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Best black and white films of all time

  • #60. Umberto D. (1952)

    IMDb user rating: 8.2
    Votes: 19,660
    Director(s): Vittorio De Sica
    Featuring: Carlo Battisti, Maria Pia Casilio, Lina Gennari, Ileana Simova
    Runtime: 89 min.

    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.

  • #59. Rififi (1955)

    IMDb user rating: 8.2
    Votes: 22,301
    Director(s): Jules Dassin
    Featuring: Jean Servais, Carl Möhner, Robert Manuel, Janine Darcey
    Runtime: 118 min.

    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.

  • #58. To Be or Not to Be (1942)

    IMDb user rating: 8.2
    Votes: 22,700
    Director(s): Ernst Lubitsch
    Featuring: Carole Lombard, Jack Benny, Robert Stack, Felix Bressart
    Runtime: 99 min.

    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.

  • #57. Ace in the Hole (1951)

    IMDb user rating: 8.2
    Votes: 23,641
    Director(s): Billy Wilder
    Featuring: Kirk Douglas, Jan Sterling, Robert Arthur, Porter Hall
    Runtime: 111 min.

    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.

  • #56. Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

    IMDb user rating: 8.2
    Votes: 23,725
    Director(s): Alexander Mackendrick
    Featuring: Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison, Martin Milner
    Runtime: 96 min.

    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.

  • #55. Inherit the Wind (1960)

    IMDb user rating: 8.2
    Votes: 23,885
    Director(s): Stanley Kramer
    Featuring: Spencer Tracy, Fredric March, Gene Kelly, Dick York
    Runtime: 128 min.

    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.

  • #54. White Heat (1949)

    IMDb user rating: 8.2
    Votes: 23,968
    Director(s): Raoul Walsh
    Featuring: James Cagney, Virginia Mayo, Edmond O'Brien, Margaret Wycherly
    Runtime: 114 min.

    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.

  • #53. The Exterminating Angel (1962)

    IMDb user rating: 8.2
    Votes: 24,111
    Director(s): Luis Buñuel
    Featuring: Silvia Pinal, Jacqueline Andere, Enrique Rambal, José Baviera
    Runtime: 95 min.

    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.  

  • #52. Sherlock Jr. (1924)

    IMDb user rating: 8.2
    Votes: 31,300
    Director(s): Buster Keaton
    Featuring: Buster Keaton, Kathryn McGuire, Joe Keaton, Erwin Connelly
    Runtime: 45 min.

    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.

  • #51. Andrei Rublev (1966)

    IMDb user rating: 8.2
    Votes: 37,222
    Director(s): Andrei Tarkovsky
    Featuring: Anatoliy Solonitsyn, Ivan Lapikov, Nikolai Grinko, Nikolay Sergeev
    Runtime: 205 min

    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.

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