My Top 20 Favorite Films Noir


As I’ve mentioned countless times, I’m a massive noir fan and I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a very long time but I never had the guts. Simply because it’s such a massive undertaking and I didn’t want to commit myself like that. However, it’s something that I knew I had to do sooner or later, and since Noirvember is totally a thing, I feel like this is the perfect time to do it. So here they are, my top 20 favorite noirs.

But before that, here are a few things I have to tell you about this list:

  • This is my personal list of favorite films noir. I am not claiming these are the 20 best noirs ever and this is NOT an objective list. It’s very subjective and very personal, so please respect my choices.
  • I haven’t seen every single film noir ever made (although that is one of my life goals), so obviously this list is open for an update in the future
  • For me, there are a few films that I don’t consider to be noirs, even though I acknowledge that they certainly have noir elements, and they will not be included – even if I love them regardless -, such as Johnny Guitar (1954), which is mostly a Western or Rififi (1955), which is mostly a heist movie. The films that made it onto the shortlist and then onto the list are as close to the accepted definition of film noir as possible. Otherwise, every single movie ever made would be up for debate!
  • I have seen 46 films noir, so there are 26 that will not be on this list. That doesn’t mean I don’t love them, it’s just that these are my absolute favorites.
  • I also didn’t love/like EVERY noir I’ve seen
  • Neo-noirs will not be included, not because I don’t like them – many of them are some of my favorite movies, period, and I actually wrote a film noir screenplay, which if it gets made, it’s inevitably going to be called neo-noir -, but I am just trying to keep the list – and the blog – in the Classic Hollywood era.
  • As always, you’re more than welcome to share your thoughts, post your personal favorites and ask me about any film noir that wasn’t on the list. 😀


OK, here we go!

20. The Lady from Shanghai (1948)

        Dir. Orson Welles


The Lady from Shanghai screams noir from start to finish. And I love the chemistry between Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles.


19. The Maltese Falcon (1941)

      Dir. John Huston


The best thing for me are the performances. Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre are all fantastic, not to mention the awesome Elisha Cook Jr, who just makes any movie better just by being in it.

18. The Third Man (1949)

       Dir. Carol Reed


Everything about The Third Man is iconic: Orson Welles’ entrance, the Ferris wheel scene, the cat, the music… you name it.

17. The Naked City (1948)

      Dir. Jules Dassin


I often refer to this film as ‘the most influential film that gets mentioned the least’. Every shot in it has been re-created in later films, but somehow it continues to be underrated.


16. The Big Sleep (1946)

       Dir. Howard Hawks


I’m not going to lie to you, I also have no idea what goes on in this film. Nobody does. However, it looks great and Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall have the best chemistry ever.


15. Mildred Pierce (1945)

      Dir. Michael Curtiz


Joan Crawford’s Oscar-winning performance (the only one on the entire list) is, to use a cliché, out of this world. And Ann Blyth plays one of the most detestable characters in all of movie history to perfection.


14. Crossfire (1947)

       Dir. Edward Dmytryk


One of the tightest screenplays ever. It’s just an incredible murder mystery with a plot twist that transcends noir and turns Crossfire into a ‘film with a message’, if you will.


13. The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)

      Dir. Lewis Milestone


There’s something very, very compelling and fascinating about this movie that is hard to explain. It just draws you in all the way.


12. Touch of Evil (1958)

      Dir. Orson Welles


As visually impressive as you’d expect from an Orson Welles movie. Often called ‘the last noir’, Touch of Evil is the perfect farewell to an era.


11. Gilda (1946)

      Dir. Charles Vidor


First of all, Rita Hayworth should have been nominated for an Oscar. Secondly, Gilda and Johnny (Glenn Ford) have an electrifying love-hate relationship and I honestly this is the sexiest movie ever.

10. The Big Heat (1953)

       Dir. Fritz Lang


I find Glenn Ford’s Dave Bannion to be the nicest, most sympathetic main character in any noir. This is the ‘noir with a heart’ in my opinion. Oh and I love Gloria Grahame.

9. Pickup on South Street (1953)

    Dir. Samuel Fuller


Dark, gritty and full of shadows. Richard Widmark and Jean Peters have a ridiculously hot chemistry and I so wish they had made more movies together!


8. The Big Combo (1955)

     Dir. Joseph H. Lewis


The most underrated movie ever, in my opinion and certainly one of the best noirs, with one of the best performances, Richard Conte as Mr Brown.


7. The Killers (1946)

     Dir. Robert Siodmak


I saw this on the big screen and it was quite an experience. It’s an absolutely fantastic movie with the greatest opening sequence of all noirs.

6. Notorious (1946)

    Dir. Alfred Hitchcock


Devlin and Alicia’s relationship is the yin to Johnny and Gilda’s yang. Both, to me, are the best love-hate relationships, but this is the sweeter one of the two and it always melts my heart. It’s simultaneously unusual for a noir and for a Hitchcock film. And it works wonderfully.

5. Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

     Dir. Alexander McKendrick


The most quotable movie on the list. Tony Curtis gives one of his best performances as Sidney Falco (great name), who is not the type of character that you’d normally empathize with, but boy, don’t you? I actually feel sorry for him and I know that maybe I’m not supposed to.

4. Laura (1944)

     Dir. Otto Preminger


The perfect movie to watch on a rainy day. Amazing story, great performances, and an atmosphere that is so noir-ish, you just want to touch it.

3. Sunset Boulevard (1950)

    Dir. Billy Wilder


Hands down, one of the greatest movies ever made. It’s often considered a noir, but it is so much more than that. There’s nothing left for me to say about Sunset Blvd.

2. Out of the Past (1947)

     Dir. Jacques Tourneur


The noirest of all noirs. In fact, it’s so noir, it almost looks like it was made for the sole purpose of showing an uninformed alien what a film noir is. It’s simply brilliant.


Before I reveal my number 1 film noir, here are some that I love but didn’t quite make the cut: Fallen Angel (1945), Leave her to Heaven (1945), The Asphalt Jungle (1950), In a Lonely Place (1950), D. O. A. (1950), Strangers on a Train (1951), among many others.







1. Double Indemnity (1944)

         Dir. Billy Wilder


Always. It’s just the best noir for me. It has always been my favorite and it always will be. It set the standard and, in my opinion, no noir has ever touched it.


So there you have it, folks! Hope you enjoyed the list and if you haven’t seen some of these, I obviously recommend them. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts!


45 thoughts on “My Top 20 Favorite Films Noir

  1. caracoleta07

    Well, I’m very proud of the fact that of all the 26 movies you mentioned in this post I’ve watched 10.
    My top favourite are: The Third Man, Notorious, Laura, Double Indemnity. Care to guess in which order? ^_^
    Another 10 are on my watchlist and 8 of those are there because of you 😀

    Liked by 2 people

      1. caracoleta07

        Very close. It’s really hard because I really love all of them but The Third Man’s cinematography is so beautiful that it can’t be last.

        I still have to finish watching Gilda (1946) and the rest are:
        The Killers (1946)
        Crossfire (1947)
        The Big Heat (1953)
        Pickup on South Street (1953)
        The Big Combo (1955)
        Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
        The Naked City (1948)
        Fallen Angel (1945)
        The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The Lady from Shanghai would be in my list of favorite noirs as well – it’s so wonderful! And your list provided me some ideas for my Noirvember marathon, including The Naked City.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Mike Noonan

    nice list Carol!! You have impeccable taste. I’m glad there are some more obscure ones which I will have to look at. Not surprised a Billy Wilder film is #1. Yes, a Billy Wilder film with Fred MacMurray-mmm, seems like they collaborated on another film.. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Yé! Love top lists ahaha 😉
    I couldn’t agree more on your 7 points warning. Hope people will get it!
    When I went to Europe last Summer, the only moment I had a chance watching a movie is on the short flight between Toronto and Montreal. And among the movies there was The Lady of Shanghai so as I had never seen it I started watching it and thought it was quite good! I couldn’t finish it and I completely forgot to finish it when I was back home. I must!
    First time I saw The Maltese Falcon it also was on the plane, when I was coming back from San Francisco, so it was a good concept ahah. I also saw it on big screen in the cinema room at my University. Very cool! It’s this kind of movie I like more and more.
    The Third Man: Joseph Cotten : YES! And Vienna! 🙂 Got a picture of me in front of the big wheel and in front of the famous door 🙂
    I’m never sure if we considerate Mildred Pierce a noir! But I guess yes. It has a lot of noir elements. There’s a few movies like this I always hesitate if they are noirs or not. Some books say yes, some say no. It’s so vague! For example, I have a book saying that Rear Window is a noir. But is it really? Confused!! Because of that I always have trouble doing film noir top lists.
    Crossfire is great. The three Roberts film!
    The Strange Love of Martha Ivers is so often mentioned in fb groups. I must see it asap.
    Also saw Touch of Evil on the big screen at school. I LOVE the opening
    Saw Gilda at the movie theatre. Love Glenn Ford!
    Because of what you said of Glenn Ford’s character, it really makes me want to see The Big Heat. Plus, it’s Fritz Lang, and I’ve never seen a Lang movie that I didn’t like.
    I knew The Big Combo would be on your list lol. Still have to see it.
    The Killers is not my favourite noir, but Burt Lancaster is sooo sexy in it.
    Notorious is great!
    Burt Lancaster scares me in Sweet Smell of Success! ahaha I love the music in the film
    Also saw Laura on the plane lol. I thought I wouldn’t like it, but I did!
    Sunset Blvd: YES! YES!
    When I did my essay on women in film noirs, one of my 4 examples was Out of the Past (the others were Born to Kill, The Night of the Hunter and Spellbound – all different types women!)
    I must be honest. I saw Double Indemnity once because everybody loved it and somehow it didn’t « get » me. I don’t know why! I mean, I love Billy Wilder’s films normally I love Barbara Stanwyck (ok, I really wasn’t a fan of Fredric March in it. But I mean, it’s just ONE role!) But as I bought the DVD I know I have to give it another chance. Tastes change and maybe I will love it on my second viewing! Just like it was the case with Baby Face and 42nd Street
    Anyway, love the list! And I’m glad to see I saw more than its half! Sorry for the novel comment ahahah

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, you must finish The Lady from Shanghai, awesome ending!
      Yeah my mom and I were just talking about that the other day. Noirs are so hard to define and yet at the same time so unique and specific. It’s really weird. Mildred Pierce always felt like a noir to me, although it’s not the most conventional of noirs. I can understand that about Rear Window ( I don’t agree at all with it being called a noir), every movie to a certain degree could be considered a noir. I once read a really good article about The Red Shoes (!) being a noir!
      Awesome that you saw Touch of Evil on the big screen!
      You’re going to love The Big Heat! Glenn Ford is AMAZING!
      I love The Killers!!!
      Haha why did you think you wouldn’t like Laura?
      By the way, what airline is this you travel with that they have classic movies?! Haha that’s so awesome
      Oh, you MUST watch Double Indemnity again, indeed! I suppose maybe it was the fact that everybody talks about it all the time (I call it the Citizen Kane syndrome) that maybe put you off. But it’s just brilliant, in my opinion.
      Thanks so much babe!!! 😀 Haha loved the comment!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I will try to see The Big Heat when my school session will be done! Same for Double Indemnity. Seriously I don’t know why I thought I would like Laura. Somehow I thought it would be too serious. It was, like most noirs lol. But I loved it. And I think that’s why I can’t really consider Rear Window a noir. I think there’s too many funny moments lol. It could be more a noir comedy at some point. And the airline where I see all those classics is Air Canada! But it’s probably not the only one.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Kyle Steward

    Helluva noir list. I often surf the web looking for lists such as this from folks as into noir as I am. Great list and great comments. I might add Kiss Me Deadly and Night and the City. But cannot argue with any in your Top 20.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Absolutely fantastic list, Carol! Some of my all time favourite films here. I actually have three of these films taped to watch once again, most recently The Lady From Shanghai. Your comment about not having any idea what goes on in The Big Sleep made me smile. Nor did Howard Hawks! The innuendo between them is delicious and Lauren is soooo sexy in the film! Noir is my all time favourite genre, the femme fatale, the cigarettes, the hard drinking, the shadows, just wonderful. One I might’ve sneaked on there is Scarlet Street, another Fritz Lang classic. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you!!! 😀
      Yeah, I read that The Big Sleep was meant to be confusing! Well good job then! lol
      Scarlet Street is too bleak for me. I quite liked it and it was a good follow-up to The Woman in the Window, but it’s a little too dark.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. A Suspicious Character

    Very impressive list. I had to wait until weekend before I read and comment because I really to actually sit down and to really pay attention. I am also a film noir fan (classic and neo), though there are tons that I haven’t seen, but I am so happy that that you made this list because it helped me to figure it out what to watch next. There are some that I have seen and love (Notorious, The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon, Sunset), there are some that I’ve known the title and I’ve been wanting to see, but you also mentioned the ones that I’ve never heard before such as The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (or have I? now I am not so sure). But anyway, thanks again for writing this. I just love having so many smart friends 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Pingback: Coming soon… – The Old Hollywood Garden

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