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Is Film Noir a Genre?

Whether you’re an aspiring filmmaker or a seasoned videographer, you’ve most certainly heard the reference “Film Noir” in the past. In fact, it’s likely you’ve heard the reference potentially hundreds of times before and not really even though twice about it or perhaps you wondered, “is Film Noir a genre of film or is this French reference to dark films related to something entirely different?  What is Film Noir anyway?

Unfortunately, there’s not exactly a clear cut reference to how film genres are defined and, thus, Film Noir could be described in a variety of ways, potentially as a film genre or not. Let’s take a look at exactly what this all means.

What is Film Noir?

The term “Film Noir” is French and means “Dark film.” Film Noir itself is a style of film that came about in the 1940s and 1950s but has been dated as far back as the 1920s in Hollywood. Characteristically, film noir style is represented by American thriller or detective style films which were once very largely represented by pessimism, cynicism and fatalism with an inherent darkness that had not before been seen in filmmaking prior to this time.

What is a Film Genre?

Film genres are represented by specific styles or themes in films that are based on specific characteristics or similarities often relative to emotions, aesthetics, appearance, or narrative elements. Film genres have their own unique traits or styles about them, many of which have evolved over time.

Common film genres include action, comedy, drama and horror but there are many others, too such as mystery and, as far as some are concerned, film noir. Likewise, film noir is not necessarily considered a film genre by everyone, most would call the genre of film noir mystery since the films have a detective style to them with an err of suspense. As such, arguments exist when the question, Is film noir a genre, comes up.

Is Film Noir a Genre?

So, is it or isn’t it? Many call film noir a genre, others call it a style. Typically, in order for a genre to be considered, specific elements must be present whereas in order for a style to be considered, some but not all elements but be seen. Not all elements must be present in film noir in order for the style to be considered noir.

Common elements that we see in the film noir genre or style include:

– Extreme contrast within the scene

– A post-war disillusionment that is noticeable

– A protagonist that is anti-hero

– Dialogue that is tight and concise

– Femme fatale

In questioning, is film noir a genre, we primarily look at the fact that film noir is a style of film that is characters by the above elements and typically was produced in the era of the 1940s and 1950s. The lighting of this style is quite specific as is the level of madness that occurs scene-by-scene, but is it a genre, that is left up to you to decide!