Welcome to the Movie Poster Shop's list of
"The 50 Best Film Noir Movie Posters EVER!"
For the uninitiated, one might ask, "What is film noir?"
The simplest way to describe it would be not for us to attempt describing it at all and let you read a few online descriptions.
Dictionary.com describes the film noir genre as follows: "A motion picture with an often grim urban setting, photographed in somber tones and permeated by a feeling of disillusionment, pessimism, and despair."
OK, not bad...a good start.
Wikipedia said this about film noir: "Film noir is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations. Hollywood's classic film noir period is generally regarded as stretching from the early 1940's to the late 1950's." That about nails it!
Read more Wikipedia on film noir here.
Always a contentious issue between true film noir fans is when, exactly, was the golden age of the genre. We agree with the time frame described by the Wikipedia entry. There have been numerous films produced since that could definitely be described as film noir. Typically if the movie was made after the late 1950's it could be described as "Neo Noir". More recent examples would be "Chinatown" (1974), "Body Heat" (1981), "The Manchurian Candidate" (1962), and more recently the excellent "The Usual Suspects" (1995).
For us, movie poster fans the movie posters produced for these films are some the best designs ever done. Typical design elements of film noir movie posters are steamy images of gorgeous, sultry femme fatales and guys with fedoras and hand guns. Omnipresent were images of men and women smoking. In fact, one might say (running contrary to the folks who protest the images of actors smoking in films) that some of the best film noir movie posters have images of cigarettes dangling from mouths or nestled in the actors hands.
Original movie posters for film noir movies are highly sought after by collectors. Original film noir posters have garnered very high prices over the last ten years. Movie Poster Shop allows you to get the best looking film noir movie posters at an affordable and accessible price. We hope you enjoy our collection of
"The 50 Best Film Noir Movie Posters EVER!"
Our apologies go out to those aficionados who don’t see the movie poster for their favorite film noir movie here. We admit to leaving out some great movies of the genre. Quite simply some movie posters for the great films sucked. Please remember this is a list of the best movie posters not movies.
Oh Rita! She’s baaaack! And check out the tagline, "I told you, you know nothing about wickedness" This was definitely not one of Orson Welles’s better movies. In addition to one of cinema’s true screen goddesses the movie did have some great lines, "The only way to stay out of trouble is to grow old, so I guess I'll concentrate on that.", "You need more than luck in Shanghai" and "You hear that George? You've just been called a shark. If you were a good lawyer you'd take it as a compliment". So…anyway, back to Rita Hayworth and the movie posters. We loved the Italian movie poster again but not only do we have a lot of Italian posters on our list but we had to choose the US version because of the tagline and Rita with her black evening gown looking back at us mortals.
This film is right on the cusp of what many observers believe was the era of the best film noir movies. Made in 1938 it was directed by Michael Curtiz (Casablanca).Considered Cagney’s best performance after his Tom Powers in "The Public Enemy"(1931) he was nominated for "Best Actor" as tough guy, Rocky Sullivan. He lost to Spencer Tracey in "Boy’s Town". One of the lines that were to be associated with Cagney all his life and mimicked by impressionists was "Whadda ya hear! Whadda ya say!". Pat O’Brien played the Irish Catholic priest Father Jerry Connolly. Bogart played the crooked lawyer, James Frazier. One of the other great lines was when Cagney addressing Bogart says, "Look, I know you're a smart lawyer - very smart - but don't get smart with me." This movie poster is the best of several movie posters that were designed for the original film and the re-releases.
33. The Letter
Bette Davis was at her sexy best in this William Wyler directed film noir "tour de force". The film was nominated for 7 Oscars and didn’t win any. Amazingly, Davis lost out in the "Best Actress" category to Ginger Rogers in "Kitty Foyle". Wyler lost "Best Director" to John Ford’s "Grapes of Wrath". At least he was in good company. The US movie poster for the film is quite good but the Italian is once again outstanding. The swirling image of a Chinese dragon in the background with the actors in the foreground makes this poster.
34. The Big Heat
Fritz Lang ("Metropolis", "M") directed this film noir classic tale of revenge. Detective Dave Bannion (Glen Ford) and Debby Marsh (Gloria Grahame) both have reasons for getting what is due to them in this multi-layered story. Lee Marvin plays the vicious heavy Vince Stone. Debby Marsh has some good lines in this flick which include when complimented by Stone. "Hey, that's nice perfume" she responds with, "Something new. It attracts mosquitoes and repels men" equally as good as this line she delivers, "Well, you're about as romantic as a pair of handcuffs." Vince Stone does something very nasty to Debby Marsh in the movie that would be hard to watch even by today’s standards. The US movie poster is not that bad (I have an original hanging on one of my walls) but the Italian movie poster is sensational. The artwork of Ford and Grahame is marvelous. The image of what appears in the background with the city skyline bursting out within a sea of light coupled with the images of the bad guys is awesome.
Not at the top of the list of great film noir movies, the film starred some staples of the era, Howard Duff, Brain Donlevy and Lawrence Tierney. Duff plays an unscrupulous photographer who discovers that blackmail pays better than newspapers. The tag line (which is not on the poster) says it all. "His camera was more deadly than a Gangster's Gun! ". A notable fact is the film was the first for the prodigious director Joseph Pevney who died almost a year ago. The movie poster has all the right elements of a great film noir movie poster
A little dated now, the movie was HUGE at the time. Paul Muni’s star turn as the wrongly accused convict, James Allen is outstanding. He was nominated for an Oscar for ‘Best Actor" in 1933. The movie was nominated for "Best Film" and lost to "Cavalcade". The film was based on the true life story of Robert E. Burns. So influential was the film that it is credited with forcing the state of Georgia to eliminate chain gangs. The US movie poster was not very creative and really quite functional for its time. We much prefer the Belgian version which is very artistic and colorful.
37. The Big Sleep
In this film noir classic, Bogart plays Philip Marlowe the detective created by novelist Raymond Chandler. Howard Hawks directed the movie co-written by William Faulkner. This was the second of four movies that starred Bogart and Lauren Bacall. The onscreen chemistry is very evident in the film. Once again, the US movie poster is very bland. We like this Italian version the best. The great artwork of the two principles and Bacall looking her sultry, seductive best with hands on hips and cigarette dangling make this movie poster a stand out.
38. The Killing
Stanley Kubrick (in his first main stream American film) directed this gem starring the excellent actor Sterling Hayden as criminal, Johnny Clay. It seems like there are lot of characters named "Johnny" in film noir movies. The script was credited to Kubrick but was allegedly mostly written by hard boiled pulp fiction writer, Jim Thompson. Thompson was credited for writing the dialogue. There are some fantastic lines in this movie, "You like money. You've got a great big dollar sign there where most women have a heart", and "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". The US movie poster is underwhelming but the Belgian is very good with Hayden in a snappy outfit looking back at a blood streaked Elijah Cook Jr.
Hitchcock directed this film noir classic. It was co-written by the infamous crime novelist Raymond Chandler. The plot involves two strangers who plot to exchange murders of people they want get rid of their lives. In classic Hitchockian style all kinds of plot twists unfold with the inevitable endgame betrayal. Thanks to Raymond Chandler there are some outstanding one-liners in the movie. They include, "Don't worry; I'm not going to shoot you, Mr. Haines. It might disturb Mother", "I may be old-fashioned, but I thought murder was against the law" and "Oh, Daddy doesn't mind a little scandal. He's a senator". And that line from a movie in 1951? Amazing no matter how things change that they still remain the same. The movie posters for this film are pretty utilitarian. This Italian version stands out due the two characters standing in shadows before a lit lamp. Nice touch. The image of Hitchcock looking up trying to get into the act is great as some times it was hard to imagine him as younger man.
Not a movie that is considered to be at the top of anyone’s "Best of Film Noir" lists. The tagline says it all, "From the Honky Tonks to the penthouses...the creeps, the hoods, the killers come out to war with the city!" Well, this movie poster is great. It has the couple in a lustful embrace, dancing girls at the "Flamingo Club" (the lead actress’s character was a stripper named Angel Face) gunfight between the bad guys and the cops, a great skyline and lastly the fist fight on the "El". Guess the "City That Never Sleeps" that this movie is named after is Chicago. The movie poster tells it all.