Crime, Corruption and Social Critique: A Thematic Overview of Noir

  • Sue Short


Neo-noir reworks repeated themes yet what accounts for their continued popularity? Is an anti-Capitalist message proffered in narratives that warn about the folly of avarice, or affirm that the worst corruption is found at the highest levels of society? Can an anti-authoritarian impulse be discerned in tales about heists and hit men? Suggesting the most popular tropes share an interest in championing underdogs—providing transgressive appeal—the chapter asks if this is the genre’s most progressive feature. Neo-noir’s capacity to interrogate specific sociocultural concerns is demonstrated through the problems faced by characters and the solutions they find, assessing how class, gender, race and sexuality are played out in certain narratives, elaborating our understanding of power and proving its radical potential in both highlighting and challenging injustice.

Works Cited

  1. Aziz, Jamaluddin, Transgressing Women: Space and the Body in Contemporary Noir Thrillers (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholarly Publishing, 2012).Google Scholar
  2. Clover, Carol, Men, Women and Chainsaws: Gender in the Horror Film (London: BFI Press, 1992).Google Scholar
  3. Diawara, Manthia, ‘Noir by Noirs: Towards a New Realism in Black Cinema’, in Copjec (1993). Republished in African American Review, vol. 50, no. 4, Winter 2017, pp. 899–911.Google Scholar
  4. Durgnat, Raymond, ‘Paint It Black: The Family Tree of Film Noir’, Originally Published in Cinema (1970). Republished in The Film Noir Reader 1997, pp. 37–51.Google Scholar
  5. Dyer, Richard, ‘Postscript: Queer and Women in Film Noir’, in Women in Film Noir, edited by Kaplan (London: British Film Institute, 1998), pp. 123–129. Google Scholar
  6. Grossman, Julie, Rethinking the Femme Fatale in Film Noir: Ready for Her Close-Up (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).Google Scholar
  7. Harvey, Sylvia, ‘Woman’s Place: The Absent Family of Film Noir’, in Women in Film Noir (1998), pp. 35–46.Google Scholar
  8. Jennings, Luke, ‘Murder He Wrote’, Radio Times (20 August 2018), pp. 140–141.Google Scholar
  9. Kaplan, E. Ann, ‘The Dark Continent of Film Noir: Race, Displacement and Metaphor in Tournier’s Cat People (1942) and Welles’ The Lady from Shanghai (1948)’, in Women in Film Noir (London: BFI, 1998), pp. 183–201.Google Scholar
  10. Martin, Angela, ‘Gilda Didn’t Do Any of Those Things You’ve Been Losing Sleep Over!: The Central Woman of 40s Films Noirs’, in Women in Film Noir (1998), pp. 202–228.Google Scholar
  11. Naremore, James, More Than Night: Film Noir in Its Contexts (London: University of California Press, 1998, Revised 2008).Google Scholar
  12. Place, Janey, ‘Women in Film Noir’, in Women in Film Noir (1998), pp. 47–68.Google Scholar
  13. Spicer, Andrew, Film Noir (Hounslow: Pearson, 2002).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sue Short
    • 1
  1. 1.Birkbeck University of LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations