Sunday, April 22, 2007

Top 100 Film Noir

After reading this years AFI ballot for greatest films, I realized it was high time for another list of my own. As with all my lists, they are very fluid and change as I see new films, rewatch old ones and evolve my taste.

So I now present my top 100 Film Noirs, using a fairly broad definition and without regard to time period. Click here to view and/or download the full list which includes all the contenders, subgenre information and ratings for visuals, elaborateness, wit, irony and tragedy (the five things that matter most for noir!).

Top 100 Film Noirs:

1. Blade Runner (1982)
2. Barton Fink (1991)
3. The Matrix (1999)
4. The Big Sleep (1946)
5. Blood Simple. (1984)
6. Dark City (1998)
7. L. A. Confidential (1997)
8. Miller's Crossing (1990)
9. Night and the City (1950)
10. Touch of Evil (1958)
11. The Element of Crime (1984)
12. The Long Good Friday (1980)
13. Out of the Past (1947)
14. Diva (1981)
15. Memento (2000)
16. Laura (1944)
17. Fight Club (1999)
18. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
19. The Usual Suspects (1995)
20. Kiss Me Deadly (1955)
21. Chinatown (1974)
22. Rebecca (1940)
23. Alphaville (1965)
24. Se7en (1995)
25. Vertigo (1958)
26. The Lady from Shanghai (1947)
27. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
28. Brick (2005)
29. The Third Man (1949)
30. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
31. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
32. The Red Spectacles (1987)
33. High and Low (1963)
34. Bob the Gambler (1955)
35. Bound (1996)
36. Double Indemnity (1944)
37. Lost Highway (1997)
38. Suture (1993)
39. Rififi (1955)
40. The Killers (1946)
41. Branded to Kill (1967)
42. Sonatine (1993)
43. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
44. Mystic River (2003)
45. Taxi Driver (1976)
46. In a Lonely Place (1950)
47. Hollow Triumph (1948)
48. Murder, My Sweet (1944)
49. Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
50. The Aura (2004)
51. The Big Heat (1953)
52. The Bad Sleep Well (1960)
53. The Naked Kiss (1964)
54. Sunset Blvd. (1950)
55. The Narrow Margin (1952)
56. Kontroll (2003)
57. Mildred Pierce (1945)
58. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)
59. The Singing Detective (1986)
60. Panic in the Streets (1950)
61. Shoot the Piano Player (1960)
62. The Night of the Hunter (1955)
63. The Quiet American (1958)
64. The Last Seduction (1994)
65. Nightmare Alley (1947)
66. Zentropa (1991)
67. The American Friend (1977)
68. Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950)
69. The Big Combo (1955)
70. Red Rock West (1992)
71. Point Blank (1967)
72. The Long Goodbye (1973)
73. The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)
74. Angel Heart (1987)
75. Spellbound (1945)
76. The Woman in the Window (1945)
77. The Limey (1999)
78. Insomnia (1997)
79. Hard Eight (1996)
80. The Samurai (1967)
81. Gilda (1946)
82. Scarlet Street (1945)
83. Atlantic City (1980)
84. D. O. A. (1950)
85. Criss Cross (1949)
86. Elevator to the Gallows (1957)
87. Body Heat (1981)
88. Pickup on South Street (1953)
89. Gun Crazy (1949)
90. Following (1998)
91. Dead Reckoning (1947)
92. Force of Evil (1948)
93. Whirlpool (1949)
94. Get Carter (1971)
95. Experiment in Terror (1962)
96. Gattaca (1997)
97. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)
98. Violent Cop (1989)
99. Tokyo Drifter (1966)
100. The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)

Suggestions and savage argument encouraged.

12 comments:

Kathryn said...

Your list appeals to me especially because you include modern noir/ tech noir.

Great picks. I hope everyone downloads your spreadsheet!

Mad Dog said...

Awesome that you decided to include The Red Spectacles on there! Glad I could help you in that department. Now the mere fact that you've seen 100+ movies that can be called noir... :O

magusart said...

What? No Terminator or Ghost in the Shell? ...Mask of the Phantasm? /:3

Mad Dog said...

Wait, and where's Mulholland Dr.? And would the Twin Peaks pilot count? And Blue Velvet? |:3

Walrus said...

Now we get into the inevitable definition of what counts as noir. A tricky question tackled unsatisfactorily by every author and critic I've read on the subject. I can offer little better, but I'll try to address the specific titles mentioned so far.

"Mulholland Dr" - Listed on the downloaded version as 'noir status unclear' (at the end) along with several other important borderline cases (such as giallos and gritty 70's cop movies). Lynch is tough to call when it comes to genre-labeling, but Lost Highway makes enough obvious references. "Mulholland Dr" figures prominantly on my top 100 horror list (unrelease as of yet) so it won't feel neglected.

"Blue Velvet" - Bumped out of the top 100 not long ago. You can see it amongst the contenders on the downloadable version. I haven't rewatched it in years, but I'm not with the critics on thinking it is Lynch's best.

"Mask of the Phantasm" - Sadly, I have not seen this yet. The Batman movie franchise in general comes very close to being noir, but I'm not sure how that works with superhero protagonists. Must think about it given that "Batman Begins" certainly makes a great gambit for the genre and would easily place if allowed.

"Terminator" - I've never heard of this being considered noir and I don't see it. Feel free to state your case.

"Ghost in the Shell" - Used to be included on this list as tech-noir, but Oshii himself and others have argued persuasively that GitS fits best into postcyberpunk and thus is ideologically opposed to noir. Probably the toughest call not to include.

"Twin Peaks Pilot" - I am bound by my own rules to consider it since I included the singing detective miniseries/movie. However, I think I'll allocate it to 'status unclear' for the time being.

"The Prestige" - Nobody mentioned this, but I've been considering it for a while. Anyone willing to weigh in for or against it being labeled noir would be welcome. I kind of think steampunk has its own separate agenda, but Nolan seems to treat it with his usual noir sensibilities. Perhaps reading the book would lend me more insight.

Another interesting case is the so-called first and second British crime waves. Note that I include "Get Carter," but haven't made up my mind whether "Lock Stock" and "Snatch" count. Input is also welcome on that topic.

All good thoughts. Any support for the older classics? I often notice that that the 60's and 70's get short-shrift, especially the French noir masters who really rose up in that era. And too much of our generation skips the classic period (1941-1955) when there is so much buried treasure. "Hollow Triumph" "Panic in the Streets" "Narrow Margin" "Nightmare Alley" and "DOA" are all amazing under-seen films and personal guilty pleasures. More on noir at another time.

Patrick said...

I miss watching movies all the time when you're around. Did I tell you that I saw The Third Man in the downtown theater here? That was great.

Mad Dog said...

About the classics, I DID enjoy "Rebecca" and "Laura" a great deal. Vincent Price in the latter was simply chilling at the end. And also the constant barrage of thinly-veiled homoeroticism was hilarious, too. And what can I say about the maid in "Rebecca" that hasn't been said much more profoundly before?

Are there any other notable movies in the tradition of one-word women's name titles?

Kathryn said...

Pat, Europe is making you sentimental and weak. Next thing we know, you'll be growing your hair out and wearing feminine clothing.

(We miss have you around to watch movies, too : D)

Walrus said...

John,

I do so love thinly veiled homoeroticism, and what better era than the repression-bursting-through-the-surface-40's.

As for one-word women's titles, "Gilda" is a must see. Rita Hayworth at her finest and influential on many films as well as "Pinky and the Brain." Interestingly enough, I think it is a poster for "Gilda" which the amnesiac in "Mulholland Dr" sees when she gives her name as Rita. I've been asking around about "Mulholland Dr" and most people I talk to seem to think it should count. I think I will add it (the Rita Hayworth connection is just one of many after all) but because of laziness I won't repost the change until I have a batch of changes to make.

Other women's name titles for film noir include "Mildred Pierce" (has a pretty good twist), "Strange Love of Martha Ivers" and "The File on Thelma Jordon" (which I haven't seen yet). Nothing else comes to mind. "Phantom Lady" and "Woman in the Window" are sort of nameless feminine titles...

Walrus said...

I'm interested to hear what Magusart and Mad Dog have to say about Ghost in the Shell as technoir. It makes direct references to "Alphaville," deals with the right themes and has investigators and seedy criminal underworld. However the protagonist is only mildly marginalized and works within the system towards an optomistic normative future. The tone wavers between Blade Runner dystopia and techno-euphoric utopia. I would say that the original movie seems much closer than the sequel or show. Any thoughts?

Walrus said...

This list comes courtesy of Molly. It has a definite lean towards the classic era and plenty that I haven't seen. Note that our definitions of noir differ very slightly.

I love that Ed Wood got his only mention on a top 100 list ever with "Jailbait," a film that I think both of us now own... which is weird. Please enjoy!

1. Kiss Me Deadly (1955)
2. Scarlet Street (1945)
3. Taxi Driver (1976)
4. Out of the Past (1947)
5. Laura (1944)
6. Miller’s Crossing (1990)
7. The Quiet American (1958)
8. Detour (1945)
9. Insomnia (1997)
10. The Big Combo (1955)
11. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
12. Blood Simple (1984)
13. Double Indemnity (1944)
14. Vertigo (1958)
15. Gun Crazy (1950)
16. Obsession (1949)
17. Chinatown (1974)
18. The Third Man (1958)
19. Sunset Blvd. (1950)
20. Ride the Pink Horse (1947)
21. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
22. The Man with the Golden Arm (1955)
23. The Lady of Shanghai (1947)
24. The Lost Weekend (1945)
25. A History of Violence (2005)
26. Body Heat (1981)
27. D.O.A. (1950)
28. Brick (2005)
29. Blade Runner (1982)
30. Murder, My Sweet (1944)
31. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
32. The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
33. White Heat (1949)
34. Barton Fink (1991)
35. The Long Goodbye (1973)
36. Touch of Evil (1958)
37. Panic in the Streets (1950)
38. The Big Sleep (1946)
39. L.A. Confidential (1997)
40. The Wrong Man (1956)
41. The Killers (1946)
42. Crossfire (1947)
43. Mildred Pierce (1945)
44. Mr. Arkadin (1955)
45. Nightmare Alley (1947)
46. Memento (2000)
47. The Godfather (1972)
48. Leave Her to Heaven (1945)
49. The Big Heat (1953)
50. Sin City (2005)
51. Brazil (1985)
52. The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
53. The Seventh Victim (1943)
54. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
55. Key Largo (1948)
56. The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)
57. Pursued (1947)
58. Criss Cross (1949)
59. Force of Evil (1948)
60. The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001)
61. Strangers on a Train (1951)
62. The Glass Key (1942)
63. The Blue Dahlia (1946)
64. Killer’s Kiss (1955)
65. Ruby Gentry (1952)
66. Dark City (1998)
67. Rear Window (1954)
68. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
69. The Blue Gardenia (1953)
70. The Apartment (1960)
71. Phantom Lady (1944)
72. Basic Instinct (1992)
73. Whirlpool (1949)
74. Dark Passage (1947)
75. Stage Fright (1950)
76. Branded to Kill (1967)
77. Casablanca (1942)
78. Gilda (1946)
79. The Killing (1956)
80. Blue Velvet (1986)
81. The Lady in the Lake (1947)
82. Sudden Fear (1952)
83. Se7en (1995)
84. Pickup on South Street (1953)
85. Ministry of Fear (1944)
86. Fight Club (1999)
87. The Scar/Hollow Triumph (1948)
88. To Have and Have Not (1944)
89. Citizen Kane (1941)
90. Night of the Hunter (1955)
91. The Woman in the Window (1944)
92. The Naked City (1948)
93. Notorious (1946)
94. The Matrix (1999)
95. Oliver Twist (1948)
96. A Better Tomorrow (1986)
97. Strange Days (1995)
98. The Big Lebowski (1998)
99. High Sierra (1941)
100. Jail Bait (1954)

bongosan said...

good call on 'get carter' but i wouldnt waste too much time considering whether 'lock, stock' or 'snatch' count as noir, on account of them both being seriously, horrendously bad films.