Some of Humphrey Bogart’s best and most complicated performances were in films with a lot of smoke, deep shadows, and tragic stories about detectives or criminals.
While Humphrey Bogart was one of the greatest Hollywood movie stars in decades past, he was best known for his work in the film noir genre. As a private investigator or a journalist, Bogart would often play a hero or a decent guy.
Bogart, not Gary Cooper or Mickey Rooney, was one of the few leading men of his era who was both talented and willing to take on the role of a villain. He became well-known for his portrayals of corrupt tycoons and other criminals. True to pattern, Bogart’s portrayals of both heroes and villains were authentic in his best film noirs.
1. High Sierra (1941) – 7.5
An ex-convict mobster (Bogart) decides to one final theft before reentering society. Keeping the want tobe criminals in control and finding himself entangled in a love triangle aren’t as straightforward as they first appear. A possibly cursed dog falls in love with him as well.
Actor Humphrey Bogart manages to merge his heroism with his villainy for an impressive portrayal as a gangster who longs for a regular life. The tragic and dark nature of this early film noir is evident, but it begins with a dose of humor that makes the terrible finale all the more poignant.
2. Dark Passage (1947) – 7.5
Despite being convicted of murder, Vincent Parry maintains his innocence. His face has been in the press for a while, so he gets backroom plastic surgery to change himself in order to prove his innocence. He is taken in by a caring female artist who has a place to call home.
Cinematography in films of the noir genre is well-known for being memorable and expressive. It was shot from the perspective of Bogart’s character, who isn’t visible until after the surgery, until the beginning of Dark Passage. As a first-person noir, this picture could be included on a list of underappreciated noirs. With real-life spouses Bogart and Bacall playing the leads, the film’s fundamental romance is engrossing on an emotional level.
3. The Harder They Fall (1956) – 7.6
An accomplished sports journalist named Eddie Willis just lost his job due to the closure of his previous firm. When he runs out of money, he gets a job as a publicist for an Argentinian boxer who is just getting his start. Willis notices that this boxer doesn’t know how to box, and he begins to think that something more is going on.
In addition to private investigators, boxing or boxer dramas are a common theme in cinema noir, with prominent examples like Body and Soul and The Setup. This was Humphrey Bogart’s penultimate film before he died of esophageal cancer, and it garnered a nomination for best cinematography at the Oscars for its favorable critical reaction. A documentary-style realism with an absurd plot of blackmailing and murdering is what makes The Harder They Fall so popular.
4. Key Largo (1948) – 7.8
A WWII veteran named Frank McCloud (Bogart) visits the family of a deceased fellow soldier and becomes stuck in their hotel room. As much as the storm that swept over the city had to do with this, the hotel was also to blame for the presence of masked gang members. How much of himself is he prepared to give up for the sake of his long-dead pal?
The final picture in which Bogart co-starred with Lauren Bacall and the final film in which he co-starred with Edward G. Robinson, who featured in five Bogart films. Claire Trevor received the Oscar for best supporting actress for her depiction as a devastated soldier in this film. As one of Bogart’s best gangster films and a brilliant film noir, Key Largo has a slew of outstanding performances from Hollywood’s biggest stars and supporting players.
5. To Have and Have Not (1944) – 7.8
On the French island of Martinique, Harry Morgan (Bogart) and an alcoholic companion run a charter boat business. Their clientele dry up as France succumbs to the Nazis during World War II, and they are offered the chance to smuggle French resistance members to the island.
Howard Hawks, a legendary director, made a noir film out on Ernest Hemingway’s novel of the same name. Bogart and his future wife Lauren Bacall made their film debuts together in this film, which was also Lauren’s first film role. When the characters and actors fall in love with each other, the audience is able to see it as well, making their moments even more tense.
6. Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) – 7.9
Bogart pretends he doesn’t know that the mobster has just been freed from prison and demands $100,000 for taking the fall for him. The mobster creates an effect on the street kids of the area while he is attempting to obtain his money, and his childhood friend turned priest urges him to correct the kids.
Two Bogart-James Cagney gangster pictures were made, the second starring Bogart and the American Film Institute’s top-rated actor. It was Bogart’s turn to shine as the ruthless mobster who was trying to ruin Cagney’s former partner. This film was a commercial and critical success as well as a timeless classic of the noir genre. Bogart relishes his one-dimensional part as the evil nemesis and demonstrates why Warner Bros. chose him as the heavy in his pictures of the 1930s.
7. The Roaring Twenties (1939) – 7.9
Three men’s lives come together twice: once while serving in World War I, and again years later when they reunite and begin a bootlegging enterprise.. During war, troops create a camaraderie that can withstand the temptations of criminals as well as the demands of law enforcement.
Warner Bros. gangster flicks made both Bogart and James Cagney famous, and this is one of the best vintage Hollywood gangster pictures of all time. They appeared in a gangster picture for the second time and the final time. In this film, they play characters who are extremely similar, but they bring completely different techniques to the roles they play.
8. The Big Sleep (1946) – 7.9
A wealthy general hires private investigator Philip Marlowe (Bogart) to track down his daughter, who is being blackmailed over gambling debts. As he becomes sucked into a web of love triangles, organized crime, blackmail, and murder, Marlowe may have overreached himself.
Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall reunited once again for another film directed by Howard Hawks. Although the original cut is more comprehensible than the re-edited version, the re-edited version provided audiences more of the Bogart and Bacall romance and a stronger mystery in the film.
9. In a Lonely Place (1950) – 8.0
It’s the screenwriter Dixon Steele (Bogart) who’s the prime suspect in the murder of a hat-check attendant, if their long chat and dark sense of humor weren’t enough to tip off the authorities. Unfortunately, his neighbor may come to regret providing him with a bogus alibi.
In 2005, Time Magazine included this film in its “100 Greatest Movies of All Time” list, and the film’s renown has only increased since then. One of Humphrey Bogart’s all-time most memorable performances was a satirical take on the values of the movie industry.
10. The Maltese Falcon (1941) – 8.0
Spade and Archer, a San Francisco private investigation firm, receives a call one evening from a woman who claims to be hunting for her missing sister. Spade (Bogart) is the only one left to figure out what happened to Archer when he chased her down. There are three weird criminals who are hunting the iconic jewel-encrusted falcon statue, and Spade finds himself in their crosshairs
As John Huston’s directorial debut (The African Queen, Key Largo), it got three Oscar nominations for best picture and best adapted screenplay, among others. This is a classic film noir starring a private investigator, with Humphrey Bogart playing the role convincingly.