What is film noir?
Noir films are often overly complex quick passed
scenarios, almost always involved with crime and
gangs aimed at an adult audience. The films
purpose is to create a almost mind-blowing are
filled with holes that need to bee filled. They
drew their inspiration from actual crime of the
1920‟s to the late 1950‟s.
The First Grate Noir?
Possibly the first Noir film was not French but a
German film, it was a two part film who was a
drug lord mastermind and was directed by Fritz
Lang who later went on to make the infamous
noir science fiction movie „Metropolis‟. Though
the film was considered a flop.
One of the first very successful films was
„underworld‟; the film is about a gangster trying to
rehabilitate his friend. However problems arise
when he falls for his friend‟s girl. This is a classic
noir film with often the dame being the root of all
“Keep the change;
you filthy animal”
In 1938, the noir film “Angels with dirty faces”,
directed b Michael Curtiz, is another exemplary
display of noir, starting with the ambiguous crime
as the after math of his essential crime. This film
inspired a multitude of pop culture witch is shown
in an episode od Batman: The Animated series in
“Its Never To Late”. As well as been used in the
critically acclaimed “Home Alone” franchise,
which elements created the a spoof of the film
“angels with filthy souls” and created the iconic
phrase; “Keep the change you filthy animal”.
In the 1950‟s Orson Welles, maker of the
infamous “War of the Worlds”, created a classic
known as “A touch of evil‟, a stark perverse story
of murder, kidnapping and police corruption in a
Mexican border town, a very much a classic noir
Common Characters In
The typical noir film is unlike any other genre with
their strong men with morals and innocent girls
they have confused, gullible, rash men who are
played like puppets by manipulating back widows
of which they crave. The genre has many iconic
characters that still hold up by today‟s standards,
with films like “Drive” continuing the genres
The Anti-Hero Protagonist/The
Typically in noir films your main character is
either a detective/cop playing by his own rules to
get the villain and save the girl often meeting with
a bitter end. This character is often a private eye
with a trench coat, fedora and a dangling
cigarette. He is one of the few things relatable to
a hero in noir films as he is an often courageous
“though guy‟ who shows impeccable physical
capability‟s from fighting, to endurance chasing
and is often accompanied by a loyal male partner
and is often infamous for his taste in women.
The Femme Fatale
She is the black widow of the noir franchise. She
often has a dark past that has made her grown to
despise men and think very little of them. She
knows that she wants and she knows how to get
it, through any means often enticing then with an
exhale of a cigarette. She is never as she seems
and is often introduced emerging from darkness
often to indicate the instability in her mind.
The Noir Criminal and/or
This is no typical roiled up brash all talk guy; they
are elegant so to speak, riddled with riddles.
Especially in the later noirs, it went from a
change or syndicate to a single person bored of
the current way of life. The psychopath is often
very complex who often only finds please out of
destruction and the delight of causing pain to
others especially the protagonist and plays mind
games with then, even going as far to kill the love
interest. (E.G. Kevin Spacey from the neo-noir
The Female Victim
Unlike the femme fatale she is in genuine
distress, often with paranoia and is often strange
and behaving irregular when the protagonist
meets her. She often has little relevance to the
story herself, but she works as a good way to
continue the plot.
The Male Victim
Then there are the „others‟ characters that
accidentally end up in scenarios enticed by the
prospect of money or women often through the
flirty enticement of the femme fatale. Often weak
willed and easily duped by the femme fatale.
The Rouge Cop
A figure trained to kill; skilled in covering up his
tracks, this figure often a high-ranking officer is a
corrupt sleaze ball who turns his head for a quick
Neo-noir is a sub-genre of noir films, they are still noir
films following the mise-en-scene, characters etc. of
noir films, but are not in the time period, they come
after the 1950‟s+ of noir films.
Films like this include “Brick” which is a neo-noir take
on a crime, love, tragedy story. Others such as
“Zodiac”(2007) in where a San Francisco cartoonist
becomes an armature detective obsessed with
tracking down the zodiac killer. Then there are foreign
neo-noirs such as the South Korean movie “Mother”
about a mother searching desperately to find the killer
that framed her son for murder.
The Re Invention Of NoirQuentin Tarantino
This film director, producer and actor has created numerous neonoir style films. His films such as Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction, Inglorious
Bastards, Reservoir Dogs etc.
The features of noir he uses is the long civilized conversations
between 2 or more of the characters; talking for up to 10 minutes
resulting in the eventual climax of violence an aspect also found
in classic noir films such as “my sweet lovely” in which that
characters have a conversation resulting in a bloody massacre.
Examples Of This Include:
Watchmen” (2009) a mystery revolving around a hero who died and the rest of the hero‟s job to
solve it, despite their judges against each other.
“Brazil” (1989) In a futuristic society where society is needlessly convoluted a harried technocrat
seeks to fly away from the troubles of his time.
“The Big Lebowski” (1998) Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski is the ultimate LA slacker, until one day
his house is broken into and his rug is peed on by two angry gangsters who have mistaken him for
Jeffrey Lebowski, the LA millionaire, whose wife owes some bad people some big money.
“Fight Club” (1999) A story about a guy seeking more out of life, he meets a man named Tyler with
big ambitions, but nothing is at all as it seams.
“Sin City” (2005) when a city becomes corrupted by the police and prostitutes, 3 protagonists make
their way through with blood and bullets.
“Se7en” (1997) when a strange strand of serial killings begins to emerge it is up to an old time
detective and his newly transferred rookie sidekick to solve the mystery before more lives are
“The Matrix” (1999) When our character begins to question reality be is tracked down by police
being charged with being a terrorist hacker by the government and wakes up in a post apocalypse
world, etc. in general many of the biggest Hollywood movies have some derivative for of noir in
The key feature about neo-noirs is that they are bringing a new attractive twist on the noir genre.
Detective and Mystery
These films are considered to be sub-genres of noir films. Considered to be
suspenseful and dark films that usually center around a crime, either
kidnapping of a character or theft; with the central character often being a
hard-boiled detective meets a quest and faces it in a cold methodical pursuit
to solve the crime in question. Films that follow this sub-genre are:
“Se7en” (1997)- When a run of serial killings begin its is up to two opposite
detectives to solve this case before they are completed.
“The Sixth Sense” (1999) Malcolm Crowe is a child psychologist who receives
an award on the same night that he is visited by a very unhappy ex-patient,
who then goes to see a young boy with the same illness as his ex- patient.
“Psycho” “1960) A woman leave town to start a new life but stays over at a
motel where she meets a quiet young man named Norman who is heavily
controlled by his mother.
“Gone Baby Gone‟ (2007) When a child goes missing, her aunt hires two
detectives to find her.
Gangster and Crime
These crime films center around the sinister actions of a
criminal or mobster type people, in particular mob bosses
or under world figures who throughout the movie will kill
and steal to reach their ultimate goal. Films like this
“The Godfather” (1972) the aging patriarch of an organized
crime dynasty transfers control of his clan to his adamant
“Public Enemy” (1931) A young hoodlum rises up through
the ranks of the Chicago underworld, even as a gangster's
accidental death threatens to spark a bloody mob war.
“Public Enemy‟s” (2009) The Feds try to take down
notorious American gangsters John Dillinger, Baby Face
Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd during a booming crime wave
in the 1930s.
Thriller and Suspense
Thriller is on the broader section of film, and it works
well with noir films as it works by adding suspense
and more mental horror than actual, forcing you to
realize what has happened in a either an immediate
or drawn out fashion. This styling makes you think
and that‟s why it works.
“In Bruges” (2008) Guilt-stricken after a job gone
wrong, hit man Ray and his partner await orders from
their ruthless boss in Bruges, Belgium, the last place
in the world Ray wants to be.
„Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” (2005) when an actress is
murdered, it‟s up to two friends to uncover her murder
whilst on the run themselves
Iconography Of Noir Films
Aspects clear to the noir genre are the moody cigarettes of both the
hapless protagonist and the flirty femme fatale. The dark shadowy visuals
that create as sense of mystery. The often heavily orientated dialogue
scenes, which only at climax reveal to have a startling ambient nondiegetic soundtrack bust to show the feeling of suspense.
Other elements way include the rain that only ever seems to disperse at
the end of the film. And often most recognizable icon of film noir, the
private eye detective with his long trench coat and mounted fedora with a
no nonsense attitude.
The Usual Themes In Noir
In Noir, (These may include neo-noir, thriller/ hybrid genre etc..) there is a universal theme of Good
vs. Evil, but often at the end it amasses down to a lesser evil versing a greater evil; as often in noir
there are very few “good guys”. Many of the characters are corrupt, and those who are not often
end up dead by the end of the first act, giving us the themes of death, murder and tragedy. But in
saying that that also mean many noir protagonists are influenced by either love or lust, their desire
for the girl or even money by the end drives the characters motives thought the film.
Other themes may include the feeling of isolating and longing for purpose especially in the
protagonist who‟s one fixation had once drives them, though they may now may feel purposeless
and long for something new and exotic to them. These factors play an important role in the
characters development throughout the film; often there could be a menacing secret about out
protagonist until the films climax.
The antagonist is often one of the most interesting characters, such as Kevin Spacy‟s character
“John Doe” in “Se7en” in which he was caught at the beginning out the final act, and he slowly
reveled his schemes in a elegant manor that resulted in his victory, the puppet master antagonists
are no stranger to the genre.
The Style Of Noir Films
The style element refers to the way in which the
certain icons are presented within the genre,
through cinematography, editing special effects
and colour. We associate noir with long almost
drawn-out dialogue scenes, in often an unsettling
atmosphere. With scenes of rain at night
representing loneliness but also sinister
intensions of characters.
Setting Of Noir Films
This aspect is often set in an gloomy city, riddled with corruption.
The main hosts of noir films are city‟s like New York, Chicago etc.
They have ambiguous dark allies, more abandoned warehouses
than anywhere else in the world and a warring crime gang on
every block. Keeping in mind that the noir setting in during
wartime the people typically have a short-tempered attitude and a
growing number of people in desperation, people became more
prone to crime. Leaving a glum often-solemn setting.
The Usual Narrative Of
In defining the narrative elements we can that most Noirs will follow
the conventional structure of film theorist Todov: we begin in the
Equilibrium where our protagonist is doing their hob, without much
thrill to their life, when suddenly the antagonist (either criminal or
feme fatale) enter leaving their essence (e.g. a murder) thus entering
the disequilibrium stage of the narrative. It then falls upon the
protagonist to resolve the problem, catch the crook, save the girl and
repair the damage etc. Eventually resulting in restoring balance. One
achieved we then enter the new Equilibrium, though it is often ended
upon a bitter sweet note…