29. Double Indemnity (1944)

An insurance representative lets himself be talked by a seductive housewife into a murder/insurance fraud scheme that arouses the suspicion of an insurance investigator.

To me, Double Indemnity is the quintessential film noir. Although, this film was made before that term had ever even been used. It has everything that a film noir should have: narration, a femme fatale, an air of mystery, dramatic lighting, fast dialogue, AND venetian blinds.

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Directed by Billy Wilder and written by Wilder and Raymond Chandler, Double Indemnity starred Fred MacMurray as insurance salesman Walter Neff and Barbara Stanwyck as Phyllis Dietrichson, the aforementioned Femme Fatale. The performance given by these two actors is absolutely incredible. The way MacMurray is able to play the confident guy while also being an absolute idiot is truly phenomenal. Stanwyck as Dietrichson is easily some of the best casting that has ever been done. We never know ifGIF 1944 film noir fred macmurray - animated GIF on GIFER we can trust the words coming out of Phyllis Dietrichson’s mouth, and that’s the genius of it.

Double Indemnity is one of the most atmospheric films I have ever seen, without question. The mise en scene of each scene is filled with so much detail. Every little thing serves a purpose, and that is to make you feel the film.

I want to take a moment to truly show some appreciation for Edward G. Robinson who plays insurance investigator Barton Keyes. The emotion and the way he describes what it’s like being an insurance investigator made me question my life choices. He had me thinking I should have done that instead. His emotion as he discovers that Walter Neff is in on defrauding the insurance company is heart wrenching.

I’m frustrated, though, for two reasons: 1. I want to say so much more about this film. I want to do a deep dive. But, it’s been tough for me to write anything lately. And, 2. I think this is just one of those films that you have to watch to understand why it’s so great. One thing is for certain, though:  Double Indemnity, without a doubt in my mind belongs, on this AFI list.

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