Are you looking for some of the greatest black-and-white movies that you haven’t watched already or to trigger some nostalgia? These classics are fantastic watches, even in modern times. Have you seen them?
1. Casablanca (1942)
Set in wartime Casablanca, this classic tale follows Rick Blaine, played by Humphrey Bogart, as he grapples with love (Ingrid Bergman), sacrifice, and political intrigue. While nominated for eight Academy Awards, Casablanca won three, including Oustanding Motion Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best Director. The film is highly regarded as one of the greatest black-and-white movies of all time.
2. Some Like It Hot (1959)
Two musicians, portrayed by Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, witness a mafia murder and disguise themselves as women to escape the mob. The charming Marilyn Monroe adds to the hilarity of this unforgettable comedy. Some Like It Hot received five Academy Award nominations and secured a win for Best Costume Design – Black-and-White. The film won three Golden Globe Awards.
3. Citizen Kane (1941)
Orson Welles’ masterpiece delves into the life of Charles Foster Kane, a wealthy newspaper magnate. Through a series of flashbacks, the film unravels the mystery behind his dying word — Rosebud. Citizen Kane is revered as one of the greatest black-and-white movies of all time. Herman J. Mankiewicz and Orson Welles took home Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay.
4. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
This post-World War II drama portrays the lives of three veterans (Fredric March, Harold Russell, and Dana Andrews) as they return home and face the challenges of reintegrating into civilian life. The Best Years of Our Lives is a black-and-white movie must-watch for all.
It won nine Academy Awards, including Best Motion Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Screenplay. It also won a Golden Globe Award for Best Picture, and Harold Russell won the Golden Globe Special Achievement Award.
5. Schindler’s List (1993)
Based on a true story, this heart-wrenching film by Steven Spielberg tells the tale of Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), a German businessman who saved the lives of over a thousand Polish-Jewish refugees during the Holocaust.
Nominated for 12 Academy Awards, Schindler’s List secured seven wins, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Cinematography. It also won seven BAFTA Awards and three Golden Globes.
6. Paths of Glory (1957)
Stanley Kubrick’s anti-war classic is set during World War I and follows a French colonel’s (Kirk Douglas) efforts to defend three soldiers wrongly accused of cowardice. The film didn’t win any significant American awards at the time of its release. However, countless critics lauded Kubrick’s portrait of war and Kirk Douglas’ performance.
7. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Adapted from Harper Lee’s novel, this film explores racial injustice and moral growth in the American South. Gregory Peck plays Atticus Finch, defending an innocent Black man accused of rape. Nominated for eight Academy Awards, To Kill a Mockingbird won three, including Best Actor, Best Screenplay – Based on Material From Another Medium, and Best Art Direction Black-and-White.
8. Seven Samurai (1954)
The epic samurai drama film Seven Samurai takes place in 1586 during the Azuchi–Momoyama period in Japan. It records the actions of a group of farmers’ actions after being attacked by bandits. Along with their fellow villagers, the farmers hire a samurai without a master, also known as a Rōnin.
While it didn’t win, the film was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White – So Matsuyama, and Best Costume Design, Black-and-White – Kohei Ezaki.
9. Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Sunset Blvd. is a noir classic that delves into the decaying world of Hollywood as a struggling screenwriter becomes entangled with a faded silent film star, Norma Desmond. Sunset Blvd. was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, winning two for Best Story and Screenplay and Best Art Direction Black-and-White. The film also secured four Golden Globe wins.
10. All About Eve (1950)
Set in the world of theater, this film explores the devious machinations of an aspiring actress, Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter), as she seeks to supplant the aging star Margo Channing (Bette Davis). Catch a glimpse of Marilyn Monroe in one of her earliest roles.
All About Eve garnered 12 Academy Award nominations, winning half of them, including Best Motion Picture, Best Director, and Best Costume Design – Black and White. It also won a Golden Globe for Best Screenplay – Motion Picture.
11. Roman Holiday (1953)
Audrey Hepburn plays a privileged and bored European princess in Rome. She meets an American reporter (Gregory Peck), and they fall in love.
Roman Holiday was nominated for ten Academy Awards, securing wins for three of them, including Best Story, Best Costume Design Black-and-White, and Hepburn took home Best Actress. She also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama.
12. Bringing Up Baby (1938)
This flick is a screwball comedy or a satire of traditional love stories of the time. It stars Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant in the leading roles of Bringing Up Baby. The story chronicles the hijinks of a paleontologist, an absent-minded heiress, and a leopard named Baby.
Bringing Up Baby was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” in 199.
13. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
In the midst of the Cold War, this political thriller follows a Korean War veteran who discovers a communist plot to brainwash American soldiers and manipulate their actions. The legendary Angela Lansbury received a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture. While nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actress and Best Film Editing.
14. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
Based on John Steinbeck’s novel, the film chronicles the struggles of the Joad family as they travel to California during the Great Depression in search of a better life. It stars Henry Fonda and Jane Darwell. Nominated for seven Academy Awards, the film won two: Best Director and Best Supporting Actress.
15. It Happened One Night (1934)
In this screwball comedy, a spoiled heiress (Claudette Colbert) escapes from her controlling father. She meets a witty reporter (Clark Gable) on a bus, leading to a series of misadventures and love.
The film won all five Academy Award nominations, including Outstanding Production, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Adaption.
16. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Frank Capra’s holiday classic follows George Bailey (James Stewart), a man thinking of ending his life, as he receives a divine intervention that shows him the impact his life has had on others. It’s a holiday classic that comes around every year. It received five Academy Award nominations, winning the Technical Achievement Award.
17. The Apartment (1960)
This romantic comedy-drama portrays the life of a lonely insurance clerk who lends his apartment to his superiors for their extramarital affairs in exchange for professional advancement.
Nominated for ten Academy Awards, The Apartment won half of them, including Best Motion Picture, Best Director, Best Story and Screenplay, Best Art Direction Black-and-White, and Best Film Editing. It stars Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, and Jack Kruschen, all nominated for Oscars for their performances.
18. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Considered a quintessential film noir, this detective mystery follows Sam Spade, played by Humphrey Bogart, as he gets entangled in a quest for a priceless statuette, the Maltese Falcon. It was nominated for three Academy Awards and is primarily considered one of the greatest films of all time.
19. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
Starring James Stewart, this film tells the story of an idealistic young senator who takes on the political establishment and fights corruption in Washington, D.C. Nominated for 11 Academy Awards, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington won Best Writing – Original Story.
20. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
Set in the Wild West, this Western drama explores the legend of a man who stood up (John Wayne) to the notorious outlaw Liberty Valance, played by Lee Marvin.
In 2007, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” It was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Costume Design – Black-and-White.
21. The Night of the Hunter (1955)
In this haunting noir tale of good versus evil, a sinister preacher (Robert Mitchum) hunts down two children who possess hidden money from their deceased father. Though not fully appreciated in its time, in 1992, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
22. Raging Bull (1980)
Martin Scorsese’s biographical drama delves into the turbulent life of boxer Jake LaMotta, portrayed by Robert De Niro, and his struggles both inside and outside the ring. Nominated for eight Academy Awards, Raging Bull won Best Film Editing, and Robert De Niro took home an Oscar win for Best Actor.
23. Double Indemnity (1944)
Double Indemnity stars Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, and Edward G. Robinson. Billy Wilder directed and co-wrote this crime film noir about a woman accused of killing her husband and the ensuing investigation into her insurance claim. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards but didn’t secure any wins.
24. 12 Angry Men (1957)
12 Angry Men is a legendary legal drama starring Fred MacMurray as an insurance salesman, Barbara Stanwyck as a provocative housewife accused of killing her husband, and Edward G. Robinson as an insurance claims adjuster whose job is to find phony claims.
Nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture and four Golden Globe films, the movie didn’t secure any wins. However, it’s highly regarded as one of the greatest black-and-white movies of all time.
25. Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
Arsenic and Old Lace is a black comedy starring Cary Grant and directed by Frank Capra. Based on a screenplay of the same name, Grant plays the role of Mortimer Brewster, a member of a prominent Brooklyn family. After denouncing marriage, Mortimer falls in love, finds out mental illness runs through his family, and learns someone in his family is involved in a series of heinous crimes.
26. Harvey (1950)
Harvey is a comedy-drama film based on the play of the same name written by Mary Chase. This feature depicts the debacle that ensues when a woman tries to have her brother committed to a sanatorium when she learns that his best friend is an invisible six-foot, three-and-a-half-inch tall rabbit.
The film also stars James Stewart. Josephine Hull won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress and a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture.
27. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
Adapted from Tennessee Williams’ play, this film showcases the tumultuous relationship between a fading Southern belle, Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh), and her brutish brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando). The movie’s raw emotions and powerful performances have cemented its status as a classic.
Nominated for 12 Academy Awards, the film won four, including setting an Oscar record and becoming the first film to win in three acting categories: Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor (Karl Malden), Best Supporting Actress, and Best Art Direction – Black-and-White. This feat was subsequently matched by Network in 1976 and Everything Everywhere All at Once in 2022.
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