What Are the 5 Best Black and White Movies Ever Made?

The old classics, newer avant-garde, and cheap indies all chose black and white, but which exemplifies the palette best? 

Look, let's be real. There's not much going on in Hollywood. But this quiet time has given all of #FilmTwitter tons of things to talk about. And debate. And rank.

This week, the debate rages on over movies shot in black and white. 

While your gut takes you right to the classics, there are plenty of movies shot in black and white today for stylistic reasons. And color theory can give you an even deeper look into why certain colors are chosen by the filmmaker for their stories. 

Even black and white. 

That's why these films continue to be made and appreciated across generations. 

The smorgasbord of options here are deep. 

Here's the initial challenge from Twitter.  

When I was picking, I stuck to the classics. My ideas were all over the place. But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to include movies like The Last Picture Show, Frances Ha, and even Clerks

I mean, Schindler's List should rank high up there too! 

But when up against classics like Casablanca, Citizen Kane, and Psycho...do they hold a candle to them? 

Ranking movies is hard and also a thankless task, but I think it does help us distill our feelings for a certain genre, director, and even movement. 

Black and white used to be the only choice, but as the color film came into existence, it faded into the background. Now, many filmmakers are looking to black and white to accentuate the story or aesthetic they strive to put onto the big screen. 

From German expressionism to film noir, black and white films have pushed the boundaries of movie-making. Sometimes black and white is used to evoke reality in period pieces or to make people reminisce about a time gone by. 

But you can play on audience expectations by adding genre. 

Like when a black and white Godzilla harkens back to the photos of nuclear bomb drops and destruction of the 1940s. 

That's why it drives me nuts when people scoff at the idea of a black and white movie. People have a knee jerk reaction to the idea and assume the films are old, boring, unrealistic, and that they're missing something. 

But they're not. 

The absence of color can actually create an advantage in other areas of filmmaking and storytelling. 

Look, no one is saying black and white is better than color, but you have to see there are different advantages to both of them. It's a kind of artistry that can only come across when a filmmaker commits to one or the other. 

Black and white gives you a view of the world that does not exist in reality. 

The only place you can see this world is in a movie. 

That means the hypnotic effect of the lack of color makes dreams and nightmares feel alive. 

You can use this for madness, paranoia, and depression. 

But it can also steep you in love, romance, and passion.

Black and white emphasize the details within the story you put forward. 

What are your 5 favorite black and white movies? Let us know in the comments! 

What's Next? Here's Some of the Best Black & White Cinematography in Film History!

Ready to dive headfirst into the glory that is black and white imagery? Take a look at this list of the best films ever emblazoned in greyscale.     

Your Comment

6 Comments

1: raging bull
2: plesantville
3: Pi
4: following
5: m

April 30, 2020 at 1:41AM, Edited April 30, 1:41AM

2
Reply

My personal favorites are:

1. Citizen Cane
2. The Night of the Hunter
2. Psycho
4. Raging Bull
5. To Kill a Mockingbird

April 30, 2020 at 10:01AM

11
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Strangers on a Train
Casablanca
City Lights
Double Indemnity
Johnny Belinda
Out of the Past

April 30, 2020 at 10:25AM

0
Reply
avatar
Curtis Polk
Principal
304

1- Citizen Kane
2- Psyco
3- À bout de Souffle
4- El Acto en Cuestión
5- Hiroshima mon amour

April 30, 2020 at 7:53PM

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Mariano Fernandez Calabro
ALL IN ONE FILMMAKER
81

I. The Alphalt Jungle
II. Raging Bull
III. Double Indemnity
IV. Psycho
V. The Artist

May 4, 2020 at 12:07PM, Edited May 4, 12:08PM

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No specific order, among others:
• METROPOLIS
• ROMA
• DR. STRANGELOVE
• VIRIDIANA
• THE RAGING BULL

June 3, 2020 at 5:41PM

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Victor Villasenor-Tejeda
Graphic Artist
87