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The Maltese Falcon

77. The Maltese Falcon (1941)

This film is often credited with the fact that it officially started the noir genre. Coincidentally, it was also the first film noir I ever saw. I immediately knew that I HAD to watch more films of its kind. I fell in love with the genre and its typical characteristics. The lonesome, but very cool detective, the femme fatale, the cunning villain, the tragic elements to the plot, the stylish but dark atmosphere, ... It worked perfectly!
All those elements shaped many effective and satisfying film stories during the '40s and '50s and it's a shame that, besides the few neo-noir films that come out these days, the genre is not part of the mainstream packet anymore and has now been substituted by brainless and often styleless action movies.

The Maltese Falcon is the epitome of the noir genre. It's one of the first films that ever brought the typical elements of film noir to the screen and it did it so remarkably well that it is still considered as one of the very best of all time.
The reason it works so well is partly because of the awesome performances in this film. First of all there is of course Humphrey Bogart, who is probably the most suitable noir actor that ever existed. He looks like a man who knows about life and its darker corners, while automatically winning the audience's respect with his unparalleled charisma. With Sam Spade, he created one of the most famous film noir leading characters of all time. The supporting cast is great too. Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet are perfect for their particular roles and deliver two very good performances and Mary Astor is also great in the role of the femme fatale.

The Maltese Falcon is an immortal film that set the tone for all the noir films that would follow over the next 20 years and it is also one of the best director debuts of all time, as it was the legendary John Huston's first film. Its themes are still relevant today and it should be seen by every soul that has the least bit of interest in classic cinema. One of the true gems of Hollywood's golden age.