: a type of crime film featuring cynical malevolent characters in a sleazy setting and an ominous atmosphere that is conveyed by shadowy photography and foreboding background music; also: a film of this type
Film genre that offers dark or fatalistic interpretations of reality. The term is applied to U.S. films of the late 1940s and early '50s that often portrayed a seamy or criminal underworld and cynical characters. The films were noted for their use of stark, expressionistic lighting and stylized camera work, often employed in urban settings. The genre includes films such as John Huston's The Maltese Falcon (1941), Jacques Tourneur's Out of the Past (1947), Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound (1945), and Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity (1944) and Sunset Boulevard (1950). The trend was on the wane by the mid-1950s, but the influence of these films is evident in many subsequent ones, including classics such as Roman Polanski's Chinatown (1974) and Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982). More recent examples include L.A. Confidential (1997) and The Man Who Wasn't There (2001).