NOIRVEMBER: Stream These Film Noir Classics for Free on Kanopy

For the classic film community, November is a month where we celebrate one of the most influential genres of the 20th century: Film noir. These were the stylish, black and white Hollywood crime dramas technically known for their shadowplay, low lighting, and with their narratively distinct plots involving crime, corruption, sex and drugs. According to various film scholars, there were many genres that influenced film noir: gangster films, police procedurals, Gothic romance, the social conflict picture, as well as the artistic movement of German Expressionism.

It can also be argued that film noir was an influence for the slasher sub-genre of horror, as grisly murder is a prevalent plot point in noir cinema. The use of flashbacks and voice-overs was of popular use in the genre and these creative elements weren’t commonly used before it. Not only that, a new female character was created and popularized alongside the private detective male character: the femme fatale—a woman of mystery and seductiveness who often drove the protagonist to fatal ends. 

The Lady from Shanghai (1947) – source: Columbia Pictures

In the 1950s, film noir would see its influence move to Europe, especially in France, with films like Rififi and Les Diaboliques; and French New Wave would take influence from noir a decade later. Eventually, as the Hollywood production code crumbled, the classic genre would crumble with it. Soon, though, it would see a revival: Neo-noir. Some original elements of noir would be revived, while others rejected entirely or re-imagined. This was due to new filmmaking techniques and the rising popularity of color film. Classic Hollywood noir also had a big influence on the cyberpunk genre of science fiction, with Blade Runner being one of the most famous neo-noir films.

TCM and the Criterion Channel streaming service have allowed cinephiles to gain access to more noir than ever before. But not all of us have the means to pay for the ever-increasing prices and the number of services available; however, there are free options out there like Kanopy. The site partners with Universities and public libraries around the globe, so if you’re a student or have a library card, it’s easy to access.

The selection of films that each library and University have access to may vary (personally speaking, my University has more selection on the platform than my public library), but you’re bound to find the majority of the following (and maybe even more!) So, dig into these film noir, European noir, and neo-noir films on Kanopy to celebrate Noirvember:

Noir Precursors

Classic Hollywood Noir

Foreign Produced Noir


This list was created in accordance with Bill Georgaris’s criteria on his websiteThey Shoot Pictures, Don’t They?

Published by Sara Clements

Freelance Film/TV critic and editor of Next Best Picture

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