Roundhay Garden Scene (1888) is the oldest living film in existence. Made by a French inventor, Louis Le Prince, the movie only had a 2:11 run time but the concept showcased what could be done with a camera. The motion picture was off to the races. Artists from all over began to create beautiful moving pictures of art. At first, 99.99% of the movies were in black and white. Most were completely silent, sans for an orchestra playing in the theater.
Once the first talkie, The Jazz Singer came out in 1927, movies gained even more traction and began to truly become the marquee form of entertainment. They were still mostly in black and white for years before colored films took hold. For some reason, there are a few stigmas about watching a black and white film. All of them are unfounded. To prove it we've put together 10 black and white classic movies that every film fan should see.
10 Sunset Boulevard
Fame and fortune are a fickle creature, especially for actresses. One moment you’re a young in-demand actress like Norma Desmond. The next, you’re deemed too old. Now Norma sits around in her deserted mansion waiting for her next big film role. Ms. Desmond finds a way to trap an inspiring screenwriter in her home to help write her next big role.
Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard set the bar for Hollywood melodrama and a big twist Twilight Zone type of ending.
9 Modern Times
It was a big sendoff for Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp in Modern Times. The movie served as a commentary on the industrialization of the world and the disparity of wealth during the Great Depression. By the way, this is a comedy.
Chaplin, who was known for all kinds of hilarious sight and physical gags, is on full display. He gets into mischief at every turn with all of the technology of the day most famously getting ripped through clockwork gears.
The Master Of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, was already a household name. Psycho made him a bonafide legend. Part of the reason news about the movie spread like wildfire was Hitchcock’s demand that you see the film from the beginning plus certain scenes of the movie all helped to facilitate the hype and controversy for this classic.
The mystery of the murder at the Bates Motel and the shock and awe of the now-iconic Shower Scene are just part of one of the greatest horror movies ever made.
7 On The Waterfront
“I could have been a contender. I could have been somebody.” Long before “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse,” that was the quintessential Marlon Brando line. We’ve all heard it or probably used it.
Brando uttered it as Terry Malloy in On The Waterfront, as an ex-fighter now embroiled in a battle between the union workers and the union bosses.
“Here’s looking at you, kid.”
“This is the start of a beautiful friendship.”
“Play it again, Sam.”
Even if you misquote Casablanca’s most iconic lines, the moment you mention the movie, even the people who haven’t seen the film will quote it - and they’ll do it using their best Humphrey Bogart impression.
5 It’s A Wonderful Life
This timeless Christmas tale is also one of the best black and white movies of all time, let alone the best movies, period.
Jimmy Stewart stars as George Bailey, a man who is feeling low and about to give it all up; and on Christmas no less. Stopping him from hurting himself is his Guardian Angel, Clarence, who shows him what life would be like if he was never born.
Nothing quite gives you the warm and fuzzies like watching George run through the streets of Bedford Falls declaring “I wanna live Clarence! I wanna live!”
4 Dr. Strangelove Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb
Comedy done in the stylings of master auteur, Stanley Kubrick. While watching some of the master filmmaker’s movies are exercises in extreme patience and just admiring the craft of filmmaking itself rather than the actual movie, Dr. Strangelove is hysterical.
Kubrick teamed up with “The Pink Panther,” Peter Sellers himself to satirize the Cold War as the United States war room try to recall a bomb strike on the Soviet Union.
3 Some Like It Hot
Marilyn Monroe has tragically been off of this mortal coil longer than she was on it. To throngs of fans that weren’t even alive anywhere near her untimely demise at 36, she is still the personification of beauty in many areas of the world. It’s hard to forget that wasn’t a bad actress either and Some Like It Hot is her finest film.
Two guys (Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis) hide out from the mob, posing as two women that are part of a female band on the way to Miami. The real hijinx ensues when both guys fall for the lead singer - Marilyn as the vivacious Sugar Kane.
There’s a scene in The Shawshank Redemption where the prisoners are watching a Rita Hayworth film (the original novella is actually called Rita Hayworth And The Shawshank Redemption). Red and the rest of the guys love when “she does that ‘thing’ with her hair.” The movie the boys were watching was Gilda.
In the Noir film, Gilda sees her old flame, Johnny Farrell come to work for her current husband, Ballin Mundson. If that wasn’t a big enough issue, the German mob come to claim their casino from Ballin.
1 Citizen Kane
If you’ve ever taken a film history class, you'll more likely than not have seen Orson Wells' first and greatest movie - Citizen Kane. Almost eighty years after its initial release in 1941 and some people will still tell that its the greatest movie ever made. While that’s certainly is very debatable, what isn’t is how innovative the movie was for its time.
Much like Star Wars changed a lot of things for this generation of fans, Kane’s narrative structure (the entire movie is a flashback) was considered groundbreaking for the era. Back in 1941, everyone was scrambling to the cinema to learn what or who “Rosebud,” meant or was.