Neo-Noir Movie: Identical to the Criminal Theme and the Anti-Hero Protagonist


More than just a genre, understand the characteristics of Neo-noir films.

From crime action films to stories that focus on the development of anti-hero characters, neo-noir films are a type of film with certain characteristics, but it is still difficult to define as one definite genre.

With the increasing popularity of films that favor the oppressed characters to the romance of the villain characters, neo-noir can be a grip that can lead filmmakers to execute a film. For fans of gloomy crime films or thriller films with melodrama characteristics, let’s see what neo-noir films really are?

The Progress of Film Noir Towards Neo-Noir
If we want to discuss neo-noir, we cannot start without discussing ‘noir’. Literally, ‘noir’ is French which means ‘black’. The term ‘film noir’ was first coined by a French film critic, Nino Frank in 1946. However, this term was not immediately famous at that time.

Nino Frank uses the term to label films that contain murder, mafia, and gothic romance. Usually contains social issues and has a melodrama feel as a package. Film noir also has a technical definition in film production, where the visuals have a “bearable” lighting style and unbalanced composition.

Until finally the term ‘film noir’ became popular in 1955 by a French critic as well, Raymond Borde and Etienne Chaumeton. Like Nino Frank, they both define film noir as a crime-themed and gangster-themed film, set in America in the 30’s to 40’s. However, the term film noir simply is no longer used because of the times.

Since the 1950s and onwards, films that adapt the characteristics of noir have now been referred to as neo-noir films. So, the only difference between ‘film noir’ and ‘neo-noir’ is the film era.

However, in the end, neo-noir films deserve to be “patented” because the development of characteristics and definitions is wider and continues to evolve with the times.

What Makes a Film Called Neo-Noir?
Many media and film critics until now still cannot provide a firm benchmark to define neo-noir films. But certainly, neo-noir is more than just a film genre. Neo-noir is more suitable to be categorized as ‘nuance’ or ‘ambient’, we can feel it when watching a film.

Still not leaving the classic noir characteristics, neo-noir films often present a gloomy, dark, melodrama, and tragic film feel. One example of a film with a neo-noir feel that is popular and easy to understand is “Joker” (2019). Starting from the script writing, cinematography, music, to the characterization of the protagonist, that’s neo-noir. Examples of other popular neo-noir films are the “John Wick” franchise, “Drive” (2011), “Seven” (1995), and of course one of Christopher Nolan’s best films, “Memento” (2000).

Basically, there are some elements that are synonymous with neo-noir films. In terms of story writing, neo-noir films often have a protagonist with an anti-hero characterization, then close to social issues, and not far from elements of crime, gangsters, violence, to sexual exploitation. All the worst realities in life become infinite material for neo-noir films.

If it is a matter of more technical characteristics, incidentally, neo-noir films often have similarities in audio and visual. The most common visuals we find in neo-noir films are panoramic views of the city at night with neon lights, dark alleys, secret headquarters, and other similar gloomy places.

However, not all action films with a neon aesthetic are neo-noir films, are they? The technical choice of production (suspenseful background music and gloomy cinematography) just happens to be the most appropriate way to bring the neo-noir feel to life.

The Fun Future of Neo-Noir Movies
As previously mentioned, the term ‘neo-noir film’ has a wider range to be developed. In the ’40s and ’50s, classic film noir contained stories about gangsters, detectives, drugs, forbidden romance, and other types of conventional crime.

Entering the era of the 80s to 2000s, neo-noir films were mostly dominated by male protagonists who were involved in a criminal act, or just wanted revenge for the death of his wife.

In this session, let’s explore the excitement of the future development of neo-noir films. Incidentally, men are always the protagonists of neo-noir films. Using this term to label crime films starring female characters is still not popular in the media.

In fact, there are already many films with female protagonists that fulfill the characteristics of neo-noir films. Call it “Gone Girl” (2014) and “Promising Young Woman” (2020).

It is possible that in the future, the term neo-noir film will be used when the media is reviewing a thriller film with a female protagonist who has the characteristics of an anti-hero. For now, when it comes to neo-noir films, people will refer to Anton Chigurh from “No Country for Old Man” or Travis Bickle from “Taxi Driver”. Maybe in the future the femme fatale character will not only be a complement in film noir, but will have its own tier.

Science fiction and ‘cyberpunk’ themes also have great potential to be developed into neo-noir films. It not only provides visual aesthetics, but also explores moral laws and the development of social order with increasingly sophisticated technological developments. There will be many new criminal methods, to how to form and run criminal organizations.

Neo-noir films with futuristic backgrounds have actually started to appear. The most appropriate and popular example is “Blade Runner 2049” (2017) from director Denis Villeneuve.

Neo-noir films are more than just a genre, not always about protagonists with degenerate morals, or simply about detectives trying to uncover a criminal syndicate. In the end, the term neo-noir may be quite difficult to define descriptively, this element can only be felt when we are watching a movie.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here