Noir-vember: Our favourite black and white films

Black and White films are anything but boring. Here are a couple of our favourites to explain exactly why

George Bell
29th November 2021
Credit: IMDb
The current standard of films may be a bit murky with directors like Martin Scorsese saying the Marvel Cinematic Universe isn't cinema but in the past, it is a lot more black and white, literally. Here are some of our favourite black and white films that most certainly meet, and exceed, the cinema criteria.
Seven Samurai

My dad has influenced a lot of the films I’ve watched over the years, introducing me to some of my favourites, The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Matrix (1999) but one film he always tried to get me to watch was Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. The main reason I kept putting it off was because of how long it was, an impressive three and a half hours, but thankfully I eventually did.

Kurosawa out here making seven cool, Credit: IMDb

As a concept, Seven Samurai is as black and white as the visuals put on screen; the film depicts a group of samurai (I’ll let you guess the number) as they face an overwhelming number of bandits. A classic story of good vs bad except, in reality, the film is a lot more grey. While the majority of the samurai are as noble and courageous as you’d expect, some were, to put it bluntly, kind of dicks. But that just made me like them more! With only two colours at his disposal, Kurosawa was able to create a diverse range of excellent characters and make one of the most influential films of all time.

You owe it to yourself to watch Seven Samurai at least once - if you have 207 minutes to spare that is

Most black and white films are synonymous with being classics and that couldn’t be more true with Seven Samurai and you owe it to yourself to watch it at least once - if you have 207 minutes to spare that is.

George Bell

It's A Wonderful Life

Content warning: mention of suicide.

Now there are many excellent black and white films that I could talk about, but seeing as though it’s nearly Christmas I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to talk about the classic It’s a Wonderful Life.

It may be festive, but not all of that is fun, Credit: IMDb

If you haven’t watched the film (although it was made in 1946 so if you haven’t caught it at some point I’d be surprised) the plot goes like this: in Bedford Falls, a despairing man named George Bailey is prevented from committing suicide by the intervention of Clarence Oddbody, an angel who wants to earn his wings. He shows George what others’ lives and the town would be like if he got his wish of never being born. This gives George an epiphany and the film ends as the tinkling bell on the Bailey’s Christmas tree signals that Clarence has earned his wings. 

The film finds the perfect balance between the dark and the light

What makes the film so iconic is its balance between the dark and the light - the helpless and the hopeful. George’s nightmarish journey, going through a community that should know him but doesn’t, is strikingly gloomy and has the quintessential style of noir cinema. Not only that, but the twinkling light of the festive season only shows how far George’s character has come throughout the narrative - the events leading up to his suicide show an increasingly abusive, selfish side but the ending provides a cheerful and optimistic version of himself. There’s no shying away from dim themes, but it also acts as a reminder that sometimes simplicity is best and that “no man is alone who has friends”.

Jess Bradbury

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AUTHOR: George Bell
One half film addict, one part computer nerd. All parts Croc lover

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