Once upon a time, movies were made in black and white because that was the only option available to film makers. Then, when color movie technology did begin to appear, the colors were quite bright and unrealistic, and many film makers felt this did not suit the tone of a serious movie. Color movies were also more expensive to make than black and white ones, and for a while, the only movies made in color were big hollywood musicals and comedies.
Gradually though, color film became more realistic and less expensive. It also became more popular with cinema-goers. By around 1970, almost all major releases were in color.
This means that a black and white movie made after, say, 1970, has probably been made that way for artistic reasons. Often this means that the subject matter and the tone are very dark.
Two such modern black and white movies in particular regularly appear in critics’ top ten all-time great movie lists, namely Raging Bull (a biopic of the boxer Jake LaMotta) and Schindler’s List (the true story of one man’s attempt to save his Jewish employees from the Nazi death camps). Both of these movies are quite harrowing, and difficult to watch in places, but both are masterpieces. Elephant man (the true story of a deformed young man living in Victorian London) is another great film, but again, quite upsetting to watch.
Sometimes though, the movie was made in black and white in order to invoke feelings of nostalgia. Movies such as the excellent Paper Moon, and the hilarious Ed Wood, are set in the early 20th century, the “black and white era”.
If you would like to see a list of all the b&w movies made after 1970,click here.
It is not the intention of this site to attempt to review all the great modern black and white movies, we prefer to focus on the old ones. However, every now and then (well okay, just once so far actually) a film company will send us a new b&w movie on DVD for us to review. And because we want to encourage this activity…
Set Fire To The Stars
The true story of the poet (and notorious hell-raiser) Dylan Thomas’s first tour of America in the 1950s, and the attempt by a young professor to save him from himself.
We also invite our readers to submit reviews of their favourite modern black and white movies.
The Call of Cthulhu
The Call of Cthulhu, in case you are not aware, was a short story written by the American horror writer H.P.Lovecraft in 1926.
The Man Who Wasn’t There
The Man Who Wasn’t There is a modern film noir directed by the Coen Brothers, and featuring several big stars.