It’s tough to make a list of this kind because “black-and-white” is not really a genre, so how does one measure a drama against a comedy? The logic behind this list was simple: Black-and-white films seem more powerful than color films. It’s almost as though removing color somehow makes the story more important. I’ve heard many “kids these days” say they can’t get into a black-and-white: They don’t get it. There are no car crashes. There are no boobs. And so on. My argument is this: Instead of watching any number of mediocre new releases (I’m looking at you, Total Recall), you should cheat on them and watch an old black-and-white, because they did it better.
This is not just any average top-ten list featuring black-and-white films. This is a top-ten list of stories shot on black-and-white film that you really should see before you die. The beaten path was not taken to compile this list. Superfans of Casablanca or Orson Welles, brace yourself for disappointment…
10. THE LADY EVE (1941) – A strong, fast-talking Barbara Stanwyck and a clumsy Henry Fonda.
9. DUCK SOUP (1933) – Hilarious, cheesy — and you wouldn’t want it any other way.
8. ADAM’S RIB (1949) – Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. It bums me out that Cary Grant dominates the conversation on classic Hollywood actors. Spencer Tracy is amazing.
7. PAPER MOON (1973) – This little girl won an Oscar at 10 years old! Tatum O’Neal is not only the youngest actress to win an Academy Award but the youngest person — ever — to win a competitive Academy Award.
6. SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950) – It’s epic. It’s film noir at its finest.
5. ALPHAVILLE (1965) – French, weird, beautiful.
4. YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974) – Comedic genius, still holds up today. Gene Wilder. Mel Brooks. Madeline Kahn.
3. RAGING BULL (1980) – Simply put: Scorsese knows how to tell a story. Robert DeNiro is incredible.
2. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962) – Great adaptation of a great book.
1. THE APARTMENT (1960) – Jack Lemmon. Shirley MacLaine. An unlikely plot for a romantic comedy. This film won five Oscars, including Best Original Screenplay, Best Director (Billy Wilder) and Best Motion Picture!Honorable mentions:
12 ANGRY MEN (1957) – For the incredible, tension-packed scenes that all take place in one room and never lose your interest.
THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (1940) – For James Stewart’s drunk scene.
MANHATTAN (1979) – Because Woody Allen is so good at being self-deprecating.
GILDA (1946) – Two words: Rita. Hayworth.
TOUCH OF EVIL (1958) – That opening shot!