This article is essentially a recommendation (without qualifying remarks) of a film that really needs no introduction: Sunset Boulevard. But because I’m in the business of writing things that might interest or entertain you, I am going to approach this recommendation from the following angle: Sunset Boulevard represents one of the best uses of a protagonist narrator in the past hundred years of film.
Using the protagonist as a narrator is a tactic that is abundantly present in the noir genre from which Sunset Boulevard derives many of its tropes. But this technique has varying degrees of success. Most people can name at least one use of the protagonist narrator that probably did not turn out quite like the director envisioned it (a reasonably modern example is Harrison Ford’s narration in Blade Runner, which was entirely removed from the director’s cut and final cut of the film).
When its exposition is not overbearing and obvious, the narrator’s voice can be an inoffensive tool to transition from scene to scene. What sets Sunset Boulevard so far ahead, however, is its use of the narrator (Joe Gillis, portrayed by William Holden) to support the thematic content of the film.
The nature of this article is such that it requires spoiling basic plot details of Sunset Boulevard, so you should only continue reading after this paragraph if you either do not mind spoilers or have already seen the film.