Best B&W Films of the 80s

by galenhoward82 | created - 25 Jun 2017 | updated - 25 Jun 2017 | Public

From the 70s onward, with the vast majority of films being shot in color, it has become an artistic and/or stylistic choice to present a film in black and white. More often today it is used to pay homage to films of a bygone era and invoke a sense of nostalgia, but it can also be used to help create a stark, emotionless, unforgiving world onscreen. Which of these films made most effective use of its black and white presentation?

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1. Raging Bull (1980)

R | 129 min | Biography, Drama, Sport

89 Metascore

The life of boxer Jake LaMotta, whose violence and temper that led him to the top in the ring destroyed his life outside of it.

Director: Martin Scorsese | Stars: Robert De Niro, Cathy Moriarty, Joe Pesci, Frank Vincent

Votes: 302,691 | Gross: $23.38M

2. The Elephant Man (1980)

PG | 124 min | Biography, Drama

77 Metascore

A Victorian surgeon rescues a heavily disfigured man who is mistreated while scraping a living as a side-show freak. Behind his monstrous façade, there is revealed a person of kindness, intelligence and sophistication.

Director: David Lynch | Stars: Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, Anne Bancroft, John Gielgud

Votes: 207,359

3. Stardust Memories (1980)

PG | 89 min | Comedy, Drama

While attending a retrospective of his work, a filmmaker recalls his life and his loves: the inspirations for his films.

Director: Woody Allen | Stars: Woody Allen, Charlotte Rampling, Jessica Harper, Marie-Christine Barrault

Votes: 20,111 | Gross: $10.39M

4. Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982)

PG | 88 min | Comedy, Crime, Mystery

67 Metascore

Film noir parody with a detective uncovering a sinister plot. Characters from real noirs appear as scenes from various films are intercut.

Director: Carl Reiner | Stars: Steve Martin, Rachel Ward, Alan Ladd, Carl Reiner

Votes: 19,402 | Gross: $18.20M

5. Rumble Fish (1983)

R | 94 min | Crime, Drama, Romance

63 Metascore

Rusty James, an absent-minded street thug struggles to live up to his legendary older brother's reputation, and longs for the days when gang warfare was going on.

Director: Francis Ford Coppola | Stars: Matt Dillon, Mickey Rourke, Diane Lane, Dennis Hopper

Votes: 30,114 | Gross: $2.49M

6. Stranger Than Paradise (1984)

R | 89 min | Comedy, Drama

86 Metascore

A New Yorker's life is thrown into a tailspin when his younger cousin surprise visits him, starting a strange, unpredictable adventure.

Director: Jim Jarmusch | Stars: John Lurie, Eszter Balint, Richard Edson, Cecillia Stark

Votes: 32,420 | Gross: $2.44M

7. Broadway Danny Rose (1984)

PG | 84 min | Comedy

80 Metascore

In his attempts to reconcile a lounge singer with his mistress, a hapless talent agent is mistaken as her lover by a jealous gangster.

Director: Woody Allen | Stars: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Nick Apollo Forte, Sandy Baron

Votes: 22,670 | Gross: $10.60M

8. Zelig (1983)

PG | 79 min | Comedy

"Documentary" about a man who can look and act like whoever he's around, and meets various famous people.

Director: Woody Allen | Stars: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Patrick Horgan, John Buckwalter

Votes: 38,159 | Gross: $11.80M

9. Down by Law (1986)

R | 107 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama

75 Metascore

Two innocent people are arrested. An interesting third person, with broken English, joins them in their cell. On his idea, they decide to escape from the prison. Their journey is the rest of the movie.

Director: Jim Jarmusch | Stars: Tom Waits, John Lurie, Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi

Votes: 45,121 | Gross: $1.44M

10. Wings of Desire (1987)

PG-13 | 128 min | Drama, Fantasy, Romance

79 Metascore

An angel tires of overseeing human activity and wishes to become human when he falls in love with a mortal.

Director: Wim Wenders | Stars: Bruno Ganz, Solveig Dommartin, Otto Sander, Curt Bois

Votes: 60,447 | Gross: $3.33M

11. She's Gotta Have It (1986)

R | 84 min | Comedy, Romance

79 Metascore

Story of a woman and her three lovers.

Director: Spike Lee | Stars: Tracy Camilla Johns, Tommy Redmond Hicks, John Canada Terrell, Spike Lee

Votes: 8,890 | Gross: $7.14M

12. Forbidden Zone (1982)

R | 74 min | Comedy, Fantasy, Musical

64 Metascore

The bizarre and musical tale of a girl who travels to another dimension through the gateway found in her family's basement.

Director: Richard Elfman | Stars: Gene Cunningham, Marie-Pascale Elfman, Virginia Rose, Phil Gordon

Votes: 4,342

13. The State of Things (1982)

121 min | Drama

On location in Portugal, a film crew runs out of film while making their own version of Roger Corman's Day the World Ended (1955). The producer is nowhere to be found and director Friedrich... See full summary »

Director: Wim Wenders | Stars: Allen Garfield, Samuel Fuller, Isabelle Weingarten, Rebecca Pauly

Votes: 2,612 | Gross: $6.00M

14. Veronika Voss (1982)

R | 104 min | Drama

Partially based upon the life of Sybille Schmitz, WI found fame under the Nazi regime, but woods career was destroyed afterwards, Veronika Voss is a once prominent UFA actress, kept by her doctor, raises suspicion in a sports journalist.

Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder | Stars: Rosel Zech, Hilmar Thate, Cornelia Froboess, Annemarie Düringer

Votes: 5,671

15. Chan Is Missing (1982)

Not Rated | 80 min | Drama, Mystery

85 Metascore

Two cab drivers search San Francisco's Chinatown for the mysterious Chan, who disappeared with their $4000.

Director: Wayne Wang | Stars: Wood Moy, Marc Hayashi, Laureen Chew, Peter Wang

Votes: 989

16. Tetsuo (1989)

Not Rated | 67 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

A businessman accidentally kills The Metal Fetishist, who gets his revenge by slowly turning the man into a grotesque hybrid of flesh and rusty metal.

Director: Shin'ya Tsukamoto | Stars: Tomorô Taguchi, Kei Fujiwara, Nobu Kanaoka, Shin'ya Tsukamoto

Votes: 17,889

17. Confidentially Yours (1983)

PG | 110 min | Comedy, Crime, Mystery

Claude Massoulier is murdered while hunting at the same place than Julien Vercel, an estate agent that knew him and whose fingerprints are found on Massoulier's car. As the police discovers... See full summary »

Director: François Truffaut | Stars: Fanny Ardant, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Jean-Pierre Kalfon, Philippe Laudenbach

Votes: 5,264

18. Mala Noche (1986)

Not Rated | 78 min | Drama

A story of amour fou. Walt is madly in love/lust with a young illegal Mexican immigrant. However, the object of his unrequited affection doesn't even speak any English and finds Walt really... See full summary »

Director: Gus Van Sant | Stars: Tim Streeter, Doug Cooeyate, Ray Monge, Nyla McCarthy

Votes: 3,517

19. Le Dernier Combat (The Last Battle) (1983)

R | 92 min | Sci-Fi

In a post-apocalyptic future where no one is able to speak, the few remaining humans fight over resources in order to survive.

Director: Luc Besson | Stars: Pierre Jolivet, Jean Bouise, Jean Reno, Fritz Wepper

Votes: 5,335

20. Boy Meets Girl (1984)

Not Rated | 100 min | Drama, Romance

Paris by night. Alex, 22, wants to become a filmmaker. He is fascinated by first times and his girlfriend, Florence, has just left him for his best friend, Thomas. First break-up, first ... See full summary »

Director: Leos Carax | Stars: Denis Lavant, Mireille Perrier, Carroll Brooks, Maïté Nahyr

Votes: 2,712

21. Epidemic (1987)

Not Rated | 106 min | Drama, Horror

66 Metascore

A director and screenwriter pen a script and, in the process, blur the line between fiction and reality.

Director: Lars von Trier | Stars: Allan De Waal, Ole Ernst, Michael Gelting, Colin Gilder

Votes: 4,633

22. Border Radio (1987)

R | 87 min | Drama

Two musicians and a roadie take money that is owed to them from a job. One flees to Mexico, and everyone has questions.

Directors: Allison Anders, Dean Lent, Kurt Voss | Stars: Chris D., Chris Shearer, Dave Alvin, Devon Anders

Votes: 602

23. Tales from the Gimli Hospital (1988)

72 min | Comedy, Drama, Fantasy

71 Metascore

While their mother is dying in the modern Gimli, Manitoba hospital, two young children are told a tale by their Icelandic grandmother about Einar the Lonely, his friend Gunnar, and the ... See full summary »

Director: Guy Maddin | Stars: Kyle McCulloch, Michael Gottli, Angela Heck, Margaret Anne MacLeod

Votes: 1,186

24. Roadkill (1989)

80 min | Adventure, Comedy, Drama

A music promoter sends a young woman on a road trip in search of a band who hasn't been showing up for their gigs.

Director: Bruce McDonald | Stars: Valerie Buhagiar, Gerry Quigley, Larry Hudson, Bruce McDonald

Votes: 564

25. My Twentieth Century (1989)

104 min | Comedy, Drama

81 Metascore

Separated identical twins ride an Orient Express unaware of each other: a feminist anarchist and a hedonistic courtesan, living under the powder-keg Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Separate ... See full summary »

Director: Ildikó Enyedi | Stars: Dorota Segda, Oleg Yankovskiy, Paulus Manker, Péter Andorai

Votes: 1,195 | Gross: $0.68M

26. Sidewalk Stories (1989)

R | 97 min | Comedy

Nearly silent comedy filmed in black and white follows a street artist (Charles Lane), who rescues a baby after her father was murdered. The artist then sets off to find the mother, but has... See full summary »

Director: Charles Lane | Stars: Charles Lane, Nicole Alysia, Tom Alpern, Edwin Anthony

Votes: 284 | Gross: $0.13M



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