10 Best Film Noir Femme Fatales

Thursday, March 10 by Lee Grayson

The ten best film noir femme fatales are an easy pick. The best ladies of the dark screen lighting known as noir appeared again and again in similar roles throughout the noir decades. The femme is an alluring woman who uses her charms for evil on men who'll commit crimes and even kill for their fair ladies. The term in French means "deadly lady," but not all of the noir women on the list actually lure others to kill, some simply use others to collect money or take power. Despite their dark side, male movie goers would love to hook up with the same kind of woman. 

  1. Ida Lupino. Ms. Lupino was an actress of great depth and turned into a fine film and television director, but she's known for her classic femme fatale roles in film. She was one of the original "bad girls of film." Lupino took the female lead in "Road House," "The Man I Love" and "The Lady and the Mob." Her last noir role was "While the City Sleeps" in 1955.
  2. Lauren Bacall. Known for her line, "You know how to whistle…," Ms. Bacall was a femme fatale and also a fresh face beauty, which made her even more deadly in the noir classic "The Big Sleep." She also played the perfect fatale in "Young Man With a Horn," released in 1950.
  3. Barbara Stanwyck. The only film needed to put Ms. Stanwyck on the list is the classic "Double Indemnity," directed by Billy Wilder. Ms. Stanwyck played the femme fatale that later actresses would use as a role model. 
  4. Gene Tierney. Ms. Tierney had the film eyes of a classic film noir femme fatale and used those peppers with deadly accuracy in "Laura," released in 1944, and "Night and the City," a later film release in 1950.
  5. Kim Novak. Another actress who has a few noir classics on her resume but makes the ten best film noir femme fatales for her role in a solo classic performance, Ms. Novak takes her spot on the list thanks to Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo." Poor Jimmy Stewart in taken for a ride in this 1958 classic late noir film. She done him wrong in the film and, despite his love for her, Stewart has her taken to the Big House. 
  6. Gloria Graham. Ms. Graham took leading film noir femme fatale honors in "The Big Heat," released in 1953, but perhaps her most famous role was in 1942, starring opposite Alan Ladd in "The Glass Key." 
  7. Lizabeth Scott. Ms. Scott's husky voice and dark eyes are the perfect lure for men unaware of her backstory. She often is the voice of reason, but watches men make poor life choices that lead to destruction. She starred as a femme fatale in "Dark City" in 1950 and "Dead Reckoning," released in 1947.
  8. Cathy O'Donnell. The star of "Bury Me Dead," released in 1947, and "Side Street," a film that hit the theaters in 1950, is considered a classic screen femme fatale. While you may not remember her name, fans of vintage noir will recognize her face, guaranteed.
  9. Mary Astor. Brigid O'Shaughnessy, played by Astor, is the femme who took out Sam Spade's gumshoe partner in "The Maltese Falcon," and as Bogart told her character, "Don't be so sure I'm as crooked as I'm supposed to be." It turns out, Spade wasn't crooked at all and turned out to be important to her plan to mark him as the fall guy for the murder. 
  10. Brenda Marshall. Ms. Marshall hit the femme fatale ground running in 1941 with leading roles in "Footsteps in the Dark" and "Singapore Woman." She also starred with George Raft in "You Can't Escape Forever" in 1942.