Despite the dominance of color, black-and-white movies are not dead. And, more times than not, black-and-white films go hand-in-hand with the story being told. So in a time where we have the option, taking the path less traveled opens up windows of opportunities. Below is a list of the 10 best modern movies made in black-and-white.
NOTE: For the purposes of this article, the term “modern” refers to movies produced since 1980. And while this is a broad mishandling of the term, I feel it accurately narrows the field down to the most recent decades in which black-and-white films have become almost nonexistent.
10 Best Modern Black-and-White Movies:
10. “The Man Who Wasn’t There” (2001)
One of the Cohen Brother’s lesser known films, but it is certainly not one that should be neglected. The film was actually shot on color film but was released (as intended) in black-and white in order to give more authenticity to its 1950s setting.
9. “Sin City” (2005)
Based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel of the same name, this film is one of the few fully digital, live-action films that portray violence and corruption in a comic book setting. It was shot in color and digitally adjusted. The result was visionary for the time, even with dashes of color here and there to spice things up.
8. “Nebraska” (2013)
It’s a film that probably didn’t need to be shot in black and white, yet, despite the overall lack of warmth and woeful depictions of every American Midwesterner as either dumb, lazy, or entitled, “Nebraska” excels because of the father-son relationship at its gooey center.
7. “Computer Chess” (2013)
The film is set at a 1980s chess tournament where humans face off against machines for the first time. No, it’s not an action-packed blockbuster like “Iron Man,” nor does it feature a joyfulness — but it is an entertaining film, nonetheless. The black-and-white filming creates a visual flatness that parallels the deadpan atmosphere.
6. “The Artist” (2011)
A paean to another age of filmmaking — the Silent Era — that reigned from the beginning of the movie industry’s start in the 1890s. The film’s style is fascinating, as it seeks to emulate every quirk of the Hollywood era it depicts. From its madcap early moments to its exaggerated melodrama to an ending that introduces sound with a triumphant finality, it accurately depicts an industry in transition in almost every stylistic level.
5. “La Haine” (1995)
“La Haine“ is a brilliant foreign French film about three young men — an Arab, a Jew, and an African-American— who are struggling during times of racial unrest in Paris. The film centers around the consequences of a policeman shooting an Arab during race riots, and the black-and-white adds to the feeling of authenticity in the riot scenes.
4. “Good Night and Good Luck” (2005)
Directed by George Clooney, the black-and-white effects prove to be a canny means of emulating the color-free aesthetics of the 1950s, which also make it even more apt and evocative to highlight the various conflicts that are at the heart of its story.
3. “Raging Bull” (1980)
The quintessential boxing movie. The decision to be made in black-and-white was made to help differentiate the film from other boxing movies being released around the same time (such as “Rocky“).
2. “Clerks” (1994)
This comedy uses monochrome to subtly suggest a film comprised of security-camera footage on which viewers are eavesdropping, as it captures the grim, vacuous feeling of a day ticking by, behind a cash register. From that perspective, the washed-out appearance makes absolute sense.
1. “Schindler’s List” (1993)
This Holocaust epic not only gains a historical-newsreel quality from its glorious black-and-white imagery but an atmosphere of grim, gray tragedy as well. At times, the shadows are so murky that light seems to be struggling to break through — a haunting reminder of its depiction of hope emerging amid profound evil.