March 2004

I just attended the 2004 Windy City Pulp & Paperback Convention and saw a virtually forgotten movie called Street of Chance. It inspired me to put together this list of recommended movies. I keep a running list of film noir films (it's up to over 200 movies), and I pared this giant file down to a lucky 13 for this posting. Keep in mind that this list could be much longer, but I'm going for more of a simple sampler.

Film noir is an elusive term coined by the French to describe a subgenre of American movies that came about in the 1940's. These films were dark in both their look and theme and while they were usually crime and detective pictures (many of the best have been based on hardboiled mystery fiction), a good noir film could be about anything.

For more information about film noir, check out the book A Girl and a Gun by David N. Meyer. This is a great exploration of the form, as well as a terrific viewing guide. It's the book that started my obsession with this unique style.

Dark Alley Serenades: Recommended Film Noir

The Maltese Falcon (1941)
This is the third film version of Dashiell Hammett’s novel and considered by many to be the greatest mystery film ever made.

Street of Chance (1942)
Based on Cornell Woolrich's novel "The Black Curtain," this deceptive, paranoid film was once called "the greatest B-movie ever made".

Scarlet Street (1945)
Edward G. Robinson deals with obsession, betrayal and cruel, bitter fate.

Gilda (1946)
Rita Hayworth as the Femme Fatale to end all Femme Fatales.

Out of the Past (1947)
If you want to learn about film noir, this is the one to watch. Hard-boiled beauty, right up to the last lie.

Nightmare Alley (1947)
Psychics and Circus Geeks, what more do you need?

The Narrow Margin (1952)
A horrible remake was released in 1990, but the original is full of surprises, suspense and terrific dialogue.

Rififi (1954)
A caper film from France that has one of the best robbery sequences ever put on celluloid.

Point Blank (1967)
This is an excellent film adaptation of “The Hunter”, the first Richard Stark “Parker” book.

After Dark, My Sweet (1990)
One of the best Jim Thompson inspired films.

Romeo is Bleeding (1993)
A bit confusing at the end, but this is still an entertaining piece of hard-boiled poetry.

True Romance (1993)
A brilliant script, an impressive supporting cast and a marvelous performance by Patricia Arquette add up to one outstanding movie.

Bulletproof Heart (1994)
Also known as Killer, this film is infused with a sense of "Why bother?" and has a wonderful performance by Mimi Rogers.