The Best Black and White Movies of the Past 50 Years

Passing Movie Tessa Thompson
Courtesy of Netflix

What’s one way to make a film stand out in a world of CGI and cutting edge VFX? More than ever, filmmakers are finding black and white gives a distinctive look and feel that isn’t just for period fare. Every year, a handful of black and white movies remind viewers that living color isn’t always the best way to tell your story. In 2021, “Malcolm and Marie” started off the monochrome trend, while awards contenders “Passing,” “Belfast,” “C’mon C’mon” and “The Tragedy of Macbeth” are bringing wintry contrast to the end of the year.

Last year, David Fincher’s “Mank” premiered on Netflix, capturing the events behind screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz’s development of the 1941 film “Citizen Kane.” Fincher made the choice to mirror the films of the “Citizen Kane” era by filming in black and white.

Though nearly all movies had switched over to color by the early to mid-1960s, since then directors such as Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Radha Blank and Rebecca Hall have turned to black and white to capture their creative visions. Whether chosen for aesthetic or storytelling reasons, every year a few movies continue to film in monochrome to set their mood. Here are some of the best modern-era movies whose filmmakers made the choice to shoot in black and white.