Post Production

Black & white movies are good (really)

25 great movies in black & white


Younger friends and family members routinely say they won’t watch black & white movies. Contrary to what they may think, old films can be profound and even relevant today.

A list of only 25-30 American movies like this is superficial on one level, but basic to film language. Sorry, there are no films listed here from Chaplin or Keaton, no classic horror, no silent films, no Japanese, Indian, Swedish, Russian, German, French, Italian (ok: one), or British (pretty much). There’s perhaps too much Orson Wells, but not really much in the way of film noir, Westerns, sci-fi, or gangster movies. These and similar films are well worth seeking out, or keeping an eye out for, even if you somehow feel repulsed by black and white.

Here’s sample skills from The Ox-Bow Incident, which looks at mob rule and lynching after trumped-up charges:

To dive deeper into film history (much of it is in B&W), check out the “greatist films” metasurvey at AMC Filmsite.

For the years 1940–1966, a separate Academy Award for Best Art Direction was given for black-and-white movies along with one for color.

You could also take a guided tour with director Martin Scorsese in A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies, a 225-minute documentary hosted by the insightful Scorsese and produced by the British Film Institute. Here’s an excerpt, along with a clip from The Bad and The Beautiful, where Kirk Douglas & Barry Sullivan discuss how to make a scary movie without showing “the monster” (ala The Cat People).

A few of these films are out of copyright control. Here’s His Girl Friday, a hilarious fast-talking 1940 screwball comedy directed by Howard Hawks and starring Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, and Ralph Bellamy. You can find much better copies out there. It’ll be presented in better quality on TCM a few times a year.

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Rich Young is a long-time After Effects user from the San Francisco Bay Area. His After Effects and Premiere Pro round-ups provide viewers with an easy-to-digest summary of developments. He also supplies info and links…