41 Best Classic Black-and-White Movies Worth Watching Today

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If you love good cinematography, old black-and-white movies are for you. They're also remnants of a society that dressed, behaved, and even spoke differently than today (we're looking at you, Transatlantic accent). These beautiful time-capsuled stories are still just as entertaining now as they were when they were a revolution when first released.

Some of the following classic black-and-white movies are well-known, like Casablanca and Psycho, while other lesser-known picks should be required watching, like The Best Years of Our Lives. The Hollywood magic will take you back to the splendor of yesteryear. Maybe the dialogue is faster and the everyday clothes are fancier, but by flipping back to these classics, these stories can still provide a much-needed escape.

Explore our top picks for the best black-and-white movies everyone should see.

01 of 41

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

it's a wonderful life

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It's safe to assume that if you haven't already spent time over the holidays watching this beloved Frank Capra film, then you've at least heard of it. It stars Jimmy Stewart as a wander-lusting wisecrack who dreams of leaving his small town and loved ones in order to travel the world. When things don't go according to plan, he thinks that he's a failure—until divine intervention teaches him otherwise. Watch this movie for the famous dance scene, as well as for its heart-tugging ending.

Available On: Amazon Prime Video

02 of 41

Casablanca (1942)

casablanca

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Once again, this is probably another movie that you're at least somewhat acquainted with, since its well-worn lines ("Here's looking at you, kid") are still a part of popular culture. But did you know that the lead stars Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman didn't think that this film was going to be as successful as it turned out to be?

A lot of its success has to do with their performances as one-time lovers who surprisingly meet in the Moroccan city of Casablanca in the midst of World War II. Bergman's character is trying to escape to America with her husband, and Bogart can decide whether or not that actually happens. If anything, Bergman's face when her character sees Bogart's for the first time in years is as good or better than the oft-quoted script. 

Available On: Amazon Prime Video

03 of 41

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

the philadelphia story

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Perfectly-delivered lines are key to the success of this classic romantic comedy starring old Hollywood greats Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart, who bounce off one another's wit and charm throughout the entirety of the film. Hepburn plays a well-to-do socialite who has decided to end her relationship with Grant's character. Just as she's about to marry someone else, she meets Stewart, who plays a reporter. It may seem as though this is a predictable story, but this film is a master class in how the genre should be done.

Available On: Amazon Prime Video

04 of 41

Bringing Up Baby (1938)

bringing up baby

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Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn starred opposite one another in a number of movies, like the above, but Bringing Up Baby is often a crowd favorite. Grant plays a paleontologist who is trying to convince a wealthy society woman to donate a million dollars to his museum. In that pursuit, he meets the woman's niece, played by Hepburn, and they immediately hit it off. Aside from their chemistry, Hepburn's pet leopard, Baby, often steals the scenes. 

Available On: Amazon Prime Video

05 of 41

It Happened One Night (1934)

it happened one night

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Another well-known Frank Capra movie, It Happened One Night is widely heralded as one of the best romantic comedies ever made. It even won the "Best Picture" Oscar following its release in 1934. It stars Clark Gable as a resourceful reporter and Claudette Colbert as an heiress. She has just evaded her rich father, who has decided to hold her "captive" after she eloped with a man he thinks loves her for her money.

Soon after she leaves, she boards a bus headed across the country to New York that Gable happens to be on. He makes sure that she stays safe—since, being an heiress, she doesn't have much experience taking care of herself—but she eventually learns the ropes, too. There's one particular hitchhiking scene that's still as clever today as it was back then. 

Available On: Amazon Prime Video

06 of 41

Psycho (1960)

psycho

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There are many Alfred Hitchcock movies that are still as entertaining as they were upon initial screenings, but Psycho is still perhaps the most chilling. It stars Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates, a man who lives with his mother in a worn-down home overlooking the motel he runs. Ever since an interstate was built to carry travelers away from the road where the buildings are located, the motel doesn't see a lot of visitors.

But one rainy night, after Janet Leigh's character checks in following a quick departure from Phoenix, Norman Bates acts on an impulse that unravels the truth behind the old home and its nearby motel. You likely know the film's score and its famous scene, but it'll still be hair-raising to watch. 

Available On: Amazon Prime Video

07 of 41

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

the best years of our lives

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This ensemble film was released just after World War II ended in 1946—and it's the type of film that should be on everyone's movie night list. It centers around three veterans from different branches of the military who return to their shared hometown following the war.

As they are reintroduced to their former lives, they're tasked with making sense of what they experienced overseas, and why their loved ones and the surrounding public don't seem to understand their points of view. Harold Russell, an actual veteran who became disabled during World War II, was hired to play the character of Homer, even though he had no experience acting. His emotional performance won him an Oscar and it's the standout reason to watch this movie.

Available On: iTunes, Amazon Prime Video

08 of 41

Top Hat (1935)

top hat

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No classic movie list would be complete without a mention of a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film, which usually combines the whimsy of a musical with the slapstick pace of an Old Hollywood romantic comedy. Top Hat is among the best, and focuses on Rogers as a woman traveling through Europe who innocently mistakes Astaire as the husband of another friend.

But the storyline isn't exactly the main draw of this movie—and it wasn't what made audiences smile when it was released in 1935. It's the dance scenes between Rogers and Astaire that are timelessly enjoyable, as well as the music from legendary composer and lyricist Irving Berlin. 

Available On: Amazon Prime Video, iTunes

09 of 41

Some Like It Hot (1959)

some like it hot

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Speaking of an innocent case of mistaken identity, Some Like It Hot is likely among the most famous instances of that plot line in classic films. It stars Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon as two men who witness a mafia murder in 1920s Chicago. So, in an effort to get out of the city, the two men dress up as women and join a traveling all-female jazz band that's en route to Florida. They meet the band's lively singer, played by Marilyn Monroe, and Curtis's character falls in love—and decides that in addition to his female costume, he will also introduce himself to her in the equally pretend role of a wealthy man. Things don't fare so well for Lemmon's character either, and the whole mess makes for some easy laughs. 

Available On: Amazon Prime VideoYouTube

10 of 41

To Have and Have Not (1944)

to have and have not

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Humphrey Bogart was well-known for making adventure films, and this one—which introduced him to his co-star and future wife Lauren Bacall—is among the most entertaining. Bogart plays a fishing boat captain who refuses to help smuggle French Resistance fighters into Martinique from his base in Vichy, France. But after one of his associates is murdered, and with a little convincing from Bacall's character, he's eventually swayed. This film marks Bacall's first film role, and it's interesting to see how well she acts beside Bogart. In fact, you can almost see them fall in love with each other as the story progresses. 

Available On: iTunes, Amazon Prime Video

11 of 41

Sabrina (1954)

Sabrina

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Alongside Audrey Hepburn and William Holden, Humphrey Bogart also stars in this popular film opposite in which he plays a wealthy man whose entire life revolves around his family's successful business empire. Holden is his more playful and relaxed brother who's known for spending the family fortune on failed romances.

Hepburn plays their chauffeur's daughter, and she's been in love with Holden her whole life—but he's never noticed her. And yet, once she returns from cooking school in Paris with a chic French makeover, Holden's character falls hard. The only problem is that Bogart's character falls for her, too. 

Available On: Amazon Prime Video, iTunes

12 of 41

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

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Sunset Boulevard is a witty satire that seeks to harshly criticize Hollywood's willingness to discard once relevant stars who don't shine as brightly as they once did. The film's protagonist, aging silent-film star, Norma Desmond, decides to trap a young screenwriter who accidentally stumbled into her eerie mansion. Though it may sound dark, the film is rife with comedy. You'll be laughing from start to finish.

Available On: iTunes, Amazon Prime Video

13 of 41

All About Eve (1960)

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Arguably Bette Davis’s most iconic role, All About Eve is an intense drama that explores the depth of female relationships. Eve is a young and seemingly innocent aspiring actress who meets well-established Broadway fixture Margo in her dressing room and proceeds to tell her a moving tale of her difficult life. Of course, Margo pities the young starlet and takes her under her wing, only to discover that Eve is just a conniving child with an ulterior motive.

Available On: iTunes, Amazon Prime Video

14 of 41

To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)

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Robert Mulligan’s film about extreme racial divides in the Deep South is an inspiring movie that, at times, may be hard to watch. When young Scout and Jem's father, a prominent white lawyer, decides to defend Tom Robinson, a Black man falsely accused of rape, the children become exposed to the violent evils of racism in their once quiet Alabama town.

Available on: Amazon Prime Video

15 of 41

The Thin Man (1934)

best black and white movies - the thin man

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If you're into whodunits, this one's for you. Starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, this film blends mystery and comedy and went on to produce 5 more films in the franchise. In this first installment, retired detective Nick Charles is coaxed into investigating a murder.

Available on: Amazon Prime Video

16 of 41

Young Frankenstein (1974)

best black and white movies - young frankenstein

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Though this film was made well after the golden age of black-and-white films, we think it definitely counts. In this Mel Brooks spoof of the classic horror film, a scientist tries to bring a monster to life and hilarity ensues.

Available on: Amazon Prime Video

17 of 41

Rebecca (1940)

best black and white films - rebecca

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We'll be honest: this Alfred Hitchcock-directed film is pretty spooky. It follows the story of a young bride married to the man of her dreams. What she doesn't realize is she's living in the shadow of his deceased wife, especially in the eyes of the housekeeper.

18 of 41

Key Largo (1948)

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In this classic example of film noir starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, gangsters take over a South Florida hotel as a hurricane barrels toward the island. Come for the suspense, stay for the chemistry between Bogart and Bacall.

Available on: Amazon Prime Video

19 of 41

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

best black and white movies - the maltese falcon

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In another classic Humphrey Bogart flick, a detective is tasked with solving a case after his partner dies while investigating. This film is widely regarded as one of the best film noir's of all time.

Available on: Amazon Prime Video

20 of 41

The Big Sleep (1946)

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In another Bogart and Bacall classic, a private investigator (Bogart) is tasked with solving a dangerous blackmail case at the request of a wealthy family. Facing murders and maybe even love, Bogart and Bacall star in this film noir.

Available on: Amazon Prime Video

21 of 41

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

best black and white movies - the adventures of robin hood

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You may have seen the cartoon version of Robin Hood, but we think this one is worth a watch. Starring Errol Flynn as Robin Hood, this film chronicles Robin Hood's journey as he starts an uprising against Prince John.

Available on: Amazon Prime Video

22 of 41

The Last Picture Show (1971)

best black and white movies - the last picture show

Full Circle Cinema

If you're looking for a coming-of-age film, this one's a classic. Following a group of high schoolers as they find themselves in a tiny Texas town with little to offer them, this film stars Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, and Cloris Leachman.

Available on: Amazon Prime Video

23 of 41

Citizen Kane (1941)

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It wouldn't be a list of the best black and white movies without Citizen Kane. Regarded by many as one of the best films of all time, Citizen Kane tells the story of a media mogul (based on William Randolph Hearst) and his dealings through the years.

Available on: Amazon Prime Video

24 of 41

Twelve Angry Men (1957)

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This three-time Oscar nominated film stars Hollywood heavyweights Henry Fonda, Ed Begley, and Jack Klugman in a harrowing courtroom drama. Convinced he is right, a single juror attempts to convince 11 of his peers that their verdict is wrong.

Available on: Amazon Prime Video

25 of 41

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

best black and white movies - all quiet on the westward front

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One of the most iconic anti-war films ever made, All Quiet on the Western Front tells the story of a group of young German men inspired to join the war by one of their teachers, but their enthusiasm quickly wanes as they experience the horrors of war.

Available on: Amazon Prime Video

26 of 41

The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

best black and white movies - grapes of wrath

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Based on the John Steinbeck novel, Grapes of Wrath follows a Midwestern family traveling to California for more opportunities in the midst of the Great Depression after losing their family farm.

Available on: Amazon Prime Video

27 of 41

Roman Holiday (1953)

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If you're an Audrey Hepburn fan, add this one to your list ASAP. Hepburn plays a bored princess who falls in love with an American journalist while in Rome.

Available on: Amazon Prime Video

28 of 41

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

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Directed by Frank Capra, this classic stars James Stewart as a new United States senator who takes on political corruption in our nation's capital. Though the film was released over 80 years ago, it feels as relevant today as it ever did.

Available on: Amazon Prime Video

29 of 41

Saboteur (1942)

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In this Alfred Hitchcock film, when an airline worker is accused of sabotage, he goes on the run to clear his name. As Hitchcock was known as the "master of suspense," expect this film to be a wild ride.

Available on: Amazon Prime Video

30 of 41

Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

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If you're into courtroom dramas, this one is a must-watch. A lawyer is tasked with defending his client who is on trial for murder, but surprise, his wife (Marlene Dietrich) is testifying against him.

Available on: Amazon Prime Video

31 of 41

The Apartment (1960)

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In this classic romantic comedy-drama, Jack Lemmon plays an office worker who allows his colleagues to use his apartment for "trysts" in order to rise up through the company ranks. Of course, this doesn't go exactly as planned.

Available on: Amazon Prime Video

32 of 41

Double Indemnity (1944)

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In this gripping film noir, an insurance salesman (Fred MacMurray) is talked into a murder and insurance fraud scheme by a housewife (Barbara Stanwyck), but an insurance investigator might know too much.

Available on: Amazon Prime Video

33 of 41

A Raisin in the Sun (1961)

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This film, an adaptation of the play by Lorraine Hansberry, the first Black woman playwright to have a play performed on Broadway, is a must-watch. Starring Sidney Poitier, the film follows a family in Chicago, who must decide what to do with an insurance payout after the patriarch dies.

Available on: Amazon Prime Video

34 of 41

His Girl Friday (1940)

best black and white movies - his girl friday

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Starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, His Girl Friday tells the story of a newspaper editor whose latest assignment is to keep is ex-wife from remarrying. Tune in for quick wit and laser-sharp dialogue.

Available on: Amazon Prime Video

35 of 41

An American in Paris (1951)

best black and white movies - an american in paris

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It wouldn't be a Gene Kelly flick without some seriously impressive dance numbers. With a score by George Gershwin and plenty of toe-tapping, this film is the perfect rom-com that the whole family can still enjoy today.

Available on: Amazon Prime Video

36 of 41

Seven Samurai (1954)

best black and white movies - seven samurai

Film School Rejects

Co-written, edited, and directed by Akira Kurosawa, this epic Japanese samurai drama should be on everyone's watch list. Largely considered one of the most referenced films in cinematic history, the film tells the story of a 16th century village who hire warriors to protect them from invaders.

Available on: Amazon Prime Video

37 of 41

La Dolce Vita (1960)

best black and white movies - la dolce vita

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Federico Fellini is one of the most influential Italian directors of all time, and La Dolce Vita is one of his most famous works. With that famous scene in the Trevi Fountain, this film tells the story of a journalist covering show business in Rome.

Available on: Amazon Prime Video

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On the Waterfront (1954)

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In the mood for Marlon Brando? This film is one of his most famous. He plays a dockworker and former prizefighter who witnesses a murder and ends up on the bad side of a corrupt union boss.

Available on: Amazon Prime Video

39 of 41

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

best black and white movies - a streetcar named desire

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In the film adaptation of the play by Tennessee Williams, a Southern belle moves in with her sister and brother-in-law and conflicts with her sister's brutish husband from the start.

Available on: Amazon Prime Video

40 of 41

Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

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James Dean's most iconic role was Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause, a troubled teenager with a past who moves to a new town to start over. Though the role itself is famous, the white t-shirt, denim and leather jacket outfit he sports is equally as iconic.

Available on: Amazon Prime Video

41 of 41

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

best black and white movies - miracle on 34th street

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If you're looking for a Christmas movie, we're partial to the original Miracle on 34th Street. Starring Natalie Wood in one of her earliest roles, this film tells the story of a mother-daughter duo who are skeptical of Saint Nick and the real-life Santa Claus who changes their minds.

Available on: Amazon Prime Video

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