Film noir is a genre often used in association with the crime dramas of the 40s, 50s, and 60s, which were tinged with cynicism and a certain devious appreciation for the darker corners of the human psyche.
But more recently, a revival of the genre has emerged in the form of the neo-noir, or modern film noir. These films borrow key thematic elements and cinematic techniques from the aforementioned older films of the mid-20th century, repackaging them into contemporary films that appeal to genre enthusiasts and general audiences alike.
10 Drive - 7.8
Ryan Gosling stars as the nameless "Driver" in the ultra-stylish and ultra-violent neo-noir thriller, Drive. He's a man of few words and a Hollywood stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver. His budding romance with his neighbor, as well as his business venture with the local mafia bosses, are both jeopardized when a getaway job goes terribly wrong.
Drive's inimitable style is complete with a slick neon color palette, a retro-synth 80's style soundtrack, and moments of explosive violence. Comic actor Albert Brooks deserved an Oscar nomination for his terrifying performance as mob boss Bernie Rose and Drive is a top-notch example of a genre film that breaks plenty of new ground.
9 Nightcrawler - 7.9
Writer-director Dan Gilroy's 2014 thriller, Nightcrawler, stars Jake Gyllenhaal as the mysterious and dangerous Louis Bloom. He scours the Los Angeles underworld, documenting crime scenes as a freelance journalist.
He soon becomes over-zealous in his determination to get the perfect shot, even going as far as to interject himself into the action. Nightcrawler is consistently unnerving from the beginning through its disturbing third act when our antihero turns downright villainous.
8 Mulholland Drive - 7.9
Visionary director David Lynch's surreal 2001 film Mulholland Drive is a film unlike any other. Naomi Watts stars as an aspiring Hollywood actress who gets lured into a dark mystery when she encounters an amnesiac soon after arriving at her aunt's apartment.
Like much of Lynch's work, Mulholland Drive defies easy explanation or even plot summary. To this day, audiences are divided over whether or not the entire film is a dream sequence. What most audiences agree on though is that Naomi Watts' performance is outstanding, and the tone of the film is consistently eerie, and at times, terrifying.
7 Sin City - 8.0
2005's Sin City was brought to life by indie great Robert Rodriguez and author Frank Miller, who also wrote the graphic novel upon which the film is based. It's a crime anthology film shrouded in darkness and violence, boasting a terrific ensemble cast of pimps, prostitutes, dirty cops, and vigilantes.
It was a hit with critics and performed fairly well at the box-office for an R-rated comic book film. Discussions for a sequel abounded, but one never materialized until nine years later, and it wasn't nearly as well-received.
6 No Country For Old Men - 8.1
The Coen brothers' debut film, Blood Simple, is a fine example of neo-noir in its own right. But audiences rightfully love No Country for Old Men, a flawlessly executed thriller about the bloody pursuit of a $2 million loot leftover from a drug deal gone bad.
In addition to a thrilling and perfectly made chase film, it's a meditation on fate, godlessness, and death. It's sparse and unflinchingly bleak, with a devilish sense of humor, to boot. It's modern noir at its best.
5 Gone Girl - 8.1
Director David Fincher's Gone Girl is an adaptation of Gillian Flynn's novel by the same name. It contains all of the classic film noir elements: a dark mystery, a dangerous femme fatale, and a looming sense of dread that presides over each frame.
Like every Fincher film, Gone Girl is awash in style - visually, sonically, and rhythmically. It's a mean movie about mean people doing mean things and mostly getting away with it, making it a perfect example of modern noir.
4 L.A. Confidential - 8.2
A series of murders are investigated by three L.A. cops, each with their own motives and M.O.'s. Curtis Hanson directs a terrific ensemble cast in this endlessly entertaining popcorn flick that is so well done, it was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture of the Year.
For a lurid, pulpy genre film like this to garner such Oscar attention is a testament to its near-perfect execution. Despite being made over 20 years ago, it holds up well to this day.
3 Heat - 8.2
Icons Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro both starred in The Godfather: Part II, but due to the film's split chronology, never appeared on screen together. 1995's Heat was billed as the first time the duo would ever meet on camera, and even here, they share less than 10 minutes together.
Nonetheless, it's a slick and stylish cops and robbers thriller that made an impression with critics and audiences alike. It's almost three hours long, but there's never a dull moment.
2 Memento - 8.4
Guy Pearce stars in Christopher Nolan's breakout indie sensation, Memento, as a man with short-term memory loss determined to solve his wife's murder. Like most of Nolan's work, it's smart as a whip and meticulously crafted.
Without spoiling the ending, it's safe to say that Memento doesn't exactly end happily. It's a fun mystery to follow, but it's not so fun to solve. The dark elements of the film and its unforgiving final act make it a notable entry in the neo-noir catalog.
1 Seven - 8.6
It's fitting that a stylist as committed and skilled as David Fincher would have two entries on this list. His sophomore film, 1995's Seven, follows two detectives in pursuit of a serial killer who models his crimes after the seven deadly sins.
In this way, the film is almost a self-referential example of modern film noir. As twisted and evil as the premise is, things get doubly worse in the film's final act, when the killer is finally apprehended. Seven is a genre classic that still packs a punch, 25 years later.