Deliberately Monochrome

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You see dimensions in two,

State your case with black or white
The Fixx, "One Thing Leads to Another"

Sometimes, the less we say, the more gets said. Despite and because of its simplicity, complexity, stark contrast and cultural cachet, Black and White movies and stand-alone TV episodes have remained popular in a few genres and story niches that can pull it off without seeming pretentious. Its uses vary, but these works are deliberately desaturated to help the general mood and theme of the Film.

While no genre has a lock on B&W, the likeliest to use it are Film Noir, detective stories and historical films or paying homage to historical films. The themes that can be expressed or heightened with B&W are generally moral ambiguity, Zeerust, mystery, drama and tragedy.

There are a few common variants: Desaturation, Limited Palette, and Splash of Color.

Desaturating the color of a film can also be used to mimic the look of older films, particularly colorized black-and-white films or faded prints of color films. This has led to use of Sepia tones (browns and tans that mimic faded photographs) to indicate the scene in question is a flashback. It's worth noting that combining a Desaturated picture with Splash of Color can result in a Limited Palette.

A Limited Palette is a work completely in Black and White except for one or two recurring colors, shown in full vibrancy and linked to an important character or object. It's as if someone was making a "Paint by Numbers" movie with only two colors available. The net effect of these strategic and recurring uses of color in a B&W film may help to draw the viewers attention; whether it’s to the MacGuffin, the Femme Fatale or Chekhov's Gun. The colors themselves also inform roughly what emotions or themes are present in the work. Whereas Splash of Color is usually just a visual grab, a Limited Palette with colors like red or blue means the world is violent or sad, and that the character or object is somehow more alive or real than the world they're in. This is why a common Flashback Effect is to use a limited palette of warm colors to signify happy and old memories. Until the tragedy kicks in, anyway.

A Splash of Color is much like the above, but appears only once or twice throughout the entire film as opposed to throughout.

In infomercials, Deliberately Monochrome signifies the "old-fashioned" (and usually inferior) way of doing things. The woman tangled in a mess of cling wrap or cutting her fingers off while paring potatoes with a knife will usually be in black-and-white, while the woman easily covering leftovers with a Covermate or "peeling" a potato with the Handy-Peel will be in full color.

See also Retraux, Real Is Brown. A Monochrome Past is this trope limited to a Flash Back.


Examples of Deliberately Monochrome include:

Pure Black and White[edit | hide | hide all]

Advertising[edit | hide]

  • Most "comparison" shots for diets, acne medicine, and other cosmetic applications will happen to have the "before" shot in black and white, and the "after" in color.
  • There was an advert in the 1980s for Courage Best beer that was deliberately shot in the style of a 1930s film—they actually got a cinematographer from the '30s involved to ensure authenticity. The advert is known as "Gercha"; it's supposed to hearken back to an era where Courage Best was apparently served in every pub across the land. Or perhaps it's supposed to show that Courage Best is timeless. Either way, "Gercha" is the name of the Chaz & Dave song that plays during that advert, and in fact Chaz & Dave did do more jingles for other, similar Courage Best adverts in the 1980s.
  • The Trope Too Incompetent to Operate a Blanket is in turn practically built around this trope.
  • Most attack ads during political campaigns do this, usually with the candidate they don't like. Magical colors reappear when the candidate they do like comes on screen.
  • Ads for kids show the boring world in black and white before the introduction of the new product that gives everything color.


Anime[edit | hide]

  • The last episode of Gunbuster, just cause it's so angsty. What do you expect, it's a Gainax Ending (the angsty version, not the budget one).
  • Clannad starts out like this, before Tomoya meets Nagisa. By the same company that made Suzumiya Haruhi No Yuutsu.
  • .hack depicts the real world, as opposed to The World of the on-line VR games, in grainy black and white... except in the very final scene, where two of the players joyfully meet up in real life for the first time.
  • Darker than Black has an entire arc where suitably monochrome scenes indicate the past.
  • Episode 7 of Puella Magi Madoka Magica displays the witches' realm this way.
  • When Iori is telling ghost stories to Makoto and Yukiho at the beach during the night in the anime version of The Idolmaster.


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • The Crow
  • Most of Sin City; taken Up to Eleven in that it's entirely black and white, i.e., no gray. Starting with "That Yellow Bastard," certain characters are highlighted in color, falling somewhere between the other two versions of this trope.
  • The two prequel books to The Order of the Stick webcomic -- On the Origins of PCs and Start of Darkness—are in grayscale. Best explained by the author, Rich Burlew:

You may be wondering why on earth this book is in greyscale, when OOTS has always been in glorious full color. Clearly, it is to give that "nostalgic" feeling, so that you really feel like you are peering into the past. After all, these are the "home movie" of the OOTS characters, and so black-and-white seemed appropriate. I was outraged to learn that it was, in fact, less expensive and faster to produce, and insisted on paying the printer the full cost for a color book, simply to appease my conscience. That's just the kind of guy I am.

  • The Batman Black and White series has stories where it's in, you guessed it, black and white! Except for the last story in the last volume, which has splashes of red. One story features a villain, the Black and White Bandit, who is colorblind and whose Idiosyncrazy involves things that are black and white—adding a bizarre level of meta.
  • The German version of Hellboy, when drawn by Mike Mignola.


Comic Strips[edit | hide]

  • Calvin and Hobbes
    • The world, in one of the more surreal Sunday strips, turns into a bizarre patchwork of heavy monochrome blotches. The last panel returns to the normal color format:

Dad: The problem is, you see everything in terms of black and white.
Calvin: Sometimes that's the way things are!!

    • Calvin and Hobbes used this theme on several occasions. For example, Calvin's Father's explanation of why old pictures are in black-and-white....

Calvin: Dad, how come old photographs are always black and white? Didn't they have color film back then?
Dad: Sure they did. In fact, those old photographs are in color. It's just the world was black and white then. The world didn't turn color until sometime in the 1930s, and it was pretty grainy color for a while, too.
Calvin: That's really weird.
Dad: Well, truth is stranger than fiction.
Calvin: But then why are old paintings in color?! If their world was black and white, wouldn't artists have painted it that way?
Dad: Not necessarily. A lot of great artists were insane.
Calvin: But... but how could they have painted in color anyway? Wouldn't their paints have been shades of gray back then?
Dad: Of course, but they turned colors like everything else did in the '30s.
Calvin: So why didn't old black and white photos turn color too?
Dad: Because they were color pictures of black and white, remember?

  • As a matter of fact, for much of newspaper comics' history all the comics were printed in black and white (except the Sunday editions) due to the cost of printing them in color.


Films -- Animation[edit | hide]

  • While the art of the French The Future Is Noir film Renaissance is purely black and white, its story is told in shades of gray.
  • Persepolis (except for scenes in the present day).
  • For a brief scene in the original Fantasia, the screen goes black and white after Mickey Mouse hacks the broom in the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" segment.
  • Similar to the example above is the shot of the White Rabbit's watch being smashed in Alice in Wonderland.
  • The opening scenes of The Triplets of Belleville (a.k.a. Belleville Rendez-vous), done as a pastiche of early 1930s cartoons.
  • In Turtles Forever, this is how the Turtles Prime world, a.k.a. the original Mirage Comics Turtles, is entirely black and white. The only exceptions are the characters and things from the 1980s world and the 2000s world.
  • In Mary and Max, Mary's world is shown in sepiatone, whilst Max's world is in black and white. There are occasionally shades of red that stand out, a la Schindler's List.
  • The Mamoru Oshii film The Red Spectacles pulls a reverse Wizard of Oz; the opening sequence is in color, while the next 90% of the film (which may very well take place entirely in the protagonist's head) is in black and white.


Films -- Live-Action[edit | hide]

  • The opening to The Wizard of Oz was deliberately filmed in B&W to highlight its transition to the then-new color filming. It was one of the first movies to use three-strip Technicolor. In the book, Kansas is gray, just like a black and white movie. In the movie (non-TV prints), Kansas is sepia and white. Presumably it's supposed to echo old photographs.
  • The opening sequence of 2006's Casino Royale, prior to Bond receiving his 00 rating, is shot in black and white.
  • In A Matter of Life and Death, Earth is in color and Heaven is in black and white—a deliberate inversion of expectations. At one point one of the Heavenly characters actually lampshades this by remarking, "One is so starved for Technicolor up there."
  • Famous Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky really liked black and white and usually only used color as a specific visual device. Two notable examples are Andrei Rublev where the only color sequence is the ending montage of the title character's paintings and in Stalker where the characters' home town is black and white while the Zone is in color.
  • The Girl Can't Help It (1956) starts in B&W and narrow screen, but this lasts only a few moments (which include the 20th Century-Fox sign-on). When Tom Ewell appears at the start of the opening credits to mention that the movie is in Technicolor and Cinemascope, the screen adjusts accordingly.
  • Most of The Three Stooges 1960s films, done as an homage to their more popular 1930s and 1940s shorts.
  • The French movie Paris brûle-t-il ? (Is Paris Burning?) was shot in B&W in 1966 (save for the final view of modern Paris). It allowed the stock footage of the actual liberation of Paris to mix more seamlessly with the film. Also, hanging red Nazi flags in Paris wasn't allowed by the French authorities, even for a movie; the flags had to be gray instead.
  • Similarly, Task Force (1949) has the early parts in black & white to match existing footage; once it reaches WWII, the movie switches to color to match that footage.
  • The 1960 Star-Studded epic, The Longest Day is also in Black and white to give it a documentary feel.
  • The rock concert sequence in Bedazzled (the 1967 version) is in black and white, perhaps to mimic the look of mid-1960s television. Logical, since Britain's two main networks didn't get color until 1969.
  • Some scenes of If.... (1968) are in black and white. Many people have tried to find the "pattern"; some think that the black and white scenes are fantasy or dreams, but others think that the color scenes are. Star Malcolm McDowell claims that some of the scenes would have taken too long to light properly if they had been shot in color, and then other scenes were shot black and white to add "texture". But another view is that the filmmakers ran into money troubles halfway through shooting and so had to shoot the rest of the scenes in black and white.
  • Paper Moon, set in the Great Depression.
  • The Last Picture Show
  • Young Frankenstein, in order to better parody the old Frankenstein movies. (As Mel Brooks himself puts it in the trailer, "In black and white! No offense!") According to Mel Brooks, he refused to shoot the film in color and took the project to different studio when the first was too chicken to release a B&W movie then.
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show was supposed to be in black and white until the first chorus of The Time Warp, signifying the entrance into the new, colorful world of the Transylvanians.
  • Eraserhead, to facilitate Nothing Is Scarier.
  • The comedy J-Men Forever (1979) consists of clips from Republic serials from the 1940s and 50s, edited together and re-dubbed for comic effect. In order to frame the resulting incoherent story, creators Philip Proctor and Peter Bergman act in scenes as the Chief of the J-Men and his bumbling sidekick Barton. The scenes are naturally filmed in B&W to match the rest of the footage.
  • The Elephant Man
  • Raging Bull
  • The low-budget Serial Killer Black Comedy C'est arrivé près de chez vous, translated as Man Bites Dog, is filmed as black-and-white documentary.
  • Schindler's List (1993) was filmed in black and white to make it "timeless", and to fit the period, with a few exceptions: A girl's red coat is shown in full color twice in the film, and the flames of the Sabbath candles symbolically fade to black and white early in the film, returning to color later.
  • The vampire movie Nadja (1994).
  • Ed Wood (1994) was shot on real black and white film because it made it easier to recreate the spirit of Ed Wood's 1950s monster movies, and it made the actors look more convincing as people (Vampira, Bela Lugosi, etc.) whose iconic images were always black and white. It was also felt that it just wouldn't be right to make a movie about Ed Wood in colour.
  • While Clerks used black and white film to save money, Clerks II has brief scenes shot in black and white as a Call Back to the first movie.
  • The French movie La Haine by Mathieu Kassovitz. The scenes shot in the inner city of Paris were originally intended to be shot in colour, to create a more stark contrast with the black and white scenes shot in les banlieues, but the budget wouldn't run to it.
  • Pi, Darren Aronofsky's first film, was notorious for combining extremely high-contrast B&W with his "hip hop montages" to show the character's distorted world.
  • In Memento, the series of scenes that occur in chronological order, as well as the flashbacks contained within them, are filmed in black and white to distinguish them from the scenes that are shown in reverse chronological order.
  • Nolan's feature debut Following is filmed this way.
  • The Man Who Wasn't There is an interesting case; the film was shot in color, made monochrome for the US releases but released with the color in Europe due to the contract. The black and white is presumably an homage to old noir films.
  • Parts of Kill Bill. Allegedly to fudge around censorship rules, due to the sheer amount of graphic bloodletting in the infamous battle royale with the Crazy 88. The second film as well, but as an artistic choice. It was a homage to the old westerns such as High Noon as well as an emulation of their themes. They went beyond just black and white: the first reel of the film (the part that is black and white) is actually recorded and distributed on an older form of film made out of vinyl instead of plastic. A real pain for the projectionists, and vinyl film scratches about ten times easier than modern plastic films.
  • In the late 1950s and early 1960s, many directors such as Stanley Kubrick choose to stick with black and white film despite the rapidly rising popularity of color film, precisely for these reasons (not to mention at the time black and white still had an edge in picture clarity and contrast, and B-movies used B&W for budget reasons). Arguable examples include Marilyn Monroe's last film The Misfits, the original Three Ten to Yuma and Dr. Strangelove.
  • Billy Wilder and Ingmar Bergman mostly directed black and white films until the 1970s. Wilder's Some Like It Hot was shot in black and white because the make-up used to drag-up Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon looked too garish on color film.
  • The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra is in black and white, being an Affectionate Parody of 50s B monster movies.
  • The opening scenes of Van Helsing, in homage to the old monster movies of the 30s and 40s.
  • Good Night and Good Luck. This made the black and white footage of the real Senator Joe McCarthy in the film integrate very well visually.
  • The 2005 The Call of Cthulhu (tabletop game) movie is deliberately done not only in black and white but as a silent movie.
  • Clint Eastwood's films Flags of our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima, though filmed in color, are shot and lit as if done in black and white, giving it the same effect. Adding to this, the volcanic rock of Iwo Jima is really not a very colorful place.
  • The Good German was shot in color (because this allowed the use of faster film than currently available in black-and-white, and the ability to use "green screen" techniques), but the color was then converted digitally to a grainier black and white, in order to recreate a 1940s film noir style, and blend with carefully restored period archival footage.
  • Control, a biopic of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis, was shot entirely in black-and-white to recreate the appearance of '70s band photography. Particularly those taken by the film's director, Anton Corbijn, a photographer for NME, Rolling Stone and other magazines.
  • The DVD of The Mist has two discs: one with the film in color as theatrically released, one with the film deliberately monochrome.
  • Christmas on Mars is mostly in black and white to emphasize the dreariness of life in an abandoned Mars colony, with more fantastical or just plain Mind Screw sequences in vivid color.
  • At the beginning of Defiance, we see black-and-white film footage of German soldiers rounding up Jews. We cut to a scene which you swiftly realise is not contemporary footage, which then turns into color. At the end of the film, things return to black-and-white.
  • The Austrian film The White Ribbon, released in the United States at the end of 2009, was produced entirely in grayscale, because it is set right before World War One.
  • The first Godzilla film was shot in black and white, not because it couldn't be shot in color, but because it was decided that black and white would send the message better, and because although it was possible to shoot film in color, doing so would have poor quality (see Rodan), and also because it is easier.
  • Casshern has scenes with liberal use of color, and scenes reduced entirely to black and white. The point is contrast—black and white is only used for scenes taking place in Zone 7, where the war is going on.
  • The 2004 The Phantom of the Opera movie includes several black and white scenes. In this case, these are the "present day" scenes, and the past is shown in full color. There's also a Splash of Color moment at the end—the rose on Christine's grave.
  • There is a version of the movie Sympathy for Lady Vengeance called Fade to Black and White in which the movie starts in full color, but the color gradually fades until the last scenes are completely monochrome. Even the regular version has a similar effect: The locations and outfits in the first few scenes make use of very bright colors, but towards the end, the bright colors are replaced by pastels, greys, and black and white. Park had planned to film Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance this way, but the idea was scrapped due to budget limitations.
  • The opening of the French movie Le Gendarme de Saint-Tropez, set in a small village of the French Alps, is in black and white. Then it switches to color with the arrival in the much more colorful town of Saint-Tropez.
  • The beginning of The Hotshots (Les Cracks) with Bourvil (a 1968 movie, but set in 1901) is not only in Black & White, but filmed like a silent movie. But it switches to sound and vibrant colors at the start of the Tour de France.
  • Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid is a Film Noir parody-homage that contains a mixture of recycled footage from real films noir and new footage shot in black-and-white to match.
  • The 2002 film Marathon, aside from being a "Silence Is Golden" adherent, was also shot in black and white.
  • The 1987 Duran Duran documentary Three to Get Ready was shot in black and white to highlight the cinema verite aspect of the documentary, which chronicles the band's first attempts at managing themselves while also promoting the album Notorious and preparing for an accompanying tour.
  • Nickleodeon: Peter Bogdanovich wanted to film this 1976 homage to early movie-making in black and white but the studio insisted on a more commercial color release. The film was released in a black and white director's cut version on DVD in 2009.
  • Psycho. Black-and-white films were common in 1960, but seven of Alfred Hitchcock previous eight films were in color.
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray, released in 1945, was shot in black and white, but Dorian's titular portrait is shown twice in three-strip technicolor.
  • Smokey's flashback scenes in Friday were black and white.
  • Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf was shot in black and white mainly because the makeup to turn Elizabeth Taylor(then in her early 30s) into a woman in her fifties looked unconvincing in color.
  • The Georgian film Comrade Stalin's Trip to Africa was shot in black and white. It uses a lot of stock footage, especially of Stalin and his victory parade, and the new footage matches. (There's also a little color stock footage.)
  • 2011's The Artist is not only shot in black and white, but is silent as well.
  • The first half of The Reluctant Dragon is in black and white, with the main character commenting on the switch to color.
  • The Notorious Bettie Page is mostly black and white, but changes to lush 1950s style color in order to convey the sense of release the main character feels when visiting Miami.
  • Bonjour Tristesse has present-day scenes in black-and-white and flashbacks in color.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • Though its absence isn't indicated until far into the book, the majority of The Giver takes place In a World where color (and music... and sex...) have been eliminated—or, rather, most people have been genetically engineered and drugged not to see it.


Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Moonlighting has a B&W episode. Introduced by Orson Welles, no less.
  • Matlock has a B&W episode about Matlock's father.
  • The Twilight Zone was intentionally always shot in black in white (they could have used color if they wanted to), to add to the feeling and theme of the show.
  • Monk has an episode, "Mr. Monk and the Leper", which was shown separately in both color and B&W (and heavily publicized as such).
  • The first color daytime episode of Concentration, in November 1966, had the first couple of minutes in black and white, similar to The Wizard of Oz.
  • Small Wonder did this in the episode "Big 'J', Private Eye".
  • The pilots of the TV Comedies Get Smart and Hogan's Heroes were in black and white, all of the other episodes were in color.
  • The "Interview" episode of Mash was shot in black and white to look like an authentic 1950s TV interview show. It even includes a brief voiceover from Alan Alda at the start of the episode informing the audience that the episode was deliberately filmed in black and white, presumably to keep people from thinking their TV was busted.
  • The Season 3 finale of Queer as Folk uses this device, contrasting a B&W police-occupied Liberty Avenue to its truer colorful and celebratory self (a rainbow flag being waved is the first item to regain color).
  • The X-Files episode "The Post-Modern Prometheus" was black & white in homage to old Frankenstein movies and, presumably, the Deliberately Monochrome The Elephant Man.
  • The TV remake for Fail Safe (the one starring George Clooney) was shot in black and white, imitating the original.
  • Power Rangers
    • In the "Dark Wish" three-parter of Power Rangers Mystic Force this effect was used to show a world where the Mystic Rangers never existed.
    • The Power Rangers Zeo episode "It Came from Angel Grove", in order to pay homage to old black-and-white horror films.
  • Charmed
  • Cold Case imitates the production values of the periods they flashback to, and anything beyond 1950 or so ends up black and white. This includes when we get flashes of the Time Shifted Actors during present day scenes, which ends up looking sort of creepy.
    • One episode began in full old-photo sepia and appeared to take place in the early 1800s. Then a car full of people pull up. It was 2006, in Amish country.
    • Also, in episode about bank robbery, flashbacks also are black and white despite being set in 2000—to imitate security footage.
  • Star Trek Voyager: The holoprogram The Adventures of Captain Proton! is black and white as it's based on 1930s/50s serials like Flash Gordon and Commando Cody. When the holographic Doctor walks onto the holodeck, Harry Kim quickly tells the computer to "adjust the Doctor's spectral frequency" whereupon the Doctor turns monochrome too, much to his annoyance.
  • Supernatural had "Monster Movie" filmed in B&W as an homage to 1930s monster movies.

Dean: It's about time the Winchesters got back to tackling a straightforward, black and white case.

  • In Tin Man, when DG meets the first Dorothy Gale, she enters a black and white landscape resembling The Wizard of Oz Kansas.
  • Both Lois and Clark and Smallville have done film noir tribute episodes in black and white.
  • Frank Sidebottom's Proper Telly Show (titled Frank Sidebottom's Proper Telly Show In b/w on-screen around adbreaks) had its first run in a week shown in monochrome ("so you don't have to adjust the color on your telly") and subsequent repeats shown in color.
  • A wine-tasting task on Big Brother Celebrity Hijack was broadcast in black and white at the behest of that day's celebrity Big Brother, Malcolm McLaren.
  • In one episode of Night Court, Harry is shown the world if he'd never become a judge, which is in black and white. Harry concludes that his absence would literally drain all color from the world, but his guide, an angel in the form of Mel Torme, explains that he's just doing it for effect, knowing that Harry is a film buff.
  • Doctor Who
    • The opening scene of Doctor Who: The Two Doctors.
    • "The God Complex" gives us a creepy hotel. You know it's watching you when it's monochrome.
  • Boy Meets World did a Noir Episode in black and white.
  • Siskel and Ebert once did a show shot in Black and White with themselves in tuxedos as part of their theme to demonstrate the artistic advantages of black and white film.
  • Glee's Christmas episode "Extraordinary merry Christmas" has an in-story special directed by one of the characters and shot completely in black and white. In-universe, the purpose is for it to resemble the 1963 Judy Garland Christmas Special. Off-universe, that and probably making sure the viewers know that the special is a parody of the days gone by and thus avoid Unfortunate Implications, especially that Holiday Roommates Are Funny. Notice that Finn's lightsaber is a nice shade of blue, making it a Splash of Colour.


Music Videos[edit | hide]

  • Black & white videos were a huge fad in the 90s. In fact, virtually every significant musical act from the period has at least one. The most famous is undoubtedly the mega-hit "Every Breath You Take" by The Police.
  • Mariah Carey's performance in the 2005 MTV Movie Awards. Everything was in black and white, except the singer and her red dress.


Theater[edit | hide]


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • The Twilight areas of The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess. According to the early trailers, the Twilight was originally supposed to be completely monochrome, but the development team decided to make it more sepia-like with lots of bloom, possibly as one of Nintendo's many Take Thats against the "realistic" graphics on competitor systems.
    • Also, Wind Waker, with the rerun bosses in Ganon's tower.
  • A level in Rainbow Resort from Kirbys Adventure for the NES has an all-B&W level, as a throwback to Kirby's Dream Land for the original Game Boy.
  • The "How to play" movies for the official maps in Team Fortress 2 are black and white.
  • The Uncharted series of games include optional black and white and sepia filters.
  • The vaporware Wii Gothic horror title Sadness is supposed to be presented entirely in black and white.
  • In Fallout 3, at one point the player is put in a Zeerust Lotus Eater Machine which shows a black and white version of a sunny 1950s suburb where the player is a child for some reason. To be exact, you're a kid, the old man in control of the thing is a little girl and your dad is a dog.
  • The Timeless River in Kingdom Hearts II, which deliberately emulates the look of 1920s Disney shorts for time travel purposes. The only colored elements are in the HUD, and even those are desaturated.
  • In the original Doom and Doom 2 the player's vision changes to inverse monochrome (i.e. black shows as white and vice versa) when the Invulnerability powerup is active.
  • Kingdom of Loathing
  • Similar to Kill Bill, the Xbox Punisher game was considered too violent, and the game turns to black & white whenever you use one of the special interrogations to kill somebody. It's generally discouraged, but c'mon, you know you want to see a drill through that guy's face... This is actually a good thing, as the game is a last gen game. The PC version doesn't have the B&W happen, and it looks pretty silly, but the console versions make the blood look like blood in B&W instead of pixels.
  • The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction has unlockable black & white and sepia settings.
  • Shift is completely in black and white to clearly show where you can shift into. When the character shifts into the black squares, he becomes white and vice versa. Whenever you die, though, a bunch of full-color blood appears.
  • Being badly injured in Left 4 Dead to the point where you will die when incapacitated makes the screen go this, as a warning.
  • There's a neat use of this in an obscure PlayStation 2 game called Blood Will Tell from Sega. Set in medieval Japan, the player's character had most of his body parts stolen by demons as a baby (then replaced with magical substitutes by a friendly wizard), so the main quest involves tracking down those demons and defeating them to get your real body back a piece at a time. The first couple of levels are in Black and White, but after an hour or two of gameplay you get to fight and kill the demon who had taken your eyes. At that point you get your "real" eyes back, and the game switches to glorious color. It's a surprisingly effective moment.
  • In the bonus ending of Drakengard, the protagonist falls through a dimensional rift into an alien dimension where everything is in black and white. That realm happens to be modern-day Tokyo; the black and white is to emphasize the otherness of that dimension to Caim and his dragon.
  • Dragon Quest VIII has the Dark World, which despite its name doesn't really fit the trope; it's no more evil or sinister than the normal world, and it's visually and geographically identical to the island from which you enter it except that it's all in shades of gray: gray grass, gray sky, gray water, gray enemies (who are slightly harder to beat than their in-color counterparts), etc. It makes it surprisingly hard to get around and find stuff, although treasure chests are still in color, and show up even better against gray grass than green. Your party is also still in color, and the townsfolk (who are all in black and white) comment on how funny-looking you are, being in color and all.
  • The Misadventures of PB Winterbottom uses this with Silence Is Golden to invoke an old B&W silent film theme.
  • Yin and Yang is essentially two games in one—one with everything black on a white background, and one with everything white on a black background. The two are kept separate, each with their own main character who can't directly interact with the other main character.
  • In Splinter Cell Conviction, hiding in shadows turns the screen black and white. This is to reduce HUD elements and has a fair bit of realism as you do see in black and white in darkness in real life, although they don't adjust that fast.
  • Indie title Tower of Heaven was done in the style of an original Game Boy title, using shades of green rather than gray. The ending sequence is in color.
  • Limbo has a foreground that's entirely in black silhouettes except for the protagonist's Milky White Eyes, and a greyish, shadowy background.
  • In Comic Jumper, the manga-based world of "Cutie Cutie Kid Cupids" is done entirely in black and white, complete with screen-tone shading like in a real manga.
  • In Call of Duty Black Ops Zombie mode, when playing on ascension, the screen is in black and white until you turn the power on, after that it shows a momentary (about 2 seconds) sepia tint, then it goes to full on color.
  • World 6-3 from Super Mario Bros. However it was actually colorized in the SNES remake.
  • In Little Big Planet, you can set up a monochrome filter on your custom stage.
  • In LA Noire there is an option to play the game in black and white, for that Film Noir feel. If you choose to play in color, the screen gradually changes to black and white when you're injured—the closer you are to a Game Over, the less color there is.
  • Minubeat is made up of simple, black-and-white contour graphics. Or white-and-black (you can invert the colors.)
  • The original version of Closure uses only black and white color. Playstation 3 version has some shades of gray in between.
  • 1000 Amps uses grayscale graphics.
  • Asura's Wrath does this version on a couple of occasions. Such as when the Girl that looks like Asura's Daughter dies, and when Yasha does one final attack before Dying standing up.


Web Animation[edit | hide]

  • The "Old-Timey" universe from Homestar Runner. Partially averted with the Valentine's Day episode, "in A COLOR!"


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Inverted in Wapsi Square, which is usually in black and white, except for a few special occasions.
  • The dark and serious superhero webcomic Shades takes this further. When someone has a minor flashback, the images are "actual" photographs, including polaroids for the 70s and B&W for WWII. The WWII fighter pilot has a longer flashback entirely in B&W, while a flashback to the middle ages is drawn as if on parchment (black on dust-yellow). Sadly, the flashback to 3000 B.C. was not drawn as a cave painting.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court rendered Dr. Disaster's space battle simulation in black and white.
  • Tally Road started in computer-generated grayscale, briefly flirted with color and crosshatched black and white, and returned to grayscale, deliberately—but this time, using ink wash. Definite noir influence, both artistically and thematically.
  • A comic called Flick is about a series of miniature universes, each of which has a specific set of rules that pan out to different genres. One of them is film noir, which is entirely monochrome and very 40s-esque in style.
  • Not only is all of Sam and Fuzzy done in black and white, but the entire website is. Whenever something with color appears on the front page, it's either a guest comic or a new print to buy.
  • Blip: For Something Completely Different, the comic's format was switched to black and white for a month, citing "budget cuts" as the reason.
  • In The Order of the Stick proper, grayscale is used to display darkness seen through Darkvision.
  • In Soul Symphony, scenes in the real world are depicted in black and white. Scenes in the "Soul World" are depicted in full-color.
  • In Dreamkeepers Prelude some contemplation.
  • Endstone was originally done in black and white, except the covers.
  • Frankie and Stein is done in only black and grey.


Web Original[edit | hide]


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Duckman has a noir parody episode done in B&W. In another where the cast travels to a caricatured 1950s milieu, the scene turns black and white; Cornfed remarks that they do not approve of people of color.
  • The Fairly Odd Parents
    • An episode switches to black and white for most of the story; it is a parody of gritty Dick Tracy-style detective stories.
    • Also in the episode when Timmy stays with his grandfather and wishes to transform the world into a 30s cartoon everything turns black and white and in the style of the era.
  • Garfield Specials
    • Garfield: Babes and Bullets, a noir spoof that features colors only when Garfield is out of his fantasy.
    • Garfield His 9 Lives has a B&W life when Garfield is a stunt cat for Krazy Kat.
    • The first scenes of Garfield in the Rough were deliberately on Black and White and it even started with a warning telling the viewers not to adjust the TV's color set.
  • Pepper Ann features a "contemporary noir" spoof, although only the flashbacks are black and white.
  • An entire episode of Recess was done in black and white, involving a story in which Gretchen is discovered for vandalism and explains via flashbacks to another student of how and why she ended up in that room in the first place.
  • All of the film and television images in Batman the Animated Series are in black and white, most noticeably in the episodes "Beware the Grey Ghost" and "Almost Got 'Im".
  • The series finale of Justice League Unlimited and Batman Beyond feature black and white flash forwards that is actually just Terry imagining what he'll do after Luke, You Are My Father-ing Bruce.
  • The "King Homer" segment in The Simpsons episode "Treehouse of Horror III", a parody of King Kong.
  • The bonus Cars Toon Mater: Private Eye, which is exclusive to the DVD version. However, it's revealed at the end that some of the characters are actually indeed colorful.
  • Scenes at the title camp in South Park's "The Death Camp of Tolerance".
  • Parodied in an episode of Phineas and Ferb, when the boys become detectives and wear "detective makeup" to make themselves look like they came out of a Film Noir.
  • The first segment of the Futurama episode "Reincarnation", done in the style of an early-'30s Fleischer Studios cartoon.
  • An episode of The Powerpuff Girls features an Enemy Mime who can absorbs the colors (as well as sounds) of anything he touches, turning part of Townsville in grayscale.
  • The Venture Brothers has the episode "Everybody Comes to Hank's" where Dermott's mother being late to pick him up from work launches Hank into a Noir plot entirely in black and white (the other threads are done in color) where Hank picks up the clothing, lingo and mannerism of a 1930's private eye to solve the mystery of who is Dermott's dad. He even provides noir style naration for his investigation. The Alchemist, bored out of his mind, decides to tag along and help. Every other character they meet acts like a classic noir archetype until the mystery is finally solved. As it turns out, Dermott's dad is Rusty and the woman he was always told was his sister was really his mother.
  • The Code Lyoko episode "Sabotage" has the trope directly referenced. Damage to the Supercomputer is causing lots of bugs on Lyoko, including one that makes Ulrich's Avatar lose all colors. Playing along, he starts fighting a Tarantula Three Musketeers-style with his katana.

Ulrich: Since I am in black and white, let's do this old style. En garde!


Limited Palette[edit | hide]

Advertising[edit | hide]

  • Nuprin. Little. Yellow. Different. Better.
  • Many ads use Limited Palette; a good example being the Gatorade "Is it in you?" series, in B&W except for any liquid, which is in one of Gatorade's colors.


Anime[edit | hide]

  • Shigurui makes use of this to great effect through the recurrence of red in an otherwise-washed out/dark palette—Irako's lips, Iku's nipples, and blood, lots of it.


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • The Hunter Rose issues of the Grendel comic uses a palette of black, white, and red.
  • One of the cornerstones of Hellboy with heavy shadows and scarce highlights. Our red hero really stands out.
  • Batman: The Long Halloween is printed in normal color. But whenever the Holiday Killer strikes, it switches to a Limited Palette (black, white, and blood-red) with Holiday's calling card as a non-red Splash of Color.
  • In Neil Gaiman's Black Orchid (painted by Dave McKean), people and everything man-made were black-and-white (or blue-and-white or brown-and-white in some scenes), while superbeings were in full color, as was nature and everything natural. So you'd have a color flower in a black-and-white room with black-and-white people, or orange firelight on a black-and-white face.


Films -- Animation[edit | hide]

  • The "Rhapsody in Blue" segment of Fantasia 2000 is done primarily in tones of blue, as well as bluish greens and purples, with the occasional red and yellow for emphasis. With the help of computer-controlled coloring, every pixel has some blue in it. The reds and yellows are just very red purples and very yellow greens.


Films -- Live-Action[edit | hide]

  • The 90s Dick Tracy movie.
  • Pleasantville has the eponymous Trapped in TV Land world in B&W, but as the brother and sister introduce Character Development into the static world, elements of color enter to represent it as well.
  • Sin City even uses key bits or red and yellow... albeit, this might have something to do with being faithful to the source material. The movie has noticeably more color than the comic book. For example, in The Hard Goodbye, the movie not only has red blood, but orange fire, blonde hair, red lips, a red bed, orange pill bottle, red tail lights, blue eyes and a full color (though slightly desaturated) bar. The comic version of the story has no color whatsoever. Usually in the comics color is used to signify a character or item of importance, while the movie follows the Rule of Cool.
  • Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin (Tales from the Gimli Hospital, The Saddest Music in the World) uses a mixture of black and white, film tinting, and individual scenes done in two-strip color to invoke the look of silent and early sound films.
  • In Erich von Stroheim's 1924 film Greed, a number of objects related to the eponymous theme were hand-painted yellow to appear golden.
  • The 2009 film Ink uses this. While the real world appears in normal colors, the dream/other world the Storytellers and Incubi inhabit can be told apart by how it is washed out and only one or two colors actually appear vibrantly.
  • The Element of Crime, notable because the movie was filmed in colors, and the reel was not altered afterward: instead, all the sets were lit only with low pressure sodium vapor lamps. Other gas discharge lamps are used sparingly to throw an occasional stain of red or blue.
  • In the 2009 film A Single Man, most of the sequences are filmed in color, but all the colors are flat, grey, and monochrome. The whole movie is filmed like this, except for the scenes when George experiences an emotional connection with another character or has a flashback, when the color scheme suddenly becomes brighter and tinted with red, blue, or yellow.
  • The 1983 film Rumble Fish is in B&W, except for the eponymous fish, which are in colour.
  • In Tron, the computer scenes were shot in black and white, with the only color being the glowing highlights and edges of the computer world, mostly red, blue and yellow.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • House of Leaves is printed in three colors, although there are some variations between the different versions of the book. Normal text is printed in black, the word "house" appears in blue, references to mythology or struck out passages that are vaguely threatening to the reader appear in red. In addition, there are a few instances of the color purple, including the phrase A Novel on the cover, the edition number, and one instance of a struck-out purple phrase in Chapter XXI. "Minotaur" may or may not be struck out, depending on whether it's used during one of the aforementioned mythology references.
  • A similar colored-text method is used in The Neverending Story, to distinguish scenes in Bastian's world from those within the realm of Story. In the paperback version, italics are used instead.
  • Some versions of The Bible print Jesus' dialogue in red.
  • The various characters of Shades of Grey are blind to most colors, and have organized themselves into a hierarchy based on which colors they can see. The low-ranking protagonist can only see red.


Music Videos[edit | hide]

  • Georgian pop group Ucnobi had the music video to their song "Vagoni miqris" shot in grayscale with red highlights. May have to do with red and white being the national colors of Georgia.
  • The clip for "Seven Nation Army" by The White Stripes uses only White, Black and Red, the colors most often worn by the group.
  • Aha's The Sun Always Shines on TV is completely monochrome for most of the video, then highlights the band members' faces and parts of the scenery towards the end.
  • The performance scenes in Suicide Commando's "Die Motherfucker Die" video are monochrome except for the performers' red shirts.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Mickey Mania, like Kingdom Hearts II, also has a Steamboat Willie level. It starts off in black and white (except for Mickey himself), but patches of color are added into the scenery as the level progresses.
  • In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, the Pictochat stage is largely black and white (by extension, the Pictochat software on the DS is also mostly monochrome), although the characters are still colored. In addition, flashbacks in the Adventure mode cutscenes are black and white.
  • Super Paper Mario
    • The general setting of Castle Bleck. While the enemies and characters are in color, the entire Ominous Floating Castle, possibly to show it's in the void, is completely monochrome.
    • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door also has this in one area, namely the Boggly Woods and the Great Tree contained therein. Well, the backgrounds and creatures fit this bill anyway—the ground is more like an Amazing Technicolor Carpet.
  • The Pale Realm in American McGee's Alice. Everything, beside Alice, the Meta Essence and weapons, is in black and white. After all, the place is a chess-themed palace. Guess which chess pieces live there.
  • When using the demon morph Super Mode in Painkiller, Daniel's vision becomes black and white, with enemies tinted red and black.
  • The Wii game MadWorld is in stylized black and white with red blood to emphasize the ludicrous violence. And yellow for the map icons, and blue alien blood.
  • The Lost Crown: A Ghosthunting Adventure falls somewhere between this and the Splash Of Color option, using black & white (or black & green, for night-vision camera views) as a base, but highlighting occasional elements of a scene with color to convey mood or make bloodstains apparent. It also Lampshades itself, when Nigel remarks that Dr. Black's paintings "lack color".
  • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots plays with this. Each of the five acts has one distinct (and often thematic) color and the maps conform to a palette around that color, as if it were being used as a white balance. The Middle East in Act 1 is brown, South America in Act 2 is blue during night maps and green during day maps, Eastern Europe in Act 3 is yellow, Shadow Moses in Act 4 is a blinding white, and Outer Haven in Act 5 is grey.
  • Fully Nazi-controlled areas in The Saboteur are in a Limited Palette—black and white, with some reds and yellows and the occasional blue. In areas where their control has been loosened and the resistance has a foothold, it's in full-color. The border between liberated and occupied areas is Desaturated.
  • Environments in Mirrors Edge are predominately rendered in one color—usually light blue, but it varies a bit—with important objects highlighted in red. In the city itself everything that hasn't been highlighted is often simply just white or grey, even the trees and other vegitation.
  • The Skies Afire spell in Brutal Legend. The sky turns blood red, and all colour disappears except for shades of grey, red and orange.
  • The first half and the antepenultimate chapter of Journey have predominately orange colour scheme.
  • Donkey Kong Country Returns has all kinds of levels with a limited palette. You've got the obvious sunset levels where the foreground and all objects are in black barring DK's tie, the factory level in the latest trailer where the foreground and DK are black at the front of the screen, then become a kind of mauve colour in the background (and the objects become really faint) and a Rambi level from the same trailer where all characters and foreground objects are black bar DK's tie (and maybe Diddy Kong's hat), while the background is all vibrant orange and purple.
  • In the Adult Swim game Death Vegas, each character has only one item (or pair of items) with color.
  • One Game Mod of Marathon, RED, has a level consisting almost entirely of sandy brown textures titled "Jagermeister's Nightmare", intended as a Take That at a player named Jagermeister, who thought the game's color palette was too Real Is Brown.
  • Deus Ex


Visual Novel[edit | hide]

  • Monochrome Past was part of the basis of Detective Tyrell Badd's design in Ace Attorney. Since he appeared in a flashback case, the artist decided to make him desaturated and give him a grey skin tone in addition to giving him the look and attitude of a Film Noir detective. The only bright things about him are his red handmirror and pink lollipop.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Variation in Antihero for Hire, where the Christmas comics are drawn only in green and red.
  • Beyond Temptation pulls this off with black, white and red.
  • Dead Winter is nearly entirely in grayscale, except for Monday's red Cool Shades; and Lizzie's bandana and mental landscape.
  • Every chapter of Gastrophobia is done in black, white, and a few shades of one color. This color changes with every chapter.
  • Count Your Sheep, starring a young girl named Katie, is usually colored in shades of blue. Flashback episodes featuring her mother Laurie as a girl are in shades of mauve. In a strip where Laurie was pregnant with Katie the strip switched from mauve to blue the moment Laurie went into labor.
  • The comic The Intrepid Girlbot is shaded in bright, warm colors, mostly orange.
  • In No Rest for The Wicked, only red gets coloured in. It fits in with the Darker and Edgier/Dark comedy fairy-tale style. Also lampshaded, a little girl notices Red's signature cape, and comments that it's a "funny colour".
  • In Blip, during a Pensieve Flashback, Liz's memories are rendered entirely in purple and magenta.
  • This was how the Roaring Twenties were portrayed in Ansem Retort: all in black and white, with the four modern day time travelers being the only ones in color. It even got lampshaded when Zexion started to sell stocks (in the month right before the Great Depression began):

"I'll take 4000 shares, my colorful friend."

  • Used in Sore Thumbs, in one story arc where Cecania is shipped off to Guantanamo Bay. Cecania is a Rose-Haired Girl, and it is the first time the audience gets to see it. The guard mentions "I find I enjoy the color of your hair. I was unaware that more than two colours existed.
  • Used in two flashback arcs of And Shine Heaven Now, namely the two arcs that feature Jeeves and Wooster as prominent characters. While the first one technically goes under Desaturation, the more current arc fits this to a T: the comics is done in a sepia tone, and the only colors used are for Alucard's vampire eyes... and the fangirls.

Alucard: What is this thing, and why does it get to be in color?


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • The Colour My Series takes place in a world where almost everything is black and white. Color and emotions are forbidden. However, the protagonist, who has found love, can use color to manipulate things within the world. Clicking on certain objects will fill spots with color sometimes, too.
  • Madness Combat does this intentionally with a few notable exceptions, and blood, lots and lots of blood .


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
    • In the first season finale, the world goes red and then grayscale when the Moon Spirit is endangered and then killed. The only exceptions are fireblasts, the blue Avatar magic of Koizilla, and the still-blue eyes of Yue, which signify that a bit of the Moon Spirit survived in her, and can be returned.
    • Aang's childhood memories, of the Air Temple, are heavily yellow and glowy, to show nostalgia. To a lesser degree, the same is true of Zuko's. Sokka and Katara, not so much.
  • Animaniacs does this in some of the shorts set before color films (Babblin Bijou, Newsreel of the Stars, etc) -- the only color found would be the Warners' noses.
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man has this happen in the 13th episode. It's a Journey to the Center of the Mind where most of the episode is a flashback in black and white but with the Spider-Man suit in full color. The mental fight with the Venom symbioteis like this to, until Peter imagines his True Companions and many other characters from the Loads and Loads of Characters which is in color, and then it returns to the reality.


Desaturation[edit | hide]

Advertising[edit | hide]

  • Several US companies are doing commercials with faded color. Not really monochrome or sepia, but just faded enough to stand out. Or at least they would stand out, if every other advert wasn't doing it now.


Anime[edit | hide]

  • Mai-HiME not only does almost all flashbacks in sepia, but they're slightly blurred, presumably to simulate the distortion of human memory.
  • The first establishing shots of the first (chronological) episode of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya are another example, presumably in the mundane/nonmundane contrast vein. Everything suddenly gets a lot more colorful once the narrator meets the titular girl.
  • Boogiepop Phantom, justified because almost all the series is a gigantic Flash Back (just see the borders of the screen for an extra clue). The last episode features vivid colors and full-screen image.
  • Borderline: Monster intentionally had a low-key, brownish-grey color palette with very little use of strong colors to enhance its atmosphere as a realistic, psychological thriller.
  • Possibly unintentional example: the original (and international) video releases of Evangelion: Death & Rebirth and The End of Evangelion contained a muted color palette and a radiant "glow" effect, giving them an appropriately dreamlike atmosphere. The (Japan-only) Renewal edition contained a brighter color palette.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
    • The first episode was very low in coloration, as it took place underground, where there was little light. As soon as they get to the surface, the rest of the series is filled with color. Episode 5 was the same way, except even moreso, to the point of being nearly black-and-white, as it took place in an underground village with even fewer resources and less light.
    • Gainax also made various close-up shots of characters desaturated (Often going to completely black and white), usually because they were doing something epic and/or dying.
    • The "Celestial Being" movie within the movie, which is basically a big Gainax homage with bits of Char's Counterattack and G Gundam thrown in, had a monochrome close up of Setsuna.
    • The brawl between Simon and the Anti-Spiral at the climax of Lagann-Hen also has a desaturated palette, though some colors are added for emphasis (Red for blood, green for the glow of Simon's drill)
  • The Nue arc (episodes 8&9) of Mononoke uses desaturation and color in a very unique way. The arc revolves around the smell of incense; to simulate this without having to go into verbal descriptions, when the characters inhale the incense, the entire scene gains full colour momentarily before fading into monochrome once more. When the legendary incense is lit at the end, the mansion in which the story is set becomes brightly coloured and the wall murals come to life. But the smell quickly fades away, revealing that the entire building was just an uninhabited ruin under enchantment.
  • The first Fullmetal Alchemist anime series used either very mild desaturation or a muted color palette when depicting what lay on "the other side of the Gate." This had the end result of making the other side of the Gate seem less "fantastic" or "alive". Note, for instance, that Noah has more realistic hair colors than Rose in The Movie. This is made even more poignant when it's revealed that "the other side of the Gate" is our world and that ultimately, the Elrics become stranded in our reality, forced to see history unfold and unable to return.
  • The beautiful anime short Kigeki is almost completely desaturated (giving it an appropriately gothic feel) making certain vivid colours like the little girl's Green Eyes and the copious amounts of blood stand out.


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • The short-running Transformers comic Hearts of Steel takes place in the 1860s rather than the usual modern-day setting, and uses faded colors and a general sepia-toned color scheme to reflect the time period. Might also qualify as Real Is Brown.


Films -- Animation[edit | hide]


Films -- Live-Action[edit | hide]

  • Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow was desaturated then resaturated to make it dreamlike, more like a painting than a photorealistic movie. Real Zeerust.
  • Mexican film La Ley De Herodes uses sepia tones and era music for its set on the 1940s.
  • Producer Tim Burton likes the idea, and used it for many of his own films, creating environments that are nearly completely devoid of color to flavor his films as dark and depressing as possible, although he sometimes adds one very short scene that is full of bright color... then it's back to the sparse coloration for the rest of the film.
    • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Even the cheerful and sunny beach is sparsely colored, it is practically a relief to see all that bright, happy red blood liven things up.
    • Charlie and The Chocolate Factory is desaturated before the factory proper—or maybe oversaturated after.
    • Burton's first two short films: the stop-motion Vincent and the live-action Frankenweenie.
    • Not B&W per se, but the first sequence of Edward Scissorhands shows a huge set painted in monochrome tones, with the scientist played by Vincent Price as the only bright color character.
    • His two Batman films come pretty close at times.
    • So does Sleepy Hollow. Like Sweeney Todd, the colors are all bleached and only the blood is brightly hued.
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid uses sepia thrice: in the intro, in a travel Montage and the finale... you know it...
  • The film version of Sir Henry at Rawlinson End was shot in slightly sepia-tinted monochrome, allegedly to imitate the look of an Ealing Comedy and not because the budget wouldn't stretch to color....
  • Most of Avalon, a film about a virtual reality MMORPG in a dystopian future, is deliberately shot in murky sepia. The movie switches to normal color and lighting at the end, when the protagonist arrives in the level "class real", which looks much like our world.
  • Mel Gibson's mobster flick Payback is shot in faded colors for most of the film, representing the present day. However, flashbacks to the past are in full color, while flashforwards are in black and white. The film's tone is not a happy one.
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou?
  • In Dolores Claiborne, scenes set in the present are desaturated and faintly blue-tinted to give a cold look. Flashbacks are in full color with reds and yellows emphasized.
  • Double Jeopardy employs mild desaturation at the beginning of the film, with the color saturation increasing through the movie, in order to subtly heighten the audience's suspense as the chase continues.
  • Cypher is shot predominantly in a heavily desaturated, high contrast and near-monochrome world of drudgery, suits and concrete. It's only at the end, when Sebastian has realised his true identity and is sailing with Rita, that true colour returns.
  • In The Book of Eli and The Road the colors are bleached to give a bleak, desolate, post-apocalyptic scenery.
  • The Dolph Lundgren vehicle Missionary Man (2007) is an accidental example: the film stock was ruined during processing, so they decided to desaturate it. The effect, however, suits the film's modern-western theme well.
  • Saving Private Ryan desaturated almost the entire movie for a grittier feeling. This results in a very gray D-Day.
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four (the one starring John Hurt) wasn't desaturated, but it used bleach bypass, which produces a different kind of harsh, bleak look.


Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Vladimir Bortko's miniseries adaptation of The Master and Margarita portrays the "Soviet" segments of the original novel in sepia and the "Yershalaim" and "Woland's party" segments in color.
  • Myth Busters has two examples. First, they've shown (Reenacted, obviously) Civil War footage in near-monochrome. As if that wasn't silly enough, they switch to a desaturated/faded color look for their flashbacks. Apparently modern color technology was invented sometime after 2003, as their flashbacks always end up looking like 60s movies.
  • In the 5th season episode of House, after the characters find Kutner dead much of the rest of the episode is darkly lit and desaturated to reflect the somber mood.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Suikoden
    • Suikoden II uses sepia for all flashbacks in the story, including one flashback to a scene you played through normally.
    • In Suikoden IV, the island of Iluya is rendered in shades of grey after being hit by the Kooluk's BF Rune Cannon.
  • In corrupted areas in the next-gen Prince of Persia, everything is shown in dull, faded colors—sometimes taken to the point of nearly being genuine monochrome—except for the lead characters. Healing an area makes its colors varied and vibrant.
  • A couple examples from the Call of Duty series: when your character is wounded, his vision will wash out to black and white (with the exception of some encroaching red mist). However, this is played straighter in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare when one character emerges from his downed chopper after being caught in a nuclear blast. The resulting reddish-brown-tinted hell you witness can verge on Nightmare Fuel.
  • F.E.A.R. 2 does this with both its own nuclear aftermath and a few of Alma's hallucinations. It's less brown than Call of Duty's version, and it doesn't just verge on the nightmare fuel.
  • Left 4 Dead uses various shades of brown when playing as a special infected in VS mode to visualize on how a zombie's eyes would work. The sepia tone reverts to normal colors when the infected player is killed.
  • The "Old Movie" filter in Resident Evil 5 uses this.
  • Most of the Silent Hill series does this, along with using an old movie-style noise filter.
  • City of Heroes: Missions played via the Flashback system began and ended in sepia-tone, although in between they ran in fullcolor.


Web Comics[edit | hide]


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Used beautifully in one episode of Recess, in which recess is canceled indefinitely. As the kids' days get less and less interesting, the color slowly drains out of the picture until it finally becomes pure black & white. Of course, when recess is inevitably restored, the color returns.


Multiple[edit | hide]

Anime[edit | hide]


Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • The HBO TV movie The Cat's Meow takes place during The Roaring Twenties and is about the Triang Relations between William Randolph Hurst, his actress mistress Marion Davies, and Charlie Chaplin who Hurst tries to kill but winds up mortally wounding another guy instead. Because all the characters are involved in the silent movie buisness their fancy clothes are black, white, and grey (which makes it look like a live-action Edward Gorey story) and the victim's funeral is in black and white.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Super Meat Boy likes to play with colors. Some of the levels and one chapter is entirely black and white where only your character and their stains leave color. Other levels, which are more common in Dark World levels, have limited monochrome or dischromatic color palette and sometimes only silhouette can be seen.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • The Web Comic Archipelago is black-and-white on the whole, but uses multiple colors to accentuate magical effects. The character will be monochrome, but when they cast a spell, or when their soul is torn from their body, their colors are revealed. Also, dramatic events like flashbacks are portrayed in full color.
  • Derelict uses desaturation, except for the pinwheel, which is in full and brilliant color.
  • Next Town Over sometimes uses desaturation with a splash of color.
  • Question Duck: black shading to white, or red, or yellow—not invariably.
  • All Roses Have Thorns starts off being completely in gray tones, save for blood and eye colors. But as time goes on and it gets closer to modern day, it slowly grows more saturated with colors. To the point that by the 19th century the comic is now nearly full-color.