The film opens with credits washing down the screen over a picture of the Maltese Falcon followed by the legend written across the screen. This makes the falcon seem mysterious from the beginning and you wonder why it's being hidden. Then there is a slow pan of a dark and gray San Fransico ending with a focus on an office window of Spade and Archer. The writing on the window is shown written backwards showing that all is not right in this office. .
Sam Spade and Miles Archer are two private detectives in San Fransico who are hired by a Miss Wonderly, to follow a man. Miles is murdered while following the man, Spade realizes that his new client isn't really who she says she is, and Spade becomes involved with finding the statue of the Maltese Falcon. Spade is introduced to a variety of characters who are all trying to obtain the Falcon and go as far murdering to obtain it. .
The storyline in this movie was a good portrayal of human greed, where no one is who they claim to be. The characters would do anything to get the falcon or, "stuff that dreams are made of". The film is told subjectively giving us Spade's point of view allowing us to only know what he knows. Spade shows little remorse for his partners death making it seem as though Archer wasn't a good man, or maybe it was because Spade was sleeping with his wife. .
The leading man, Spade, is shown as a smooth talker who is strong rather then weak unlike the classic noir male protagonists. He keeps his sense of morals throughout the story. He negotiates his way through the story and doesn't let the femme fatale lead him to a cycle of destruction. Instead Spade sends her to jail because, "When a man's partner's killed, he's supposed to do something about it.". .
The femme fatale in this story is Brigid. She is portrayed as a competitor to men, manipulative, and dangerous. She's and innocent looking bad girl who is trying to get Spade to do her dirty work so she can leave with the falcon.