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Best black and white films of all time

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

    IMDb user rating: 8.2
    Votes: 39,215
    Director(s): Carl Theodor Dreyer
    Featuring: Maria Falconetti, Eugene Silvain, André Berley, Maurice Schutz
    Runtime: 114 min.

    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.

  • #49. Sunrise (1927)

    IMDb user rating: 8.2
    Votes: 41,968
    Director(s): F.W. Murnau
    Featuring: George O'Brien, Janet Gaynor, Margaret Livingston, Bodil Rosing
    Runtime: 94 min.

    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?

  • #48. Tokyo Story (1953)

    IMDb user rating: 8.2
    Votes: 42,069
    Director(s): Yasujirô Ozu
    Featuring: Chishû Ryû, Chieko Higashiyama, Sô Yamamura, Setsuko Hara
    Runtime: 136 min.

    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.

  • #47. Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)

    IMDb user rating: 8.2
    Votes: 60,054
    Director(s): Stanley Kramer
    Featuring: Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Marlene Dietrich
    Runtime: 186 min.

    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.

  • #46. The General (1926)

    IMDb user rating: 8.2
    Votes: 69,914
    Director(s): Clyde Bruckman, Buster Keaton
    Featuring: Buster Keaton, Marion Mack, Glen Cavender, Jim Farley
    Runtime: 67 min.

    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.

  • #45. Wild Strawberries (1957)

    IMDb user rating: 8.2
    Votes: 81,879
    Director(s): Ingmar Bergman
    Featuring: Victor Sjöström, Bibi Andersson, Ingrid Thulin, Gunnar Björnstrand
    Runtime: 91 min.

    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. The film was inspired by the Swedish director's personal memories and fears

  • #44. The Gold Rush (1925)

    IMDb user rating: 8.2
    Votes: 87,246
    Director(s): Charles Chaplin
    Featuring: Charles Chaplin, Mack Swain, Tom Murray, Henry Bergman
    Runtime: 95 min.

    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.

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

    IMDb user rating: 8.2
    Votes: 96,226
    Director(s): Frank Capra
    Featuring: James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, Edward Arnold
    Runtime: 129 min.

    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.

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

    IMDb user rating: 8.2
    Votes: 99,366
    Director(s): John Huston
    Featuring: Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt, Bruce Bennett
    Runtime: 126 min.

    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.

  • #41. On the Waterfront (1954)

    IMDb user rating: 8.2
    Votes: 125,806
    Director(s): Elia Kazan
    Featuring: Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb, Rod Steiger
    Runtime: 108 min.

    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.