Film noir has enjoyed a huge surge in popularity in the last decade or so, which means that studios have made many of the more obscure pictures from that genre available for the first time. While a handful of well-known movies dominate our cultural concept of film noir, low-budget productions that embraced the genre's conventions were churned out by the dozens during the 1940s and 1950s, often as B pictures that played after the more prestigious A feature. Not surprisingly, Warner Archive has produced a number of DVD editions of these lesser noir gems in recent years, and now Warner Archive Instant also offers viewers streaming access to noir films that are hard to find anywhere else. Here are ten of the classic noir films you can currently catch on Warner Archive Instant.
"Beyond a Reasonable Doubt" (1956) - Fritz Lang, who directed other noir classics like "The Big Heat" (1953), also directed this story of a writer who frames himself for murder in order to prove a point. Dana Andrews and Joan Fontaine headline.
"Born to Kill" (1947) - Claire Trevor, Lawrence Tierney, and Walter Slezak star in this tale of a bad girl who finds herself attracted to an even worse guy. Four-time Oscar winner Robert Wise directs.
"Desperate" (1947) - Anthony Mann, best remembered today as the director of several Westerns starring Jimmy Stewart, directs this tale of a young couple on the run. Steve Brodie and Audrey Long star, but classic film fans will enjoy seeing Raymond Burr as a mobster and Jason Robards Sr. as a cop.
"Nobody Lives Forever" (1946) - The great John Garfield stars as a former soldier involved in a con game in this film from director Jean Negulesco. Geraldine Fitzgerald and Walter Brennan also star.
"On Dangerous Ground" (1952) - Nicholas Ray directs this excellent but less familiar noir that stars Robert Ryan as a cop on the edge and Ida Lupino as a blind woman who might be his salvation. The supporting cast includes familiar figures like Ward Bond, Olive Carey, and Ed Begley.
"The Phenix City Story" (1955) - Based on real events that took place in the notoriously crooked Alabama town, this movie takes a documentary style approach to its subject. John McIntire, Richard Kiley, and Kathryn Grant star as some of the people involved in this seedy tale of gambling, murder, and organized crime.
"Point Blank" (1967) - Lee Marvin embodies neo-noir cool with a dreamlike detachment in this gripping story from director John Boorman. Angie Dickinson, Keenan Wynn, and Carroll O'Connor costar. Although Marvin's character is named Walker, this is one of several films adapted from the Parker novels by Donald Westlake (writing under the name of Richard Stark). The most recent movie made from Stark's stories is "Parker" (2013).
"Possessed" (1947) - Joan Crawford and Van Heflin star in this story of obsessive love, with Raymond Massey and Geraldine Brooks in supporting roles. Director Curtis Bernhardt worked with several top leading ladies of the era, including Barbara Stanwyck in "My Reputation" (1946) and Bette Davis in "A Stolen Life" (1946).
"The Set-Up" (1949) - This unflinching look at the brutality of the boxing world comes from director Robert Wise, who presents some of the most realistic fight scenes ever created for film. Robert Ryan takes the punishment as an aging boxer whose own manager makes a deal for him to lose, and Audrey Totter gives a heartbreaking performance as the loyal wife who can't stand to see her husband in the ring.
"The Woman on the Beach" (1947) - Jean Renoir directs Joan Bennett, Robert Ryan, and Charles Bickford as three damaged people caught up in a love triangle. Look for classic TV comedienne Irene Ryan in a supporting role.
Visit the official Warner Archive Instant site to see all of the movies currently available for streaming, including musicals, comedies, horror films, and silents. Selections change regularly, so be sure to check often for new additions. For a taste of classic film noir, you can watch "Scarlet Street" (1945) in its entirety by clicking the video at the top of this article. The movie, which is now in the public domain, features direction from Fritz Lang and performances from Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, and Dan Duryea.
Jennifer Garlen writes as the Huntsville and National Classic Movies Examiner. Her book, "Beyond Casablanca: 100 Classic Movies Worth Watching," is available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.