What is film noir?

World War II. They are typically pessimistic in nature. Films in this genre veer towards themes of corruption and murder and mostly tackle the subject of post-war disillusionment. These films take a sardonic approach to the world around and contain really strong dialogues.

Characters and characteristics

Some distinct characteristics of the genre are cynical protagonists, femme fatales, low-key lighting, flashbacks and diagonal camera angles.

The genre was inspired by pulp fiction, which was quite popular in the 1930s. These novels mostly revolved around the Great Depression and dealt with themes such as corruption, danger, and mystery.

In the wake of World War II, some Hollywood studios – in an effort to draw the audience to crime dramas – explored the dark film genre, which eventually gave rise to the noir concept. In the 1940s and the 1950s, these films were highly influenced by the German expressionism, French poetic realism, and art deco style.


“The Big Sleep”, directed by Howard Hawks, is one of the iconic examples of the genre. Adapted from Raymond Chandler’s 1939 novel of the same name, this film features Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe, a private eye, and Lauren Bacall as the heroine Vivian Rutledge. The noir film explores the themes of murder, blackmail, and deception.

Some of the other examples are ‘The Maltese Falcon”, “Double Indemnity”, ‘The Woman in the Window”, “Laura”, and “Touch of Evil”. Despite enjoying tremendous success in the 1940s and 1950s, the lost its glory over time. However, even now, film noir remains an important discourse for critics and students of cinema.


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