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Quoth the Raven, Ever Noir

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time... like tears in rain..."
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain…” – Bladerunner

“The most American film genre, because no society could have created a world so filled with doom, fate, fear and betrayal, unless it were essentially naive and optimistic.”

Those are the words of the late Roger Ebert, critic, historian, journalist, screenwriter, and author. A lot of people apparently share that opinion. No surprise then that some of the very best, and some of the most successful SF movies are noir or incorporate noir stylings.

  • Snappy dialogue.
  • Flawed protagonist.
  • Plot turns, twists, and twists again.
  • Mist, rain, fog. Darkness where light should reign.
  • Festivals, galas, towns or cities that are not quite what they seem.
  • Every single shade of black.
  • Femme Fatale (or Masculin Mortel).

I’ll dodge the definition debate–tech noir, neo-noir, classic noir, retro noir, period noir–by shifting momentarily from film to another medium, gaming.


“Most noir films don’t have orcs, wizards, or cybernetic implants. But that’s what videogames are for: to fix what’s not awesome about other media.”

Dorkly, May 26, 2011

Gamers are already familiar with Shadowrun. Every incarnation thereof. Others you need to be familiar with are: Beneath a Steel Sky (1994), Grim Fandango (1998), Max Payne (2001), Heavy Rain (2010), Gemini Rue (2011), L.A. Noire (2011), and Beyond: Two Souls (2013), and The Wolf Among Us (2013).

A Top Ten movie list is even easier to assemble–so easy in fact that I made it a bakers dozen.

  1. Blade Runner – 1982. It’s all been said before, and for good reason. A masterpiece. First of two Philip K. Dick works on this list.
  2. Predestination – 2014. I can’t help myself. Such a good movie, and Sarah Snook deserves so much praise for her performance. Birdman? Seriously?!? Moore in Still Alice I get, but…
  3. Brazil – 1985. Terry Gilliam’s master work, better just slightly but still better than The Fisher King. That should say it all.
  4. Invasion of the Body Snatchers – 1978. Donald Sutherland at his best, and an ending that is one of the best in cinema. Period.
  5. Dark City – 1998. Several Gilliams, Two Philip Dick movies, and now another Sutherland in a movie that is as beautiful as it is profound.
  6. 12 Monkeys – 1995. Willis. Pitt. Gilliam. Peoples. How is that for a pedigree? How is this for a movie?
  7. Strange Days – 1995. My darkhorse. Horribly underappreciated but superbly executed. “Thrilling.” “Disturbing.” Strange days, indeed.
  8. Gattaca – 1997. Nature, Nurture. Destiny, Discrimination. And just a good movie.
  9. A Scanner Darkly – 2006. True to Dick and a fitting tribute to the man and his body of work. Thank you, Isa and Laura.
  10. Alphaville – 1965. ‘Ahead of its time’ is overused. So is ‘visionary’. Alphaville is both and still very very relevant.
  11. The City of Lost Children – 1995. If you liked Brazil and 12 Monkeys, you might like this movie. If not…
  12. Sin City – 2005. A lot of people truly hate this movie. I’m not a lot of people.
  13. Cat People – 1942. I love the 1982 version. This is darker in all the right ways.

Tor started up Noir Week back in 2011. Some must views from their list? To Live and Die in LA, Mulholland Drive, and No Country for Old Men. For books, consider ‘Limit’ By Frank Schätzing, ‘Gun, with Occasional Music’ By Jonathan Lethem, and ‘When Gravity Fails’ by George Alec Effinger for reads.

And while it lasts–thank you very very much Girl Wonder Carol Pinchefsky–for The Caves Of Steel (Isaac Asimov) – 1989 Radio 4 Dramatization

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