Neo-noir (English: New-black; from the Greek neo, new; and the French noir, black) is a style often seen in modern motion pictures and other forms that prominently use elements of film noir, a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, but with updated themes, content, style, visual elements or media that were absent in film noir of the 1940s and 1950s.
The term film noir (French for "black film") was coined by critic Nino Frank in 1946, but was rarely used by filmmakers, critics or fans until several decades later. The classic era of film noir is usually dated to a period between the early 1940s and the late 1950s. Typically American crime dramas or psychological thrillers, films noir had a number of common themes and plot devices, and many distinctive visual elements. Characters were often conflicted antiheroes, trapped in a difficult situation and making choices out of desperation or nihilistic moral systems. Visual elements included low-key lighting, striking use of light and shadow, and unusual camera placement.
Although there have been few new major films in the classic film noir genre since the early 1960s, it has nonetheless had significant impact on other genres. These films usually incorporate both thematic and visual elements reminiscent of film noir. Both classic and neo-noir films are often independent features.
It was not until after 1970 that film critics began to consider "neo-noir" as a separate genre by its own definition. However, noir and post-noir terminology (such as "neo-classic", "hard-boiled", etc.) in modern application are often disclaimed by both critics and practitioners alike due to the obscurity of such an unrefined genre. For example, James M. Cain, author of The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity, is considered to be one of the defining authors of hard-boiled fiction. Yet, Cain is quoted as saying, "I belong to no school, hard-boiled or otherwise, and I believe these so-called schools exist mainly in the imagination of critics, and have little correspondence in reality anywhere else."
Robert Arnett states that "Neo-noir has become so amorphous as a genre/movement, any film featuring a detective or crime qualifies."