A noir film is characterized as a type of crime drama with complicated plots and characters. This genre became especially popular post WWII, and some of the most well known noirs are shot in black and white. However, this genre has not been isolated to that era of Hollywood, as many are still being made. November has become a month dedicated to film noir, earning the title “Noirvember”. In honor of this month, a few great noirs have been selected for this list. The Schis, at the request of Mr Morley, has given a rating out of ten to each of the films. Ratings are based on personal enjoyment, not objective quality.
Sunset Boulevard (1950): Joe Gillis, a failing screenwriter in Hollywood, accidentally stops into the driveway of Norma Desmond, an aging silent film star who has faded into obscurity. The woman soon convinces him to write the screenplay for a story that she has been working on for years. Joe becomes ensnared by Norma and isolated from the rest of the world in this bold noir. Sunset Boulevard makes a loud statement about Hollywood’s condition that still rings true today as its themes are still reflected in modern media like Bojack Horseman and Mulholland Drive. Murder and manipulation define the great film, while it continues to remain relevant. This film was approved by the MPA*. The Schis gives it an 8/10.
Rebecca (1940): When a woman meets the charming, wealthy, and mysterious Maxim de Winter on a vacation with her employer, the two quickly fall in love and elope. But when the newlywed Mrs. de Winter arrives at her husband’s large estate, Manderley, she realizes that she must live in the shadow of his deceased first wife Rebecca. Hitchcock's Rebecca is a gripping journey through paranoia, love and secrets. Approved by the MPA*. The Schis gives it a 10/10.
Mulholland Drive (2001): When Betty Elms, an aspiring actress living in Hollywood, meets another woman who has just lost her memory due to a mysterious car accident, the two travel across the city to discover her identity. Director David Lynch’s surrealistic style brings the noir genre to another level, adding warped layers to the tension and symbols in the film. At its core, Mulholland Drive is an odd love story, with tragic twists and a bizarre story characteristic of a David Lynch film. Rated R for violence, language, and some strong sexuality. The Schis gives it a 9/10.
Blue Velvet (1986): David Lynch’s 1986 film Blue Velvet follows a young man on a visit to his home town. While walking through a field near his childhood home, he discovers a severed human ear which leads him to uncover a local mystery involving a nightclub singer and the kidnapping of her young son. Blue Velvet is considered one of David Lynch’s most accessible films but there is no shortage of his signature dreamy surrealism, beautiful synth music, and complicated villains. Blue Velvet highlights the struggle between good and evil, and the area in between. Rated R for strong disturbing violent and sexual content, some graphic nudity, and pervasive language. The Schis gives it an 8/10.
Gone Girl (2014): The definitive neo noir based on the novel by acclaimed crime fiction writer Gillian Flynn. Best modern noir. Nick Dunne (played by Ben Affleck) comes home on his and his wife’s fifth anniversary to find that she has gone missing, and that he is the prime suspect in her disappearance. Gone Girl is a sleek and modern exploration of moral ambiguity and proof that great noirs are still possible. Rated R for a scene of bloody violence, some strong sexual content/nudity, and language. The Schis gives it a 7/10.
Rope (1948): Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope appears to have no cuts, although it is composed of ten long takes. The whole story takes place within about an hour and a half in a Manhattan penthouse, playing out in real time. Before the guests of their dinner party arrive, Brandon Shaw and Phillip Morgan commit what they think is the “perfect murder”. They strangle their old classmate David, leaving him in a chest in the middle of the room, without any of the party guests being the wiser. Tension rises as their old school housemaster, who inadvertently inspired the murder, arrives at the party and begins to suspect something is wrong. Rope was Hitchcock’s first color film, and yet it’s full of the tension and twisted characters that come with a great noir. This film was approved by the MPA*. The Schis gives it a 10/10.
Peeping Tom (1960): Considered to be one of the first slasher films, Peeping Tom follows the life of a strange recluse named Mike and his documentary on fear. Mike’s documentary is composed of the reactions of different women before he murders them. The odd sort of sympathy the film creates for the killer combined with its intense story creates an incredibly unique film on seclusion. This film was not rated by the MPA. The Schis gives it a 6/10.
*From 1934 to 1968 films were either “Approved” or “Disapproved” by the MPA, depending on whether they followed the Hays code, a list of guidelines for what filmmakers could put into their films.