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Best black and white films of all time

  • #30. Ikiru (1952)

    IMDb user rating: 8.3
    Votes: 56,998
    Director(s): Akira Kurosawa
    Featuring: Takashi Shimura, Nobuo Kaneko, Shin'ichi Himori, Haruo Tanaka
    Runtime: 143 min.

    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.

  • #29. The Kid (1921)

    IMDb user rating: 8.3
    Votes: 92,820
    Director(s): Charles Chaplin
    Featuring: Charles Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Jackie Coogan, Carl Miller
    Runtime: 68 min.

    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.

  • #28. Yojimbo (1961)

    IMDb user rating: 8.3
    Votes: 94,176
    Director(s): Akira Kurosawa
    Featuring: Toshirô Mifune, Eijirô Tôno, Tatsuya Nakadai, Yôko Tsukasa
    Runtime: 110 min.

    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.”

  • #27. Bicycle Thieves (1948)

    IMDb user rating: 8.3
    Votes: 122,505
    Director(s): Vittorio De Sica
    Featuring: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola, Lianella Carell, Elena Altieri
    Runtime: 89 min.

    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. 

  • #26. Double Indemnity (1944)

    IMDb user rating: 8.3
    Votes: 123,685
    Director(s): Billy Wilder
    Featuring: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson, Byron Barr
    Runtime: 107 min.

    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). 

  • #25. M (1931)

    IMDb user rating: 8.3
    Votes: 123,829
    Director(s): Fritz Lang
    Featuring: Peter Lorre, Ellen Widmann, Inge Landgut, Otto Wernicke
    Runtime: 99 min.

    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.  

  • #24. Rashomon (1950)

    IMDb user rating: 8.3
    Votes: 130,059
    Director(s): Akira Kurosawa
    Featuring: Toshirô Mifune, Machiko Kyô, Masayuki Mori, Takashi Shimura
    Runtime: 88 min.

    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.

  • #23. The Apartment (1960)

    IMDb user rating: 8.3
    Votes: 139,142
    Director(s): Billy Wilder
    Featuring: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Ray Walston
    Runtime: 125 min.

    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?

  • #22. Metropolis (1927)

    IMDb user rating: 8.3
    Votes: 139,236
    Director(s): Fritz Lang
    Featuring: Brigitte Helm, Alfred Abel, Gustav Fröhlich, Rudolf Klein-Rogge
    Runtime: 153 min.

    More than 90 years later, the concepts and themes laid out in Fritz Lang's “Metropolis” 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.

  • #21. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

    IMDb user rating: 8.3
    Votes: 265,149
    Director(s): Robert Mulligan
    Featuring: Gregory Peck, John Megna, Frank Overton, Rosemary Murphy
    Runtime: 129 min.

    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.