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I'm trying to remember a science fiction film I saw on a plane flight around 20 years ago. If I recall correctly, the film was mostly or entirely black and white, but appeared to be a contemporary film rather than an oldie. I remember for certain that they also played K-Pax on the flight, so the film I'm trying to remember may have been made around the same time.

I can't recall many details or any specific actors; what I mainly remember about the film was that it was really weird - very strange and surreal. I think I remember the climax including a scene vaguely like this: a male character has been accused of some crime he didn't commit but can't prove his innocence. Having just suffered some personal defeat (in a courtroom?), he exits a building (courthouse?) in a daze. Outside, he finds that an old-school flying-saucer UFO is hovering above the yard (courtyard?), possibly with a column of light beaming down from the UFO to ground level, and possibly with a few indistinct figures at ground level beneath the UFO. Resigned to his fate, he walks towards the UFO.

I've tried searching the elements I think I remember (e.g. '2000s black and white sci fi film) with no luck, so I'm guessing that either I am wrong about it being contemporary (for the early 2000s) or else it's something really obscure.

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    just as a comment as never watched it so don't know any plot points, but a black and white film with flying saucers from around that time period could be clips from the Ed Wood movie en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ed_Wood_(film) the flying saucer could be from Plan 9 from Outer Space
    – mgh42
    Aug 16, 2022 at 0:30

1 Answer 1

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Sounds like The Man Who Wasn't There (2001).

From Wikipedia:

The Man Who Wasn't There is a 2001 American crime film written, directed, and produced by Joel and Ethan Coen. It stars Billy Bob Thornton, Frances McDormand, Michael Badalucco, Richard Jenkins, Scarlett Johansson, Jon Polito, Tony Shalhoub, and James Gandolfini. The plot is set in 1949 and tells the story of Ed Crane, a withdrawn barber who leads an ordinary life in a small California town with his wife, who he suspects is having an affair with his boss. Crane's situation changes when a stranger comes to the barbershop and offers him the opportunity to join him as a partner in a promising new business, in exchange for an investment of ten thousand dollars. Drawn to the idea, Crane plans to blackmail his wife's lover for the money.

The film is in black-and-white and contains voiceover narration, reflecting elements of classic film noir. At the same time, it differs from it by including classical music, setting the plot in a small town, and having a protagonist outside the criminal underworld. The Coens began developing the idea from a 1940s haircut poster they saw while filming The Hudsucker Proxy. The plot was heavily influenced by James M. Cain's crime novels, primarily Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice, and Mildred Pierce. Aesthetically, The Man Who Wasn't There was inspired by films from the 1940s and 1950s—including Shadow of a Doubt—and even science fiction films and documentaries of those decades.

Ed wakes up in a hospital bed and two police officers arrest him for murder. Tolliver's beaten body has been found with Ed's investment contract. The police speculate that Ed coerced Doris into embezzling the investment money, and killed Tolliver when he found out. Ed mortgages his house and hires Riedenschneider for his defense. During Riedenschneider's opening statement, Frank attacks Ed, and a mistrial is declared. With no means left for his defense, Ed throws himself at the mercy of the court. The tactic fails, and the judge sentences him to death. While waiting on death row, Ed writes his story to sell to a pulp magazine. Shortly before his execution, Ed sees a UFO outside the jailhouse. As Ed is electrocuted, he reflects on his fate, regretting none of his decisions and hoping to see Doris in the afterlife, both of them free of the mortal world's imperfections.

Here's a clip of the scene with the flying saucer, which is visible at around the 1:10 mark.

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    Ah, yep, that's definitely it. Thanks! So I guess I couldn't find it because I was too hung up on the idea that it was a sci-fi film because I remembered that it had a UFO, but the UFO is a brief scene in a film that otherwise isn't really a sci-fi.
    – user45623
    Aug 16, 2022 at 0:48
  • I was probably too young and tired to appreciate the film at the time; I'll have to rewatch it someday.
    – user45623
    Aug 16, 2022 at 0:55
  • It's not the Coen Brother's best, but it has some solid moments. The random Coen UFO is also shoe-horned into season 2 of the Fargo TV show. Aug 16, 2022 at 21:38

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