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7 subversive noir-tinged movies to watch instead of 'Big Sky'

A woman with bloodied scratches on her face looks stressed
(Image credit: Rising Creek)

If you've watched TV in the last month you've probably seen commercials for David E. Kelley's highly-anticipated return to broadcast, Big Sky. After the powerful dramatic masterclass of Big Little Lies (season one), the showrunner has been struggling to recapture that magic... and alas Big Sky does not fix that. In fact, going off the first episode alone, Kelley has reverted to a strange Criminal Minds style of storytelling that focuses solely on the suffering of women, the perversion of cis men, and the fetishism of violence against trans people. Basically, it wasn't a great way to spend an hour of your time. But if the idea of a subversive noir-hued story seemed appealing and you're disappointed that Big Sky didn't deliver, then we've got you covered with seven subversive, scary, radical, funny, and entertaining noirs that will satisfy that need. 

Blood on Her Name 

Anchored by a stunning lead turn by Bethany Anne Lind, this underseen gem will get under your skin. This midwestern neo-noir is all about bad decisions and how quickly they can destroy your life. Leigh (Lind) is a single mother struggling to make ends meet, so when a man dies in her body shop, she quickly tries to cover it up. But her own guilt forces her to deliver the body back to the man's family. It's that moral conundrum---as well as Lind's incredible performance---that makes Blood on Her Name so unforgettable. With its down and dirty realism, this 85 minute thriller will have you asking yourself "what would I do" hours after you finish watching. 

12 Hour Shift

It's been an incredible year for Brea Grant. The multi-hyphenate wrote and directed this gnarly black comedy which centers on an organ trafficking scheme gone horribly wrong. The blood-soaked comedy of errors is led by the brilliant Angela Bettis who plays Mandy, a nurse at a local clinic who's been offing dying patients in order to sell their vital organs. Things get messy when her airheaded cousin gets involved and suddenly the bodies are piling up as the pair struggle to stay afloat. A hilariously dark ride, this is one of my favorite films of the year and is the perfect antidote to the outdated stereotypes that filled the premiere of Big Sky

The Hitch-Hiker 

Ida Lupino's masterfully scary noir came out nearly 70 years ago and still stands as one of the best and grimmest entries into the genre. Loosely inspired by the real life crime spree of Billy Cook, this black and white atmosphere piece follows a pair of friends, Ray (Edmond O'Brien) and Gilbert (Frank Lovejoy), who pick up the wrong passenger (William Talman) on the way home from a fishing trip. Lupino skillfully imbues every moment of the movie with nerve-shredding tension as Ray and Gilbert try to plot an escape from their new travelling companion. 


Sarah Paulson may be the big draw here but Kiera Allen is the one to watch in this twisted thriller from Searching director, Aneesh Chaganty. Diane (Paulson) and Chloe (Allen) live an apparently charmed life in their safe but secluded home. Chloe's a wheelchair user--as is Allen--and Diane is her carer, but there's something darker behind her mother's overbearing nature. This is a smart chiller in the vein of Misery with a radical touch as breakout star Allen is the first wheelchair user to lead a Hollywood thriller in 70 years. This one has to be seen to be believed and will hopefully spark a spate of disabled-led thrillers and genre flicks. 

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In the Cut

Jane Campion directs this beautifully shot erotic thriller starring Meg Ryan and Mark Ruffalo. Ryan is Frannie, a teacher who lives in NYC and witnesses a sexual assault that may be connected to a series of brutal murders. She soon becomes entangled with Ruffalo's detective who's investigating the crimes. Twisting and sensual, this is a story about attraction, danger, boundaries, and trust, all of which become more blurred as Frannie gets deeper into the case. 

The Long Goodbye

Are all of these too dark? Are you looking for something a little more relaxed, a little less strained, a little more filled with hot young Elliot Gould? Good news! Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye is the cinema's most delightful noir movie. Reimagining Philip Marlowe as a reluctant PI in '70s LA, Gould is at his best here accompanied by his hungry cat and the non-stop titular musical refrain which follows him around the city like a ghost. This is a neo-noir like no other that takes the classic tropes we expect and drenches them in LA sunlight and Hollywood neons.  

One False Move

Carl Franklin's 1992 crime-thriller is often forgotten but the brutal story of low-level crims turned spree killers---Ray (Billy Bob Thornton), Pluto (Michael Beach), and Fantasia (Cynda Williams)---is one wild ride. After a night of desperation leads to a series of murders, the trio of friends head across the country in order to sell the stash that they just stole. But a detective (Bill Paxton) is after the crew and whatever happens it's not going to end well for anyone. A gritty, violent, thriller with a stellar script that shines with smarts and a care for the characters at its center. 

Rosie Knight is an Eisner-winning journalist and author who's been writing professionally since 2005. Her career has taken her around the world and, although she hails from London, she currently resides in Los Angeles where she writes full time. She began as a professional poet but transitioned into journalism, starting at the Eisner-winning WWAC in 2016. Since then she has written over 1500 articles for digital media sites including What to Watch, Nerdist, IGN, The Hollywood Reporter, Esquire, Den of Geek, DC Comics, /Film, BuzzFeed, and Refinery29. She also writes comics including The Haunted High Tops and Cougar and Cub. When she's not writing she spends far too much time watching horror movies and Hallmark films.