On Brooklyn Nine-Nine a few weeks ago, one of the show’s characters considers asking his work crush to see an old movie with him, because he knows she has an interest in classic films. However, he’s clueless as to her taste and ends up buying tickets for all the movies, so he doesn’t pick the wrong one. It’s a sweet gesture, but could have been avoided with a list like this, a guide to the best black-and-white movies for your hot date night — with a couple technicolored exceptions (see: #8, #48), because they belong on this list anyway.
Below you will find a heaping helping of great movies to watch with that special someone on a date. I’m not saying that the other person will automatically have sex with you (because no one ever owes you sex) but trust me: Cuddling to Some Like It Hot never hurt anyone’s chances of getting action.
1. All About Eve
Complicated, witty and wonderful, All About Eve is the kind of movie they complain that we don’t make anymore — an adult drama about female friendship and competition and the costs of ambition and success.
2. All That Heaven Allows
Douglas Sirk’s wall-to-wall melodrama might not be to all tastes, but it’s the kind of movie you show to someone you know would get it, the ultimate test of your movie bond.
3. The Apartment
One of the saddest funny movies ever made, The Apartment is one of the few comedies to win Best Picture, and there’s a reason why. It’s wonderful in just about every way a movie can be wonderful, the kind of movie that makes you feel in touch with humanity.
4. Bicycle Thieves
Once considered the greatest film ever made, Vittorio De Sica’s timeless masterpiece feels both intimate and profoundly epic – a small, personal picture about social class that’s both effortlessly beautiful and quietly devastating. You might need a hug afterward.
5. Bringing Up Baby
One of the most infectiously charming movies ever made, Bringing Up Baby is mind-blowingly funny, one of those movies that’s so sharp and quick that you can watch it ten times and still find new things at which to laugh yourself silly.
6. Carnival of Souls
The movie that inspired Insidious, Carnival of Souls isn’t just an oddity; it’s groundbreakingly kitschy, one of those ahead-of-its time horror movies totally unafraid to be out of its mind. Show it to the guy who loves Insidious, because this came first.
The most romantic movie ever made, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen this movie. Point blank.
8. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
My vote for the sexiest American movie, Tennessee Williams’ sultry and sweaty ode to repressed love features an at her prime Elizabeth Taylor showing you exactly why everyone was so obsessed with her.
9. Cat People
Val Lewton is better known for producing The Body Snatcher, but Cat People is arguably better — a master-class in using lighting, sound and space to build an atmosphere of pure dread and delicious kitsch.
10. Citizen Kane
Fact: If you watch Citizen Kane with your boyfriend and he doesn’t like it, you may want to consider getting a new boyfriend.
11. City Lights
Charlie Chaplin was one of the great comic minds ever to grace the screen, but as a director, he was a romantic at heart, and his depiction of two lonely souls finding each other in the urban streets is genuinely swoon-worthy, unafraid to wear its heart on its sleeve.
A forgotten noir classic, Detour is the kind of movie you can bet your significant other hasn’t seen, and you’ll get brownie points for introducing it to them. If they like The Big Sleep or The Big Heat, it’ll be right up their alley.
13. Double Indemnity
Barbara Stanwyck was a screen goddess, and she puts her infinite charm to killer use here as the ultimate femme fatale — magnetic, sexy and genuinely dangerous.
14. Dr. Strangelove
Arguably Stanley Kubrick’s finest work, this is one of those masterpieces that has to be seen to be believed — a surreal satire of modern geopolitics that’s both a bitter commentary and painfully hilarious.
15. Duck Soup
Almost any Marx Brothers movie is worth your time – from A Day at the Races to A Night at the Opera — but this is by far their best.
16. From Here to Eternity
You’ve never seen a movie kiss until you’ve watched From Here to Eternity, which took making out on the beach to another horizontal level.
Ingrid Bergman was Roger Ebert’s favorite actress, and Gaslight shows why: A vision of madness anchored with maximum gravity by Bergman’s ever-expressive face.
18. The Great Dictator
Who knew Hitler could be hilarious? Charlie Chaplin’s brilliant takedown of Nazism is still just as when it premiered in 1940, the ultimate middle finger to the evils of fascism.
19. House of Wax
Anyone who knows this isn’t just a Paris Hilton movie is automatically worth your time.
20. His Girl Friday
In its own way, His Girl Friday presents the ideal relationship: a marriage of equals. Life is about finding a partner who can keep up with you — and who lives as fast as you do.
21. It Happened One Night
You can keep your Zac Efron. The thinking person’s stud is Clark Gable, the perfect blend of devastatingly handsome and rakishly romantic, and in this movie, you get to see him without his shirt on.
22. Knife in the Water
Both incredibly simple and unbearably tense, Knife in the Water was Roman Polanski’s 1965 debut, announcing him as one of the marquis maestros of nail-biting arthouse suspense.
23. La Dolce Vita
La Dolce Vita isn’t just a movie you watch. It’s a movie you need to experience with someone, the kind of indelible masterpiece you come back to time and again, as you’ve grown and aged along with the movie. It’s a part of you.
This is a movie you just want to cuddle up to, a film about a pair of misfits that’s so sweet and life-affirming that it just might restore your faith in the goodness of people.
The fact that this movie survived is an honest-to-god miracle, and if you get a copy of the restored print, you don’t just need to watch it on a date. You need to show it to everyone you know.
26. Mildred Pierce
Before Kate Winslet took it to HBO, Joan Crawford did it better, commanding the screen with her motherly will and the sheer power of her timeless face. Few actresses better controlled the screen with a simple look.
27. The Naked Kiss
One of the most wonderfully strange movies ever made, the less you know about The Naked Kiss going in, the better. Just be prepared for anything, because literally anything can happen in a Samuel Fuller movie.
28. Night of the Hunter
Robert Mitchum’s knuckle-tattooed preacher/serial killer is one of the most haunting villains in screen history, one that just might haunt your dreams forever. Cuddle up close.
Greta Garbo is best known for Grand Hotel, but she puts her iconic stoicism to equally good use here, as a woman opening herself up to life. Ernst Lubitsch’s sly comedy is both a smart satire of the East-West divide and a reminder of what it feels like to find love in unexpected places.
Screw Twilight. Hollywood has yet to top F.W. Murnau’s 1929 vampire flick, still the scariest movie ever made.
Often forgotten about by the public, Notorious is one of Hitchcock’s greatest triumphs, a visual and stylistic landmark that’s also intensely erotic, featuring a two-and-a-half minute kiss that then caused quite a scandal.
32. On the Waterfront
Elia Kazan’s tender, class-conscious character study has everything: flawless writing, pitch-perfect direction, genuine surprise and a pair of performances that wrote the book on great screen chemistry. Streetcar made him a star, but Waterfront proved Marlon Brando was here to stay.
33. The Philadelphia Story
The Philadelphia Story proved that you can find the perfect guy and find yourself at the same time, the kind of intelligent romantic comedy that Hollywood sadly left behind a long time ago.
One of the most influential and game-changing movies in film history, Akira Kurosawa’s experimental drama fucks with everything you think you know. Without Rashomon, there would be no Fight Club.
A dark gothic psychological drama, Hitchcock’s 1940 Best Picture winner would pave the way for fare like Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte and the decade’s many great female-driven movies.
Along with All About Eve, this is one of the movies that inspired Black Swan, right down to the nail-biting. Polanski’s exploration of female sexuality was a landmark depiction of psychological horror, putting you inside a mind as it splinters to pieces.
WARNING: Do not plan to have actual sex after this movie under any circumstances. That would be weird. Play the long game on this one. Wait until next date.
37. Roman Holiday
Hollywood has tried to remake this movie a million times (with Mandy Moore and Katie Holmes, among others), but nobody can beat Audrey Hepburn at her most wonderfully precocious.
38. The Rules of the Game
Fans of Robert Altman’s Gosford Park and Downton Abbey should check out Jean Renoir’s Rules of the Game, a clear influence on both works. Considered one of the greatest movies ever made, this complicated, layered satire of the French aristocracy is a little Moliere, a little poetic and totally engrossing.
We know Humphrey Bogart from his tough guy roles, but this is one of his best performances, as the lovelorn older suitor of Audrey Hepburn’s title character, a girl who runs away to Paris to find herself but comes home to discover just how much she has to learn.
40. Shock Corridor
A clear stylistic influence on Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island adaptation, Samuel Fuller’s mental institution drama is a must-see for anyone who loved American Horror Story: Asylum.
41. A Streetcar Named Desire
Marlon Brando’s Stanley Kowalski might just be the hottest character in screen history, the kind of guy you know would be bad for you but you can’t help but want anyway. The movie around him is just as good, a tale of two sisters tested by money, class, family secrets and repressed feelings.
42. Some Like It Hot
There are some movies you can’t believe they ever got away with, the kind of cinema that broke all the rules to get made. Some Like It Hot is one of those movies.
43. Sullivan’s Travels
Preston Sturges was a genius with dialogue, and his reference-heavy, swift scripts would be a later influence on the Coen brothers, among others. This is his finest work, a reminder of the social function of laughter at the times we need it most.
44. Sunset Bvld.
This is one of those movies you watch on repeat, every viewing just as fresh as the first time you laid eyes on it. There’s no such thing as having seen Sunset Bvld. too many times.
45. The Third Man
Films don’t get much more beautiful than The Third Man, one of the most stunning cinematographic achievements in history. It’s one of the few classics that would play just as well with the sound off, except that you’d miss Orson Welles deliciously gnawing on every bit of scenery he can find.
46. Top Hat
This Busby Berkeley-choregraphed cinematic fantasia gave us Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, one of the most memorable couples in screen history, who showed that dancing was the universal language of love.
47. Tokyo Story
Tokyo Story is one of the great movies on my list that I still have yet to see, and if someone ever asked me to watch it on a date, I might just be forced to fall in love with them.
Vertigo is an examination of our romantic longing, a movie that feels straight-forward until you examine the dark obsessions hidden under the surface. It might not be easy viewing, but it feels more honest about what love is than a million Hollywood romances.
49. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Mike Nichols’ 1966 classic is both a landmark debut for a great director and a camp masterpiece, a chamber drama that works because of how brazenly over-the-top it is. Share it with a special someone over a drinking dame. You’ll thank me later.
Bonus: Modern Black-and-White Movies
I would be remiss without acknowledging that black-and-white, as an art form, lived on after the days of color, from Woody Allen’s Manhattan to Schindler’s List and The Artist. In addition to those movies, check out the wonderful Blancanieves, The Saddest Music in the World, Ed Wood, Stardust Memories, Killer of Sheep, Wings of Desire, The Last Picture Show, Zelig, Raging Bull, The Elephant Man, My Winnipeg and Broadway Danny Rose.