The MoFo Top 100 Film Noir Countdown

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Am I still the least total viewed, with 24 out of 88 seen? Just curious.
I'm less than that. I think I'm at 16? There's a couple I'm fuzzy on.
I'm more than that now, that was just from when I read that. I think I'm on 21 now.

I didn’t like The Killing first round, but I hope to next time. Every time I see still of it I think, “I gotta love this”. Kubrick is a mixed bag for me, and mofo doesn’t help my opinion because they worship at the altar. Case in point, The Killing top fifteen in anything.
You can always sit next to me.

In preparation for the countdown, I've only met Gilda and couldn't found Laura. Anyway, I still look for her.
Oh, you must find Laura, Mr Blond. She's even more beautiful than Gilda.

I left it too long to return to Mofo and now I'm having to catch up on too much. We're at the business end now and, as someone who doesn't care for Noir, this is where I expected most of mine to turn up and they're starting to. I had The Asphalt Jungle at #9, Mildred Pierce was #4, Shadow Of A Doubt was #6 and Laura at #7.
5-time MoFo Award winner.

Trouble with a capital "T"
#9 Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

Director: Alexander Mackendrick
Cast: Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison
466 Points, 31 Lists

'Powerful but unethical Broadway columnist J.J. Hunsecker coerces unscrupulous press agent Sidney Falco into breaking up his sister's romance with a jazz musician.'


A system of cells interlinked
I somehow haven't seen The Sweet Smell of Success. Must rectify soon!
“It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.” ― Thomas Sowell

It’s A Classic Rope-A-Dope
SSOS was my 9. Watched it a couple times now and it’s fantastic in every way. I didn’t think through what the top ten would be much, but I was surprised that as we got closer it eas here. Wasn’t expecting it quite this high. Very cool.

Welcome to the human race...
seen it once, liked it well enough, have always meant to go back to confirm it's truly great. that one guy from diner couldn't stop quoting it for a reason.
I really just want you all angry and confused the whole time.
Iro's Top 100 Movies v3.0

A unique noir in the cannon, I had Sweet Smell of Success at #8, with its masterful dual performances by Curtis and Lancaster, and a screenplay that hits like it's some sort of peak for its time and location, at least from what I know based on what I've seen in the movies, and you just go along for the ride.

3. The Night of the Hunter (1955)
7. Notorious (1946)
8. Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
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)
22. Laura (1944)
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."

I have watched The Sweet Smell of Success but just like Laura it didn't make my ballot. I thought Laura was pretty good but after all the praise I'd read it didn't end up completely bewitching me like I thought it would. Don't get me wrong. I didn't hate it and it didn't disappoint me. It just didn't scale the heights as it were. I don't know exactly why I failed to connect with it satisfactorily.

Sweet Smell of Success however was one of the darkest and most cynical black and white movies I'd ever seen. Two years previously director Alexander Mackendrick had turned out The Ladykillers, a hilarious and gratifyingly dark comedy that only hinted at the misanthropy on display in SSoS. Just about every major character doesn't so much speak as spit acid. A lot of noir films set in NYC are cautionary tales portraying it as a potentially dangerous and treacherous place to visit. The denizens of SSoS have set up shop and made themselves at home. It's exclusion from my list was more a carefully weighed move while Laura's was regrettably easier.

58 of 92 seen so far.

#9 Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

Director: Alexander Mackendrick
Cast: Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison
466 Points, 31 Lists

'Powerful but unethical Broadway columnist J.J. Hunsecker coerces unscrupulous press agent Sidney Falco into breaking up his sister's romance with a jazz musician.'


My number 16.The seediest of the seedy! Listening to the two main characters talk for 5 minutes makes me want to take a shower. In a good way. And they tear apart others in such an educated, sharp witted way.

The Sweet Smell of Success starts with a fantastic script with dialogue as good as you'll find in any movie from that decade, and then you get two perfect performances by Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster. I had it at #14. And Laura was my #9.

My List:
6. Pickup on South Street (#21)
7. Stray Dog (#32)
8. The Killing (#11)
9. Laura (#10)
10. Shadow of a Doubt (#12)
11. Where the Sidewalk Ends (#66)
13. The Big Heat (#17)
14. Sweet Smell of Success (#9)
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.

Trouble with a capital "T"
Yahoo! Sweet Smell of Success is one of my favorite movies and was #1 on my ballot. I've seen it several time and wrote two reviews on it that I just combined into one which I posted below. Sorry this is long but it's worth least I think so

Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

I love this film! The dialogue snaps and sparkles with clever-tudes. Every word spoken either drives the plot forward or expands the characters and their story. The dialogue is fast paced, yet nothing is superfluous. Every word has it's place. Every action, every scene is designed to fill in the details. The film's razor sharp dialogue is a trademark of screenwriter Clifford Ordets. In Sweet Smell of Success words are weapons...One well placed remark, one turn of the screw and someone is elevated to high places...or burnt to the ground.

The film is powered by two fine actors both at odds with each other and yet both similar in their utter lack of morals. As the story unfolds we're swept up in this amazing world of power, greed, ballyhoo and empty promises.

Burt Lancaster is J.J. Hunsecker, the power driven columnist. He's cold, cruel, intelligent and full of self importance. Lancaster really brings this role to life...J.J. Hunsecker was patterned after real life newspaper columnist Walter Winchell, a man reportedly as notorious as the fictional Hunsecker.

"Walter Winchell was so obsessive about his daughter's love life that he had her institutionalized as being emotionally unstable, and with the help of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had forced her lover to leave the country."

But it's Tony Curtis who gives new meaning to dimension in his portrayal of a sleazy operator who calls himself a publicity agent. He's a man who wears many faces and can work every angle. I can't image a better actor for this role than Curtis. Despite how low his character goes and what he's willing to do to the people around him....he maintains a charming facade. Curtis infuses his character with just enough charm with that 'ice cream face' of his, that just maybe one day he'll wise up and stop allowing his all consuming greed to drag him down to the gutter...Then again this is noir, sophisticated, but a noir none the less...and like any good noir the 'heavy' might have a touch of humanity residing in him somewhere but not enough to save him from himself.

The cinematography of legendary James Wong Howe is critical to the film...So many movies use tight shots of the actors, as it's economical to shoot with a telephoto lens. But bless James Wong Howe! He uses mid to wide angle lenses out on the actual streets of NYC and in that way he captures a realistic feel of night life and raw power that flows from the streets into the veins of men like Sidney Falco and J.J. Hunsecker.

I've seen only a few films that I would deem flawless.
The Sweet Smell of Success is one of them.

Sweet Smell of Success was #23 on my ballot. Here's what I wrote on it for a HoF:

Sweet Smell of Success (1957) -

Film noirs usually don't dip into favorite territory for me and this film wasn't an exception to that, but I do enjoy it quite a bit and it held up well when I rewatched it.

Interestingly enough though, it barely qualifies as a noir. Noir isn't an easily defined genre and a number of definitions of the term exist, but an integral plot point which remains consistent throughout the genre is that the film in question needs to involve a clear and identifiable crime. While some of the characters in this film have corrupt morals, they operate within the law throughout much of the film and a major crime isn't introduced until about an hour or so in. It's in this way, by refusing to define a major crime till the final act, that Sweet Smell of Success redefines the rules of the genre.

I think noirs are reliant on the quality of their dialogue more than all other genres and Sweet Smell of Success doesn't disappoint on that front. In terms of classic noirs, it doesn't quite have my favorite dialogue (I'd give that designation to Out of the Past), but it still comes with plenty to enjoy. The script is packed with a handful of well-placed and biting remarks which add stakes to the less dramatic moments in the first couple acts, ensuring that you remain engaged all throughout the film. I appreciated the dialogue when I first watched this film and I found more to like about the script with my second viewing.

Tony Curtis does a great job as Sidney Falco, a press agent determined to break apart the romance between Steve and Susan. He's willing to do anything to accomplish the task, including spreading lies about Steve and betraying his friends. Burt Lancaster does a similarly great job as J.J. Hunsecker, a major media kingpin who's unscrupulous, vindictive, and just as bad as Falco, if not worse. Steve and Susan act as contrasts to the two of them as they're both good people, albeit powerless against them. The conflict amongst the four of them resides on a fairly low stakes level of intensity in the first couple acts before spiraling out of control in the final act. By way of the complex characters and the aforementioned dialogue, I think the film attempts to add stakes to the first couple acts, but this choice didn't always work for me. Pretending that the first couple acts had higher stakes than they actually did was (occasionally) disconcerting. This blend eventually came together though in the final act.

Overall, I'm glad I got to rewatch this film as my memory of it from a few years ago was pretty poor. Again, I wouldn't say this film dips into favorite territory for me, but I did enjoy it quite a bit and I can see myself watching it again down the road.

5) Night and the City
6. The Killing
7) The Night of the Hunter
8) White Heat
9) Detour
12) Shadow of a Doubt
13) Ace in the Hole
14) Gun Crazy
16) The Postman Always Rings Twice
18) The Stranger
19) Odd Man Out
21) Mildred Pierce
22) The Lost Weekend
23) Sweet Smell of Success
24) Crossfire

Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

Despite containing no murder or even any crime,
Sweet Smell of Success has plenty of noir credentials from its display of sleaze, tension, mood, and darkness. All the locations are in the general Times Square area of New York which provide a suffocating and intimidating atmosphere in which to ply this tale of double dealing, deceit, and one man’s almost incestuous determination to control the life of his sister.

Starring Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison and Martin Milner, it tells the story of a highly influential but unscrupulous popular New York newspaper columnist (modeled on Walter Winchell) who is determined to break up his sister’s (Harrison) relationship with a jazz musician (Milner) whom the columnist deems beneath her standing. The media kingpin (Lancaster) enlists a shady press agent (Curtis) to frame the jazz musician as a dope user in order to quell the relationship with the sister. The story continues replete with subplots and double dealing, leading to a satisfactory ending.

The two chief standouts in the picture are the impressive photography by the great James Wong Howe, and the memorable against type performance by Tony Curtis.
Howe was a natural fit for noir filming due to his penchant for dramatic low key shadow lighting, and his ability to frame New York’s Times Square area as threatening and foreboding. Cutis had been known for his roles capitalizing on his good looks. But he campaigned for the part of the sleazy press agent in order to show that he could be a serious actor. He was under contract to Universal, who was reluctant to loan him out in case the part would ruin his reputation, but in the end United Artists won out. Curtis’ impressive performance really cemented his value as a fine actor. In fact Lancaster himself stated that Curtis should have won the Oscar for his performance.

The original script was written by author Ernest Lehman from his novelette, but later Clifford Odets, known for his flare for dramatic writing, was hired to further develop the screen play after Lehman became ill. The impressive jazzy score was composed by Elmer Bernstein, which perfectly framed contemporary New York City.

It’s a landmark picture that has steadily grown in status during the years since its release.

I have it at #19 on my list.

Sweet Smell of Success is a freakin' masterpiece. I saw it for the first time back in 2020 and it blew my mind. Lancaster and Curtis are so good against type, and the story is so bleak and depressing that I can't help but love it. I had it at #3.

SEEN: 32/92
MY BALLOT: 17/25

My ballot  
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