All Time Greatest Films Noir By FilmsNoir.Net

The greatest films noir of all time. Ambitious and perhaps presumptuous. But without apology or regrets. A list of 65 movies which I rate 5-stars…

The greatest films noir of all time. Ambitious and perhaps presumptuous. But without apology or regrets.

A  list of 65  movies which I rate 5-star – the top films noir.  As  have an aversion to rankings, my list of the best films noir is listed by year of production.

5 star Noirs Click on the title for the FilmsNoir.Net review

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

10 thoughts on “All Time Greatest Films Noir By FilmsNoir.Net”

  1. This is absolutely extraordinary in every sense of that oft-used term. I’ve been waiting for something like this for a very long time, even while fully understanding the difficulties inherent in such an undertaking. There will always be revisions, seond guessing and indeed some new additions. But the great ones will always be there, and you’ve done a painstaking job closing the deal. By including some genre treasures from Japan, the UK, and especially from France you’ve given this venture wider scope and fairness in delineating what noir has come to be in a wordwide sense. Yes, this is a US genre, and yes, one could with every bit of sense stick with the classic US period to make things less complicated, but this would be at the expense of some very great films like RIFIFI, BRIGHTON ROCK and STRAY DOG among others. As you note my beloved NIGHT AND THE CITY is a co-production. I’ve followed the arc of your various presentations of all of these films over the past few years at these hallowed halls, and I’ve seen the scholarly insights you’ve imparted in setting the groudwork for the decision-making you’ve posted here, and it’s fully consistent. I absolutely adore THE SET-YP< NIGHT AND THE CITY, ON DANGEROUS GROUND, BRIGHTON ROCK, THEY CLASH BY NIGHT, RAW DEAL, YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE, RIFIFI, OUT OF THE PAST, FORCE OF EVIL, THE BIG HEAT, ACE IN THE HOLE and a number of others here, nearly every one in fact, though I am not yet equipped to do what you have done here so magnificently.

    I also love the grid setup, and the short and precise points that quality each one. Numerical listing is not necessary, even if I employ it strictly for drama.


  2. I really like your carefully discovered list of greatest noirs, Tony, in its tipoff that the darkness of interest travels through and above uplifting motives. Along this sightline, you leave room for the works’ portraying struggles between crushing odds and significant freedom. I think the fatedness underway in great noirs neither precludes effective verve nor installs predetermined cosmic manipulation. Your references to the often inspired wry humor (from sources like Raymond Chandler)trace to the irony of redeeming instincts being bulldozed by a critical mass of rabid appetites. As such, the glory of these films—as your excellent and more extensive commentaries particularly reveal—is their sizzling open-endedness, their profound wildness. (Their visual and sonic audacity speaks to this.) Like, you, I see noir not as a product of a limited era, and not as confirming ancient verities, but, rather, as pointing ahead to a hitherto unattended historical dilemma. And thereby they anticipate and bounce off of (rather than stand apart from, in the form of nostalgia) many challenging cinematic bids going into the twenty-first century.


  3. hi Tony!

    the list is fucking ultimate!
    But where is High Sierra and pick-up on the south street?

    Why haven’t you been writing for so long? i hope it’s not your last post. i really missed you, man

    PS. me and my friend made our first short feature film called “Evil story”. you can watch it here:

    it’s in russian, but we’ll make an english version soon. in many ways it was inspired by classic noirs. i hope you’ll enjoy it. your comments are welcomed (especially on cinematography)

    your greatest fan from Russia


  4. Privet kilgort! Great to hear from you. You may be right on High Sierra – I will definitely need to reconsider. Pickup is a ‘nearly’ – I will be posting a nearlies list soon.

    I am in a funk and so my writing on noir is in limbo – it’s complicated so I won’t bore you with the my banal angst – essentially I’d “rather have the blues”.

    The MP4 file at Vimeo is corrupted and freezes at 01:30. What I have seen makes me very excited – looks cool and an intriguing opening scene! Fix the file so I can see the rest and feature the movie here at! It would be great to have English subs down the line.



  5. Thank you so much Tony for this great list. I have been using your ratings and reviews to build my film Noir collection. Thanks for all the hard work.


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