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The Best Black and White Movies Ever Made

Updated April 14, 2021 21.4k votes 1.9k voters 74.3k views225 items

List RulesTop monochrome BW films

List of the best black and white movies ever made, as listed by movie critics and film fans from all over the world. From the time that movies were first being made until the late '60s, black and white was the exclusive color of movies, since that was the only filming technology available. Although movies are now almost all shot in color, the old black and white movies feel classic, like there’s a higher quality to their storytelling.

Even though color technology has existed for shooting movies since the late 1960s, some filmmakers choose to shoot their movies in black and white for either budget, aesthetical, or storytelling purposes. Movies like Schindler’s List, Paper Moon, and The Artist were all made when color was available but because the black and white makes viewers feel transported to a former time period. For some movies, like The Night of the Living Dead and Raging Bull, the lack of color makes the horror and violence seem even more frightening.

What are the best black and white movies of all time? This list features movies made in the '20s to those made in the last few years, covering all types of genres. These movies are often ranked among the best of the best.

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  • 1
    471
    165

    ActorsIngrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, Claude Rains, Paul Henreid

    Directed byMichael Curtiz

    Casablanca is a 1942 American romantic drama film directed by Michael Curtiz and based on Murray Burnett and Joan Alison's unproduced stage play Everybody Comes to Rick's. The film stars Humphrey...  more

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  • 2
    393
    129

    Psycho

    1960

    ActorsAlfred Hitchcock, Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, Martin Balsam

    Directed byAlfred Hitchcock

    Psycho is a 1960 American horror film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The film centers on an encounter between a secretary, Marion Crane, who ends up at a secluded motel after taking money from her...  more

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  • 3

    ActorsHumphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, Mary Astor, Walter Huston, Ward Bond

    Directed byJohn Huston

    The Maltese Falcon is a 1941 Warner Bros. film noir based on the novel of the same name by Dashiell Hammett. Directed by John Huston, the film stars Humphrey Bogart as private investigator Sam Spade...  more

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  • 4
    216
    89

    ActorsMarilyn Monroe, Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Thelma Ritter

    Directed byJoseph L. Mankiewicz

    All About Eve is a 1950 American drama film written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and produced by Darryl F. Zanuck. It was based on the 1946 short story "The Wisdom of Eve" by Mary Orr,...  more

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  • 5

    ActorsJames Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Ward Bond, Gloria Grahame

    Directed byFrank Capra

    It's a Wonderful Life is a 1946 American Christmas fantasy comedy-drama film produced and directed by Frank Capra, based on the short story "The Greatest Gift", which Philip Van Doren Stern wrote in...  more

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  • 6

    ActorsHumphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Barton MacLane, Tim Holt, Bruce Bennett

    Directed byJohn Huston

    The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is an American dramatic adventurous neo-western written and directed by John Huston. It is a feature film adaptation of B. Traven's 1927 novel of the same name, about...  more

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  • 7
    310
    143

    ActorsOrson Welles, Alan Ladd, Agnes Moorehead, Joseph Cotten, Arthur O'Connell

    Directed byOrson Welles

    Citizen Kane is a 1941 American drama film produced by, co-written by, directed by and starring Orson Welles. The picture was Welles's first feature film. The film was nominated for Academy Awards in...  more

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  • 8
    137
    42

    ActorsLaurence Olivier, Alfred Hitchcock, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders, Judith Anderson

    Directed byAlfred Hitchcock

    Rebecca is a 1940 American psychological thriller-drama film. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, it was his first American project, and his first film produced under contract with David O. Selznick. The...  more

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  • 9
    180
    71

    ActorsAudrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Eddie Albert, Silvio Bagolini, Harcourt Williams

    Directed byWilliam Wyler

    Roman Holiday is a 1953 American romantic comedy directed and produced by William Wyler. It stars Gregory Peck as a reporter and Audrey Hepburn as a royal princess out to see Rome on her own. Hepburn...  more

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  • 10

    ActorsFred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson

    Directed byBilly Wilder

    Double Indemnity is a 1944 film noir crime drama directed by Billy Wilder, co-written by Wilder and Raymond Chandler, based on James M. Cain's 1943 novella of the same name, which originally appeared...  more

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  • 11
    106
    24

    ActorsBoris Karloff, John Boles, Colin Clive, Francis Ford, Paul Panzer

    Directed byJames Whale

    Frankenstein is a 1931 horror monster film from Universal Pictures directed by James Whale and adapted from the play by Peggy Webling, which in turn is based on the novel of the same name by Mary...  more

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  • 12

    ActorsWilliam Holden, Buster Keaton, Gloria Swanson, Yvette Vickers, Cecil B. DeMille

    Directed byBilly Wilder

    Sunset Boulevard—stylized onscreen as SUNSET BLVD.—is a 1950 American film noir directed and co-written by Billy Wilder, and produced and co-written by Charles Brackett. It was named after the...  more

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  • 13
    176
    68

    ActorsFay Wray, Merian C. Cooper, Bruce Cabot, James Flavin, Frank Reicher

    Directed byMerian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack

    King Kong is a 1933 American fantasy monster/adventure film directed and produced by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. The screenplay by James Ashmore Creelman and Ruth Rose was from an idea...  more

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  • 14

    ActorsClark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Ward Bond, Joseph Crehan, Bess Flowers

    Directed byFrank Capra

    It Happened One Night is a 1934 American romantic comedy film with elements of screwball comedy directed by Frank Capra, in which a pampered socialite tries to get out from under her father's thumb,...  more

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  • 15

    ActorsLiam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley, Embeth Davidtz, Norbert Weisser

    Directed bySteven Spielberg

    Schindler's List is a 1993 American epic historical period drama, directed and co-produced by Steven Spielberg and scripted by Steven Zaillian. It is based on the novel Schindler's Ark by Thomas...  more

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  • 16

    ActorsCary Grant, Peter Lorre, Raymond Massey, Edward Everett Horton, Charles Lane

    Directed byFrank Capra

    Arsenic and Old Lace is a 1944 American dark comedy film directed by Frank Capra, starring Cary Grant, and based on Joseph Kesselring's play Arsenic and Old Lace. The script adaptation was by Julius...  more

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  • 17
    142
    66

    ActorsIngrid Bergman, Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock, Claude Rains, nm0129894

    Directed byAlfred Hitchcock

    Notorious is a 1946 American spy thriller film directed and produced by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains as three people whose lives become intimately entangled...  more

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  • 18

    ActorsBette Davis, Joan Crawford, Robert Aldrich, Anna Lee, Dave Willock

    Directed byRobert Aldrich

    What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is a 1962 American psychological thriller film produced and directed by Robert Aldrich, starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford about an actress who holds her crippled...  more

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  • 19

    ActorsMarlon Brando, Eva Marie Saint, Rod Steiger, Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb

    Directed byElia Kazan

    On the Waterfront is a 1954 American drama film about union violence and corruption amongst longshoremen. The film was directed by Elia Kazan and written by Budd Schulberg. It stars Marlon Brando and...  more

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  • 20
    156
    72

    ActorsLauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, Dorothy Malone, Martha Vickers, Regis Toomey

    Directed byHoward Hawks

    The Big Sleep is a 1946 film noir directed by Howard Hawks, the first film version of Raymond Chandler's 1939 novel of the same name. The movie stars Humphrey Bogart as detective Philip Marlowe and...  more

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  • 21
    105
    46

    ActorsJohn Wayne, John Carradine, Claire Trevor, Andy Devine, Thomas Mitchell

    Directed byJohn Ford

    Stagecoach is a 1939 American Western film directed by John Ford, starring Claire Trevor and John Wayne in his breakthrough role. The screenplay, written by Dudley Nichols, is an adaptation of "The...  more

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  • 22

    ActorsAlfred Hitchcock, Farley Granger, Leo G. Carroll, Ruth Roman, Marion Lorne

    Directed byAlfred Hitchcock

    Strangers on a Train is a 1951 American psychological thriller film noir produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and based on the 1950 novel Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith. It was shot...  more

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  • 23

    ActorsKatharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart, Roland Young, Ruth Hussey

    Directed byGeorge Cukor

    The Philadelphia Story is a 1940 American romantic comedy film directed by George Cukor, starring Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and James Stewart and featuring Ruth Hussey. Based on the Broadway...  more

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  • 24

    ActorsHenry Fonda, John Carradine, John Qualen, Jane Darwell, Eddie Quillan

    Directed byJohn Ford

    The Grapes of Wrath is a 1940 drama film directed by John Ford. It was based on John Steinbeck's 1939 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name. The screenplay was written by Nunnally Johnson and...  more

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  • 25

    ActorsMyrna Loy, Teresa Wright, Fredric March, Dana Andrews, Virginia Mayo

    Directed byWilliam Wyler

    The Best Years of Our Lives is a 1946 American drama film directed by William Wyler and starring Myrna Loy, Fredric March, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo, and Harold Russell. The film is...  more

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