“Raiders of the Lost Ark” in Black and White

“Raiders of the Lost Ark” in Black and White

Recently there was a list published. A list of movies, TV shows, books and short stories that Steven Soderbergh had watched or read over a period of 12 months. He also included at the end what he called “An almost comically basic syllabus” with suggestions for books to read and films to watch for color cinematography, B & W cinematography, editing and screenwriting.

You can check out the list here: http://media.wnyc.org/media/resources/2011/Apr/06/Soderberghs_list.pdf

An interesting observation from this list is that Soderbergh watched Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark three times in a single week. In Black and White. That is very interesting to me. Why did he watch it in black and white? I couldn’t find an answer to that anywhere. Perhaps since Raiders is such a throwback to all the old Saturday matinees and serial films it is only appropriate to watch it in black and white to match the look of all those shows. I don’t really know. In any case, I’ll let you be the judge. Let me know what you think.


  • Alan Veucasovic

    I found myself more focused on the shadows and camera angles.

    December 16, 2012
    • evanerichards

      Yeah. It makes you look at thing you might never have seen before. I was surprised initially at how well it works on B&W. Some scenes look like they were made for B&W. The scenes in the submarine bunker for example.

      December 16, 2012
  • Graham Ross

    I heard from a co-worker that a lot of the film was lit like you would light a black and white movie. it certainly looks amazing in B&W.

    December 17, 2012
  • James

    Where does one get a copy of this film in B&W? I have it in color on DVD and any searches for it send me back here and a few other places all talking about this very topic.

    December 17, 2012
    • evanerichards

      Well I don’t think a B&W version has been released, so you probably won’t find one that has been color corrected for an optimal B&W look or anything like that. The best I can suggest to to adjust your TV. Most monitors and TVs have the ability to adjust the hue and saturation of the picture. Just turn the saturation down all the way and see how it looks. That way you could even watch the Blu-ray in B&W.

      December 17, 2012
  • Celeste

    I have to say, I didn’t know I wanted to see this until I read this article. Now I would *kill* for a copy of this film in B&W!

    December 22, 2012
    • evanerichards

      Celeste!! Check on your tv to see if there is a saturation control setting. There is one on most TVs. If you turn it all the way down you’ll get a black and white picture.

      December 22, 2012
  • Rockwoodcomic

    This isn’t as surprising as you might think. “Raiders” cinematographer was Douglas Slocombe, who had been shooting movies since the ’40s, when they were all black and white. People who have only lit for color might not know how to light for b&w, but obviously Slocombe knew how to do both.

    December 26, 2012
  • […] stunning resource for analysing more black and white images is Evan Richards’ post filled with film stills from Raider’s of The Lost Ark in black and white. Evan noticed in an interview with director […]

    February 19, 2013
  • […] “Raiders of the Lost Ark” in Black and White […]

    July 5, 2015
  • justin shine

    When movie are edited, it is most of the time in B&W, editor and director are working on a B&W version for so long they get use to see it like that. And some times they have regret to not make a B&W distribution of the movie.
    Mad Max Fury Road director George Miller was one of them, so he insisted for the B&W version of the movie to be featured on the bluray.
    The Cohen brother made a movie in B&W (The Man Who Wasn’t There), but shot it in color “in case” then desatured it to B&W. Guess distributor do not like B&W…

    July 8, 2015
  • […] recently visited Kennedy Space Center (again).  After coming across this website, http://evanerichards.com/2012/2828, about Raiders of the Lost Ark in black and white, an article about lighting for black and white […]

    June 8, 2017
  • Which basically proved that a good film, with a gripping story, great characters and beautifully edited, directed and scored works no matter what.

    February 16, 2019

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