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The 25 best black and white movies you should watch

5. Memento (2001)

Christopher Nolan's mindfuck psychological thriller isn't entirely in black and white (unlike his equally brilliant Following), but that doesn't stop it from packing a monochrome punch. Guy Pearce plays the amnesia-suffering Leonard, who's out for revenge. Now then, if only he could remember why... Lucky for audiences, it's not too hard to figure out what's happening in the present and in the past, as the black and white is used to help distinguish those two separate strands. When the two colour grades finally collide at the film's climax, it's thrilling stuff.

4. American History X (1999)

Gut-punching drama from director Tony Kaye that will have you wincing before it's over. Edward Norton plays Derek Vinyard, an ex-neo-Nazi who gets out of jail and attempts to prevent his younger brother Danny (Edward Furlong) from straying down the same dangerous path. Choosing to shoot in black and white works, giving the film an apocalyptic sense of doom, as if these events are playing out in a future that's heading for damnation. Granted, the mood is sombre and it feels like there's no hope, but damn it's watchable. 

3. Persepolis (2007)

This French coming-of-age tale is based on Marjane Strapi's autobiographical graphic novel. Like the book, the award-winning movie follows Marjane from girlhood to her mid-twenties as she grows up in the midst of the Iranian Revolution, a die-hard Bruce Lee fan and an avid activist. The animation, in its hues of grey and white, beautifully evokes the original look of the Persepolis graphic novel - it simply couldn't have been done any other way.

2. Schindler's List (1993)

Steven Spielberg's unflinching examination of World War II, as told through the eyes of Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), a German businessman who turns his factory into a place of refuge for Jews. Spielberg shot Schindler's List in black and white because most of the documentaries about the subject were colourless, which makes the images feel familiar but doesn't lessen their impact any. This is also the most expensive black and white film ever made.

1. Raging Bull (1980)

What the studio originally saw as a sequel to the hugely-successful Rocky would go on to become a sporting classic in its own right. Robert De Niro piled on the muscle to play boxing legend Jake La Motta, a volatile figure both in and out of the ring, and then piled on the flab to portray his later years. While that type of method acting was relatively unheard of at the time, it's the story and brutality of Raging Bull that make the biggest impact. Could it be the best collaboration between De Niro and Scorsese? Possibly. This blinding boxer drama packs punch after punch, leaving pools of almost-black blood on the canvas. (It's actually ketchup! A neat hack for shooting blood in black and white!)

Gem is GR+'s west coast entertainment news reporter. She’s a bit obsessed with all things Aliens and Terminator.