10 Best Black & White Films Of The 21st Century (So Far)

Some stories need to be told the old-fashioned way.

the lighthouse willem dafoe
A24

The medium of film has been around for well over a hundred years, but the way in which movies are produced is ever-changing. One of the biggest technological leaps forward in the history of cinema was the shift from black and white film to color. Suddenly, content on screen felt more real and true to life, and grayscale cinematography was largely left behind.

Thankfully, black and white filmmaking has not been completely abandoned, as there is still much to appreciate from the original motion picture style. Because it is used quite sparingly in the film industry, black and white imagery is actually quite eye-catching despite being much less vibrant than color.

Monochromatic visuals are stimulating because of their uniqueness and differentiation from reality. The effect it has on viewers can be extremely significant, if used well.

In an industry that is dominated by color photography and fancy camera movements, simplistic black and white cinematography can be a real treat to witness. Some movies fail to do anything interesting with monochromatic images, but a few films have made a significant impact on cinema.

This list is a celebration of those works of art that continue to showcase the beauty of black and white images in an era that generally craves vibrant color and sharp video quality.

So, here are the ten best black and white films to come out of the 21st century so far.

10. Mank (2020)

the lighthouse willem dafoe
Netflix

David Fincher's Mank stars Gary Oldman as Herman J. Mankiewicz, an alcoholic Hollywood screenwriter who's been selected to write the script for Orson Welles' Citizen Kane. Herman takes a long time to write the script, much to the discomfort of Welles and some producers. Additionally, Herman's non-linear story and controversial content within the script doesn't ease anyone's concerns.

Fincher takes a fascinating look inside the politics and studio drama of the late 1930s and early 1940s, giving viewers a taste of the era. The decision to shoot in black and white allowed the film to have a more nostalgic quality that placed audiences more firmly within the period in which the story takes place. In many ways, it feels more real than it would have, had it been photographed in color.

The monochromatic images do more than transport viewers back in time, they also serve to stun moviegoers with their beauty. The remarkable work cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt did on Mank earned him a well-deserved Academy Award for Best Cinematography.

Contributor

Grant is deeply obsessed with The Lord of the Rings. He constantly talks about film, TV, video games, music, books, and theology, while his wife graciously listens. Occasionally, he remembers to eat and sleep.