Originally published at Cinema Sugar.
1. Double Indemnity
This isn’t the first major noir (fedora-tip to The Maltese Falcon) but damned if it isn’t the genre’s absolute peak: femme fatale, no-nonsense narration, crime gone wrong, investigator on the case. It’s hard to pick Billy Wilder’s best movie but this has to be near the top.
Seeing this in early high school was my first encounter with Christopher Nolan, Guy Pearce, and the unique thrill of getting my mind blown by a film. It’s also the rare twist-ending movie that offers more to see and untangle with every rewatch.
3. The Third Man
Most noirs of the classic era were pretty clearly filmed on backlot sets. Not The Third Man—you feel every inch of postwar Vienna’s rundown streets and cavernous sewers. Though it starts a little ho-hum, once Orson Welles shows up you’d better buckle up.
Had to represent Hitchcock on this list. The triptych of Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, and Claude Rains—legends of ’40s Hollywood—turn this into a crackling espionage thriller with an all-time ending.
God bless the Coen Brothers for injecting their unique brand of weird into what can often being a deadly serious genre. Add to that its emphatically rural and Midwestern flavors and you’ve got a neo-noir more vibrant and vital than an early-morning egg breakfast.