You have to admit that there's a certain allure to the criminal lifestyle. It's almost Darwinian: you take what you want, and those who don't get caught survive to pass the crime gene to their offspring. The popular romanticizing of the criminal lifestyle certainly hasn't been lost on Hollywood; the film industry loves to portray the inner workings of criminal organizations (perhaps because there's not really that much difference between a mob boss and a studio head. . . ).

Where does the fascination spring from? Perhaps it's due to the fact that identifying with criminals has a cathartic function, allowing us to vicariously live through the crimes of others so that we don't feel compelled to engage in them ourselves. Or perhaps it's because in most crime movies the criminal eventually gets caught, thus confirming our natural sense of justice. We leave such theories up to the bookworms that teach courses in film analysis and interpretation. We like crime movies because they show us an underside to our society that we don't get to see too often, and these people kick some ass.

You've probably heard of most of our picks for the top 5 crime movies (actually, 6 counting the two Godfather flicks). All of them were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, and all of them feature ample visions of violence: blood, guts, and an occasional horse decapitation. So without further ado, let's look at the scenes of the crimes . . .


This is a classic noir flick, see, and dames and fellas alike are gonna think the acting's swell and the plot's a real champ, I tell ya.

Judging from the dialogue in Double Indemnity, we imagine that the trailer sounded something like that back in 1944, chock full o' that campy 1940s lingo. But this is the movie from which all the rip-offs - or, as they're called in the business, homages - and parodies came. To give you an idea, this is the kind of movie where a character would introduce himself as a "private dick" in a voiceover. It's a prototypical black and white murder mystery with a twist, featuring insurance fraud, infidelity, and heavy sleuthing. What you won't expect is the sophistication of the film and how similar it is to contemporary cinema in the degree to which it exudes a cynicism for the human character.

The protagonist is Walter Neff, an insurance salesman back when that wasn't a job for lepers, and his high-octane banter is meant to be smooth talk. His target: a leggy dame, Phyllis Dietrichson, who's married to this rich gent. After their romance takes off, the two conspire to do away with Mr. Dietrichson and abscond with the insurance benefits. Needless to say, things don't work out perfectly.

This film is the ancestor of all mystery movies, and even though the era of Agatha Christie adaptations may have passed, we can still see the impressions of Double Indemnity in modern whodunnits like The Usual Suspects and The Spanish Prisoner.


  • Nominated for 7 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Actress, Director, and Screenplay

  • Placed #38 on the American Film Institute's "100 Greatest Movies" List