Blackmail is one of the most common plot concepts in movies. This could be because it offers an immediately understandable motivation for characters, or maybe just because of the inherent drama and intrigue built into it. Whatever the reason, it's a common sight in movies-and here are five of the best movies about blackmail. They COULD be helpful if you were attempting a blackmail scheme of your own...but we don't endorse any kind of criminal behavior. You've got nothing on us!


"The Big Sleep"

Howard Hawks' "The Big Sleep" is one of the best movies for an aspiring criminal to watch, for two reasons. One: it contains a very wide variety of different types of crime, including blackmail but also murder, forced drugging, assault, and illegal distribution of pornography. Two: the plot is so damn confusing that most people would decide then and there that crime isn't for them, and to try something simpler than blackmail-like a day job, maybe.


"Strangers on a Train"

Bruno Antony is a much more ambitious blackmailer than most. Since he doesn't have anything real to blackmail tennis star Guy Haines with, he simply murders his scheming estranged wife for him. As for his terms, he doesn't want money-he wants Guy Haines to kill his father for him. He calls it "criss cross," and he sees it as a way for two people to commit two perfect murders. The scary part is how close he is to being right.



Life in 1961 was very different from life today. In the UK, for instance, homosexuality was not only stigmatized but actually illegal. An atmosphere like that is a breeding ground for blackmail, which is what the groundbreaking British thriller "Victim" is about, one of the first movies to deal with gay characters in a serious and humane way.


"The Naked Kiss"

It's hard enough for an ex-criminal (in this case, ex-prostitute) to get a fresh start in the world. And one of the reasons it's so difficult is that there are blackmailers crawling around the woodwork, which is what happens to Kelly in "The Naked Kiss." Since this is a Sam Fuller noir, blackmail is just one piece of an increasingly bizarre criminal puzzle, and you'll probably be scratching your head wondering where the plot's going to go next.


"The Man Who Wasn't There"

If there's one important lesson for potential criminals to learn about blackmail from movies, it's that it pretty much never goes according to plan. That's the lesson behind almost every Coen brothers movie, including "The Man Who Wasn't There," in which Billy Bob Thornton's shy barber attempts to blackmail his wife and her rich lover. Since this is a Coen brothers movie, the blackmail eventually spirals into something much more serious.