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The other day, I was chatting with a gent who was loving some movie – which happened to be a Noir Mystery. I’m sorry, I talk with so many of you about so many different movies, I’ve lost track of where that conversation went, or who it was. (If it was you… my apologies! And please remind me!) But I remember as I was talking to him about all the great movies in this space that we should probably make a list of just the piles of fun that have been had in this sub-genre of film. And I literally, just off the top of my head, threw 10 movies at him – and I was like, DANG! That is a really tight movie list. I should probably throw those out there for everyone to read, watch, and consume. Because yah. So, this post lacks the ceremony of most of my posts (and the bloviation), but I’m just going to list them out, and give you a quick idea of what they are about and why they are on this list. Oh, and they are tossed out here in literally no particular order:
Memento is my single favorite Noir film. Hands down. Bar none. If you haven’t ever seen it… … … I. Uh. I can’t move. Just put this list down, and go find it. I almost want to say that this is one of only a few perfect films. And I might even say that it’s Christopher Nolan’s best films. Better than his Batman oeuvre, his Inception, and maybe even better than The Prestige? Memento tells the story of an individual with the inability to maintain memories after a brutal attack that killed his wife, and left him crippled mentally.
If you are looking for a modern rewrite of a gumshoe noir thriller, then Brick is for you. Joseph Gordon-Levitt brings us this fantastic, quick talking, high school noir investigation. The writing here is absolutely brilliant. Witty, quick on its toes, and impressive throughout. It’s a fun ride that follows Brendan as he investigates disappearances and murders at his local school.
I remember when readers of THiNC. asked where my review of Old Boy was on the site. Because obviously I had to have one. “Errr. Old What?” I responded with. And then this noir, detective thriller happened to me. You don’t watch it… it happens to you. And all the breaker switches in my brain fired all at once, and I sat there staring at the screen long after the credits stopped rolling. After being kidnapped and imprisoned for fifteen years, Oh Dae-Su is released, only to find that he must find his captor in five days. Hahahaha. So much wow in this film.
Blade Runner & 2049
With Blade Runner and its sequel 2049, you not only get brilliant noir (complete with Harrison Ford stereotypical noir voice over), but you also get Sci-Fi goodness, bounty hunters, and replicants for one really low price. I recently discussed the November 2019 implications of humanity’s arrival at Blade Runner’s future. But if you haven’t seen this one yet, I’m wondering why you are even here in the first place.
I am, generally speaking, opposed to Tom Cruise. But he did deliver two different home runs to movie viewers in Live, Die, Repeat, and Collateral. Collateral being the dark noir fest to the sci-fi war of the worlds in Live, Die Repeat. In Collateral, a cab driver (Jamie Foxx) finds himself the hostage of an engaging contract killer (Tom Cruise) as he makes his rounds from hit to hit during one night in Los Angeles.
After a car wreck on the winding Mulholland Drive renders a woman amnesiac, she and a perky Hollywood-hopeful search for clues and answers across Los Angeles in a twisting venture beyond dreams and reality. Did I mention it’s David Lynch?
Jake Gyllenhaal is the king of intricate characters. In Enemy, Gyllenhaal brought us two distinctly different characters – the professor and the actor. Velvet Buzzsaw brought us an elitist art critic. Nocturnal Animals brought us a revenge filled author. And in Nightcrawler, Louis Bloom is a desperate newsmaker that takes his search for fame too far. When Louis Bloom, a con man desperate for work, muscles into the world of L.A. crime journalism, he blurs the line between observer and participant to become the star of his own story.
True Detective Season 1
Name one single season of television that was better than True Detective Season 1. I dare you. It’s like a long and strung out Se7en it is so intense. And it is so focused, and tightly wound that I find it really difficult to knock anything about it. I mean, you have Woody Harrelson as the straight man for heaven’s sake!
Murder on the Orient Express
Sure, Murder on the Orient Express doesn’t cleanly fit in my standard THiNC. ball of yarn. But 1974’s Murder on the Orient Express is surely one of the murder mystery genre’s cinematic landmarks. It was directed by Academy Award-winning director Sidney Lumet, who is best known for his directorial debut 12 Angry Men. The film is one of the best examples of a locked room whodunnit in the history of cinema. Based on Agatha Christie’s novel of the same name, the film revolves around the detective Hercule Poirot as he tries to uncover the mystery of the murder aboard the train. The film is so iconic that the cast of characters have been used as archetypes of the murder mystery genre in different mediums. Indeed, the elements and figures of Lumet’s film hold up to this day as it’s even been treated to a 2019 remake — proving the timelessness of the Murder on the Orient Express.
No Country for Old Men
No Country is literally the most atypical suggestion on this list, and yet it is the most perfect noir film on this list. Can’t really explain that sentence. It just is. Violence and mayhem ensue after a hunter stumbles upon a drug deal gone wrong and more than two million dollars in cash near the Rio Grande.