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Best black and white films of all time

  • #10. City Lights (1931)

    IMDb user rating: 8.5
    Votes: 141,590
    Director(s): Charles Chaplin
    Featuring: Charles Chaplin, Virginia Cherrill, Florence Lee, Harry Myers
    Runtime: 87 min.

    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.

  • #9. The Great Dictator (1940)

    IMDb user rating: 8.5
    Votes: 174,835
    Director(s): Charles Chaplin
    Featuring: Charles Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Jack Oakie, Reginald Gardiner
    Runtime: 125 min.

    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.  

  • #8. Modern Times (1936)

    IMDb user rating: 8.5
    Votes: 183,790
    Director(s): Charles Chaplin
    Featuring: Charles Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Henry Bergman, Tiny Sandford
    Runtime: 87 min

    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.

  • #7. Casablanca (1942)

    IMDb user rating: 8.5
    Votes: 464,304
    Director(s): Michael Curtiz
    Featuring: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains
    Runtime: 102 min.

    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.  

  • #6. Psycho (1960)

    IMDb user rating: 8.5
    Votes: 520,855
    Director(s): Alfred Hitchcock
    Featuring: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, John Gavin
    Runtime: 109 min.

    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. Reportedly, the director felt the infamous shower scene might be too much for audiences to bear if it were shown in color. They freaked out anyway.  

  • #5. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

    IMDb user rating: 8.6
    Votes: 346,878
    Director(s): Frank Capra
    Featuring: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell
    Runtime: 130 min.

    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.

  • #4. Harakiri (1962)

    IMDb user rating: 8.7
    Votes: 23,607
    Director(s): Masaki Kobayashi
    Featuring: Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Ishihama, Shima Iwashita, Tetsurô Tanba
    Runtime: 133 min.

    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.

  • #3. Seven Samurai (1954)

    IMDb user rating: 8.7
    Votes: 275,789
    Director(s): Akira Kurosawa
    Featuring: Toshirô Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Keiko Tsushima, Yukiko Shimazaki
    Runtime: 207 min.

    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. It currently holds the #17 spot on BFI's list of The 50 Greatest Films of All Time.  

  • #2. 12 Angry Men (1957)

    IMDb user rating: 8.9
    Votes: 573,303
    Director(s): Sidney Lumet
    Featuring: Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Martin Balsam, John Fiedler
    Runtime: 96 min.

    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.

  • #1. Schindler's List (1993)

    IMDb user rating: 8.9
    Votes: 1,053,733
    Director(s): Steven Spielberg
    Featuring: Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley, Caroline Goodall
    Runtime: 195 min

    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 over a thousand Jews from execution during WWII. 

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