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Best black and white films of all time

  • #70. The Maltese Falcon (1941)

    IMDb user rating: 8.1
    Votes: 137,590
    Director(s): John Huston
    Featuring: Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Gladys George, Peter Lorre
    Runtime: 100 min.

    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.

  • #69. Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)

    IMDb user rating: 8.2
    Votes: 10,870
    Director(s): Béla Tarr, Ágnes Hranitzky
    Featuring: Lars Rudolph, Peter Fitz, Hanna Schygulla, János Derzsi
    Runtime: 145 min.

    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 The Guardian writer Richard Williams.

  • #68. Trouble in Paradise (1932)

    IMDb user rating: 8.2
    Votes: 11,442
    Director(s): Ernst Lubitsch
    Featuring: Miriam Hopkins, Kay Francis, Herbert Marshall, Charles Ruggles
    Runtime: 83 min.

    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.  

  • #67. The Heiress (1949)

    IMDb user rating: 8.2
    Votes: 11,474
    Director(s): William Wyler
    Featuring: Olivia de Havilland, Montgomery Clift, Ralph Richardson, Miriam Hopkins
    Runtime: 115 min.

    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.

  • #66. A Face in the Crowd (1957)

    IMDb user rating: 8.2
    Votes: 11,640
    Director(s): Elia Kazan
    Featuring: Andy Griffith, Patricia Neal, Anthony Franciosa, Walter Matthau
    Runtime: 126 min.

    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.

  • #65. Ordet (1955)

    IMDb user rating: 8.2
    Votes: 11,871
    Director(s): Carl Theodor Dreyer
    Featuring: Henrik Malberg, Emil Hass Christensen, Preben Lerdorff Rye, Hanne Aagesen
    Runtime: 126 min.

    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.  

  • #64. A Man Escaped (1956)

    IMDb user rating: 8.2
    Votes: 15,483
    Director(s): Robert Bresson
    Featuring: François Leterrier, Charles Le Clainche, Maurice Beerblock, Roland Monod
    Runtime: 101 min.

    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.

  • #63. Safety Last! (1923)

    IMDb user rating: 8.2
    Votes: 15,844
    Director(s): Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor
    Featuring: Harold Lloyd, Mildred Davis, Bill Strother, Noah Young
    Runtime: 70 min.

    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.

  • #62. Ugetsu (1953)

    IMDb user rating: 8.2
    Votes: 17,415
    Director(s): Kenji Mizoguchi
    Featuring: Masayuki Mori, Machiko Kyô, Kinuyo Tanaka, Mitsuko Mito
    Runtime: 96 min.

    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.  

  • #61. Viridiana (1961)

    IMDb user rating: 8.2
    Votes: 19,234
    Director(s): Luis Buñuel
    Featuring: Silvia Pinal, Francisco Rabal, Fernando Rey, José Calvo
    Runtime: 90 min.

    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.