Best black and white films of all time

Written by:
March 12, 2021
Universal International Pictures

Best black and white films of all time

Thanks to ongoing advancements in technology and resolution, modern films are more colorful than ever before. Yet there’s something to be said for movies shot in black and white. For proof, look no further than popular, recent films like "Malcolm & Marie," "The Lighthouse," and "Roma." Each used black and white to convey a range of moods and ideas. Along similar lines, plenty of Old Hollywood directors still opted for black and white even when Technicolor was taking the industry by storm. That’s not to mention the early days of cinema, when black and white movies were omnipresent.

To determine the best black and white films of all time, Stacker dug into IMDb's broad database, which yielded a list spanning genres, decades, and nationalities. To qualify, each film had to be primarily in black and white, meaning color films with black and white sequences were not included. However, black and white films with sparse color sequences (such as “Schindler’s List”) were included. Each film also needed at least 10,000 votes to make the list. In the case of a rating tie, the movie with more votes ranked higher. Counting down from #100, here are the best black and white films of all time.  

ALSO: 100 best films of the 21st century, according to critics

1 / 100
RKO Radio Pictures

#100. Out of the Past (1947)

- Director: Jacques Tourneur
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 28,265
- Runtime: 97 minutes

Daniel Mainwaring (writing as Geoffrey Homes) adapted his own novel into this classic film noir. It stars Robert Mitchum as a private eye turned small-town gas station owner, who plunges back into the dangerous world he left behind. The film was remade in 1984 as “Against All Odds” with Jeff Bridges and James Woods.  
 

2 / 100
Toho Company

#99. The Hidden Fortress (1958)

- Director: Akira Kurosawa
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 28,959
- Runtime: 126 minutes

Japanese director Akira Kurosawa was behind some of international cinema's most iconic black and white films, including this one from 1958. It follows two scheming peasants as they escort a man and a woman into hostile territory in pursuit of gold. Combining dry wit and thrilling action, the film was a major influence on George Lucas' “Star Wars.”

3 / 100
Réalisation d'art cinématographique (RAC)

#98. La Grande Illusion (1937)

- Director: Jean Renoir
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 30,527
- Runtime: 113 minutes

Considered a forebearer to modern escape films, this gripping drama follows two French soldiers as they try to break out of a German P.O.W. camp during WWI. Like a number of Jean Renoir films, it comes bolstered by terrific performances, expert pacing, visual finesse, and thematic undercurrents. According to critic Roger Ebert, “La Grande Illusion” is less about war than it is about “the collapse of the old order of European civilization.”

4 / 100
Cineguild

#97. Brief Encounter (1945)

- Director: David Lean
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 30,950
- Runtime: 86 minutes

As the man behind “Lawrence of Arabia,” director David Lean was no stranger to sweeping color. However, this romantic drama from 1945 proves he was just as adept shooting in black and white. It centers on the doomed love affair between a housewife and a doctor, who convene every Thursday at a railway station cafe.  

5 / 100
Ealing Studios

#96. Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)

- Director: Robert Hamer
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 31,298
- Runtime: 106 minutes

Long before he tackled the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Sir Alec Guinness played multiple members of the same family in this comedic thriller. Taking a classic premise to extremes, the film follows a poor man (Dennis Price) as he attempts to murder eight of his distant relatives. Should the man succeed, he will be next in line to inherit the title of Duke of Chalfont.

6 / 100
Paramount Pictures

#95. Paper Moon (1973)

- Director: Peter Bogdanovich
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 36,832
- Runtime: 102 minutes

Using black and white to evoke the atmosphere of the Great Depression, director Peter Bogdanovich brought this award-winning comedic drama to life. The film chronicles the misadventures of traveling grifter Moses Pray (Ryan O'Neal), who sells overpriced Bibles to unwitting marks. When a young girl (Tatum O'Neal) who may or may not be his daughter insists on tagging along, the two form an unlikely partnership.  
 

7 / 100
Columbia Pictures Corporation

#94. The Last Picture Show (1971)

- Director: Peter Bogdanovich
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 36,846
- Runtime: 118 minutes

According to legend, it was filmmaker Orson Welles who suggested that Peter Bogdanovich shoot this iconic drama in black and white. Set in an impoverished West Texas town circa 1951, the movie explores the lives of high schoolers as they grapple with their bleak futures. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards, taking home two.

8 / 100
Dino de Laurentiis Cinematografica

#93. The Nights of Cabiria (1957)

- Director: Federico Fellini
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 37,559
- Runtime: 110 minutes

This prime slice of Italian neorealism comes to viewers from master filmmaker Federico Fellini. It stars Fellini's wife and muse Giulietta Masina as a young prostitute who searches for romance and happiness in the streets of Roma. What she finds instead is a cruel world filled with greed and duplicity, though the movie does end on a somewhat uplifting note.
 

9 / 100
Toho Company

#92. Throne of Blood (1957)

- Director: Akira Kurosawa
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 38,827
- Runtime: 110 minutes

Setting Shakespeare's “Macbeth” in feudal Japan, this Kurosawa film follows a warrior and his ambitious wife as they plot to usurp the throne in Spider Web Castle. The movie blends elements of Japanese Noh drama with traditional Western themes, and endures as one of the most acclaimed Shakespeare adaptations ever committed to celluloid. 

 

10 / 100
Esperanto Filmoj

#91. Roma (2018)

- Director: Alfonso Cuarón
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 42,099
- Runtime: 135 minutes

Alfonso Cuarón's critical darling was originally shot in color, then edited during post-production, resulting in a distinctive black and white palette. The film takes place in Mexico City in the early 1970s, and centers on the trials and tribulations of a maid as she works for an upper middle class family.  

 

11 / 100
The Associates & Aldrich Company

#90. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

- Director: Robert Aldrich
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 44,025
- Runtime: 134 minutes

The recent FX show “Feud” sparked a renewed interest in this legendary horror flick. The film stars Joan Crawford and Bette Davis as once-famous siblings who are now engaged in a bitter rivalry that turns more and more demented as the story progresses, mirroring the actresses' real-life discord.

 

12 / 100
Casbah Film

#89. The Battle of Algiers (1966)

- Director: Gillo Pontecorvo
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 46,327
- Runtime: 121 minutes

Based on a true story, this war drama depicts the Algerian Revolution from both the French and Algerian perspectives. Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo's documentary-like film is considered one of the most influential political movies of all time.

13 / 100
Compagnie Industrielle et Commerciale Cinématographique (CICC)

#88. The Wages of Fear (1953)

- Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 47,017
- Runtime: 131 minutes

This 1953 French thriller follows four desperate men as they transport a shipment of nitroglycerine through Latin America without proper safety equipment. In addition to its brutal action sequences, the work explores a range of anti-capitalist themes. Both this film and the book upon which it was based would later inspire the 1977 remake “Sorcerer.”

14 / 100
Decla-Bioscop AG

#87. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

- Director: Robert Wiene
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 48,415
- Runtime: 67 minutes

One of the most famous German expressionist films ever made, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” emanates with creepy atmosphere and avant-garde style. It centers on a crazy hypnotist and his somnambulist companion, who enact a murder and a kidnapping in the shadowy village of Holstenwall. Not only is the work often pointed to as one of cinema's first cult classics, it retains a loyal following more than 100 years after its release.

15 / 100
The Samuel Goldwyn Company

#86. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

- Director: William Wyler
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 52,092
- Runtime: 170 minutes

Winner of seven Academy Awards (including Best Picture), this timeless drama chronicles the lives of three WWII veterans as they struggle to return to small-town society. Playing the role of Homer Parrish is real-life veteran Harold Russell, who lost both hands in the war.
 

16 / 100
Ponti-De Laurentiis Cinematografica

#85. La Strada (1954)

- Director: Federico Fellini
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 52,197
- Runtime: 108 minutes

According to most cinephiles, Italian director Federico Fellini truly hit his stride with this 1954 drama. It tells the story of a traveling showman (Anthony Quinn) and his begrudging female captive (Giulietta Masina), who helps with his act. In 1957, it won the inaugural Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.

17 / 100
Universal Pictures

#84. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

- Director: Lewis Milestone
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 52,622
- Runtime: 136 minutes

Based on a popular German novel, this 1930 classic is considered the first major anti-war film of the sound era. When confronted with the brutalities of WWI, young German soldiers become disillusioned with the precepts of battle. The film won two Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
 

18 / 100
Filmsonor

#83. Diabolique (1955)

- Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 55,111
- Runtime: 117 minutes

In this gripping French thriller, the wife and the mistress of a cruel school headmaster join forces to murder him. The plot takes a turn for the worse when the headmaster's body goes missing and people start seeing him around town. Nail-biting suspense ensues.

19 / 100
Road Movies Filmproduktion

#82. Wings of Desire (1987)

- Director: Wim Wenders
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 55,910
- Runtime: 128 minutes

Guardian angels hover over the city of Berlin in this romantic fantasy from 1987. When one of the angels falls in love with a mortal, he embarks on a quest to become human. Presented in black and white, the arthouse film offers an intimate glimpse of both the angels and the people they observe.  

20 / 100
Riama Film

#81. La Dolce Vita (1960)

- Director: Federico Fellini
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 57,657
- Runtime: 174 minutes

“La Dolce Vita," hailed as one of Federico Fellini's finest achievements, follows an amorous journalist (Marcello Mastroianni) and his well-heeled companions on various hedonistic adventures throughout Rome. Not only does the title endure in the cultural lexicon, but the words “paparazzi” and “Felliniesque” are likewise indebted to this singular work.  

21 / 100
Paramount Pictures

#80. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

- Director: John Ford
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 61,345
- Runtime: 123 minutes

One among many collaborations between director John Ford and actor John Wayne, this western drama takes place in the town of Shinbone. That's where Sen. Ransom Stoddard (James Stewart) once famously shot a ruthless outlaw known as Liberty Valance. Or did he?

22 / 100
Twentieth Century Fox

#79. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

- Director: John Ford
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 79,148
- Runtime: 129 minutes

Grainy black and white footage brings the Depression era to life in this acclaimed adaptation of John Steinbeck's famous novel. It centers on the Joads, a poor family who move from Oklahoma to California after being forced off their land. Upon their arrival, the Joads realize that California is not the paradise they hoped it would be.  
 

23 / 100
2.4.7. Films

#78. Persepolis (2007)

- Directors: Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 80,501
- Runtime: 96 minutes

Employing brilliant black and white animation with touches of color, this biographical drama takes place during and after the Iranian Revolution of 1979. At the heart of the story is a precocious girl named Marji, whose world is shattered by the new tyrannical regime. When she attends a boarding school in Vienna, Marji discovers an entirely new culture that's no easier to bear.

24 / 100
Columbia Pictures Corporation

#77. It Happened One Night (1934)

- Director: Frank Capra
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 82,757
- Runtime: 105 minutes

Director Frank Capra is more or less synonymous with feel-good cinema, and this screwball comedy duly abides. Upon fleeing from her new husband, a spoiled heiress (Claudette Colbert) crosses paths with a shameless out-of-work reporter (Clark Gable). What follows is one of the most iconic road trip movies of all time, with the record-setting Academy Awards to show for it.

25 / 100
American International Pictures (AIP)

#76. Persona (1966)

- Director: Ingmar Bergman
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 84,039
- Runtime: 83 minutes

Exploring themes of identity, duality, and insanity, this surrealist drama opens with one of the most unforgettable sequences ever filmed in black and white. As the relationship between a nurse and her mute patient unfolds, the two women seemingly merge into one. Bergman's film later inspired David Lynch's seminal masterpiece “Mulholland Drive.”

26 / 100
Les Films du Carrosse

#75. The 400 Blows (1959)

- Director: François Truffaut
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 89,709
- Runtime: 99 minutes

This 1959 classic from François Truffaut helped launch the French New Wave movement. It follows a troubled boy named Antoine Doinel as he delves into a life of petty crime after being neglected by his parents. Both the film and the broader movement dramatically influenced a slate of Hollywood directors, paving the way for new modes of artistic expression.

27 / 100
Cineriz

#74. 8½ (1963)

- Director: Federico Fellini
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 97,437
- Runtime: 138 minutes

Chronicling the misadventures of an overstressed director, "La Dolce Vita" weaves reality, memory, and fantasy together in a vivid tapestry. Everyone from Woody Allen to Terry Gilliam has cited this film as an influence on their work.

28 / 100
Selznick International Pictures

#73. Rebecca (1940)

- Director: Alfred Hitchcock
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 108,432
- Runtime: 130 minutes

Master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock has a bevy of black and white masterpieces to his name, including this award-winning romantic thriller. The movie finds a newlywed bride (Joan Fontaine) playing second fiddle to her husband's (Laurence Olivier) deceased wife, Rebecca. While trying to get out from under Rebecca's shadow, the bride discovers a dangerous secret.

29 / 100
Paramount Pictures

#72. Roman Holiday

- Director: William Wyler
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 115,501
- Runtime: 118 minutes

Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn gallivant around Rome in this celebrated romantic comedy, in which they play a American news reporter and royal princess, respectively. What starts as a relationship built on deception becomes something far more genuine as the chemistry builds.

30 / 100
Canal+

#71. La Haine (1995)

- Director: Mathieu Kassovitz
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 128,892
- Runtime: 98 minutes

Presented in gritty black and white, this intense drama follows three ethnically diverse men on the heels of a racially motivated riot. The action unravels over the course of 24 hours and takes place in the lower-income suburbs of Paris. When one of the men (Vincent Cassel) finds a policeman's handgun, the stakes reach a tipping point.  

31 / 100
Warner Bros.

#70. The Maltese Falcon (1941)

- Director: John Huston
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 137,590
- Runtime: 100 minutes

The big-screen adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's novel makes for one of cinema's most quintessential examples of film noir. It sees private detective Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) taking on the case of a missing woman. Before long, Spade is embroiled in a plot involving dangerous men, a duplicitous dame, and a priceless statuette.

32 / 100
13 Productions

#69. Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)

- Directors: Béla Tarr, Ágnes Hranitzky
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 10,870
- Runtime: 145 minutes

Based on a novel, this surrealist mystery finds a small Hungarian village losing its collective mind when the circus rolls into town. The movie consists of just 39 shots, while the use of black and white reinforces its cinema verite style. Lurking just beneath the bizarre surface are meditations on chaos and capitalism, according to Guardian writer Richard Williams.

33 / 100
Paramount Pictures

#68. Trouble in Paradise (1932)

- Director: Ernst Lubitsch
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 11,442
- Runtime: 83 minutes

An accomplished con man and a clever pickpocket team up in this comedic caper from 1932. As the pair tries to bilk a perfume company owner out of her riches, the man finds himself romantically torn between two women. Trouble in paradise, indeed.  

34 / 100
Paramount Pictures

#67. The Heiress (1949)

- Director: William Wyler
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 11,474
- Runtime: 115 minutes

Set in the mid-1800s, this film centers on a wealthy surgeon and his somewhat awkward daughter (Olivia de Havilland). When a handsome man (Montgomery Clift) expresses interest in the daughter, the surgeon wonders if there's a sinister plot afoot. Before it was an Academy Award-winning film, “The Heiress” was both a Henry James novel (called “Washington Square”) and a Broadway play.

35 / 100
Newtown Productions

#66. A Face in the Crowd (1957)

- Director: Elia Kazan
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 11,640
- Runtime: 126 minutes

Marking Andy Griffith's film debut, this 1957 drama follows Lonesome Rhodes (Griffith) as he goes from backwoods guitar-picker to overnight media sensation. It comes from director Elia Kazan, whose name is synonymous with a number of iconic black and white films. Popular figures such as Burl Ives, Faye Emerson, and Mike Wallace make cameos as themselves.

36 / 100
Palladium Film

#65. Ordet (1955)

- Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 11,871
- Runtime: 126 minutes

Religious convictions—or lack thereof—threaten to tear a family apart in this Danish masterpiece. The film is based on a play by Kaj Munk, a Lutheran priest and famous martyr who died at the hands of the Gestapo. It won director Carl Theodor Dreyer the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival.  

37 / 100
Gaumont

#64. A Man Escaped (1956)

- Director: Robert Bresson
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 15,483
- Runtime: 101 minutes

Based on the true story of Andre Devigny, this 1956 docudrama chronicles the imprisonment and escape of a French resistance fighter during WWII. Employing a realist style, director Robert Bresson confines most of the action to the prisoner's cell. He even shot much of the film in real-life prison cells.

38 / 100
Hal Roach Studios

#63. Safety Last! (1923)

- Directors: Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 15,844
- Runtime: 70 minutes

Harold Lloyd was among the biggest names in silent film, and this 1923 comedy contains one of the era's most iconic sequences. After a publicity stunt goes awry, Lloyd's character ends up hanging from a clock near the top of a skyscraper. As if taking the movie's title to heart, Lloyd performed the famous stunt using only eight fingers.

39 / 100
Daiei Studios

#62. Ugetsu (1953)

- Director: Kenji Mizoguchi
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 17,415
- Runtime: 96 minutes

Director Kenji Mizoguchi was a living legend by the time he made this epic fantasy drama. Set during the Japanese civil wars of the 16th century, the movie chronicles the trials and tribulations of two provincial neighbors. As one of the men struggles to survive, he brushes up against a seductive spirit with deadly intentions.  

40 / 100
Unión Industrial Cinematográfica (UNINCI)

#61. Viridiana (1961)

- Director: Luis Buñuel
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 19,234
- Runtime: 90 minutes

Spanish surrealist Luis Buñuel co-wrote and directed this comedy-drama, which was loosely based on a novel. In the film, a young nun visits her widowed uncle before taking her final vows. When the uncle notices how much the nun resembles his deceased wife, he attempts to seduce her to tragic results.   

41 / 100
Rizzoli Film

#60. Umberto D. (1952)

- Director: Vittorio De Sica
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 19,660
- Runtime: 89 minutes

Depicting the brutal realities of post-war Italy, this drama follows an elderly Roman man and his dog as they struggle to survive on a government pension. Finding himself alone in a bleak and modern world, the man tries to retain a sense of personal dignity while attending to his most basic needs. It's all presented by Italian neorealist filmmaker Vittorio De Sica with documentary-like authenticity.

42 / 100
Pathé Consortium Cinéma

#59. Rififi (1955)

- Director: Jules Dassin
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 22,301
- Runtime: 118 minutes

Long before “Baby Driver” and “Reservoir Dogs,” there was this heralded heist film. Four men team up to execute what appears to be a perfect crime, but human foibles threaten to tear the whole thing apart. More than a genre milestone, the film actually inspired copycat crimes in real life.

43 / 100
Romaine Film Corporation

#58. To Be or Not to Be (1942)

- Director: Ernst Lubitsch
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 22,700
- Runtime: 99 minutes

The Nazi occupation of Poland might not sound like the stuff of comedy gold, but director Ernst Lubitsch makes it work in this 1942 satire. After their theater company gets shut down by the Nazis, a troupe of stage actors become unlikely operatives for the resistance. Using their collective wit and questionable talent, the troupe prevents a spy from handing vital information over to the Germans.

44 / 100
Paramount Pictures

#57. Ace in the Hole (1951)

- Director: Billy Wilder
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 23,641
- Runtime: 111 minutes

A critical and commercial disaster upon its release, this 1951 drama is now regarded as one of Billy Wilder's most poignant and timeless efforts. Kirk Douglas stars as struggling reporter Chuck Tatum, who exploits the story of a man trapped in a cave for personal gain. In order to stay ahead of the subsequent media storm, Tatum ends up taking dangerous measures.

45 / 100
Norma Productions

#56. Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

- Director: Alexander Mackendrick
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 23,725
- Runtime: 96 minutes

This cynical and stylish drama takes place in the dog-eat-dog world of New York tabloid journalism. Burt Lancaster plays a powerful Broadway columnist named J.J. Hunsecker, who will do whatever it takes to prevent his sister from marrying a jazz musician. It's another movie that initially tanked with audiences and critics, but has since been reappraised as a bonafide masterpiece.

46 / 100
Stanley Kramer Productions

#55. Inherit the Wind (1960)

- Director: Stanley Kramer
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 23,885
- Runtime: 128 minutes

Based on the true story of the Scopes Monkey Trial, this Broadway play-turned-film includes lines lifted out of the actual courtroom transcripts. When a teacher is accused of teaching evolution to his class, two lawyers square off in a battle of science versus religion. Both the film and the play are also regarded as thinly veiled attacks on 1950s McCarthyism.

47 / 100
Warner Bros.

#54. White Heat (1949)

- Director: Raoul Walsh
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 23,968
- Runtime: 114 minutes

Hollywood icon James Cagney plays a psychopathic criminal with mommy issues in this 1949 crime drama. After breaking out of prison, Cagney's character leads his old gang on a dangerous chemical plant heist. It all paves the way for an unexpected ending of near-mythic proportion.

48 / 100
Barcino Films S.A.

#53. The Exterminating Angel (1962)

- Director: Luis Buñuel
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 24,111
- Runtime: 95 minutes

One of the most well-known surrealist films of all time, this black (and white) comedy finds a group of upper-class adults unable to leave a swanky dinner party. As the bizarre conundrum plays itself out over multiple days, the persona of each guest starts to break down to the point of total collapse. Brimming with wicked satire, the movie reduces its elitist characters to animal behavior.  

49 / 100
Buster Keaton Productions

#52. Sherlock Jr. (1924)

- Director: Buster Keaton
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 31,300
- Runtime: 45 minutes

A king of the silent era, Buster Keaton enters the list with this 1924 action comedy. It stars Keaton as a lowly projectionist with big dreams of being a detective. After his girlfriend's pocket watch is stolen, the projectionist gets to put his amateur skills to work.

50 / 100
Mosfilm

#51. Andrei Rublev (1966)

- Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 37,222
- Runtime: 205 minutes

Master filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky loosely chronicles the life of 15th-century icon painter Andrei Rublev in this arthouse drama. Exploring themes of artistic freedom and religious faith amidst a turbulent backdrop, the movie plays out in a series of dreamlike sequences. Due to its negative political undertones, the film was censored in Russia for more than two decades.

51 / 100
Société générale des films

#50. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

- Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 39,215
- Runtime: 114 minutes

Between its black and white palette, candid lighting, and overabundance of closeups, this historical drama delivers a profound sense of intimacy. It takes place in 1431, and depicts the trial of Jeanne d'Arc, charged with heresy. Most critics agree this is one of the silent era's greatest masterpieces.

52 / 100
Fox Film Corporation

#49. Sunrise (1927)

- Director: F.W. Murnau
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 41,968
- Runtime: 94 minutes

A man's inner struggles are turned to flesh in this black and white allegory, which is subtitled “A Song of Two Humans.” Manifesting the lures of temptation is a "woman from the city," who tries to convince the man to murder his wife. Which side will he choose?

53 / 100
Shôchiku Eiga

#48. Tokyo Story (1953)

- Director: Yasujirô Ozu
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 42,069
- Runtime: 136 minutes

Delivered in a plain and effective style, this acclaimed Japanese drama explores themes of generational conflict in postwar Japan. It follows a provincial couple as they visit their children in bustling Tokyo, only to be treated as a burden. The movie ranks at #3 on BFI's list of The 50 Greatest Films of All Time.

54 / 100
Roxlom Films Inc.

#47. Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)

- Director: Stanley Kramer
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 60,054
- Runtime: 186 minutes

Four German judges and prosecutors are charged with crimes against humanity for helping the Nazis during WWII. As both German and Allied governments try to leave the past behind, Chief Judge Dan Haywood (Spencer Tracy) must grapple with the trial's broader geopolitical ramifications. Based on a true story, this harrowing drama won two Academy Awards.

55 / 100
Buster Keaton Productions

#46. The General (1926)

- Directors: Clyde Bruckman, Buster Keaton
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 69,914
- Runtime: 67 minutes

Buster Keaton co-wrote, co-directed, and stars in this acclaimed silent film, which takes place during the Civil War. Inspired by actual events, the movie puts Keaton on the trail of a runaway train. The action culminates with one of the era's most iconic and expensive stunts.

56 / 100
Svensk Filmindustri (SF)

#45. Wild Strawberries (1957)

- Director: Ingmar Bergman
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 81,879
- Runtime: 91 minutes

Ingmar Bergman was in the hospital with poor health when he wrote this renowned drama about an aging professor who grapples with his own mortality. "Wild Strawberries" was inspired by the Swedish director's personal memories and fears.

57 / 100
Charles Chaplin Productions

#44. The Gold Rush (1925)

- Director: Charles Chaplin
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 87,246
- Runtime: 95 minutes

Silent movie legend Charlie Chaplin heads to the Klondike in this adventure comedy. While hunting for gold, Chaplin's character encounters angry locals and a sweetheart named Georgia. Despite its comedic overtones, the film was loosely inspired by the Donner party disaster and other dramatic events.

58 / 100
Columbia Pictures Corporation

#43. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

- Director: Frank Capra
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 96,226
- Runtime: 129 minutes

After being appointed to fill a vacancy in the United States Senate, Mr. Smith (James Stewart) goes to Washington in this Frank Capra film of the same name. There, he quite literally holds his ground against a tide of greed and corruption. Nominated for numerous Academy Awards, this is the film that established James Stewart as a veritable leading man.

59 / 100
Warner Bros.

#42. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

- Director: John Huston
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 99,366
- Runtime: 126 minutes

The ultimate tale of greed-fueled paranoia, this 1948 classic stars screen legend Humphrey Bogart as a down-on-his-luck man named Fred Dobbs. With help from two other men, Dobbs searches for buried gold in the Sierra Madre Mountains. When he miraculously finds what he's looking for, Dobbs begins to suspect that his two partners are plotting against him.

60 / 100
Horizon Pictures

#41. On the Waterfront (1954)

- Director: Elia Kazan
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 125,806
- Runtime: 108 minutes

Marlon Brando shines as ex-prize fighter Terry Malloy in this Oscar-winning drama from Elia Kazan. Upon taking a job as a longshoreman, Malloy squares off against a corrupt union boss. Kazan would draw parallels between this film and his own testimony during the McCarthy era, though screenwriter Budd Schulberg insists the work is strictly about the struggles of longshoremen.

61 / 100
Svensk Filmindustri (SF)

#40. The Seventh Seal (1957)

- Director: Ingmar Bergman
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 139,651
- Runtime: 96 minutes

Ingmar Bergman asks the big questions in this acclaimed black and white drama, which takes place in medieval Sweden during the Black Plague. As disease sweeps through the countryside, various people resort to extreme and desperate behavior. Meanwhile, a knight engages in a high-stakes chess match with Death himself.

62 / 100
London Film Productions

#39. The Third Man (1949)

- Director: Carol Reed
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 140,197
- Runtime: 93 minutes

What begins as a trip to postwar Vienna becomes something far more sinister in this classic film noir. As a struggling novelist tries to find out why his friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles) was killed, he uncovers a much broader conspiracy. 

63 / 100
Brooksfilms

#38. The Elephant Man (1980)

- Director: David Lynch
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 196,203
- Runtime: 124 minutes

“Black and white immediately takes you out of the real world,” director David Lynch would later say of this 1980 biopic. Adapted from a play about Joseph “John” Merrick, the movie portrays the constant struggles of its disfigured main character during the Victorian era. To make ends meet, this man of considerable sensitivity and intelligence must tragically survive as a sideshow exhibit.

64 / 100
Chartoff-Winkler Productions

#37. Raging Bull (1980)

- Director: Martin Scorsese
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 280,971
- Runtime: 129 minutes

Director Martin Scorsese's second black and white effort is also one of his best. Based on the true story of boxer Jake LaMotta (played by Robert De Niro), “Raging Bull” pulls no punches in its depiction of LaMotta's brutish behavior. The real Jake LaMotta once asked his wife if he was really as abusive as the movie suggested, to which she replied, “You were worse.”

65 / 100
Shôchiku Eiga

#36. Late Spring (1949)

- Director: Yasujirô Ozu
- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Votes: 11,682
- Runtime: 108 minutes

A Japanese woman (Setsuko Hara) delays marriage to take care of her father in this drama from Yasujirô Ozu. Tangentially explored are the shifting roles of women within a rapidly changing society. Based on a novel, the movie marks the first installment of Ozu's “Noriko Trilogy,” throughout which Hara plays three different women named Noriko.

66 / 100
Mosfilm

#35. The Cranes Are Flying (1957)

- Director: Mikhail Kalatozov
- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Votes: 12,549
- Runtime: 95 minutes

Winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes, this gripping drama depicts the unbreakable romance between Veronica and Boris. After the two lovers pledge their hearts to one another under a sky of cranes, Boris is drafted to fight in WWII. What follows is an examination on the brutality of war and the power of devotion.

67 / 100
Titanus

#34. Rocco and His Brothers (1960)

- Director: Luchino Visconti
- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Votes: 13,887
- Runtime: 177 minutes

Upon moving to Milan from a rural area, five brothers struggle to adapt to big city life in this three-hour saga. When two of the brothers fall in love with the same woman, their rivalry threatens to tear the family apart. The film was helmed by Luchino Visconti, a seminal figure in the Italian neorealist movement.

68 / 100
Kurosawa Production Co.

#33. Red Beard (1965)

- Director: Akira Kurosawa
- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Votes: 13,957
- Runtime: 185 minutes

Culling from a short story collection by Shūgorō Yamamoto as well as a novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky, this Japanese drama centers on the relationship between an honorable doctor and his arrogant new intern. As the two mean deal with a variety of difficult cases, the lives of their patients are explored in episodic fashion.

69 / 100
Ultramar Films

#32. The Young and the Damned (1950)

- Director: Luis Buñuel
- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Votes: 15,641
- Runtime: 80 minutes

Set in the slums of Mexico City, Luis Buñuel's gritty Mexican drama reunites reform-school runaway El Jaibo with his former gang. Determined to get revenge on the man who sent him away, El Jaibo embarks on a ruthless crime spree. In the process, a young man named Pedro becomes corrupted by the violence around him.  

70 / 100
Société Nouvelle Pathé Cinéma

#31. Children of Paradise (1945)

- Director: Marcel Carné
- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Votes: 16,453
- Runtime: 189 minutes

Often referred to as France's answer to “Gone With the Wind,” this sweeping melodrama explores the harrowing pain of unrequited love. At the heart of the story is a beautiful courtesan named Garance, who must fend off four potential suitors. Set in Paris in the 1830s, the film takes place over the course of several years.  

71 / 100
Toho Company

#30. Ikiru (1952)

- Director: Akira Kurosawa
- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Votes: 56,998
- Runtime: 143 minutes

After being diagnosed with terminal cancer, a civil servant searches for the meaning of life in Kurosawa's meditative masterpiece. Divided into two parts, the story achieves affirmation and compassion through desperation. It's only when the man is confronted with death that he can truly live for the first time.

72 / 100
Charles Chaplin Productions

#29. The Kid (1921)

- Director: Charles Chaplin
- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Votes: 92,820
- Runtime: 68 minutes

Charlie Chaplin's first feature-length film centers on his bumbling alter-ego, The Tramp. After taking an abandoned baby under his wing, The Tramp attempts to keep the child against all odds. Blending signature comedy with palpable emotion, the film is often regarded as Chaplin's most personal effort.

73 / 100
Kurosawa Production Co.

#28. Yojimbo (1961)

- Director: Akira Kurosawa
- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Votes: 94,176
- Runtime: 110 minutes

In this Japanese samurai film, a crafty ronin manipulates the war between two clans in hopes of eradicating them both. Straddling multiple genres, the black and white film inspired two subsequent remakes. One was Sergio Leone's acclaimed 1964 western “A Fistful of Dollars.”

74 / 100
Produzioni De Sica (PDS)

#27. Bicycle Thieves (1948)

- Director: Vittorio De Sica
- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Votes: 122,505
- Runtime: 89 minutes

Set in post-WWII Italy, Vittorio De Sica's simple film follows a working-class man and his son as they track down a stolen bicycle. Should the man fail to retrieve his bike, he won't be able to earn a living. 

75 / 100
Paramount Pictures

#26. Double Indemnity (1944)

- Director: Billy Wilder
- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Votes: 123,685
- Runtime: 107 minutes

Ripped straight from the pages of a James M. Cain novel is this classic film noir from Billy Wilder. It stars Fred MacMurray as insurance salesman Walter Neff, who gets lured into a murderous scheme by his client's seductive wife (Barbara Stanwyck). 

76 / 100
Nero-Film AG

#25. M (1931)

- Director: Fritz Lang
- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Votes: 123,829
- Runtime: 99 minutes

While this German thriller from Fritz Lang wasn't the first serial killer movie ever made, it's easily among the most influential. As he whistles a classical tune, a man named Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre) preys upon unsuspecting children in Berlin. After the police come up empty-handed, local criminals get in on the manhunt.  

77 / 100
Daiei Motion Picture Company

#24. Rashomon (1950)

- Director: Akira Kurosawa
- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Votes: 130,059
- Runtime: 88 minutes

This Akira Kurosawa drama was so groundbreaking that it has an entire concept named after it, known as “the Rashomon effect.” The film presents a gruesome crime from multiple perspectives, prompting viewers to wonder which version is the truth. It would influence a broad range of popular films over the following decades.

78 / 100
The Mirisch Corporation

#23. The Apartment (1960)

- Director: Billy Wilder
- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Votes: 139,142
- Runtime: 125 minutes

In this dark romantic comedy, C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) lends his apartment to various executives for their extramarital trysts. As a direct result of his actions, Baxter quickly ascends the corporate ladder. But what happens when one of the executives wants to take Baxter's crush (Shirley MacLaine) to the apartment for a roll in the proverbial hay?

79 / 100
Universum Film (UFA)

#22. Metropolis (1927)

- Director: Fritz Lang
- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Votes: 139,236
- Runtime: 153 minutes

Concepts and themes laid out in Fritz Lang's “Metropolis” almost a century ago still resonate in entertainment and society alike. The film takes place in a futuristic city, where elitists run free as laborers toil underground. When an architect's son falls in love with a working-class girl, it paves the way for a revolution.

80 / 100
Universal International Pictures (UI)

#21. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

- Director: Robert Mulligan
- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Votes: 265,149
- Runtime: 129 minutes

When adapting Harper Lee's timeless novel, director Robert Mulligan opted to shoot in black and white for a number of reasons. One was to remind viewers that the content was meant to be taken seriously, and not merely as a piece of entertainment. Given that the story deals with racial divides in the Depression-era South, the use of black and white also turns back the clock while emphasizing local prejudices.

81 / 100
Daiei Studios

#20. Sansho the Bailiff (1954)

- Director: Kenji Mizoguchi
- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Votes: 12,206
- Runtime: 124 minutes

Based on a short story and a popular folk tale before it, this film takes place in medieval Japan. Years after an idealistic governor is banished to a far-off land, his family sets out to find him. Consisting of elaborate long shots, the award-winning film serves as a testament to the power of human perseverance in the face of numerous obstacles.  

82 / 100
Kurosawa Production Co.

#19. High and Low (1963)

- Director: Akira Kurosawa
- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Votes: 22,971
- Runtime: 143 minutes

Akira Kurosawa continues to dominate the list with this gripping 1963 procedural. It finds an ambitious shoe company executive battling for corporate control while concurrently dealing with the kidnapping of his chauffeur's son. Applying some cold and calculated risk analysis, the executive must ultimately choose between the life of a company and that of a child.

83 / 100
Edward Small Productions

#18. Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

- Director: Billy Wilder
- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Votes: 88,152
- Runtime: 116 minutes

Based on an Agatha Christie play of the same name, this intense courtroom drama incorporates elements of classic film noir. In the film, a sickly British barrister defends an American war veteran who's been accused of murder. After a series of unexpected surprises, the barrister realizes that nothing is what it seems.

84 / 100
Bryna Productions

#17. Paths of Glory (1957)

- Director: Stanley Kubrick
- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Votes: 151,438
- Runtime: 88 minutes

Stanley Kubrick's first (anti-)war film is a stunning treatise on hypocrisy and dehumanization. It takes place during WWI and stars Kirk Douglas as a unit commander in the French army. After the commander's men refuse to follow the orders of their superiors, he must defend them against the charge of cowardice in a court-martial.   

85 / 100
Paramount Pictures

#16. Sunset Boulevard (1950)

- Director: Billy Wilder
- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Votes: 173,871
- Runtime: 110 minutes

“Sunset Boulevard” centers on the fraught relationship between a Hollywood screenwriter and a faded starlet from the silent era. Speaking of the silent era, look for a cameo from screen legend Buster Keaton.

86 / 100
RKO Radio Pictures

#15. Citizen Kane (1941)

- Director: Orson Welles
- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Votes: 355,238
- Runtime: 119 minutes

More than one of the best black and white films of all time, Orson Welles' timeless classic is also considered one of the best movies ever made. It chronicles the rise of newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane, whose thirst for power seems unquenchable. Something of a commercial failure upon its release, the film is now universally acclaimed.

87 / 100
Columbia Pictures Corporation

#14. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

- Director: Stanley Kubrick
- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Votes: 405,715
- Runtime: 95 minutes

Dark comedies don't get much darker than this one from Stanley Kubrick. Starring Peter Sellers in multiple roles, the film depicts the end of the world by way of nuclear holocaust.

88 / 100
Filmsonor

#13. Le Trou (1960)

- Director: Jacques Becker
- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Votes: 12,334
- Runtime: 131 minutes

Facing long prison sentences, four cellmates plot their escape in this taut French thriller. When a fifth inmate gets in on the scheme, the others wonder if they can trust the newcomer. One critic called this “the last great flowering of French classicism.”

89 / 100
Toho Film (Eiga) Co. Ltd.

#12. Woman in the Dunes (1964)

- Director: Hiroshi Teshigahara
- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Votes: 14,326
- Runtime: 123 minutes

This arthouse flick hails from Japan, and features a distinctive surrealist style. It follows an entomologist as he spends the night with a young widow at the bottom of a sand dune. What ensues is a gripping sexual encounter rife with dangerous undertones.  

90 / 100
Government of West Bengal

#11. Pather Panchali (1955)

- Director: Satyajit Ray
- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Votes: 18,505
- Runtime: 125 minutes

Representing the debut film from Indian director Satyajit Ray, this low-budget drama kicks off what later became known as the “Apu Trilogy.” Set in the 1910s, the film depicts the struggles of young Apu and his impoverished family in a small Indian village. Sitar player Ravi Shankar provided the music.  

91 / 100
Charles Chaplin Productions

#10. City Lights (1931)

- Director: Charles Chaplin
- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Votes: 141,590
- Runtime: 87 minutes

The Tramp is back in this 1931 classic from Charlie Chaplin. To raise money for the blind girl he loves, The Tramp resorts to all sorts of desperate and comedic measures. Talkies were proliferating at the time, but Chaplin stuck to his silent era roots.

92 / 100
Charles Chaplin Productions

#9. The Great Dictator (1940)

- Director: Charles Chaplin
- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Votes: 174,835
- Runtime: 125 minutes

Chaplin didn't miss a beat when he transitioned into the all-talking format. The result was this 1940 satire, in which he tackles the dual roles of a ruthless dictator (who resembles Adolf Hitler) and a Jewish barber. Predictably, the movie was not shown in Germany during its initial run.  

93 / 100
Charles Chaplin Productions

#8. Modern Times (1936)

- Director: Charles Chaplin
- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Votes: 183,790
- Runtime: 87 minutes

Skewering the industrial era, this 1936 comedy finds The Tramp trying to make ends meet in a modern world. Though it contains snippets of sound, the black and white film is largely a silent affair. Featured in the movie is one of cinema's most iconic gags, in which Chaplin slithers his way through the gears of a large machine.

94 / 100
Warner Bros.

#7. Casablanca (1942)

- Director: Michael Curtiz
- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Votes: 464,304
- Runtime: 102 minutes

A perfect script comes to life in this black and white masterpiece, which takes place during the early stages of WWII. Humphrey Bogart stars as nightclub owner Rick Blaine, who lives in Morocco and "sticks [his] neck out for nobody." When a former flame comes seeking help, it sends Blaine into a world of trouble.  

95 / 100
Shamley Productions

#6. Psycho (1960)

- Director: Alfred Hitchcock
- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Votes: 520,855
- Runtime: 109 minutes

Alfred Hitchcock had been filming in color for years by the time he unleashed this seminal black and white thriller about serial killer Norman Bates. The director reportedly thought the infamous shower scene might be too much for audiences to bear if it was shown in color. They freaked out anyway.  

96 / 100
Liberty Films (II)

#5. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

- Director: Frank Capra
- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Votes: 346,878
- Runtime: 130 minutes

If one can believe it, this heartwarming holiday film was originally a commercial disappointment. Only after repeat TV screenings in the 1970s did the movie become the Christmas staple it is today. James Stewart stars as frustrated businessman George Bailey, who is shown what life would have been like had he never existed.

97 / 100
Shôchiku Eiga

#4. Harakiri (1962)

- Director: Masaki Kobayashi
- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Votes: 23,607
- Runtime: 133 minutes

It's hard out there for a samurai in this 1962 Japanese drama from Masaki Kobayashi. The movie takes place during a time of peace in the 17th century, when thousands of samurai were out of work. An elder ronin tells the story of his son-in-law while grappling with the samurai code, which obliges him to commit hara-kiri (ritual suicide) rather than live in poverty.

98 / 100
Toho Company

#3. Seven Samurai (1954)

- Director: Akira Kurosawa
- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Votes: 275,789
- Runtime: 207 minutes

Akira Kurosawa's timeless tale of a small village under attack and the seven men hired to protect it has paved the way for a slew of adaptations. Meanwhile, the original is a black and white masterpiece unto itself.

99 / 100
Orion-Nova Productions

#2. 12 Angry Men (1957)

- Director: Sidney Lumet
- IMDb user rating: 8.9
- Votes: 573,303
- Runtime: 96 minutes

The fate of a suspected murderer is in the hands of 12 angry jurors, only one of whom thinks he may not be guilty. Can Juror 8 (Henry Fonda) convince the others that this case isn't as open and shut as it seems? Set almost entirely inside the jury room, this taut drama's black and white palette intensifies an overarching sense of claustrophobia and urgency.

100 / 100
Universal Pictures

#1. Schindler's List (1993)

- Director: Steven Spielberg
- IMDb user rating: 8.9
- Votes: 1,053,733
- Runtime: 195 minutes

When asked why he shot this award-winning film in black and white, director Steven Spielberg explained that he'd never actually seen Holocaust footage in color. The artistic decision gives the movie a palpable degree of authenticity, telling the true story of one man (Liam Neeson) who saves more than 1,000 Jews from execution during WWII. 

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