Women have long been part of the noir genre in the form of the femme fatale, a trope itself often misunderstood. These dames subverted an idea of goodness that was unfairly projected onto them. They pushed against societal norms, twisted unsuspecting men around their fingers, and stopped at nothing to get their way.
Yet femme fatales are not the only way women had an impact on the genre. Take Ida Lupino, for example, who perfected the art of the character type in films like 1941’s High Sierra and 1948’s Road House, while also directing one of the best films of the classical noir period: 1953’s The Hitch-Hiker.
While women and non-binary directors are still finding it difficult to achieve parity in genre filmmaking, the fact is there are contemporary films in this genre helmed by women, and there always have been. And since it’s Noirvember (my personal movie Christmas), I have hand-picked five underseen films from my slowly growing list of noir and neo-noir films directed by women, which show how these directors have made an impact in the noir space over the past three decades.
Many of these films were unfairly maligned upon their initial release, but these subversive flicks deserve a reassessment with fresh eyes. We’ve got the expected detectives, murder and eroticism, but we’ve also got women fighting against systems of oppression. And a film that includes Samuel L. Jackson at, in my humble opinion, his absolute hottest. Intrigued? Good.