The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Though John Huston’s adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s seminal hard-boiled novel no longer holds the distinction of “first” film noir it’s lost none of its punch. Bogart’s Sam Spade is ironic, even cruel at times, more or less indifferent to the murder of his partner and quick to brush off the dead man’s widow– with whom, it turns out, he’s been having an affair. And if Mary Astor bears little physical resemblance to the novel’s alluring, redheaded Brigid O’Shaugnessy, she reveals glimpses of the calculating greed that marks her as one of American crime fiction’s most notable femmes fatale. Peter Lorre probably outshines everyone else as the venal Joel Cairo whose catfight with Brigid almost queers the pitch.