Neo-noir is a term used to describe a very specific style of filmmaking, that borrows heavily from film noir motifs, but also updates to present day/time as well. Basically, contemporary noir would be the best way of describing and defining neo-noir as a term. These are some of the most interesting and visually dynamic movies to come out of the film industry, and it always piques our interest to hear there’s a neo-noir flick being released.
In fact, some of the best movies ever made could be classed as neo-noirs. Compelling and atmospheric movies, with moral ambiguity and stark revelations, are usually the order of the day. So, grab your hat and trenchcoat, and join us on a cinematic voyage as we look at our favorite ever neo-noir flicks.
Director Rian Johnson will be in the public eye a lot in the coming month when his new flick The Last Jedi blasts its way into cinemas. But, this is cult classic Johnson’s directorial debut – a neo-noir set in high school. It’s clever, inventive, and utterly brilliant; taking the themes popularised by authors like Dashiell Hammett, and updating them to present day California. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a high schooler investigating the death of his ex-girlfriend in this indie noir homage.
The Long Goodbye (1973)
This is probably the most underrated film on the list, and an absolute blinder of a movie. Starring Elliott Gould (Ross and Monica’s dad in Friends) and Robert Marlowe, this movie delves into the novel by Raymond Chandler, and crafts one of the tightest and most wonderfully made neo-noir movies ever. Legendary director Robert Altman’s signature tropes are all over this flick, and it’s evident from the get-go that we’re in for the ride of our lives.
The Grifters (1990)
This still ranks as one of John Cusack’s best movies, as well as one of the finest neo-noir flicks ever. Stephen Frears directs this pulp movie about a trio of con artists and the destructive nature of their relationships. This is a gritty, grainy, hard-boiled crime drama is wonderfully shot and tremendously acted. It has all the classic hallmarks of noir movies, and retains much of the great dialogue from Jim Thompson’s novel.
Perhaps the finest neo-noir of the lot, Roman Polanski directs Jack Nicholson, on Oscar-winning form, in this tale of deception, betrayal, and conspiracy. Robert Towne crafts one of the finest screenplays of all time. With excellent production value, wonderful performances, and fantastic cinematography, this is one of the greatest movies ever made. Period. A metaphor for the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles, this is a movie that we can sit down to watch time and again.
Neo-noir movies rank as some of the most interesting and inventive in the film world. They are often characterized by stunning visuals and grizzled characters, and have a pretty nihilistic outlook on the world. But they are almost always movies with an important message that will stay with you long after having watched them. These are some of the best neo-noir flicks ever made.