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Best black and white films of all time

  • #40. The Seventh Seal (1957)

    IMDb user rating: 8.2
    Votes: 139,651
    Director(s): Ingmar Bergman
    Featuring: Max von Sydow, Gunnar Björnstrand, Bengt Ekerot, Nils Poppe
    Runtime: 96 min.

    Ingmar Bergman asks the big questions in this acclaimed black and white drama, which takes place in medieval Sweden during the Black Plague. As disease sweeps through the countryside, various people resort to extreme and desperate behavior. Meanwhile, a knight engages in a high-stakes chess match with Death himself.

  • #39. The Third Man (1949)

    IMDb user rating: 8.2
    Votes: 140,197
    Director(s): Carol Reed
    Featuring: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Trevor Howard
    Runtime: 93 min

    What begins as a trip to postwar Vienna becomes something far more sinister in this classic film noir. As a struggling novelist tries to find out why his friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles) was killed, he uncovers a much broader conspiracy. 

  • #38. The Elephant Man (1980)

    IMDb user rating: 8.2
    Votes: 196,203
    Director(s): David Lynch
    Featuring: Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, Anne Bancroft, John Gielgud
    Runtime: 124 min

    “Black and white immediately takes you out of the real world,” director David Lynch would later say of this 1980 biopic. Adapted from a play about Joseph “John” Merrick, the movie portrays the constant struggles of its disfigured main character during the Victorian era. To make ends meet, this man of considerable sensitivity and intelligence must tragically survive as a sideshow exhibit.

  • #37. Raging Bull (1980)

    IMDb user rating: 8.2
    Votes: 280,971
    Director(s): Martin Scorsese
    Featuring: Robert De Niro, Cathy Moriarty, Joe Pesci, Frank Vincent
    Runtime: 129 min.

    Director Martin Scorsese's second black and white effort is also one of his best. Based on the true story of boxer Jake LaMotta (played by Robert De Niro), “Raging Bull” pulls no punches in its depiction of LaMotta's brutish behavior. The real Jake LaMotta once asked his wife if he was really as abusive as the movie suggested, to which she replied, “You were worse.”

  • #36. Late Spring (1949)

    IMDb user rating: 8.3
    Votes: 11,682
    Director(s): Yasujirô Ozu
    Featuring: Chishû Ryû, Setsuko Hara, Yumeji Tsukioka, Haruko Sugimura
    Runtime: 108 min.

    A Japanese woman (Setsuko Hara) delays marriage to take care of her father in this drama from Yasujirô Ozu. Tangentially explored are the shifting roles of women within a rapidly changing society. Based on a novel, the movie marks the first installment of Ozu's “Noriko Trilogy,” throughout which Hara plays three different women named Noriko.

  • #35. The Cranes Are Flying (1957)

    IMDb user rating: 8.3
    Votes: 12,549
    Director(s): Mikhail Kalatozov
    Featuring: Tatyana Samoylova, Aleksey Batalov, Vasili Merkuryev, Aleksandr Shvorin
    Runtime: 95 min.

    Winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes, this gripping drama depicts the unbreakable romance between Veronica and Boris. After the two lovers pledge their hearts to one another under a sky of cranes, Boris is drafted to fight in WWII. What follows is an examination on the brutality of war and the power of devotion.

  • #34. Rocco and His Brothers (1960)

    IMDb user rating: 8.3
    Votes: 13,887
    Director(s): Luchino Visconti
    Featuring: Alain Delon, Renato Salvatori, Annie Girardot, Claudia Cardinale
    Runtime: 177 min.

    Upon moving to Milan from a rural area, five brothers struggle to adapt to big city life in this three-hour saga. When two of the brothers fall in love with the same woman, their rivalry threatens to tear the family apart. The film was helmed by Luchino Visconti, a seminal figure in the Italian neorealist movement.

  • #33. Red Beard (1965)

    IMDb user rating: 8.3
    Votes: 13,957
    Director(s): Akira Kurosawa
    Featuring: Toshirô Mifune, Yûzô Kayama, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Reiko Dan
    Runtime: 185 min.

    Culling from a short story collection by Shūgorō Yamamoto as well as a novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky, this Japanese drama centers on the relationship between an honorable doctor and his arrogant new intern. As the two mean deal with a variety of difficult cases, the lives of their patients are explored in episodic fashion.

  • #32. The Young and the Damned (1950)

    IMDb user rating: 8.3
    Votes: 15,641
    Director(s): Luis Buñuel
    Featuring: Alfonso Mejía, Roberto Cobo, Estela Inda, Miguel Inclán
    Runtime: 80 min.

    Set in the slums of Mexico City, Luis Buñuel's gritty Mexican drama reunites reform-school runaway El Jaibo with his former gang. Determined to get revenge on the man who sent him away, El Jaibo embarks on a ruthless crime spree. In the process, a young man named Pedro becomes corrupted by the violence around him.  

  • #31. Children of Paradise (1945)

    IMDb user rating: 8.3
    Votes: 16,453
    Director(s): Marcel Carné
    Featuring: Arletty, Jean-Louis Barrault, Pierre Brasseur, Pierre Renoir
    Runtime: 189 min.

    Often referred to as France's answer to “Gone With the Wind,” this sweeping melodrama explores the harrowing pain of unrequited love. At the heart of the story is a beautiful courtesan named Garance, who must fend off four potential suitors. Set in Paris in the 1830s, the film takes place over the course of several years.  

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