The MoFo Top 100 Film Noir Countdown

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OK, I'll be one of the first to take a shot at the order of the Top Ten...

1. Sunset Blvd.
2. The Maltese Falcon
3. Double Indemnity
4. In A Lonely Place
5. Out of the Past
6. Touch of Evil
7. The Third Man
8. The Big Sleep
9. Laura
10. Sweet Smell of Success
"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

Society ennobler, last seen in Medici's Florence
Sterling Hayden strikes again, surely I'm around too...

#11. The Killing (1956) is my #6.

I saw this movie several years ago. When the noir theme was launched, this and couple more titles were the starting points around which I've built my list.

"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.

OK, I'll be the first to take a shot at the order of the Top Ten...

1. Sunset Blvd.
2. The Maltese Falcon
3. Double Indemnity
4. In A Lonely Place
5. Out of the Past
6. Touch of Evil
7. The Third Man
8. The Big Sleep
9. Laura
10. Sweet Smell of Success
I did take a shot one page back, and you copied my number 10.

Both of today's films were on my list! I've seen Shadow of a Doubt a couple times over the years, but The Killing is a film I only saw for the first time in preparation for the Countdown. I didn't love it, but I liked it enough to put it at #22. I thought I had written more about Shadow of a Doubt in the 40s Hall of Fame, but my post for it is fairly short.

Shadow of a Doubt
Dir. Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: Teresa Wright, Joseph Cotten, Patricia Collinge

I'd seen this movie ages ago, but didn't remember much about it. I'm glad this HoF gave me an excuse to watch it again. It seems like a lot of thrillers I've seen lately can't quite master suspense, so it's refreshing to see a film that knows how to do it right. I really liked the slower pace, and what I'm going to describe as the feeling of a noir but without the usual noir imagery, if that makes sense.

Shadow of a Doubt had really good performances. The kids were a bit grating at times, but that's usually the case with child actors (and children in general) so it doesn't bother me very much. All of the characters, even minor ones, were well developed. I really enjoyed the scenes where the father and his friend jokingly plotted to kill other, as they provided a bit of black humour that sort of emphasized how oblivious everyone but young Charlie and the Detectives were to Uncle Charlie's darker side.
I didn't rewatch it for the Countdown, so unfortunately I don't have anything to add to that. Even though I didn't refresh my memory on the finer details of the film, I still recalled it fondly enough to place it at #5 on my list.

Seen: 38/90

My List: 15
. Stranger on the Third Floor (1940) - #92
04. Murder My Sweet (1944) - #28
05. Shadow of a Doubt (1943) - #12
06. Detour (1945) - #24
07. Rebecca (1940) - #35
08. Ministry of Fear (1944) - #75
09. The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) - #40
This Gun for Hire (1942) - #78
12. Mildred Pierce (1945) - #15
13. Odd Man Out (1947) - #47
Strangers on a Train (1951) - #18
17. The Asphalt Jungle (1950) - #16
18. Night and the City (1950) - #25
19. Phantom Lady (1944) - #69
22. The Killing (1956) - #11

24. Kiss Me Deadly (1955) - #14
25. The Stranger (1946) - #38


The Killing was my #22. When I first watched it years ago, I didn't really care for it. I rewatched in prep for the noir countdown and my opinion went way up. I wrote this:

The Killing (1956)
Stanley Kubrick

A heist gone bad. That's what I love about the Hayes Production Code days of film making...the audiences knew that the criminals would never get away with it. The fun then is in seeing them get so close to pulling off the perfect caper only to have it evaporate in the end.

The Killing
was Kubrick's first big film where he had enough money and clout to use A-list actors. It looks great as one would expect from a Kubrick film. It's a non-linear story but thanks to the editing it feels very coherent. If there was one thing I didn't like it was the voice over narrator in the first part of the film. That V.O. was added at the insistence of the studio over Kubrick's objections. Kubrick hated it so I guess I'm in good company.

Sterling Hayed is good here but my money is on the odd couple, Elisha Cook and his wife Marie Windsor. Windsor dominates him both in size and in demeanor. It's their odd marriage that propels the perfect crime onto the road of no return.

Shadow of a Doubt is easily among my three favorite Hitchcock films and I had it at #10, and The Killing is my favorite heist film, which strangely is a sub-genre I often have trouble engaging with. But not The Killing, which always enthralls me. This will end up being the first countdown where every movie from my list makes it.

My List:
6. Pickup on South Street (#21)
7. Stray Dog (#32)
8. The Killing (#11)
10. Shadow of a Doubt (#12)
11. Where the Sidewalk Ends (#66)
13. The Big Heat (#17)
15. Elevator to the Gallows (#41)
17. Ace in the Hole (#19)
18. Gilda (#27)
19. Mildred Pierce (#15)
20. This Gun for Hire (#78)
21. The Postman Always Rings Twice (#23)
22. The Wrong Man (#39)
23. The Set-Up (#46)
24. Scarlet Street (#29)
25. Gun Crazy (#36)
I may go back to hating you. It was more fun.

Shadow of a Doubt is my #9 and the Killing is my #22! As we enter the top 10, it's only top tier noir from here on out.

A system of cells interlinked
I had Shadow of a Doubt all the way up at #5, and man does it deserve that spot. While my father and I like to talk about many noirs, and the style overall, the one we have watched together the most by a long shot is Shadow of a Doubt. One of my favorite sequences in film ever is the arrival of Charlie on the train. It's a bright sunny day, and as the train rolls in a massive dark cloud rolls out from the train and everyone falls into shadow, as Uncle Charlie brings a miasma of doom to their cheery little town. I also love the banter between the two old chums as they chuckle about how they would plan to kill one another in various ways along with the little girl with glasses played by Edna May Wonacott bringing some much needed levity to the film. One of my favorite films from the classic era.

As Holden says, it is cat vs cat here, and Charlie immediately recognizes her uncle's nature because she also has some of the same traits. At first, she enjoys the idea of it, but soon comes to realize where it can and will lead, and unlike Uncle Charlie she decides not to embrace it in the end, and it almost costs her her life.

I also had The Killing on my ballot at # 23. I am sure it deserves to be a few spots higher at least, but it has been so long since I have seen it that I barely recall it. I recalled it enough to remember to put it on my ballot, though.

“It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.” ― Thomas Sowell

Shadow of a Doubt was my #8. It is my favorite Joseph Cotton performance and possibly my favorite Hitchcock.
I have not seen The Killing yet. I know.. I know, what am I waiting for?

One vote, had The Killing at 13th place. I expect seven more from my ballot, ending up with a final total of 23/25. Not bad, especially compared to the 'neo-noir' one.

SEEN 58/90
BALLOT 16/25

1. 100%
2. 100%
3. The Narrow Margin (1952)
4. 100%
5. Murder, My Sweet (1944)
6. 100%
7. The Big Heat (1953)
8. Rebecca (1940)
9. Leave Her to Heaven (1945)
10. Bob Le Flambeur (1956)
11. The Breaking Point (1950)
12. Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

13. The Killing (1956)
14. Gilda (1946)
15. Notorious (1946)
16. 100%
17. The Wrong Man (1956)
18. Night and the City (1950)
19. 0%
20. Kansas City Confidential (1952)
21. 100%
22. 100%
23. The Set-Up (1949)
24. 0%
25. Kiss of Death (1947)

I'm putting my money on The Maltese Falcon for the win.
Check out my podcast: The Movie Loot!

Shadow #4. All 25 of mine will make this list. Call me Mr. mainstream
Yeah, same with me. The one I had doubts was The Killing, but well

Kubrick is the best director of all-time. And (most of) Mofo knows this to be true. I had The Killing at #18. With a more recent rewatch it probably would have been higher. Shadow of the Doubt didn't make the cut but would have been in a top 50.

3. The Night of the Hunter (1955)
7. Notorious (1946)
9. Kiss Me Deadly (1955)
10. Stray Dog (1949)
11. Mildred Pierce (1945)
13. Detour (1945)
15. Bob le flambeur (1956)
16. The Killers (1946)
17. Rififi (1955)
18. The Killing (1956)
19. Strangers on a Train (1951)
20. Gilda (1946)
21. Pickup on South Street (1953)
23. White Heat (1949)
25. Nightmare Alley (1947)
"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."

Like both, voted for neither. I will also have my entire ballot make the countdown. That'll be the first time for me and it doesn't feel right.

Shadow of a Doubt didn't make my list because I looked elsewhere outside of Hitchcock for this particular list but glad it made it and this far up.

The Killing I revisited somewhere around a year ago and found it okay compared to the others on this so far. Shoot me.

Shadow of a Doubt is a bona fide classic, and one I only saw a few years ago. But I fell for it as soon as I saw it. As good as Joseph Cotten is playing against type as the murderous Charlie, it's Teresa Wright as his niece namesake who steals it for me. With her intelligence and beauty, how can you not fall for her and root for her? Didn't vote for it but it's as close to Noir as any Hitchcock for me. Glad to see it here.

The Killing is my #1 and the Sterling Hayden film that displaced The Asphalt Jungle as my first place film. I watched it specifically for this Countdown and knew it would beat all comers. The cast is sublime, with Hayden leading the pack, but every spot in the heist crew is made up of winning actors/actresses, including Jay C. Flippen, Ted de Corsia, and Elisha Cook Jr. Then we have real-life wrestler/sometime actor Kola Kwariani who features as the "distraction man" and is terrific. Then there's Marie Windsor who starts the ball rolling on the failure of the heist with her wuss of a husband, Cook Jr. as she catches on to the fact that he's got something going on besides his racetrack cashier job. But my favorite person in this particular film (aside from Hayden) is Timothy Carey as the sharpshooter whose participation is crucial to the whole theft. His attempt to be cordial to James Edwards as the parking attendant results in near-disaster for Carey's assignment and forces him to use an unfortunate racial slur, and puts Carey off his game. Carey was an eccentric person in real life and it carried over to his films, sometimes leading to directors/producers and even co-stars having grudges against him. But he seemed to get along wih Kubrick, who also cast him in Paths of Glory, where he stood out. Noir goddess Coleen Gray is barely in the film but she makes the most of what she does, particularly at the end.

The dialogue is super, with Hayden's final line the perfect capper for a Film Noir, that being
WARNING: "" spoilers below
Eh, what's the difference?

Then Marie Windsor beating Elisha Cook Jr. down with this horrible insult: "It isn't fair. I never had anybody but you. Not a real husband. Not even a man. Just a bad joke without a punch line." Damn, it's hard to blame Cook Jr. for his final action but he should have saved it just for her.

And then there's Clay talking about the crew he's set up: "None of these men are criminals in the usual sense. They've all got jobs. They all live seemingly normal, decent lives. But, they've got their problems and they've all got a little larceny in 'em." Just brilliant stuff. Oh, how I love this movie and plan to revisit it time and again.

These two films are right before the Top Ten. Is there any chance before the finale that we'll get another tally of actors showing up? I mean, we've got Joseph Cotten in several (and maybe another one before it's all over, Hume Cronyn again, Elisha Cook Jr. once again, Jay C. Flippen, etc. It would be nice to get another showing of recurring actors again. What say you, guys?

#1 The Killing List Proper #11
#2 The Asphalt Jungle List Proper #16
#4 The Big Combo List Proper #52
#5 Pickup on South Street List Proper #23
#6 Kansas City Confidential List Proper #53
#10 The Big Heat List Proper #17
#11 Kiss Me Deadly List Proper #13
#12 The Postman Always Rings Twice List Proper #23
#13 Murder, My Sweet List Proper #28
#14 Kiss of Death List Proper #59
#15 He Walked By Night List Proper #88
#16 The Naked City List Proper #60
#17 The Killers List Proper #22
#18 Detour List Proper #24
#20 Gun Crazy List Proper #36
#22 This Gun For Hire List Proper #78
#23 The Narrow Margin List Proper #43
#25 Crossfire List Proper #51
"Miss Jean Louise, Mr. Arthur Radley."