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Best black and white films of all time

  • #20. Sansho the Bailiff (1954)

    IMDb user rating: 8.4
    Votes: 12,206
    Director(s): Kenji Mizoguchi
    Featuring: Kinuyo Tanaka, Yoshiaki Hanayagi, Kyôko Kagawa, Eitarô Shindô
    Runtime: 124 min.

    Based on a short story and a popular folk tale before it, this film takes place in medieval Japan. Years after an idealistic governor is banished to a far-off land, his family sets out to find him. Consisting of elaborate long shots, the award-winning film serves as a testament to the power of human perseverance in the face of numerous obstacles.  

  • #19. High and Low (1963)

    IMDb user rating: 8.4
    Votes: 22,971
    Director(s): Akira Kurosawa
    Featuring: Toshirô Mifune, Yutaka Sada, Tatsuya Nakadai, Kyôko Kagawa
    Runtime: 143 min.

    Akira Kurosawa continues to dominate the list with this gripping 1963 procedural. It finds an ambitious shoe company executive battling for corporate control while concurrently dealing with the kidnapping of his chauffeur's son. Applying some cold and calculated risk analysis, the executive must ultimately choose between the life of a company and that of a child.

  • #18. Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

    IMDb user rating: 8.4
    Votes: 88,152
    Director(s): Billy Wilder
    Featuring: Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich, Charles Laughton, Elsa Lanchester
    Runtime: 116 min.

    Based on an Agatha Christie play of the same name, this intense courtroom drama incorporates elements of classic film noir. In the film, a sickly British barrister defends an American war veteran who's been accused of murder. After a series of unexpected surprises, the barrister realizes that nothing is what it seems.

  • #17. Paths of Glory (1957)

    IMDb user rating: 8.4
    Votes: 151,438
    Director(s): Stanley Kubrick
    Featuring: Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou, George Macready
    Runtime: 88 min.

    Stanley Kubrick's first (anti-)war film is a stunning treatise on hypocrisy and dehumanization. It takes place during WWI and stars Kirk Douglas as a unit commander in the French army. After the commander's men refuse to follow the orders of their superiors, he must defend them against the charge of cowardice in a court-martial.   

  • #16. Sunset Boulevard (1950)

    IMDb user rating: 8.4
    Votes: 173,871
    Director(s): Billy Wilder
    Featuring: William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim, Nancy Olson
    Runtime: 110 min.

    “Sunset Boulevard” centers on the fraught relationship between a Hollywood screenwriter and a faded starlet from the silent era. Speaking of the silent era, look for a cameo from screen legend Buster Keaton.

  • #15. Citizen Kane (1941)

    IMDb user rating: 8.4
    Votes: 355,238
    Director(s): Orson Welles
    Featuring: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Comingore, Agnes Moorehead
    Runtime: 119 min.

    More than one of the best black and white films of all time, Orson Welles' timeless classic is also considered one of the best movies ever made. It chronicles the rise of newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane, whose thirst for power seems unquenchable. Something of a commercial failure upon its release, the film is now universally acclaimed.

  • #14. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

    IMDb user rating: 8.4
    Votes: 405,715
    Director(s): Stanley Kubrick
    Featuring: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn
    Runtime: 95 min

    Dark comedies don't get much darker than this one from Stanley Kubrick. Starring Peter Sellers in multiple roles, the film depicts the end of the world by way of nuclear holocaust.

  • #13. Le Trou (1960)

    IMDb user rating: 8.5
    Votes: 12,334
    Director(s): Jacques Becker
    Featuring: André Bervil, Jean Keraudy, Michel Constantin, Philippe Leroy
    Runtime: 131 min.

    Facing long prison sentences, four cellmates plot their escape in this taut French thriller. When a fifth inmate gets in on the scheme, the others wonder if they can trust the newcomer. One critic called this “the last great flowering of French classicism.”

  • #12. Woman in the Dunes (1964)

    IMDb user rating: 8.5
    Votes: 14,326
    Director(s): Hiroshi Teshigahara
    Featuring: Eiji Okada, Kyôko Kishida, Hiroko Itô, Kôji Mitsui
    Runtime: 123 min.

    This arthouse flick hails from Japan, and features a distinctive surrealist style. It follows an entomologist as he spends the night with a young widow at the bottom of a sand dune. What ensues is a gripping sexual encounter rife with dangerous undertones.  

  • #11. Pather Panchali (1955)

    IMDb user rating: 8.5
    Votes: 18,505
    Director(s): Satyajit Ray
    Featuring: Kanu Banerjee, Karuna Banerjee, Subir Banerjee, Chunibala Devi
    Runtime: 125 min.

    Representing the debut film from Indian director Satyajit Ray, this low-budget drama kicks off what later became known as the “Apu Trilogy.” Set in the 1910s, the film depicts the struggles of young Apu and his impoverished family in a small Indian village. Sitar player Ravi Shankar provided the music.  

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