Eight Great California Film Noirs

Eddie Muller, one of the world’s foremost experts on noir, picks Golden State classics to add to your watch list.

"The Maltese Falcon" movie poster

THE MALTESE FALCON (1941)

Warner Bros.
Director: John Huston
The noir movement started here, in a studio version of San Francisco, with Humphrey Bogart’s insouciant portrayal of Dashiell Hammett’s influential private eye Sam Spade.

"Double Indemnity" movie poster

DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944)

Paramount Pictures
Director: Billy Wilder
No film better expressed how boredom and ennui, even in paradise, can fester into homicidal pathology. The ne plus ultra of noir, imitated but never equaled.

"Criss Cross" movie poster

CRISS CROSS (1949)

Universal-International
Director: Robert Siodmak
A masterpiece of amour fou with an unmatched feel for the sensual and sinister side of Southern California. Downtown L.A.’s Bunker Hill features prominently.

"Woman on the Run" movie poster

WOMAN ON THE RUN (1950)

Fidelity Pictures
Director: Norman Foster
A nearly forgotten gem that makes exceptional use of San Francisco locations to tell a suspenseful and poignant tale of love lost and regained.

"The Prowler" movie poster

THE PROWLER (1951)

Horizon Pictures
Director: Joseph Losey
Dalton Trumbo’s provocative script tracks the spiral of a sociopathic cop from the affluence of Los Angeles to the abandoned Calico ghost town in Yermo, California.

"Kiss Me Deadly" movie poster

KISS ME DEADLY (1955)

Parkline Pictures
Director: Robert Aldrich
Screenwriter A.I. Bezzerides subverts Mickey Spillane’s thuggish novel, relocating it from NYC to L.A. and warning about demagogues amok in places high and low—including the “hero.”

"Point Blank" movie poster

POINT BLANK (1967)

MGM
Director: John Boorman
This super-stylish rampage through 1960s California has Lee Marvin mercilessly hunting his betrayers in an adaptation of The Hunter by Richard Stark (a.k.a. Donald W. Westlake).

"Chinatown" movie poster

CHINATOWN (1974)

Paramount Pictures
Director: Roman Polanski
Robert Towne’s script masterfully blends the Owens Valley water scandal into an airtight detective story about one man’s soul corruption infecting society at large. Perfection.

Read more from Alta‘s Fall 2020 Noir Special Section.

This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
More From Noir