August 1, 2015

Here's Some of the Best Black & White Cinematography in Film History

Black and White Cinematography Montage Roger Deakins
There are few things that I love more than good black and white cinematography.

Recently, Zach Prewitt of Plot Point Productions cut together another fantastic montage (he's also responsible for one of the best supercuts of Roger Deakins' work we've ever seen). This time, Zach brings together some of the most memorable black and white moments in cinematic history. You can turn on the closed captioning to see the individual films listed as subtitles. I've also listed them below the video. Anyhow, check it out:

Here are the films that made an appearance in this supercut:

  • Persona
  • A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
  • Rumble Fish
  • Killer's Kiss
  • Manhattan
  • Letter Never Sent
  • The Night of the Hunter
  • Ivan's Childhood
  • The Better Angels
  • The Man Who Wasn't There
  • The Stranger
  • The Good German
  • Schindler's List
  • Raging Bull
  • Metropolis
  • Kuroneko
  • Sunset Boulevard
  • Ida
  • Out of the Past
  • The Third Man
  • Odd Man Out
  • Psycho
  • Good Night, and Good Luck
  • Through a Glass, Darkly
  • Concrete Night
  • The Big Combo

Sure, black and white may be most associated with older films -- films made before color was an option. Even after color stocks became the norm, however, directors and cinematographers continued to choose to shoot some projects in black and white. And it's still a popular choice today, as many of the films in that montage are from the past year. Put simply, it's a unique aesthetic that just works well for some stories. Not to mention that, as a cinematographer, shooting in black and white is as challenging as it is fun because it forces you to use contrast more intentionally and expressively than you might otherwise.

What are some of your favorite black and white films, and what particular shots from those films stand out the most to you? Let us know down in the comments!      

Your Comment

14 Comments

I'd like to refer you to another often overlooked, but stunningly shot black and white film: Paper Moon, by Peter Bogdanovich. I believe he consulted Orson Welles about the cinematography. The scene at the train depot is truly remarkable.

August 1, 2015 at 8:59PM

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Wow, simply breathtaking at times!

August 1, 2015 at 9:00PM

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Gvickie Xiong
Editor/Cinematographer/Director
782

I think "La Haine" (1995, it means "hate") is one of the newer films which is best suited for black and white cinematography. During the film you follow three teenagers through their lives in the suburbs of Paris for about 48h. The cinematography captures the feeling of an upcoming riot perfectly and lets you witness the main characters´ attitudes so purely.

The most memorable scenes for me were the "mirror-scene" where the characters find themselves in a public bathroom during their night stroll through Paris. It is shot similar to Birdman; steadycam and only a few cuts. And despite of the quick back and forth bewteen the characters who are having an argument and the room being full of mirrors you never see the camera... it´s really film magic.

And the second one was a shot where a guy with some serious turntable skills makes some music from his 10th floor apartment with open windows and a set of loud speakers so his fellas can hear it all around the block. After a short time the camera somhow flies out of the window, above the trees and other buildings, escaping this desperate life of the banlieues. It really gave me goosebumps!!
It´s a great film overall I highly recommend it. But it´s quite intense, so nothing for a light valentine´s day evening ;-)

P.S: sorry about any incorrect spelling/ unusal word choice etc. I´m not a native speaker

August 1, 2015 at 11:20PM

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As Arthur mentioned, "La Haine" is great. Orsen Welles' "The Trial" should be on that list, as well as a 1999 film "The Woman Chaser" which featured outstanding comedic cinematography.

August 2, 2015 at 2:53AM, Edited August 2, 2:53AM

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Jaan Shenberger
designer/animator & live-action director/DP
1267

The Apu Trilogy by Satyajit Ray are awesome work in black and white.

August 2, 2015 at 7:10AM

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Gaurav Dhwaj Khadka
Filmmaker
10191

I remember the beautiful work of cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr. on Tetro. I can also talk about my first feature film called «Left Foot Right Foot» shot in black and white like all my projects. The film is about the passage from adolescence to adulthood, skateboarding and rock and roll. If you want to see the trailer it's here: https://vimeo.com/75700739
It’s in french with no english subtitles (sorry for that !).

August 2, 2015 at 12:23PM

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GERMINAL ROAUX
Screenwriter and Film Director
74

Woman in the Dunes, by Hiroshi Teshigahara, is worthy of a look. Loved the close up b/w textures of sand, etc.

August 3, 2015 at 1:45AM, Edited August 3, 1:45AM

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I thought Steven Soderbergh's 'Kafka' was pretty cool looking when I saw it in 1991.

Nebraska

Knife In The Water - for a very understated, natural light look.

Was Citizen Kane not included for some reason?

Too bad, only a couple of those included in 'Bright Night' are available on Netflix.

August 3, 2015 at 1:30PM, Edited August 3, 1:30PM

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Richard Krall
richardkrall.com
640

Pleased to see Concrete Night there. Though not the best film in terms of script & directing, Peter Flinckenberg won ASC spotlight award earlier this year for his work on this. Excellent cinematographer from the home country, one to watch!

August 4, 2015 at 7:29AM, Edited August 4, 7:29AM

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PJ Palomaki
Cinematographer | Motion Graphics
423

François Truffaut's "The Soft Skin" is well worth watching for some excellent black and white cinematography. Very crisp.

Also Tarkovsky's "Andrei Rublev".

August 5, 2015 at 6:10AM, Edited August 5, 6:10AM

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Balthazar
English Cinephile
273

There are so many wonderful B&W films. Women in the Dunes, all of Fellini's B&W..La Strada, 8 1/2 etc, and a wonderful one that I'm surprised didn't make the list - Asphalt Jungle. The Seven Sammuri....too many to mention really...but I loved the collection you put together.

August 6, 2015 at 4:12PM

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Alan Austin
Artist/Photographer/Cinematographer
88

Gorgeous. That Clint Mansell score helped as well though...one of my all-time favourites.

August 13, 2015 at 4:39AM, Edited August 13, 4:39AM

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Guido Gautsch
Education Person
286

Amazing.

August 16, 2015 at 12:53AM, Edited August 16, 12:53AM

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Grace Snell
Amatuer
88

Beautiful montage!

June 4, 2016 at 2:16AM, Edited June 4, 2:30AM

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Simon
Editor
8