It’s hard to believe that I began writing this blog over four years ago. Yet it’s true. My first blog entry for the library was posted on September 2, 2009. The title was The Awesomeness of Black & White Movies . In it, I listed some of my favorite films, all in glorious black & white. And the last line of the entry was, “What classics would you recommend to the person just discovering the beauty of black & white movies?”
With the DVD release of Much Ado About Nothing, Joss Whedon’s take on Shakespeare’s romantic comedy, I’ve decided to revisit this topic. While I’ve been inclined to focus on Hollywood of the 30s, 40s, and 50s, black & white movies didn’t disappear after the 1960s. Creative people still find that black & white can be an exciting way to realize their movie-making dream. It might pay homage to a particular director or genre. It might set a somber mood. Or perhaps it could be a means to focus on character and story or to showcase the acting or setting.
So I’ve listed below some of the top movies of the past 40 years that used black & white as a way to tell a story. From period pieces to comedies and parodies to biographies to classics, you’ll find that black & white movies can be beautiful.
The Last Picture Show  (1971, directed by Peter Bogdanovich) – Jeff Bridges, Timothy Bottoms, Cybill Shepherd, Cloris Leachman
Paper Moon  (1973, directed by Peter Bogdanovich) – Ryan O’Neal, Tatum O’Neal, Madeline Kahn, John Hillerman
Young Frankenstein  (1974, directed by Mel Brooks) – Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Teri Garr
Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid  (1982, directed by Carl Reiner) – Steve Martin, Rachel Ward
Shadows and Fog  (1991, directed by Woody Allen) – Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, David Ogden Stiers
Ed Wood  (1994, directed by Tim Burton) – Johnny Depp, Martin Landau, Sarah Jessica Parker, Patricia Arquette
π [Pi]  (1998, directed by Darren Aronofsky) – Sean Gullette, Mark Margolis, Ben Shenkman
The Man Who Wasn’t There  (2001, directed by Joel Coen, Ethan Coen) – Billy Bob Thornton, Frances McDormand, James Gandolfini, Scarlett Johansson
Coffee and Cigarettes  (2003, directed by Jim Jarmusch) – Bill Murray, Tom Waits, Steve Buscemi, Cate Blanchett
Good Night, and Good Luck  (2005, directed by George Clooney) – David Strathairn, George Clooney, Jeff Daniels, Patricia Clarkson
The Good German  (2006, directed by Steve Soderbergh) – George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Tobey Maguire, Beau Bridges
The Artist (2011, directed by Michel Hazanavicius) – Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller
Much Ado About Nothing (2013, directed by Joss Whedon) – Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion