The MoFo Top 100 Film Noir Countdown

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And as I just mentioned in the neo-noir thread thank you to Yoda for all his behind the scenes work in making these two countdowns such polished and top drawer affairs.

That is cool! I didn't even know it was a real place, I thought it was probably a studio set. Do you remember what it was called? Was it a bar only or a restaurant & bar?
CR, look at the website:

It's been right at the same address on the north side of Hollywood Blvd at Cherokee Ave. since 1919. It's a fairly large establishment, divided in two by a wall most of the depth of the restaurant. On the right side of the wall is an open bar, with tables and booths beyond. On the other side is a diner counter with an open grill. Beyond are mostly booths.

Many movies have been shot there-- even more so today, since there are so few historically iconic L.A. places left.

Good to here it's still standing. I looked up some images of it and found a noir sweetheart actually two of them:

Nice pictures of Sinatra & Bacall (?), and Marilyn and DiMaggio. The top picture doesn't look like it's in Musso & Franks, although it could be. The bottom picture looks like the booths at Musso's.

That means The Fallen Idol is the only film I voted for which won't be making the list then. I imagine this countdown will be a great source for recommendations.
IMO that's a good choice, although it wouldn't make my top 25. It's my third favorite Carol Reed picture, behind The Third Man, and Odd Man Out. The photography is phenomenal as per a Reed film. The kid got a little annoying after awhile, but it was a great story.

Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard were my #1 and #2 films respectively. For some reason I've never written a review for Sunset Boulevard, although one could make an argument that it's the greatest classic noir. But here's some commentary re DI:

Double Indemnity (1944)

Double Indemnity (DI) is the big kahuna of films noir. It was not the first noir, but it was the one which influenced all that followed in terms of story, dialogue, photography, set design, narration, and hard as nails stereophonic characters. Director Billy Wilder stepped into what would become a famous style purely from the desire for artistic exposition, and to make a good film. His famous quote: “I never heard that expression film noir when I made Double Indemnity ... I just made pictures I would have liked to see. When I was lucky, it coincided with the taste of the audience. With Double Indemnity, I was lucky.”

But it turns out that we film lovers were far luckier than was Wilder. Thanks to his talents we’ve been treated to a fascinating film style that has endured over the decades all the way to modern times. All those juicy and mesmerizing films to follow in DI’s style would not have been possible without Wilder & crew’s work in this film.

Most fans know the story: an insurance salesman mentored by a tough wily claims examiner falls for an enticing woman who later enlists him for a murder plot of her husband in order to collect the life insurance benefit from the company who employs both the salesman and the mentor. Many recall the story as one of a scheming
femme fatale who uses her lover’s emotions against him in order to bring off the crime. And that’s true in part. But the real story is how the salesman tries to outwit his long time mentor, and to pull off the crime while fooling his hero. It’s as much a cat & mouse game as it is a doomed love story.

Much praise has been given the 3 stars: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, and Edward G. Robinson. It’s hard to imagine who could have portrayed their parts with more believabilty and style. MacMurray and Stanwyck had worked together 4 years earlier in
Remember the Night, a romantic comedy. And now each was the highest paid actor in Hollywood of their respective sexes. Stanwyck didn’t want the role, and had to be coaxed into it, whereas MacMurray --being a light comedy actor-- didn’t believe he could handle the part. He too had to be convinced. Their pairing for DI turned out to be one of the best in film history. And Robinson also wowed audiences with his portrayal. One of his best known speeches was the “method of suicide” monologue, which is one of the most memorable from the era.

Wilder’s direction was masterful, as he reportedly was trying to out-do Alfred Hitchcock in excellence. But it was the pregnant and rough clipped dialogue --chiefly written by the great Raymond Chandler-- that set the mood up on a pedestal, never to be knocked down. Chandler’s hard boiled word interplay was to be a master class in dialogue for future film writers. Wilder rewarded Chandler with a cameo, visible 16 minutes into the film, as he sat outside the door of the insurance office reading a newspaper.
That clip remains as the onlly known video shot of Chandler.

Cinematographer John Seitz brought with him years of experience from a catalogue of fine films to photograph the shadows and set design necessary to this picture. He was to follow it up with other top Wilder films such as The Lost Weekend and Sunset Boulevard. Also at a high level was Miklos Rozsa’s alluring score. He typically set moods by use of leitmotif musical passages representing the main characters, and also for surreptitious meetings between the two principals.

James N. Cain had written the novella on which DI was based, and many of the studios wanted the rights. But when Paramount finally acquired the rights the Hays office objected that the film was too tawdry, and that MacMurray’s character (Walter Neff) hadn’t received a decisive enough demise. Wilder had initially written an ending at great expense that showed Neff being executed in the gas chamber while his mentor looked on. But yet that ending was thought to be too gruesome by the censors. On reconsideration Wilder realized that the way Neff’s end was shown was perfectly proper, given the nature of the two characters’ relationship, so he omitted the gas chamber ending entirely, and we all can be grateful for Wilder’s decision.

DI is one picture on a small list of films which would be difficult to imagine anything added or subtracted. It’s one of those happy convergences that have occurred over the decades that bring just the right people together at just the right time.
Double Indemnity is not just one of the great noirs, but one of America’s greatest films.

Trouble with a capital "T"
CR, look at the website:

It's been right at the same address on the north side of Hollywood Blvd at Cherokee Ave. since 1919. It's a fairly large establishment, divided in two by a wall most of the depth of the restaurant. On the right side of the wall is an open bar, with tables and booths beyond. On the other side is a diner counter with an open grill. Beyond are mostly booths.

Many movies have been shot there-- even more so today, since there are so few historically iconic L.A. places left.
Thanks Doc, I had checked out that site later last night. Funny, when you said "2 blocks up the street from Musso and Franks" I thought that was a street corner in LA, like Hollywood and Vine...but then I looked at that site and seen it was indeed the name of the restaurant.

Nice pictures of Sinatra & Bacall (?), and Marilyn and DiMaggio. The top picture doesn't look like it's in Musso & Franks, although it could be. The bottom picture looks like the booths at Musso's.
Bacall for sure. The images came up in a search for Musso and Franks celebrities. Though I can't say for sure as I've never been there. I did see another image of a young Dennis Hooper that was supposedly in Musso and Franks.

Big, big fan of both films, so both were obvious choices for my ballot.

Sunset Boulevard is an excellent story about past glories and current frustrations, with some great performances. I have a review written on Letterboxd that will transfer here, so I'll just say I had it at #5. Probably my favorite Wilder, with The Apartment close behind.

As most people have said, Double Indemnity is probably the best example of what film noir is. Twisty, well acted, full of snappy dialogue, it's so much fun and captivating. I had it at #7, but I have a feeling that if I had rewatched it more recently, it would've landed higher.

That means that all 25 films from my list made it. To be honest, I wish I could've had more time to watch or rewatch a few, so I could've injected a couple of more obscure ones in there, but hey, it is what it is.

SEEN: 40/100
MY BALLOT: 25/25

My ballot  
Check out my podcast: The Movie Loot!

Many thanks to Citizen Rules for running this fascinating noir countdown!

You're not only a cinephile, but a noir (and Gloria Grahame ) lover, and a nice guy to boot!

These things take a lot of work. And although I know it's a labor of love for you, I really appreciate the time and talent it took to run this thing.



Trouble with a capital "T"
Many thanks to Citizen Rules for running this fascinating noir countdown!

You're not only a cinephile, but a noir (and Gloria Grahame ) lover, and a nice guy to boot!

These things take a lot of work. And although I know it's a labor of love for you, I really appreciate the time and talent it took to run this thing.
Two of those are true

Thanks Doc, I'm so glad that you could participate and add to the fun of our noir countdown.

(1950, Wilder)

"There once was a time in this business when I had the eyes of the whole world! But that wasn't good enough for them, oh no! They had to have the ears of the whole world too. So they opened their big mouths and out came talk. Talk! TALK!"

It is well known that the advent of sound films in the late 1920s wasn't well received by everyone. Many silent actors resented the new technology which was dubbed by some as the "Talkie Terror". Actors that couldn't make the transition were relegated to supporting roles, and in the worst cases, slipped into obscurity. One can only imagine the impact it would have in someone's psyche to see your career vanish for something that is arguably an advance, and that you have almost no control of. That is the backdrop of Billy Wilder's 1950 film.

Sunset Boulevard follows Joe Gillis (William Holden), a down-and-out writer in Hollywood who is about to lose his apartment and his car. One day, completely by chance, he runs into the mansion of Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), a middle-aged, former silent movie star that now lives in seclusion, reminiscing of her days of glory, under the guard of her servant, Max (Erich von Stroheim). When Joe finds out that Norma is writing a film titled Salomé in an attempt to make a comeback (or "a return", as she prefers to call it), he offers to doctor her script expecting some money in return. Eventually, he moves into Norma's mansion and becomes her lover; a "kept man", as they called it.

Sunset Boulevard is a story about past glories and current frustrations. Be it the down-and-out writer that "had some talent", the faded, middle-aged actress that used to be "the greatest of them all", the old director that used to be named alongside D.W. Griffith and Cecil B. DeMille, or the young female writer they tried to force into being an actress. Now that the glory days of each are long gone, each of them seem to be trying to spill some of that old glory into their lives, like fiction oozing into reality. Whether it is Joe trying to "write" a new story to his "character" by working for Norma, or Norma putting up live shows for Joe - the Norma Desmond Follies - while Max makes every single effort to "direct" and orchestrate Norma's life the way he feels more convenient.

If I were to complain about something, I would say that the relationship between Joe and Betty felt underdeveloped. But other than that, the film was an excellent showcase of great acting as far as everyone's concerned. Ultimately, in the stage of life, they all got what they wanted. Joe got a "nice" story with a twist ending, even if it was at his own expense; Max had the chance to direct the cameras one last time for Norma; and she, well she had the chance to have the eyes of the whole world on her for one last time en route for her "close-up".


Stats: Finish Line

Now that we hit the finish line, here's were we ended up after 100 entries:

Yearly Breakdown
  • 1940 = 4
  • 1941 = 2
  • 1942 = 1
  • 1943 = 2
  • 1944 = 8
  • 1945 = 7
  • 1946 = 11
  • 1947 = 11
  • 1948 = 10
  • 1949 = 7
  • 1950 = 11
  • 1951 = 4
  • 1952 = 3
  • 1953 = 5
  • 1954 = 0
  • 1955 = 6
  • 1956 = 4
  • 1957 = 1
  • 1958 = 3
  • 1959 = 0

1946 and 1950 made a last push to tie with 1947 for the top spot, with 1948 close behind. Strong showing also from 1944, while 1959 and 1954 remained blank.

Repeating Directors
  • Alfred Hitchcock = 7
  • Billy Wilder = 4
  • Orson Welles = 4
  • Otto Preminger = 4
  • Fritz Lang = 4
  • Jules Dassin = 4
  • John Huston = 3
  • Robert Siodmak = 3
  • Robert Wise = 3
  • Henry Hathaway = 3
  • Nicholas Ray = 3
  • William Wyler = 3
  • Carol Reed = 2
  • Howard Hawks = 2
  • Michael Curtiz = 2
  • Edward Dmytryk = 2
  • Raoul Walsh = 2
  • Akira Kurosawa = 2
  • Joseph H. Lewis = 2
  • Jules Dassin = 2
  • John Cromwell = 2
  • Robert Rossen = 2

Alfred Hitchcock ends at the top with 7 entries, but Billy Wilder's remarkable closing with the Top 2 entries ties him for second place, along with Welles who also played 1 more to get to 4. Huston earned his third one, while Carol Reed earned his second one.

Trouble with a capital "T"
My own ballot:

Citizen Rules
1 Sweet Smell of Success (1957)***#9
2 Leave Her to Heaven (1945)***#37
3 Mildred Pierce (1945)***#15
4 The Asphalt Jungle (1950)***#16
5 Scarlet Street (1945)***#29
6 Laura (1944)***#10
7 Pickup on South Street (1953)***#21
8 Nightmare Alley (1947)***#33
9 The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)***40
10 The Big Heat (1953)***#17
11 Ride the Pink Horse (1947)***#45
12 Detour (1945)***#24
13 Murder, My Sweet (1944)***#28
14 The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)***#23
15 Night and the City (1950)***#25
16 Too Late for Tears (1949) ***#81
17 Kansas City Confidential (1952)***#53
18 Detective Story (1951)***#57
19 The Set-Up (1949)***#46
20 Sunset Blvd. (1950)***#2
21 Double Indemnity (1944)***#1
22 The Killing (1956)***#11
23 Kiss Me Deadly 1955***#13
24 The Big Knife (1955) Didn't make it
25 Crime Wave 1953 1 Pointer

I forgot the opening line.
YES! The #1 and #2 on the Countdown are my #1 and #2, in the correct order... (that makes 4 matches with my ballot)

#2 - Sunset Boulevard (1950) - Love it, absolutely love it. It would be interesting for me to look through these films and take aside the ones I've only seen in the last 5 years or so. This one I'd kept on hearing about, and I won't embarrass myself by saying what I thought it was! (I was way off.) The only thing I knew was that it started off with William Holden floating in a pool dead, and telling his story as a narrator. Norma Desmond is a great, and a totally sympathetic, villain - the best ones are a little crazy (or in this case a lot) and also ones you feel a little sorry for. I nearly fell off my chair when I saw Buster Keaton show up for a game of cards with her. Anyway, apparently it's not at all strange to love this movie - many have been doing that for longer than I've been alive. One of the all time greats - I had it at #2 on my ballot.

#1 - Double Indemnity (1944) - Love it, indubitably love it. Here's another film I didn't see until the last half a dozen years or so. Crackling dialogue with Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck (that wig!) and Edward G. Robinson all playing important parts in a heart-pounding tale of infidelity and murder. How many people have killed to try and make a fortune with life insurance? It's an awfully silly thing to do, because of course you're going to be suspected - especially if it's known that you didn't care for the spouse/family member you did away with. You might think you've got all the angles covered - but it only takes one small thing to bring it all undone. Anyway, once again it's not a head-scratcher, loving this movie. It's one of the best, and my favourite film noir classic. I had it, yep - at #1 on my ballot.

All of the films on my list showed up.

Many thanks to Citizen Rules for hosting a very successful countdown!

Seen : 39/100
I'd never even heard of : 47/100
Movies that had been on my radar, but I haven't seen yet : 15/100
Films from my list : 25

#1 - My #1 - Double Indemnity (1944)
#2 - My #2 - Sunset Boulevard (1950)
#3 - My #5 - The Maltese Falcon (1941)
#5 - My #8 - Touch of Evil
#6 - My #3 - In a Lonely Place (1950)
#7 - My #7 - Out of the Past (1947)
#8 - My #6 - The Big Sleep (1946)
#9 - My #9 - Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
#10 - My #24 - Laura (1944)
#11 - My #13 - The Killing (1956)
#13 - My #4 - Kiss Me Deadly (1955)
#14 - My #10 - The Night of the Hunter (1955)
#16 - My #15 - The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
#21 - My #17 - Pickup on South Street (1953)
#24 - My #20 - Detour (1945)
#27 - My #14 - Gilda (1946)
#28 - My #11 - Murder, My Sweet (1944)
#31 - My #25 - The Lady From Shanghai (1947)
#33 - My #22 - Nightmare Alley (1947)
#36 - My #16 - Gun Crazy (1950)
#44 - My #19 - Criss Cross (1949)
#54 - My #12 - D.O.A. (1950)
#58 - My #23 - The Breaking Point (1950)
#61 - My #21 - Act of Violence (1949)
#67 - My #18 - The Hitch-Hiker (1953)
Remember - everything has an ending except hope, and sausages - they have two.

Latest Review : Aftersun (2022)

Welcome to the human race...
1. sunset blvd.
2. the third man
3. the night of the hunter
4. kiss me deadly
5. the killing
6. rififi
7. los olvidados
8. the big sleep
9. touch of evil
10. ace in the hole
11. elevator to the gallows
12. mildred pierce
13. stray dog
14. drunken angel
15. diabolique
16. the maltese falcon
17. double indemnity
18. the lost weekend
19. pickup on south street
20. notorious
21. odd man out
22. shadow of a doubt
23. bob le flambeur
24. the killers
25. detour
I really just want you all angry and confused the whole time.
Iro's Top 100 Movies v3.0

Trouble with a capital "T"
I seen 100/100 and that's the only time I will be able to say that. Any other countdown and my seen count is usually below everyone else's average. I bet in the Neo Noir I'm not even 50/100.

Great films to top the countdown! I like Sunset Blvd just a little better than Double Indemnity but that's just because the former appealed to my taste of the bizarre more. I mean, we've got a narrating corpse, an aging star in her decrepit mansion with a dead chimp(!!!), a devoted butler/ex-director/ex-husband, a group of silent-film stars that Norma calls "waxworks" that show up to play bridge, including Buster Keaton. All these things writer/corpse Joe Gillis (William Holden) discovers in flashback as he enters the world of faded and forgotten silent star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson in her greatest role). Attending to most of her needs is the aforementioned butler/director/ex-husband Max Von Mayerling (real-life director/actor/writer Erich von Stroheim). All needs except for those what a young, virile writer like Gillis can provide. He eventually becomes her kept-man, and begins to loathe everyone, especially himself. Norma will fall in love with Joe and this will lead to disaster.

This is a dark version of the inner-workings of Hollywood, and although not a particularly humorous film, humor can be found in all the sordidness if you want to look for it. It's dark, sad, sadly funny, and just all-out great.

Double Indenmity is classic Noir with Fred MacMurray falling for Barbara Stanwyck and plotting to help kill her husband in a way that has to do with the title of the film. It has to happen in just a certain style to get more money and of course things go wrong for the two lovers. Fred's best friend, played by an awesome Edward G. Robinson is too smart and being an insurance investigator, begins to piece things together. That he and Fred are best friends complicates things. I loved Fred being a bad boy here, and I got a kick out him calling Barbara "baby." So accustomed to seeing him in comedies, his playing a cheater driven to murder was a treat for me. Stanwyck was fine but the two friends were the more interesting relationship for me here. Billy Wilder did great directing in both films, with awesome cinematography by the same man, John F. Seitz. Nice to see these two classics make it to the very top!

Great thanks owed to Citizen Rules, Holden Pike, Thief, and Yoda as always. Superb work, guys! Fun, imformative, and good-looking Countdown. And with everyone's list, I found a film I could mark down for my Watch List. Win/win!
"Miss Jean Louise, Mr. Arthur Radley."

Double Indemnity was my #1. I re-watched it before the countdown not really expecting to have it on my ballot, but ended up being so impressed by it to that extent. And it makes up for my first pick of the War Countdown finishing at #101. Most on my list made it - 19/25 - and I also had a few films that were always going to be too obscure. Little bit surprised not to see Odds Against Tomorrow or Human Desire show up. Not bothered by it but interesting as I had the impression they were more widely regarded. My complete list:

1. Double Indemnity
2. The Narrow Margin
3. On Dangerous Ground
4. Force of Evil
5. Scarlet Street
6. The Third Man
7. The Set-Up
8. Crossfire
9. Pickup on South Street
10. I Want to Live!
11. Human Desire
12. Touch of Evil
13. Sweet Smell of Success
14. Follow Me Quietly
15. Key Largo
16. Sorry, Wrong Number
17. Macao
18. The Killing
19. He Walked by Night
20. Odds Against Tomorrow
21. The Big Combo
22. Woman on the Run
23. D.O.A.
24. Screaming Mimi
25. Suddenly

Seen: 62/100

Such a great topic for a countdown, and many thanks to Citizen Rules for his enthusiasm and dedication, as well as for everyone else's contributions. Been a lot of fun to watch and a lot of great new films for me to check out.

Society ennobler, last seen in Medici's Florence
@Citizen Rules, well done work!

My Ballot

1. Sunset Blvd. (1950) [#2]
2. Rebecca (1940) [#35]
3. Double Indemnity (1944) [#1]
4. The Wrong Man (1956) [#39]
5. Suspicion (1941) [#49]

6. The Killing (1956) [#11]
7. Shadow of a Doubt (1943) [#12]
8. The Asphalt Jungle (1950) [#16]
9. Ace in the Hole (1951) [#19]
10. The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) [#23]

11. Gilda (1946) [#27]
12. The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) [#40]
13. Mildred Pierce (1945) [#15]
14. Notorious (1946) [#20]
15. The Lost Weekend (1945) [#34]

16. Out of the Past (1947) [#7]
17. The Big Heat (1953) [#17]
18. The Big Sleep (1946) [#8]
19. Key Largo (1948) [#26]
20. Night and the City (1950) [#25]

21. Spellbound (1945) [#68]
22. Sweet Smell of Success (1957) [#9]
23. Woman on the Run (1950) [#91]
24. High Sierra (1940) [#50]
25. Niagara (1953) [#56]
"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.

Despite a woeful start (the first movie in the countdown i'd seen was #54, D.O.A.), I ended with an acceptable 35 out of 100 seen. That's 65 movies on my watch list. 😀

Thank you to everyone involved in putting this together!