Question of the Week: What’s your favorite contemporary black & white films?

This week’s question is inspired by Sin City: A Dame to Kill For screening Tuesday night. Boy it’s been ages, almost a decade to be exact, since the first film was released.

SinCityDameToKillFor

To be honest with you, I don’t remember much about the story but the visual certainly is striking. The graphic novel came to live onto the screen, the term ‘graphic’ here has double meaning as the violence truly was quite explicit. Yet the stylish way it was filmed somehow made it somewhat more palatable if you will, enhancing that fantasy element to the noir story. So I kind of expect more of a visual feast with this sequel and not much else, but who knows it might surprise me.

So it got me thinking about other contemporary black/white films released in the past decade. Naturally the first thing that came to mind is Schindler’s List, but that was over twenty years ago. If we’re looking at just in 2000s decade alone, there are nearly 250 films in either partial or entirely done in black & white (per Wiki). Here are a some of beautifully-shot B&W films I’ve seen just in the past 10 years:

Memento
Memento (2001)
AngelA
Angel-A (2005)
SinCity
Sin City (2005)
TheArtist
The Artist (2005)
CaesarMustDie
Caesar Must Die (2012)
Nebraska
Nebraska (2013)

There are some recently-released ones I still want to see like Control, Persepolis, Blancanieves, Much Ado About Nothing, Frances Ha, Ida, etc. Hopefully I’ll get to those soon.


So what’s YOUR favorite modern Black & White films you saw recently?

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61 thoughts on “Question of the Week: What’s your favorite contemporary black & white films?

  1. Nebraska is one of them while I really loved the look of this film that I’m sure you probably haven’t seen called Ida. I think my favorite recent black-and-white film is The White Ribbon by Michael Haneke which is this unsettling film about a small town coming undone by these strange incidents.

    1. Yeah I mentioned Ida as one I still need to see. The White Ribbon sounds good also, I heard the story is quite unsettling but I’m curious about that one.

  2. I was about to say that the only contemporary black and white movie I had seen was the first Sin City and the awful the Spirit, but you reminded me of the great Persepolis which is totally worth a watch, and that half of Memento is in black and white.

    1. I still haven’t seen Spirit yet, do you think in terms of visual is it still worth renting? I actually still need to see Persepolis, that one was nominated for Oscar wasn’t it?

      1. Eh, I’d suggest skipping it, there’s plenty of stuff more visually interesting than the Spirit. It’s much more silly than Sin City but ultimately doesn’t make any sense. Yes, it was nominated for best animated film and well deserving of it.

        1. Even sillier than Sin City? Heh, I just saw the sequel last nite and the story was rather pointless for the most part. I do like the part w/ Eva Green tho, definitely fitting as the dame worth killing for.

  3. Great question, Ruth! I love black & white photography and cinematography, so I’ve a list 😉
    – Young Frankenstein
    – Manhattan
    – Schindler’s List
    – Memento (when it uses the monochrome)
    – Dead Man
    – Ed Wood
    – Good Night and Good Luck
    – Sin City
    – The Artist
    – Raging Bull

    1. Awesome Michael! I still need to see Good Night and Good Luck & Ed Wood which are relatively new. I didn’t know Raging Bull was in b&w, but I’m not into boxing films tho.

  4. I’m glad you mentioned Control, it totally slipped my mind. It’s a pretty good film, well worth watching. I enjoyed Sin City a whole lot, hopefully I can say the same for Dame To Kill For when I watch it.

    1. I’ve been wanting to check out Sam Riley’s performance in CONTROL. I had no idea it was in b&w until I did research for this post. I hope Dame to Kill For has something more to offer than just great visuals.

        1. I didn’t even know he’s in Maleficent. I hope to catch that one soon. I’m curious about On the Road but I really can’t stand Kristen Stewart.

  5. I feel the same way about first Sin City, I don’t remember much about the story, and was mainly interesting to me for the visuals.

    In the past 10 years, I’d go with The White Ribbon (2009) as the best b/w film. Blancanieves (2012) also impressed me, which is a visually striking b/w retelling of Snow White.

    1. Hello Chris! Yeah I hope this sequel’s story is as intriguing as the visuals. Oooh I still need to see Blancanieves as that came highly recommended by my friend Fernando also. That’s on Netflix Streaming too so I have no excuse 🙂

  6. Stu

    Good question! I think my three recent favourites have all been mentioned above – for use of black and white Good Night And Good Luck, Control and Nebraska are hard to beat. Here’s three good ones that haven’t been mentioned yet though: In Search Of A Midnight Kiss, Pleasantville and La Haine.

    1. Stu

      I just looked at the Wiki list you linked too. I forgot all about The Man Who Wasn’t There – a brilliantly shot black and white film and probably the most underrated Coen Brothers movie.

    2. Hello Stu! I gotta check out Good Night And Good Luck & Control soon, esp the latter as I need to see Sam Riley’s work. Pleasantville is another one that’s been on my to-watch list for ages. I actually came across the poster of The Man Who Wasn’t There yesterday and was immediately intrigued!

  7. La Haine. It’s rough-hewn monochrome filming is striking, especially in combination with the top notch cinematography. The film’s grim atmosphere probably wouldn’t have come through as well in colour.

          1. I looked it up on IMBD and it made only $300K. But that’s to be expected for a violent French, B&W film who starred the then unknown Vincent Cassel (Black Swan, Irreversible) and Saïd Taghmaoui (American Hustle, Three Kings).

  8. I know they aren’t exactly new but La Haine and Pi are a couple of excellent ones. The black and white seems to make Pi even more deranged and nightmare like. Oh and Eraserhead is the quintessential freaky black and white movie

  9. The most recent was by British up and comer Ben Wheatley (Kill List, Sightseers). A Field In England. Hard to sum up the film. Best experienced.

    I still haven’t seen Nebraska, Ida or Blancanieves yet.

  10. jackdeth72

    Hi, Ruth:

    Excellent question and well thought out and executed question and choices!

    ‘Sin City’ holds the top place for me. An superb exercise in back green and blue screen cinematography. Also, great catch on Joss Whedon’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’. Especially when played in conjunction with Kenneth Brannagh’s splashy, sunny color take on Shakespeare. Two different approaches that seem to work very well on their own. Or in tandem.

    Scorsese’s ‘Raging Bull’ rates high for flat, kind of washed out B&W. Though the language sometimes goes over the top.

    Still like the Coen brothers, ‘The Hudsucker Proxy’ for its rapid patter and ‘His Girl Friday’ look and feel. And kudos to Stu for mentioning ‘The Man Who Wasn’t There’.

    Though not contemporary, I like John Huston’s British costume and sitting room “Whodunnit?”, ‘The List of Adrian Messsenger’. from the 1960s. For its then heavy hitting cast (Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Frank Sinatra, Burt Lancaster and Robert Mitchum) having their moments to shine under heavy make up. Where the B&W works flawlessly in heightening suspense,

    1. Hello Kevin! Boy I still need to see ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ Yeah I’d think it’d be an interesting contrast to the brightly-colored version.

      You just mentioned the dread I have about Scorsese’s films, the foul language and violence are definitely not my cup of tea.

      I’m real curious about ‘The Man Who Wasn’t There’ now that a few people have mentioned it here.

  11. Ted S.

    I don’t typically seek out B & W films but I did enjoy some of them. It’s been a while since I saw Sin City too, I enjoyed it but have no desire to see the sequel.

    As for my favorites, definitely Memento, some already mentioned but Raging Bull and Good Night and Good Luck were pretty great.

  12. I really enjoyed Much Ado About Nothing, and I loved it in the B&W. I also thought of both The Artist and Memento when you introduced the post. Very cool!! I haven’t seen any of the Sin City films, but I would like to start, although the trailer for the latest looked overtly graphic!

    1. Hello Kris! Sin City is definitely not for the faint of hearts. I normally wouldn’t go for such a violent film but I did like the visuals of the first one, hopefully it’s not too gruesome.

  13. Oh The Artist is definitely my favorite. Sin City 2 looks so bad. The first one was good but this one is just….it feels like straight to video movie. Also what is Levitt doing there, he doesn’t ft that universe at all.

    1. Y’know, now that you mentioned it, Levitt does seem rather out of place judging from the trailer. I remember seeing the first trailer w/ Clive Owen and I was like yowza! Plus he fits the noir thriller so perfectly!

  14. The Artist was the first to come to mind, but seeing you mention Memento reminded me of Christopher Nolan’s Following, an all b&w film and, IMO, a far superior overall movie to Memento at that.

  15. Very cool topic. Like a lot of people here, Sin City is a fave. So are Memento, Good Night and Good Luck, The Artist, The White Ribbon, and Persepolis. I’d also throw in an underrated The Notorious Bettie Page. To go back into the late 20th century I’d have to add Young Frankenstein, Raging Bull, Pleasantville, American History X, Ed Wood, Natural Born Killers, The Elephant Man, She’s Gotta Have It, and of course, Schindler’s List. Interestingly enough, I have Nebraska and Much Ado About Nothing waiting for me to watch this week or next.

  16. I genuinely enjoyed Nebraska a lot more than I thought I would. Other B&W films I enjoyed more recently are American History X, Pleasantville, Sin City, The Following, Eraserhead (kind of), and Ed Wood (Burton’s best).

    1. Hello Nick! Glad you enjoyed Nebraska too, yeah that was a pleasant surprise to me too. I still need to see Ed Wood, Burton’s best eh? Now I’m really curious 🙂

  17. Pingback: Everybody’s Talkin’ 8 – 22 (Chatter from Other Bloggers) | The Matinee | Cinematic Passion & Perspective

  18. I’d have to go with The Artist, but I LOVE the style of Sin City. Another great one is The Turin Horse, which mostly consists of brilliant tracking shots in glorious black and white.

    1. Oh right, I heard about The Turin Horse though it seems a rather grim film. As for Sin City, well it’s the quintessential style over substance.

  19. Great question. I agree with Nebraska, and I also really liked Frances Ha, Good Night and Good Luck, Man Bites Dog, Coffee and Cigarettes, and The Last Picture Show (though that one may stretch the definition of “contemporary”).

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