20 Timeless Black and White Films That We Absolutely Love

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Nothing says “classic film” like an actual black-and-white movie, and we’re using that as our criteria for today’s post. If you were born in the 80s or 90s, then your parents probably introduced you to some of the best black-and-white movies ever made. And despite the lack of color, these 20  incredible movies have some of the best storylines and plots that will always hold a special place in the hearts of those who watch them.

Recently, there’s been a resurgence in the popularity of black-and-white film-making. It’s a unique way to tell an old story in a new movie, to enhance the old-Hollywood setting, or to just amp up the cinematography. So in the mix, you’re going to find a few newer movies that are all or mostly filmed in black and white as well!

So we’re sharing our top black-and-white films with you today! From the contained drama of 12 Angry Men to the eerie Nosferatu and the heart-achy Casablanca, we’re rounding up 20 of the myriad old films that have made it to the status of legends; whether they’re can’t-miss classics or films with a niche cult following, they’re all excellent in some way. Keep reading for more! 

1. 12 Angry Men (1957)

Photo Credit: Metro Goldwyn Mayer.

12 Angry Men is a classic American drama film released in 1957, directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Henry Fonda. The movie is based on a play of the same name and takes place entirely in a jury room, following 12 jurors who are tasked with deciding the fate of a young man accused of murder. From the intense deliberations in the jury room to the poignant exploration of justice and prejudice, this film keeps viewers on the edge of their seats from start to finish.

Despite being set in a specific time and place, the themes explored in 12 Angry Men remain relevant and thought-provoking to this day. It’s a testament to the timeless quality of its storytelling, which continues to resonate with audiences across generations.

2. Some Like It Hot (1959)

Photo Credit: Ashton Pictures.

The movie is famous for its clever conversations, slapstick comedy, and amusing acts by the ensemble, especially Monroe, who takes on the role of Sugar Kane, the band singer. The film also showcases a remarkable soundtrack composed by Adolph Deutsch and incorporates various well-liked songs from that time, including the hit “I Wanna Be Loved By You.”

Its clever screenplay and sharp dialogue keep viewers engaged from start to finish, making it a favorite among cinephiles and casual moviegoers alike. The black-and-white cinematography adds to its vintage charm, transporting audiences to a bygone era of Hollywood glamour. But beyond its comedic brilliance, Some Like It Hot also touches on themes of identity, love, and acceptance, adding depth to its lighthearted storyline.

3. Casablanca (1942)

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Casablanca, a timeless romantic drama of American cinema, was released in 1942. It was directed by Michael Curtiz and featured the renowned actors Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in the leading roles. Set against the backdrop of World War II, the film weaves a tale of romance, intrigue, and sacrifice. Humphrey Bogart’s portrayal of Rick Blaine is legendary, embodying the essence of a morally complex anti-hero. The film’s black-and-white cinematography adds to its nostalgic charm, evoking the glamour of old Hollywood.

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4. Schindler’s List (1993)

Photo Credit: Universal Studios.

Schindler’s List is a 1993 historical drama film directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, and Ralph Fiennes. The movie is based on the true story of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who saved the lives of more than a thousand Jewish refugees during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories.

The movie is filmed using black-and-white cinematography and is renowned for its uncompromising and authentic portrayal of the Holocaust’s horrors. It has garnered acclaim for its compelling acting, stunning camerawork, emotional impact, and unwavering depiction of wartime atrocities.

5. Young Frankenstein (1974)

Photo Credit: 20th Century Studios.

Young Frankenstein is a classic American comedy film released in 1974, directed by Mel Brooks and starring Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman, and Teri Garr. The movie is a parody of the classic horror film “Frankenstein.” It’s about the grandson of the original Dr. Frankenstein, who gets his family’s castle and decides to continue his grandfather’s experiments to make a new monster.

One Reddit user cheered, “Young Fronkensteen!”

6. The Lighthouse (2019)

Photo Credit: Regency Enterprises.

The Lighthouse is a psychological horror film released in 2019, directed by Robert Eggers and starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson. The movie is set in the late 19th century and follows two lighthouse keepers stranded on a remote island off the coast of New England. As they struggle to maintain their sanity, they are plagued by visions, strange occurrences, and the harsh realities of their isolated existence.

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7. Nosferatu (1992)

Photo Credit: Prana Film.

Nosferatu is hailed as a timeless masterpiece, captivating audiences with its chilling atmosphere and eerie visuals. Despite being released in 1922, its impact has endured through the decades. The film’s portrayal of the vampire Count Orlok remains hauntingly effective, instilling fear in viewers of all generations. Now, the film continues to be celebrated for its groundbreaking contributions to the horror genre, ensuring its place as a beloved classic for years to come.

8. Duck Soup (1933)

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Duck Soup is a classic American comedy film released in 1933, directed by Leo McCarey and starring the Marx Brothers, including Groucho, Harpo, and Chico. The movie is a satirical take on politics and war and follows Rufus T. Firefly (played by Groucho Marx), the new president of the fictional country of Freedonia, as he becomes embroiled in a diplomatic crisis with a neighboring country.

9. Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

The film is known for its fast-paced dialogue, physical comedy, and dark humor. It includes several memorable scenes and quotes, such as “Insanity runs in my family. It practically gallops” and “Oh, Mortimer, you’re going to love me for my mind.” The film’s quirky characters and witty dialogue also contribute to its enduring charm, making it a timeless favorite. With its clever plot twists and memorable performances, Arsenic and Old Lace is celebrated as a true gem of black-and-white cinema.

10. The Thin Man (1934)

Photo Credit: Metro Goldwyn Mayer.

The Thin Man is a classic American detective comedy film released in 1934, directed by W. S. Van Dyke. The movie is based on the novel of the same name by Dashiell Hammett and follows retired detective Nick Charles (William Powell) and his wealthy wife Nora (Myrna Loy) as they investigate a murder case involving Nick’s former colleague.

The film has solidified its place as a timeless classic in the realm of black-and-white cinema.  Not to mention, who can forget their delightful canine companion, Asta? Many viewers find themselves drawn to the undeniable chemistry between the lead characters, making their banter and interactions a true highlight of the film. With its clever writing and witty humor, The Thin Man remains a beloved favorite for fans of all ages.

11. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)

Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox.

The movie is renowned for its romantic and enchanting atmosphere, breathtaking cinematography, and outstanding acting from the ensemble. Its enchanting storyline captivates audiences with its blend of romance and supernatural intrigue. Viewers find themselves drawn to the chemistry between the titular characters, Mrs. Muir and the charming ghost, Captain Gregg. With its compelling narrative and memorable performances, this film has secured a special place in the hearts of movie lovers everywhere.

12. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Photo Credit: Liberty Films.

It’s a Wonderful Life is celebrated as a timeless classic among black-and-white movies, especially during the holiday season. Many families have made it a cherished tradition to watch it every Christmas, without fail. The film’s enduring message of hope and redemption resonates deeply with viewers, touching their hearts with its poignant portrayal of the human experience. Its themes of selflessness and the power of community strike a chord with audiences, reminding them of the importance of human connection.

Despite being released over seven decades ago, the movie’s message remains relevant and impactful, particularly in today’s world. Viewers are often moved by its heartfelt scenes and memorable dialogue, such as the iconic line, “I wanna live again,” which continues to evoke tears and inspire reflection.

13. Spellbound (1945)

Photo Credit: Selznick International.

Spellbound is a classic American psychological thriller film released in 1945, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck. The film is known for its suspenseful plot, use of dream sequences and psychoanalytic techniques, and stunning visual effects, including the famous Salvador Dali-designed dream sequence. It explores themes of identity, memory, and mental illness and has been praised for its innovative storytelling and excellent performances.

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14. Sin City (2005)

Photo Credit: Double R Productions.

Sin City is a 2005 neo-noir crime thriller film directed by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez. The film is known for its distinctive visual style, which incorporates black-and-white images with occasional splashes of color and utilizes a mix of live-action and digital effects. It features an ensemble cast that includes Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Mickey Rourke, and Elijah Wood, among others.

It may not be your traditional black-and-white movie, but its unique visual style and storytelling have earned it a place among the classics. The strategic use of color accents adds depth and intensity to the film’s noir-inspired aesthetic, making it visually striking and memorable. Fans appreciate how these bursts of color punctuate the dark and gritty narrative, enhancing the atmosphere and drawing viewers deeper into the world of Basin City.

15. Dr. Strangelove (1964)

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures.

Stanley Kubrick’s satirical black comedy Dr. Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, debuted in 1964 and starred Peter Sellers in three different roles. The movie is renowned for its clever use of dark humor, its satirical approach to political and military figures, and the remarkable performances delivered by the ensemble. It delves into subjects like political authority, bureaucratic systems, and the perils associated with nuclear conflict, earning acclaim for its witty screenplay and innovative cinematography.

16. Paper Moon (1973)

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Paper Moon is renowned for its nostalgic charm and stellar performances, boasts an unforgettable scene that has left a lasting impression on viewers. Starring Ryan O’Neal and his real-life daughter Tatum O’Neal, the movie follows the journey of a con artist and a young girl during the Great Depression. Their unlikely bond and misadventures make for an engaging and heartwarming tale. What sets the film apart is its unique blend of humor, drama, and nostalgia, transporting viewers to a bygone era with its authentic setting and cinematography.

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17. Clerks (1994)

Photo Credit: View Askew Productions.

Clerks a timeless classic in the realm of black-and-white cinema, has earned its place in the hearts of audiences for generations. Directed by Kevin Smith and released in 1994, this indie gem offers a raw and authentic portrayal of everyday life in a small convenience store. Its minimalist approach, shot entirely in black and white, adds a sense of gritty realism to the world of the protagonist, Dante Hicks.

The film’s witty dialogue, relatable characters, and insightful observations about the human condition resonate deeply with audiences, making it a beloved cult favorite. Despite its low-budget origins, the film captivates viewers with its humor, wit, and underlying commentary on the struggles of young adulthood and the quest for meaning in a seemingly mundane existence.

18. Raging Bull (1980)

Photo Credit: United Artists.

Directed by Martin Scorsese, Raging Bull is a cinematic masterpiece that continues to captivate audiences worldwide. This black-and-white classic follows the turbulent life of boxer Jake LaMotta, portrayed brilliantly by Robert De Niro, as he battles both in and out of the ring. Scorsese’s use of black and white cinematography adds a raw and visceral quality to the film, intensifying the emotional impact of LaMotta’s journey.

19. Good Night, and Good Luck (2005)

Photo Credit: Warner Independent Pictures.

Good Night, and Good Luck released in 2005 and directed by George Clooney, is a riveting black-and-white film that transports viewers to the tense atmosphere of 1950s America. The film chronicles the real-life conflict between television journalist Edward R. Murrow and Senator Joseph McCarthy during the height of the Red Scare. Clooney’s decision to shoot the film in black and white adds to its authenticity, evoking the nostalgia of classic newsreels from the era.

The movie’s sharp dialogue and powerful performances, particularly by David Strathairn as Murrow, resonate with audiences, drawing them into the high-stakes world of journalism and political intrigue. The film continues to garner praise and admiration from audiences and critics alike, solidifying its place as one of the best black-and-white movies of all time.

20. The Great Dictator (1940)

Photo Credit: United Artists.

In this brilliant black-and-white film, Chaplin delivers a bold and biting satire of Adolf Hitler and the rise of fascism in Europe. His dual role as both a Jewish barber and a ruthless dictator allows him to showcase his unmatched talent for physical comedy and poignant social commentary.

Despite the film’s release over 80 years ago, its themes of tyranny, oppression, and the struggle for freedom remain as relevant as ever. With its iconic speech delivered by Chaplin’s character at the film’s climax, the movie inspires them to stand up against tyranny. Chaplin’s timeless masterpiece continues to be celebrated for its storytelling, performances, and message of hope and resilience, solidifying its place as one of the greatest black-and-white films of all time.

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Photo Credit: Vertigo Films.

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