On this list, I am listing my top 20 black and white films from any era of film which ranges from the beginning of moving pictures to the current talkies of today. I know for a fact I am missing some even I consider to be great films, but think of it this way, if I listed some of the best films in color I’d be pretty effing hard. If you have any films you’d put on the list comment below.
The criteria: the films have to be black and white.
20. Clerks (1994): The film that made Kevin Smith a household name and Jay and Silent Bob some of the biggest cult characters of all time. It’s story of everyday life for all different types of people in the small town of Red Bank New Jersey is fun and smartly written.
19. Sunset Boulevard (1950): The tale of an aging silent film star directed by the great Billy Wilder is one of those films that I consider to be ahead of it’s time when it comes to the portrayals of Hollywood as a Hollywood film itself. It’s brilliant.
18. Metropolis (1927): You’re all probably thinking the same thing when you see what year this movie came out, but let me tell you, this is a film that has inspired so many films in later years with its idea of separate classes and underground worlds. Even though it is a silent film, it has a lot to say.
17. The Bicycle Thief (1949): A foreign masterpiece about exactly what you’d think. A man gets his bike stolen and has one of the most frustrating and miserable weeks ever while he tries to keep a good relationship with his son. One of the best Italian films if not one of the best films made in general.
16. Ed Wood (1994): Here we have Johnny Depp as one of the quirky Tim Burton characters he is known, but in biopic form only Burton knows how to do. The reason it’s higher than the movies prior is because it’s one of those movies I put on and I am sucked in immediately no matter the time or day.
15. Sin City (2005): Yes, it has a bit of color in it, but the overall imagery of the film is black and white and it is awesome. One of the most stylistic black and whites on this list, Sin City is one of the great adaptations from a graphic novel genre that is milked of all its cream.
14. Manhattan (1979): I consider this to be one of the most beautifully shot films of all time and it is not hard to see why. Woody Allen gives a love letter to his hometown of Manhattan New York with vibrancy without color all while giving us his standard romantic-comedy charm.
13. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962): Culturally relevant even today and it holds up as one of the most powerful books and films of all time. The performances are great, especially by Gregory Peck as the iconic Atticus Finch.
12. The Hustler (1961): Paul Newman is a charming pool shark who takes on anyone who challenges him even if he knows they are good players. One of the all time classic films for anyone to see once. It garnered an 80’s sequel with Newman returning as his character along with a young Tom Cruise, all directed by Martin Scorsese.
11. Night of the Hunter (1955): You know those tattoos you see on people’s knuckles that say “love” on one hand and “hate” on the other, well, they got it from this movie. A serial killing priest tracks down the women who use their looks to charm men, oh, and he steals money along the way.
10. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964): Stanley Kubrick was a master at all things film and no genre was too obscure to tackle, even satire. If he were still alive, he’d rival Spielberg as the most versatile director in the history of film.
9. Psycho (1960): Alfred Hitchcock gave us one of the top five most iconic films and scenes of all time through this film. Revolutionary in what it showed and what it didn’t show, Psycho is film making at it’s best.
8. 12 Angry Men (1957): I recently re-watched this one and let me to you all that this is just one of the most impressive films ever written. How can anyone be entertained by a bunch of men in one room for a 90 minute duration without losing their minds? The answer lies somewhere in this movies core because it’s that good.
7. Casablanca (1942): One word: iconic.
6. The Maltese Falcon (1941): Humphrey Bogard had a knack for being in some of the best films of the 40’s, it just so happens that two of them are on this list and are widely considered some of the greatest films to be made. The Maltese Falcon is a classic noir film that helped other films get to where they are now.
5. The Artist (2011): Best-Picture winner in 2011, The Artist is a brilliant homage to the silent era of film by making it an overall silent film about a silent film. It made us remember how great Hollywood was/is once the age of the talkie began as personified through love and loss and love again.
4. Seven Samurai (1957): This is a personal favorite of mine. A sweeping epic of mass proportions all while providing a softly crafted masterpiece that has since inspired how westerns were made to how horizon shots were done, there’s not enough words to describe this film.
3. Citizen Kane (1941): Widely considered as the greatest film of all time through all the points that make a great film, it’s hard not to put Citizen Kane high on this list. A gripping tale that rises and falls like the tides makes for a great viewing every time.
2. Schindler’s List (1993): In a year when Steven Spielberg made this film and Jurassic Park we were given a film that has the most iconic transition of color to black and white we’ve seen in any film. It all personifies the tragedy that later takes shape as the candles light dims and the vibrancy fades away.
1. Raging Bull (1980): I don’t what it is, maybe it’s the old school way of telling a character driven story or maybe it was the advanced shooting of the boxing scenes themselves or every else in between, but this movie floors me every time. I’m always partial to Scorsese and DeNiro, but this is a film for the ages and if you don’t know what I mean, check out the film for yourself.