my favorite black & white movies

 There’s something special about old movies, especially black and white ones (henceforth referred to as ‘b&w’). Even though they’re usually kind of cheesy, with some bad camera angles, meh music, and occasional bad acting, movies made in the ‘olden days’ have a special charm of their own. Perhaps because they were made in a day when manners weren’t a thing of the past, where even a d-word in a film would cause a huge furor (Gone With The Wind, anyone?), and the dresses were swishy and gorgeous and modest (for the most part). Those movies remind us of a time not so very long ago that more than one of us would love to return to. I’ve watched dozens of old movies over the years, and although I haven’t enjoyed every single one of them (far from it, at times), there have been a few – four, in particular – that stick out in mind as being amazing. They’re some of my favorite movies, and I can’t wait to share them with you.

{in no particular order}

~It’s A Wonderful Life

Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”

‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ is the quintessential Christmas film, and even though I don’t celebrate Christmas (along with the rest of my family), it still touches me in a special way. I watched it a few months ago (actually, it must have been quite a while back, since I watched it in December), and I’m so glad I did, since I was finally old enough to appreciate it. The whole story is heartwarming, entertaining and, in some parts, tear-jerking. Plus, it provides a different outlook on life – if you’d never been born, how would the world be different? And would it be a good different, or a bad different? Jimmy Stewart is one of my favorite actors (if not the favorite), and he did an amazing job with the role of George Bailey. Honestly, the part when it’s like he was never born always gets me, and it’s mainly because of his incredible acting. I’m actually tearing up a little just thinking about it, because, y’know, it’s just…wow. There are no adjectives to describe it. There’s also no words to describe the final scene where everyone pours in and gives George all their money. That’s definitely one of my favorite scenes from any movie, and it was the perfect ending to a perfect film.

~A Tale Of Two Cities

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

I reviewed this film not so very long ago, so I’ll leave you with the link. And if you don’t have time to read the review, I’ll just say that you need to go watch this movie as soon as possible. If you’re a period drama fan, or a Charles Dickens fan, or a fan of good b&w movies, this is the movie to go to. It’s not very well known, but it fully deserves any recognition it gets, and more.

~Mr Smith Goes To Washington

“Either I’m dead right, or I’m crazy!”
This movie. THIS. MOVIE. Words cannot express my admiration for it. I watched it when I was pretty young, and I thought it was boring (talking, plotting, speeches, more plotting, more speeches…), as I thought so many movies were. And then about a year ago I watched it again and I realized my mistake. While it’s true that littler children will probably be bored out of their minds by it, those of us who are Older can certainly appreciate it (and should). It’s politics and loyalty (and betrayal) and one man standing up against as entire Senate, just because he knows that what he’s standing for is right. That takes courage, and Jefferson Smith has plenty of that. Just go read some of these quotes…if you haven’t seen the movie, I guarantee they will make you want to. ‘Mr Smith Goes To Washington’ is a classic film, and for all the right reasons. It’s funny, patriotic, intense, dramatic, and a tiny bit romantic. So, basically, it has something for everyone above the age of ten (or so).
“Just because the Germans are dumb doesn’t mean they’re stupid.”

I’ve probably since this film about five times (the most recent viewing being a couple weeks ago), and it’s one of my favorite war movies ever, even though the whole thing takes place in a prisoner of war camp (‘Stalag’ is roughly the German equivalent of ‘prison camp’). Since I don’t believe many people have heard of it, here’s the basic basic basic plot – the POWs in one barrack figure out that there’s a spy hidden among them that’s tipping off the Germans about escape plans, radios, etc. The entire movie is the prisoners trying to figure out who the guy is. And I really, really can’t say anymore, because reading spoilers for this film would be a tragedy. Just pull it up on your computer (it’s all on Youtube), and get it playing. Don’t look up anything about it. Just start watching it. One thing I like about ‘Stalag 17’ is that even though it’s very tense/intense, each serious scene is offset by a funny one (or at least a funny moment). It keeps everything light, while not detracting from the seriousness of the situation (three guys die by the end of the film, and one gets beat up really badly). Also, this film was the inspiration (or, should I say, plagarismation – honestly, the first episode of ‘HH’ is basically a rip-off of S17) for the iconic TV show ‘Hogan’s Heroes’ (which is also available on Youtube). I prefer the film to the show, but the show’s really good as well.

So, those are just a few of my favorite old movies – what are some of yours?


2 thoughts on “my favorite black & white movies

  1. I don’t remember being impressed with It’s a Wonderful Life, but I need to watch it again!!!

    Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is amazing!!! It just makes you feel good inside!!!

    A Tale of Two Cities movie!!! Awesome!!!

    Going to check out Stalag 17 right now!!!

    Thanks for the recommendations!!


  2. Because I grew up with B+W TV and didn’t go out to the movies much, I automatically think of “the past” as being black & white. I still prefer it for historical subjects. Sometimes I take the color out on the monitor if I’m watching a new movie set in the past.

    Since two of the favorites you listed were directed by the same guy, Frank Capra (Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith), you might really enjoy looking up his other films, many of which are excellent. They include Arsenic and Old Lace, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Meet John Doe, and Lost Horizon (1937). Capra specialized in movies about uplifting themes, which were sometimes derided at the time as “Capra-corn” by sardonic pundits. Well, his critics are dead, and the films have lived on!

    I don’t think there’s a better single black & white film than Citizen Kane (1941), even though I have a lot of personal affection for classic foreign B+W movies of the ’40s and ’50s, and a genre they call “film noir” – an American style with heavy pools of light and shadow, and weird, innovative camera angles, usually about “dark” subjects like murders or lives gone wrong.


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