When you think of black-and-white films, does your mind go back to the Golden Age of Hollywood? Monochromatic cinematography is still relevant today, with many modern filmmakers using the technique to achieve a unique atmosphere and a wide range of emotional responses in audiences. From classic to contemporary, these black-and-white movies create an unforgettable viewing experience, without the distraction of technicolor.
Visit the library to check out DVDs or Blu-rays, or place your selections on hold and pick up at the drive-up window.
Considered one of the greatest films of all time, All About Eve (DVD and Blu-ray) is a must-have on any list of black-and-white movies. The indomitable Bette Davis stars as Margo, an aging Broadway superstar trying to stay in the limelight. She finds herself up against an unexpected foe when the young and not-so-naïve Eve worms her way into every aspect of Margo's life. Witty, charming, and absorbing, this Best Picture–winner undoubtedly stands the test of time. Keep an eye out for a brief appearance by Marilyn Monroe in one of her earliest film roles; rumors are that she faced the wrath of Davis for her inexperience on set.
Having studied journalism in college and with his father having been a newsreader during the Cold War era, George Clooney was naturally drawn to the story told in Good Night and Good Luck (DVD, Hoopla). As director, he chose to shoot in grayscale to seamlessly integrate archival footage of notorious Senator Joseph McCarthy. A star-studded cast portray journalist Edward R. Murrow and his CBS news team as they recreate the unbearable stress and tension of the times, exposing the truth behind Senator McCarthy’s anti-Communist crusades. Thoughtfully constructed to avoid slipping into the melodramatic, this film is a tribute to the power of fearless journalism.
The first Polish movie to win Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars, Ida (DVD, Hoopla, Kanopy) is a subtle and haunting film that lingers long after the credits roll. On the cusp of taking her vows as a nun in Soviet-era Poland, orphaned Anna is told to visit her last remaining relative, only to learn a shocking truth about her family history and even her name. Prompted by the discoveries, she embarks on a journey to find answers, accompanied by her larger-than-life but clearly troubled aunt. The pair form an unlikely bond as they are faced with dark revelations.
Roma (DVD and Blu-ray) caused a stir when it was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, raising questions about the place of streaming movies in the world of traditional filmmaking. Drawing heavily on director Alfonso Cuarón’s childhood in Mexico City, Roma is a domestic drama about Cleo, the indigenous live-in maid for a well-to-do family, the marital instability of that family, and how their lives orbit and intersect each other. While the cinematography is stunning and there are subtle hints of important class commentary, the star of the show is Yalitza Aparicio, the first-time actress who masterfully portrays Cleo.
With movie heavyweights Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro leading the credits, it’s no surprise that Raging Bull (DVD and Blu-ray, Hoopla, Kanopy) is ranked as the fourth greatest movie of all time by the American Film Institute. At times a brutal watch, this biopic follows the rise and fall of real-life boxer Jake LaMotta, and how his violent streak extended far beyond the ring. As the unsympathetic LaMotta spirals out of control in his quest for greatness, his personal demons start to destroy his relationships and ambitions. De Niro encapsulates the toxic masculinity and ferocity of LaMotta, even training as a boxer under LaMotta himself. Look for Joe Pesci in his first major role after being discovered by De Niro in a low-budget film.
Simple but powerful, 12 Angry Men (DVD) is a classic that transcends time and place. Henry Fonda stars in this courtroom drama that examines the crucial role of the individual in the justice system. Viewers feel the claustrophobia and tension of the stuffy jury room and the raw emotions of the unnamed jurors as they get at the heart of truth and justice, good and evil. The story is told not through showy sets or effects but through good, old-fashioned acting. (Don't be put off by the colorized DVD cover; the film is in black and white.)