If you’d asked the director of any of these Top 10 Film Noir Classics just how he’d personally define “film noir” he’d most likely have responded “film wha?” But way before these films were noticed and dissected by “arty” types and given a French name (“Film Noir” French for “black film”), we the people loved them. These were dark and shadowy Saturday afternoon movies — films filled with hard boiled cops, tough-talking private eyes, cruel and evil “bad guys” and dangerous women, oh yes, especially dangerous women. And that’s exactly what we loved about them.
Studios turned them out by the score – many pure dreck – largely just to fill theater seats on dreary afternoons. Back then they were called “melodramas,” “mysteries” or even just plain old “B movies.” But among the many there were more than a few that proved to be much more than “cheap thrillers,” films that have stood the test of time. Truly great films filled with memorable characters, scripts that bordered on brilliant, and dark, visually compelling, stories one can watch over and over again even after one knows how the underlying mystery has been solved.
So, call them whatever you wish. Here’s our list of the Top 10 Film Noir Classics…
10. The Big Sleep (1946)
How could one not include a film that has one of the most cynical private eyes ever to stand before a camera? We’re talking about Humphrey Bogart as Phillip Marlowe. Add to this a femme fatale so sultry (actress Lauren Bacall playing playgirl Vivian Rutledge) that during the film’s shooting she won over, not only that hardened detective’s heart, but actor Humphrey Bogart’s as well.
Thoroughly entertaining, witty, and with several dark mysteries waiting to be revealed, The Big Sleep has a place on any list of essential film noir.