The MoFo Top 100 Neo-noir Countdown

→ in

2022 Mofo Fantasy Football Champ
My guess
1. Chinatown
2. Blade Runner
3. Memento
4. L.A. Confidential
5. Mulholland Dr.
6. Se7en
7. Taxi Driver
8. The Long Goodbye
9. Blood Simple
10. Le Samurai

Funny-- two Coen films together.

Both great pictures, I was most impressed in No Country for Old Men by the great cinematography from the legendary Roger Deakins.

Fargo was a landmark picture which really put Mrs. Coen, Frances McDormand, on the map. Ditto for Macey and Buscemi.

I had it at #19 on my neo-noir list.

#107. Hard Eight (1996) was my #23 for three points from me.

That's a very nice debut film by P.T. Anderson. I didn't have high hopes for it but I feel it is totally for this countdown and I'm a big admirer of Philip Baker Hall.

I'm a big fan of this film. One of my favorite directorial debuts.
Check out my podcast: The Movie Loot!

Funny - two Coen films together.
Funnier, a similar thing happened on the MoFo Top 100 Westerns List: a pair of Tarantino titles landed at twelve and eleven.

12. Django Unchained (2012)
11. The Hateful Eight (2015)

"Film is a disease. When it infects your bloodstream it takes over as the number one hormone. It bosses the enzymes, directs the pineal gland, plays Iago to your psyche. As with heroin, the antidote to Film is more Film." - Frank Capra

I'm agreeing with Holden: three Coens in a row. Here are my top 10 guesses.

1. Chinatown
2. Mulholland Drive
3. SE7EN
4. Memento
5. Blade Runner
6. L.A. Confidential
7. Taxi Driver
8. Le Samouraï
9. The Long Goodbye
10. Blood Simple
"Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

Funny-- two Coen films together.
Yeah, there have been a couple of interesting pairings, which I tried to highlight as the countdown progressed. For example:

Three (3) Tom Ripley film adaptations coming *almost* back-to-back-to-back:

99. The American Friend
96. The Talented Mr. Ripley
94. Purple Noon

Two (2) Thomas Harris' adaptations in two (2) consecutive days:

77. Manhunter
75. The Silence of the Lambs

Two (2) films about new lovers stealing money and/or drugs from their previous lovers and trying to make it out alive:

60. Bound
59. True Romance

Two (2) Shane Black movies in two (2) consecutive days:

42. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
39. The Nice Guys

Three (3) Michael Mann and two (2) David Fincher films, with two (2) Robert De Niro connections, in three (3) consecutive days:

34. Gone Girl (David Fincher)
33. Collateral (Michael Mann)
32. Heat (Michael Mann, starring Robert De Niro)
31. Angel Heart (starring Robert De Niro)
30. Zodiac (David Fincher)
29. Thief (Michael Mann)

Two (2) films with the word "City" in their titles, paired with a foreign neo-noir film:

26. Sin City
25. Memories of Murder
24. Dark City
23. Le Cercle Rouge

And I'm sure this is more of a mind thing, where if you look for connections anywhere you're gonna find them, but I still think it's cool. I like those kinds of things

Also, in the Film Noir countdown, we had two (2) William Wyler films on the same day:

71. The Desperate Hours (1955)
72. The Letter (1940)

The ending to A Serious Man, plus the entire film in general, is intentionally unfair to the main character.
WARNING: spoilers below
The point it argues is that divine punishment is unfair, impossible to make sense of, and disproportionate to the nature of the crime.

I get that. I just don't feel it was presented in a watchable way. To me, when art is 90+ minutes long, it has to be palatable. But as my bio line suggests, I can be on the 'basic' side of things.

Ok, let's see the ones that ALMOST made it...

101. Harper (34 points)
102. Payback (34 points)
103. Badlands (32 points)
104. John Wick (32 points)
105. Sonatine (31 points)
106. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (29 points)
107. Hard Eight (29 points)
108. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (29 points)
109. Wild at Heart (29 points)
110. The Killers (28 points)

Harper was on my list. A worthy 101st.

I like Sonatine, but thought of it more as a crime drama. As we've gone over, the difference between that and a neo-noir can be murky.

Am I the only one who voted for An Experiment in Terror?

Ok, let's see the ones that ALMOST made it...

101. Harper (34 points)
102. Payback (34 points)
103. Badlands (32 points)
104. John Wick (32 points)
105. Sonatine (31 points)
106. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (29 points)
107. Hard Eight (29 points)
108. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (29 points)
109. Wild at Heart (29 points)
110. The Killers (28 points)

Badlands is very good. It didn't make my ballot though as I prefer a few Malick films over it.

Ghost Dog was #21 on my ballot.

Wild at Heart is pretty good, but it didn't make my ballot.

Am I the only one who voted for An Experiment in Terror?

I didn't vote for it, but I like it quite a bit.

Ok, let's see the ones that ALMOST made it...

101. Harper (34 points)
102. Payback (34 points)
103. Badlands (32 points)
104. John Wick (32 points)
105. Sonatine (31 points)
106. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (29 points)
107. Hard Eight (29 points)
108. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (29 points)
109. Wild at Heart (29 points)
110. The Killers (28 points)
Harper was my #16 and Badlands my #13. I've seen all these except for Before the Devil Knows You're Dead.

Welcome to the human race...
101. Harper (34 points)
102. Payback (34 points)
103. Badlands (32 points)
104. John Wick (32 points)
105. Sonatine (31 points)
106. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (29 points)
107. Hard Eight (29 points)
108. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (29 points)
109. Wild at Heart (29 points)
110. The Killers (28 points)
two votes.

sonatine was my #9. definitely satisfied with kitano being represented on the list by fireworks, but i've always preferred this tale of a handful of yakuza whose botched intervention in an okinawa turf war leads to them hiding out in an isolated beach house. it's a curious blend of tones and styles - blunt violence meets chill hangout vibes, making for something so distinct in the process.

ghost dog was my #12. what can i say, jarmusch really knows how to put his own spin on genre even with a simple x-meets-y approach of making a hip-hop version of a melville film.

as for the others that i've seen here...

badlands is a great film but i guess i didn't consider it neo-noir.

john wick is excellent but for reasons that escape me now i put in a vote for chapter 4 instead. i had that at #22 - if i'd given that vote to the original, it would've made the list. would've made sense to pick it since it is also the closest the franchise gets to being a pure underworld neo-noir in the style of melville before the sequels practically turn it into a fantasy franchise. long short story, i'm an idiot.

before the devil knows you're dead and hard eight are good, but i've only seen either of them once.

wild at heart isn't too bad, but it's definitely my least favourite david lynch film.

saw payback once and thought it was flat-out bad.
I really just want you all angry and confused the whole time.
Iro's Top 100 Movies v3.0

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai is my shit! Didn't know it was eligible.
Can we do this countdown over? Next time pls PM me when Ghost Dog is eligible, thnx in advance.

I forgot the opening line.
12. No Country For Old Men - I don't really need to say anything about these movies, they're pretty high profile and most people have seen them. No Country For Old Men is a great movie I've seen several times and will no doubt see more times as my life continues. Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Joel and Ethan Coen - terrific, fantastic, amazing. A really hard-edged adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel and yeah - Bardem and his Chigurh character are my favourite part of the whole experience. It's always the villain who gets to play the most interesting part. When I was a kid I used to secretly cheer on the villain because they were too much fun, and the hero was always boring in comparison. I was a good kid though - don't judge me on that! I had No Country For Old Men at #10 on my ballot. Might have been higher if I were more sure of it's neo noir status.

11. Fargo - Okay, Fargo is a masterpiece but I obviously had no idea what was neo noir and what was not - I relied on this or that website to nudge me in either direction, and this one didn't end up on the right side. Great movie. Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, the Coens again - classic stuff. I haven't seen any of the television series. I have so little time for TV series, but there are a heap I'd like to get into if I could just pause my life and buy myself a lot of time. I never get tired of appreciating the performing arts. So, movies like Fargo and Pulp Fiction would have probably made my list but my selections went on two criteria - how much I liked them and how much I thought they were neo noir combined. If I was really unsure, the movie didn't make it. That broke my streak of 6 straight.

* Out of the films that nearly made it, I had Before the Devil Knows You're Dead at #16 - I'll talk more about it when going through my ballot later.

Seen : 65/90
I'd never even heard of : 9/90
Movies that had been on my radar, but I haven't seen yet : 16/90
Films from my list : 14 + 1

#12 - My #10 - No Country For Old Men (2007)
#13 - My #7 - Blue Velvet (1986)
#14 - My #15 - Drive (2011)
#15 - My #6 - Miller's Crossing (1990)
#16 - My #2 - Reservoir Dogs (1992)
#17 - My #22 - Blow Out (1981)
#21 - My #13 - Nightcrawler (2014)
#27 - My #24 - The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)
#28 - My #1 - The Conversation (1974)
#30 - My #23 - Zodiac (2007)
#42 - My #19 - Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
#44 - My #21 - Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
#52 - My #11 - Oldboy (2003)
#81 - My #17 - Brick (2005)
#106 - My #16 - Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007)
Remember - everything has an ending except hope, and sausages - they have two.
We miss you Takoma

Society ennobler, last seen in Medici's Florence

#109. Wild at Heart (1990) was my #2

That was a big movie for us when it came in the theatres. I've seen it several times only in the 90's alone and couple more times after then. Stylish, interesting, masterly directed film with great cast.

When other two of my favorites Red Rock West and The Hot Spot showed early in the countdown, I was pretty confident that Wild at Heart will come later on, thinking it is more popular as a whole. Upon entering the range #40-31, shadow of a doubt creeped my mind.

It seems a bit strange to me, these two Lynch flicks to be so separated. Blue Velvet to be so high at #13 and this one outside top 100. I would understand Wild at Heart not making the list if the former was somewhere in the range #70-80, but now . These are kind of a group to me.
"Population don't imitate art, population imitate bad television." W.A.
"You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus." M.T.

Society ennobler, last seen in Medici's Florence
Where I am, before top 10 opening:


My Ballot

1. Angel Heart (1987) [#31]
2. Wild at Heart (1990) [near misses]
3. Jackie Brown (1997) [#18]
4. The Driver (1978) [#79]
6. Red Rock West (1993) [#88]
7. The Hot Spot (1990) [#85]
8. Shallow Grave (1994) [#95]
9. Le Cercle Rouge (1970) [#23]
10. The Man Who Wasn't There (2001) [#27]
11. Reservoir Dogs (1992) [#16]
14. Purple Noon (1960) [#94]
16. Thelma & Louise (1991) [#56]
19. Dog Day Afternoon (1975) [#36]
21. Mona Lisa (1986) [#78]
22. Blue Velvet (1986) [#13]
23. Hard Eight (1996) [near misses]
24. Pulp Fiction (1994) [#37]


Others on my radar:

The Ninth Gate (1999) [one-pointers]
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) [#96]
True Romance (1993) [#60]
Thief (1981) [#29]
The Conversation (1974) [#28]
Sin City (2005) [#26]
Fargo (1996) [#11]

I'm a little surprised that Harper (1966) is the one that got closest to cracking the Top 100. I like it fine and it is a good example of the private dick genre transitioning from the hardboiled '40 and '50s into the counterculture of the 1960s before the renaissance of the Watergate 1970s, but its tone is a more than a bit hit and miss and, to my taste, doesn't hold up especially well past the star power of Newman. It does have an amazing cast: Lauren Bacall, Janet Leigh, Shelley Winters, Robert Wagner, Robert Webber, Julie Harris, Pamela Tiffin, Harold Gould, Strother Martin...but despite a script by William Goldman adapting the first Ross Macdonald Lew Archer novel, the mix of humor and jeopardy doesn't quite come together. A lot of good scenes, not enough tying them together. The somewhat superstitious Newman changing the character's name from Archer to Harper because he had enjoyed success with other H pictures in The Hustler and Hud may have thrown a voodoo curse over it?

I think the comedic tone they were going for is similar to what "The Rockford Files" turned out to be on television in the 1970s. Jim Garner had a poke at that himself in the 1960s with Marlowe (1969), a very swinging '60s adaptation of Chandler's The Little Sister, probably best known today for a couple scenes where Bruce Lee plays one of the henchmen Philip Marlowe must dispatch. It has some of the exact same tone problems that Harper has.

Harper was just successful enough that it did spawn a belated sequel nine years later, The Drowning Pool (1975). I happen to like that one a lot more than the original Lew Harper mystery. Another more than solid cast including Joanne Woodward, Melanie Griffith, Anthony Franciosa, Murray Hamilton, Gail Strickland, Andrew Robinson, Paul Koslo, and Richard Jaeckel. It is certainly not up to the level of the top tier of 1970s detective flicks - Chinatown, The Long Goodbye, Night Moves - but it sits comfortably on the second tier with The Big Fix and The Late Show. And there is yet another movie that is not an official Harper sequel but is a spiritual successor starring Newman called Twilight (1998) - sorry, Kids, no shiny vampires. That cast is a big wow with Gene Hackman, Susan Sarandon, James Garner, Reese Witherspoon, Stockard Channing, Giancarlo Esposito, Liev Schreiber, John Spencer, and M. Emmet Walsh! Newman's mostly retired private detective Harry Ross could just as easily have been an aged Lew Harper/Archer shifting through lies and corruption one last time. I like Twilight more than Harper, too.

But a couple of you MoFos must have had Harper pretty high for it to finish at #101.

I finally got around to watching No Country For Old Men in preparation for this Countdown, and it would've made my Westerns list had I seen it before. I wasn't really a fan of Drive, but it's another one of those "I should rewatch this" films that I think I'll like better if I gave it another chance. I did rewatch Blue Velvet while working on my list, but it didn't quite make the cut. I still haven't seen Fargo.

From the near misses, John Wick was very high on my list at #4. The film was a breath of fresh air for the action genre when it first came out, and while I don't particularly like the sequels, I'm still quite fond of the first film in the franchise. The cinematography is great, and has a very noir aesthetic, just with coloured lights instead of the stark black and white contrast that the classics had. I strangely didn't mention any of that when I first wrote about the film, but I did make sure to point out how appreciative I was that the fight scenes didn't feature shaky cam, which was the bane of my existence at the time haha. I also only gave it a
when I rated it, but I'd definitely go half a popcorn higher.

John Wick (2014)
Dir. Chad Stahelski, David Leitch.
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist

At first glance, John Wick is a revenge story that audiences have seen dozens of times before, however directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch make an effort to add style to their action flick, without coming across as pretentious. Perhaps to the benefit of Keanu Reeves, who plays the titular character, there is a distinct lack of spoken dialogue, especially in early scenes. Instead the film uses atmosphere, its visuals, and sound design to set the story without needing to force unnecessary exposition on the audience.

For these reasons
John Wick is smarter than the average action film, allowing the audience to discover the meaning of events through context. The histories and relationships of the characters, the rules of their trade, and businesses such as the Continental Hotel are all easily understood without an outright explanation. However not everything in John Wick is that subtle. John Wick
unabashedly sports an R-rating from the MPAA at a time when most mainstream action films are cutting content to score a more accessible PG-13.

Viewers who were disappointed with the cuts made to other action films of 2014 will appreciate that
John Wick doesn't water down its content in order to be more marketable. The action is appropriately bloody, but not grotesque. Refreshingly unlike a lot of action films at the time, John Wick's fight sequences are not filmed with the often overused “shaky cam” technique. In a bold move, John Wick's scenes are framed in such a manner that all of the action is clearly visible. Viewers can easily follow the actors' movements, and are never left wondering “wait...what just happened?”.

The film also has a number of light-hearted moments which lift the mood with a quick laugh. They don't seem forced, but rather a quirk of the film's universe and the characters which inhabit it. The film does however get too corny with some of the subtitles for its Russian speaking characters, where key words will be in bold font and coloured for emphasis. The film otherwise follows the “less is more” mindset, but breaks that rule here in a jarring manner that pulls the audience out of of what is otherwise a relatively restrained movie.

If you're looking for a stylish take on a classic revenge story, then John Wick is the movie for you.

I'm sad to see it didn't quite make the cut, especially since I was being hopeful after some less overtly neo-noir films on my list did make it. Oh well.

Seen: 49/90

My List: 14
02. Blade Runner 2049 (2017) - #44
03. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) - #42
04. John Wick (2014) - DNP
05. Blue Ruin (2013) - #82
06. Mother (2009) - #67
07. Dark City (1998) - #24
08. Strange Days (1995) - #65
The Man from Nowhere (2010) - #87
12. Reservoir Dogs (1992) - #16
Angel Heart (1987) - #31
15. Infernal Affairs (2002) - #91
17. Memories of Murder (2003) - #25
20. The Usual Suspects (1995) - #20
21. Oldboy (2003) - #52
23. Nightcrawler (2014) - #21
25. The Chaser (2008) - DNP 1-pointer

I finally got around to watching No Country For Old Men in preparation for this Countdown, and it would've made my Westerns list had I seen it before.
No Country for Old Men undoubtably would have placed very highly on the MoFo Westerns List...but we took a vote and the majority decided it was too much of a hybrid to include, so we made it ineligible. It is much more of a Neo Western than it is a Neo Noir, we are.