FilmsNoir.Net’s list of the 235 essential films noir. Titles with an asterisk have been reviewed on FilmsNoir.Net – full reviews here and capsule reviews here.

The list is not definitive. There are gaps. Missing are neo-noirs, a few French noirs, and directors such as Hitchcock. There are varied reasons but mostly the gaps are due to my personal preference, or because some films are not fresh enough in my mind and need to be watched again with their candidacy here in mind.

The list is in two parts:

  • The 71 all-time great films noir – rated 5-stars
  • The 164  runners-up – rated 4 or 4.5 stars
5 star Noirs 
*La Nuit du Carrefour1931 FranceAka ‘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 Once1937 USFritz Lang and Hollywood kick-start poetic realism! Henry Fonda and Sylvia Sidney are the doomed lovers on the run.
*Hotel du Nord1938 FrancePoetic realist melodrama of lives at a downtown Paris hotel. As moody as noir with a darkly absurd resolution.
*Port of Shadows1938 FranceAka 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 Screaming1941 USEarly crooked cop psycho-noir. Redolent noir motifs, dark shadows, off-kilter framing and expressionist imagery.
*The Maltese Falcon1941 USBogart 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.
*Ossessione1942 ItalyDemands and rewards multiple viewings. Visconti has taken a hard-boiled story and imbued it with intelligence, polemic, a humanist outrage, and above all, a deep compassion for the human predicament.
*Journey Into Fear1943 USMoody Orson Welles’ noir. Exotic locales, sexy dames, weird villains, politics, wisdom, philosophy, and a wry humor.
*The Seventh Victim1943 US“Despair behind, and death before doth cast”. The terror of an empty existence. Brilliant Lewton gothic melodrama.
*Christmas Holiday1944 USDirector Robert Siodmak smashes genre conventions by unleashing a wild expressionist ambience in a bizarre story of obsession and guilt thathas you appalled yet enthralled. Full of bizarre surprises.
*Double Indemnity1944 USAll the elements of the archetypal film noir  are distilled into a gothic LA tale of greed, sex, and betrayal.
*Laura1944 USGene Tierney is an exquisite iridescent angel and Dana Andrews a stolid cop who nails the killer after falling for a dead dame.
*Murder, My Sweet1944 US(Aka Farewell, my Lovely). The most noir fun you will ever have. Raymond Chandler’s prose crackles with moody noir direction from Edward Dmytryk.
*The Way You Wanted Me1944 Finland“Sellaisena kuin sinä minut halusit” (original title). A dark frenzied tale of a fallen woman, The Way You Wanted Me careens across roads of melodrama at the speed of light. Hyper-expressionism and a tragedy played out in dark nights of the soul.
*Mildred Pierce1945 USJoan Crawford in classy melodrama by Michael Curtiz lensed by Ernest Haller. Self-made woman escapes morass of greed.
*The Lost Weekend1945 US‘Most men lead lives of quiet desperation. I can’t take quiet desperation.’ Ray Milland against type on a bender.
*Ride the Pink Horse1946 USDisillusioned WW2 vet arrives in a New Mexico town to blackmail a war racketeer. Imbued with a rare humanity.
*Scarlet Street1946 USClassic noir from Fritz Lang. Unremitting in its pessimism. A dark mood and pervading doom of devastating intensity.
*The Big Sleep1946 USLove’s Vengeance Lost. Darker than Dmytryk’s Murder, My Sweet. Bogart is tougher, more driven, and morally suspect.
*The Killers1946 USSiodmak’s classic noir. Burt Lancaster’s masterful debut performance in a tragedy of a decent man destroyed by fate.
*The Postman Always Rings Twice1946 USFate ensures adulterous lovers who murder the woman’s husband, suffer definite and final retribution.
*Body and Soul1947 USA masterwork. Melodramatic expose of the fight game and a savage indictment of money capitalism. Garfield’s picture.
*Brighton Rock1947 UKGreatest British noir is dark and chilling. A cinematic tour-de-force: from the direction and cinematography to top cast and editing.
*Nightmare Alley1947 USPredatory femme-fatale uses greed not sex to trap her prey in a hell of hangmen at the bottom of an empty gin bottle.
*Nora Prentiss1947 USDoctor is plunged into a dark pool of noir angst in a turbo-charged melodrama of tortured loyalty and thwarted passion.
*Odd Man Out1947 UKBetrayal, avarice, and spirituality are all given a place in this tale of an IRA heist gone wrong. The poetry is in the dark yet glistening visuals as we follow fugitive James Mason on his path through Ulster at night and in the rain.
*Out of the Past1947 USQuintessential film noir. Inspired direction, exquisite expressionist cinematography, and legendary Mitchum and Greer.
*The Gangster1947 USHell of a b-movie. Very dark noir ‘opera’ brutally critiques the ‘entrepreneurial spirit’. Bravado Dalton Trumbo script.
*The Lady From Shanghai1947 USOrson Welles’ brilliant jigsaw noir with a femme-fatale to die for and a script so sharp you relish every scene.
*T-Men1947 USMann and Alton offer a visionary descent into a noir realm of dark tenements, nightclubs, mobsters, and hellish steam baths.
*Act of Violence1948 USLong-shot and deep focus climax filmed night-for-night on a railway platform: the stuff noirs are made of.
*Drunken Angel 1948 JapanAka ‘Yoidore tenshi’. Kurosawa noir. A loser doctor with soul takes on the fetid moral swamp of Yakuza degradation.
*Force of Evil1948 USPolonsky transcends noir in a tragic allegory on greed and family. Garfield adds signature honesty and gritty complexity .
*Hollow Triumph1948 USBaroque journey to perdition traversing a noir topography redolent with noir archetypes. Audacious and enthralling.
*Raw Deal1948 USSublime noir from Anthony Mann and John Alton. Knockout cast in a strong story stunningly rendered as expressionist art.
*They Live by Night1948 USNicholas Ray’s first feature. A tragedy of Shakespearean dimensions which transcends film noir.
*Too Late For Tears1948 USPreposterous chance event launches wild descent into dark avarice and eroticised violence as relentless as fate.
*Bitter Rice1949 ItalyAka ‘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 Incident1949 USSubversive expressionist noir from Dir Anthony Mann DP John Alton and writer John C Higgin indicts US agribusiness.
*Criss-Cross1949 USAccomplished noir showcased by Siodmak’s masterful aerial opening shot into parking lot onto a passing car exposing the doomed lovers to thespotlight.
*Stray Dog1949 JapanAka ‘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 Moment1949 USMax Ophuls takes a blackmail story and infuses it with a complexity and subtlety rarely matched in film noir.
*The Set-Up1949 USRobert Ryan is great as washed-up boxer in Robert Wise’ sharp expose of the fight game. Brooding and intense noir classic.
*The Third Man1949 UKSublime. An engaging cavalcade of characters in a human comedy of love, friendship, and the imperatives of conscience.
*Thieves’ Highway1949 USMoody Richard Conte hauling fruit to Frisco. Rich socio-realist melodrama from Jules Dassin and A.I. Bezzerides. AAA.
*Une Si Jolie Petite Plage1949 FranceAka ‘Riptide’. Iron in the soul: savage irony, withering subversion, and desolation mark the rain-sodden angst of a young man’s end.
*White Heat1949 USFission Noir. Taut electric thriller straps you in an emotional strait-jacket released only in the final explosive frames.
*Breaking Point1950 USGreat John Garfield vehicle with strong social subtext. Much stronger than from the same source To Have and Have Not.
*Caged1950 USEleanor 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 USGritty 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 Place1950 USNick Ray deftly explores effect of isolation, frustration, and anxiety on the creative psyche as noir entrapment.
*Night And the City1950 US/UKDassin’s stark existential journey played out in the dark dives of post-war London as a quintessential noir city.
*Sunset Boulevard1950 USWilder’s sympathetic story of four decent people each sadly complicit in the inevitable doom that will engulf them.
*The Asphalt Jungle1950 USQuintessential heist movie transcends melodrama and noir. A police siren wails: “Sounds like a soul in hell.”
*The Sound of Fury1950 USGreat noir! Outdoes Lang’s Fury and brilliantly prefigures Wilder’s Ace in the Hole. Climactic mob scenes mesmerise.
*On Dangerous Ground1951 USCity cop battling inner demons is sent to ‘Siberia’. A film of dark beauty and haunting characterisations.
*The Prowler1951 USVan Heflin is homme-fatale in Trumbo thriller. Director Losey is unforgiving. Each squalid act is suffocatingly framed.
*Ace in the Hole1952 USA savage critique of a corrupted and corrupting modern mass media. Billy Wilder’s best movie. Kirk Douglas owns it.
*Clash By Night1952 USCheating wife Stanwyck faces the music. Fritz Lang puts sexual license and existential entitlement on trial and wins.
*The Big Heat1953 USGloria Grahame as existential hero in Fritz Lang’s brooding socio-realist noir critique.
*Crime Wave1954 USAndre de Toth noir masterwork set on the streets of LA is so authentic it plays for real with each character deeply drawn.
*Kiss Me Deadly1955 USAnti-fascist Hollywood Dada. Aldrich’s surreal noir a totally weird yet compelling exploration of urban paranoia.
*Rififi1955 FranceDassin’s classic heist thriller culminating in the terrific final scenes of a car desperately careening through Paris streets.
*The Big Combo1955 US“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 Success1957 USDP James Wong Howe’s sharpest picture. As bracing as vinegar and cold as ice. Ambition stripped of all pretense.
*Touch of Evil1958 USWelles’ masterwork is a disconnected emotionally remote study of moral dissipation. Crisp b&w lensing by Russell Metty.
*Odds Against Tomorrow1959 USA work of art from Rober Wise. New York City and its industrial fringe are quasi-protagonists that harbor the angst and desperation of lifeoutside the mainstream – sordid dreams of the last big heist that will fix everything.
*Underworld USA1961 USFast and furious pulp from Sam Fuller. Revenge finds redemption in death up a back alley the genesis of dark vengeance.
*Requiem For A Heavyweight1962 USRod Serling’s screenplay is lucid and economical. A washed-up boxer scenario in just under 82 minutes builds a closely realised character study, supported by a cast that delivers soulfully and with a leanness that is rarely matched.
*The Pawnbroker1964 USThe screenplay weaves the past and the present by juxtaposition and is economic when words are needed. Rod Steiger’s portrayal of Nazi death-camp survivor is a tour-de-force and his nominations for an Oscar and other accolades richly deserved.
*A Colt is My Passport1967 JapanAka ‘Koruto wa ore no pasupoto’. Hip acid Nikkatsu noir with surreal spaghetti-western score.
*Klute1971 USAlan 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.
4/4.5 star NoirsAll movies have a snap review .
*La Chienne1931France
*City Streets1931US
*Guele d’Amour (aka Ladykiller)1937France
*Pépé le Moko1937France
Stolen Death1938Finland
La Bête Humaine1938France
*Blind Alley1939US
Le Jour se Lève1939France
*Macao,L’enfer Du Jeu (aka ‘Gambling Hell’)1939France
*Stranger on the 3rd Floor1940US
*Blues in the Night1941US
*High Sierra1941US
*The Face Behind the Mask1941US
Cross of Love1942Finland
*This Gun For Hire1942US
*The Fallen Sparrow1943US
*The Ghost Ship1943US
*Betrayed (aka ‘When Strangers Marry’)1944US
*Phantom Lady1944US
The Mask of Dimitrios1944US
*The Woman in the Window1944US
*Fallen Angel1945US
Leave Her to Heaven1945US
*My Name Is Julia Ross1945US
*Black Angel1946US
*Deadline at Dawn1946US
*High Wall1946US
*Night Editor1946US
*The Blue Dahlia1946US
*The Chase1946US
*The Dark Corner1946US
*The Dark Mirror1946US
*The House on 92nd Street1946US
*The Locket1946US
*The Strange Love of Martha Ivers1946US
*The Stranger1946US
*Born to Kill1947US
Brute Force1947US
*Dark Passage1947US
*Dead Reckoning1947US
*Kiss of Death1947US
*The Devil Thumbs a Ride1947US
Odd Man Out1947US
*Shoot To Kill1947US
*The Long Night1947US
*The Unsuspected1947US
*The Woman On the Beach1947US
*They Made Me a Fugitive1947UK
*Secret Beyond the Door1948US
*Blood on the Moon1948US
*They Won’t Believe Me1947US
*Bob le Flambuer1956France
*Call Northside 7771948US
Cry of the City1948US
*I Love Trouble1948US
*I Walk Alone1948US
*Key Largo1948US
*Kiss the Blood Off My Hands1948US
*Night Has a Thousand Eyes1948US
*Road House1948US
Senza pietà (Aka Without Pity)1948Italy
*The Amazing Mr. X1948US
*The Big Clock1948US
*The Iron Curtain1948US
*The Naked City1948US
*A Woman’s Secret1949US
*Alias Nick Beal1949US
*Follow Me Quietly1949US
*I Married a Communist1949US
*The Big Steal1949US
*The Bribe1949US
*The Clay Pigeon1949US
*The Man Who Cheated Himself1949US
*Salón México1949Mexico
*The Window1949US
*Armored Car Robbery1950US
*Gambling House1950US
*Gun Crazy1950US
*No Man of Her Own1950US
*No Way Out1950US
*Panic In the Streets1950US
*Side Street1950US
*The File On Thelma Jordan1950US
*The Killer That Stalked New York1950US
*The Second Woman1950US
*The Tattooed Stranger1950US
*Union Station1950US
*Walk Softly, Stranger1950US
*Where Danger Lives1950US
*Where the Sidewalk Ends1950US
*Woman on the Run1950US
*Young Man with a Horn1950US
*Detective Story1951US
*He Ran All the Way1951US
His Kind of Woman1951US
*I Can Get It for You Wholesale1951US
*I was a Communist for the FBI1951US
*The Big Night1951US
*The Well1951US
*Tomorrow Is Another Day1951US
*Angel Face1952US
Kansas City Confidential1952US
*Scandal Sheet1952US
*The Narrow Margin1952US
*The Sniper1952US
*The Thief1952US
*99 River Street1953US
*Pickup On South Street1953US
Split Second1953US
*The Blue Gardenia1953US
*The Glass Wall1953US
*The Hitch-Hiker1953US
*Human Desire1954US
*The Good Die Young1954UK
Touchez pas au Grisbi1954France
*Witness to Murder1954US
*The Burglar1955US
*World For Ransom1955US
Bob le Flambeur1956France
*The Phenix City Story1955US
People of No Importance (aka ‘Gens san Importance’)1956France
*Ubiytsy (‘The Killers’)1956USSR
The Wrong Man1956US
*The Killing1956US
*Voici le temps des assassin (aka ‘Deadlier Than the Male’)1956France
While the City Sleeps1956US
*Elevator to the Gallows1958France
*Endless Desire1958Japan
*Tread Softly Stranger1958UK
Underworld Beauty (aka ‘Ankokugai no bijo’)1958Japan
*The Crimson Kimono1959US
*Deux hommes dans Manhattan (aka ‘Two Men in Manhattan’)1959France
The Bad Sleep Well (aka ‘Warui yatsu hodo yoku nemuru’)1960Japan
Shoot the Piano Player1960France
Blast of Silence1961US
*Le Doulos1962France
*The Trial1962France
*High and Low (aka Tengoku to jigok)1963Japan
*The Naked Kiss1964US