FILM NOIR (1940-1959)

by kuzzn | created - 17 Jun 2018 | updated - 1 month ago | Public

Much more so than with any other film type, there has been quite a bit of disagreement about which movies fit into this category of cinema. Many do not view film noir as a genre in itself but instead as a dark film STYLE and often a period-specific one. Motion pictures that may be considered noir by some, others describe as noirish or noir-like, as having characteristic elements but not enough to qualify them fully as films noir. There are also the related designations of proto-noir and neo-noir, applied to stylistically film noir motion pictures preceding and following classic film noir. While neo means new, what was new at an earlier time is taken into consideration under this description of neo-noir, just as what is new now otherwise would not be considered neo years from now.

The time range for what is called classic film noir has also been debated. But this film style was most prolific and pictures were most clearly noir (in how they were presented by filmmakers and also very likely how they were received by the audiences that originally viewed them, in turn reinforcing filmmaking of this kind) during a period of particular uncertainty and pessimism in the world. This was especially true about the 1940s and 1950s, when World War II plus post-war events (notably during the earlier years of the Cold War) had so profoundly affected the everyday lives of people around the globe. And even though some fans and critics limit film noir pictures to ones shot in black and white and despite the fact that the words film noir were first widely used about certain American movies, this list of feature length film noir movies additionally includes color films as well as motion pictures made outside the United States.

Not just about film noir: "foreign" films did not seem to have moral constraints that were as excessive as the ones imposed upon U.S. movies during this period in cinematic history, further shaping the character of motion pictures at that time. The Production Code (also known as the Hays Code) had made its mark on American films back then, where filmmakers found creative ways around these guidelines, including the use of a greater degree of symbolism and innuendo.

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1. The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Not Rated | 100 min | Film-Noir, Mystery

96 Metascore

A private detective takes on a case that involves him with three eccentric criminals, a gorgeous liar, and their quest for a priceless statuette.

Director: John Huston | Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Gladys George, Peter Lorre

Votes: 142,404 | Gross: $2.11M

2. Castle on the Hudson (1940)

Approved | 77 min | Crime, Drama

Mobster Tommy Gordon isn't worried about being sentenced to Sing Sing prison because his political pals have promised him a quick parole. A troublesome prisoner, he finally concedes that ... See full summary »

Director: Anatole Litvak | Stars: John Garfield, Ann Sheridan, Pat O'Brien, Burgess Meredith

Votes: 498

3. The House of the Seven Gables (1940)

Approved | 89 min | Drama, Thriller

Fighting over an inheritance, one Pyncheon brother frames the other for murder.

Director: Joe May | Stars: George Sanders, Margaret Lindsay, Vincent Price, Dick Foran

Votes: 873

4. Rebecca (1940)

Not Rated | 130 min | Drama, Mystery, Romance

A self-conscious woman juggles adjusting to her new role as an aristocrat's wife and avoiding being intimidated by his first wife's spectral presence.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders, Judith Anderson

Votes: 113,014 | Gross: $4.36M

5. Gang War (1940)

Approved | 63 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

Two mobs fight for control of the jukebox racket.

Director: Leo C. Popkin | Stars: Ralph Cooper, Gladys Snyder, Reginald Fenderson, Laurence Criner

Votes: 89

Gang War [a.k.a. Crime Street]

6. They Drive by Night (1940)

Approved | 95 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

When one of 2 truck driving brothers loses an arm, they both join a transport company where later, the other is falsely charged as an accessory in the murder of the owner.

Director: Raoul Walsh | Stars: George Raft, Humphrey Bogart, Ann Sheridan, Ida Lupino

Votes: 6,574

7. Doomed to Die (1940)

Approved | 68 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

Mr. Wong and a girl reporter investigate a shipping magnate's murder.

Director: William Nigh | Stars: Boris Karloff, Marjorie Reynolds, Grant Withers, William Stelling

Votes: 907

8. Stranger on the Third Floor (1940)

Approved | 64 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

An aspiring reporter is the key witness at the murder trial of a young man accused of cutting a café owner's throat and is soon accused of a similar crime himself.

Director: Boris Ingster | Stars: Peter Lorre, John McGuire, Margaret Tallichet, Charles Waldron

Votes: 3,268

9. The Letter (1940)

Not Rated | 95 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

The wife of a rubber plantation administrator shoots a man to death and claims it was self-defense, but a letter in her own hand may prove her undoing.

Director: William Wyler | Stars: Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall, James Stephenson, Frieda Inescort

Votes: 10,602

10. The Face Behind the Mask (1941)

Approved | 69 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

A disfigured watch-maker with a grudge against society embarks on a life of crime.

Director: Robert Florey | Stars: Peter Lorre, Evelyn Keyes, Don Beddoe, George E. Stone

Votes: 960

11. High Sierra (1941)

Passed | 100 min | Action, Adventure, Crime

After being released from prison, notorious thief Roy Earle is hired by his old boss to help a group of inexperienced criminals plan and carry out the robbery of a California resort.

Director: Raoul Walsh | Stars: Ida Lupino, Humphrey Bogart, Alan Curtis, Arthur Kennedy

Votes: 13,899

12. Flight from Destiny (1941)

Approved | 75 min | Drama, Film-Noir

After philosophy Professor Todhunter is told he has 6 months left to live, he is barred from teaching by his college so there won't be a scandal if he drops dead in class. Discussing a ... See full summary »

Director: Vincent Sherman | Stars: Geraldine Fitzgerald, Thomas Mitchell, Jeffrey Lynn, James Stephenson

Votes: 168

13. Rage in Heaven (1941)

Approved | 85 min | Drama, Thriller

Old friends Ward and Phillip both become smitten with Phillip's mother's attractive young secretary Stella. But Stella marries Phillip and stands by him as his behavior becomes more and ... See full summary »

Directors: W.S. Van Dyke, Robert B. Sinclair, Richard Thorpe | Stars: Robert Montgomery, Ingrid Bergman, George Sanders, Lucile Watson

Votes: 922

14. A Woman's Face (1941)

Passed | 106 min | Drama, Film-Noir, Thriller

A female blackmailer with a disfiguring facial scar meets a plastic surgeon who offers her the possibility of looking like a normal woman.

Director: George Cukor | Stars: Joan Crawford, Melvyn Douglas, Conrad Veidt, Osa Massen

Votes: 2,442

15. Paper Bullets (1941)

Approved | 72 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

Circumstances force naive Dorothy Adams into serving an unjust prison term, but she emerges from it a cynical criminal who rises to power in the local crime organization.

Director: Phil Rosen | Stars: Joan Woodbury, Jack La Rue, Linda Ware, John Archer

Votes: 193

Paper Bullets [a.k.a. Gangs, Inc.]

16. Out of the Fog (1941)

Approved | 85 min | Crime, Drama

In Brooklyn, fishing is the hobby of the workers Jonah Goodwin and Olaf Johnson and they use to fish every night in their old boat. Jonah's daughter is the twenty-one year-old telephone ... See full summary »

Director: Anatole Litvak | Stars: Ida Lupino, John Garfield, Thomas Mitchell, Eddie Albert

Votes: 1,202

17. Dressed to Kill (1941)

Approved | 74 min | Crime, Film-Noir, Mystery

Detective Michael Shayne and his girlfriend Joanne are on their way to be married when a scream from a nearby hotel room draws his attention to a pair of theatrical murders.

Director: Eugene Forde | Stars: Lloyd Nolan, Mary Beth Hughes, Sheila Ryan, William Demarest

Votes: 914

18. Ladies in Retirement (1941)

Approved | 91 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

The housekeeper to a retired actress tries at the same time to look after her own two emotionally disturbed sisters, with dramatic results.

Director: Charles Vidor | Stars: Ida Lupino, Louis Hayward, Evelyn Keyes, Elsa Lanchester

Votes: 889

19. I Wake Up Screaming (1941)

Passed | 82 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

Why is Inspector Ed Cornell trying to railroad Frankie Christopher for the murder of model Vicky Lynn?

Director: H. Bruce Humberstone | Stars: Betty Grable, Victor Mature, Carole Landis, Laird Cregar

Votes: 3,398

I Wake Up Screaming [a.k.a. Hot Spot]

20. Suspicion (1941)

Not Rated | 99 min | Mystery, Thriller

83 Metascore

A shy young heiress marries a charming gentleman, and soon begins to suspect he is planning to murder her.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine, Cedric Hardwicke, Nigel Bruce

Votes: 29,627 | Gross: $4.50M

21. Blues in the Night (1941)

Passed | 88 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

"Jigger' Lane forms a band that includes singer Ginger 'Character' Powell, wife of the trumpeter Leo Powell, and Nickie Haroyen and Peppi. All of them dedicate themselves to work as a unit ... See full summary »

Director: Anatole Litvak | Stars: Priscilla Lane, Betty Field, Richard Whorf, Lloyd Nolan

Votes: 871

22. Johnny Eager (1941)

Passed | 107 min | Crime, Film-Noir, Thriller

The step-daughter of a district attorney falls in love with a gangster on parole who her father originally imprisoned.

Director: Mervyn LeRoy | Stars: Robert Taylor, Lana Turner, Edward Arnold, Van Heflin

Votes: 2,291

23. Among the Living (1941)

Approved | 67 min | Drama, Film-Noir, Mystery

A mentally unstable man, who has been kept in isolation for years, escapes and causes trouble for his identical twin brother.

Director: Stuart Heisler | Stars: Albert Dekker, Susan Hayward, Frances Farmer, Harry Carey

Votes: 393

24. The Shanghai Gesture (1941)

Approved | 95 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

In Shanghai, dragon-lady 'Mother' Gin Sling operates a gambling house for wealthy patrons but she clashes with influential land developer Sir Guy Charteris who wants to put her out-of-business.

Director: Josef von Sternberg | Stars: Gene Tierney, Walter Huston, Victor Mature, Ona Munson

Votes: 2,366

25. Sealed Lips (1942)

Passed | 62 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

A detective begins to suspect that a man may be in prison for a crime he didn't commit.

Director: George Waggner | Stars: William Gargan, June Clyde, John Litel, Anne Nagel

Votes: 46

26. Lady Gangster (1942)

Passed | 62 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

Dot Burton (Faye Emerson) has acted as a decoy in a bank robbery and fails to get away. Her arrest attracts the attention of Ken Phillips (Frank Wilcox), a former childhood sweetheart who ... See full summary »

Director: Robert Florey | Stars: Faye Emerson, Julie Bishop, Frank Wilcox, Roland Drew

Votes: 400

27. Kid Glove Killer (1942)

Passed | 74 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

Crime lab expert Gordon McKay uses the latest forensic techniques to solve murders in a city plagued by political corruption and mob rackets.

Director: Fred Zinnemann | Stars: Van Heflin, Marsha Hunt, Lee Bowman, Samuel S. Hinds

Votes: 820

28. Saboteur (1942)

PG | 109 min | Thriller, War

64 Metascore

An aircraft factory worker goes on the run after being wrongly accused of starting a fire that killed his best friend.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: Priscilla Lane, Robert Cummings, Otto Kruger, Alan Baxter

Votes: 21,464

29. This Gun for Hire (1942)

Passed | 81 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

When assassin Philip Raven shoots a blackmailer and his beautiful female companion dead, he is paid off in marked bills by his treasonous employer who is working with foreign spies.

Director: Frank Tuttle | Stars: Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, Robert Preston, Laird Cregar

Votes: 7,507

30. Moontide (1942)

Approved | 94 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

After a drunken binge on the San Pablo waterfront, longshoreman Bobo fears he may have killed a man. In his uncertainty, he takes a job on an isolated bait barge. That night, he rescues ... See full summary »

Directors: Archie Mayo, Fritz Lang | Stars: Jean Gabin, Ida Lupino, Thomas Mitchell, Claude Rains

Votes: 1,281

31. Grand Central Murder (1942)

Passed | 73 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama

Classic whodunit mystery film about a gold-digging variety show actress who has many enemies and is found dead in her private railroad car at Grand Central Station in New York.

Director: S. Sylvan Simon | Stars: Van Heflin, Patricia Dane, Cecilia Parker, Virginia Grey

Votes: 665

32. The Night Has Eyes (1942)

62 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Two teachers, man-hungry Doris and restrained Marian, visit the Yorkshire moors a year after friend Evelyn disappeared there. On a stormy night, they take refuge in the isolated cottage of ... See full summary »

Director: Leslie Arliss | Stars: James Mason, Wilfrid Lawson, Mary Clare, Joyce Howard

Votes: 489

33. The Big Shot (1942)

Approved | 82 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

Fearing life in prison for a third offense, convict Duke Berne pulls out of an armored car robbery, planned by his crooked lawyer, but he is framed for the robbery anyway.

Director: Lewis Seiler | Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Irene Manning, Richard Travis, Susan Peters

Votes: 673

34. Crossroads (1942)

Passed | 83 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

Diplomat is blackmailed for crimes he committed before he had amnesia.

Director: Jack Conway | Stars: William Powell, Hedy Lamarr, Claire Trevor, Basil Rathbone

Votes: 989

35. The Glass Key (1942)

Not Rated | 85 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

A crooked politician finds himself being accused of murder by a gangster from whom he refused help during a re-election campaign.

Director: Stuart Heisler | Stars: Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, Brian Donlevy, Bonita Granville

Votes: 5,111

36. Eyes of the Underworld (1942)

Approved | 61 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

Blackmail and murder in a tale of an auto-theft ring.

Director: Roy William Neill | Stars: Richard Dix, Wendy Barrie, Lon Chaney Jr., Lloyd Corrigan

Votes: 72

37. Street of Chance (1942)

Approved | 74 min | Drama, Film-Noir, Mystery

After an accident, a New York man with amnesia finds out the ugly truth about his real identity and past by interacting with people who seem to know him well.

Director: Jack Hively | Stars: Burgess Meredith, Claire Trevor, Louise Platt, Sheldon Leonard

Votes: 298

38. Nightmare (1942)

Approved | 81 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

An ex-gambler helps a beautiful widow, and becomes involved with a murder, secret agents, and saboteurs.

Director: Tim Whelan | Stars: Diana Barrymore, Brian Donlevy, Henry Daniell, Eustace Wyatt

Votes: 76

39. Quiet Please: Murder (1942)

Approved | 70 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

Book thief/forger sells a fake book to a Nazi through a female agent. A detective tries to uncover who the forger is and gets in the middle of a three way struggle for rare books and revenge in a public library.

Director: John Francis Larkin | Stars: George Sanders, Gail Patrick, Richard Denning, Lynne Roberts

Votes: 234

40. Journey Into Fear (1943)

Approved | 68 min | Drama, Film-Noir, Thriller

An American ballistics expert in Turkey finds himself targeted by Nazi agents. Safe passage home by ship is arranged for him, but he soon discovers that his pursuers are also on board.

Directors: Norman Foster, Orson Welles | Stars: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Dolores del Rio, Ruth Warrick

Votes: 3,602

41. Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

PG | 108 min | Thriller

94 Metascore

A young woman discovers her visiting uncle may not be the man he seems to be.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: Teresa Wright, Joseph Cotten, Macdonald Carey, Henry Travers

Votes: 54,939

42. Cosmo Jones in the Crime Smasher (1943)

Approved | 62 min | Comedy, Crime, Film-Noir

An amateur detective and a janitor try to find a kidnapped heiress.

Director: James Tinling | Stars: Frank Graham, Edgar Kennedy, Gale Storm, Richard Cromwell

Votes: 88

43. Hangmen Also Die! (1943)

Not Rated | 134 min | Drama, Film-Noir, Thriller

After the Nazi administrator of Czechoslovakia is shot, his assassin tries to elude the Gestapo and struggles with his impulse to give himself up as hostages are executed.

Director: Fritz Lang | Stars: Brian Donlevy, Walter Brennan, Anna Lee, Gene Lockhart

Votes: 4,202

44. Ossessione (1943)

TV-14 | 140 min | Crime, Drama, Romance