Top 10 Neo-Noir Films

Script written by Joe Jatcko. Crime never takes a day off. In this video, WatchMojo.com counts down our picks for the top 10 neo-noir films. For this list, we’re looking at films that cannot technically be considered film noirs because – among other reasons – they’re in color. But these modern movies definitely pay homage to the classic American Noirs of the’40s and ‘50s, by utilizing and updating the same themes, style or elements. Special thanks to our users Zedfinite, jkellis, Philip Folta, nicholas.posito, Andrew A. Dennison, Dudeness95, hhtimmy, Jaime Enrique Gutierrez Pérez for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Joe Jatcko.

Top 10 Neo-Noir Films


Crime never takes a day off. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 neo-noir films.

For this list, we’re looking at films that cannot technically be considered film noirs because – among other reasons – they’re in color. But these modern movies definitely pay homage to the classic American Noirs of the’40s and ‘50s, by utilizing and updating the same themes, style or elements.

#10: “Dark City” (1998)

Ever have that dream where you’re accused of a murder you didn’t commit…and you live in a city where the sun never comes up…and the world is just a big spaceship where aliens, dressed in trench coats and top hats, do experiments on you? A cult classic that owes a debt to surrealist masterpieces like “Metropolis” and “Nosferatu,” “Dark City” is a detailed and thought-provoking film that updates the themes of film noir by adding science fiction to the mix, resulting in a modernization of the genre.

#9: “The Long Goodbye” (1973)

Elliott Gould’s turn as Raymond Chandler’s famous chain-smoking detective Philip Marlowe, introduces the snoop to a whole new world of filth and deception: the 1970s. Though the genre receives an update, Marlowe himself is stuck smack in the middle of the film noir era, with his clothes, ever-present cigarette and unwavering loyalty. Legendary director Robert Altman’s take on the detective genre winds through a world of double-crossing friends, powerful crime bosses, naked neighbors and naked Arnold Schwarzeneggers – and all Marlowe ever wanted was to find his cat.

#8: “Sin City” (2005)

One of the most uncompromising visions ever brought to screen; Frank Miller’s and Robert Rodriguez’s “Sin City” blends classic noir motifs with state-of-the-art technology, creating a virtual cinematic comic book. The film’s visual style underscores its status as a noir film, using lighting to underline the difference between black and white in this stylized world. While its gratuitous violence and, shall we say…underdeveloped… female roles have made it a divisive film, you could just say this gives it an even closer relationship with its noir forbearers.

#7: “Se7en” (1995)

With a gory murder representing each one, you’ll never forget the deadly sins again. David Fincher’s 1995 detective flick pairs young hothead Brad Pitt with Morgan Freeman, who – you guessed it – is days from retiring. Together, they tries to solve the maniacal Kevin Spacey’s master-plot to rid the world of evil…by being…evil. Though at its core is a formulaic whodunit ripped straight from a classic mystery novel, “Se7en” rejects the trope by giving us an ending no one expects. One last time, Brad: don’t open the box!

#6: “The Usual Suspects” (1995)

One of the true masterpieces of the 1990s in any genre, Bryan Singer’s “The Usual Suspects” is as stylish and witty as any of its noir predecessors – but unlike many of them, where an overcomplicated plot often leads the viewer away from the true meaning, in “The Usual Suspects” every detail – even where the detectives’ bulletin board was made – matters. Remaining true to the genre, but twisting its conventions just enough to be fascinating, “Suspects” is full of great writing, great performances and great surprises.

#5: “Brick” (2005)

Of all the films on our list, none may be a more cut-and-dry homage to the work of early noir masters than “Brick.” However, the setting is a contemporary high school, where bullies take on the role of muscle; popular kids, the role of social elites; and outcasts play private eyes. From the character archetypes, to the snappy dialogue, to the countless moving parts, director Rian Johnson’s stunning feature debut keeps audiences guessing until its final moments.

#4: “L.A. Confidential” (1997)

Each scene virtually dripping in style, Curtis Hanson’s late-‘90s masterstroke pairs a handful of the generation’s best actors with a flawlessly executed script. In a world of corruption and deceit, even the heroes have villainous qualities, and by the end, the film expertly brings together seemingly disparate elements to build a cohesive story. Like all the films on our list, “L.A. Confidential” finds its roots in film noir, but it also transcends the genre to stand as its own striking achievement.

#3: “Mulholland Drive” (2001)

If the plot of a good noir is supposed to confuse the audience and distract them from the main point, then David Lynch is a true master of the genre. As with his first noir effort “Blue Velvet,” whether there actually is a main point in this film is open for debate; but Lynch’s dark journey into the underbelly of modern Los Angeles succeeds in implementing classic noir motifs, while at the same time being like nothing audiences had ever seen.

#2: “Blade Runner” (1982)

One of the greatest science fiction films of all time, Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” is essentially a film noir set in the future. As Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard searches the deepest depths of a dystopian Los Angeles for the human-like robotic replicants, all the noir tropes are there: from stylized camera angles, to dark lighting, to Daryl Hannah as the ultimate femme fatal. Oh, and don’t for get about the rain. Lots and lots of rain.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are some of our honorable mentions:
- “Body Heat” (1981)
- “The Last Seduction” (1994)
- “Blood Simple” (1984)
- “Gattaca” (1997)
- “Basic Instinct” (1992)

#1: “Chinatown” (1974)

It was directors like Howard Hawks and Billy Wilder who pioneered American film noir, but Polish director Roman Polanski helped perfect it. With a protagonist who’s at once a typical noir hero and an atypical one, “Chinatown” is a dark and cynical tale that’s shrouded in mystery. And every detail, from a glimmer in a pond to a face-plant into a steering wheel, helps lead to one of the most thrilling yet disturbing endings of all time. But, well, you know the line.

Do you agree with our list? Which neo-noirs make you want to scrub the streets clean of crime and corruption? For more entertaining top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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