So let's start with a couple of recommended film noirs. If you like tough guys, femme fatales, snappy dialogue and lots of cigarette smoke, I'd suggest the following:
Out of the Past (1947) - Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer and Kirk Douglas star in this Jacques Tourneur directed classic. Jeff Bailey (Mitchum) is living in a small town in California, until his past (personified by very bad girl Greer and gangster Douglas) catches up with him. Great atmosphere, performances and dialogue. It's also got a twisty plot, great cinematography by Nicholas Musuraca (who also did fine work on Tourneur's Cat People) and a nice supporting turn by Rhonda Fleming. One of the best films in the genre. The film is available on DVD from Turner Home Entertainment. The Amazon link is here for the standalone release: http://www.amazon.com/Out-Past-Robert-Mitchum/dp/B000244EYW. It's also available as part of the Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol 1: http://www.amazon.com/Classic-Collection-Asphalt-Jungle-Murder/dp/B000244F2S/ref=pd_cp_d_1, along with several other noir titles, including The Asphalt Jungle and The Set-Up.
Double Indemnity (1944) - Billy Wilder directed this archetypal noir about insurance rep Fred MacMurray getting tangled up with femme fatale Barbara Stanwyck (excellent performance) in a murder scheme. Edward G. Robinson plays MacMurray's friend & colleague, and the warm nuances of their friendship are well played by these two fine actors. Based on the novel by James M. Cain with a screenplay by Wilder and Raymond Chandler, this is a sharp, tough, cynical film that warrants repeated viewings. The film is available in a 2-disc "Legacy Edition" from Universal Home Video. You can view it here on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Double-Indemnity-Universal-Legacy-MacMurray/dp/B00005JNG5.
Those are only two brief examples of one of my favorite film genres. Also recommended: The Big Sleep (1946), The Maltese Falcon (1941), Phantom Lady (1944), Touch of Evil (1958), The Third Man (1949), Laura (1944), The Killers (1946) and The Asphalt Jungle (1950).
Source for this post:
Internet Movie Database: www.imdb.com
Movie Quote of the Day: "I haven't lived. I've died a few times." Bud Cort as Harold in Harold & Maude (1971).