Humphrey Bogart, one of the great leading men of classic Hollywood cinema, spent much of his career bringing dark, tragic, and complex characters to life in the film noir genre. Bogart would play heroic, or at least good, characters like private investigators or journalists.

Unlike some other leading men of the day like Gary Cooper or Mickey Rooney, Bogart possessed the talent and the willingness to play villainous characters. He found great success playing immoral gangsters and criminals. Whether hero or villain, Bogart brought authenticity to his performances in his greatest film noirs.

10 High Sierra (1941) – 7.5

A gangster (Bogart) recently freed from prisons agrees to one final heist before going straight. This job isn’t as simple as he first thought, struggling to keep the wannabe criminals in check and finding himself caught between two women. If that weren’t enough a possibly cursed dog takes a liking to him.

Humphrey Bogart’s sympathetic gangster, desperately searching for a normal life, manages to combine the actor’s strengths as a hero with those of his villains for a powerful performance. This early film noir certainly has the tragic and dark that defines the genre, but it opens with plenty of humor making the tragic ending more impactful.

9 Dark Passage (1947) – 7.5

Vincent Parry was convicted of murdering his wife, an accusation he denies completely. To prove his innocence he escapes prison, but his face has been all over the news and he gets backroom plastic surgery to disguise himself. He finds shelter in the home of a sympathetic female artist.

The film noir genre is often noted for its memorable and expressionistic cinematography. In Dark Passage, the early portion of the film was shot from the perspective of Bogart’s character, who isn’t seen till after the surgery. With its unique first-person perspective and byzantine plot, this film could make a list of great but underseen film noirs. The central relationship is emotionally captivating thanks to the natural chemistry of the leads, who are embodied brilliantly by real-life spouses Bogart and Lauren Bacall.


8 The Harder They Fall (1956) – 7.6

Eddie Willis is a respected sports journalist, whose employer just shut their doors. In need of money, he takes a job as a public relations man for an up-and-coming fighter from Argentina. Willis begins to suspect something more is happening, as he notices that this boxer doesn’t know how to box.

See also  Thor Hates Deadpool So Much He Keeps Killing Him (And Never Cares)

While private investigators are most often associated with the genre, dramas centered around boxing or boxers are also a hallmark of film noir with such notable films as Body and Soul and The Set-Up. This film, which was Humphrey Bogart’s final film before dying from esophageal cancer, had a generally positive critical reception and received an Oscar nomination for best cinematography. It’s easy to see why as The Harder They Fall expertly blends documentary-style realism with an outlandish plot involving blackmail and murder.

7 Key Largo (1948) – 7.8

Frank McCloud (Bogart) is a WWII veteran visiting the family of a fallen comrade when he becomes trapped in their hotel. This is partially due to the hurricane sweeping the city, but mostly because of the armed gangsters who took shelter at the hotel. How much is he willing to sacrifice for his long-dead friend?

The final film where Bogart starred alongside his real wife Lauren Bacall, and the final film he would co-star with Edward G. Robinson who appeared in five films with Bogart. Bogart’s traumatized veteran is a complex performance, but it was Claire Trevor who won the Oscar for best supporting actress for this film. With a plethora of memorable turns from some of Hollywood’s best stars and character actors, Key Largo stands as one of Bogart’s best gangster movies as well as one of his great film noirs.

6 To Have and Have Not (1944) – 7.8

Harry Morgan (Bogart) and his alcoholic friend run a charter boat out of the French island of Martinique. When WWII breaks out, and France falls to Germany, their clients become almost nonexistent and they get an offer to smuggle French resistance members onto the island, which they are reluctant to accept.

Famed director Howard Hawks loosely adapted the Ernest Hemingway novel of the same name into an intrigue-filled film noir. This was also the first film where Bogart starred with his future wife Lauren Bacall, and her first film appearance ever. As a result, their scenes together are charged with romantic tension as both the characters and the actors fall in love with each other before the audience’s eyes.

See also  90 Day Fiancé: Darcey Silva's New Drunk Cameo Leaves Fans 'Sad'

5 Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) – 7.9

A gangster is released from prison and wants to get the $100,000 he was owed for taking the fall, but his associate (Bogart) feigns ignorance to his release. While trying to get his money the gangster makes an impression on the street kids of the neighborhood, and his childhood friend turned priest begs him to set the kids straight.

The first of two gangster films where Bogart starred with James Cagney, who starred in some of the American Film Institute’s best gangster movies. Cagney played the criminal with a heart of gold, which left Bogart to shine as the completely evil gangster trying to ruin his former partner. This film proved a financial success and an enduring classic of film noir. As the cruel antagonist, Bogart has fun with his one-dimensional role and shows why Warner Bros. cast him as the heavy in his 1930s films.

4 The Roaring Twenties (1939) – 7.9

The lives of three men intersect at two very important moments in their lives while serving in The Great War and years later when they meet again and start a bootlegging business. Is the bond formed by soldiers in combat strong enough to stand the greed of gangsters and pressure of the law?

Bogart and James Cagney both made names for themselves playing unsavory characters in Warner Bros. gangster movies and this is one of the best gangster films of the classic Hollywood era. This was the second and last time they appeared together in a gangster film. They bring very different styles to the similar characters they play, and them working off one another makes this film stand out.

3 The Big Sleep (1946) – 7.9

Private detective Philip Marlowe (Bogart) is hired by a wealthy general, whose daughter is being blackmailed for gambling debts. However, Marlowe might have bitten off more than he can chew as he falls into a hole of love triangles, organized crime, blackmail, murder, and he may have even found love.

This was another team-up of the director Howard Hawks with married couple Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. The director’s original cut and the theatrical versions can be found and while the original is more comprehensible than the re-edited version, the latter version gave audiences more of the Bogart and Bacall romance and a stronger mystery element in the film.

2 In a Lonely Place (1950) – 8.0

A hat-check attendant is murdered and the screenwriter Dixon Steele (Bogart) becomes the main suspect, if their long conversation didn’t arouse suspicion his temper and dark sense of humor would have. Fortunately for him, his neighbor provided him with a fake alibi, something she may come to regret.

See also  Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett Interview: Scream 2022

This film received positive attention from critics, and its reputation has only grown since then making an appearance in Time Magazine’s “All-Time 100 Movies” list in 2005. The commentary on Hollywood morals is still relevant today and it is considered one of Humphrey Bogart’s most iconic performances.

1 The Maltese Falcon (1941) – 8.0

One evening, a woman walks into the San Francisco private detective agency, Spade and Archer, and says she’s looking for her missing sister. Archer follows her and winds up dead, leaving Spade (Bogart) to solve the mystery. This brings Spade into contact with three strange criminals, all after the titular jewel-encrusted falcon statue.

The directorial debut of John Huston (The African Queen, Key Largo) and a film that has received consistent critical praise, it received three Oscar nominations including best picture and best adapted screenplay. This is the quintessential PI-focused film noir, and Bogart is entirely believable as the tough and intelligent detective.

Next10 Scariest Villains In Disney Movies

About The Author