Murder, Cigarettes, and Dangerous Women: Top 7 Noir Detective Films

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Maltese Falcon

The city is dark and gritty, the police just a little bit crooked. Murder, cigarettes, and red dressed women are around ever corner. Well, maybe not all those things around every corner, but you get the point. Film noir takes us back to a different time, fancy cars, suits, embittered detectives with dangerous and fast-paced love lives, and it’s a genre well worth a list post or two.

Noir was the opposite of what Hollywood had grown to expect and market [during that time],” said Josh Hartnett, author of The Black Dahlia, of the genre. “People were lusting for that darker side of life when they were living in such seeming isolation from that darkness,” he said, in an interview with About.com. In preparation for the dark side of the 40′s and 50′s, pop on your fedora, make yourself a stiff drink, and then let’s take a look at some of the best noir films out there.

1. The Maltese Falcon

As the trailer for the 1940s film will tell you, Sam Spade, the San Francisco private detective, “makes crime a career, and ladies a hobby!” not to mention “he’s as fast on the draw — as he is in the drawing room.” If that doesn’t pull you in, the dead partner, mysterious falcon statue, and (of course) eventual framing of Sam for crimes not committed should do the trick.

The film, a remake of Dashiell Hammett’s greatest novel, stars Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor as Samuel Spade and Brigid O’Shaughnessy, with Jerome Cowan playing Miles Archer, Spade’s partner in the Spade and Archer detective agency. Peter Lorre, who had a brief role in one of Bogart’s more famous films, Casablanca, plays Joel Cairo, one of the antagonists.

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