My Twenty Five Top Film Noirs

film-noir-blackWhat is Film Noir? Well just take  look at Double Indemnity or Criss Cross and you will get the idea. Filled with treacherous woman and dumb men, along with odd camera angles and stark contrast like black and white photography, film noir’s peak period arguably ranges from 1941 to 1958. The term was coined by the French. After the war, an influx of American films began to flood the European cinemas. The French critics noticed a much darker, pessimistic, fatalistic tone in  many the films and coined the phase film noir or dark cinema.

Film Noir is not a genre like says Westerns or Science Fiction. It’s more of a style and a mood. Not every crime film is a noir, though many are. Many film lovers mistakenly label every crime film they see a noir. Kubrick’s The Killing is a noir, Raoul Walsh’s White Heat is not. Film Noir can cross genre’s. For example, the western, Blood on the Moon, has a norish feel to it.

Film Noir’s roots are in German Expressionism and many of the great directors of noir are European diectors who fled Germany before the war. Artists like Fritz  Lang, Otto Preminger, Robert Siodmak  and Billy Wilder. Many critics consider the 1940 film, Stranger on the Third Floor, directed by Boris Instger, the first noir. Others John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon.

One glaring exception you may find surprisingly missing on this list is Billy Wilder ‘s Ace in the Hole. Many have termed it a film noir, I may have done so at times. But with some consideration,  I realized, it’s not. Sure, there is Wilder’s cynicism, but what else to qualify  it as noir. No femmes fatale, no dupe of a guy. The cinematography is in no way dark and moody.  Those who know my taste, know Wilder is one of my favorite directors and Ace in the Hole is one of his masterpieces, but it’s no film noir.

Enough thought on this, let’s just get to the list. Like at list, time could change the rankings, but don’t bet on Double Indemnity,  The Maltese Falcon, Sunset Blvd or Touch of Evil ever dropping out of  the top 10.

One final thing, let’s hear you own thoughts and your own list.

1 – Double Indemnity


2 – The Maltese Falcon

3 –  Criss Cross

4 – The Killers

5- Sunset Blvd.

6 – Touch of Evil


7 – Scarlet Street

8 – Sweet Smell of Success

9 – The Killing


10 – Out of the Past

11 – Act of Violence

12 – Odds Against Tomorrow

13 – The Prowler


14 – The Asphalt Jungle

15 – In a Lonely Place

16 – Pickup on South Street

17 – The Narrow Margin



18 – Laura

19 – Raw Deal

20 – The Postman Always Rings Twice

21 – Angel Face

Jean Simmons_Rober Mitchum_Angel Face_1952

22 – They Live By Night

23 – Kiss Me Deadly

24 – The Spiral Staircase

25 – Mildred Pierce


Honorable Mentions

Where the Sidewalk Ends

The Big Heat

Tomorrow is Another Day

Thieve’s Highway

City That Never Sleeps



Elevator to the Gallows

The Third Man

The Big Sleep

The Woman in the Window

Human Desire

Murder, My Sweet

Stranger on the Third Floor

The Big Combo

Night and the City

28 comments on “My Twenty Five Top Film Noirs

  1. Loved this list and I have The Killing on my dvr right now. Glad you included Pick Up on South Street-that movie really blew me away with its greatness when I first saw it a year ago.


    • John Greco says:

      Thanks Jenni!

      Pickup on South Street is a great film. Watched it recently again myself. BTW, this post was accidently posted, by me, before it was finished (I screwed up, hitting the wrong button). The top 25 did not change. Did add one more film on the HM, the intro and photos.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Michael says:

    Interesting list. Other peoples lists are always fascinating, reading this one I am reminded of some wonderful films I really must watch again. Maybe it is because I am British but I would have The Third Man at or near the top of any such list. With such lists perhaps what stands out most when we read them is which films we love are absent in this case The Lady From Shanghai a film I just adore. Nice blog by the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • John Greco says:

      Thanks Michael!

      I love The Third Man, but for I found many other films I liked and it just got pushed down. The Lady From Shanghai is a film that should have made the HM list for sure and The Stranger also. Lists can just keep going on.

      As I mentioned to Jenni above I accidently posted this before it was finished (I screwed up, hitting the wrong button). The top 25 did not change. Did add one more film on the HM, the intro and photos. Thanks again for your thoughts!


    • Nigtingale says:

      The Third Man is my top pick. It is a great film that is so often overlooked. I think it is one of the best films ever made.


  3. Dave jones says:

    Alias Nick Beal is missing off the list!!?? Did the Devil make you do it???😈


  4. OUT OF THE PAST and MALTESE FALCON would be my top two; not sure what comes after that, though I know I would include an arguable choice; LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN, which some may call a soap opera but I think can also be called a “color noir”.


  5. Wouldn’t you know it – just a couple of days ago I made my own list of Top 25 noir!

    Of course, I tossed and turned all night when overlooked titles came to mind. I wondered which should be replaced and I even thought about expanding the number of titles. Finally, I decided to just let it be.

    Our lists share a few titles in common. Some of yours are those that woke me up screaming (ha!), and some of yours are those that aren’t “my” noir. We noir fans are a quirky lot!


    • John Greco says:

      Patricia, You have a great list yourself. A few like 99 River Street, No Man of Her Own, On Dangerouse Ground, I wake Up Screaming, Cry of the City, The Set Upcould have easily made my runner up list. A few like The Dark Past, I have not seen.


  6. Sam Juliano says:

    An incomparable Noir Hall of Fame!!

    It is a master class film noir list for sure, and the poll position is most nobly inhabited by one of the greatest American films in any genre. I love just about every choice; OUT OF THE PAST would be close to my top spot and your Number 11, NIGHT AND THE CITY by Jules Dassin is my own top choice. But heck they are all great, and work over and over on re-viewing. 🙂


  7. Awwww man, Film Noir is my bread and butter for sure. I would have to put The Third Man at the top of the list (hey, it’s in my Top Five of All Time) – but can’t really argue with your wonderful selections and who can deny the perfection of Double Indemnity?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Dave jones says:

    No not that one, paramount did this one and it was a gem, Milland as the Devil was most evil.


  9. Although I haven’t seen a lot of them on your list, two of my favorites are Maltese Falcon and Double Indemnity. Some of my other favorites (there are so many!) are The Big Clock and Ministry of Fear (Ray Milland), and The Dark Corner (Lucille Ball)! 🙂


    • John Greco says:

      Hi Linda, Those three films are all good. I have watched all three more than once. The Big Clock is a particular favorite that should have been on my HM list. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. classicfilmtvcafe says:

    Awesome list, John, with many of my faves on it. OUT OF THE PAST would be my #1. I would also add CORNERED and D.O.A. Nice to see TENSION get a mention.


  11. Arthur Grant says:

    Thanks John for your fascinating post. I love comparing definitions and lists like yours to mine and others. The only disagreement I have is your mentioning White Heat as not being noir. Its focus is clearly on the psychology of its principals and that to me is what differentiates the crime films of the 30’s from the noir films that started appearing in the 40’s…namely the focus on psychological or internal motive.


    • John Greco says:

      Arthur, you’re right about the psychological take which is in a lot of noirs, but it lacks the cynicism, the stark contrasty black and white lighting. True, not every noir has to has these traits or some others. Noir is hard to define I am surprised you are the first to even mention this. Thought it would have come out sooner. I appreciate you thoughts and thanks for the kind words.


  12. Pusheenicorn says:

    Love your list – I’ve seen most of them and have only a few changes that would make it my list. I’m in agreement with others that the Third Man is a top-3 on any list; I would also have placed Gilda among the top-10… These lists are great fodder for thought and spur fellow film lovers to check out a movie that had previously escaped them. I love your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    • John Greco says:

      Thanks! As I mentioned in an earlier comment, I do love The Third Man. However, and I know I am in the minority here, it’s a film I cannot always warm up too. Not sure why. As the saying goes it’s not you, or everyone else, it’s me. As for Gilda, it’s a great film I recently watched it again and Rita Hayworth just burns up the screen.

      List of any kind are always in transit. Re-watch a film you didn’t think much of and you suddenly see the light. As you say, list are freat fodder for though! Thanks again.


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