Film Noir Motifs: The Automobile

The modern metropolis cannot be imagined without the automobile. Along with the skyscraper, teeming streets of humanity, and barely functioning decrepit mass transit, the automobile defines the noir city. Dark deeds, heists, police pursuits, escapes, betrayals, and death all happen in and around cars – the darker and wetter the streets the better to deliver justice or not. Wailing sirens, screeching tyres, and the crack of gunshots from and into car windows mark out the celestial territory of film noir.

The Killers

Behind Green Lights

The Bodyguard

The Big Combo

The Crooked Way

Slaughter on 10th Avenue

Side Street

Side Street

The People Against O'Hara

The People Against O'Hara

The People Against O'Hara

Odds Against Tomorrow

Nora Prentiss

No Man of Her Own

No Man of Her Own

Kiss Me Deadly

House on 92nd Street

High Wall

Where the Sidewalk Ends


Crimson Kimono

Crime Wave

Born To Kil

Border Incindent

4 thoughts on “Film Noir Motifs: The Automobile”

  1. Wow, you again expand the boundaries of noir study with a breathtaking photo essay on the automobile and it’s crucial role in the noirish mise en scene. Fantastic!


  2. Wonderful photo essay.

    One of my favorite noir cars is the long, sinister black limousine that keeps pace with the speeding train in THE NARROW MARGIN. Director Richard Fleischer and editor Robert Swink engineer frequent cutaways to the car, as seen by the cop (Charles McGraw) who is transporting a mob witness. Every time McGraw glances from the window, that spooky boat of a car is there. McGraw knows it’s full of mob torpedoes–and he can’t do a thing about it.


    1. Hey David. Thanks and a great heads up for The Narrow Margin! I had forgotten those scenes and also the scenes inside the car when cops took Marie Windsor to the train station.


  3. Honorable mention to Cry Danger (1951) with the upside down bath tub Nash Amassador it had the first one piece curved windshield, enclosed front wheelwells and with coil spring suspension in front and back, “giving it the best ride in its class.” That bobs up and down like a boat. 😉


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