Today’s moviegoers are used to brilliant Hollywood films in color, but the history of cinema began without any color. Before Technicolor film became the norm, filmmakers relied solely on proper, targeted lighting. They took advantage of shadows and contrasts to create the stunning visual effects of their films.
Even though color film has opened up whole new doors in the filmmaking world, many modern directors still see the benefit of filming in original black and white. These directors use this style of filming to create a special mood or convey the aesthetics of bygone eras. Of these modern projects, the best black-and-white films are highly stylized, well-written, and deeply rooted in particular historical moments.
ten Mank brings black and white to Netflix
man stars Gary Oldman, Lily Collins and Amanda Seyfried in one of his best roles. The 2020 film is a Netflix original biographical drama and details the story of Herman J. Mankiewicz, a writer who helped develop the screenplay for Citizen Kane.
Director David Fincher chose to film man in black and white because while the subject of the film was Mankiewicz, the story essentially focused on the climate of the film industry of the 1930s. The classic style of cinema became a fitting homage to the landscape in which Mankiewicz pursued his dreams Hollywood.
9 She must have used the color to pay homage
She must have it became a popular entry in director Spike Lee’s film catalog and was his first graduate feature film. The film was a family affair, with Lee and several of his relatives taking part in the project. Upon its release in 1986, audiences and critics praised the film for its portrayal of a small slice of African-American culture.
Although the film begins in black and white, it briefly switches to color halfway through. This choice would be a nod to The Wizard of Oz, which transitioned to color once Dorothy entered the fantasyland of Oz. In the same way, She must have it uses color for a dreamlike scene to represent the difference between fantasy and reality.
8 Good night and good luck focused on continuity
The historical drama Good night and good luck was directed by actor George Clooney, who also played a major role in the film. This 2005 film pits Senator Joseph McCarthy against Edward R. Murrow, telling the story of their real-life feud in the 1950s.
George Clooney filmed Good night and good luck in black and white for the sake of visual continuity. He felt that the historical footage segments of the film would look jerky unlike the color segments, and decided that rendering the entire film in black and white would make it more cohesive.
seven The Lighthouse is a tonal horror thriller
The movie 2019 Lighthouse is set in the 19th century and focuses on the psychology of two lighthouse keepers. Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson form a dynamic and endlessly watchable team in the Edgar Allen Poe-inspired film.
Feeling that the color could not properly capture the desired tone, director Robert Eggers made the creative decision to shoot Lighthouse in black and white. This choice created a film with a deeply defined mood, and most critics approved of it. Lighthouse received an Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography.
6 Pleasantville combines time periods
Pleasantville begins with a very simple premise: two 1990s teenagers find themselves trapped in a 1950s sitcom world. The film stars Reese Witherspoon and Tobey Maguire as time-jumping siblings.
Pleasantville features an interaction between black and white and standard color, which is initially used to differentiate the two periods. As teenagers begin to exert some influence in the world of sitcoms, the color gradually bleeds into the black and white environment. This unique use of different film styles is part of what makes Pleasantville successful.
5 Clerks is a budget cult classic
Clerks was Kevin Smith’s directorial debut and became a classic among ’90s comedies. Shot on an incredibly low budget, financial limitations weighed in on Kevin Smith’s choice to film it in black and white. Because the film crew used several different light sources, this 1994 film would have required a lot more editing if it had been filmed in color.
However, the choice to shoot in black and white only added to the appeal of the film, since it put Clerks apart from most other comedies of the time. The film is so popular that a third installment, Clerk IIIcreated in 2022.
4 Ed Wood is a comedy-drama by Ted Burton
Director Tim Burton is known for having a very specific vision in mind for his films, and the 1994 films Ed Wood is no exception. Both comedy and dramatized biography, this film details part of the life and career of filmmaker Ed Wood.
Tim Burton asserted complete creative control over the film, including the decision to shoot it in black and white. He saw this as the best way to honor the period in history, the 1950s. The film starred his longtime colleague, actor Johnny Depp, as the eponymous filmmaker at the peak of his career. .
3 Sin City is a stylized neo-noir crime film
The visual impact of the 2005 black and white film city of sin is hard to deny. The film is inspired by a Frank Miller graphic novel of the same name, and the black-and-white cinematography perfectly matches the mood and style of the original source material.
In partnership with horror director Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller’s film was rendered in color first, but has been digitally remastered into its final black-and-white form. However, some objects throughout city of sin retained their original color for dramatic effect, which further added to the comedic style of the film.
2 Raging Bull is a compelling sports drama
angry bull is the dramatized autobiography of boxer Jake LaMotta, and many consider it one of the greatest films ever made. Martin Scorsese chose to film this biopic in black and white because it better captured the spirit of televised boxing matches of the 1940s and 1950s, when LaMotta’s career was at its peak.
Martin Scorsese also chose black and white because he was concerned about color film fading. He felt that black-and-white film would stand the test of time much better than color. This choice also added visceral drama to the film’s fight scenes, which proved angry bullthe most amazing elements.
1 Schindler’s List is a touching World War II epic
The critically acclaimed dramatized biopic Schindler’s list is a film adaptation of Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally. It tells the compelling story of Oskar Schindler, a man who secretly saved thousands of Jewish lives during the Holocaust of World War II.
The critically acclaimed 1993 film starred Liam Neeson in the title role, arguably one of his most iconic performances outside of the action genre. Director Steven Spielberg shot the film in black and white to better match historical footage from that era, and Schindler’s list won an impressive seven Oscars.
NEXT: 10 Movies That Are Already Modern Classics