Film noir
Overview
Film noir is a cinematic
Film
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

 term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood
Cinema of the United States
The cinema of the United States, also known as Hollywood, has had a profound effect on cinema across the world since the early 20th century. Its history is sometimes separated into four main periods: the silent film era, classical Hollywood cinema, New Hollywood, and the contemporary period...

 crime dramas
Crime film
Crime films are films which focus on the lives of criminals. The stylistic approach to a crime film varies from realistic portrayals of real-life criminal figures, to the far-fetched evil doings of imaginary arch-villains. Criminal acts are almost always glorified in these movies.- Plays and films...

, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations. Hollywood's classic film noir period is generally regarded as extending from the early 1940s to the late 1950s. Film noir of this era is associated with a low-key
Low-key lighting
Low-key lighting is a style of lighting for photography, film or television. It is a necessary element in creating a chiaroscuro effect. Traditional photographic lighting, three-point lighting uses a key light, a fill light, and a back light for illumination...

 black-and-white
Black-and-white
Black-and-white, often abbreviated B/W or B&W, is a term referring to a number of monochrome forms in visual arts.Black-and-white as a description is also something of a misnomer, for in addition to black and white, most of these media included varying shades of gray...

 visual style that has roots in German Expressionist
German Expressionism
German Expressionism refers to a number of related creative movements beginning in Germany before the First World War that reached a peak in Berlin, during the 1920s...

 cinematography
Cinematography
Cinematography is the making of lighting and camera choices when recording photographic images for cinema. It is closely related to the art of still photography...

. Many of the prototypical stories and much of the attitude of classic noir derive from the hardboiled
Hardboiled
Hardboiled crime fiction is a literary style, most commonly associated with detective stories, distinguished by the unsentimental portrayal of violence and sex. The style was pioneered by Carroll John Daly in the mid-1920s, popularized by Dashiell Hammett over the course of the decade, and refined...

 school of crime fiction
Crime fiction
Crime fiction is the literary genre that fictionalizes crimes, their detection, criminals and their motives. It is usually distinguished from mainstream fiction and other genres such as science fiction or historical fiction, but boundaries can be, and indeed are, blurred...

 that emerged in the United States during the Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

.

The term film noir, French for "black film", first applied to Hollywood films by French critic Nino Frank
Nino Frank
Nino Frank was an Italian-born French film critic and writer who was most active in the 1930s and 1940s...

 in 1946, was unknown to most American film industry professionals of the classic era.
Encyclopedia
Film noir is a cinematic
Film
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

 term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood
Cinema of the United States
The cinema of the United States, also known as Hollywood, has had a profound effect on cinema across the world since the early 20th century. Its history is sometimes separated into four main periods: the silent film era, classical Hollywood cinema, New Hollywood, and the contemporary period...

 crime dramas
Crime film
Crime films are films which focus on the lives of criminals. The stylistic approach to a crime film varies from realistic portrayals of real-life criminal figures, to the far-fetched evil doings of imaginary arch-villains. Criminal acts are almost always glorified in these movies.- Plays and films...

, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations. Hollywood's classic film noir period is generally regarded as extending from the early 1940s to the late 1950s. Film noir of this era is associated with a low-key
Low-key lighting
Low-key lighting is a style of lighting for photography, film or television. It is a necessary element in creating a chiaroscuro effect. Traditional photographic lighting, three-point lighting uses a key light, a fill light, and a back light for illumination...

 black-and-white
Black-and-white
Black-and-white, often abbreviated B/W or B&W, is a term referring to a number of monochrome forms in visual arts.Black-and-white as a description is also something of a misnomer, for in addition to black and white, most of these media included varying shades of gray...

 visual style that has roots in German Expressionist
German Expressionism
German Expressionism refers to a number of related creative movements beginning in Germany before the First World War that reached a peak in Berlin, during the 1920s...

 cinematography
Cinematography
Cinematography is the making of lighting and camera choices when recording photographic images for cinema. It is closely related to the art of still photography...

. Many of the prototypical stories and much of the attitude of classic noir derive from the hardboiled
Hardboiled
Hardboiled crime fiction is a literary style, most commonly associated with detective stories, distinguished by the unsentimental portrayal of violence and sex. The style was pioneered by Carroll John Daly in the mid-1920s, popularized by Dashiell Hammett over the course of the decade, and refined...

 school of crime fiction
Crime fiction
Crime fiction is the literary genre that fictionalizes crimes, their detection, criminals and their motives. It is usually distinguished from mainstream fiction and other genres such as science fiction or historical fiction, but boundaries can be, and indeed are, blurred...

 that emerged in the United States during the Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

.

The term film noir, French for "black film", first applied to Hollywood films by French critic Nino Frank
Nino Frank
Nino Frank was an Italian-born French film critic and writer who was most active in the 1930s and 1940s...

 in 1946, was unknown to most American film industry professionals of the classic era. Cinema historians and critics defined the noir canon in retrospect. Before the notion was widely adopted in the 1970s, many of the classic film noirs were referred to as melodrama
Melodrama
The term melodrama refers to a dramatic work that exaggerates plot and characters in order to appeal to the emotions. It may also refer to the genre which includes such works, or to language, behavior, or events which resemble them...

s. The question of whether film noir qualifies as a distinct genre is a matter of ongoing debate among scholars.

Film noir encompasses a range of plots—the central figure may be a private eye (The Big Sleep
The Big Sleep (1946 film)
The Big Sleep is a 1946 film noir directed by Howard Hawks, the first film version of Raymond Chandler's 1939 novel of the same name. The movie stars Humphrey Bogart as detective Philip Marlowe and Lauren Bacall as the female lead in a film about the "process of a criminal investigation, not its...

), a plainclothes policeman (The Big Heat
The Big Heat
The Big Heat is a 1953 film noir directed by Fritz Lang, starring Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame, and Lee Marvin. It is about a cop who takes on the crime syndicate that controls his city after the brutal murder of his beloved wife. The film was written by former crime reporter Sydney Boehm based on a...

), an aging boxer (The Set-Up
The Set-Up (1949 film)
For 2011 Set Up see hereThe Set-Up is an American film noir boxing drama directed by Robert Wise and featuring Robert Ryan and Audrey Totter. The screenplay was adapted by Art Cohn from a 1928 poem written by Joseph Moncure March. The film is about the boxing underworld.-Plot:Stoker Thompson ...

), a hapless grifter (Night and the City
Night and the City
Night and the City is a film noir based on the novel by Gerald Kersh, directed by Jules Dassin, and starring Richard Widmark and Gene Tierney. Shot on location in London, the plot evolves around an ambitious hustler whose plans keep going wrong....

), a law-abiding citizen lured into a life of crime (Gun Crazy
Gun Crazy
Gun Crazy is a 1950 film noir feature film starring Peggy Cummins and John Dall in a story about the crime-spree of a gun-toting husband and wife. The film was directed by Joseph H. Lewis, and produced by Frank King and Maurice King...

), or simply a victim of circumstance (D.O.A.
D.O.A. (1950 film)
D.O.A. , a film noir drama film directed by Rudolph Maté, is considered a classic of the genre. The frantically paced plot revolves around a doomed man's quest to find out who has poisoned him – and why – before he dies.Leo C...

). Though the noir mode was originally identified with American productions, films now customarily described as noir have been made around the world. Many pictures released from the 1960s onward share attributes with film noirs of the classic period, often treating noir conventions in a self-referential
Self-reference
Self-reference occurs in natural or formal languages when a sentence or formula refers to itself. The reference may be expressed either directly—through some intermediate sentence or formula—or by means of some encoding...

 manner. Such latter-day works in a noir mode are often referred to as neo-noir
Neo-noir
Neo-noir is a style often seen in modern motion pictures and other forms that prominently utilize elements of film noir, but with updated themes, content, style, visual elements or media that were absent in films noir of the 1940s and 1950s.-History:The term Film Noir was coined by...

s. The trope
Trope (literature)
A literary trope is the usage of figurative language in literature, or a figure of speech in which words are used in a sense different from their literal meaning...

s of film noir have inspired parody since the mid-1940s.

Problems of definition

The questions of what defines film noir and what sort of category it is provoke continuing debate. "We'd be oversimplifying things in calling film noir oneiric
Oneiric (film theory)
In a film theory context, the term oneiric refers to the depiction of dream-like states in films, or to the use of the metaphor of a dream or the dream-state to analyze a film. The connection between dreams and films has been long established; "The dream factory" “...has become a household...

, strange, erotic, ambivalent, and cruel": this set of attributes constitutes the first of many attempts to define film noir made by French critics Raymond Borde and Etienne Chaumeton in their 1955 book Panorama du film noir américain 1941–1953 (A Panorama of American Film Noir), the original and seminal extended treatment of the subject. They emphasize that not every film noir embodies all five attributes in equal measure—one might be more dreamlike; another, particularly brutal. The authors' caveats and repeated efforts at alternative definition have been echoed in subsequent scholarship: in the more than five decades since, there have been innumerable further attempts at definition, yet in the words of cinema historian Mark Bould, film noir remains an "elusive phenomenon ... always just out of reach".

Though film noir is often identified with a visual style, unconventional within a Hollywood context, that emphasizes low-key lighting
Low-key lighting
Low-key lighting is a style of lighting for photography, film or television. It is a necessary element in creating a chiaroscuro effect. Traditional photographic lighting, three-point lighting uses a key light, a fill light, and a back light for illumination...

 and unbalanced compositions
Composition (visual arts)
In the visual arts – in particular painting, graphic design, photography and sculpture – composition is the placement or arrangement of visual elements or ingredients in a work of art or a photograph, as distinct from the subject of a work...

, films commonly identified as noir evidence a variety of visual approaches, including ones that fit comfortably within the Hollywood mainstream. Film noirs similarly embrace a variety of genre
Genre
Genre , Greek: genos, γένος) is the term for any category of literature or other forms of art or culture, e.g. music, and in general, any type of discourse, whether written or spoken, audial or visual, based on some set of stylistic criteria. Genres are formed by conventions that change over time...

s, from the gangster film
Mob film
Mob films are a subgenre of crime films dealing with organized crime, often the Mafia. Especially in early mob films, there is some overlap with film noir.-History:...

 to the police procedural
Police procedural
The police procedural is a subgenre of detective fiction which attempts to convincingly depict the activities of a police force as they investigate crimes. While traditional detective novels usually concentrate on a single crime, police procedurals frequently depict investigations into several...

 to the gothic romance
Gothic fiction
Gothic fiction, sometimes referred to as Gothic horror, is a genre or mode of literature that combines elements of both horror and romance. Gothicism's origin is attributed to English author Horace Walpole, with his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto, subtitled "A Gothic Story"...

 to the social problem picture
Social problem film
A social problem film is a narrative film that integrates a larger social conflict into the individual conflict between its characters. Like many film genres, the exact definition is often in the eye of the beholder, but Hollywood did produce and market a number of topical films in the 1930s and by...

—any example of which from the 1940s and 1950s, now seen as noir's classic era, was likely to be described as a "melodrama
Melodrama
The term melodrama refers to a dramatic work that exaggerates plot and characters in order to appeal to the emotions. It may also refer to the genre which includes such works, or to language, behavior, or events which resemble them...

" at the time. While many critics refer to film noir as a genre itself, others argue that it can be no such thing. While noir is often associated with an urban setting, many classic noirs take place in small towns, suburbia, rural areas, or on the open road; so setting cannot be its genre determinant, as with the Western
Western (genre)
The Western is a genre of various visual arts, such as film, television, radio, literature, painting and others. Westerns are devoted to telling stories set primarily in the latter half of the 19th century in the American Old West, hence the name. Some Westerns are set as early as the Battle of...

. Similarly, while the private eye
Private investigator
A private investigator , private detective or inquiry agent, is a person who can be hired by individuals or groups to undertake investigatory law services. Private detectives/investigators often work for attorneys in civil cases. Many work for insurance companies to investigate suspicious claims...

 and the femme fatale
Femme fatale
A femme fatale is a mysterious and seductive woman whose charms ensnare her lovers in bonds of irresistible desire, often leading them into compromising, dangerous, and deadly situations. She is an archetype of literature and art...

 are character types conventionally identified with noir, the majority of film noirs feature neither; so there is no character basis for genre designation as with the gangster film. Nor does film noir rely on anything as evident as the monstrous or supernatural elements of the horror film
Horror film
Horror films seek to elicit a negative emotional reaction from viewers by playing on the audience's most primal fears. They often feature scenes that startle the viewer through the means of macabre and the supernatural, thus frequently overlapping with the fantasy and science fiction genres...

, the speculative leaps of the science fiction film
Science fiction film
Science fiction film is a film genre that uses science fiction: speculative, science-based depictions of phenomena that are not necessarily accepted by mainstream science, such as extraterrestrial life forms, alien worlds, extrasensory perception, and time travel, often along with futuristic...

, or the song-and-dance routines of the musical
Musical film
The musical film is a film genre in which songs sung by the characters are interwoven into the narrative, sometimes accompanied by dancing. The songs usually advance the plot or develop the film's characters, though in some cases they serve merely as breaks in the storyline, often as elaborate...

.

A more analogous case is that of the screwball comedy
Screwball comedy film
The screwball comedy is a principally American genre of comedy film that became popular during the Great Depression, originating in the early 1930s and thriving until the early 1940s. It is characterized by fast-paced repartee, farcical situations, escapist themes, and plot lines involving...

, widely accepted by film historians as constituting a "genre": the screwball is defined not by a fundamental attribute, but by a general disposition and a group of elements, some—but rarely and perhaps never all—of which are found in each of the genre's films. However, because of the diversity of noir (much greater than that of the screwball comedy), certain scholars in the field, such as film historian Thomas Schatz, treat it as not a genre but a "style". Alain Silver
Alain Silver
Alain Silver is a US film producer, film director, and screenwriter; music producer; film critic, film historian, DVD commentator, author and editor of books and essays on film topics, especially film noir and horror films.-Education:...

, the most widely published American critic specializing in film noir studies, refers to film noir as a "cycle" and a "phenomenon", even as he argues that it has—like certain genres—a consistent set of visual and thematic codes. Other critics treat film noir as a "mood", characterize it as a "series", or simply address a chosen set of films they regard as belonging to the noir "canon". There is no consensus on the matter.

Cinematic sources

Film noir's aesthetics are deeply influenced by German Expressionism
German Expressionism
German Expressionism refers to a number of related creative movements beginning in Germany before the First World War that reached a peak in Berlin, during the 1920s...

, an artistic movement of the 1910s and 1920s that involved theater, photography, painting, sculpture, and architecture, as well as cinema. The opportunities offered by the booming Hollywood film industry and, later, the threat of growing Nazi
Nazism
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

 power led to the emigration of many important film artists working in Germany who had either been directly involved in the Expressionist movement or studied with its practitioners. Directors
Film director
A film director is a person who directs the actors and film crew in filmmaking. They control a film's artistic and dramatic nathan roach, while guiding the technical crew and actors.-Responsibilities:...

 such as Fritz Lang
Fritz Lang
Friedrich Christian Anton "Fritz" Lang was an Austrian-American filmmaker, screenwriter, and occasional film producer and actor. One of the best known émigrés from Germany's school of Expressionism, he was dubbed the "Master of Darkness" by the British Film Institute...

, Robert Siodmak
Robert Siodmak
Robert Siodmak was a German born American film director. He is best remembered as a thriller specialist and for the series of Hollywood film noirs he made in the 1940s.-Early life:...

, and Michael Curtiz
Michael Curtiz
Michael Curtiz was an Academy award winning Hungarian-American film director. He had early creditsas Mihály Kertész and Michael Kertész...

 brought a dramatically shadowed lighting style and a psychologically expressive approach to visual composition, or mise-en-scène
Mise en scène
Mise-en-scène is an expression used to describe the design aspects of a theatre or film production, which essentially means "visual theme" or "telling a story"—both in visually artful ways through storyboarding, cinematography and stage design, and in poetically artful ways through direction...

, with them to Hollywood, where they would make some of the most famous of classic noirs. Lang's magnum opus, M
M (1931 film)
M is a 1931 German drama-thriller directed by Fritz Lang and written by Lang and his wife Thea von Harbou. It was Lang's first sound film, although he had directed more than a dozen films previously....

—released in 1931, two years before his departure from Germany—is among the first major crime films of the sound era
Sound film
A sound film is a motion picture with synchronized sound, or sound technologically coupled to image, as opposed to a silent film. The first known public exhibition of projected sound films took place in Paris in 1900, but decades would pass before sound motion pictures were made commercially...

 to join a characteristically noirish visual style with a noir-type plot, one in which the protagonist
Protagonist
A protagonist is the main character of a literary, theatrical, cinematic, or musical narrative, around whom the events of the narrative's plot revolve and with whom the audience is intended to most identify...

 is a criminal (as are his most successful pursuers).

By 1931, Curtiz had already been in Hollywood for half a decade, making as many as six films a year. Movies of his such as 20,000 Years in Sing Sing
20,000 Years in Sing Sing
20,000 Years in Sing Sing is a 1932 American black-and-white drama film set in Sing Sing Penitentary, the notorious maximum security prison in New York State. This movie was directed by Michael Curtiz, and it starred the noted actors Spencer Tracy as the main convict, and Bette Davis as his...

(1932) and Private Detective 62 (1933) are among the early Hollywood sound films arguably classifiable as noir—scholar Marc Vernet offers the latter as evidence that dating the initiation of film noir to 1940 or any other year is "arbitrary". Giving Expressionist-affiliated filmmakers particularly free stylistic rein were Universal
Universal Studios
Universal Pictures , a subsidiary of NBCUniversal, is one of the six major movie studios....

 horror pictures such as Dracula
Dracula (1931 film)
Dracula is a 1931 vampire-horror film directed by Tod Browning and starring Bela Lugosi as the title character. The film was produced by Universal and is based on the stage play of the same name by Hamilton Deane and John L...

(1931), The Mummy
The Mummy (1932 film)
The Mummy is a 1932 horror film from Universal Studios directed by Karl Freund and starring Boris Karloff as a revived ancient Egyptian priest. The movie also features Zita Johann, David Manners and Edward Van Sloan...

(1932)—the former photographed
Cinematography
Cinematography is the making of lighting and camera choices when recording photographic images for cinema. It is closely related to the art of still photography...

 and the latter directed by the Berlin-trained Karl Freund
Karl Freund
Karl W. Freund, A.S.C. was a cinematographer and film director most noted for photographing Metropolis , Dracula , and television's I Love Lucy .-Early life:...

—and The Black Cat
The Black Cat (1934 film)
The Black Cat is a 1934 horror film that became Universal Pictures' biggest box office hit of the year. It was the first of eight movies to pair actors Béla Lugosi and Boris Karloff. Edgar G. Ulmer directed the film; Peter Ruric wrote the screenplay...

(1934), directed by Austrian émigré Edgar G. Ulmer. The Universal horror that comes closest to noir, both in story and sensibility, however, is The Invisible Man
The Invisible Man (1933 film)
The Invisible Man is a 1933 science fiction film based on H. G. Wells' science fiction novel The Invisible Man, published in 1897, as adapted by R. C. Sherriff, Philip Wylie and Preston Sturges, whose work was considered unsatisfactory and who was taken off the project...

(1933), directed by Englishman James Whale
James Whale
James Whale was an English film director, theatre director and actor. He is best remembered for his work in the horror film genre, having directed such classics as Frankenstein , The Old Dark House , The Invisible Man and Bride of Frankenstein...

 and photographed by American Arthur Edeson
Arthur Edeson
Arthur Edeson, A.S.C. was a film cinematographer, born in New York City.He was nominated for three Academy Awards in his career in cinema.-Career:...

. Edeson would subsequently photograph The Maltese Falcon
The Maltese Falcon (1941 film)
The Maltese Falcon is a 1941 Warner Bros. film based on the novel of the same name by Dashiell Hammett and a remake of the 1931 film of the same name...

(1941), widely regarded as the first major film noir of the classic era.

The Vienna-born but largely American-raised Josef von Sternberg
Josef von Sternberg
Josef von Sternberg — born Jonas Sternberg — was an Austrian-American film director. He is particularly noted for his distinctive mise en scène, use of lighting and soft lens, and seven-film collaboration with actress Marlene Dietrich.-Youth:Von Sternberg was born Jonas Sternberg to a Jewish...

 was directing in Hollywood at the same time. Films of his such as Shanghai Express
Shanghai Express (film)
Shanghai Express is a 1932 American film directed by Josef von Sternberg. The pre-Code picture stars Marlene Dietrich, Clive Brook, Anna May Wong, and Warner Oland. It was written by Jules Furthman, based on a story by Harry Hervey. It was the fourth of seven teamings of Sternberg and Dietrich.The...

(1932) and The Devil Is a Woman (1935), with their hothouse eroticism and baroque visual style, specifically anticipate central elements of classic noir. The commercial and critical success of Sternberg's silent Underworld
Underworld (1927 film)
Underworld is a 1927 silent crime film directed by Josef von Sternberg.-Plot:Boisterous gangster kingpin Bull Weed rehabilitates his former lawyer from his alcoholic haze, but complications arise when he falls for Weed's girlfriend.-Cast:* George Bancroft as "Bull" Weed* Evelyn Brent as "Feathers"...

in 1927 was largely responsible for spurring a trend of Hollywood gangster films. Popular films in the genre such as Little Caesar
Little Caesar (film)
Little Caesar is a 1931 Warner Bros. Pre-Code crime film. It tells the story of a hoodlum who ascends the ranks of organized crime until he reaches its upper echelons. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy, the film stars Edward G. Robinson and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.. The story was adapted by Francis Edward...

(1931), The Public Enemy
The Public Enemy
The Public Enemy is a 1931 American Pre-Code crime film starring James Cagney and directed by William A. Wellman. The film relates the story of a young man's rise in the criminal underworld in prohibition-era urban America...

(1931), and Scarface
Scarface (1932 film)
Scarface is a 1932 American gangster film starring Paul Muni and George Raft, produced by Howard Hughes, directed by Howard Hawks and Richard Rosson, and written by Ben Hecht based on the 1929 novel of the same name by Armitage Trail...

(1932) demonstrated that there was an audience for crime dramas with morally reprehensible protagonists. An important, and possibly influential, cinematic antecedent to classic noir was 1930s French poetic realism
Poetic realism
Poetic realism was a film movement in France of the 1930s and through the war years. More a tendency than a movement, Poetic Realism is not strongly unified like Soviet Montage or French Impressionism. Its leading filmmakers were Jean Renoir, Pierre Chenal, Jean Vigo, Julien Duvivier, and Marcel...

, with its romantic, fatalistic
Fatalism
Fatalism is a philosophical doctrine emphasizing the subjugation of all events or actions to fate.Fatalism generally refers to several of the following ideas:...

 attitude and celebration of doomed heroes. The movement's sensibility is mirrored in the Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., also known as Warner Bros. Pictures or simply Warner Bros. , is an American producer of film and television entertainment.One of the major film studios, it is a subsidiary of Time Warner, with its headquarters in Burbank,...

 drama I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang
I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang
I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang is a Pre-Code crime/drama film starring Paul Muni as a wrongfully convicted convict on a chain gang who escapes to Chicago. The film was written by Howard J. Green and Brown Holmes from Robert Elliott Burns's autobiography, I Am a Fugitive from a Georgia Chain...

(1932), a key forerunner of noir. Among those films not themselves considered film noirs, perhaps none had a greater effect on the development of the genre than America's own Citizen Kane
Citizen Kane
Citizen Kane is a 1941 American drama film, directed by and starring Orson Welles. Many critics consider it the greatest American film of all time, especially for its innovative cinematography, music and narrative structure. Citizen Kane was Welles' first feature film...

(1941), the landmark motion picture directed by Orson Welles
Orson Welles
George Orson Welles , best known as Orson Welles, was an American film director, actor, theatre director, screenwriter, and producer, who worked extensively in film, theatre, television and radio...

. Its visual intricacy and complex, voiceover
VoiceOver
VoiceOver is a screen reader built into Apple Inc.'s Mac OS X, iOS and iPod operating systems. By using VoiceOver, the user can access their Macintosh or iOS device based on spoken descriptions and, in the case of the Mac, the keyboard. The feature is designed to increase accessibility for blind...

-driven narrative structure are echoed in dozens of classic film noirs.

Italian neorealism
Italian neorealism
Italian neorealism is a style of film characterized by stories set amongst the poor and working class, filmed on location, frequently using nonprofessional actors...

 of the 1940s, with its emphasis on quasi-documentary authenticity, was an acknowledged influence on trends that emerged in American noir. The Lost Weekend (1945), directed by Billy Wilder
Billy Wilder
Billy Wilder was an Austro-Hungarian born American filmmaker, screenwriter, producer, artist, and journalist, whose career spanned more than 50 years and 60 films. He is regarded as one of the most brilliant and versatile filmmakers of Hollywood's golden age...

, yet another Vienna-born, Berlin-trained American auteur, tells the story of an alcoholic in a manner evocative of neorealism. It also exemplifies the problem of classification: one of the first American films to be described as a film noir, it has largely disappeared from considerations of the field. Director Jules Dassin
Jules Dassin
Julius "Jules" Dassin , was an American film director, with Jewish-Russian origins. He was a subject of the Hollywood blacklist in the McCarthy era, and subsequently moved to France where he revived his career.-Early life:...

 of The Naked City
The Naked City
The Naked City is a 1948 black-and-white film noir directed by Jules Dassin. The movie, shot partially in documentary style, was filmed on location on the streets of New York City, featuring landmarks such as the Williamsburg Bridge the Whitehall Building and an apartment building on West 83rd...

(1948) pointed to the neorealists as inspiring his use of on-location photography with nonprofessional extras. This semidocumentary
Semidocumentary
Semidocumentary is a form of book, film, or television program presenting a fictional story that incorporates many factual details or actual events, or which is presented in a manner similar to a documentary...

 approach characterized a substantial number of noirs in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Along with neorealism, the style had a homegrown precedent, specifically cited by Dassin, in director Henry Hathaway
Henry Hathaway
Henry Hathaway was an American film director and producer. He is best known as a director of Westerns, especially starring John Wayne.-Background:...

's The House on 92nd Street
The House on 92nd Street
The House on 92nd Street is a 1945 black-and-white spy film directed by Henry Hathaway. The film, shot mainly in New York City, was released shortly after the end of World War II. The House on 92nd Street was made with the full cooperation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation , and its head, J....

(1945), which demonstrated the parallel influence of the cinematic newsreel.

Literary sources

The primary literary influence on film noir was the hardboiled school of American detective
Detective fiction
Detective fiction is a sub-genre of crime fiction and mystery fiction in which an investigator , either professional or amateur, investigates a crime, often murder.-In ancient literature:...

 and crime fiction
Crime fiction
Crime fiction is the literary genre that fictionalizes crimes, their detection, criminals and their motives. It is usually distinguished from mainstream fiction and other genres such as science fiction or historical fiction, but boundaries can be, and indeed are, blurred...

, led in its early years by such writers as Dashiell Hammett
Dashiell Hammett
Samuel Dashiell Hammett was an American author of hard-boiled detective novels and short stories, and political activist. Among the enduring characters he created are Sam Spade , Nick and Nora Charles , and the Continental Op .In addition to the significant influence his novels and stories had on...

 (whose first novel, Red Harvest
Red Harvest
Red Harvest is a novel by Dashiell Hammett. The story is narrated by The Continental Op, a frequent character in Hammett's fiction. Hammett based the story on his own experiences in Butte, Montana as an operative of the Continental Detective Agency, San Francisco.Time included Red Harvest in its...

, was published in 1929) and James M. Cain
James M. Cain
James Mallahan Cain was an American author and journalist. Although Cain himself vehemently opposed labeling, he is usually associated with the hardboiled school of American crime fiction and seen as one of the creators of the roman noir...

 (whose The Postman Always Rings Twice
The Postman Always Rings Twice
The Postman Always Rings Twice is a 1934 crime novel by James M. Cain.The novel was quite successful and notorious upon publication, and is regarded as one of the more important crime novels of the 20th century...

appeared five years later), and popularized in pulp magazine
Pulp magazine
Pulp magazines , also collectively known as pulp fiction, refers to inexpensive fiction magazines published from 1896 through the 1950s. The typical pulp magazine was seven inches wide by ten inches high, half an inch thick, and 128 pages long...

s such as Black Mask. The classic film noirs The Maltese Falcon and The Glass Key
The Glass Key (1942 film)
The Glass Key is a 1942 film noir, directed by Stuart Heisler and based on the novel of the same name by Dashiell Hammett. The story had previously been adapted for film in 1935.-Plot:...

(1942) were based on novels by Hammett; Cain's novels provided the basis for Double Indemnity (1944), Mildred Pierce
Mildred Pierce (film)
Mildred Pierce is a 1945 American drama film starring Joan Crawford, Ann Blyth, Jack Carson, Zachary Scott, and Eve Arden in a film noir about a long-suffering mother and her ungrateful daughter. The screenplay by Ranald MacDougall, William Faulkner, and Catherine Turney was based upon the 1941...

(1945), The Postman Always Rings Twice
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946 film)
The Postman Always Rings Twice is a 1946 drama-film noir based on the 1934 novel of the same name by James M. Cain. This adaptation of the novel is the best known, featuring Lana Turner, John Garfield, Cecil Kellaway, Hume Cronyn, Leon Ames, and Audrey Totter...

(1946), and Slightly Scarlet (1956; adapted from Love's Lovely Counterfeit). A decade before the classic era, a story of Hammett's was the source for the gangster melodrama City Streets
City Streets (film)
City Streets is a 1931 Pre-Code crime film based upon a story written by Dashiell Hammett, directed by Rouben Mamoulian, and starring Gary Cooper, Sylvia Sidney, Paul Lukas and Guy Kibbee.-Plot:...

(1931), directed by Rouben Mamoulian
Rouben Mamoulian
Rouben Mamoulian was an Armenian-American film and theatre director.-Biography:Born in Tbilisi, Georgia to an Armenian family, Rouben relocated to England and started directing plays in London in 1922...

 and photographed by Lee Garmes
Lee Garmes
Lee Garmes, A.S.C. was an American cinematographer. During his career, he worked with directors Howard Hawks, Max Ophuls, Josef von Sternberg, Alfred Hitchcock, King Vidor, Nicholas Ray and Henry Hathaway, whom he had met as a young man when the two first came to Hollywood in the silent era...

, who worked regularly with Sternberg. Wedding a style and story both with many noir characteristics, released the month before Lang's M, City Streets has a claim to being the first major film noir.

Raymond Chandler
Raymond Chandler
Raymond Thornton Chandler was an American novelist and screenwriter.In 1932, at age forty-five, Raymond Chandler decided to become a detective fiction writer after losing his job as an oil company executive during the Depression. His first short story, "Blackmailers Don't Shoot", was published in...

, who debuted as a novelist with The Big Sleep
The Big Sleep
The Big Sleep is a hardboiled crime novel by Raymond Chandler, the first in his acclaimed series about detective Philip Marlowe. The work has been adapted twice into film, once in 1946 and again in 1978...

in 1939, soon became the most famous author of the hardboiled school. Not only were Chandler's novels turned into major noirs—Murder, My Sweet
Murder, My Sweet
Murder, My Sweet is a 1944 American film noir directed by Edward Dmytryk, and starring Dick Powell, Claire Trevor, and Anne Shirley. The film was released in the United Kingdom under the title Farewell, My Lovely, which is the title of the 1940 Raymond Chandler novel it is based on, and also the...

(1944; adapted from Farewell, My Lovely
Farewell, My Lovely
Farewell, My Lovely is a 1940 novel by Raymond Chandler, the second novel he wrote featuring Los Angeles private eye Philip Marlowe. It was adapted for the screen three times.-Plot summary:...

), The Big Sleep
The Big Sleep (1946 film)
The Big Sleep is a 1946 film noir directed by Howard Hawks, the first film version of Raymond Chandler's 1939 novel of the same name. The movie stars Humphrey Bogart as detective Philip Marlowe and Lauren Bacall as the female lead in a film about the "process of a criminal investigation, not its...

(1946), and Lady in the Lake
Lady in the Lake
Lady in the Lake is a 1947 American film noir that marked the directorial debut of Robert Montgomery, who also stars in the film. The picture also features Audrey Totter, Lloyd Nolan, Tom Tully, Leon Ames and Jayne Meadows...

(1947)—he was an important screenwriter
Screenwriter
Screenwriters or scriptwriters or scenario writers are people who write/create the short or feature-length screenplays from which mass media such as films, television programs, Comics or video games are based.-Profession:...

 in the genre as well, producing the scripts for Double Indemnity, The Blue Dahlia
The Blue Dahlia
The Blue Dahlia is a 1946 film noir, directed by George Marshall and written by Raymond Chandler. The film marks the third pairing of stars Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake.-Plot:...

(1946), and Strangers on a Train
Strangers on a Train (film)
Strangers on a Train is an American psychological thriller film produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and based on the 1950 novel of the same name by Patricia Highsmith. It was shot in the autumn of 1950 and released by Warner Bros. on June 30, 1951. The film stars Farley Granger, Ruth Roman,...

(1951). Where Chandler, like Hammett, centered most of his novels and stories on the character of the private eye, Cain featured less heroic protagonists and focused more on psychological exposition than on crime solving; the Cain approach has come to be identified with a subset of the hardboiled genre dubbed "noir fiction". For much of the 1940s, one of the most prolific and successful authors of this often downbeat brand of suspense tale was Cornell Woolrich
Cornell Woolrich
Cornell George Hopley-Woolrich was an American novelist and short story writer who sometimes wrote under the pseudonyms William Irish and George Hopley....

 (sometimes under the pseudonym George Hopley or William Irish). No writer's published work provided the basis for more film noirs of the classic period than Woolrich's: thirteen in all, including Black Angel (1946), Deadline at Dawn
Deadline at Dawn
Deadline at Dawn is a 1946 film noir, the only film directed by stage director Harold Clurman. It was written by Clifford Odets and based on a novella by Cornell Woolrich . The RKO Radio Picture was the only cinematic collaboration between Clurman and his former Group Theatre associate,...

(1946), and Fear in the Night
Fear in the Night (1947 film)
Fear in the Night is a low budget black-and-white film noir directed by Maxwell Shane and starring Paul Kelly and DeForest Kelley . It is based on the Cornell Woolrich story "And So to Death" . Woolrich is credited under pen name William Irish...

(1947).

Another crucial literary source for film noir was W. R. Burnett
William R. Burnett
William Riley Burnett , often credited as W. R. Burnett, was an American novelist and screenwriter. He is best known for the crime novel, Little Caesar, whose film adaptation is considered the first of the classic American gangster movies.Burnett was born in Springfield, Ohio, U.S...

, whose first novel to be published was Little Caesar, in 1929. It would be turned into a hit for Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., also known as Warner Bros. Pictures or simply Warner Bros. , is an American producer of film and television entertainment.One of the major film studios, it is a subsidiary of Time Warner, with its headquarters in Burbank,...

 in 1931; the following year, Burnett was hired to write dialogue for Scarface, while Beast of the City was adapted from one of his stories. At least one important reference work identifies the latter as a film noir despite its early date. Burnett's characteristic narrative approach fell somewhere between that of the quintessential hardboiled writers and their noir fiction compatriots—his protagonists were often heroic in their way, a way just happening to be that of the gangster. During the classic era, his work, either as author or screenwriter, was the basis for seven films now widely regarded as film noirs, including three of the most famous: High Sierra (1941), This Gun for Hire
This Gun for Hire
This Gun for Hire is a 1942 film noir, directed by Frank Tuttle and based on the novel A Gun for Sale by Graham Greene. The film stars Veronica Lake, Robert Preston, Laird Cregar, and Alan Ladd.-Plot:...

(1942), and The Asphalt Jungle
The Asphalt Jungle
The Asphalt Jungle is a 1950 film noir directed by John Huston. The caper film is based on the novel of the same name by W. R. Burnett and stars an ensemble cast including Sterling Hayden, Jean Hagen, Sam Jaffe, Louis Calhern, James Whitmore, and, in a minor but key role, Marilyn Monroe, an unknown...

(1950).

Overview

The 1940s and 1950s are generally regarded as the "classic period" of American film noir. While City Streets and other pre-WWII crime melodramas such as Fury
Fury (1936 film)
Fury is a 1936 American drama film which tells the story of an innocent man who narrowly escapes being lynched and the revenge he seeks. Directed by Fritz Lang, the film was released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and stars Spencer Tracy, Sylvia Sidney and Bruce Cabot and features Walter Abel, Edward...

(1936) and You Only Live Once (1937), both directed by Fritz Lang, are categorized as full-fledged noir in Alain Silver and Elizabeth Ward's film noir encyclopedia, other critics tend to describe them as "proto-noir" or in similar terms. The film now most commonly cited as the first "true" film noir is Stranger on the Third Floor
Stranger on the Third Floor
Stranger on the Third Floor is a film noir thriller, featuring Peter Lorre, co-written by Nathaniel West, and released by RKO Radio Pictures. The picture was directed by Boris Ingster....

(1940), directed by Latvian-born, Soviet-trained Boris Ingster. Hungarian émigré Peter Lorre
Peter Lorre
Peter Lorre was an Austrian-American actor frequently typecast as a sinister foreigner.He caused an international sensation in 1931 with his portrayal of a serial killer who preys on little girls in the German film M...

—who had starred in Lang's M
M (1931 film)
M is a 1931 German drama-thriller directed by Fritz Lang and written by Lang and his wife Thea von Harbou. It was Lang's first sound film, although he had directed more than a dozen films previously....

—was top-billed, though he did not play the lead. He would play secondary roles
Character actor
A character actor is one who predominantly plays unusual or eccentric characters. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a character actor as "an actor who specializes in character parts", defining character part in turn as "an acting role displaying pronounced or unusual characteristics or...

 in several other formative American noirs. Though modestly budgeted, at the high end of the B movie
B movie
A B movie is a low-budget commercial motion picture that is not definitively an arthouse or pornographic film. In its original usage, during the Golden Age of Hollywood, the term more precisely identified a film intended for distribution as the less-publicized, bottom half of a double feature....

 scale, Stranger on the Third Floor still lost its studio, RKO, $56,000, almost a third of its total cost. Variety
Variety (magazine)
Variety is an American weekly entertainment-trade magazine founded in New York City, New York, in 1905 by Sime Silverman. With the rise of the importance of the motion-picture industry, Daily Variety, a daily edition based in Los Angeles, California, was founded by Silverman in 1933. In 1998, the...

magazine found Ingster's work "too studied and when original, lacks the flare to hold attention. It's a film too arty for average audiences, and too humdrum for others." Stranger on the Third Floor was not recognized as the beginning of a trend, let alone a new genre, for many decades.

Most of the film noirs of the classic period were similarly low- and modestly budgeted features without major stars—B movies either literally or in spirit. In this production context, writers, directors, cinematographers, and other craftsmen were relatively free from typical big-picture constraints. There was more visual experimentation than in Hollywood filmmaking as a whole: the Expressionism now closely associated with noir and the semidocumentary style that later emerged represent two very different tendencies. Narrative structures sometimes involved convoluted flashbacks uncommon in non-noir commercial productions. In terms of content, enforcement of the Production Code
Production Code
The Motion Picture Production Code was the set of industry moral censorship guidelines that governed the production of the vast majority of United States motion pictures released by major studios from 1930 to 1968. It is also popularly known as the Hays Code, after Hollywood's chief censor of the...

 ensured that no film character could literally get away with murder or be seen sharing a bed with anyone but a spouse; within those bounds, however, many films now identified as noir feature plot elements and dialogue that were very risqué for the time.
Thematically, film noirs were most exceptional for the relative frequency with which they centered on women of questionable virtue—a focus that had become rare in Hollywood films after the mid-1930s and the end of the pre-Code era. The signal film in this vein was Double Indemnity, directed by Billy Wilder; setting the mold was Barbara Stanwyck
Barbara Stanwyck
Barbara Stanwyck was an American actress. She was a film and television star, known during her 60-year career as a consummate and versatile professional with a strong screen presence, and a favorite of directors including Cecil B. DeMille, Fritz Lang and Frank Capra...

's unforgettable femme fatale
Femme fatale
A femme fatale is a mysterious and seductive woman whose charms ensnare her lovers in bonds of irresistible desire, often leading them into compromising, dangerous, and deadly situations. She is an archetype of literature and art...

, Phyllis Dietrichson—an apparent nod to Marlene Dietrich
Marlene Dietrich
Marlene Dietrich was a German-American actress and singer.Dietrich remained popular throughout her long career by continually re-inventing herself, professionally and characteristically. In the Berlin of the 1920s, she acted on the stage and in silent films...

, who had built her extraordinary career playing such characters for Sternberg. An A-level feature all the way, the film's commercial success and seven Oscar nominations made it probably the most influential of the early noirs. A slew of now-renowned noir "bad girls
Bad girl movies
"Bad girl movies" are a subcategory of film noir labeled by latter-day movie buffs to describe the dark films of the 1940s and 1950s starring beautiful women on the wrong side of the spirit and/or the letter of the law...

" would follow, such as those played by Rita Hayworth
Rita Hayworth
Rita Hayworth was an American film actress and dancer who attained fame during the 1940s as one of the era's top stars...

 in Gilda
Gilda
Gilda is a 1946 American black-and-white film noir directed by Charles Vidor. It stars Glenn Ford and Rita Hayworth in her signature role as the ultimate femme fatale. The film was noted for cinematographer Rudolph Mate's lush photography, costume designer Jean Louis' wardrobe for Hayworth , and...

(1946), Lana Turner
Lana Turner
Lana Turner was an American actress.Discovered and signed to a film contract by MGM at the age of sixteen, Turner first attracted attention in They Won't Forget . She played featured roles, often as the ingenue, in such films as Love Finds Andy Hardy...

 in The Postman Always Rings Twice
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946 film)
The Postman Always Rings Twice is a 1946 drama-film noir based on the 1934 novel of the same name by James M. Cain. This adaptation of the novel is the best known, featuring Lana Turner, John Garfield, Cecil Kellaway, Hume Cronyn, Leon Ames, and Audrey Totter...

(1946), Ava Gardner
Ava Gardner
Ava Lavinia Gardner was an American actress.She was signed to a contract by MGM Studios in 1941 and appeared mainly in small roles until she drew attention with her performance in The Killers . She became one of Hollywood's leading actresses, considered one of the most beautiful women of her day...

 in The Killers
The Killers (1946 film)
The Killers is a 1946 American film noir directed by Robert Siodmak. It is based in part on the short story of the same name by Ernest Hemingway. The film features Burt Lancaster in his screen debut, as well as Ava Gardner, Edmond O'Brien, and Sam Levene...

(1946), and Jane Greer
Jane Greer
Jane Greer was a film and television actress who was perhaps best known for her role as femme fatale Kathie Moffat in the 1947 film noir Out of the Past.-Career:...

 in Out of the Past
Out of the Past
Out of the Past is a 1947 film noir directed by Jacques Tourneur and starring Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, and Kirk Douglas. The film was adapted by Daniel Mainwaring , with uncredited revisions by Frank Fenton and James M...

(1947). The iconic noir counterpart to the femme fatale, the private eye, came to the fore in films such as The Maltese Falcon
The Maltese Falcon (1941 film)
The Maltese Falcon is a 1941 Warner Bros. film based on the novel of the same name by Dashiell Hammett and a remake of the 1931 film of the same name...

(1941), with Humphrey Bogart
Humphrey Bogart
Humphrey DeForest Bogart was an American actor. He is widely regarded as a cultural icon.The American Film Institute ranked Bogart as the greatest male star in the history of American cinema....

 as Sam Spade
Sam Spade
Sam Spade is a fictional character who is the protagonist of Dashiell Hammett's 1930 novel The Maltese Falcon and the various films and adaptations based on it, as well as in three lesser known short stories by Hammett....

, and Murder, My Sweet
Murder, My Sweet
Murder, My Sweet is a 1944 American film noir directed by Edward Dmytryk, and starring Dick Powell, Claire Trevor, and Anne Shirley. The film was released in the United Kingdom under the title Farewell, My Lovely, which is the title of the 1940 Raymond Chandler novel it is based on, and also the...

(1944), with Dick Powell
Dick Powell
Richard Ewing "Dick" Powell was an American singer, actor, producer, director and studio boss.Despite the same last name he was not related to William Powell, Eleanor Powell or Jane Powell.-Biography:...

 as Philip Marlowe
Philip Marlowe
Philip Marlowe is a fictional character created by Raymond Chandler in a series of novels including The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye. Marlowe first appeared under that name in The Big Sleep published in 1939...

. Other seminal noir sleuths served larger institutions, such as Dana Andrews
Dana Andrews
Dana Andrews was an American film actor. He was one of Hollywood's major stars of the 1940s, and continued acting, though generally in less prestigious roles, into the 1980s.-Early life:...

's police detective in Laura
Laura (1944 film)
Laura is a 1944 American film noir directed by Otto Preminger. It stars Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews and Clifton Webb. The screenplay by Jay Dratler, Samuel Hoffenstein, and Elizabeth Reinhardt is based on the 1943 novel of the same title by Vera Caspary....

(1944), Edmond O'Brien
Edmond O'Brien
Edmond O'Brien was an American actor who is perhaps best remembered for his role in D.O.A. and his Oscar winning role in The Barefoot Contessa...

's insurance investigator in The Killers, and Edward G. Robinson
Edward G. Robinson
Edward G. Robinson was a Romanian-born American actor. A popular star during Hollywood's Golden Age, he is best remembered for his roles as gangsters, such as Rico in his star-making film Little Caesar and as Rocco in Key Largo...

's government agent in The Stranger
The Stranger (1946 film)
The Stranger is an American film noir directed by Orson Welles and starring Welles, Edward G. Robinson, and Loretta Young. The film was based on an Oscar-nominated screenplay written by Victor Trivas. Sam Spiegel was the film's producer, and the film's musical score is by Bronisław Kaper...

(1946).

The prevalence of the private eye as a lead character declined in film noir of the 1950s, a period during which several critics describe the form as becoming more focused on extreme psychologies and more exaggerated in general. A prime example is Kiss Me Deadly
Kiss Me Deadly
Kiss Me Deadly is a 1955 film noir drama produced and directed by Robert Aldrich starring Ralph Meeker. The screenplay was written by A.I. Bezzerides, based on the Mickey Spillane Mike Hammer mystery novel Kiss Me, Deadly. Kiss Me Deadly is often considered a classic of the noir genre. The film...

(1955); based on a novel by Mickey Spillane
Mickey Spillane
Frank Morrison Spillane , better known as Mickey Spillane, was an American author of crime novels, many featuring his signature detective character, Mike Hammer. More than 225 million copies of his books have sold internationally...

, the best-selling of all the hardboiled authors, here the protagonist is a private eye, Mike Hammer
Mike Hammer
Michael "Mike" Hammer is a fictional detective created by the American author Mickey Spillane in the 1947 book I, the Jury .-Description:...

. As described by Paul Schrader
Paul Schrader
Paul Joseph Schrader is an American screenwriter, film director, and former film critic. Apart from his credentials as a director, Schrader is most notably known for his screenplays for Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and Raging Bull....

, "Robert Aldrich
Robert Aldrich
Robert Aldrich was an American film director, writer and producer, notable for such films as Kiss Me Deadly , The Big Knife , What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? , Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte , The Flight of the Phoenix , The Dirty Dozen , and The Longest Yard .-Biography:Robert...

's teasing direction carries noir to its sleaziest and most perversely erotic. Hammer overturns the underworld in search of the 'great whatsit' [which] turns out to be—joke of jokes—an exploding atomic bomb." Orson Welles's baroquely styled Touch of Evil
Touch of Evil
Touch of Evil is a 1958 American crime thriller film, written, directed by, and co-starring Orson Welles. The screenplay was loosely based on the novel Badge of Evil by Whit Masterson...

(1958) is frequently cited as the last noir of the classic period. Some scholars believe film noir never really ended, but continued to transform even as the characteristic noir visual style began to seem dated and changing production conditions led Hollywood in different directions—in this view, post-1950s films in the noir tradition are seen as part of a continuity with classic noir. A majority of critics, however, regard comparable films made outside the classic era to be something other than genuine film noirs. They regard true film noir as belonging to a temporally and geographically limited cycle or period, treating subsequent films that evoke the classics as fundamentally different due to general shifts in filmmaking style and latter-day awareness of noir as a historical source for allusion
Allusion
An allusion is a figure of speech that makes a reference to, or representation of, people, places, events, literary work, myths, or works of art, either directly or by implication. M. H...

.

Directors and the business of noir

While the inceptive noir, Stranger on the Third Floor, was a B picture directed by a virtual unknown, many of the film noirs that have earned enduring fame were A-list productions by name-brand filmmakers. Debuting as a director with The Maltese Falcon
The Maltese Falcon (1941 film)
The Maltese Falcon is a 1941 Warner Bros. film based on the novel of the same name by Dashiell Hammett and a remake of the 1931 film of the same name...

(1941), John Huston
John Huston
John Marcellus Huston was an American film director, screenwriter and actor. He wrote most of the 37 feature films he directed, many of which are today considered classics: The Maltese Falcon , The Treasure of the Sierra Madre , Key Largo , The Asphalt Jungle , The African Queen , Moulin Rouge...

 followed with the major noirs Key Largo
Key Largo (film)
Key Largo is a 1948 film noir directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Lauren Bacall, Lionel Barrymore, and Claire Trevor...

(1948) and The Asphalt Jungle
The Asphalt Jungle
The Asphalt Jungle is a 1950 film noir directed by John Huston. The caper film is based on the novel of the same name by W. R. Burnett and stars an ensemble cast including Sterling Hayden, Jean Hagen, Sam Jaffe, Louis Calhern, James Whitmore, and, in a minor but key role, Marilyn Monroe, an unknown...

(1950). Opinion is divided on the noir status of several of Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock
Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, KBE was a British film director and producer. He pioneered many techniques in the suspense and psychological thriller genres. After a successful career in British cinema in both silent films and early talkies, Hitchcock moved to Hollywood...

's thrillers from the era; at least four qualify by consensus: Shadow of a Doubt
Shadow of a Doubt
Shadow of a Doubt is a 1943 American thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and starring Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten. Written by Thornton Wilder, Sally Benson, and Alma Reville, the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Story for Gordon McDonell...

(1943), Notorious (1946), Strangers on a Train
Strangers on a Train (film)
Strangers on a Train is an American psychological thriller film produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and based on the 1950 novel of the same name by Patricia Highsmith. It was shot in the autumn of 1950 and released by Warner Bros. on June 30, 1951. The film stars Farley Granger, Ruth Roman,...

(1951), and The Wrong Man
The Wrong Man
The Wrong Man is a 1956 film by Alfred Hitchcock which stars Henry Fonda and Vera Miles. The film is based on a true story of an innocent man charged for a crime he did not commit...

(1956). Otto Preminger
Otto Preminger
Otto Ludwig Preminger was an Austro–Hungarian-American theatre and film director.After moving from the theatre to Hollywood, he directed over 35 feature films in a five-decade career. He rose to prominence for stylish film noir mysteries such as Laura and Fallen Angel...

's success with Laura
Laura (1944 film)
Laura is a 1944 American film noir directed by Otto Preminger. It stars Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews and Clifton Webb. The screenplay by Jay Dratler, Samuel Hoffenstein, and Elizabeth Reinhardt is based on the 1943 novel of the same title by Vera Caspary....

(1944) made his name and helped demonstrate noir's adaptability to a high-gloss 20th Century-Fox presentation. Among Hollywood's most celebrated directors of the era, arguably none worked more often in a noir mode than Preminger—his other classic noirs include Fallen Angel
Fallen Angel (1945 film)
Fallen Angel is a 1945 black-and-white film noir directed by Otto Preminger, with cinematography by Joseph LaShelle, who had also worked with Preminger on Laura a year before. The film features Alice Faye, Dana Andrews, Linda Darnell, and Charles Bickford. It was the last film Faye made as a major...

(1945), Whirlpool (1949), Where the Sidewalk Ends
Where the Sidewalk Ends
Where the Sidewalk Ends is a 1950 American film noir directed and produced by Otto Preminger. The screenplay for the film was written by Ben Hecht, and adapted by Robert E. Kent, Frank P. Rosenberg, and Victor Trivas. The screenplay and adaptations were based on the novel Night Cry by William L....

(1950) (all for Fox) and Angel Face (1952). A half-decade after Double Indemnity and The Lost Weekend, Billy Wilder made Sunset Boulevard (1950) and Ace in the Hole
Ace in the Hole (1951 film)
Ace in the Hole is a 1951 American drama film starring Kirk Douglas as a cynical, disgraced reporter who stops at nothing to try to regain a job on a major newspaper....

(1951), noirs that were not so much crime dramas as satires on, respectively, Hollywood and the news media. In a Lonely Place
In a Lonely Place
In a Lonely Place is a film noir directed by Nicholas Ray, and starring Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame, produced for Bogart's Santana Productions. The script was adapted by Edmund North from the 1947 novel In a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes.Bogart stars in the film as Dixon Steele, a...

(1950) was Nicholas Ray
Nicholas Ray
Nicholas Ray was an American film director best known for the movie Rebel Without a Cause....

's breakthrough; his other noirs include his debut, They Live by Night
They Live by Night
They Live by Night is a film noir, based on Edward Anderson's Depression era novel Thieves Like Us. The film was directed by Nicholas Ray and starred Farley Granger as "Bowie" Bowers and Cathy O'Donnell as "Keechie" Mobley...

(1948), and On Dangerous Ground
On Dangerous Ground
On Dangerous Ground is a film noir directed by Nicholas Ray and produced by John Houseman. The screenplay was written by A. I. Bezzerides based on the novel Mad with Much Heart, by Gerald Butler...

(1952), noted for their unusually sympathetic treatment of characters alienated from the social mainstream.

Orson Welles had notorious problems with financing, but his three film noirs were well budgeted: The Lady from Shanghai
The Lady from Shanghai
The Lady from Shanghai is a 1947 film noir directed by Orson Welles and starring Welles, his estranged wife Rita Hayworth and Everett Sloane. It is based on the novel If I Die Before I Wake by Sherwood King.-Plot:...

(1947) received top-level, "prestige" backing, while both The Stranger, his most conventional film, and Touch of Evil, an unmistakably personal work, were funded at levels lower but still commensurate with headlining releases. Like The Stranger, Fritz Lang's The Woman in the Window
The Woman in the Window
The Woman in the Window is a film noir directed by Fritz Lang that tells the story of psychology professor Richard Wanley who meets and becomes enamored with a young femme fatale....

(1945) was a production of the independent International Pictures. Lang's follow-up, Scarlet Street
Scarlet Street
Scarlet Street is a 1945 American film noir directed by Fritz Lang and based on the French novel La Chienne by Georges de La Fouchardière, that previously had been dramatized on stage by André Mouëzy-Éon, and cinematically as La Chienne by director Jean Renoir.The principal actors Edward G...

(1945), was one of the few classic noirs to be officially censored: filled with erotic innuendo, it was temporarily banned in Milwaukee, Atlanta, and New York State. Scarlet Street was a semi-independent—cosponsored by Universal
Universal Studios
Universal Pictures , a subsidiary of NBCUniversal, is one of the six major movie studios....

 and Lang's own Diana Productions, of which the film's costar, Joan Bennett
Joan Bennett
Joan Geraldine Bennett was an American stage, film and television actress. Besides acting on the stage, Bennett appeared in more than 70 motion pictures from the era of silent movies well into the sound era...

, was the second biggest shareholder. Lang, Bennett, and her husband, Universal veteran and Diana production head Walter Wanger
Walter Wanger
Walter Wanger was an American film producer. An intellectual and a socially conscious movie executive who produced provocative message movies and glittering romantic melodramas, Wanger's career began at Paramount Pictures in the 1920s and led him to work at virtually every major studio as either a...

, would make Secret Beyond the Door (1948) in similar fashion.

Before he was forced abroad for political reasons, director Jules Dassin made two classic noirs that also straddled the major/independent line: Brute Force
Brute Force (1947 film)
Brute Force is a brooding, brutal film noir, starring Burt Lancaster, Hume Cronyn and Charles Bickford. It was directed by Jules Dassin, with a screenplay by Richard Brooks and the cinematography by William H. Daniels....

(1947) and the influential documentary-style The Naked City
The Naked City
The Naked City is a 1948 black-and-white film noir directed by Jules Dassin. The movie, shot partially in documentary style, was filmed on location on the streets of New York City, featuring landmarks such as the Williamsburg Bridge the Whitehall Building and an apartment building on West 83rd...

were developed by producer Mark Hellinger
Mark Hellinger
Mark Hellinger was an American journalist, theatre columnist, and film producer.-Early life and career:Hellinger was born into an Orthodox Jewish family in New York City, although in later life he became a non-practicing Jew. When he was fifteen, he organized a student strike at Townsend Harris...

, who had an "inside/outside" contract with Universal similar to Wanger's. Years earlier, working at Warner Bros., Hellinger had produced three films for Raoul Walsh
Raoul Walsh
Raoul Walsh was an American film director, actor, founding member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the brother of silent screen actor George Walsh...

, the proto-noirs They Drive by Night
They Drive by Night
They Drive by Night is a black-and-white film noir starring George Raft, Ann Sheridan, Ida Lupino, and Humphrey Bogart, and directed by Raoul Walsh. The picture involves a pair of embattled truck drivers and was released in the UK under the title The Road to Frisco. The film was based on A. I...

(1940) and Manpower
Manpower (1941 film)
Manpower is a 1941 film about power company linemen starring Edward G. Robinson, Marlene Dietrich, and George Raft. The memorable posters for the movie proclaimed, "Robinson - He's mad about Dietrich. Dietrich - She's mad about Raft...

(1941), and High Sierra (1941), now regarded as a key work in noir's development. Walsh had no great name recognition during his half-century as a working director, but his noirs White Heat
White Heat
White Heat may refer to:In film:* White Heat , a British film directed by Thomas Bentley* White Heat , an American film* White Heat, a 1949 film starring James CagneyIn music:...

(1949) and The Enforcer
The Enforcer (1951 film)
The Enforcer is a black-and-white 1951 film noir starring Humphrey Bogart. Based on the Murder, Inc. trials, the film is largely a police procedural directed by Bretaigne Windust with uncredited help from Raoul Walsh, who shot most of the film's suspenseful moments, including the ending...

(1951) had A-list stars and are seen as important examples of the cycle. In addition to the aforementioned, other directors associated with top-of-the-bill Hollywood film noirs include Edward Dmytryk
Edward Dmytryk
Edward Dmytryk was an American film director who was amongst the Hollywood Ten, a group of blacklisted film industry professionals who served time in prison for being in contempt of Congress during the McCarthy-era 'red scare'.-Early life:Dmytryk was born in Grand Forks, British Columbia, Canada,...

 (Murder, My Sweet
Murder, My Sweet
Murder, My Sweet is a 1944 American film noir directed by Edward Dmytryk, and starring Dick Powell, Claire Trevor, and Anne Shirley. The film was released in the United Kingdom under the title Farewell, My Lovely, which is the title of the 1940 Raymond Chandler novel it is based on, and also the...

[1944], Crossfire
Crossfire (film)
-External links:* review at DVD Savant by Glenn Erickson* film trailer at YouTube...

[1947])—the first important noir director to fall prey to the industry blacklist
Hollywood blacklist
The Hollywood blacklist—as the broader entertainment industry blacklist is generally known—was the mid-twentieth-century list of screenwriters, actors, directors, musicians, and other U.S. entertainment professionals who were denied employment in the field because of their political beliefs or...

—as well as Henry Hathaway
Henry Hathaway
Henry Hathaway was an American film director and producer. He is best known as a director of Westerns, especially starring John Wayne.-Background:...

 (The Dark Corner
The Dark Corner
The Dark Corner is a 1946 film noir directed by Henry Hathaway and starring Lucille Ball, Mark Stevens and Clifton Webb. The film is an example of a classic film noir and features a rare dramatic role for Ball.-Plot:...

[1946], Kiss of Death
Kiss of Death (1947 film)
Kiss of Death is a 1947 film noir movie directed by Henry Hathaway and written by Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer from a story by Eleazar Lipsky. The story revolves around the film's protagonist, a former robber, and the antagonist, the ruthless, violent Tommy Udo...

[1947]) and John Farrow
John Farrow
John Villiers Farrow, CBE was an Australian, later American, film director, producer and screenwriter. In 1957 he won the Academy Award for Best Writing / Best Screenplay for Around the World in Eighty Days and in 1942 he was nominated as Best Director for Wake Island.-Life and career:Farrow was...

 (The Big Clock
The Big Clock (1948 film)
The Big Clock is a 1948 film noir thriller directed by John Farrow, adapted by renowned novelist-screenwriter Jonathan Latimer from the novel of the same name by Kenneth Fearing....

[1948], Night Has a Thousand Eyes
Night Has a Thousand Eyes
Night Has a Thousand Eyes is a 1948 film noir, starring Edward G. Robinson and directed by John Farrow. The screenplay was written by Barré Lyndon and Jonathan Latimer. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Cornell Woolrich.- Plot :...

[1948]).

As noted above, however, most of the Hollywood films now considered classic noirs fall into the broad category of the "B movie". Some were Bs in the most precise sense, produced to run on the bottom of double bills
Double feature
The double feature, also known as a double bill, was a motion picture industry phenomenon in which theatre managers would exhibit two films for the price of one, supplanting an earlier format in which one feature film and various short subject reels would be shown.The double feature, also known as...

 by a low-budget unit of one of the major studios
Studio system
The studio system was a means of film production and distribution dominant in Hollywood from the early 1920s through the early 1960s. The term studio system refers to the practice of large motion picture studios producing movies primarily on their own filmmaking lots with creative personnel under...

 or by one of the smaller, so-called Poverty Row
Poverty Row
Poverty Row is a slang term used in Hollywood from the late silent period through the mid-fifties to refer to a variety of small and mostly short-lived B movie studios...

 outfits, from the relatively well-off Monogram
Monogram Pictures
Monogram Pictures Corporation is a Hollywood studio that produced and released films, most on low budgets, between 1931 and 1953, when the firm completed a transition to the name Allied Artists Pictures Corporation. Monogram is considered a leader among the smaller studios sometimes referred to...

 to shakier ventures such as Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC)
Producers Releasing Corporation
Producers Releasing Corporation was one of the more lower-end Hollywood film studios on Poverty Row from the late '30s to the mid-'40s. PRC, as it was commonly known, made low-budget B-movies for the lower-half of a double bill. A few of its films have gained a respectable reputation over the...

. Jacques Tourneur
Jacques Tourneur
Jacques Tourneur was a French-American film director.-Life:Born in Paris, France, he was the son of film director Maurice Tourneur. At age 10, Jacques moved to the United States with his father. He started a career in cinema while still attending high school as an extra and later as a script clerk...

 had made over thirty Hollywood Bs (a few now highly regarded, most completely forgotten) before directing the A-level Out of the Past, described by scholar Robert Ottoson as "the ne plus ultra of forties film noir". Movies with budgets a step up the ladder, known as "intermediates" within the industry, might be treated as A or B pictures depending on the circumstance—Monogram created a new unit, Allied Artists, in the late 1940s to focus on this sort of production. Such films have long colloquially been referred to as B movies. Robert Wise
Robert Wise
Robert Earl Wise was an American sound effects editor, film editor, film producer and director...

 (Born to Kill
Born to Kill (1947 film)
Born to Kill is a 1947 film noir starring Lawrence Tierney and directed by Robert Wise. It was the first film noir to be directed by Wise, who later directed The Set-Up , The Captive City , and Odds Against Tomorrow...

[1947], The Set-Up
The Set-Up (1949 film)
For 2011 Set Up see hereThe Set-Up is an American film noir boxing drama directed by Robert Wise and featuring Robert Ryan and Audrey Totter. The screenplay was adapted by Art Cohn from a 1928 poem written by Joseph Moncure March. The film is about the boxing underworld.-Plot:Stoker Thompson ...

[1949]) and Anthony Mann
Anthony Mann
Anthony Mann was an American actor and film director, most notably of film noirs and Westerns. As a director, he often collaborated with the cinematographer John Alton and with James Stewart in his Westerns.-Biography:...

 (T-Men
T-Men
T-Men is a semidocumentary style 1947 film noir shot in black-and-white. The film was directed by Anthony Mann with cinematography by noted noir cameraman John Alton....

[1947], Raw Deal
Raw Deal (1948 film)
Raw Deal is a 1948 film noir directed by Anthony Mann and shot by cinematographer John Alton.-Plot:Prisoner Joe Sullivan , who has "taken the fall" for an unspecified crime, breaks jail with the help of his girl, Pat...

[1948]) each made a series of impressive intermediates, many of them noirs, before graduating to steady work on big-budget productions. Mann did some of his most celebrated work with cinematographer John Alton
John Alton
John Alton A.S.C. , born Johann Altmann, in Sopron/Ödenburg, Kingdom of Hungary, Austria-Hungary, was an American cinematographer...

, a specialist in what critic James Naremore describes as "hypnotic moments of light-in-darkness". He Walked by Night
He Walked by Night
He Walked by Night is a black-and-white police procedural film noir, crediting Alfred L. Werker as director. The film, shot in semidocumentary tone, was loosely based on newspaper accounts of the real-life actions of Erwin "Machine-Gun" Walker, a former Glendale police department employee and...

(1948), shot by Alton and, though credited solely to Alfred Werker, directed in large part by Mann, demonstrates their technical mastery and exemplifies the late 1940s trend of "police procedural
Police procedural
The police procedural is a subgenre of detective fiction which attempts to convincingly depict the activities of a police force as they investigate crimes. While traditional detective novels usually concentrate on a single crime, police procedurals frequently depict investigations into several...

" crime dramas. Put out, like other Mann–Alton noirs, by the small Eagle-Lion
Eagle-Lion Films
Eagle-Lion Films was a British film production company owned by J. Arthur Rank intended to release British productions in the United States. In 1947 it acquired PRC Pictures, a small American production company, to produce B Pictures to accompany the British releases...

 company, it was the direct inspiration for the Dragnet
Dragnet (series)
Dragnet is a radio and television crime drama about the cases of a dedicated Los Angeles police detective, Sergeant Joe Friday, and his partners...

series, which debuted on radio in 1949 and television in 1951.
Several directors associated with noir built now well-respected oeuvres largely at the B-movie/intermediate level. Samuel Fuller
Samuel Fuller
Samuel Michael Fuller was an American screenwriter, novelist, and film director known for low-budget genre movies with controversial themes.-Personal life:...

's brutal, visually energetic films such as Pickup on South Street
Pickup on South Street
Pickup on South Street is writer-director Samuel Fuller's film noir released by the 20th Century Fox studio. The film stars Richard Widmark, Jean Peters and Thelma Ritter....

(1953) and Underworld U.S.A.
Underworld U.S.A.
Underworld U.S.A. is a 1961 neo-noir film produced, written and directed by Samuel Fuller. It tells the story of a fourteen-year-old boy who goes to enormous lengths to get revenge against the mobsters who beat his father to death...

(1961) earned him a unique reputation; his advocates praise him as "primitive" and "barbarous". Joseph H. Lewis directed noirs as diverse as Gun Crazy
Gun Crazy
Gun Crazy is a 1950 film noir feature film starring Peggy Cummins and John Dall in a story about the crime-spree of a gun-toting husband and wife. The film was directed by Joseph H. Lewis, and produced by Frank King and Maurice King...

(1950) and The Big Combo
The Big Combo
The Big Combo is an American film noir directed by Joseph H. Lewis and stylistically photographed by cinematographer and noir icon John Alton with music by David Raksin....

(1955). The former—whose screenplay was written by the blacklisted Dalton Trumbo
Dalton Trumbo
James Dalton Trumbo was an American screenwriter and novelist, and one of the Hollywood Ten, a group of film professionals who refused to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947 during the committee's investigation of Communist influences in the motion picture industry...

, disguised by a front—features a bank holdup sequence shown in an unbroken take over three minutes long that proved widely influential. The latter, shot by John Alton, takes the shadow-rich noir style to its outer limits. The most distinctive films of Phil Karlson
Phil Karlson
Phil Karlson was a film director known for his no-nonsense film noirs. Karlson directed 99 River Street, Kansas City Confidential and Hell's Island all with actor John Payne in the early 1950s...

 (The Phenix City Story
The Phenix City Story
The Phenix City Story is a film noir directed by Phil Karlson and written by Daniel Mainwaring and Crane Wilbur. The drama features John McIntire, Richard Kiley, among others.-Plot:...

[1955], The Brothers Rico
The Brothers Rico
The Brothers Rico is an American crime film noir directed by Phil Karlson and written by Lewis Meltzer, Ben Perry, and Dalton Trumbo. The film is based on a story written by Georges Simenon, a French detective-story specialist...

[1957]) tell stories of vice organized on a monstrous scale. The work of other directors who worked largely at this tier of the industry, such as Felix E. Feist
Felix E. Feist
Felix Ellison Feist was a film and television director born in New York City.Feist was the son of MGM sales executive, Felix F. Fiest , and nephew of publishing house magnate, Leo Feist. He was educated at Columbia University...

 (The Devil Thumbs a Ride
The Devil Thumbs a Ride
The Devil Thumbs a Ride is a 1947 suspense film, considered to be film noir, starring Lawrence Tierney.-Plot:Steve Morgan , a charming but utterly sociopathic criminal who has just robbed and killed a cinema cashier, gets a ride with unsuspecting Jimmy 'Fergie' Ferguson , who does not know that...

[1947], Tomorrow Is Another Day [1951]), is now relatively obscure. Edgar G. Ulmer spent almost his entire Hollywood career working at B studios—once in a while on projects that achieved intermediate status; for the most part, on unmistakable Bs. In 1945, while at PRC, he directed one of the all-time noir cult classics, Detour
Detour (1945 film)
Detour is a film noir thriller that stars Tom Neal, Ann Savage, Claudia Drake and Edmund MacDonald. The movie was adapted by Martin Goldsmith and Martin Mooney from Goldsmith's novel of the same name and was directed by Edgar G. Ulmer...

. Ulmer's other noirs include Strange Illusion
Strange Illusion
Strange Illusion is a 1945 American film noir directed by Edgar G. Ulmer. According to noir historian Spencer Selby the film is, "A stylish cheapie by the recognized master of stylish cheapies."-Plot summary:...

(1945), also for PRC; Ruthless
Ruthless (film)
Ruthless is a drama film directed by Edgar G. Ulmer and starring Zachary Scott and Louis Hayward.-Plot:Horace Vendig shows himself to the world as a rich philanthropist. In fact, the history of his rise from his unhappy broken home shows this to be far from the case...

(1948), for Eagle-Lion, which had acquired PRC the previous year; and Murder Is My Beat (1955), for Allied Artists.

A number of low- and modestly budgeted noirs were made by independent, often actor-owned, companies contracting with one of the larger outfits for distribution. Serving as producer, writer, director, and top-billed performer, Hugo Haas
Hugo Haas
Hugo Haas was a Czech film actor, director and writer. He appeared in over 60 films between 1926 and 1962, as well as directing 20 films between 1933 and 1962....

 made several such films, including Pickup (1951) and The Other Woman (1954). It was in this way that accomplished noir actress Ida Lupino
Ida Lupino
Ida Lupino was an English-born film actress and director, and a pioneer among women filmmakers. In her 48-year career, she appeared in 59 films and directed seven others, mostly in the United States. She appeared in serial television programmes 58 times and directed 50 other episodes...

 established herself as the sole female director in Hollywood during the late 1940s and much of the 1950s. She does not appear in the best-known film she directed, The Hitch-Hiker
The Hitch-Hiker (1953 film)
The Hitch-Hiker is a film noir directed by Ida Lupino about two fishing buddies who pick up a mysterious hitchhiker during a trip to Mexico....

(1953), developed by her company, The Filmakers, with support and distribution by RKO. It is one of the seven classic film noirs produced largely outside of the major studios that have been chosen for the United States National Film Registry
National Film Registry
The National Film Registry is the United States National Film Preservation Board's selection of films for preservation in the Library of Congress. The Board, established by the National Film Preservation Act of 1988, was reauthorized by acts of Congress in 1992, 1996, 2005, and again in October 2008...

. Of the others, one was a small-studio release: Detour. Four were independent productions distributed by United Artists
United Artists
United Artists Corporation is an American film studio. The original studio of that name was founded in 1919 by D. W. Griffith, Charles Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks....

, the "studio without a studio": Gun Crazy; Kiss Me Deadly; D.O.A.
D.O.A. (1950 film)
D.O.A. , a film noir drama film directed by Rudolph Maté, is considered a classic of the genre. The frantically paced plot revolves around a doomed man's quest to find out who has poisoned him – and why – before he dies.Leo C...

(1950), directed by Rudolph Maté
Rudolph Maté
Born in Kraków , Maté started in the film business after his graduation from the University of Budapest. He went on to work as an assistant cameraman in Hungary and later throughout Europe, sometimes with noted colleague Karl Freund...

; and Sweet Smell of Success
Sweet Smell of Success
Sweet Smell of Success is a 1957 American film noir made by Hill-Hecht-Lancaster Productions and released by United Artists. It was directed by Alexander Mackendrick and stars Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison and Martin Milner. The screenplay was written by Clifford Odets, Ernest Lehman...

(1957), directed by Alexander Mackendrick
Alexander Mackendrick
Alexander Mackendrick was a Scottish American director and teacher. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts and later moved to Scotland...

. One was an independent distributed by MGM
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. is an American media company, involved primarily in the production and distribution of films and television programs. MGM was founded in 1924 when the entertainment entrepreneur Marcus Loew gained control of Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures Corporation and Louis B. Mayer...

, the industry leader: Force of Evil
Force of Evil
Force of Evil is a 1948 film noir directed by Abraham Polonsky who had already achieved a name for himself as a scriptwriter, most notably for the gritty boxing film Body and Soul . Like Body and Soul, the film starred John Garfield...

(1948), directed by Abraham Polonsky
Abraham Polonsky
Abraham Lincoln Polonsky was an American film director, Academy-Award-nominated screenwriter, essayist, and novelist blacklisted by the Hollywood movie studios in the 1950s, in the midst of the McCarthy era.-Early life:...

 and starring John Garfield
John Garfield
John Garfield was an American actor adept at playing brooding, rebellious, working-class character roles. He grew up in poverty in Depression-era New York City and in the early 1930s became an important member of the Group Theater. In 1937 he moved to Hollywood, eventually becoming one of Warner...

, both of whom would be blacklisted in the 1950s. Independent production usually meant restricted circumstances, but not always—Sweet Smell of Success, for instance, despite the original plans of the production team, was clearly not made on the cheap, though like many other cherished A-budget noirs it might be said to have a B-movie soul.

Perhaps no director better displayed that spirit than the German-born Robert Siodmak
Robert Siodmak
Robert Siodmak was a German born American film director. He is best remembered as a thriller specialist and for the series of Hollywood film noirs he made in the 1940s.-Early life:...

, who had already made a score of films before his 1940 arrival in Hollywood. Working mostly on A features, he made no fewer than eight films now regarded as classic-era film noirs (a figure matched only by Lang and Mann). In addition to The Killers, Burt Lancaster
Burt Lancaster
Burton Stephen "Burt" Lancaster was an American film actor noted for his athletic physique and distinctive smile...

's debut and a Hellinger/Universal coproduction, Siodmak's other important contributions to the genre include 1944's Phantom Lady
Phantom Lady (1944 film)
Phantom Lady is a 1944 film noir directed by Robert Siodmak, his first Hollywood noir. It was also a first for producer Joan Harrison, Universal Pictures' first female executive and Alfred Hitchcock's former screenwriter...

(a top-of-the-line B and Woolrich adaptation), the ironically titled Christmas Holiday
Christmas Holiday
Christmas Holiday is a 1944 American drama film directed by Robert Siodmak. The black-and-white film noir is loosely based on a novel by W. Somerset Maugham. Producer Felix Jackson chose this project as a dramatic vehicle for Deanna Durbin. The screenplay was adapted by Herman J. Mankiewicz, who...

(1944), and Cry of the City
Cry of the City
Cry of the City is a 1948 black-and-white film noir directed by Robert Siodmak based on the novel by Henry Edward Helseth, The Chair for Martin Rome. Veteran film noir-writer Ben Hecht worked on the film's script, but is not credited...

(1948). Criss Cross
Criss Cross (1949 film)
Criss Cross is a 1949 film noir, directed by Robert Siodmak from a novel of the same name by Don Tracy. This black-and-white film was shot partly on location in the Bunker Hill section of Los Angeles. The film was written by Daniel Fuchs. Franz Planer's cinematography creates a black-and-white...

(1949), with Lancaster again the lead, exemplifies how Siodmak brought the virtues of the B-movie to the A noir. In addition to the relatively looser constraints on character and message at lower budgets, the nature of B production lent itself to the noir style for directly economic reasons: dim lighting not only saved on electrical costs but helped cloak cheap sets (mist and smoke also served the cause); night shooting was often compelled by hurried production schedules; plots with obscure motivations and intriguingly elliptical transitions were sometimes the consequence of hastily written scripts, of which there was not always enough time or money to shoot every scene. In Criss Cross, Siodmak achieves all these effects with purpose, wrapping them around Yvonne De Carlo
Yvonne De Carlo
Yvonne De Carlo was a Canadian-born American actress of film and television. During her six-decade career, her most frequent appearances in film came in the 1940s and 1950s and included her best-known film roles, such as of Anna Marie in Salome Where She Danced ; Anna in Criss Cross ; Sephora the...

, playing the most understandable of femme fatales, Dan Duryea
Dan Duryea
Dan Duryea was an American actor, known for roles in film, stage and television.-Early life:Born and raised in White Plains, New York, Duryea graduated from White Plains Senior High School in 1924 and Cornell University in 1928. While at Cornell, Duryea was elected into the Sphinx Head Society...

, in one of his many charismatic villain roles, and Lancaster—already an established star—as an ordinary laborer turned armed robber, doomed by a romantic obsession.
Classic-era film noirs in the National Film Registry
National Film Registry
The National Film Registry is the United States National Film Preservation Board's selection of films for preservation in the Library of Congress. The Board, established by the National Film Preservation Act of 1988, was reauthorized by acts of Congress in 1992, 1996, 2005, and again in October 2008...

1940–49
1940s in film
The decade of the 1940s in film involved many significant films. Hundreds of full-length films were produced during the decade of the 1940s. The great actor Humphrey Bogart made his most memorable films in this decade. Orson Welles's masterpiece Citizen Kane was also released...


The Maltese Falcon
The Maltese Falcon (1941 film)
The Maltese Falcon is a 1941 Warner Bros. film based on the novel of the same name by Dashiell Hammett and a remake of the 1931 film of the same name...

|
Shadow of a Doubt
Shadow of a Doubt
Shadow of a Doubt is a 1943 American thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and starring Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten. Written by Thornton Wilder, Sally Benson, and Alma Reville, the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Story for Gordon McDonell...

|
Laura
Laura (1944 film)
Laura is a 1944 American film noir directed by Otto Preminger. It stars Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews and Clifton Webb. The screenplay by Jay Dratler, Samuel Hoffenstein, and Elizabeth Reinhardt is based on the 1943 novel of the same title by Vera Caspary....

|
Double Indemnity |
Mildred Pierce
Mildred Pierce (film)
Mildred Pierce is a 1945 American drama film starring Joan Crawford, Ann Blyth, Jack Carson, Zachary Scott, and Eve Arden in a film noir about a long-suffering mother and her ungrateful daughter. The screenplay by Ranald MacDougall, William Faulkner, and Catherine Turney was based upon the 1941...

|
Detour
Detour (1945 film)
Detour is a film noir thriller that stars Tom Neal, Ann Savage, Claudia Drake and Edmund MacDonald. The movie was adapted by Martin Goldsmith and Martin Mooney from Goldsmith's novel of the same name and was directed by Edgar G. Ulmer...



The Big Sleep
The Big Sleep (1946 film)
The Big Sleep is a 1946 film noir directed by Howard Hawks, the first film version of Raymond Chandler's 1939 novel of the same name. The movie stars Humphrey Bogart as detective Philip Marlowe and Lauren Bacall as the female lead in a film about the "process of a criminal investigation, not its...

|
The Killers
The Killers (1946 film)
The Killers is a 1946 American film noir directed by Robert Siodmak. It is based in part on the short story of the same name by Ernest Hemingway. The film features Burt Lancaster in his screen debut, as well as Ava Gardner, Edmond O'Brien, and Sam Levene...

|
Notorious |
Out of the Past
Out of the Past
Out of the Past is a 1947 film noir directed by Jacques Tourneur and starring Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, and Kirk Douglas. The film was adapted by Daniel Mainwaring , with uncredited revisions by Frank Fenton and James M...

|
Force of Evil
Force of Evil
Force of Evil is a 1948 film noir directed by Abraham Polonsky who had already achieved a name for himself as a scriptwriter, most notably for the gritty boxing film Body and Soul . Like Body and Soul, the film starred John Garfield...

|
The Naked City
The Naked City
The Naked City is a 1948 black-and-white film noir directed by Jules Dassin. The movie, shot partially in documentary style, was filmed on location on the streets of New York City, featuring landmarks such as the Williamsburg Bridge the Whitehall Building and an apartment building on West 83rd...

|
White Heat
White Heat
White Heat may refer to:In film:* White Heat , a British film directed by Thomas Bentley* White Heat , an American film* White Heat, a 1949 film starring James CagneyIn music:...

1950–58
1950s in film
The decade of the 1950s in film involved many significant films.----Contents1 Events2 List of films: # A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z.-Events:...


The Asphalt Jungle
The Asphalt Jungle
The Asphalt Jungle is a 1950 film noir directed by John Huston. The caper film is based on the novel of the same name by W. R. Burnett and stars an ensemble cast including Sterling Hayden, Jean Hagen, Sam Jaffe, Louis Calhern, James Whitmore, and, in a minor but key role, Marilyn Monroe, an unknown...

|
D.O.A.
D.O.A. (1950 film)
D.O.A. , a film noir drama film directed by Rudolph Maté, is considered a classic of the genre. The frantically paced plot revolves around a doomed man's quest to find out who has poisoned him – and why – before he dies.Leo C...

|
Gun Crazy
Gun Crazy
Gun Crazy is a 1950 film noir feature film starring Peggy Cummins and John Dall in a story about the crime-spree of a gun-toting husband and wife. The film was directed by Joseph H. Lewis, and produced by Frank King and Maurice King...

|
Sunset Boulevard |
In a Lonely Place
In a Lonely Place
In a Lonely Place is a film noir directed by Nicholas Ray, and starring Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame, produced for Bogart's Santana Productions. The script was adapted by Edmund North from the 1947 novel In a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes.Bogart stars in the film as Dixon Steele, a...



The Hitch-Hiker
The Hitch-Hiker (1953 film)
The Hitch-Hiker is a film noir directed by Ida Lupino about two fishing buddies who pick up a mysterious hitchhiker during a trip to Mexico....

|
Kiss Me Deadly
Kiss Me Deadly
Kiss Me Deadly is a 1955 film noir drama produced and directed by Robert Aldrich starring Ralph Meeker. The screenplay was written by A.I. Bezzerides, based on the Mickey Spillane Mike Hammer mystery novel Kiss Me, Deadly. Kiss Me Deadly is often considered a classic of the noir genre. The film...

|
The Night of the Hunter
The Night of the Hunter (film)
The Night of the Hunter is a 1955 American thriller film directed by Charles Laughton and starring Robert Mitchum and Shelley Winters. The film is based on the 1953 novel of the same name by Davis Grubb, adapted for the screen by James Agee and Laughton...

|
Sweet Smell of Success
Sweet Smell of Success
Sweet Smell of Success is a 1957 American film noir made by Hill-Hecht-Lancaster Productions and released by United Artists. It was directed by Alexander Mackendrick and stars Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison and Martin Milner. The screenplay was written by Clifford Odets, Ernest Lehman...

|
Touch of Evil
Touch of Evil
Touch of Evil is a 1958 American crime thriller film, written, directed by, and co-starring Orson Welles. The screenplay was loosely based on the novel Badge of Evil by Whit Masterson...


Outside the United States

Some critics regard classic film noir as a cycle exclusive to the United States; Alain Silver and Elizabeth Ward, for example, argue, "With the Western, film noir shares the distinction of being an indigenous American form ... a wholly American film style." Others, however, regard noir as an international phenomenon. Even before the beginning of the generally accepted classic period, there were films made far from Hollywood that can be seen in retrospect as film noirs, for example, the French productions Pépé le Moko
Pépé le Moko
Pépé le Moko is a 1937 French film directed by Julien Duvivier and starring Jean Gabin. It depicts an infamous gangster, Pépé le Moko who tries to escape the police by hiding in the casbah of the city of Algiers...

(1937), directed by Julien Duvivier
Julien Duvivier
Julien Duvivier was a French film director. He was prominent in French cinema in the years 1930-1960...

, and Le Jour se lève
Le Jour se lève
Le Jour se lève is a 1939 French film directed by Marcel Carné and written by Jacques Prévert, based on a story by Jacques Viot. It is considered one of the principal examples of the French film movement known as poetic realism....

(1939), directed by Marcel Carné
Marcel Carné
-Biography:Born in Paris, France, the son of a cabinet maker whose wife died when their son was five, Carné began his career as a film critic, becoming editor of the weekly publication, Hebdo-Films, and working for Cinémagazine and Cinémonde between 1929 and 1933. In the same period he worked in...

.

During the classic period, there were many films produced outside the United States, particularly in France, that share elements of style, theme, and sensibility with American film noirs and may themselves be included in the genre's canon. In certain cases, the interrelationship with Hollywood noir is obvious: American-born director Jules Dassin
Jules Dassin
Julius "Jules" Dassin , was an American film director, with Jewish-Russian origins. He was a subject of the Hollywood blacklist in the McCarthy era, and subsequently moved to France where he revived his career.-Early life:...

 moved to France in the early 1950s as a result of the Hollywood blacklist
Hollywood blacklist
The Hollywood blacklist—as the broader entertainment industry blacklist is generally known—was the mid-twentieth-century list of screenwriters, actors, directors, musicians, and other U.S. entertainment professionals who were denied employment in the field because of their political beliefs or...

, and made one of the most famous French film noirs, Rififi
Rififi
Rififi is a 1955 French crime film adaptation of Auguste le Breton's novel of the same name. Directed by American filmmaker Jules Dassin, the film stars Jean Servais as the aging gangster Tony le Stéphanois, Carl Möhner as Jo le Suédois, Robert Manuel as Mario Farrati, and Jules Dassin as César le...

(1955). Other well-known French films often classified as noir include Quai des Orfèvres
Quai des Orfèvres
Quai des Orfèvres is a 1947 French police procedural drama based on the book Légitime défense by Stanislas-Andre Steeman. Directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot the film stars Suzy Delair as Jenny Lamour, Bernard Blier as Maurice Martineau, Louis Jouvet as Inspector Antoine and Simone Renant as...

(1947), Le Salaire de la peur (released in English-speaking countries as The Wages of Fear) (1953) and Les Diaboliques
Les Diaboliques (film)
Les Diaboliques , released as Diabolique in the United States and variously translated as The Devils or The Fiends, is a 1955 French black-and-white thriller feature film directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, starring Simone Signoret, Véra Clouzot and Paul Meurisse...

(1955), all directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot
Henri-Georges Clouzot
Henri-Georges Clouzot was a French film director, screenwriter and producer. He is best remembered for his work in the thriller film genre, having directed The Wages of Fear and Les Diaboliques, which are critically recognized to be among the greatest films from the 1950s...

; Casque d'or
Casque d'or
Casque d'or is a 1952 French film directed by Jacques Becker. It is a Belle Époque tragedy, the story of an ill-fated love affair between characters played by Simone Signoret and Serge Reggiani.-Plot:...

(1952) and Touchez pas au grisbi
Touchez pas au grisbi
Touchez pas au grisbi is a 1954 French crime film directed by Jacques Becker and starring Jean Gabin, Jeanne Moreau, Lino Ventura, Dora Doll, Delia Scala, René Dary, and Miss America 1946, Marilyn Buferd...

(1954), both directed by Jacques Becker
Jacques Becker
Jacques Becker was a French screenwriter and film director.Becker was born in Paris, in an upper class background. During the 1930s he worked as an assistant to director Jean Renoir during his peak period, which produced such cinematic masterpieces as Grand Illusion and The Rules of the Game...

; and Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (1958), directed by Louis Malle
Louis Malle
Louis Malle was a French film director, screenwriter, and producer. He worked in both French cinema and Hollywood. His films include Ascenseur pour l'échafaud , Atlantic City , and Au revoir, les enfants .- Early years in France :Malle was born into a wealthy industrialist family in Thumeries,...

. French director Jean-Pierre Melville is widely recognized for his tragic, minimalist film noirs—Bob le flambeur
Bob le flambeur
Bob le flambeur is a 1956 French gangster film directed by Jean-Pierre Melville. The film stars Roger Duchesne as Bob...

(1955), from the classic period, was followed by Le Doulos
Le Doulos
Le Doulos is a 1962 French crime film directed by Jean-Pierre Melville. It was released theatrically as The Finger Man in the English-speaking world, but all video and DVD releases have used the French title...

(1962), Le deuxième souffle (1966), Le Samouraï
Le Samouraï
Le Samouraï is a 1967 French crime film directed by French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Melville, starring Alain Delon.- Plot :The story follows a perfectionist free-agent hitman, Jef Costello , who religiously adheres to a strict code of duty...

(1967), and Le Cercle rouge
Le Cercle rouge
Le Cercle rouge is a 1970 crime film set in Paris, France. It was directed by Jean-Pierre Melville and stars Alain Delon, Bourvil, Gian Maria Volonté and Yves Montand...

(1970).
Scholar Andrew Spicer argues that British film noir evidences a greater debt to French poetic realism than to the expressionistic American mode of noir. Examples of British noir from the classic period include Brighton Rock (1947), directed by John Boulting; They Made Me a Fugitive
They Made Me a Fugitive
They Made Me A Fugitive is a 1947 British film noir set in postwar England. Based on the Jackson Budd novel A Convict has Escaped, the black-and-white film was directed by Alberto Cavalcanti with brooding and atmospheric cinematography by noted cameraman Otto Heller...

(1947), directed by Alberto Cavalcanti
Alberto Cavalcanti
Alberto de Almeida Cavalcanti was a Brazilian-born film director and producer.-Early life:Cavalcanti was born in Rio de Janeiro, the son of a prominent mathematician. He was a precociously intelligent child, and by the age of 15 was studying law at university. Following an argument with a...

; The Small Back Room
The Small Back Room
The Small Back Room is a film by the British producer-writer-director team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger starring David Farrar and Kathleen Byron and featuring Jack Hawkins and Cyril Cusack. It was based on the novel of the same name by Nigel Balchin...

(1948), directed by Michael Powell
Michael Powell (director)
Michael Latham Powell was a renowned English film director, celebrated for his partnership with Emeric Pressburger...

 and Emeric Pressburger
Emeric Pressburger
Emeric Pressburger was a Hungarian-British screenwriter, film director, and producer. He is best known for his series of film collaborations with Michael Powell, in a multiple-award-winning partnership known as The Archers and produced a series of classic British films, notably 49th Parallel , The...

; The October Man
The October Man
The October Man is a 1947 mystery film starring John Mills and Joan Greenwood, based on a novel by Eric Ambler, who also adapted it and produced...

(1950), directed by Roy Ward Baker
Roy Ward Baker
Roy Ward Baker , born Roy Horace Baker, was an English film director, credited as Roy Baker for much of his career. His best known film is A Night to Remember which won a Golden Globe for Best English-Language Foreign Film in 1959...

; and Cast a Dark Shadow
Cast a Dark Shadow
Cast a Dark Shadow is a 1955 British suspense film directed by Lewis Gilbert. The black-and-white film was based on the play Murder Mistaken by Janet Green about a psychotic Bluebeard.-Plot:...

(1955), directed by Lewis Gilbert
Lewis Gilbert
Lewis Gilbert CBE is an English film director, producer and screenwriter.-Early life:He was the son of music hall performers, and spent his early years travelling with his parents, and watching the shows from the side of the stage. He first performed on-stage at the age of 5, when asked to drive a...

. Terence Fisher
Terence Fisher
Terence Fisher was a film director who worked for Hammer Films. He was born in Maida Vale, a district of London, England.Fisher was one of the most prominent horror directors of the second half of the 20th century...

 directed several low-budget thrillers in a noir mode for Hammer Film Productions
Hammer Film Productions
Hammer Film Productions is a film production company based in the United Kingdom. Founded in 1934, the company is best known for a series of Gothic "Hammer Horror" films made from the mid-1950s until the 1970s. Hammer also produced science fiction, thrillers, film noir and comedies and in later...

, including The Last Page
The Last Page
The Last Page is a 1952 British film noir starring George Brent, Marguerite Chapman, and Diana Dors. The movie, largely set in a bookstore, was directed by Terence Fisher and released in the United States as Man Bait.-Cast:...

(aka Man Bait; 1952), Stolen Face
Stolen Face
Stolen Face is a British film noir directed by Terence Fisher for Hammer Film Productions. With its theme of a man who, after the sudden end of a powerful romance with a beautiful blonde tries to recreate her by altering the appearance of another woman, it is clearly a forerunner of Vertigo...

(1952), and Murder by Proxy
Murder by Proxy
Murder by Proxy is a 1954 crime film directed by Terence Fisher. It stars Dane Clark and Belinda Lee.-Cast:* Dane Clark as Casey Morrow* Belinda Lee as Phyllis Brunner* Betty Ann Davies as Mrs...

(aka Blackout; 1954). Before leaving for France, Jules Dassin had been obliged by political pressure to shoot his last English-language film of the classic noir period in Great Britain: Night and the City
Night and the City
Night and the City is a film noir based on the novel by Gerald Kersh, directed by Jules Dassin, and starring Richard Widmark and Gene Tierney. Shot on location in London, the plot evolves around an ambitious hustler whose plans keep going wrong....

(1950). Though it was conceived in the United States and was not only directed by an American but also stars two American actors—Richard Widmark
Richard Widmark
Richard Weedt Widmark was an American film, stage and television actor.He was nominated for an Academy Award for his role as the villainous Tommy Udo in his debut film, Kiss of Death...

 and Gene Tierney
Gene Tierney
Gene Eliza Tierney was an American film and stage actress. Acclaimed as one of the great beauties of her day, she is best remembered for her performance in the title role of Laura and her Academy Award-nominated performance for Best Actress in Leave Her to Heaven .Other notable roles include...

—it is technically a UK production, financed by 20th Century-Fox's British subsidiary. The most famous of classic British noirs is director Carol Reed
Carol Reed
Sir Carol Reed was an English film director best known for Odd Man Out , The Fallen Idol , The Third Man and Oliver!...

's The Third Man
The Third Man
The Third Man is a 1949 British film noir, directed by Carol Reed and starring Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles, and Trevor Howard. Many critics rank it as a masterpiece, particularly remembered for its atmospheric cinematography, performances, and unique musical score...

(1949), like Brighton Rock based on a Graham Greene
Graham Greene
Henry Graham Greene, OM, CH was an English author, playwright and literary critic. His works explore the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world...

 novel. Set in Vienna immediately after World War II, it also stars two American actors, Joseph Cotten
Joseph Cotten
Joseph Cheshire Cotten was an American actor of stage and film. Cotten achieved prominence on Broadway, starring in the original productions of The Philadelphia Story and Sabrina Fair...

 and Orson Welles
Orson Welles
George Orson Welles , best known as Orson Welles, was an American film director, actor, theatre director, screenwriter, and producer, who worked extensively in film, theatre, television and radio...

, who had appeared together in Citizen Kane.

Elsewhere, Italian director Luchino Visconti
Luchino Visconti
Luchino Visconti di Modrone, Count of Lonate Pozzolo was an Italian theatre, opera and cinema director, as well as a screenwriter. He is best known for his films The Leopard and Death in Venice .-Life:...

 adapted Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice as Ossessione
Ossessione
Ossessione is a 1943 film based on the novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice, by James M. Cain. Luchino Visconti’s first feature film, it is considered by many to be the first Italian neorealist film, though there is some debate about whether such a categorization is accurate.- Historical context...

(1943), regarded both as one of the great noirs and a seminal film in the development of neorealism. (This was not even the first screen version of Cain's novel, having been preceded by the French Le Dernier tournant
Le Dernier tournant
Le Dernier tournant is a 1939 French drama film directed by Pierre Chenal, written by Charles Spaak and Henri Torrès, based on novel "The Postman Always Rings Twice" by James M...

in 1939.) In Japan, the celebrated Akira Kurosawa
Akira Kurosawa
was a Japanese film director, producer, screenwriter and editor. Regarded as one of the most important and influential filmmakers in the history of cinema, Kurosawa directed 30 filmsIn 1946, Kurosawa co-directed, with Hideo Sekigawa and Kajiro Yamamoto, the feature Those Who Make Tomorrow ;...

 directed several films recognizable as film noirs, including Drunken Angel
Drunken Angel
is a 1948 Japanese film directed by Akira Kurosawa. It is notable for being the first of sixteen film collaborations between director Kurosawa and actor Toshirō Mifune.- Plot :...

(1948), Stray Dog
Stray Dog (film)
is a 1949 film noir police procedural directed by Akira Kurosawa and starring frequent collaborators Toshirō Mifune and Takashi Shimura.-Plot:Action takes place during a heatwave in a bombed-out, post-war Tokyo...

(1949), The Bad Sleep Well
The Bad Sleep Well
is a 1960 film directed by the Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. It was the first film to be produced under Kurosawa's own independent production company. It was entered into the 11th Berlin International Film Festival....

(1960), and High and Low (1963).

Among the first major neo-noir
Neo-noir
Neo-noir is a style often seen in modern motion pictures and other forms that prominently utilize elements of film noir, but with updated themes, content, style, visual elements or media that were absent in films noir of the 1940s and 1950s.-History:The term Film Noir was coined by...

 films—the term often applied to films that consciously refer back to the classic noir tradition—was the French Tirez sur le pianiste
Shoot the Piano Player
Shoot the Piano Player is a 1960 French film directed by François Truffaut, starring Charles Aznavour.The film is loosely based on the novel Down There by David Goodis.- Plot summary :...

(1960), directed by François Truffaut
François Truffaut
François Roland Truffaut was an influential film critic and filmmaker and one of the founders of the French New Wave. In a film career lasting over a quarter of a century, he remains an icon of the French film industry. He was also a screenwriter, producer, and actor working on over twenty-five...

 from a novel by one of the gloomiest of American noir fiction writers, David Goodis
David Goodis
David Loeb Goodis was an American noir fiction writer.Born to a respectable Jewish family in Philadelphia, Goodis had two younger brothers, but one died of meningitis at the age of three...

. Noir crime films and melodramas have been produced in many countries in the post-classic area. Some of these are quintessentially self-aware neo-noirs—for example, Il Conformista
The Conformist (film)
The Conformist is a 1970 political drama film directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. The screenplay was written by Bertolucci based on the 1951 novel The Conformist by Alberto Moravia. The film features Jean-Louis Trintignant and Stefania Sandrelli, among others...

(1969; Italy), Der Amerikanische Freund
The American Friend
The American Friend is a 1977 film by Wim Wenders, loosely adapted from the novel Ripley's Game by Patricia Highsmith. The film is of the neo-noir genre, and features Dennis Hopper as career criminal Tom Ripley and Bruno Ganz as Jonathan Zimmermann, a terminally ill picture framer whom Ripley...

(1977; Germany), The Element of Crime
The Element of Crime
The Element of Crime is the first feature film directed by noted Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier. The film, released in 1984, is also the first in the director's Europa trilogy...

(1984; Denmark), As Tears Go By (1988; Hong Kong), and El Aura
El Aura
The Aura is an Argentine, French and Spanish neo-noir drama film, directed by Fabián Bielinsky, his second and final feature after Nine Queens. The picture features Ricardo Darín in the lead role, as well as Alejandro Awada, Dolores Fonzi, among others.The drama was the Argentine entry in the...

(2005; Argentina). Others simply share narrative elements and a version of the hardboiled sensibility associated with classic noir, such as The Castle of Sand
Yoshitaro Nomura
Yoshitarō Nomura was a prolific Japanese film director, film producer, and screenwriter. His first accredited film was released in 1953; his last in 1985...

(1974; Japan), Insomnia
Insomnia (1997 film)
Insomnia is a 1997 Norwegian thriller film about a police detective investigating a murder in a town located above the Arctic Circle. The investigation goes horribly wrong when he mistakenly shoots his partner and subsequently attempts to cover up his bungle...

(1997; Norway), Croupier
Croupier (film)
Croupier is a 1998 film starring Clive Owen as a croupier. Directed by Mike Hodges, the film was released by Image Entertainment on DVD in the USA, and Alliance Atlantis in Canada. Though intended as a feature film, it was shown on television in North America...

(1998; UK), Blind Shaft
Blind Shaft
Blind Shaft is a 2003 film about a pair of brutal con artists operating in the illegal coal mines of present-day northern China. The film was written and directed by Li Yang , and is based on Chinese writer Liu Qingbang's short novel Shen Mu .-Production history:Most of the filming took place 700...

(2003; China), and The Square
The Square (2008 film)
The Square is a neo-noir thriller film directed by Nash Edgerton, written by his brother Joel Edgerton and Matthew Dabner, and starring David Roberts and Claire van der Boom. Based upon an original idea by Joel, the project was written and then shelved by the actor because he felt it was not...

(2008; Australia).

1960s and 1970s

While it is hard to draw a line between some of the noir films of the early 1960s such as Blast of Silence
Blast of Silence
Blast of Silence is an American crime/thriller film released in 1961. It was written and directed by Allen Baron and produced by Merrill Brody who was also the cinematographer.-Characters and story:...

(1961) and Cape Fear
Cape Fear (1962 film)
Cape Fear is a 1962 film starring Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum and Polly Bergen. It was adapted by James R. Webb from the novel The Executioners by John D. MacDonald. It was directed by J. Lee Thompson, and released on April 12, 1962...

(1962) and the noirs of the late 1950s, new trends emerged in the post-classic era. The Manchurian Candidate
The Manchurian Candidate (1962 film)
The Manchurian Candidate is a 1962 American Cold War political thriller film starring Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh and Angela Lansbury, and featuring Henry Silva, James Gregory, Leslie Parrish and John McGiver...

(1962), directed by John Frankenheimer
John Frankenheimer
John Michael Frankenheimer was an American film and television director known for social dramas and action/suspense films...

, Shock Corridor
Shock Corridor
Shock Corridor is a 1963 film, directed and written by Samuel Fuller. The film tells the story of a journalist who gets himself committed to a mental hospital in order to track an unsolved murder.-Plot:...

(1962), directed by Samuel Fuller, and Brainstorm
Brainstorm (1965 film)
Brainstorm, released in 1965, is a late film noir. The film stars Jeffrey Hunter and Anne Francis and was produced and directed by William Conrad, who became better known as an actor in such television series as Cannon and Jake and the Fat Man.-Plot:On a lonely highway, Jim Grayam spots a car...

(1965), directed by experienced noir character actor William Conrad
William Conrad
William Conrad was an American actor, producer and director whose career spanned five decades in radio, film and television....

, all treat the theme of mental dispossession within stylistic and tonal frameworks derived from classic film noir. The Fugitive
The Fugitive (TV series)
The Fugitive is an American drama series produced by QM Productions and United Artists Television that aired on ABC from 1963 to 1967. David Janssen stars as Richard Kimble, a doctor from the fictional town of Stafford, Indiana, who is falsely convicted of his wife's murder and given the death...

(1963–67) brought classic noir themes and mood to television for an extended run.

In a different vein, films began to appear that self-consciously acknowledged the conventions of classic film noir as historical archetypes to be revived, rejected, or reimagined. These efforts typify what came to be known as neo-noir. Though several late classic noirs, Kiss Me Deadly in particular, were deeply self-knowing and post-traditional in conception, none tipped its hand so evidently as to be remarked on by American critics at the time. The first major film to overtly work this angle was French director Jean-Luc Godard
Jean-Luc Godard
Jean-Luc Godard is a French-Swiss film director, screenwriter and film critic. He is often identified with the 1960s French film movement, French Nouvelle Vague, or "New Wave"....

's À bout de souffle (Breathless; 1960), which pays its literal respects to Bogart and his crime films while brandishing a bold new style for a new day. In the United States, Arthur Penn
Arthur Penn
Arthur Hiller Penn was an American film director and producer with a career as a theater director as well. Penn amassed a critically acclaimed body of work throughout the 1960s and 1970s.-Early years:...

 (Mickey One
Mickey One
Mickey One is a 1965 surrealistic dramatic film starring Warren Beatty and directed by Arthur Penn from a script by Alan Surgal. Its kaleidoscopic camerawork, film noir atmosphere, lighting and design aspects, Kafkaesque paranoia, philosophical themes and Warren Beatty's performance in the title...

[1964], drawing inspiration from Truffaut's Tirez sur le pianiste and other French New Wave
French New Wave
The New Wave was a blanket term coined by critics for a group of French filmmakers of the late 1950s and 1960s, influenced by Italian Neorealism and classical Hollywood cinema. Although never a formally organized movement, the New Wave filmmakers were linked by their self-conscious rejection of...

 films), John Boorman
John Boorman
John Boorman is a British filmmaker who is a long time resident of Ireland and is best known for his feature films such as Point Blank, Deliverance, Zardoz, Excalibur, The Emerald Forest, Hope and Glory, The General and The Tailor of Panama.-Early life:Boorman was born in Shepperton, Surrey,...

 (Point Blank [1967], similarly caught up, though in the Nouvelle vague'
French New Wave
The New Wave was a blanket term coined by critics for a group of French filmmakers of the late 1950s and 1960s, influenced by Italian Neorealism and classical Hollywood cinema. Although never a formally organized movement, the New Wave filmmakers were linked by their self-conscious rejection of...

s deeper waters), and Alan J. Pakula
Alan J. Pakula
Alan Jay Pakula was an American film director, writer and producer noted for his contributions to the conspiracy thriller genre.-Career:...

 (Klute
Klute
Klute is a 1971 film which tells the story of a prostitute who assists a detective in solving a missing persons case. It stars Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland, Charles Cioffi and Roy Scheider. The movie was written by Andy Lewis and Dave Lewis and directed by Alan J. Pakula.Klute was the first...

[1971]) directed films that knowingly related themselves to the original film noirs, inviting audiences in on the game.

A manifest affiliation with noir traditions—which, by its nature, allows different sorts of commentary on them to be inferred—can also provide the basis for explicit critiques of those traditions. In 1973, director Robert Altman
Robert Altman
Robert Bernard Altman was an American film director and screenwriter known for making films that are highly naturalistic, but with a stylized perspective. In 2006, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized his body of work with an Academy Honorary Award.His films MASH , McCabe and...

 flipped off noir piety with The Long Goodbye
The Long Goodbye (film)
The Long Goodbye is a 1973 neo noir, directed by Robert Altman and based on Raymond Chandler's 1953 novel of the same name. The screenplay was written by Leigh Brackett, who co-wrote the screenplay for The Big Sleep in 1946...

. Based on the novel by Raymond Chandler, it features one of Bogart's most famous characters, but in iconoclastic
Iconoclasm
Iconoclasm is the deliberate destruction of religious icons and other symbols or monuments, usually with religious or political motives. It is a frequent component of major political or religious changes...

 fashion: Philip Marlowe, the prototypical hardboiled detective, is replayed as a hapless misfit, almost laughably out of touch with contemporary mores
Mores
Mores, in sociology, are any given society's particular norms, virtues, or values. The word mores is a plurale tantum term borrowed from Latin, which has been used in the English language since the 1890s....

 and morality. Where Altman's subversion of the film noir mythos was so irreverent as to outrage some contemporary critics, around the same time Woody Allen
Woody Allen
Woody Allen is an American screenwriter, director, actor, comedian, jazz musician, author, and playwright. Allen's films draw heavily on literature, sexuality, philosophy, psychology, Jewish identity, and the history of cinema...

 was paying affectionate, at points idolatrous homage to the classic mode with Play It Again, Sam (1972).

The most acclaimed of the neo-noirs of the era was director Roman Polanski
Roman Polanski
Roman Polanski is a French-Polish film director, producer, writer and actor. Having made films in Poland, Britain, France and the USA, he is considered one of the few "truly international filmmakers."...

's 1974 Chinatown. Written by Robert Towne
Robert Towne
Robert Towne is an American screenwriter and director. His most notable work may be his Academy Award-winning original screenplay for Roman Polanski's Chinatown .-Film:...

, it is set in 1930s Los Angeles, an accustomed noir locale nudged back some few years in a way that makes the pivotal loss of innocence in the story even crueler. Where Polanski and Towne raised noir to a black apogee by turning rearward, director Martin Scorsese
Martin Scorsese
Martin Charles Scorsese is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, actor, and film historian. In 1990 he founded The Film Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to film preservation, and in 2007 he founded the World Cinema Foundation...

 and screenwriter Paul Schrader
Paul Schrader
Paul Joseph Schrader is an American screenwriter, film director, and former film critic. Apart from his credentials as a director, Schrader is most notably known for his screenplays for Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and Raging Bull....

 brought the noir attitude crashing into the present day with Taxi Driver
Taxi Driver
Taxi Driver is a 1976 American drama film directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Paul Schrader. The film is set in New York City, soon after the Vietnam War. The film stars Robert De Niro and features Jodie Foster, Harvey Keitel, and Cybill Shepherd. The film was nominated for four Academy...

(1976), a cackling, bloody-minded gloss on bicentennial America. In 1978, Walter Hill wrote and directed The Driver
The Driver
The Driver is a 1978 crime film directed by Walter Hill and starring Ryan O'Neal, Bruce Dern, and Isabelle Adjani. Based upon similarities in plot elements, it is heavily influenced by Jean-Pierre Melville's film Le Samouraï...

, a chase film as might have been imagined by Jean-Pierre Melville in an especially abstract mood.

Hill was already a central figure in 1970s noir of a more straightforward manner, having written the script for director Sam Peckinpah
Sam Peckinpah
David Samuel "Sam" Peckinpah was an American filmmaker and screenwriter who achieved prominence following the release of the Western epic The Wild Bunch...

's The Getaway
The Getaway (1972 film)
The Getaway is a 1972 American action-crime film directed by Sam Peckinpah and starring Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw.The film is based on a novel by Jim Thompson, with the screenplay written by Walter Hill...

(1972), adapting a novel by pulp master Jim Thompson
Jim Thompson (writer)
James Myers Thompson was an American author and screenwriter, known for his pulp crime fiction....

, as well as for two tough private eye films: an original screenplay for Hickey & Boggs
Hickey & Boggs
Hickey & Boggs is a 1972 neo-noir detective movie written by Walter Hill and directed by Robert Culp. The film marks the first reunion of Culp and Bill Cosby since they starred together in the 1960s television series I Spy.-Plot:...

(1972) and an adaptation of a novel by Ross Macdonald
Ross Macdonald
Not to be confused with John D. MacDonaldRoss Macdonald is the pseudonym of the American-Canadian writer of crime fiction Kenneth Millar...

, the leading literary descendant of Hammett and Chandler, for The Drowning Pool
The Drowning Pool (film)
The Drowning Pool is a 1975 American thriller film directed by Stuart Rosenberg, and based upon Ross Macdonald's novel The Drowning Pool. The film stars Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, and Anthony Franciosa, and is a sequel to Harper...

(1975). Some of the strongest 1970s noirs, in fact, were unwinking remakes of the classics, "neo" mostly by default: the heartbreaking Thieves Like Us
Thieves Like Us (film)
Thieves Like Us is a 1974 film directed by Robert Altman, starring Keith Carradine and Shelley Duvall. The film was based on the novel Thieves Like Us by Edward Anderson...

(1973), directed by Altman from the same source as Ray's They Live by Night, and Farewell, My Lovely
Farewell, My Lovely (1975 film)
Farewell, My Lovely is a neo-noir film directed by Dick Richards and featuring Robert Mitchum and Charlotte Rampling. The picture is based on the novel Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler.-Plot:...

(1975), the Chandler tale made classically as Murder, My Sweet, remade here with Robert Mitchum in his last notable noir role. Detective series, prevalent on American television during the period, updated the hardboiled tradition in different ways, but the show conjuring the most noir tone was a horror crossover touched with shaggy, Long Goodbye–style humor: Kolchak: The Night Stalker
Kolchak: The Night Stalker
Kolchak: The Night Stalker is an American television series that aired on ABC during the 1974-1975 season. It featured a fictional Chicago newspaper reporter — Carl Kolchak, played by Darren McGavin — who investigates mysterious crimes with unlikely causes, particularly ones law...

(1974–75), featuring a Chicago newspaper reporter investigating strange, usually supernatural occurrences.

1980s and 1990s

The turn of the decade brought Scorsese's black-and-white Raging Bull (cowritten by Schrader); an acknowledged masterpiece—the American Film Institute
American Film Institute
The American Film Institute is an independent non-profit organization created by the National Endowment for the Arts, which was established in 1967 when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act...

 ranks it as the greatest American film of the 1980s and the fourth greatest of all time—it is also a retreat, telling a story of a boxer's moral self-destruction that recalls in both theme and visual ambience noir dramas such as Body and Soul
Body and Soul (1947 film)
Body and Soul is a 1947 film noir which tells the story of a boxer who becomes involved with crooked promoters. It stars John Garfield, Lilli Palmer, Hazel Brooks, Anne Revere and William Conrad....

(1947) and Champion
Champion (1949 film)
Champion is an American film noir drama based on a short story by Ring Lardner. Filmed in black-and-white, it recounts the struggles of boxer "Midge" Kelly fighting his own demons while working to achieve success in the boxing ring. The drama was directed by Mark Robson, with cinematography by...

(1949). From 1981, the popular Body Heat
Body Heat
Body Heat is a 1981 American neo-noir film written and directed by Lawrence Kasdan. It stars William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, Richard Crenna, Ted Danson, J.A. Preston, and Mickey Rourke. The film is inspired by Double Indemnity....

, written and directed by Lawrence Kasdan
Lawrence Kasdan
Lawrence Edward "Larry" Kasdan is an American film producer, director and screenwriter.-Life and career:Kasdan was born in Miami, Florida, the son of Sylvia Sarah , an employment counselor, and Clarence Norman Kasdan, who managed retail electronics stores.His Brother is the writer/producer Mark...

, invokes a different set of classic noir elements, this time in a humid, erotically charged Florida setting; its success confirmed the commercial viability of neo-noir, at a time when the major Hollywood studios were becoming increasingly risk averse. The mainstreaming of neo-noir is evident in such films as Black Widow
Black Widow (1987 film)
Black Widow is a 1987 film starring Debra Winger, Theresa Russell, Sami Frey, Nicol Williamson and Dennis Hopper.It is a crime drama about two women: one who murders wealthy men whom she marries for their money, and the other an agent with the Department of Justice who grows obsessed with bringing...

(1987), Shattered
Shattered (film)
Shattered is a 1991 Hitchcockian neo-noir/psychological thriller starring Tom Berenger, Greta Scacchi, Bob Hoskins, Joanne Whalley and Corbin Bernsen...

(1991), and Final Analysis
Final Analysis
Final Analysis is an American neo-noir drama directed by Phil Joanou and written by Wesley Strick. It stars Richard Gere, Kim Basinger and Uma Thurman...

(1992). Few neo-noirs have made more money or more wittily updated the tradition of the noir double-entendre than Basic Instinct
Basic Instinct
Basic Instinct is a 1992 erotic thriller directed by Paul Verhoeven and written by Joe Eszterhas, and starring Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone....

(1992), directed by Paul Verhoeven and written by Joe Eszterhas
Joe Eszterhas
József A. "Joe" Eszterhas is a Hungarian-American writer, best known for his work on the pulp erotic films Basic Instinct and Showgirls. He has also written several non-fiction books, including an autobiography entitled Hollywood Animal.-Early life:Eszterhas was born in Csákánydoroszló, Hungary,...

. The film also demonstrates how neo-noir's polychrome palette can reproduce many of the expressionistic effects of classic black-and-white noir.

Among big-budget auteurs, Michael Mann
Michael Mann (film director)
Michael Kenneth Mann is an American film director, screenwriter, and producer. For his work, he has received nominations from international organizations and juries, including those at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Cannes and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences...

 has worked frequently in a neo-noir mode, with such films as Thief
Thief (film)
Thief is a 1981 neo-noir film written and directed by Michael Mann and based on the novel The Home Invaders by "Frank Hohimer"...

(1981) and Heat (1995) and the TV series Miami Vice
Miami Vice
Miami Vice is an American television series produced by Michael Mann for NBC. The series starred Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas as two Metro-Dade Police Department detectives working undercover in Miami. It ran for five seasons on NBC from 1984–1989...

(1984–89) and Crime Story
Crime Story (TV series)
Crime Story is an NBC TV drama created by Gustave Reininger and Chuck Adamson. The executive producer was Michael Mann, who had left Miami Vice to oversee Crime Story and direct the film Manhunter. The show premiered with a two hour pilot — a movie which had been exhibited theatrically —...

(1986–88). Mann's output exemplifies a primary strain of neo-noir, in which classic themes and tropes are revisited in a contemporary setting with an up-to-date visual style and rock
Rock music
Rock music is a genre of popular music that developed during and after the 1960s, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, itself heavily influenced by rhythm and blues and country music...

- or hip hop
Hip hop music
Hip hop music, also called hip-hop, rap music or hip-hop music, is a musical genre consisting of a stylized rhythmic music that commonly accompanies rapping, a rhythmic and rhyming speech that is chanted...

–based musical soundtrack
Soundtrack
A soundtrack can be recorded music accompanying and synchronized to the images of a motion picture, book, television program or video game; a commercially released soundtrack album of music as featured in the soundtrack of a film or TV show; or the physical area of a film that contains the...

. Like Chinatown, its more complex predecessor, Curtis Hanson
Curtis Hanson
Curtis Lee Hanson is an American film director, film producer and screenwriter. His directing work includes The Hand That Rocks the Cradle , L.A...

's Oscar-winning L.A. Confidential
L.A. Confidential (film)
L.A. Confidential is a 1997 American film based on James Ellroy's 1990 novel of the same title, the third book in his L.A. Quartet. Both the book and the film tell the story of a group of LAPD officers in the 1950s, and the intersection of police corruption and Hollywood celebrity...

(1997), based on the James Ellroy
James Ellroy
Lee Earle "James" Ellroy is an American crime fiction writer and essayist. Ellroy has become known for a so-called "telegraphic" prose style in his most recent work, wherein he frequently omits connecting words and uses only short, staccato sentences, and in particular for the novels The Black...

 novel, demonstrates an opposite tendency—the deliberately retro film noir; its tale of corrupt cops and femme fatales is seemingly lifted straight from a film of 1953, the year in which it is set. Director David Fincher
David Fincher
David Andrew Leo Fincher is an American film and music video director. Known for his dark and stylish thrillers, such as Seven , The Game , Fight Club , Panic Room , and Zodiac , Fincher received Academy Award nominations for Best Director for his 2008 film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and...

 followed the immensely successful neo-noir Se7en (1995) with a film that developed into a cult favorite after its original, disappointing release: Fight Club
Fight Club (film)
Fight Club is a 1999 American film based on the 1996 novel of the same name by Chuck Palahniuk. The film was directed by David Fincher and stars Edward Norton, Brad Pitt and Helena Bonham Carter. Norton plays the unnamed protagonist, an "everyman" who is discontented with his white-collar job...

(1999) is a sui generis
Sui generis
Sui generis is a Latin expression, literally meaning of its own kind/genus or unique in its characteristics. The expression is often used in analytic philosophy to indicate an idea, an entity, or a reality which cannot be included in a wider concept....

mix of noir aesthetic, perverse comedy, speculative content, and satiric intention.

Working generally with much smaller budgets, brothers Joel and Ethan Coen have created one of the most extensive film oeuvres influenced by classic noir, with films such as Blood Simple
Blood Simple
Blood Simple is a 1984 neo-noir crime film. It was the directorial debut of Joel Coen and the first major film of cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld, who later became a noted director...

(1984) and Fargo
Fargo (film)
Fargo is a 1996 American dark comedy-crime film produced, directed and written by brothers Joel and Ethan Coen. It stars Frances McDormand as a pregnant police chief who investigates a series of homicides, William H...

(1996), considered by some a supreme work in the neo-noir mode. The Coens cross noir with other generic lines in the gangster drama Miller's Crossing
Miller's Crossing
Miller's Crossing is a 1990 American gangster film by the Coen brothers and starring Gabriel Byrne, Albert Finney, Marcia Gay Harden, Jon Polito and John Turturro...

(1990)—loosely based on the Dashiell Hammett novels Red Harvest and The Glass Key
The Glass Key
The Glass Key is a novel by Dashiell Hammett, said to be his favorite among his works. It was first published in 1931, and tells the story of gambler and racketeer Ned Beaumont, whose devotion to crooked political boss Paul Madvig leads him to investigate the murder of a local senator's son as a...

—and the comedy The Big Lebowski
The Big Lebowski
The Big Lebowski is a 1998 comedy film written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. Jeff Bridges stars as Jeff Lebowski, an unemployed Los Angeles slacker and avid bowler, who is referred to as "The Dude". After a case of mistaken identity, The Dude is introduced to a millionaire also named...

(1998), a tribute to Chandler and an homage to Altman's version of The Long Goodbye. The characteristic work of David Lynch
David Lynch
David Keith Lynch is an American filmmaker, television director, visual artist, musician and occasional actor. Known for his surrealist films, he has developed his own unique cinematic style, which has been dubbed "Lynchian", and which is characterized by its dream imagery and meticulous sound...

 combines film noir tropes with scenarios driven by disturbed characters such as the sociopathic criminal played by Dennis Hopper
Dennis Hopper
Dennis Lee Hopper was an American actor, filmmaker and artist. As a young man, Hopper became interested in acting and eventually became a student of the Actors' Studio. He made his first television appearance in 1954 and appeared in two films featuring James Dean, Rebel Without a Cause and Giant...

 in Blue Velvet (1986) and the delusionary protagonist of Lost Highway (1996). The Twin Peaks cycle, both TV series
Twin Peaks
Twin Peaks is an American television serial drama created by David Lynch and Mark Frost. The series follows the investigation headed by FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper , of the murder of a popular teenager and homecoming queen, Laura Palmer...

 (1990–91) and film, Fire Walk with Me (1992), puts a detective plot through a succession of bizarre spasms. David Cronenberg
David Cronenberg
David Paul Cronenberg, OC, FRSC is a Canadian filmmaker, screenwriter and actor. He is one of the principal originators of what is commonly known as the body horror or venereal horror genre. This style of filmmaking explores people's fears of bodily transformation and infection. In his films, the...

 also mixes surrealism and noir in Naked Lunch
Naked Lunch (film)
Naked Lunch is the 1991 Canadian/British/Japanese film adaptation, directed by David Cronenberg, of William S. Burroughs' novel of the same name...

(1991), inspired by the William S. Burroughs
William S. Burroughs
William Seward Burroughs II was an American novelist, poet, essayist and spoken word performer. A primary figure of the Beat Generation and a major postmodernist author, he is considered to be "one of the most politically trenchant, culturally influential, and innovative artists of the 20th...

 novel
Naked Lunch
Naked Lunch is a novel by William S. Burroughs originally published in 1959. The book is structured as a series of loosely-connected vignettes. Burroughs stated that the chapters are intended to be read in any order...

.

Perhaps no American neo-noirs better reflect the classic noir A-movie-with-a-B-movie-soul than those of director-writer Quentin Tarantino
Quentin Tarantino
Quentin Jerome Tarantino is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, cinematographer and actor. In the early 1990s, he began his career as an independent filmmaker with films employing nonlinear storylines and the aestheticization of violence...

; neo-noirs of his such as Reservoir Dogs
Reservoir Dogs
Reservoir Dogs is an American crime film marking debut of director and writer Quentin Tarantino. It depicts the events before and after a botched diamond heist, but not the heist itself. Reservoir Dogs stars an ensemble cast: Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Chris Penn, and...

(1992) and Pulp Fiction
Pulp Fiction (film)
Pulp Fiction is a 1994 American crime film directed by Quentin Tarantino, who co-wrote its screenplay with Roger Avary. The film is known for its rich, eclectic dialogue, ironic mix of humor and violence, nonlinear storyline, and host of cinematic allusions and pop culture references...

(1994) display a relentlessly self-reflexive, sometimes tongue-in-cheek sensibility, similar to the work of the New Wave directors and the Coens. Other films from the era readily identifiable as neo-noir (some retro, some more au courant) include director John Dahl
John Dahl
John Dahl is an American film director and screenwriter, best known for his work in the neo-noir genre.-Life and career:John Dahl was born in Billings, Montana, the second of four children . Dahl spent his young life in and around Montana all the way up through his college years...

's Kill Me Again
Kill Me Again
Kill Me Again is a 1989 American thriller film directed by John Dahl and starring Val Kilmer, Joanne Whalley, and Michael Madsen. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer distributed the film.-Plot:...

(1989), Red Rock West
Red Rock West
Red Rock West is a neo-noir film directed by John Dahl. The film, written by Dahl and his brother Rick, was shot in Montana and Willcox, Arizona. The film was well received at the prestigious Toronto Film Festival, but deemed a cable and direct-to-video product by Columbia Tri-Star, which owned...

(1992), The Last Seduction
The Last Seduction
The Last Seduction is a neo-noir 1994 film directed by John Dahl.The movie features Linda Fiorentino as the femme fatale, Peter Berg as a small town man whose one night affair turns into more than he wanted, and Bill Pullman as Fiorentino's husband who is chasing her and running from loan sharks at...

(1993), To Die For
To Die For
To Die For is a 1995 dark comedy film, made in a mockumentary format, directed by Gus Van Sant and written by Buck Henry, based on the novel of the same name by Joyce Maynard, which in turn was based on the Pamela Smart story. It stars Nicole Kidman, Matt Dillon, and Joaquin Phoenix...

(1995), and A Perfect Murder
A Perfect Murder
A Perfect Murder is a 1998 American thriller film directed by Andrew Davis and starring Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow and Viggo Mortensen. It is a modern remake of Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 film, Dial M for Murder, though the characters' names are all changed, and over half the plot is completely...

(1998); four adaptations of novels by Jim Thompson—The Kill-Off
The Kill-Off
The Kill-Off is a neo-noir written and directed by Maggie Greenwald, based on a 1957 novel of the same name by Jim Thompson. It was an independent film, executive produced by Lydia Dean Pilcher and shot by Declan Quinn.-Plot:...

(1989), After Dark, My Sweet
After Dark, My Sweet
After Dark, My Sweet is a neo-noir film directed by James Foley starring Jason Patric, Bruce Dern, and Rachel Ward. It is based on the 1955 Jim Thompson novel of the same name.-Plot:...

(1990), The Grifters
The Grifters (film)
The Grifters is a 1990 neo-noir film directed by Stephen Frears and produced by Martin Scorsese. It stars John Cusack, Anjelica Huston and Annette Bening and is based upon The Grifters, a pulp novel by Jim Thompson.-Plot:...

(1990), and the remake of The Getaway
The Getaway (1994 film)
The Getaway is a 1994 crime thriller and a remake of the 1972 film of the same name. The film stars Alec Baldwin, Kim Basinger, Michael Madsen, James Woods, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jennifer Tilly, and was directed by Roger Donaldson.-Plot:...

(1994); and many more, including adaptations of the work of other major noir fiction writers: The Hot Spot
The Hot Spot
The Hot Spot is a 1990 American drama film directed by Dennis Hopper and based on the 1952 book Hell Hath No Fury by Charles Williams. It stars Don Johnson, Virginia Madsen, and Jennifer Connelly, and features a score by Jack Nitzsche played by John Lee Hooker, Miles Davis, Taj Mahal and Roy...

(1990), from Hell Hath No Fury, by Charles Williams
Charles Williams (U.S. author)
Charles Williams was an American writer of hardboiled crime fiction. He is regarded by critics as one of the finest suspense novelists of the 1950s and 1960s. His 1951 debut, the pulp paperback novel Hill Girl, sold over a million copies...

; Miami Blues (1990), from the novel by Charles Willeford
Charles Willeford
Charles Ray Willeford III was an American writer. An author of fiction, poetry, autobiography, and literary criticism, Willeford is best known for his series of novels featuring hardboiled detective Hoke Moseley. The first Hoke Moseley book, Miami Blues , is considered one of its era's most...

; and Out of Sight
Out of Sight
Out of Sight is a 1998 American crime film. The film was directed by Steven Soderbergh and based on the novel of the same name by Elmore Leonard. It was the first of several collaborations between Soderbergh and star George Clooney. The film was released on June 26, 1998. It was nominated for two...

(1998), from the novel by Elmore Leonard
Elmore Leonard
Elmore John Leonard Jr. , better known as Elmore Leonard, is an American novelist and screenwriter. His earliest published novels in the 1950s were westerns, but Leonard went on to specialize in crime fiction and suspense thrillers, many of which have been adapted into motion pictures.Among his...

. Several films by director-writer David Mamet
David Mamet
David Alan Mamet is an American playwright, essayist, screenwriter and film director.Best known as a playwright, Mamet won a Pulitzer Prize and received a Tony nomination for Glengarry Glen Ross . He also received a Tony nomination for Speed-the-Plow . As a screenwriter, he received Oscar...

 involve noir elements: House of Games
House of Games
House of Games is David Mamet's 1987 film directorial debut. Mamet wrote the screenplay himself, from a story he devised with Jonathan Katz. The film's cast includes Lindsay Crouse, Joe Mantegna, Ricky Jay, and J. T. Walsh.-Plot:...

(1987), Homicide
Homicide (1991 film)
Homicide is a mystery film crime drama written and directed by David Mamet, and released in 1991. The film's cast includes Joe Mantegna, William H. Macy, and Ving Rhames...

(1991), The Spanish Prisoner
The Spanish Prisoner
The Spanish Prisoner is a 1997 American suspense film, written and directed by David Mamet and starring Campbell Scott, Steve Martin, Rebecca Pidgeon, Ben Gazzara and Ricky Jay...

(1997), and Heist
Heist (film)
Heist is a 2001 crime film, written and directed by David Mamet, which stars Gene Hackman, Danny DeVito, Delroy Lindo, Rebecca Pidgeon, Ricky Jay, and Sam Rockwell.-Plot:...

(2001). On television, Remington Steele
Remington Steele
Remington Steele is an American television series, co-created by Robert Butler and Michael Gleason. The series, starring Stephanie Zimbalist and Pierce Brosnan, was produced by MTM Enterprises and first broadcast on the NBC network from 1982 to 1987. The series blended the genres of romantic...

(1982–87) and Moonlighting
Moonlighting (TV series)
Moonlighting is an American television series that aired on ABC from March 3, 1985, to May 14, 1989. The network aired a total of 66 episodes...

(1985–89) paid homage to classic noir while demonstrating an unusual appreciation of the sense of humor often found in the original cycle. Between 1983 and 1989, Mickey Spillane
Mickey Spillane
Frank Morrison Spillane , better known as Mickey Spillane, was an American author of crime novels, many featuring his signature detective character, Mike Hammer. More than 225 million copies of his books have sold internationally...

's hardboiled private eye Mike Hammer was played with wry gusto by Stacy Keach
Stacy Keach
Stacy Keach is an American actor and narrator. He is most famous for his dramatic roles; however, he has done narration work in educational programming on PBS and the Discovery Channel, as well as some comedy and musical...

 in a series
Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer
Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer is the title used for two syndicated television series that followed the adventures of fictional private detective Mike Hammer...

 and several stand-alone television films (an unsuccessful revival followed in 1997–98). The British miniseries The Singing Detective
The Singing Detective
The Singing Detective is a BBC television miniseries written by Dennis Potter, which stars Michael Gambon, and was directed by Jon Amiel. The six episodes were "Skin", "Heat", "Lovely Days", "Clues", "Pitter Patter" and "Who Done It"....

(1986), written by Dennis Potter
Dennis Potter
Dennis Christopher George Potter was an English dramatist, best known for The Singing Detective. His widely acclaimed television dramas mixed fantasy and reality, the personal and the social. He was particularly fond of using themes and images from popular culture.-Biography:Dennis Potter was born...

, tells the story of a mystery writer named Philip Marlow; widely considered one of the finest neo-noirs in any medium, some critics rank it among the greatest television productions of all time.

2000s

The Coens' referenced the noir tradition again with The Man Who Wasn't There
The Man Who Wasn't There
The Man Who Wasn't There is a 2001 neo-noir film written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. Billy Bob Thornton stars in the title role. Also featured are James Gandolfini, Tony Shalhoub, Scarlett Johansson, Adam Alexi-Malle and Coen regulars Frances McDormand, Michael Badalucco, and Jon...

(2001); a black-and-white crime melodrama set in 1949, it features a scene apparently staged to mirror the one from Out of the Past pictured above. Lynch's Mulholland Drive
Mulholland Drive (film)
Mulholland Drive is a 2001 American neo-noir psychological thriller written and directed by David Lynch, starring Justin Theroux, Naomi Watts, and Laura Harring. The surrealist film was highly acclaimed by many critics and earned Lynch the Prix de la mise en scène at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival...

(2001) continued in his characteristic vein, making the classic noir setting of Los Angeles the venue for a noir-inflected psychological jigsaw puzzle. British-born director Christopher Nolan
Christopher Nolan
Christopher Jonathan James Nolan is a British-American film director, screenwriter and producer.He received serious notice after his second feature Memento , which he wrote and directed based on a story idea by his brother, Jonathan Nolan. Jonathan went to co-write later scripts with him,...

's black-and-white debut, Following
Following
Following is a 1998 British neo-noir film written and directed by Christopher Nolan. It tells the story of a young man who follows strangers around the streets of London and is drawn into a criminal underworld when he fails to keep his distance...

(1998), was an overt homage to classic noir. During the new century's first decade, he was one of the leading Hollywood directors of neo-noir with the acclaimed Memento (2000), the remake of Insomnia
Insomnia (2002 film)
Insomnia is an American psychological thriller film directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Al Pacino, Robin Williams, and Hilary Swank. The film, released on 24 May 2002, is a remake of the 1997 Norwegian film of the same name.-Plot:...

(2002), and his dark-toned superhero films, Batman Begins
Batman Begins
Batman Begins is a 2005 American superhero action film based on the fictional DC Comics character Batman, directed by Christopher Nolan. It stars Christian Bale as Batman, along with Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Cillian Murphy, Morgan Freeman, Ken Watanabe, Tom Wilkinson,...

(2005) and The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight (film)
The Dark Knight is a 2008 superhero film directed, produced and co-written by Christopher Nolan. Based on the DC Comics character Batman, the film is part of Nolan's Batman film series and a sequel to 2005's Batman Begins...

(2008).

Director Sean Penn
Sean Penn
Sean Justin Penn is an American actor, screenwriter and film director, also known for his political and social activism...

's The Pledge
The Pledge (film)
The Pledge is a 2001 American mystery film directed by Sean Penn. It is based on the 1958 novella Das Versprechen: Requiem auf den Kriminalroman , by Swiss author Friedrich Dürrenmatt...

(2001), though adapted from a very self-reflexive novel by Friedrich Dürrenmatt
Friedrich Dürrenmatt
Friedrich Dürrenmatt was a Swiss author and dramatist. He was a proponent of epic theatre whose plays reflected the recent experiences of World War II. The politically active author's work included avant-garde dramas, philosophically deep crime novels, and often macabre satire...

, plays noir comparatively straight, to devastating effect. Screenwriter David Ayer
David Ayer
David Ayer is an American screenwriter, film producer and film director.-Early life:David Ayer was born in Champaign, Illinois in 1968. He grew up in Bloomington, Minnesota and Bethesda, Maryland, where he was kicked out of his house by his parents as a teenager...

 updated the classic noir bad-cop tale, typified by Shield for Murder (1954) and Rogue Cop
Rogue Cop
Rogue Cop is a film noir directed by Roy Rowland, based on the novel by William P. McGivern , and starring Robert Taylor, Janet Leigh, and George Raft.-Plot:...

(1954), with his scripts for Training Day
Training Day
Training Day is a 2001 crime drama film directed by Antoine Fuqua, written by David Ayer, starring Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke. The film follows two LAPD narcotics detectives over a 24-hour period in the gang neighborhoods of South and East Los Angeles.The film was a box office success and...

(2001) and, adapting a story by James Ellroy, Dark Blue (2002); he later wrote and directed the even darker Harsh Times
Harsh Times
Harsh Times is a 2006 American crime film set in South Los Angeles. The film stars Christian Bale and Freddy Rodriguez, and was written and directed by David Ayer, who wrote the script for the Academy Award-winning film Training Day. The film was distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and...

(2006). Michael Mann's Collateral
Collateral (film)
Collateral is a 2004 crime thriller film starring Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx. It was directed by Michael Mann and written by Stuart Beattie. It was Mann's first feature film to be shot mostly with high-definition cameras. Mann had previously used the format for portions of Ali and for his CBS drama...

(2004) features a performance by Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise
Thomas Cruise Mapother IV , better known as Tom Cruise, is an American film actor and producer. He has been nominated for three Academy Awards and he has won three Golden Globe Awards....

 as an assassin in the lineage of Le Samouraï. The torments of The Machinist
The Machinist
The Machinist is a 2004 English-language Spanish psychological thriller film directed by Brad Anderson and written by Scott Kosar....

(2004), directed by Brad Anderson, evoke both Fight Club and Memento. In 2005, Shane Black
Shane Black
Shane Black is an American actor, screenwriter and film director. He contributed to some of the biggest blockbuster action films of the late 1980s and early 1990s, including work on Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout...

 directed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a 2005 crime/dark comedy film, which engages many conventions of the classic film noir genre in a tongue-in-cheek fashion. It is based, in part, on the novel Bodies Are Where You Find Them by Brett Halliday. The cast includes Robert Downey, Jr., Val Kilmer, Michelle Monaghan...

, basing his screenplay in part on a crime novel by Brett Halliday
Brett Halliday
Brett Halliday , primary pen name of Davis Dresser, was an American mystery writer, best known for the long-lived series of Michael Shayne novels he wrote, and later commissioned others to write...

, who published his first stories back in the 1920s. The film plays with an awareness not only of classic noir but also of neo-noir reflexivity itself.

With ultra-violent films such as Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is a 2002 South Korean film directed by Park Chan-wook which follows the character Ryu trying to earn enough money for his sister's kidney transplant and the path of vengeance that follows. It is the first part of The Vengeance Trilogy and is followed by Oldboy and...

(2002) and Thirst
Thirst (2009 film)
Thirst is a 2009 horror/drama film, written, produced and directed by Park Chan-wook. It is loosely based on the novel Thérèse Raquin by Émile Zola. The film tells the story of a priest—who is in love with his friend’s wife—turning into a vampire through a failed medical experiment. Park has...

(2009), Park Chan-wook
Park Chan-wook
Park Chan-wook is a South Korean film director, screenwriter, producer, and former film critic. One of the most acclaimed and popular filmmakers in his native country, Park is most known for his films Joint Security Area, Thirst and what has become known as The Vengeance Trilogy, consisting of...

 of South Korea has been the most prominent director outside of the United States to work regularly in a noir mode in the new millennium. The most commercially successful neo-noir of this period has been Sin City
Sin City (film)
Sin City, also known as Frank Miller's Sin City, is a 2005 crime thriller film written, produced and directed by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez...

(2005), directed by Robert Rodriguez
Robert Rodriguez
Robert Anthony Rodríguez is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, cinematographer, editor and musician. He shoots and produces many of his films in his native Texas and Mexico. He has directed such films as Desperado, From Dusk till Dawn, The Faculty, Spy Kids, Sin City, Planet...

 in extravagantly stylized black and white with the odd bit of color. The film is based on a series of comic books
Sin City
Sin City is the title for a series of neo-noir comics by Frank Miller. The first story originally appeared in "Dark Horse Presents Fifth Anniversary Special" , and continued in Dark Horse Presents #51–62 from May 1991 to June 1992, under the title of Sin City, serialized in thirteen parts. Several...

 created by Frank Miller
Frank Miller (comics)
Frank Miller is an American comic book artist, writer and film director best known for his dark, film noir-style comic book stories and graphic novels Ronin, Daredevil: Born Again, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Sin City and 300...

 (credited as the film's codirector), which are in turn openly indebted to the works of Spillane and other pulp mystery authors. Similarly, graphic novels provide the basis for Road to Perdition
Road to Perdition
Road to Perdition is a 2002 American crime film directed by Sam Mendes. The screenplay was adapted by David Self, from the graphic novel of the same name by Max Allan Collins. The film stars Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, and Daniel Craig...

(2002), directed by Sam Mendes
Sam Mendes
Samuel Alexander "Sam" Mendes, CBE is an English stage and film director. He is best known for his Academy Award-winning work on his debut film American Beauty and his dark re-inventions of the stage musicals Cabaret , Oliver! , Company and Gypsy . He's currently working on the 23rd James Bond...

, and A History of Violence
A History of Violence (film)
A History of Violence is a 2005 American crime thriller film directed by David Cronenberg and written by Josh Olson. It is an adaptation of the 1997 graphic novel of the same name by John Wagner and Vince Locke...

(2005), directed by David Cronenberg
David Cronenberg
David Paul Cronenberg, OC, FRSC is a Canadian filmmaker, screenwriter and actor. He is one of the principal originators of what is commonly known as the body horror or venereal horror genre. This style of filmmaking explores people's fears of bodily transformation and infection. In his films, the...

; the latter was voted best film of the year in the annual Village Voice poll. Writer-director Rian Johnson
Rian Johnson
Rian Craig Johnson is an American writer and director, who won the Special Jury Prize for Originality of Vision at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival with his debut feature, Brick.-Background:...

's Brick
Brick (film)
Brick is a 2005 American neo-noir film written and directed by Rian Johnson. It was Johnson's directorial debut and won the Special Jury Prize for Originality of Vision at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival...

(2005), featuring present-day high schoolers speaking a version of 1930s hardboiled argot, won the Special Jury Prize for Originality of Vision at the Sundance Film Festival
Sundance Film Festival
The Sundance Film Festival is a film festival that takes place annually in Utah, in the United States. It is the largest independent cinema festival in the United States. Held in January in Park City, Salt Lake City, and Ogden, as well as at the Sundance Resort, the festival is a showcase for new...

. The television series Veronica Mars
Veronica Mars
Veronica Mars is an American television series created by Rob Thomas. The series premiered on September 22, 2004, during television network UPN's final two years, and ended on May 22, 2007, after a season on UPN's successor, The CW Television Network. Veronica Mars was produced by Warner Bros...

(2004–7) also brought a youth-oriented twist to film noir. Examples of this sort of generic crossover have been dubbed teen noir.

Science fiction noir

In the post-classic era, the most significant trend in noir crossovers has involved science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

. In Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville (1965), Lemmy Caution is the name of the old-school private eye in the city of tomorrow. The Groundstar Conspiracy
The Groundstar Conspiracy
The Groundstar Conspiracy is a 1972 film directed by Lamont Johnson. It stars George Peppard and Michael Sarrazin. The script was very freely adapted from L. P. Davies' 1968 novel, The Alien...

(1972) centers on another implacable investigator and an amnesiac named Welles. Soylent Green
Soylent Green
Soylent Green is a 1973 American science fiction film directed by Richard Fleischer. Starring Charlton Heston, the film overlays the police procedural and science fiction genres as it depicts the investigation into the murder of a wealthy businessman in a dystopian future suffering from pollution,...

(1973), the first major American example, portrays a dystopian, near-future world via a self-evidently noir detection plot; starring Charlton Heston
Charlton Heston
Charlton Heston was an American actor of film, theatre and television. Heston is known for heroic roles in films such as The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, El Cid, and Planet of the Apes...

 (the lead in Touch of Evil), it also features classic noir standbys Joseph Cotten, Edward G. Robinson, and Whit Bissell
Whit Bissell
Whitner Nutting Bissell , better known as Whit Bissell, was an American actor.-Early life:Born in New York City, Bissell was the son of prominent surgeon Dr. J. Dougal Bissell. He trained with the Carolina Playmakers, a theatrical organization associated with the University of North Carolina at...

. The film was directed by Richard Fleischer
Richard Fleischer
-Early life:Fleischer was born in Brooklyn, the son of Essie and animator/producer Max Fleischer. He started in motion pictures as director of animated shorts produced by his father including entries in the Betty Boop, Popeye and Superman series.His live-action film career began in 1942 at the RKO...

, who two decades before had directed several strong B noirs, including Armored Car Robbery
Armored Car Robbery
Armored Car Robbery is a 1950 American film noir shot in a semi-documentary style, directed by Richard Fleischer, and starring Charles McGraw. The movie was filmed on location in Los Angeles, California....

(1950) and The Narrow Margin
The Narrow Margin
The Narrow Margin is a 1952 American film noir directed by Richard Fleischer and written by Earl Felton, based on an unpublished story written by Martin Goldsmith and Jack Leonard. Writers Goldsmith and Leonard were nominated for an Academy Award for their story.The picture stars Charles McGraw,...

(1952).

The cynical and stylish perspective of classic film noir had a formative effect on the cyberpunk
Cyberpunk
Cyberpunk is a postmodern and science fiction genre noted for its focus on "high tech and low life." The name is a portmanteau of cybernetics and punk, and was originally coined by Bruce Bethke as the title of his short story "Cyberpunk," published in 1983...

 genre of science fiction that emerged in the early 1980s; the film most directly influential on cyberpunk was Blade Runner
Blade Runner
Blade Runner is a 1982 American science fiction film directed by Ridley Scott and starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, and Sean Young. The screenplay, written by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples, is loosely based on the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K...

(1982), directed by Ridley Scott
Ridley Scott
Sir Ridley Scott is an English film director and producer. His most famous films include The Duellists , Alien , Blade Runner , Legend , Thelma & Louise , G. I...

, which pays evocative homage to the classic noir mode (Scott would subsequently direct the poignant noir crime melodrama Someone to Watch Over Me
Someone to Watch over Me (film)
Someone to Watch Over Me is a 1987 film starring Tom Berenger and Mimi Rogers and directed by Ridley Scott. The film's soundtrack includes the George and Ira Gershwin song from which the film takes its title, here sung by Sting, and Vangelis' Memories of Green, originally from Scott's Blade...

[1987]). Scholar Jamaluddin Bin Aziz has observed how "the shadow of Philip Marlowe lingers on" in such other "future noir" films as Twelve Monkeys
Twelve Monkeys
12 Monkeys is a 1995 science fiction film directed by Terry Gilliam, inspired by Chris Marker's 1962 short film La jetée, and starring Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt, and Christopher Plummer....

(1995), Dark City (1998), and Minority Report
Minority Report (film)
Minority Report is a 2002 American neo-noir science fiction film directed by Steven Spielberg and loosely based on the short story "The Minority Report" by Philip K. Dick. It is set primarily in Washington, D.C...

(2002). Fincher's feature debut was Alien 3 (1992), which evoked the classic noir jail film Brute Force.

Cronenberg's Crash
Crash (1996 film)
Crash is a 1996 Canadian/British drama thriller film written and directed by David Cronenberg based on the J. G. Ballard 1973 novel of the same name. It tells the story of a group of people who take sexual pleasure from car accidents, a notable form of paraphilia. The film generated considerable...

(1996), an adaptation of the speculative novel by J. G. Ballard
J. G. Ballard
James Graham Ballard was an English novelist, short story writer, and prominent member of the New Wave movement in science fiction...

, has been described as a "film noir in bruise tones". The hero is the target of investigation in Gattaca
Gattaca
Gattaca is a 1997 science fiction film written and directed by Andrew Niccol. It stars Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman and Jude Law with supporting roles played by Loren Dean, Ernest Borgnine, Gore Vidal and Alan Arkin....

(1997), which fuses film noir motifs with a scenario indebted to Brave New World
Brave New World
Brave New World is Aldous Huxley's fifth novel, written in 1931 and published in 1932. Set in London of AD 2540 , the novel anticipates developments in reproductive technology and sleep-learning that combine to change society. The future society is an embodiment of the ideals that form the basis of...

. The Thirteenth Floor
The Thirteenth Floor
The Thirteenth Floor is a 1999 science fiction film directed by Josef Rusnak and loosely based upon Simulacron-3 , a novel by Daniel F. Galouye...

(1999), like Blade Runner, is an explicit homage to classic noir, in this case involving speculations about virtual reality
Virtual reality
Virtual reality , also known as virtuality, is a term that applies to computer-simulated environments that can simulate physical presence in places in the real world, as well as in imaginary worlds...

. Science fiction, noir, and anime
Anime
is the Japanese abbreviated pronunciation of "animation". The definition sometimes changes depending on the context. In English-speaking countries, the term most commonly refers to Japanese animated cartoons....

 are brought together in the Japanese films Ghost in the Shell
Ghost in the Shell (film)
"See You Everyday" is different from the rest of the soundtrack, being a pop song sung in Cantonese by Fang Ka Wing. It can be faintly heard playing in the marketplace scene, when Batou is hunting the ghost-hacked puppet....

(1995) and Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence
Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence
Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, known simply as in japan, is a 2004 science fiction film and sequel to the anime film, Ghost in the Shell. Released in Japan on March 6, 2004, with an U.S. release on September 17, 2004, Innocence had a production budget of approximately $20 million...

(2004), both directed by Mamoru Oshii
Mamoru Oshii
Mamoru Oshii is a Japanese filmmaker, television director, and writer. Famous for his philosophy-oriented storytelling, Oshii has directed a number of popular anime, including Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer, Ghost in the Shell, and Patlabor 2...

. Television anime series with science fiction noir themes include The Big O
The Big O
is a Japanese animated television series created by director Kazuyoshi Katayama and designer Keiichi Sato for Sunrise Studios. The writing staff was assembled by the series' head writer, Chiaki J. Konaka....

(1999) and Noir
Noir (anime)
is a 26-episode Japanese anime television series produced in 2001 by the Bee Train animation studio. Kōichi Mashimo directed Noir, it was written by Ryoe Tsukimura, and the soundtrack was composed by Yuki Kajiura...

(2001).

Parodies

Film noir has been parodied many times, in many manners. In 1945, Danny Kaye
Danny Kaye
Danny Kaye was a celebrated American actor, singer, dancer, and comedian...

 starred in what appears to be the first intentional film noir parody, Wonder Man
Wonder Man (film)
Wonder Man is a 1945 film starring Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo. It is based on a short story by Arthur Sheekman, adapted for the screen by a staff of writers led by Jack Jevne and Eddie Moran, produced by Samuel Goldwyn, and directed by H. Bruce Humberstone...

. That same year, Deanna Durbin
Deanna Durbin
Deanna Durbin is a Canadian-born, Southern California-raised retired singer and actress, who appeared in a number of musical films in the 1930s and 1940s singing standards as well as operatic arias....

 was the singing lead in the comedic noir Lady on a Train
Lady on a Train
Lady on a Train is a 1945 comedy film noir, starring Deanna Durbin and based on a story by Leslie Charteris.-Plot:Debutante Nikki Collins, an enthusiastic reader of detective stories, witnesses a murder in a building while passing by on a train entering New York's Grand Central Station. She goes to...

, which makes fun of Woolrich-brand wistful miserablism. Bob Hope
Bob Hope
Bob Hope, KBE, KCSG, KSS was a British-born American comedian and actor who appeared in vaudeville, on Broadway, and in radio, television and movies. He was also noted for his work with the US Armed Forces and his numerous USO shows entertaining American military personnel...

 inaugurated the private-eye noir parody with My Favorite Brunette
My Favorite Brunette
My Favorite Brunette is a 1947 movie spoofing movie detectives and the film noir style. Starring Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour, it also features Lon Chaney, Jr...

(1947), playing a baby photographer who is mistaken for an ironfisted detective. In 1947 as well, The Bowery Boys
The Bowery Boys
The Bowery Boys were fictional New York City characters who were the subject of feature films released by Monogram Pictures from 1946 through 1958....

 appeared in Hard Boiled Mahoney, which had a similar mistaken-identity plot; they spoofed the genre once more in 1953's Private Eyes (1953). Two RKO productions starring Robert Mitchum take film noir over the border into self-parody: The Big Steal
The Big Steal
The Big Steal is a 1949 black-and-white film noir/comedy reteaming Out of the Past stars Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer. The film was directed by Don Siegel, based on the short story "The Road to Carmichael's" by Richard Wormser.-Plot:...

(1949), directed by Don Siegel
Don Siegel
Donald Siegel was an influential American film director and producer. His name variously appeared in the credits of his films as both Don Siegel and Donald Siegel.-Early life:...

, and His Kind of Woman
His Kind of Woman
His Kind of Woman is a black-and-white 1951 film noir starring Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell. The film features supporting roles by Vincent Price, Raymond Burr, and Charles McGraw...

(1951). The "Girl Hunt" ballet in Vincente Minnelli
Vincente Minnelli
Vincente Minnelli was an American stage director and film director, famous for directing such classic movie musicals as Meet Me in St. Louis, The Band Wagon, and An American in Paris. In addition to having directed some of the most famous and well-remembered musicals of his time, Minnelli made...

's The Band Wagon
The Band Wagon
The Band Wagon is a 1953 musical comedy film that many critics rank, along with Singin' in the Rain, as the finest of the MGM musicals, although it was only a modest box-office success. It tells the story of an aging musical star who hopes a Broadway play will restart his career...

(1953) is a ten-minute distillation of—and play on—noir in dance. The Cheap Detective
The Cheap Detective
The Cheap Detective is a 1978 American satirical comedy film written by Neil Simon and directed by Robert Moore as a follow-up to their successful Murder by Death ....

(1978), starring Peter Falk
Peter Falk
Peter Michael Falk was an American actor, best known for his role as Lieutenant Columbo in the television series Columbo...

, is a broad spoof of several films, including the Bogart classics The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca
Casablanca (film)
Casablanca is a 1942 American romantic drama film directed by Michael Curtiz, starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Paul Henreid, and featuring Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre and Dooley Wilson. Set during World War II, it focuses on a man torn between, in...

. Carl Reiner
Carl Reiner
Carl Reiner is an American actor, film director, producer, writer and comedian. He has won nine Emmy Awards and one Grammy Award during this career...

's black-and-white Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid
Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid
Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid is a 1982 comedy film directed by Carl Reiner and starring Steve Martin and Rachel Ward. It is both a parody of, and an homage to, film noir and the pulp detective movies of the 1940s....

(1982) appropriates clips of classic noirs for a farcical pastiche, while his Fatal Instinct
Fatal Instinct
Fatal Instinct is a 1993 comedy film directed by Carl Reiner. It parodies the erotic thriller movie genre, which at the time had reached its commercial peak. The film stars Armand Assante as a lawyer and cop named Ned Ravine who has an affair with a woman named Lola Cain played by Sean Young...

(1993) sends up noirs both classic (Double Indemnity) and neo (Basic Instinct). Robert Zemeckis
Robert Zemeckis
Robert Lee Zemeckis is an American film director, producer and screenwriter. Zemeckis first came to public attention in the 1980s as the director of the comedic time-travel Back to the Future film series, as well as the Academy Award-winning live-action/animation epic Who Framed Roger Rabbit ,...

's Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988) develops a noir plot set in 1940s L.A. around a host of cartoon characters.

Noir parodies come in darker tones as well. Murder by Contract
Murder by Contract
Murder by Contract is a 1958 film noir directed by Irving Lerner. Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Ben Maddow did uncredited work on the film...

(1958), directed by Irving Lerner
Irving Lerner
Irving Lerner Before becoming a filmmaker, Lerner was a research editor for Columbia University's Encyclopedia of Social Sciences, getting his start in film by making documentaries for the anthropology department. In the early 1930s, he was a member of the Workers Film and Photo League, and later,...

, is a deadpan joke on noir, with a denouement as bleak as any of the films it kids. An ultra-low-budget Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. is an American film production and distribution company. Columbia Pictures now forms part of the Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment, a subsidiary of the Japanese conglomerate Sony. It is one of the leading film companies...

 production, it may qualify as the first intentional example of what is now called a neo-noir film; it was likely a source of inspiration for both Melville's Le Samouraï and Scorsese's Taxi Driver. Belying its parodic strain, The Long Goodbyes final act is seriously grave. Taxi Driver caustically deconstructs
Deconstruction
Deconstruction is a term introduced by French philosopher Jacques Derrida in his 1967 book Of Grammatology. Although he carefully avoided defining the term directly, he sought to apply Martin Heidegger's concept of Destruktion or Abbau, to textual reading...

 the "dark" crime film, taking it to an absurd extreme and then offering a conclusion that manages to mock every possible anticipated ending—triumphant, tragic, artfully ambivalent—while being each, all at once. Flirting with splatter
Splatter film
A splatter film or gore film is a subgenre of horror film that deliberately focuses on graphic portrayals of gore and graphic violence. These films, through the use of special effects and excessive blood and guts, tend to display an overt interest in the vulnerability of the human body and the...

 status even more brazenly, the Coens' Blood Simple is both an exacting pastiche and a gross exaggeration of classic noir. Adapted by director Robinson Devor from a novel by Charles Willeford
Charles Willeford
Charles Ray Willeford III was an American writer. An author of fiction, poetry, autobiography, and literary criticism, Willeford is best known for his series of novels featuring hardboiled detective Hoke Moseley. The first Hoke Moseley book, Miami Blues , is considered one of its era's most...

, The Woman Chaser
The Woman Chaser
The Woman Chaser is a 1999 film by director Robinson Devor, starring Patrick Warburton. The screenplay is based on the novel of the same name by Charles Willeford.- Synopsis :...

(1999) sends up not just the noir mode but the entire Hollywood filmmaking process, with seemingly each shot staged as the visual equivalent of an acerbic Marlowe wisecrack.

In other media, the television series Sledge Hammer!
Sledge Hammer!
Sledge Hammer! is an American satirical police sitcom produced by New World Television that ran for two seasons on ABC from 1986 to 1988. The series was created by Alan Spencer and stars David Rasche as Inspector Sledge Hammer, a preposterous caricature of the standard "cop on the edge" character,...

(1986–88) lampoons noir, along with such topics as capital punishment
Capital punishment
Capital punishment, the death penalty, or execution is the sentence of death upon a person by the state as a punishment for an offence. Crimes that can result in a death penalty are known as capital crimes or capital offences. The term capital originates from the Latin capitalis, literally...

, gun fetishism
Fetishism
A fetish is an object believed to have supernatural powers, or in particular, a man-made object that has power over others...

, and Dirty Harry. Sesame Street
Sesame Street
Sesame Street has undergone significant changes in its history. According to writer Michael Davis, by the mid-1970s the show had become "an American institution". The cast and crew expanded during this time, including the hiring of women in the crew and additional minorities in the cast. The...

(1969–curr.) occasionally casts Kermit the Frog
Kermit the Frog
Kermit the Frog is puppeteer Jim Henson's most famous Muppet creation, first introduced in 1955. He is the protagonist of many Muppet projects, most notably as the host of The Muppet Show, and has appeared in various sketches on Sesame Street, in commercials and in public service announcements over...

 as a private eye; the sketches refer to some of the typical motifs of noir films, in particular the voiceover. Garrison Keillor
Garrison Keillor
Gary Edward "Garrison" Keillor is an American author, storyteller, humorist, and radio personality. He is known as host of the Minnesota Public Radio show A Prairie Home Companion Gary Edward "Garrison" Keillor (born August 7, 1942) is an American author, storyteller, humorist, and radio...

's radio program A Prairie Home Companion
A Prairie Home Companion
A Prairie Home Companion is a live radio variety show created and hosted by Garrison Keillor. The show runs on Saturdays from 5 to 7 p.m. Central Time, and usually originates from the Fitzgerald Theater in Saint Paul, Minnesota, although it is frequently taken on the road...

features the recurring character Guy Noir
Guy Noir
Guy Noir is a fictional private detective regularly featured on the public radio show A Prairie Home Companion. Played by Garrison Keillor, the character parodies the conventions of the pulp fiction novel and the film noir genre. Guy Noir works on the twelfth floor of the Acme Building in a city...

, a hardboiled detective whose adventures always wander into farce (Guy also appears in the Altman-directed film
A Prairie Home Companion (film)
A Prairie Home Companion is a 2006 ensemble comedy elegy directed by Robert Altman, and was his final film, released just five months before his death...

 based on Keillor's show). Firesign Theatre's Nick Danger has trod the same not-so-mean streets, both on radio and in comedy albums. Cartoons such as Garfield's Babes and Bullets
Garfield's Babes and Bullets
Garfield's Babes and Bullets is a half-hour animated television special based on a segment from the book Garfield: His 9 Lives. It once again featured Lorenzo Music as the voice of Garfield. The special was first broadcast May 23, 1989 on CBS...

(1989) and comic strip
Comic strip
A comic strip is a sequence of drawings arranged in interrelated panels to display brief humor or form a narrative, often serialized, with text in balloons and captions....

 characters such as Tracer Bullet of Calvin and Hobbes
Calvin and Hobbes
Calvin and Hobbes is a syndicated daily comic strip that was written and illustrated by American cartoonist Bill Watterson, and syndicated from November 18, 1985, to December 31, 1995. It follows the humorous antics of Calvin, a precocious and adventurous six-year-old boy, and Hobbes, his...

have parodied both film noir and the kindred hardboiled tradition—one of the sources from which film noir sprang and which it now overshadows.

Identifying characteristics

In their original 1955 canon of film noir, Raymond Borde and Etienne Chaumeton identified twenty-two Hollywood films released between 1941 and 1952 as core examples; they listed another fifty-nine American films from the period as significantly related to the field of noir. A half-century later, film historians and critics had come to agree on a canon of approximately three hundred films from 1940–58. There remain, however, many differences of opinion over whether other films of the era, among them a number of well-known ones, qualify as film noirs or not. For instance, The Night of the Hunter
The Night of the Hunter (film)
The Night of the Hunter is a 1955 American thriller film directed by Charles Laughton and starring Robert Mitchum and Shelley Winters. The film is based on the 1953 novel of the same name by Davis Grubb, adapted for the screen by James Agee and Laughton...

(1955), starring Robert Mitchum in an acclaimed performance, is treated as a film noir by some critics, but not by others. Some critics include Suspicion
Suspicion (film)
Suspicion is a romantic psychological thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and starring Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine as a married couple. It also stars Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Nigel Bruce, Dame May Whitty, Isabel Jeans, Heather Angel, and Leo G...

(1941), directed by Alfred Hitchcock, in their catalogues of noir; others ignore it. Concerning films made either before or after the classic period, or outside of the United States at any time, consensus is even rarer.

To support their categorization of certain films as noirs and their rejection of others, many critics refer to a set of elements they see as marking examples of the mode. The question of what constitutes the set of noir's identifying characteristics is a fundamental source of controversy. For instance, critics tend to define the model film noir as having a tragic or bleak conclusion, but many acknowledged classics of the genre have clearly happy endings (e.g., Stranger on the Third Floor, The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, and The Dark Corner), while the tone of many other noir denouements is ambivalent. Some critics perceive classic noir's hallmark as a distinctive visual style. Others, observing that there is actually considerable stylistic variety among noirs, instead emphasize plot and character type. Still others focus on mood and attitude. No survey of classic noir's identifying characteristics can therefore be considered definitive. In the 1990s and 2000s, critics have increasingly turned their attention to that diverse field of films called neo-noir; once again, there is even less consensus about the defining attributes of such films made outside the classic period.

Visual style

The low-key lighting
Low-key lighting
Low-key lighting is a style of lighting for photography, film or television. It is a necessary element in creating a chiaroscuro effect. Traditional photographic lighting, three-point lighting uses a key light, a fill light, and a back light for illumination...

 schemes of many classic film noirs are associated with stark light/dark contrasts
Contrast (vision)
Contrast is the difference in visual properties that makes an object distinguishable from other objects and the background. In visual perception of the real world, contrast is determined by the difference in the color and brightness of the object and other objects within the same field of view...

 and dramatic shadow patterning—a style known as chiaroscuro
Chiaroscuro
Chiaroscuro in art is "an Italian term which literally means 'light-dark'. In paintings the description refers to clear tonal contrasts which are often used to suggest the volume and modelling of the subjects depicted"....

 (a term adopted from Renaissance painting). The shadows of Venetian blinds or banister rods, cast upon an actor, a wall, or an entire set, are an iconic visual in noir and had already become a cliché
Cliché
A cliché or cliche is an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has been overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel. In phraseology, the term has taken on a more technical meaning,...

 well before the neo-noir era. Characters' faces may be partially or wholly obscured by darkness—a relative rarity in conventional Hollywood filmmaking. While black-and-white cinematography is considered by many to be one of the essential attributes of classic noir, the color films Leave Her to Heaven
Leave Her to Heaven
Leave Her to Heaven is a 1945 American 20th Century Fox Technicolor film noir motion picture starring Gene Tierney, Cornel Wilde, Jeanne Crain, with Vincent Price, Darryl Hickman, and Chill Wills...

(1945) and Niagara
Niagara (1953 film)
Niagara is a 1953 thriller-film noir directed by Henry Hathaway and starring Joseph Cotten, Jean Peters, and introducing Marilyn Monroe. Unlike other film noirs of the time, Niagara was shot in Technicolor on location and was one of 20th Century Fox's biggest box-office hits of the year.-Plot:Ray...

(1953) are routinely included in noir filmographies, while Slightly Scarlet (1956), Party Girl
Party Girl (1958 film)
Party Girl is a film noir filmed in Metrocolor and CinemaScope. The film was directed by Nicholas Ray and starred Robert Taylor, Cyd Charisse, and Lee J. Cobb. Charisse performs two dance routines in the gangster film...

(1958), and Vertigo
Vertigo (film)
Vertigo is a 1958 psychological thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring James Stewart, Kim Novak, and Barbara Bel Geddes. The screenplay was written by Alec Coppel and Samuel A...

(1958) are classified as noir by varying numbers of critics.

Film noir is also known for its use of low-angle
Low-angle shot
In cinematography, a low-angle shot, is a shot from a camera positioned low on the vertical axis, anywhere below the eyeline, looking up.-Famous examples:...

, wide-angle
Wide-angle lens
From a design perspective, a wide angle lens is one that projects a substantially larger image circle than would be typical for a standard design lens of the same focal length; this enables either large tilt & shift movements with a view camera, or lenses with wide fields of view.More informally,...

, and skewed, or Dutch angle
Dutch angle
Dutch tilt, Dutch angle, Dutch shot, oblique angle, German angle, canted angle, Batman angle, or jaunty angle are terms used for one of many cinematic techniques often used to portray the psychological uneasiness or tension in the subject being filmed...

 shots. Other devices of disorientation relatively common in film noir include shots of people reflected in one or more mirrors, shots through curved or frosted glass or other distorting objects (such as during the strangulation scene in Strangers on a Train), and special effects sequences of a sometimes bizarre nature. Night-for-night
Night-for-night
In cinematography, night-for-night filming is the name given to the practice of actually filming night scenes at night.In the early days of cinema, before the invention of the proper lighting systems, night scenes were filmed "day-for-night"--that is, they were filmed during the day, and the film...

 shooting, as opposed to the Hollywood norm of day-for-night, was often employed. From the mid-1940s forward, location shooting
Location shooting
Location shooting is the practice of filming in an actual setting rather than on a sound stage or back lot. In filmmaking a location is any place where a film crew will be filming actors and recording their dialog. A location where dialog is not recorded may be considered as a second unit...

 became increasingly frequent in noir.

In an analysis of the visual approach of Kiss Me Deadly, a late and self-consciously stylized example of classic noir, critic Alain Silver describes how cinematographic choices emphasize the story's themes and mood. In one scene, the characters, seen through a "confusion of angular shapes", thus appear "caught in a tangible vortex or enclosed in a trap." Silver makes a case for how "side light is used ... to reflect character ambivalence", while shots of characters in which they are lit from below "conform to a convention of visual expression which associates shadows cast upward of the face with the unnatural and ominous".

Structure and narrational devices

Film noirs tend to have unusually convoluted story lines, frequently involving flashbacks and other editing techniques that disrupt and sometimes obscure the narrative
Narrative
A narrative is a constructive format that describes a sequence of non-fictional or fictional events. The word derives from the Latin verb narrare, "to recount", and is related to the adjective gnarus, "knowing" or "skilled"...

 sequence. Framing the entire primary narrative as a flashback is also a standard device. Voiceover narration, sometimes used as a structuring device, came to be seen as a noir hallmark; while classic noir is generally associated with first-person narration (i.e., by the protagonist), Stephen Neale notes that third-person narration is common among noirs of the semidocumentary style. Neo-noirs as varied as The Element of Crime (surrealist), After Dark, My Sweet (retro), and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (meta) have employed the flashback/voiceover combination.

Bold experiments in cinematic storytelling were sometimes attempted during the classic era: Lady in the Lake, for example, is shot entirely from the point of view
Point of view shot
A point of view shot is a short film scene that shows what a character is looking at . It is usually established by being positioned between a shot of a character looking at something, and a shot showing the character's reaction...

 of protagonist Philip Marlowe; the face of star (and director) Robert Montgomery
Robert Montgomery (actor)
Robert Montgomery was an American actor and director.- Early life :Montgomery was born Henry Montgomery, Jr. in Beacon, New York, then known as "Fishkill Landing", the son of Mary Weed and Henry Montgomery, Sr. His early childhood was one of privilege, since his father was president of the New...

 is seen only in mirrors. The Chase
The Chase (1946 film)
The Chase is an American film noir, shot in black and white, directed by Arthur Ripley. The screenplay is based on the Cornell Woolrich novel The Black Path of Fear...

(1946) takes oneirism
Daydream
A daydream is a visionary fantasy, especially one of happy, pleasant thoughts, hopes or ambitions, imagined as coming to pass, and experienced while awake. There are many types of daydreams, and there is no consistent definition amongst psychologists. The general public also uses the term for a...

 and fatalism as the basis for its fantastical narrative system, redolent of certain horror stories, but with little precedent in the context of a putatively realistic genre. In their different ways, both Sunset Boulevard and D.O.A. are tales told by dead men. Latter-day noir has been in the forefront of structural experimentation in popular cinema, as exemplified by such films as Pulp Fiction, Fight Club, and Memento.

Plots, characters, and settings

Crime, usually murder, is an element of almost all film noirs; in addition to standard-issue greed, jealousy is frequently the criminal motivation. A crime investigation—by a private eye, a police detective (sometimes acting alone), or a concerned amateur—is the most prevalent, but far from dominant, basic plot. In other common plots the protagonists are implicated in heists
Heist film
A heist film is a film that has an intricate plot woven around a group of people trying to steal something. Versions with dominant or prominent comic elements are often called caper movies. They could be described as the analogues of caper stories in film history...

 or con games
Confidence trick
A confidence trick is an attempt to defraud a person or group by gaining their confidence. A confidence artist is an individual working alone or in concert with others who exploits characteristics of the human psyche such as dishonesty and honesty, vanity, compassion, credulity, irresponsibility,...

, or in murderous conspiracies often involving adulterous affairs. False suspicions and accusations of crime are frequent plot elements, as are betrayals and double-crosses. According to J. David Slocum, "protagonists assume the literal identities of dead men in nearly fifteen percent of all noir." Amnesia
Amnesia
Amnesia is a condition in which one's memory is lost. The causes of amnesia have traditionally been divided into categories. Memory appears to be stored in several parts of the limbic system of the brain, and any condition that interferes with the function of this system can cause amnesia...

 is fairly epidemic—"noir's version of the common cold", in the words of film historian Lee Server.
Film noirs tend to revolve around heroes who are more flawed and morally questionable than the norm, often fall guy
Fall guy
A fall guy is a person used as a scapegoat to take the blame for someone else's actions, or someone at the butt of jokes. One placed in the position of fall guy is often referred to as "taking the fall". In the film industry, a fall guy is a form of stock character.-Origin:The origin of "fall guy"...

s of one sort or another. The characteristic protagonists of noir are described by many critics as "alienated
Social alienation
The term social alienation has many discipline-specific uses; Roberts notes how even within the social sciences, it “is used to refer both to a personal psychological state and to a type of social relationship”...

"; in the words of Silver and Ward, "filled with existential
Existentialism
Existentialism is a term applied to a school of 19th- and 20th-century philosophers who, despite profound doctrinal differences, shared the belief that philosophical thinking begins with the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual...

 bitterness". Certain archetypal characters appear in many film noirs—hardboiled detectives, femme fatales, corrupt policemen, jealous husbands, intrepid claims adjuster
Claims adjuster
Claims adjusters investigate insurance claims by interviewing the claimant and witnesses, consulting police and hospital records, and inspecting property damage to determine the extent of the company’s liability. In the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, the Caribbean and New Zealand...

s, and down-and-out writers. Among characters of every stripe, cigarette smoking is rampant. From historical commentators to neo-noir pictures to pop culture ephemera, the private eye and the femme fatale have been adopted as the quintessential film noir figures, though they do not appear in most films now regarded as classic noir. Of the twenty-three National Film Registry noirs, in only four does the star play a private eye: The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, Out of the Past, and Kiss Me Deadly. Just four others readily qualify as detective stories: Laura, The Killers, The Naked City, and Touch of Evil.

Film noir is often associated with an urban setting, and a few cities—Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Chicago, in particular—are the location of many of the classic films. In the eyes of many critics, the city is presented in noir as a "labyrinth" or "maze". Bars, lounges, nightclubs, and gambling dens are frequently the scene of action. The climaxes of a substantial number of film noirs take place in visually complex, often industrial settings, such as refineries, factories, trainyards, power plants—most famously the explosive conclusion of White Heat, set at a chemical plant. In the popular (and, frequently enough, critical) imagination, in noir it is always night and it always rains.

A substantial trend within latter-day noir—dubbed "film soleil" by critic D. K. Holm—heads in precisely the opposite direction, with tales of deception, seduction, and corruption exploiting bright, sun-baked settings, stereotypically the desert or open water, to searing effect. Significant predecessors from the classic and early post-classic eras include The Lady from Shanghai; the Robert Ryan
Robert Ryan
Robert Bushnell Ryan was an American actor who often played hardened cops and ruthless villains.-Early life and career:...

 vehicle Inferno
Inferno (1953 film)
Inferno is a 1953 American film noir drama/thriller directed by Roy Ward Baker, shot in Technicolor and shown in 3-D Dimension and stereophonic sound on prints for the few theaters equipped for that sound system in 1953.-Plot:...

(1953); the French adaptation of Patricia Highsmith
Patricia Highsmith
Patricia Highsmith was an American novelist and short-story writer most widely known for her psychological thrillers, which led to more than two dozen film adaptations. Her first novel, Strangers on a Train, has been adapted for stage and screen numerous times, notably by Alfred Hitchcock in 1951...

's The Talented Mr. Ripley
The Talented Mr. Ripley
The Talented Mr. Ripley is a psychological thriller novel by Patricia Highsmith. This novel first introduced the character of Tom Ripley who returns in the novels Ripley Under Ground, Ripley's Game, The Boy Who Followed Ripley and Ripley Under Water...

, Plein soleil
Plein Soleil
Purple Noon is a 1960 film directed by René Clément, based on The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith, and starring Alain Delon in his first major movie...

(Purple Noon in the U.S., more accurately rendered elsewhere as Blazing Sun or Full Sun; 1960); and director Don Siegel's version of The Killers
The Killers (1964 film)
The Killers, sometimes marketed as Ernest Hemingway's The Killers, is a 1964 crime film released by Universal Studios. It is the second Hollywood adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's short story of the same name, following a version made in 1946 starring Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner. It was directed...

(1964). The tendency was at its peak during the late 1980s and 1990s, with films such as Dead Calm
Dead Calm
Dead Calm is a 1963 novel by Charles F. Williams, which was the basis for the unreleased film The Deep and the later film Dead Calm .- Plot :...

(1989); After Dark, My Sweet; The Hot Spot; Delusion (1991); and Red Rock West, and TV's Miami Vice.

Worldview, morality, and tone

Film noir is often described as essentially pessimistic. The noir stories that are regarded as most characteristic tell of people trapped in unwanted situations (which, in general, they did not cause but are responsible for exacerbating), striving against random, uncaring fate, and frequently doomed. The films are seen as depicting a world that is inherently corrupt. Classic film noir has been associated by many critics with the American social landscape of the era—in particular, with a sense of heightened anxiety and alienation that is said to have followed World War II. In author Nicholas Christopher
Nicholas Christopher
-Background:Christopher graduated from Harvard College with a B.A. He teaches at Columbia University. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, The New Republic, The Paris Review, The Nation, and The New York Review of Books. His novels can be considered as magic realist...

's opinion, "it is as if the war, and the social eruptions in its aftermath, unleashed demons that had been bottled up in the national psyche." Film noirs, especially those of the 1950s and the height of the Red Scare
Red Scare
Durrell Blackwell Durrell Blackwell The term Red Scare denotes two distinct periods of strong Anti-Communism in the United States: the First Red Scare, from 1919 to 1920, and the Second Red Scare, from 1947 to 1957. The First Red Scare was about worker revolution and...

, are often said to reflect cultural paranoia
Paranoia
Paranoia [] is a thought process believed to be heavily influenced by anxiety or fear, often to the point of irrationality and delusion. Paranoid thinking typically includes persecutory beliefs, or beliefs of conspiracy concerning a perceived threat towards oneself...

; Kiss Me Deadly is the noir most frequently marshaled as evidence for this claim.

Film noir is often said to be defined by "moral ambiguity", yet the Production Code obliged almost all classic noirs to see that steadfast virtue was ultimately rewarded and vice, in the absence of shame and redemption, severely punished (however dramatically incredible the final rendering of mandatory justice might be). A substantial number of latter-day noirs flout such conventions: vice emerges triumphant in films as varied as the grim Chinatown and the ribald Hot Spot.

The tone of film noir is generally regarded as downbeat; some critics experience it as darker still—"overwhelmingly black", according to Robert Ottoson. Influential critic (and filmmaker) Paul Schrader wrote in a seminal 1972 essay that "film noir is defined by tone", a tone he seems to perceive as "hopeless". In describing the adaptation of Double Indemnity, noir analyst Foster Hirsch describes the "requisite hopeless tone" achieved by the filmmakers, which appears to characterize his view of noir as a whole. On the other hand, definitive film noirs such as The Big Sleep, The Lady from Shanghai, and Double Indemnity itself are famed for their hardboiled repartee, often imbued with sexual innuendo and self-reflexive humor—notes of another tone.

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    Carl Macek
    Carl F. Macek was an American writer and controversial anime pioneer and producer of the 1980s and 1990s.-Robotech and Harmony Gold USA:...

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    Eddie Muller
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     (1998). Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir. New York: St. Martin's. ISBN 0-312-18076-4
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    Paul Schrader
    Paul Joseph Schrader is an American screenwriter, film director, and former film critic. Apart from his credentials as a director, Schrader is most notably known for his screenplays for Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and Raging Bull....

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    James Ursini is a teacher and writer living in Los Angeles. He received his Master's Degree in Theater Arts and a Doctorate in Film in 1975 from UCLA...

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Further reading

  • Chopra-Gant, Mike (2005). Hollywood Genres and Postwar America: Masculinity, Family and Nation in Popular Movies and Film Noir. London: IB Tauris. ISBN 1-85043-838-2
  • Cochran, David (2000). America Noir: Underground Writers and Filmmakers of the Postwar Era. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press. ISBN 1-56098-813-4
  • Dickos, Andrew (2002). Street with No Name: A History of the Classic American Film Noir. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-2243-0
  • Dimendberg, Edward (2004). Film Noir and the Spaces of Modernity. Cambridge, Mass., and London: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-01314-X
  • Dixon, Wheeler W. (2009). Film Noir and the Cinema of Paranoia. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press. ISBN 0-8135-4521-8
  • Grossman, Julie (2009). Rethinking the Femme Fatale in Film Noir: Ready for Her Close-Up. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-230-23328-7
  • Hannsberry, Karen Burroughs (1998). Femme Noir: Bad Girls of Film. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. ISBN 0-7864-0429-9
  • Hannsberry, Karen Burroughs (2003). Bad Boys: The Actors of Film Noir. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. ISBN 0-7864-1484-7
  • Hare, William (2003). Early Film Noir: Greed, Lust, and Murder Hollywood Style. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. ISBN 0-7864-1629-7
  • Kaplan, E. Ann, ed. (1998). Women in Film Noir, new ed. London: British Film Institute. ISBN 0-85170-666-5
  • Keaney, Michael F. (2003). Film Noir Guide: 745 Films of the Classic Era, 1940–1959. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. ISBN 0-7864-1547-9
  • Martin, Richard (1999). Mean Streets and Raging Bulls: The Legacy of Film Noir in Contemporary American Cinema. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow. ISBN 0-8108-3642-4
  • Mason, Fran (2002). American Gangster Cinema: From Little Caesar to Pulp Fiction. Houndmills, UK: Palgrave. ISBN 0-333-67452-9
  • Mayer, Geoff, and Brian McDonnell (2007). Encyclopedia of Film Noir. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood. ISBN 0-313-33306-8
  • McArthur, Colin (1972). Underworld U.S.A. New York: Viking. ISBN 0-670-01953-4
  • Palmer, R. Barton (1994). Hollywood's Dark Cinema: The American Film Noir. New York: Twayne. ISBN 0-8057-9335-6
  • Palmer, R. Barton, ed. (1996). Perspectives on Film Noir. New York: G.K. Hall. ISBN 0-8161-1601-6
  • Pappas, Charles (2005). It's a Bitter Little World: The Smartest, Toughest, Nastiest Quotes from Film Noir. Iola, Wisc.: Writer's Digest Books. ISBN 1-58297-387-3
  • Rabinowitz, Paula (2002). Black & White & Noir: America's Pulp Modernism. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-11481-8
  • Schatz, Thomas (1997). Boom and Bust: American Cinema in the 1940s. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press. ISBN 0-684-19151-2
  • Selby, Spencer (1984). Dark City: The Film Noir. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. ISBN 0-89950-103-6
  • Shadoian, Jack (2003). Dreams and Dead Ends: The American Gangster Film, 2d ed. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-514291-8
  • Silver, Alain, and James Ursini (1999). The Noir Style. Woodstock, N.Y.: Overlook Press. ISBN 0-87951-722-0
  • Spicer, Andrew (2002). Film Noir. Harlow, UK: Pearson Education. ISBN 0-582-43712-1


External links

  • Film Noir Q&A-style essay by leading noir critic-historian Eddie Muller
    Eddie Muller
    Eddie Muller is a writer based in San Francisco. He is known for writing books about movies, particularly film noir. Founder and president of the Film Noir Foundation, he is considered a noir expert and is called on to write and talk about the film genre, notably on wry commentary tracks for Fox's...

    ; part of the GreenCine
    GreenCine
    GreenCine is an online DVD rental service similar to Netflix. Based in San Francisco, California, with its distribution center in the Los Angeles area , it has a collection of over 30,000 titles as well as over 9,000 video on demand titles...

     website
  • Film Noir: A Bibliography of Materials and Film Videography holdings of the UC Berkeley Library
  • Film Noir: An Introduction essay with links to discussions of ten important noirs; part of Images: A Journal of Film and Popular Culture
  • Film Noir Studies writings by John Blaser, with film noir glossary, timeline, and noir-related media
  • A Guide to Film Noir Genre ten deadeye bullet points from Roger Ebert
    Roger Ebert
    Roger Joseph Ebert is an American film critic and screenwriter. He is the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism.Ebert is known for his film review column and for the television programs Sneak Previews, At the Movies with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, and Siskel and Ebert and The...

  • An Introduction to Neo-Noir essay by Lee Horsley
    Lee Horsley
    Lee Arthur Horsley is an American film, television, and theater actor known for starring roles in the television series, Nero Wolfe , Matt Houston , and Paradise . He starred in the 1982 cult film, The Sword and the Sorcerer, and recorded the audiobook edition of Lonesome Dove...

  • The Noir Thriller: Introduction excerpt from 2001 book by Lee Horsley
  • What Is This Thing Called Noir?: Parts I, II and III essay by Alain Silver and Linda Brookover
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