Louis Malle's 1958 film Elevator to the Gallows was, arguably, the beginning of the French New Wave movement in cinema. Inarguably, it's simply one of the coolest movies ever. Three elements combine to create this apogee of cool: a moody, sultry score by Miles Davis; the rainy, atmosphere-drenched streets of Paris; and starlet Jeanne Moreau's eyes, which alone are worth the price of admission.

Moreau is bewitching as Florence, the wife of a powerful, dangerous businessman with military interests in Indochina. The film opens with the murder of Florence's husband by her lover, Julien. Julien is an ex-paratrooper who uses his military stealth skills to sneak in and commit the crime—except he gets stuck in the elevator on the way out of the building. He spends a miserable night trapped alone with a dwindling supply of cigarettes, oblivious to the strange events unfolding outside.

When Julien fails to arrive at their post-murder rendezvous, Florence fears he's left her for another woman; numb with shock, she roams the streets of Paris searching for him, seemingly drawn through the rainy streets by Davis' haunting score. Elsewhere, two young Parisians go on a reckless crime spree, their actions driven by a sense of hopelessness.

When eventually Florence is arrested and taken to the police station, she discovers that Julien is wanted for a different crime—and as she tracks down the real culprits, the storylines converge with a momentum that feels inevitable. The plot is tense and urgent, full of bloodshed, mistaken identity, and dangerous passion, yet the cinematography remains aloof and objective, creating an irresistible tension between what the camera sees and the way the camera sees it. The total effect is of glamour, danger, and—you guessed it—as perfect of a definition of "coolness" as you've ever seen.