10 Modern Movies That Are Better in Black and White

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[Editor’s note: While your Flavorwire editors take a much-needed holiday break, we’re revisiting some of our most popular features of the year. This post was originally published May 23, 2011.] A few weeks back, we mentioned that list of Steven Soderbergh’s “cultural diet” (films viewed and books read and TV watched over the course of one year), noting that, in one week, he took in Raiders of the Lost Ark no less than three times — and that he carefully pointed out that each viewing was in black and white. In writing about that list, I said that this was something “we’re totally going to do now,” and last week, I did. Guess what? Soderbergh’s right. Raiders is way better in black and white.

That little experiment got me thinking about other modern movies that might play better in this decidedly less-than-modern format. There is, we can all agree, just something about black and white. In his wonderful 1989 essay “Why I Love Black and White,” Roger Ebert wrote: “There are basic aesthetic issues here. Colors have emotional resonance for us… Black and white movies present the deliberate absence of color. This makes them less realistic than color films (for the real world is in color). They are more dreamlike, more pure, composed of shapes and forms and movements and light and shadow. Color films can simply be illuminated. Black and white films have to be lighted. With color, you can throw light in everywhere, and the colors will help the viewer determine one shape from another, and the foreground from the background. With black and white, everything would tend toward a shapeless blur if it were not for meticulous attention to light and shadow, which can actually create a world in which the lighting indicates a hierarchy of moral values.”

Once I picked the movies that we thought would work for this experiment, I realized that trying to just describe them in a standard post wouldn’t work at all. So I’m doing something different with this post: I made a little video for each title, with clips transformed to black and white and commentary explaining why each one was selected. Check out Raiders and my other choices after the jump.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Better in Black and White: “Raiders of the Lost Ark” from Flavorwire on Vimeo.

Director: Steven Spielberg Director of Photography: Douglas Slocombe

A Christmas Story

Better in Black and White: “A Christmas Story” from Flavorwire on Vimeo.

Director: Bob Clark Director of Photography: Reginald H. Morris

The Fabulous Baker Boys

Better in Black and White: “The Fabulous Baker Boys” from Flavorwire on Vimeo.

Director: Steve Kloves Director of Photography: Michael Ballhaus

The Last Seduction

Better in Black and White: “The Last Seduction” from Flavorwire on Vimeo.

Director: John Dahl Director of Photography: Jeffrey Jur

Fargo

Better in Black and White: “Fargo” from Flavorwire on Vimeo.

Director: Joel Coen Director of Photography: Roger Deakins

The Departed

Better in Black and White: “The Departed” from Flavorwire on Vimeo.

Director: Martin Scorsese Director of Photography: Michael Ballhaus

Out of Sight

Better in Black and White: “Out of Sight” from Flavorwire on Vimeo.

Director: Steven Soderbergh Director of Photography: Elliot Davis

Michael Clayton

Better in Black and White: “Michael Clayton” from Flavorwire on Vimeo.

Director: Tony Gilroy Director of Photography: Robert Elswit

The Silence of the Lambs

Better in Black and White: “The Silence of the Lambs” from Flavorwire on Vimeo.

Director: Jonathan Demme Director of Photography: Tak Fujimoto

Halloween

Better in Black and White: “Halloween” from Flavorwire on Vimeo.

Director: John Carpenter Director of Photography: Dean Cundey

Those are my picks, but there are obviously hundreds of other possibilities — what films would you like to see in black and white?