Film noir is a film genre that seems especially easy to spot. There’s a detective in a fedora, a voiceover, lots of shadows and a shocking twist. Throw in a beautiful heroine with a penchant for gangster boyfriends, and you’ve got a noir, right?
Wrong. According to the British Film Institute, there are lots of criteria that make up a film noir and it’s all incredibly detailed. Characters with a bleak view of humanity, a script based on an American pulp fiction novel–wading through all of the qualifications can seem as complicated and far-fetched as the plot of The Maltese Falcon. Luckily, the institute’s What Is Film Noir? infographic breaks it down for us.
The infographic starts out with all of the key elements of a film noir, getting into specifics about the characters (investigator, criminal), plot (hard to follow), lighting (dark and oppressive) and director (European émigré). There’s even a section about what kind of poster the movie should have (stylish…with a startling tagline!). The most interesting section details the lighting and composition, which play a major role in creating the dramatic tension on screen.
It then charts out the films according to how many of these qualifications they meet. The noiriest of the 100 analyzed? Billy Wilder’s 1944 masterpiece Double Indemnity. It was the only film in the running that had all of 17 elements of a classic noir.
As deep as the infographic goes into the makings of a film noir, there’s still one thing missing–one very important, highly suspect thing missing. Alfred Hitchcock is no where to be seen. In a disclaimer at the bottom, the film institute explains: “Sorry, for us, Hitchcock has a genre all to himself.”