Film noir - French for "dark film" - is a cinematic term used to describe a motion picture stylized to create a mood of moral ambiguity. "Good guys" are often inseparable from "bad guys," good may not always win, and the purported "hero" of the film may not be a likable character. While film noir was applied in early Hollywood without this problem, in modern times, film noir pictures often include sexuality, nudity, and characteristics that make the films not family-friendly. Realistic, rather than glorified, depiction of violence has always been characteristic of film noir technique. They usually take place in the 1920s-1950s.
Recurring characters in film noirs include mobsters, gangsters, bikers, law enforcement officials (including police officers, detectives, spies, and bounty hunters), and seductresses. They usually take place in urban areas of the Midwestern and northeastern states, as well as California, Florida, Las Vegas, Seattle, or Portland. However, they can sometimes take place in small towns, much like westerns.
Examples, without spoilers, are:
- The Maltese Falcon, a famous movie starring Humphrey Bogart as a private detective in 1940s San Francisco. One of the most famous films of all time, this is based Dashiell Hammett's novel of the same name.
- Brick, a 2005 movie about a teenage girl's disappearance and her ex-boyfriend's search to uncover the truth. Well noted for its atmosphere and environment, this movie takes place in a suburban setting and involves high school age characters.