Listen up, ya mugs. If ya dug L.A. Noire’s take on the mean streets of Los Angeles, check out these six noir pictures. They’re dark, bleak, and the characters within believe that the world is out to get them. They’re also the best ever made. Don’t agree? Go sleep with the fishes.
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
The City of Angels has some dark corners, and never is that more clear than in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard. A dark depiction of show biz sleaze, Sunset is the grande dame of film noir. From its opening shot of a dead man floating in a pool to its final terrifying close-up, the film commits every frame to the destructive price of fame… and the slow, horrifying descent into madness that even death can’t stop. Ready for your close-up, Mr. DeMille?
Double Indemnity (1944)
When lust is a crime, murder and double crossing are its after-effects. Ripped straight from the tabloids, Double Indemnity tells the story of an insurance salesman falling for a shady dame and the subsequent hell she puts him through for offing her husband. Double crosses ensue. People get shot. The boss sees all. It’s a mean, nasty little crime story, and is extra sweet for featuring gangster godfather Edward G. Robinson as the all-seeing boss. More Billy Wilder goodness.
Sin City (2005)
A neo-noir rooted in Frank Miller’s gritty source material, Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City is an ode to the old days, the bad days, the all-or-nothing days when tough guys growled voiceovers, shady dames shot down crooked cops, and innocent people got caught in between. It’s also incredibly violent, with lots of red, splotchy goop splattering the razor sharp black and white cinematography. It’s blood for blood. By the gallon.
White Heat (1949)
If insanity needs a little push to get started then Cody Jarrett got shoved off a cliff. Raoul Walsh’s White Heat is a noir crime drama, and James Cagney’s Jarrett is a gangster who hears demons and sits in his mama’s lap for consolation. Cagney’s energy almost comes out of the screen and the breakdown he has in prison when he finds out mama died will haunt you for the rest of your days. Scarface be damned; this is a gangster.
The Maltese Falcon
This is the stuff that dreams are made of – assuming those dreams lead to murder. John Huston’s gumshoe flick cemented Humphrey Bogart as the burned out, put-upon detective who always gets his man, even when everyone else around him gets offed. All the characters are types rather than people, and plot twists make a big knot that isn’t easy to follow, but you don’t get more noir than Bogey. He’s at his best here.
Blade Runner (1982) – Just because a movie takes place in a crazy, Phillip K. Dick future doesn’t mean it isn’t noir. Ridley Scott’s magnum opus is exactly that, with retired cop Rick Deckard brought in for one last job and unraveling a seamy crime story bit by intricate bit. Sure it has flying cars, but it questions what makes us human and forces us to examine how much we really know about the world we live in. And, like its noir predecessors, it’s one hell of a mindfuck. Fiery the angels fell, indeed.