This work is devoted to the investigation of zirconium oxynitride (ZrOxNy) films with varied optical responses prompted by the variations in their compositional and structural properties. The films were prepared by dc reactive magnetron sputtering of Zr, using Ar and a reactive gas mixture of N2 + O2 (17:3). The colour of the films changed from metallic-like, very bright yellow-pale and golden yellow, for low gas flows to red-brownish for intermediate gas flows. Associated to this colour change there was a significant decrease of brightness. With further increase of the reactive gas flow, the colour of the samples changed from red-brownish to dark blue or even to interference colourations. The variations in composition disclosed the existence of four different zones, which were found to be closely related with the variations in the crystalline structure. XRD analysis revealed the change from a B1 NaCl face-centred cubic zirconium nitride-type phase for films prepared with low reactive gas flows, towards a poorly crystallized over-stoichiometric nitride phase, which may be similar to that of Zr3N4 with some probable oxygen inclusions within nitrogen positions, for films prepared with intermediate reactive gas flows. For high reactive gas flows, the films developed an oxynitride-type phase, similar to that of γ-Zr2ON2 with some oxygen atoms occupying some of the nitrogen positions, evolving to a ZrO2 monoclinic type structure within the zone where films were prepared with relatively high reactive gas flows. The analysis carried out by reflected electron energy loss spectroscopy (REELS) revealed a continuous depopulation of the d-band and an opening of an energy gap between the valence band (2p) and the Fermi level close to 5 eV. The ZrN-based coatings (zone I and II) presented intrinsic colourations, with a decrease in brightness and a colour change from bright yellow to golden yellow, red brownish and dark blue. Associated to these changes, there was also a shift of the reflectivity minimum to lower energies, with the increase of the non-metallic content. The samples lying in the two last zones (zone III, oxynitride and zone IV, oxide films) revealed a typical semi-transparent-optical behaviour showing interference-like colourations only due to the complete depopulation of the d band at the Fermi level. The samples lying in these zones presented also an increase of the optical bandgap from 2 to 3.6 eV.