November 8, 2015 at 7:06PM


Best Old Films to Study?

What are some of the best old black and white films to study? I have heard that the older movies made by directors like Alfred Hitchcock are the best to study, but which ones are the best?


Man, that's a big question. But great stuff to look into! I'm by no means an expert, but I did go to film school, and I have a big appreciation for old films. Here are some recommendations to start with--just a drop in the bucket though!

Silent films. You probably think they're lame, but many of them are extraordinary. Also, because at that time the "rules" of filmmaking and continuity hadn't been established, you can get some interesting ideas that you won't see often today.
Check out anything by Buster Keaton, especially The General and Sherlock Jr.
F.W. Murnau was a master filmmaker. He's most known for Nosferatu and Sunrise, which is one of my favorites. And it's hard to find, but The Crowd is one of my favorite films of all time (by King Vidor). And then of course The Passion of Joan of Arc and Man with a Movie Camera. Also, Broken Blossoms.

As you enter the early sound era, your classics are going to be Gone With the Wind, M by Fritz Lang, Bringing Up Baby, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and Stagecoach, but also check out some of the gangster films of the early 30's. Scarface and G-Men are probably the essential picks.

Moving into the 40's you have a ton to look forward to. My favorites are Raw Deal, Double Indemnity, The Maltese Falcon, Citizen Kane, The Third Man, Bicycle Thieves, Casablanca, Notorious, The Grapes of Wrath, Rome Open City, Laura, The Ox Bow Incident, and Mildred Pierce.

You could spend a year working through the 50's. So much awesome stuff! Seven Samurai, Vertigo, Ordet, The Searchers, Touch of Evil, Night of the Hunter, On the Waterfront, The 400 Blows, Sunset Blvd., Rear Window, Rio Bravo, The Gunfighter, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Pather Panchali, Wild Strawberries, 12 Angry Men, The Asphalt Jungle, High Noon, Rebel Without a Cause.

Not all of those are black and white, but they're all pretty old at least. Some other really great black and white films include Breathless by Godard, Psycho, To Kill a Mockingbird, Rashomon, Manhattan, Kind Hearts and Coronets, Sabotage, 8 1/2, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

Hope that helps!

November 8, 2015 at 10:44PM

Kenneth Merrill

Thanks so much for all the help!

Stephen Crawford

November 9, 2015 at 4:29AM

In my opinion, its impossible to watch a film and not learn something from it, so with that being said I'd encourage you watch anything you want from the silent era (even starting with Melies and the Lumiere brothers) all the way through the 60's (if you want to concentrate on black and white films, many early to mid 60's European films were still shot in black and white).

If you want specific recommendations though, I'll list some directors that I enjoyed or learned something from:
- Robert Bresson
- Andrei Tarkovsky
- Frederico Fellini
- Louis Malle
- Alfred Hitchcock (even his color films; I really learned how "modern" a director Hitchcock was at the time. None of this films looked like anything else at the time, from camera movement to framing.)
- Ingmar Berman
- Orson Welles
- Vittorio De Sica

This isn't comprehensive, but it should give you a good start. Never stop watching and learning!

November 18, 2015 at 10:21AM, Edited November 18, 10:22AM

Emerson Shaw

don't miss great old directors like
james whale, jack arnold, who inspire entire generation like spielberg and company.
often be cause they are famous for b movie like Frankenstein or Monster of black Lagoon many critics lack to talk about their talent only because they grow with b genre, but Spielberg hiself define him like Director of Bgenre.
Every guy have his preferred directors, in past there are many talented directors that did gems of narration with small tools.
Other are : Sam Peckinpah (strong and powerful), John Milius, Werner Herzog, George Miller (that do Babe, Happy feet, but he create a post Apocalipt genre with MadMax...) Old but not so old directors.

December 4, 2015 at 3:34AM

Carlo Macchiavello
Director (with strong tech knowledge)

Sam Peckinpah would be a great choice!

October 31, 2019 at 10:53AM

You voted '+1'.

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