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7 Classic Noir Films to Stream: ‘The Big Sleep,’ ‘Shadow of a Doubt,’ and More

From Bogie and Bacall to Sidney Poitier and Gloria Swanson, these noir films will make for a great movie night.

THE BIG SLEEP, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, 1946.

“The Big Sleep”

Everett Collection

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What makes film noir so fascinating? There are a lot of components that come into play with noir films, but cynicism, suspenseful music, a mysterious plot, figures lurking in the shadows, femme fatales, and fedora-wearing detectives are some of the staples of the classics.

Film noir, or “dark cinema,” was first coined by a French film critic in 1946 to describe the downtrodden themes in American movies. Although the term wasn’t widely adopted by American directors until years later, the ’40s and ’50s are regarded as a classic era that produced pioneering noirs such as “The Maltese Falcon” and “Double Indemnity.”

With that in mind, we have curated a list of films that you can stream for your next film noir marathon. Most of the movies are available to buy or rent on Amazon Prime Video (if you’re not already a Prime member, click here to join) but some of them are streaming on Vudu and HBO Max as well. And of if you want more of that Old Hollywood aesthetic, be sure to pick up one of these vintage movie posters.

THE BIG SLEEP, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, 1946.

“The Big Sleep”

Everett Collection

“The Big Sleep”

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime, Vudu

Lauren Bacall was just 19 years old when she met 43-year-old Humphrey Bogart. By that time, Bogart had been solidified as a Hollywood leading man thanks in part to his breakout role in “The Maltese Falcon.” Two years after they tied the knot, Bogie and Bacall starred in the “The Big Sleep,” one of their many film collaborations over the years. In the 1945 film, directed by Howard Hawks, Bogart plays a private investigator hired by an aging millionaire to settle his daughter’s debt (Bacall).

MURDER, MY SWEET, from left, Dick Powell, Claire Trevor, 1944

“Murder, My Sweet”

Everett Collection

“Murder, My Sweet”

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime, Apple TV

“Murder, My Sweet” was one of the first films to be classified as noir. Released in 1944 and based on the novel from Raymond Chandler, the film was originally titled “Farewell, My Lovely” but the name was changed due to audience feedback during early screenings. Dick Powell, Claire Trevor, Anne Shirley, Otto Kruger, Miles Mander, and Mike Mazuki star in the Edward Dmytryk thriller about a private detective entangled in a murder mystery. “Murder, My Sweet” marked the silver screen debut of the Phillip Marlowe (Powell) character whom Bogart portrayed in “The Big Sleep.”

SUNSET BOULEVARD, Erich von Stroheim, Gloria Swanson, 1950, 'ready for my closeup'

“Sunset Boulevard”

Everett Collection

“Sunset Boulevard”

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime, Paramount+, Vudu

“Sunset Boulevard” is one of the more popular film noirs on the list. It landed on AFI’s 100 greatest films of all time and the film score has been regarded as a masterpiece. The 1950 noir film, directed by Billy Wilder, centers around a Hollywood actor from the silent era (played by Gloria Swanson) who hires a struggling screenwriter (William Holden) to help her stage a comeback. “Sunset Boulevard” fuses fiction with the harsh realities of Hollywood, and art somewhat imitates life for Swanson. Similar to her character in the movie, Swanson launched her career in silent film but “Sunset Boulevard” became her comeback role and earned Swanson an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.

SHADOW OF A DOUBT, Teresa Wright, 1943

“Shadow of a Doubt”

Everett Collection

“Shadow of a Doubt”

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime

Alfred Hitchcock made a ton of movies in his career, but “Shadow of a Doubt” was his favorite. According to his daughter, Hitchcock fell in love with “Shadow of a Doubt” because “he loved the thought of bringing menace into a small town.” The Oscar-nominated psychological thriller, starring Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotton, has been described as a “masterpiece” of mystery and suspense. It’s deviates a bit from the typical noir themes in that there’s no femme fatale or detective leading the storyline – which is about a guy named Uncle Charlie (Cotton) who skips town to visit his sister and her kids in Northern California. His niece (played by Wright) later discovers that charming Uncle Charlie is suspected in a murder case.

NO WAY OUT, from left: Sidney Poitier, Richard Widmark, 1950, TM & Copyright © 20th Century Fox Film Corp./courtesy Everett Collection

“No Way Out”

Everett Collection

“No Way Out”

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime

Sidney Poitier made his feature film debut in “No Way Out,” a 1950 noir directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. The film, co-starring Richard Widmark, Linda Darnell, and Stephen McNally, was one of the earliest film depictions of racism in the medical field as the plot centers around the sole Black doctor (played by Poitier) in a hospital where two white racist brothers who are being treated for gunshot wounds. After one of the bigoted criminals dies on the operating table, the doctor is erroneously accused of killing him.

BRIGHTON ROCK, from left: Basil Cunard, Hermione Baddeley, George Carney, 1947

“Brighton Rock”

Courtesy Everett Collection

“Brighton Rock”

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime

Set in 1940s England, “Brighton Rock” was adapted from a novel of the same name. The noir film, helmed by English director John Boulting, revolves around a murder mystery involving Pinkie Brown (Richard Attenborough), a gang leader who kills his rival and uses a waitress as his alibi. The murder is eventually ruled a suicide, but Ida Arnold (Hermione Baddeley), a woman who was with the victim prior to the murder, launches her own investigation. “Brighton Rock” features Carol Marsh, William Hartnell, Harcourt Williams, Nigel Stock, and Wylie Watson.

THE BREAKING POINT Juano Hernandez, John Garfield, 1950

“The Breaking Point”

Everett Collection

“The Breaking Point”

Where to Watch: Rent or buy on Amazon Prime

“The Breaking Point” is a noir crime drama adapted from the Ernest Hemingway novel “To Have and Have Not.” John Garfield stars as Harry Morgan, a cash-strapped shipping boat captain who connects with a shady lawyer (played by Wallace Ford) and persuades him to smuggle a group of Chinese immigrants on his boat. The charter from Mexico to California hits turbulent waters and Morgan ends up in a shoot out. Patricia Neal, Juano Hernandez, Sherry Jackson, Edmond Raymond, and Victor Sen Yung also appear in the film.

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