Noir film is a cinematographic genre that was popular mainly during the 1940s but there are plenty of noir lovers to this day and the movies that make this genre are timeless masterpieces and lessons to all movie makers, no matter the genre they are producing. A lot of people have tried to bring back the noir film during the latest years, with movies which we now call neo-noirs. Let’s take a look at ten neo-noir films that you probably never heard of but are definitely worth watching.
10 Neo-Noir Films You Haven’t Heard Of
Thief is a Michael Mann adaptation of a novel by Frank Hohimer about a professional safecracker that agrees to do a job for the Mafia in an attempt to finish with his illegal past and start a normal life, but things get complicated, as they always do in noir films and the protagonist finds himself trapped by his eagerness and the misdemeanors of those who hired him. The movie marked Michael Mann’s directorial debut and opened the road for a long carrier in neo-noir film producing.
The Elements of Crime (1984)
We all heard of Lars Von Trier, especially since his controversial statements at film festivals or his strongly contested movie, Nymphomaniac. But he is more than a controversial figure, Lars von Trier is an amazing director, with a flair for the dark and obscure and The Elements of Crime, one of his earlier films proves that. Cops, serial killers, a dystopian Europe and plenty of neo-noir elements make this film one of the most underrated neo-noir of the ‘80s. The Elements of Crime is the first film in the Europe trilogy.
Violent Cop (1989)
We all know how originally violent and dark Japanese movies can be and Takeshi Kitano is one of the masters of cinematography when it comes to these kind of movies. Violent Cop is a film about a police officer who discovers that his colleague is involved in trafficking drugs and the actions that come from this discovery. The movie is a classic when it comes to portraying nihilistic violence, and the director is one of the most important minds in Japanese film so if you have not seen it by now, don’t waste another minute.
Black Rain (1989)
Black Rain is one of Ridley Scott earlier films, starring Michael Douglas, Andy Garcia and Ken Takakura and although many people have seen it or heard about it, somehow it gets lost when we are talking about masterpieces of the neo-noir genre. New York cops, Japanese Mafia and a lot of twists and turns make this movies one of Ridley Scott’s most underrated works. Black Rain is one of the best when it comes to cops thrillers, and a classic neo-noir film that deserves to be remembered.
The Grifters (1990)
It was hard picking only ten movies from the neo-noir category, and for our last entry we chose another Stephen Frears movies, The Grifters. Not that unknown, but highly underrated, The Grifters tells the story of a small-time conman who has a hard time deciding between his mother and his girlfriend, both with agendas of their own. John Cusack, Anjelica Huston and Annette Bening give outstanding performances in this neo-noir classic.
Bound is not your usual neo-noir film, you don’t see mysterious murderers, dark alleys, or serial killers; you see Corky and her lover Violet creating a scheme to steal money from the mob, but in very different perspective than you would expect from a neo-noir movie. Being an Andy and Lana Wachowski movie, you get to see their talent long before The Matrix Trilogy, because Bound is a fascinating thriller full of emotion, intelligence, erotic scenes and stylish neo-noir.
Insomnia is a Norwegian film starring Stellan Skarsgard about a murder investigator from a city with a 24-hour daylight cycle. As sleep deprivation takes over his murder investigation the detective starts making mistakes which can only harm the outcome of the case, especially when the killer find out about them. Northen European movies have gotten more popular in the last decade, and Stellan Skarsgard is one of those amazing actors that everybody knows but very few remember his name. His role in Insomnia is magnificent, and the movie is a fascinating thriller with noir touches that take us back to the golden age of film. The movie has a remake from 2002, starring Al Pacino and, even if the remake is more famous, there is no doubt that the original is highly superior.
Dirty Pretty Things (2002)
Probably the most unknown movie from our list, Dirty Pretty Things is a movie directed by Stephen Frears (High Fidelity, Philomena, and Dangerous Liaisons) about an illegal Nigerian immigrant who discovers the dark side of London life. With Audrey Tatou in the leading role, Dirty Pretty Things is one of the best movies of 2002 and one of the most interesting neo-noir of its time. Offering its viewers an interesting look on the life of illegal immigrants and society’s take on the matter, Dirty Pretty Things is an impressive thriller that makes you think about the absurdity of modern times.
Memories of Murder (2003)
Memories of Murder is an older film by director Joon-ho Bong, the creator of the Snowpiercer masterpiece. The action takes place in 1986, in a province of South Korea. After a beautiful woman is found dead, two detectives have to find out what happened to her. Staying true to the style of Korean movies, Memoirs of a Murder is a fantastic blend of neo-noir, mystery and drama, and the fact that it is based on a series of crimes that actually happened, gives it a more unique touch. Joon-ho Bong movies are not to be missed, whether we are talking about his current or older work, so make sure to add them to your list of movies to watch.
We decided to feature two movies by director Joon-ho Bong, although this top could have easily been great with only titles from his portfolio. Mother is a South Korean neo-noir masterpiece about a mother who is desperately searching for the person that framed her son for murder. You would think that a movie about a little old lady can’t have anything special, right? You couldn’t be more wrong. Even though it is not as well-known as Memories of Murder or any of his newer films, Mother an emotional blend of thriller, mystery and drama, which has wit, intensity and portrays one of the darkest and evil characters in the history of cinema. Don’t miss it!
As you can see, the noir film is here to stay, and we will be talking about noir influenced or neo-noir movies for a long time, which can only make us happy, as the noir age of cinema was a time of masterpieces, style and class.