It’s interesting to think about which movies will be remembered as classics 20-30 years down the road. Interesting, and also depressing. Stop and think. Is there one film made during the modern movie age that will resonate throughout pop culture like a Godfather or a Star Wars? There are no more Godfathers, mostly because the Mafioso in the modern studio system don’t believe in them anymore.
Movies mirror the culture they’re released into. It’s no coincidence that the biggest movies now are sloppily constructed rehashes used to make a quick buck. See also: the housing crisis. The most endearing movies of the old age are often blockbusters, but they’re also something more: risks that paid off. George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola had to fight like hell to get their movies made, and struggled to keep them once they were financed. In modern times, once you’re inside the system, there is no fighting. You make the movie they tell you to, or else you pay for it yourself.
For most of the movies’ existence, we’ve had the ability to show color. Nothing personifies the transition from black and white to color more than that immortal transition in The Wizard of the Oz, when the movies took the audience from the bleak colorlessness of everyday life into the beautiful colors of Victor Fleming’s adaptation.
It’s weird, then, that many modern directors’ greatest film making achievements are in black and white. One benefit of it, besides the beauty you can capture without color, is that it may be hard to tell which decade a movie came from. It can make a movie timeless, which is good when you’re talking about subjects like WWII and the Holocaust. To celebrate 100 posts, here is a look back at movie history at directors’ ventures into a world without any vivid color, and how it paid off for them.