. Touch Of Evil is great and as worthy as those that made the list, but Lady From Shanghai is so tantalisingly close even in its butchered form to perfection that it holds for me a more vibrant attraction. It’s very weaknesses have you pondering the puzzle anew and in different ways with each re-viewing.

  25. Alan

    Hello Tony , a couple of thoughts on opinions you expressed . Firstly , Hitchcock , to me doesn’t come across as a ‘noir’ director as such .His scripts and direction tend to fall into the thriller/mystery genres , with at times strong influences of french/german noir . His penchant to engage his audience is voyeuristic , his love scenes are not of unihibited passion but an end of a paragraph awaiting the next scenario .In fact Hitch didn’t have that many and in Nth by NWest tunnel scene we were cleverly left in the dark. 2ndly ,Having recently viewed again Pepe le Moko ,Rififi, Touchez pas au Grisbi, I accept general opinion that these are noir styled and scipted films ( and great films to be viewed again ) but, the language of film – expression ,accent,slang ,local colloquialisms ,conversation that depicts an era ,words that are now out of common usage , are uniquely American in regards to film noir . I watched 2 nights ago on TV Kansas City Confidential , a good second tier film noir , all the ingredients , but above all fun to watch . What struck me is that German,French,Italian,Japanese even British noir feels as though it shouldn’t lie in the same bed as the American noir . That as a style / genre ,the Hollywood melting pot at that time condensed various genres to form an generally efficent producton line of many quality noir ‘B’ movies ,I’m not sure that this case in the countries mentioned . Being an Aussie I’m not being jingoistic in my opinion , more that , Americian noir is unique via language and represents film noir in it’s most pure form . I think in terms of European noir ,Asian noir . Mutch as J-Horror ,K- Horror as a contrast to American horror films same genre but ever so different .I’m interested to hear from you Tony ,I could be just dribbling out a pile of crap .

  26. Hi Alan. Thanks for your contribution, which is more than welcome.

    I agree on Hitchcock, though the consensus is against us. I find him manipulative and essentially misanthropic. Noir on the other hand is subversive – making us feel a certain empathy for the noir protagonist, who more often than not is caught in a web spun by fate.

    Fatalism to my thinking is an essential element, and this is the defining link from French poetic realism. Expressionism takes us back further to the silent era with a necessary nod to German cinema. In American film noir you have a disparate number of factors that ignited the flash of classic noir. The hard-boiled fiction of Hammett and Chandler and other early crime writers; the European diaspora of film-makers that made Hollywood their home in the 30s and 40s discerning the dark underbelly of the American dream; the relative creative freedom given to the makers of b-movies; and the burgeoning awareness of psychology in the early 40s.

    But yes, Hollywood noir has a distinctive American voice that is integral to its impact and appeal. Consider Double Indemnity. I cannot imagine the film without Chandler’s dialog.

  27. Alan

    Hello Tony , a good run of films on TV lately ,Gilda ,KS Confidential and Journey Into Fear. The latter, Cotton scripted film staring the Mercury team ,I was led to believe by many critics and commentators that this was a poor effort and not worth seeking out . Journey Into Fear was intriguing ,beautfully shot, noir A1. Wells was tremendous , his grand entrance ,powerful (at first I didn’t recognise him being unaware of the plot) . Real edge of your seat entertainment . Just goes to show ,don’t be put off by the pundits and risk missing out seeing real gems . Tony I later read your review and backgrounding of JIF which gives it’s due . It was the 69 minute version ,I look forward to the missing 10 minutes integrated with the US release .

  28. Alan, the ABC1 late night movies schedule is a treasure trove of b’s and noirs. They have licensed the full RKO library long-term. Re JIF, if you can, get hold of Ambler’s original novel. All the Ambler thrillers from the 30s and 40s are great.

  29. Alan

    Merry Christmas Tony . Much debate on whether films are ‘film noir ‘or not or borderline examples of the style/genre . I have no recall in my limited reading of a desciption or term to define these films as a matter of convience ( yes I know another box ) , but quite awhile ago I gave a dvd on loan to a friend , I used the term ‘ faux noir ‘ specifically Chinatown ,may as well keep it French .

  30. Thanks Alan. Best wishes for the festive season. I love the moniker ‘faux noir’ which I have never heard before. Very apt and nicely provocative. I certainly have issues with the application of the neo-noir label to a lot of movies that to my mind are too self-conscious about their noir-ness. Once a film-maker contrives to make a noir film the idea negates the ethos. Though there is a photo of Robert Aldrich on the set of Kiss Me Deadly (1955) holding a copy of the French edition of the first ever book about film noir, A Panorama of American Film Noir, 1941-1953, by Raymond Borde and Étienne Chaumeton published France in 1955, and only translated into English in 2000.

  31. Alan

    Thank you Tony for your v.interesting response . I’m intrigued by your comment ‘ once a film-maker contrives to make a noir film the idea negates the ethos ‘ . The directors of the 40’s and 50’s were to a degree mavericks both sides of the Atlantic , influencing each other and influenced by earlier films of directors still active in the industry ,or simply expermenting due to limited budgets a wonderful dark style . Camera angle ,focus and lighting . B films directed by legends of film such as Lang in Hollywood . It’s like punk and new wave music of the 70’s and early 80’s ,a window of opportunity within an undetermined time frame and changing taste ,it too was initially instigated by mavericks and on shoestring budgets . Tony , your comment reminds me of early Coen Bros films ,LA Confidendtial etc, by their paying homage , consciously to the classic noir themes , this in itself is a distraction and quite often result in failure such as De Palma’s Black Dahlia trying too hard to be noir with an incoherent script guising as ‘mystery’ , like ‘lite’ beer ,I prefer the original .

  32. Lee

    Hey Tony, I’m wondering what your take is on western “noirs”. I recently watched Pursued, pretty enjoyable film with many noir elements, yet the urban settings and yes even trenchcoats seem so essential to the noir aesthetic. So for you is the western noir a valid subgenre? Why or why not?

  33. Hi Lee. I am with you here. It is a stretch to talk about noir westerns. Blood on The Moon comes pretty close, and apart from Pursued, I don’t see there are any others. And when speaking of these two I would say they are Westerns with noir elements.

    Noir is essentially concerned with the modern metropolis and the alienation that characterizes the noir protaganist – a flanuer whose existence paradoxically mirrors the anonymity of city life “in a lonely place” amongst the teeming masses. Even a so-called rural noir like On Dangerous Ground has as its dynamic the brutalized cop from the city.

  34. Lee

    Cheers Tony. “Westerns with Noir elements” – I completely agree. It is a fun subgenre to be sure, but they are Westerns first and foremost. I could picture scene for scene the entire fatalistic plot of Pursued being played out in a shadowy noir milieu, but it is still a western first and foremost. Still it is fun to seek out such films, someone on back alley noir made the apt comment “for those who have “seen it all” in classic noir, that these post-war Westerns offer an intriguing, rewarding filmic vein”. I’ve got Ramrod to watch that has shown up on some “Western Noir” lists and Blood on the Moon that you mentioned is another. Station West, The Devil’s Doorway, The Furies, and Yellow Sky have also been mentioned and I intend to check those all out eventually.

  35. Dan P.

    Thank you for all the work put into your list. Sure, there are some I feel should be included (Strangers on a Train, as mentioned), but you have given me hours of fine entertainment with films I have missed.

    Thank you again!

  36. Thanks Dan. Great to know that you have found the list useful. Sorry your comment was in moderation for so long, I didn’t get the usual email alerts of new comments after a WordPress glitch.

  37. Peter

    Tony, thanks for a great resource! What do you think of William Castle’s Mysterious Intruder? Richard Dix’s Don Gale is near perfect and Mike Mazurki pretty good too. Given Dix’s personal tragedy/downward trajectory, his portrayal resonates with core noir.

  38. Thanks Peter.

    The noir atmospherics of Mysterious Intruder make it memorable and of course Drix brings depth to his portrayal. Though Castle’s When Stranger’s Marry is perhaps his best noir and Dix’s brooding presence in Ghost Ship lifts it out of the water.

  39. deedee

    Thank you so much for compiling your list which I will view with “noir” glee. Love your black-and-white succinct summaries!

  40. joe gideon

    I love that you have included duvivier’s panique, although i think it belongs right at the top. Unless you haven’t seen it already, seek out claude sautet’s ‘max et les ferailleurs’ (max and the junkmen). It’s a little known noir masterpiece, and Michel Picolli’s doomed cop who can’t help himself is on a par with the greatest noir performances. I keep coming back to it…

  41. Cameron Hamill

    Great list and a great website. I intend watching most of the films on this list along with my Dad. My favourite noir so far is Scarlet Street. Edward G Robinson with Fritz Lang directing, what else can I say? I’ve probably only seen around 15 Noir films in my time. My Dad and I have watched hundreds of Westerns and are now looking to get into noir more.

    Thanks a lot.

  42. Thanks Cameron. Great that you have found the list useful. You have many fascinating movies in front of you – and your Dad :) When I was young my Dad and I watched of lots of Westerns together too!

  43. Phil

    Tony, wow what an extensive list! Thanks particularly for including foreign noir. It’s good to find there are plenty a noir films I still have to watch.
    Lists are always a good debate starter so here’s my 2 cents worth.
    Almost sacrilegious to place Kiss me Deadly on the same level as The Maltese Falcon or The Third Man. :) Personally I thought My Gun is Quick was a better movie than Kiss Me Deadly which had a ridiculous ending. It also had better actors imo.

    Also, although I’m a huge Bogey fan, I thought Dark Passage was awful. Poor story line depending on completely unbelievable coincidences. If it wasn’t Bogey, it would have been unwatchable.

    Another discussion topic….I think Mitchum played Philip Marlow better than Bogart. Thoughts?

    Interested to know your thoughts on some of the modern noir films? Maybe a list of the top 10/20 post 1960 noir films?
    Thanks again.

  44. Hi Phil

    Thanks for your take.

    Any list will have a personal bias and be open to controversy. My listing is not definitive and certainly not complete. Dissent is very welcome :)

    Kiss Me Deadly is definitely part of the noir canon and besides being a brilliant film is a savage satire of the source material. Bezziridis’ script is self-consciously noir, and he and director Aldrich set out to deliberately subvert Spillane’s low rent violence and misogyny, and deftly capture 50s nuclear paranoia. The finale is a deliberately ballistic denouement predicated on that very paranoia. Look also at the “explosive” endings of White Heat and Odds Against Tomorrow – the first made on the cusp of the 50s and the latter as the decade closed.

    Dark Passage is a lesser noir but it has Bogey and Bacall – and some classic scenes – the strongest being those with the plastic surgeon and the taxi ride. Both are pitch perfect vignettes that actually propel the narrative while pursuing interesting tangents – and boasting great character studies – the surgeon and the cabbie.

    Bogart and Mitchum were both great and brought something of themselves to their roles as Marlowe. I wouldn’t make comparisons only observations. Mitchum came to Marlowe in old age and the real weariness and regret that comes to us when we face our decline gives his portrayal a dark cynicism. Bogart when he played Marlowe was relatively young and at his peak. The Big Sleep is about a younger cocky Marlowe that allows his love for a dame to push him to brutal and murderous excess. Bogart in his final years would have evinced the weariness and vulnerability that you see in In a Lonely Place. And let’s not forget Dick Powell’s uncanny portrayal in Murder, My Sweet.

    I will take a look at 60s noir when I have more under my belt…

  45. John Bartelstone

    Thanks for the wonderful list. I’d like to add one more which I think may be the last real example of the genre. It’s Ralph Nelson’s Once a Thief. I was stunned to see that a movie made in 1965 could be a true example of film noir. And it features among others, Van Heflin who starred in so many great noir films.

  46. Hi John. Thanks for your visit. Yes Once a Thief is an interesting late film noir, which I have reviewed here.

    I don’t think it is a great noir. As a very late Hollywood noir it is part of the canon if not essential viewing. Your comment here will no doubt spur others to look out for it :) Tony

  47. John Bartelstone

    Hi Tony,
    Thanks. And thanks for directing me to your review of the film. A late noir film is not the same thing as an essential noir film and I think that I lost track of that distinction. But I do think that the ending is powerful “daddy, you’re ‘posed to close your eyes”.

  48. cédric

    Hi Tony
    Thanks for your fantastic work.
    About Hotel du Nord, please note that the story not takes place in “a provincial hotel” but in Paris downtown (canal Saint-Martin).
    Thanks again!


    One hellava list! Got about 60 percent of the titles.FILMNOIR is the GREATEST on the planet.

  50. Hi Al. He Walked By Night in my estimation is a minor noir. In my review I credit the underground chase climax and DP John Alton, but as a film it suffers from zero characterisation. Cheers

  51. NJ

    I seldom see “Elevator To The Gallows” listed anywhere, and yet I think it is an interesting noir…with amazing music…….what do you think of it?

  52. Thanks NJ for your take. I am not a great fan and know that is a minority position. The presence of Jeanne Moreau and the Miles Davis score make it noteworthy. Malle is not a director I warm to – he has a cold detachment here that skews to nihilism. But the film is an important entry in the French New Wave and showcases their reverence for film noir.

    My review of a few years back is here

    Since writing that review I have learnt that Miles recorded the score extemporaneously with the film projected on a screen in the studio. Check out this video of part of the recording session


  53. Mathias

    Great list in some aspects, i got some tips of films i’ve never heard of, but leaving out a iconic title like “Murder By Contract” is a big no.

  54. Ray Ray

    Typed in ‘Film Noir List” in Bing and found this site. Wonderful list of movies and enjoy reading the little blurbs for your top 25. Any movies from the last 10 years you believe are essential viewing?

  55. Hi Ray. My focus is the classic noir period to the early 60s. And there are many gaps here even with that limitation.

    Most recently I have been impressed with television productions with noir inflections: the first season of True Detective, Mr Robot, Wormwood, and The Sinner.

  56. Rodney Packwood

    Not a mention or a comment on Dick Powell and Rhonda Fleming in “Cry Danger” from 1951. Robert Parrish did a fine job directing in some fabulous L.A. locations… my favorite second tier favorite, and William Conrad is notable. Don’t overlook this gem.

  57. Todd Moodey


    Speaking of William Conrad, have you seen, and do you have an opinion on the film he directed called Brainstorm? I’ve seen it cited as one the of the last noir films.


  58. Rod Ross

    Double Indemnity and Out of the Past are true noirs and, to me, the best of the genre (I haven’t seen them all). Moving Key Largo to the 2nd tier is a mistake although it misses some of the finer noir elements. Chinatown? Anything in color is not film noir!

  59. Patrick Keenan

    What The Scavengers didn’t make it onto list?Cromwell director. Great night time Hong Kong .Carol Ohmart’s spaced out junkie reason enough to include on list.

  60. Mike B

    Awesome list(s). I agree with 85% of your rankings. I’m particularly thrilled that you seem to revere Act of Violence the way it should be. I’ve come to see it as perhaps the greatest film noir against all criteria – its only competition is The Killers (I’ve seen 650 noirs from the classic era.) Anyway, we all love lists, so without invitation, here are my top 20 noirs in alpha order:

    Act of Violence
    The Big Combo
    Born to Kill
    The Breaking Point
    Criss Cross
    Cry of the City
    Les Diaboliques
    Edge of Doom
    The Killers
    Night of the Hunter
    Odd Man Out
    Port of Shadows
    The Prowler
    Raw Deal
    The Set-Up
    Sunset Boulevard
    Touchez Pas au Grisbi

  61. Greg

    Unbelievably great list. As a somewhat new fan to noir, many here I have not seen and developing a list. Having read the comments it seems you have at one time or another reviewed most of these films. Would be a great add to the value of this list if you linked those reviews with the title to allow more in depth research. Ahhh, but also a lot of work. Maybe this could be something you could hand off to your intern!

  62. Hi Greg. Thanks for the feedback. You are right. Adding the links is on my to-do list, but finding the time and the inclination is the problem. I will get round to it. Thanks for your patience. Best Tony.

  63. Lee

    Hi Tony and everyone! Well after several years off I’ve dived deeply once again into the dark waters of noir. I watched My Name is Julia Ross recently which I can heartily recommend. Also, the new Criterion reissue of Detour is absolutely stunning! The restoration work they did on is truly jaw dropping. I believe with this definitive reissue, Detour can finally truly take its rightful place amongst the giants of the genre. Like a car crash, you just can’t look away from the film. Another recent Criterion release is Panique – terrific film. Over the weekend I decided to embark on a loosely chronological Noir journey, starting with Maltese Falcon and I Wake Up Screaming, both fabulous. Next up: The Glass Key. Cheers!

  64. Lee

    Thank you Tony, was glad to see the site is still active. I will check out those recommendations as I enjoyed both Duvivier’s direction and Viviane Romance’s performance – she really is luminous and really kept me off balance at first as to who she was playing for a fool and who she was loyal to. I love the old French poetic realism films that were a precursor to noir such as Port of Shadows and Le bete Humaine. Panique being from 1947 is obviously more of a Noir/neorealist kind of film but still pretty damn great.

  65. Eric Vaccarella

    Your list is great and I am learning a lot from it! Thank you. I notice there is one Mexican film on the list — Salón México. I like this film, and it is clearly noir influenced, but it is not my favorite Mexican noir. Several films by director Roberto Gavaldón from the 1940s and early 1950s are worth a view. These include La otra (usually translated as The Other One), En la palma de tu mano (usually translated as In the Palm of Your Hand), and La noche avanza (usually translated as Night Falls). I enjoy all of these films, but my favorite is La otra. Another Gavaldón noir from this era is La diosa arrodillada (usually translated as The Kneeling Goddess). This last one is consistently praised, but I do not like it very much, in part, I think, because I have never seen a really good print of it. Again, thanks for your list and reviews and thanks for engaging so many interested noir fans with your comments.

  66. Thanks Eric for your feedback and the very helpful info on Mexican films noir.

    My listing is not definitive and the reason Salón México is the only Mexican film in the list is that I have not seen any others as yet.

    Btw I recently read about the recent Gavaldón retrospective film series at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in the New York Review.

    Your list and the New York Review article have definitely piqued my interest in seeking out more Mexican films noir.

    The following are links to the the MOMA series program and the NYR article:

    Thanks for again for your visit!


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