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The Black Dahlia (2006)



Average Rating: 4.8/10
Reviews Counted: 185
Fresh: 60 | Rotten: 125

Though this ambitious noir crime-drama captures the atmosphere of its era, it suffers from subpar performances, a convoluted story, and the inevitable comparisons to other, more successful films of its genre.


Average Rating: 4.4/10
Critic Reviews: 43
Fresh: 6 | Rotten: 37

Though this ambitious noir crime-drama captures the atmosphere of its era, it suffers from subpar performances, a convoluted story, and the inevitable comparisons to other, more successful films of its genre.



liked it
Average Rating: 2.6/5
User Ratings: 97,159

My Rating

Movie Info

Director Brian De Palma returns to the helm for the first time since 2002's Femme Fatale with this stylish screen adaptation of James Ellroy's novel detailing one of the most notorious unsolved murders in Hollywood history. Elizabeth Short (Mia Kirshner) was a struggling actress looking to make a name for herself in 1940s-era Tinseltown. Unfortunately for Elizabeth, it was her grim fate that would ultimately overshadow anything she would accomplish during her short and tragic career. When police


Mystery & Suspense, Drama

Dec 26, 2006


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All Critics (193) | Top Critics (45) | Fresh (60) | Rotten (125) | DVD (17)

Ellroy's prose crawls into characters' secret hearts and under the reader's skin, but its foetid horrors become kitschy here, the script too streamlined and the lead performances too shallow to dredge the story's depths.

September 23, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The picture is a kind of fattened goose that's been stuffed with goose-liver pâté. It's overrich and fundamentally unsatisfying.

September 23, 2006
New Yorker
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This is far from one of the director's better efforts and should be avoided by all those who are not sworn De Palma boosters.

September 23, 2006 Full Review Source: ReelViews
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Mr. De Palma and his collaborators have been unable to translate Mr. Ellroy's depth of feeling into cinematic equivalents.

September 20, 2006 Full Review Source: New York Observer | Comment (1)
New York Observer
Top Critic IconTop Critic

There are moments when The Black Dahlia projects a spectral world, but its ghosts in broad daylight are elusive at best.

September 15, 2006 Full Review Source: Village Voice
Village Voice
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The Black Dahlia feels wobbly and uncertain.

September 15, 2006 Full Review Source: | Comment (1)
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The Black Dahlia doesn't solve the eternal De Palma dilemma, but it sure does fascinate.

February 17, 2014 Full Review Source: Stop Smiling
Stop Smiling

An over indulgent and often confusing stab at film noir, The Black Dahlia leaves little to be desired as director Brian De Palma continues to prove that his best days are behind him.

July 6, 2010 Full Review Source: Matt's Movie Reviews
Matt's Movie Reviews

Visual marvel after visual marvel

August 30, 2009 Full Review Source: CinePassion

DePalma is like a magician who dazzles us with a trick only to show us, alas, it really was only a trick, and in the meantime he's stolen our watch.

April 26, 2008 Full Review Source: Beyond Hollywood
Beyond Hollywood

You've barely time to soak up one revelation before another one is dumped on you from a great height.

December 7, 2007 Full Review Source: Eye for Film
Eye for Film

Won't do much to dissuade the common rap against De Palma as a cold technician who takes projects just for the elaborate set pieces they provide him.

July 23, 2007 Full Review Source:

With skeletons flying out of the closet at every turn, this overplotted mess unfolds more like a dumb, daytime soap opera than a well-crafted crime thriller.

April 27, 2007 Full Review Source: EURWeb

You have to wonder just how vibrant the film would have been during the Reagan or Clinton administration, when De Palma was in his prime.

March 24, 2007 Full Review Source: UGO

A stellar cast of marquee names, coupled with an all-star crew, can't make this entry work.

March 1, 2007 Full Review Source: Film Journal International
Film Journal International

... ends up being forgettable enough that someone else in the future may still be able to take another stab at the idea.

January 28, 2007 Full Review Source:

I can't say anything really stood out in a positive way.

December 30, 2006 Full Review Source: 3BlackChicks Review
3BlackChicks Review

Filled with atmosphere and attitude to spare, "The Black Dahlia" is film noir at it's finest.

December 13, 2006 Full Review Source: Nolan's Pop Culture Review | Comment (1)
Nolan's Pop Culture Review

It meticulously resembles a 60 year-old Hollywood artifact, but with a contemporary cynicism.

November 22, 2006 Full Review

The Black Dahlia revels in its stylish noir production, even though it gets lost in the maze of its zigzagging plot lines.

November 18, 2006 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

Ghost World: Keith Uhlich on The Black Dahlia for Reverse Shot's Brian de Palma symposium.

November 11, 2006 Full Review Source: Reverse Shot
Reverse Shot

The Black Dahlia turns out to be something of questionable structural integrity, pieced together from old movies.

November 11, 2006 Full Review Source: The Nation
The Nation

De Palma ... does little more than retrace his steps ...

November 5, 2006 Full Review Source: Star-Democrat (Easton, MD)
Star-Democrat (Easton, MD)

At no time does the film turn into a satisfying mystery where the audience feels compelled to guess along with our racing detectives.

November 4, 2006 Full Review Source: Arts

Frustrating but fascinating, with moments that refuse to be shrugged off

October 20, 2006 Full Review Source: Film Experience
Film Experience

De Palma's lamentable decision to reign in his wild directorial flourishes certainly doesn't do the film any favors...

October 15, 2006 Full Review Source: Reel Film Reviews
Reel Film Reviews

Audience Reviews for The Black Dahlia

Unfortunately the criticism that this film has received is deserved. It is pretty boring and just plain laughable at times. I really wish I'd read the book first as I've heard it's quite good, I've even got it on the shelf but this was on TV and I thought I'd give it a go. It's no LA Confidential that's for sure. Josh Hartnett does no wrong as such but he doesn't really do much at all, same goes for Aaron Eckhart too I'm sorry to say. Hilary Swank started out well but then turned into the most stupid character of all time, Fiona Shaw is hilarious as her mad mother, turning would should be a gritty drama into a pantomime and Scarlett Johansson spends the entire film trying to play a good actress instead of actually acting well. I believe she thinks all she has to do is pout, indeed, when in doubt...
By the time the film ends and you know 'Who done it' you past caring (or believing). Not Brian De Palma's best film.
May 8, 2013

Super Reviewer

Based on James Ellroy's novel, that is in turn based on one of the most notorious unsolved murders of all time, this represents another step in Brian De Palma's increasing irrelevance.

That's harsh, I know, but sadly it's true. This had potential to be good, and there's a great film to be made on this subject, but this isn't that film, and almost all of the potential is squandered.

A major problem is that a lot of the time, the murder of wannabe actress Elizabeth Short takes a back seat to the story of the partnership between two detectives, and how the case (and other issues) are affecting them. It's plodding, meandering, and, while I'm okay with complex movies, this one is just too convoluted and messy for its own good. Not only that, but perhaps worst of all, you really don't care about the people or what happens.

The film is populated by well known performers such as Josh Hartnett, Aaron Eckhart, Scarlett Johansson, and Hilary Swank, as well as wonderful character actor Mike Starr, but none of them really impress all that much. I do like how Eckhart, and especially Swank do these really pronounced "actor-y" accents, but they've all been far better elsewhere.

Being De Palma, the film is shot well, with trademark camera moves, angles, and expressive lighting, but that's really the only highlight. The music is typical for period piece neo-noirs, but unfortunately just made me think more of the music from Chinatown than anything else.

All in all, this is a real letdown. I like De Palma, or rather, I try to find enjoyment out of his place in film history, but it really bugs me that he's gone downhill, especially since I really don't know why.
February 4, 2013
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

The Black Dahlia was a film that I was really looking forward to seeing. Upon its release, I saw it, and was very, very disappointed in what I saw. This was a film that had so much potential and it was wasted. Brian DePalma has a solid cast of actors, yet his direction is sloppy. I thought that the films premise was good, but halfway through the film, everything falls apart, and the film just drags on, and becomes boring, unimpressive and dull. I think if the film would have been trimmed slightly in length, and the material reworked, The Black Dahlia could have been a stellar mystery film. Unfortunately, not even the excellent cast can save this boring film. The film had plenty of potential to being great, but instead it suffers from long, tired scenes of painful dialogue and the film's story just lingers and goes no where and when there's something that actually is interesting that happens, it's too little too late. The end result is a film that doesn't satisfy and really just disappoints. I thought this film was ultimately terrible, and is one of DePalma's worst efforts. The film could have been good, but DePalma's directing is unfocused and doesn't know where he wants to take the audience, therefore we're left in a boring trance trying to figure out really what is going on. Well, that's not hard to guess, there's nothing going on here, except a potentially great mystery thriller that has been wasted by a director past his prime. That's about it. The Black Dahlia is a boring, dull film and if you're looking for an excellent murder thriller, this film definitely isn't it. I think it's a shame that Brian DePalma wasted such a varied cast of talented actors and I think that if the film would have been directed by someone else, this film would have turned out quite differently. Avoid.
November 30, 2011
Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski

Super Reviewer

Despite this brilliant cast with equally brilliant performances, I could tell from the very start that I wouldn't like this film. It's far too wordy and I just couldn't understand what was going on. It was very difficult to follow and felt like it lasted an age.
August 22, 2011

Super Reviewer

    1. Dwight 'Bucky' Bleichert: The basic rule of homicide applies. Nothing stays buried forever. Nothing.
    – Submitted by Frances H (15 months ago)
    1. Emmett Linscott: Hearty fare breeds hearty people. Haute Cusine breeds degenerates.
    – Submitted by Frances H (15 months ago)
    1. Dwight 'Bucky' Bleichert: Who's this?
    2. Madeleine Cathcart Linscott: Balto. The paper is the L.A. Times for Aug. 1, 1926. Balto was bringing in the paper when Daddy found out he made his first million. And he wanted to consecrate the moment, so he shot him.
    – Submitted by Frances H (15 months ago)
    1. Kay Lake: Do you have a girlfriend, dwight?
    2. Dwight 'Bucky' Bleichert: I'm saving myself for Rita Hayworth.
    – Submitted by Frances H (15 months ago)
    1. Dwight 'Bucky' Bleichert: Mr. Fire VS Mr. Ice. For everything people were making it out to be you'd think it was our first fight.It wasn't. And it wouldn't be our last.
    – Submitted by Frances H (15 months ago)
View all quotes (5)

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Foreign Titles

  • Le Dahlia noir (FR)
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