Best Film Noir Movies – Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

One of the best film noir films, Sweet Smell of Success (1957), is an American movie classic.

It is on Times magazine’s list of top 100 movies ever filmed.

One of America's best drama movies and film noir classics, the Sweet Smell of Success movie is known for sharp dialogue, beautiful cinematography and memorable performances by classic movie actors Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis.

Best Film Noir Movies - Sweet Smell of Success (1957) Graffiti

Best Film Noir Movies – Plot Teaser

In 1950’s New York, a powerful newspaper columnist deems his sister’s relationship with a jazz guitarist undesirable.

He uses his power to bully a press agent into framing the musician and destroying his reputation.

Best Film Noir Movies – Movie Ratings


Rotten Tomatoes


Love it!

98% critics reviews

90% viewers reviews

8.1/10 critics and viewers movie reviews

Film Noir Films – Movie Review

The film noir movie was a flop at the box office in 1957. People didn't get what they expected.

For one, the two movie stars, young actor Tony Curtis and a Hollywood heavyweight Burt Lancaster, played unusually nasty characters. In their previous movie together, Trapeze, they were macho acrobats clad in tights, showing off bare torsos. The public wanted more of that.

One of the best film noir movies was also very dark and cynical. It gave a glimpse of the other side of New York’s glamour and power. And it wasn't pretty. Sam Kashner of Vanity Fair said that Sweet Smell of Success was to New York what Sunset Boulevard (1950), also one of the film noir classics, was to Los Angeles.

Critics loved it. It was one of the top rated movies of 1957.

The American movie classic was loosely based on life of Walter Winchell. Walter who?...

Walter Winchell was a gossip columnist. Vanity Fair reports that at the height of his career in 1930’s “50 million people - two thirds of American adults - read Winchell’s syndicated column and listened to his Sunday-night radio broadcast.” His influence was likened to that of the president of the United States of America. And he did have a darker side, which the film noir movie capitalized on.

Best Film Noir Movies - Sweet Smell of Success (1957) 21
Best Film Noir Movies - Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

The movie is one of the finest films about New York and its night life. Interestingly enough, it was filmed by a movie director who was born in Boston to Scottish parents, was raised in Scotland and made a career in England filming successful dark comedy movies. Alexander Mackendrick was an unlikely choice for a film noir about New York.

Alexander Mackendrick, apart from his genius, brought three main things to the movie:

  1. Clifford Odets, a brilliant scriptwriter responsible for the dialogue
  2. James Wong Howe, one of the most influential cinematographers ever
  3. A counter-power to Burt Lancaster. Sweet Smell of Success was a Burt Lancaster film – he was the star and the producer. He also wasn't used to a second opinion.

Vanity Fair’s article on Sweet Smell of Success was called “A Movie Called Danger”, referring to constant tensions and conflicts throughout the production. Elmer Bernstein, the composer of the film noir’s unique jazz score, likened the production of one of the best film noir movies to “a snake pit”.

50 years after movie’s initial release and far away from the tensions on the production, we admire the cinematography, the acting and the dialogue of one of the film noir classics. They simply don’t make movies like this any more.

Film Noir Movies – Movie Recommendation

If you want to see a true villain, not a James Bond type, but a true, scary and believable villain – watch Sweet Smell of Success - one of the best Burt Lancaster movies.

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Best Film Noir Movies - Sunset Boulevard (1950) Graffiti

Film Noir Movies – Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Directed by a Hollywood legend, Billy Wilder, this film noir was originally envisioned as a satire comedy. It ended up being one of the best drama movies about Hollywood. One of the best film noir movies, Sunset Boulevard ranks high in the top 100 movies ever list by American Film Institute.

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Best Comedy Films - Some Like it Hot (1959)

One of the best of Tony Curtis movies. Among the best comedy films of all time, also directed by Billy Wilder. A classic screwball comedy film with elements of best film noir movies. Arguably the best of Marilyn Monroe movies.

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