The 13 Best Noir Films to Stream When You're Looking for Something Dark

Updated 08/21/18
Best Film Noir
Kata Ogata

When noir films were introduced to audiences in the early 1940s, they were captivated by cynical tales of cities rife with steady corruption, easy violence, and willing deceit. It's been generations since those black-and-white stories were first told, but people still find the style alluring. Maybe it's because noir films tap into our sinister impulses. Or perhaps it's because these movies usually involve a fair share of memorable lines and plot points. Whatever it may be, this is a genre with staying power because it unapologetically displays personalities that aren't afraid of a little danger.

If you're in the mood to sit in the dark with films that are equally shady, we've put together a list of the 13 best noir movies to stream from Netflix and Amazon Prime. These picks span early classics, like The Maltese Falcon and Sunset Boulevard, and also include recent classics like The Dark Knight and Gone Baby Gone. While we wouldn't necessarily recommend emulating these characters, we don't mind advising you to watch them from a distance.

The beauty of noir is that you can participate in the danger without any of the consequences.

L.A. Confidential

LA Confidential Best Film Noir

Where: Netflix

Known as neo-noir, or a film that was made after the genre's midcentury heyday, L.A. Confidential is a classic in its own right for reimagining this style for modern audiences. It's set in 1953 Los Angeles and follows a group of police officers instigating corruption, seeking fame, and welcoming violence. 

Sunset Boulevard

Best Film Noir Sunset Boulevard

Where: Amazon Prime

Famous for the classic line, "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up," Sunset Boulevard is noir at its best. It centers on a screenwriter who stumbles upon the crumbling mansion of a silent film star. She doesn't believe that her fame has ended, and he first tries to convince her otherwise. But the longer he stays, the more he realizes that he's a part of the fantasy, too. 

The Maltese Falcon

Best Film Noir Maltese Falcon

Where: Amazon Prime

This is another famous noir film, starring one of Old Hollywood's most famous actors, Humphrey Bogart. It closely follows the setting described by its namesake novel by Dashiell Hammett, about a private detective named Sam Spade in San Francisco. At first, Spade agrees to work with a client who claims that her sister is missing. But soon he's involved with trying to find a jewel-encrusted statue of a bird before the people following him do.

The Usual Suspects

The Usual Suspects Best Film Noir

Where: Amazon Prime

This neo-noir mystery film unfolds with help from a common narrative device in this genre, the flashback, which starts with five con men in a police lineup. At first, it seems like they met there, but they didn't. Instead, they were all involved in a shootout on a boat in the Port of Los Angeles, where dozens were murdered.

Gone Baby Gone

Gone Baby Gone Best Film Noir

Where: Netflix

After a little girl named Amanda goes missing, two Boston detectives (who are also dating) are tasked with finding her—and they uncover that her mother and her boyfriend are involved with drug trafficking. The plot gets more complicated as the detectives learn more dark details, which test their training and relationship in the process.

The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight Best Film Noir

Where: Netflix 

This brooding Christopher Nolan film introduces the Joker to the franchise in a role that won Heath Ledger a posthumous Oscar. When the Joker turns Gotham City into the unwilling setting of his chaotic and dangerous games, Batman has to save innocent people—but the opportunities to do so question his morality. 

Seven

Seven Best Film Noir

Where: Netflix

A retiring police detective and his partner—a man who has recently moved to the city with his wife—take on the case of a series of murders that are inspired by the seven deadly sins. Once they uncover who the killer is, John Doe, they set out to find him. As more violence takes place, John Doe tests the veteran skills of the retiring detective and the idealism of his young partner. 

Drive

Drive Best Film Noir

Where: Amazon Prime

Ryan Gosling plays an unnamed Hollywood stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway ride. He meets his neighbor, a woman with a young son and a husband who was recently released from prison. The husband hires him to take part in a multi-million dollar heist, which the Driver does to try and protect his neighbor and her kid. But things go wrong—and the Driver gets much more involved than he planned.

Chinatown

Chinatown Best Film Noir

Where: Amazon Prime

This is yet another classic neo noir film starring Jack Nicholson as a private investigator who is hired by a woman posing as the wife of the chief engineer for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. The investigator thinks that this is a case of infidelity, but when he realizes that the man's true wife is played by Faye Dunaway, he gets involved in a mess of family secrets and citywide lies.

Sin City

Sin City Best Film Noir

Where: Netflix

Neo-noir storytelling meets comic book styling in this film, which spans intertwining tales of corruption, violence, deceit, and lust in a fictional place called Basin City. Most of the movie takes place in black and white and uses splashes of color—namely, red—to highlight plot twists and characters.

Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction Best Film Noir

Where: Amazon Prime

Often considered Quentin Tarantino's masterpiece, this film follows two philosophical mob hitmen—played by Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta—as well as the stories of their boss and his actress wife, the hijinks of two armed robbers, a down-and-out boxer, and a fixer. As the different plot lines come together with violence, style, and plenty of one-liners, a distinct crime scene in Los Angeles unfolds.

Memento

Memento Best Film Noir

Where: Amazon Prime

Like other films in this genre, Memento starts with one shot and moves backward. The flashback focuses on the main character named Leonard, who has anterograde amnesia and can't hold on to recent memories. As the audience is introduced to his world, which is shown in alternating black-and-white and color sequences, it learns how his condition can be a deceptive form of narration, especially since he's trying to find the person who killed his wife.

Winter's Bone

Winter's Bone Best Film Noir

Where: Amazon Prime

Jennifer Lawrence plays teenager Ree Dolly in this mystery film set in rural Missouri, as she sets out to find her missing father. Ree has been taking care of her mentally ill mother and siblings alone, and if her father does not appear for his court date, their home will be repossessed. As she searches for him, she gets involved with a crime boss and his dangerous family.

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