Noir stuffs
April 3, 2013 7:56 AM   Subscribe

What're the best examples of noir you've seen/read/played?

I've just recently really started getting into noir. I'm currently playing Grim Fandango and reading Inherent Vice. I'm also interested in stuff that has elements of noir, while mixing with other genres. Specific audiobook recommendations would be great too if you have them.

Some things I've tried:
Movies: LA Confidential, The Big Sleep, Brick, Chinatown
Games: LA Noir, Grim Fandango, Bioshock Infinite
Books: Inherent Vice

posted by pilibeen to Media & Arts (50 answers total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
Veronica Mars
posted by zombieflanders at 8:00 AM on April 3, 2013 [5 favorites]

Raymond Chandler and Philip Marlowe?
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:01 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

Try some Cyberpunk Noir - I highly recommend Altered Carbon, Broken Angels and Woken Furies by Richard Morgan.
posted by bobdow at 8:05 AM on April 3, 2013

Wonderful noir film: Laura [Don't read the plot part! Spoilers abound!]
posted by agentmitten at 8:08 AM on April 3, 2013

You should really read Chandler's novel "The Long Goodbye" as well
posted by thelonius at 8:10 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Man, I love film noir. Here's three of my favorites to get you started:

Out of the Past (1947)
The Set-Up (1949)
Night and the City (1950)
posted by .kobayashi. at 8:10 AM on April 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

From the archives of Classic Noir you get The Postman Always Rings Twice and Sunset Boulevard.
posted by The Whelk at 8:11 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Mildred Pierce. One of my favorite movies.
posted by phunniemee at 8:11 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, often overlooked cause it takes place overseas but the film version of The Good German is aping classic Noir really, really hard.
posted by The Whelk at 8:12 AM on April 3, 2013

Oh and for humor that's still working with Noir elements? Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
posted by The Whelk at 8:13 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

Why those three? Out of the Past is the most iconic. It's got all the conventions of noir: guy trying to outrun past mistakes, the untrustworthy woman, criminal elements. It's got a hangdog Robert Mitchum. It's note perfect.

The Set-Up is one of my favorite films nobody knows. It features Robert Ryan as a down-on-his-heels boxer who's been set up for a fall by his manager. Only his manager has so little faith in him the he doesn't clue Ryan in on the fix. Disaster ensues. This film takes place in real time. It's some of the best boxing ever filmed. And frame-for-frame, shot-for-shot, it's perfect, with visuals coming out of some Platonic form of noir.

Night and the City, I love, mostly for the reeking desperation of Richard Widmark. He gives what may be my favorite acting performance in the genre.
posted by .kobayashi. at 8:15 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

John Dahl's first three movies are terrific Neo-Noir.

Kill Me Again
Red Rock West
The Last Seduction
posted by bswinburn at 8:15 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

All five of Dashiell Hammett's novels are fantastic, gritty, and morally complex. John Huston's film of "The Maltese Falcon" is what the term "film noir" was coined for.
posted by chrchr at 8:17 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Drive is a great neo-noir and one of the best recent films in general. For classic noir, Double Indemnity is probably the best of the genre in my opinion although it does feel a bit more dated than some of the other classic noir films. Kiss Me Deadly is a lot more unconventional and feels like a Tarantino film set in the 50s (and in fact it inspired several elements of Pulp Fiction). D.O.A. is an underrated one that is one of the better classic noir films even though it doesn't end up on a lot of best noir film lists.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:19 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

There's plenty other good noir. You need to drop everything and see Double Indemnity if you haven't yet. Same goes for Sunset Boulevard. And The Killers (go with the Burt Lancaster one, not the Lee Marvin, for starters) and The Killing and Kiss Me Deadly.

Eventually you'll get into the french noir homages. Elevator to the Gallows. Shoot the Piano Player. Le Doulos. Classics, every one.
posted by .kobayashi. at 8:19 AM on April 3, 2013

How's about some graphic novels? For instance, Blacksad. Or Britten and Brulightly.
posted by Temeraria at 8:37 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

So many, here's a few:

"Out Of The Past"
Farewell, My Lovely
You Only Live Once

Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler
The Big Knockover or any Continental Op stories by Dashiell Hammett
posted by Rash at 8:38 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I love The Asphalt Jungle (1950) by John Huston.
posted by bluecore at 8:39 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

+1 for Hammett. And for The Last Seduction - that's a really good modern take on the genre.
posted by crocomancer at 8:40 AM on April 3, 2013

Comics-wise, there's pretty much everything Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have ever done together, especially Criminal. For a real "mixing of the genres" be sure to check out Criminal: The Last of the Innocent which is, uh, Archie noir.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:41 AM on April 3, 2013

Oh, and I've spent a lot of time lately with the Chandler stories. Heck, I asked a question about LA last week that was partially fishing for recommendations for good spots to sit and read Chandler stories. I like The Long Goodbye best. But The Little Sister might be, pound for pound, the most distilled essence of Chandler's take on noir.
posted by .kobayashi. at 8:45 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

And if you want the intersection of "noir" and "superhero," Brubaker and Phillips' Sleeper is also fantastic.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:46 AM on April 3, 2013

The Big Nowhere by James Ellroy begins thus:

Thundershowers hit just before midnight, drowning out the horn honks and noisemaker blare that usually signaled New Year's on the strip, bringing 1950 to the West Hollywood Substation in a wave of hot squeals with meat wagon backup.

A terrific book, and as noir as they come.
posted by itstheclamsname at 8:48 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

A little while ago I found this: A Twist of Noir Blogspot while looking for more stuff by Roger Hobbs, author of the newly published Ghost Man. I couldn't put the book down.
posted by lyssabee at 8:54 AM on April 3, 2013

One more novel:

The Postman Always Rings Twice
(I haven't seen the films)
posted by Rash at 8:54 AM on April 3, 2013

It's been years since I read it, but I recall really liking the Brian Michael Bendis comicbook Torso.

Also comics-related, Bill Watterson does noir with Tracer Bullet.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:12 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I like This Gun for Hire and The Narrow Margin. And they're fairly simple compared to some noir (most famously The Big Sleep).

Also Double Indemnity. A bit hammy but lots of fun.

After you've seen a few of the classics, make a point to see Steve Martin's Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid. It incorporates old noir clips, so the more of the source material you know, the funnier it is.

Also check out the book
Dark City by Edward Muller, and the Noir of the Week blog.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 9:16 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Jean-Pierre Melville's French noirs are all great: Le Cercle Rouge, Le Samourai, Army of Shadows.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:20 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also look for some of Darwyn Cooke's stuff, esp on Catwoman (including collaborations with the aforementioned Ed Brubaker). He's also adapted the "Parker" series to much acclaim, which the 1967 film Point Blank was based on.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 9:28 AM on April 3, 2013

Books: Hammett, Chandler, Ross MacDonald for classic detective. For crime, I recommend Jim Thompson. I had a Pulp Fiction literature class in college and can't recommend Thompson enough. We were assigned 2 or 3 of his books back to back and it really takes you into a different headspace. About half of the class complained of nightmares. He's awesome. Recommend The Killer Inside Me and the new movie isn't too terrible.

Movies: Out of the Past is great.

A lot of this stuff came out of pulp magazines and comic books so the recommendations to find graphic novels is a good one. Batman is completely based on the classic detective. To understand the 'symbols' and formula of the genre I'd recommend a couple of non fictions books: Pulp Culture and Neon Noir both by Woody Haut. A lot of what makes this genre click for a lot of people is deeply rooted in American culture: religion in our morals and punishment, individualism and paranoia, etc... An understanding of the context can really help you appreciate it more.
posted by kookywon at 9:32 AM on April 3, 2013

The Bernie Gunther books by Philip Kerr is a series of pitch-black noirs set primarily in Germany in the 1930s-40s. Great stuff.
posted by scody at 10:16 AM on April 3, 2013

Okay, so this may or may not be film noir - it's up for debate - but Night of the Hunter will blow your mind.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 10:54 AM on April 3, 2013

I just recently finished reading The Best American Noir of the Century, which is a huge collection with a lot of excellent pieces in it. The very last story is relentlessly stupid but everything else ranged from "huh, pretty cool!" to "OMG that was dark and amazing." One that really stuck with me that I would have never run across on my own was Stab by Chris Adrian.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:55 AM on April 3, 2013

No love yet for The Third Man with Joseph Cotten, Valli and Orson Welles? The zither soundtrack is indelible (seriously, you will never get it out of your head) and the ending is pretty much perfect.

One thing to note about Mildred Pierce is that you definitely want to watch the Joan Crawford film first—most of the noir-y elements of the plot are not present in the recent miniseries with Kate Winslet (which hews closer to the novel). The remake was really nicely shot and acted, but is a completely different kind of drama.
posted by bcwinters at 11:12 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

In the realm of indie games, the very dissimilar Emerald City Confidential and The Shivah are quite excellent and add in a slew of genre-twisting elements.
posted by Diagonalize at 11:22 AM on April 3, 2013

There is an excellent 2 volume Library of America set of noir novels. Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1930s and 40s and Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1950s.

They contain:

The Postman Always Rings Twice, They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, Thieves Like Us, The Big Clock, Nightmare Alley, I Married a Dead Man, The Killer Inside Me, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Pick-Up, Down There, The Real Cool Killers

I liked all of them. I really liked Down There because it was set in Philadelphia.
posted by interplanetjanet at 12:10 PM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I can't believe nobody has mentioned this yet: Murder My Sweet, with the incomparable Dick Powell.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 12:52 PM on April 3, 2013

Genre-bending books:

Gun, With Occasional Music, with kangaroo thugs

Yiddish Policeman's Union, with Jews in Alaska

Motherless Brooklyn, with a "detective" who has Tourette's.
posted by Gorgik at 12:56 PM on April 3, 2013

Film noir favs, off the top of my head:
The Big Night (1951, Joseph Losey) - adolescent drama meets noir
The Naked City (1948, Jules Dassin) - pseudo-documentary noir
The Crimson Kimono (1959, Samuel Fuller) - noir and race relations
Pickup on South Street (1953, Samuel Fuller) - noir and commie spies!

Does Fritz Lang's M count? Also from the 1930s and perhaps an edge case - it's usually called a horror film, but I think it's noirish - The Black Cat.
posted by bubukaba at 2:36 PM on April 3, 2013

Maybe you're already aware of this, after all look at the stuff you've already watched and played but Google the term "neo-noir" which is the word for, well, modern takes on noir (which is technically a movie period that occurred between a few years in the 40s and 50's) which often mix the straight up crime stories with other genres.

I'm absolutely stunned Blade Runner hasn't been mentioned, the essential cinematic cyberpunk noir.

Veronica Mars has been mentioned, that along with Brick (both high school noirs) got me into film noir at a young age.

And my personal recommendation for classic noir goes to Gun Crazy, a delightfully dark and altogether twisted movie about a gun-obsessed man who falls for and ends up hitting the road with a deadly (and straight up crazy!) female.

Someone mentioned Pickup on South Street, another often overlooked gem.
posted by dr handsome at 4:04 PM on April 3, 2013

Du rififi chez les hommes, Jules Dassin.
I completely love The Lady from Shanghai especially because it doesn't all make sense.
Horror/noir from 1942 - Tourneur's Cat People. Another strange film that I love.

Looper had a noirish vibe going on. I didn't like it, but a lot of people did.

Seconding Drive. Very stylish. Like maybe all style (and a lot of gore), but really done well.
posted by citron at 4:52 PM on April 3, 2013

I love The Maltese Falcon, DOA, Double Indemnity. Just so great!

I have a book called The Hard Boiled Reader, which is noir short-stories from old pulp detective magazines.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:11 PM on April 3, 2013

Dresden Files! The first book in particular, Storm Front, is fantasy+noir.
posted by JDHarper at 6:38 PM on April 3, 2013

One more great movie:
They Live By Night
(which is not to be confused with They Drive By Night).

Both of these (and many more) on Wikipedia's Film Noir list.

Google the term "neo-noir" which is the word for, well, modern takes on noir
Note the OP's question specified "the best examples of noir" but nothing about anything 'neo' (which in this context is a contradiction IMO -- true noir's got to be vintage).

posted by Rash at 7:24 PM on April 3, 2013

People have mentioned Veronica Mars and Brick. They both have elements of noir and are both great, but I would say Brick was more true to the original form (at least in terms of the rhythm of the dialogue). Also seconding The Third Man.

After Hours isn't classic noir in the detective/mystery sense, but it has a definite noirish vibe.

The OP also said: I'm also interested in stuff that has elements of noir, while mixing with other genres.
posted by A dead Quaker at 8:28 PM on April 3, 2013

For classic noir, The Big Heat. For more modern noir, The Long Good Friday. Both are wonderful.

A Scottish new wave band called Fingerprintz released an album called Beat Noir in 1981. The track "Get Civilized" samples the dialogue from the Big Heat: "Clothes, travel a sense of excitement, what's wrong with that?"

And dr handsome is spot on. Blade Runner bears repeated watching.
posted by quidividi at 5:32 AM on April 4, 2013

There's something about the very early 1980s neo-noirs that just leaves me totally cold. I think a lot has to do with the synthesized soundtracks/scores. But a lot of what I like about noir is also the careful framing of the camera lens, and many of these early 80s films seem to have a more slapdash or workmanlike visual feel. The Long Good Friday (1980) & Thief (1981) are the best examples of the narrow range of films I'm talking about. I can respect them, but they just don't work for me.
posted by .kobayashi. at 8:36 AM on April 4, 2013

Two movies that incorporate/riff on noir are Dark City (The 90's sci fi movie) and The Big Lebowski. Fargo is film noir with an unconventional detective, and I think you could also argue that Winter's Bone is noir dressed up like a drama.
posted by zoetrope at 9:01 AM on April 4, 2013

Millionthing "Out of the Past". The brilliance and quotability of the dialogue alone is enough to make one long for some other seedy life filled with nothing but intrigue, innuendo and whiskey.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:15 AM on April 11, 2013

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