Film Noir: My Favorite Genre of Film
Updated: Apr 19
Film Noir has been my favorite film genre for as long as I can remember. I’m not sure exactly when, but I have always gravitated to the old black & white films since I was very young. Ever since then, it’s grown into an aesthetic for me. It would eventually become the first genre I would explore when writing my first screenplay.
If you don’t know, film noir is defined as a style or genre of cinematographic film marked by a mood of pessimism, fatalism, and menace. The term was originally applied (by a group of French critics) to American thriller or detective films made in the period 1944–54. Essentially, it’s the classic detective story with voiceover narration, snappy dialogue, a femme fatale, and some grand mystery that the detective is thrown in to solve. It has the boozed up cop, cigarette smoke, neon filled nights, jazz music, and double crossing dames. There’s more to it than that, but those elements are key to the genre. Now, not every film noir is about a detective, nor are they always mysteries. Some involve different plots, such as heists, cons and innocent people being framed for a crime they didn’t commit. However, they always have the same tropes. Those tropes include an antihero as the protagonist, a big city as the setting, a dark and pessimistic tone, and high tension.
This might sound a bit strange, but I fully believe that I’m reincarnated from a 1940’s Private Investigator. That’s the only logical conclusion as to why I’m so drawn to the genre. I know I just stated that I used to watch the classic film noirs when I was younger, but I only remember images- not the actual plot. As I got older, I learned more, but it wasn’t until I was in college when I discovered that I knew a lot more about the genre than I thought. My first screenplay was my take on the genre, and after reviewing it, I realized I was spot on with the tropes. My script professor was shocked to learn that I had never read any classic noir books, or even seen much of the films.
There are many things that appeal to me about the genre. For one, it’s the protagonist. The broken Private Detective who just wants to drink alone in his office. He’s not exactly a good guy or a bad guy; he’s in the gray. I always found that type of character interesting. I explored that type in my own story. They’ve been trapped in the dark web of the world they inhabit. They try their best to find a sense of hope or happiness, but it’s a noir world, and unfair things happen.
The femme fatale is key to film noir. They’re defined as attractive and seductive women, especially those who are likely to cause distress or disaster to men who become involved with them. Now it’s not that simple. Femme fatales are always the most fascinating characters in the genre. Like the detective, they aren’t necessarily good or bad. They do what’s necessary to survive their story. In my story, the femme fatale is the driving force to the story. She gets the protagonist interested in the mystery. They can easily be not likeable due to their untrustworthy actions, but that’s how they can survive in the world. In film noir, it’s anyone’s game, and femme fatales are the best players.
The setting is also an important factor. My favorite is the big city, usually at night- Dark alleys, smoky jazz bars, and neon lights. It’s always night time and usually raining in the big city. The jazzy score also helps with the looming atmosphere. Private Investigators work best at night when they’re trying to solve the big mystery or conspiracy.
Now, there’s also a genre called Neo-Noir, which basically means a revival of the genre of film noir. They have the same tropes, but they’re in modern films. The term was coined in the 1970s. There have been some fantastic neo-noirs that have come out since then. Modern technology with a noir style of filmmaking, however, is something else.
When it came to writing my own screenplay, I wanted to write my own version of a film noir, and I think I nailed it. I don’t want to spoil my own story, so I’ll say a quick sentence summary. The story takes place in the fictional town of Filomena, a decrepit town full of crime, where a young Detective named Cole Hasper takes on a case from the beautiful, yet mysterious Allison Kay. It took me 3 years to complete what I had envisioned. I’m very proud of my work and I really believe I succeeded in the goal of writing my own take on the genre of film noir.
If you haven’t seen any film noirs or been introduced into that world, I’d suggest checking some of them out. I have listed some of my favorites of the genre-some classic and some neo-noir, below. If I ever got the chance to make films, the first one I would make would be a film noir. One way to show how much I love this genre of film is the fact that I have Film Noir tattooed on my right wrist.
Out of the Past (1947)
Murder, My Sweet (1944)
The Dark Corner (1946)
The Big Combo (1955)
The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
Night and the City (1950)
The Killing (1956)
The Night of the Hunter (1955)
You Were Never Really Here (2018)
Le Samouraï (1967)
Lost Highway (1997)
Nocturnal Animals (2016)
Shutter Island (2010)
Taxi Driver (1976)
Inherent Vice (2014)
A Walk Among The Tombstones (2014)