The term film noir
, French for "black film",
first applied to Hollywood films by French critic Nino Frank
in 1946, was unrecognized by most American film industry professionals of that era.
Cinema historians and critics defined the category retrospectively. Before the notion was widely adopted in the 1970s, many of the classic films noirs[a]
were referred to as melodramas
. Whether film noir qualifies as a distinct genre
is a matter of ongoing debate among scholars.