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Film Genres

This guide highlights library resources for some of the more popular film genres.

A quick definition for film noir

From the Critical Dictionary of Film and Television Theory, film noir is "concerned with the seedy underbelly of America, where crime, corruption and sexual desire intermingle. Recurrent characters include the world-weary detective, the beautiful but deadly femme fatale and her male dupes. Visually, its most striking feature is the use of low-key, high contrast lighting, which evokes the immorality of the world explored within the film.

[French black film] A cycle of crime films made in Hollywood between 1940 and 1959 presenting a number of distinctive characteristics. These include their settings (seedier districts of modern cities); their visual style (a chiaroscuro world of dark, nighttime urban streets and shadowy, low-key lit interiors); their themes and characters (crimes and investigations involving psychologically disturbed men and deceitful women); their narrative strategies (convoluted investigative plots, dreamlike first-person voice-over narration, flashbacks, temporal ellipses, and often ambiguous endings); and a general mood of world-weary cynicism. The term is thought to have been first used by French critic Nino Frank, in a 1946 review of four Hollywood crime thrillers (The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, 1941), Murder, My Sweet aka Farewell, My Lovely (Edward Dmytryk, 1944), Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944), and Laura (Otto Preminger, 1944)) that pointed to the films’ complex narration and moral ambivalence. It is often argued that film noir’s style and sensibility had predecessors in German Expressionism (émigré directors from Germany, including Fritz Lang (The Big Heat, 1953) and Robert Siodmak (The Spiral Staircase, 1945), were among the key directors of classic Hollywood films noirs) and also the Poetic Realism of 1930s French films such as Quai des brumes/Port of Shadows (Marcel Carné, 1938). Frank’s observations are an expression of the enthusiasm among French intellectuals for both existentialism and Hollywood B-movies in the years following World War II (see France, film in).   ...

Kuhn, A., & Westwell, G. (2020). Film noir. In A Dictionary of Film Studies. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 7 Aug. 2023

In the Library's collections

To find what we have in the Library's collection, you can do a subject search for "film noir" in the online catalog. That search will show you what film titles are classified as film noir as well as books and other items about Film Noir.

As you look at the list under Film Noir, the subject headings which include "history and criticism" talk about the genre itself. The headings which also include a country name are specifically talking about Film Noir in that country.

You can also do a subject search for "noir fiction." That will lead you to the noir novels and criticism of the literature form of noir.

Introductory reading(s)

Selected book title(s)

Finding scholarly articles & journal titles

Articles and other writings about movies can be found in many publications. Our collection does not include a journal or magazine which looks exclusively at film noir. Other film journals within our collection will cover film noir. You can use Film & Television Literature Index to find relevant articles.

Selected film noir movie titles

Find more film noir in the library's online catalog.