7 Noir Love Stories

From Crime Reads:

How do couples show their love? Some do it with flowers, because nothing screams romance like a handful of dying vegetation. Others send cute notes to one another, especially at this time of year. And in noir world, a lucky few get the chance to die together in a hail of high-velocity bullets.

Yes, romance in noir almost always starts out well, only to descend into death and despair (if you want to get truly pretentious and Greek about it, the characters’ eros, or love, just can’t overcome their thanatos, or death impulse). With that in mind, and in celebration of Valentine’s Day, here are seven films about lovestruck couples who truly go the distance—sometimes right into a police roadblock.

. . . .

Double Indemnity (1944)

Boy (Fred MacMurray as Walter Neff, smarmy) meets girl (Barbara Stanwyck as Phyllis Dietrichson, ice-cold). Boy helps girl kill her husband and dispose of the body in a way that looks like an accident, so they can score an extra-large helping of insurance money (the “double indemnity” of the title). Boy and girl try to escape the subsequent investigation’s ever-tightening noose, even as boy begins to suspect that girl is a murder-crazed lunatic. Boy and girl turn on each other, adding to the body count. It’s the perfect Valentine’s Day movie—right before you deliver the breakup speech.

. . . .

Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde (1967) is the ultimate act of cinematic transformation: It took a pair of dirty, doomed bank robbers—barely more than kids when they were ambushed and gunned down by law enforcement in 1934—and transformed them into extremely photogenic, almost relentlessly suave icons of American rebellion. At least, that’s the hot take; the film has far more layers than you might remember, if you haven’t seen it in a decade or two (or if you’ve never seen it at all, which is something you need to fix).

As portrayed by Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker not only look good—they know they look good. But at crucial moments throughout the film, a far uglier reality intrudes. Friends, family, and innocent bystanders die messily; Clyde and Bonnie panic at the idea that there’s no way out. They don’t look quite so photogenic once the law has its way with them.

What the cinematic Bonnie and Clyde share with their historical inspiration is an all-consuming love, however doomed. One wonders how the real-life robbers, who were intensely aware of their media image when they were alive, would have regarded the 1967 film. They probably would have enjoyed being played by Beatty and Dunaway… and lamented the lack of a happy ending.

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