There was a time when the artistic side and the commercial side of Hollywood productions where linked.
Nowadays, there seems to cheap china jerseys be a clear difference between ‘entertainment’, involving all the super expensive productions meant to generate shear entertainment and income through well known repeated formulas, the “blockbusters”, and movies produced mainly with an artistic goal. These have now shifted mostly to the “Independent” movie genre.
Here are some (well known) jewels that anyone with a true love for artistic expression should consider watching, but if you have not yet dug into the world of old movies, consider this first:
It’s not about speed. It’s about interpretation. The rhythm is different, slower, so get in the right state of mind, prepare to enjoy dialog, gesture, drama. Watch these movies late at night, in a quiet mood.
(Note: the links of the names will open a new window on Wikipedia, so you can read more about them if you feel like. For a written synopsis you can click on the IMBD link, or just watch the trailer!)
1 – THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955)
When I first watched this fake oakleys movie, I was very impressed, I thought it was a masterpiece. Then I started reading about it. The first surprise was who the director was, Charles Laughton, a well known British actor whom I never imagined could be the one behind such film.
The second surprise was to learn that the movie had been a box failure, with bad reviews, causing Mr Laughton to decide never to direct again, thinking he was not gifted for such task.
But as it sometimes happens, the real reason why the audience and critics reacted negatively was that this masterpiece was ahead of it’s time. It is now considered one of the best movies of the 1950s, and it’s not uncommon to find it among the ten best films of all times in movie lists.
The Night of the hunter Trailer:
2 – SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER (1959)
A great example of an “actor” movie. Based on a deep ‘psychological’ play by great southern play writer Tennessee Williams, the intensity of the characters allows great performances by the actors. Movie actors where closer to theater in the past, and they “knew what they were doing” on stage. Acting was clearly more than imitating reality, it was a wide universe. No wonder Katharine Hepburn won 4 Oscars (although she never went to pick them up…), received a total of 12 nominations and is considered the greatest female star of Classic Hollywood Cinema.
There was some controversy around it, as Mr Williams denied having any part in writing the screenplay, and he even disliked the result, thinking it went to far away from the original play. But take my word for it, it’s worth the session, simply to enjoy passionate performances by great Hollywood actors.
The movie holds 7.7 at IMBD
Suddenly Last Summer Trailer
3 – SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS (1957)
This one is about the story. A great story about the desperate fight of the loser who needs to achieve something, who feels he’s worth more. And power. The power of the one who already made it, who is on the other side, who can look down at others and play with their fears and desires. The theme is universal. Admiration or Contempt, you will get one or the other, depending on which side of the river you are on.
Sweet Smell of Success was also a box office failure, although critics were mixed, but it’s another good example of how perception of art can change after a while.
Sweet Smell of Success Trailer
4 – TWELVE ANGRY MEN (1957)
All the movies of this black and white film list are considered great movies. Twelve Angry Men, is no exception. Adapted from a teleplay (by Reginald Rose), we include it as an example of how intense and varied a film can be, with no need for bombs, guns, or car chases. It takes place inside a small room, while a jury deliberates on a murder case. Most of the scenes are in the room, and it portrays human nature, the good and the bad side of ‘any of us’. Twelve angry men, twelve different personalities, surely we can relate to one of those somehow. And which side are we going to take?
Some great names in the cast, Henry Fonda, Lee J.Cobb.
Another box office failure at the time, but at least it got good critical response. It is now considered a classic and holds 8.9 at IMBD.
Twelve Angry Men Trailer
5 – SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950)
Hollywood. Sunset Boulevard. Another great story, directed by Billy Wilder. The once famous diva, the Hollywood star whose star fell from the sky (Gloria Swanson). No longer young, no longer famous, no longer important. But how to deal with it. How to prevent an ego to manipulate our mind and allow us to accept a naked reality. A complex psychology.
And on the other hand, the wannabe screenwriter (William Holden), who deals with the diva out of ambition, and gets tangled up cheap oakleys in a web of emotions. Pure drama, in the good sense of the term.
A movie considered a real classic, nominated for 11 Academy awards (winning 3), a real Hollywood treasure.
Holds 8.5 at IMBD
Sunset Boulevard trailer
6 – NIGHT AND THE CITY (1950)
You will remember this name: Harry Fabian. Richard Widmark should have won an Oscar for his performance of desperate hustler Harry Fabian in this Film Noir set in London. The movie has all the necessary ingredients of the genre. A main character who cannot escape his doomed faith, the selfish ‘femme fatale‘, the action, the shades of the night and the city (this time it’s London). It’s also a quest for success, the man who needs to stand out, who feels his is made for greatness, but keeps repeating the patterns that make it impossible. But this small-time grifter is in reality a hero, somehow…
Another black and white jewel that can’t be missed, specially by those who struggle everyday to achieve something, and have not yet seen the light at the end of the tunnel…
The film holds 8.0 at IMBD
Night and the city trailer
7 – ACE IN THE HOLE (1951)
An ambitious and unscrupulous reporter (Kirk Douglas) follows a bizarre event in a small New Mexico town. Kirk Douglas at his best, not playing the action character but fake ray ban sunglasses showing another side of his talent. A hunter, eyes wide open, searching for and finding his opportunity to get back to the major leagues.
The movie is based on the story of a certain Floyd Collins, who became trapped in a cave, and efforts to rescue him became of national interest.
Ace in the Hole was very well received at the time, and is still considered a great movie, so there’s never been doubts about this masterpiece.
8.2 at IMBD, watch it dear friends, fear no disappointment.
Ace in the hole trailer
8 – OUT OF THE PAST (1947)
Watch this movie as a great example of Film Noir. One of the best. The dark character who is looking for a second shot in life but can’t escape his faith, a pessimistic world, a great display of suspense, good action, and the black and white shades (don’t forget the femme fatale).
Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming, Richard Webb…
But although it has all the classic ingredients of the genre, the rich non linear plot and the general feel of the movie make it different, unique, and certainly worth the screening.
Out of the Past trailer
9 – VERTIGO (1958)
Ok we are not being so original here. But we must include Hitchcock in a black and white movie list. And <a href=”https://en Continued.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vertigo_(film)”>Vertigo is great movie. Not only because of the plot and the actors, but the cinematography, the technical side of it.
Alfred Hitchcock was an innovator, and at the same time mastered the art. I specially enjoy the “driving” scenes across San Francisco streets, and the use of the soundtrack throughout the film. But no need for words, just watch Vertigo if you have not done so yet, and enjoy the suspense with James Stewart and Kim Novak in this hitchcockian thriller.
10 – THE STRANGER (1946)
Orson Welles‘s ‘Citizen Kane’ is often considered “the best movie of all times”. Although it certainly is a great movie, I feel that the privileged position it holds is related to a certain “divine” admiration that the critics developed when it was released due to the real innovative character it had, and that no one ever discussed again. Almost as if it were a sacred item that does not belong to the world of the mortals, and therefore cannot be judged ever again (but do watch it!).
In this list we include The Stranger, for three reasons. One, it’s and Orson Welles, and he is one of the great filmmakers. Two, the story is very interesting, and has a lot of suspense and tension. Three, the actors are simply great. The intensity of Welles in a role that really suits him, and the perfect counterpart, Edward G Robinson, playing the wise investigator who can sniff what’s going on and will not give up until he catches his pray make it another black and white gem not to be skipped.
The stranger trailer
Thanks for checking our list of 10 amazing black and white movies you should watch.
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