11 Classic Films From The Black & White Era That You Must Watch At Least Once In This Lifetime

Are you one of those people who love reading paper books instead of ebooks simply because you love the smell of books? Does the smell of rain falling on dry soil make you more relaxed in comparison to the smell of an essential oil or perfume? Does RD Burman’s music make you happy in a way no one else can? If the answers to all these questions are a big ‘Hell yes’, then you, my friend, are an old soul with a vintage heart. For you simpler things in life matter the most, and in those things you find happiness. 

Remember the times when cinema had vintage feels too? You might not be born in the era, but watching those black-and-white movies will make you feel a great connection with the simpler times.

That was the age when cinema was away from technologies like graphics, VFX and even the vivid colors that appeal to the eye. There weren’t great stunts and illusions, but there were strong plots, great music and brilliant acting. 

To relive the simpler times, watch these classic black-and-white Hindi movies that remain relevant decades later and still leave you impressed. 

1. Awaara (1951)

Cast: Prithviraj Kapoor, Nargis, Raj Kapoor, Leela Chitnis, KN Singh, Shashi Kapoor

We probably didn’t pay attention to this fact but Awaara entered the Cannes Film Festival in 1953. It was nominated for the Grand Prize at a time when many of us didn’t even know about the prestigious film festival. What’s more? The film sold over 200 million tickets overseas. In 2012, the movie made it to the list of All-Time 100 greatest films by TIME.

The movie revolves around innocent Raj Raghunath (Raj Kapoor) and who joins a criminal gang in order to feed his mother. However, when he falls in love with Rita (Nargis), he tries to reform himself. Interestingly, Prithviraj Kapoor, Raj’s real father also plays the role of his real-life father in the movie.

2. Do Bigha Zamin (1953)


Cast: Balraj Sahni, Nirupa Roy, Nazir Hussain, Ratan Kumar, Jagdeep, Murad, Nana Palsikar, Meena Kumari

The film was honoured with All India Certificate of Merit for Best Feature Film. It was also the first Indian film to win the International Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and the first movie to win the Filmfare Best Movie Award.

A poor farmer Shambu Mahato (Balraj Sahni) who lives with his wife Parvati Paro (Nirupa Roy) in a small village becomes a rickshaw puller in Calcutta after being hit by a famine. He has to pay off his debt and save his land.

3. Boot Polish (1954)


Cast: Kumari Naaz, Ratan Kumar, David

At the 1955 Cannes Film Festival, Naaz won the Special Mention to a child actress award for this film. The classic movie also won the Filmfare Award for Best Movie.

The story revolves around siblings Bhola (Rattan Kumar) and Belu (Kumari Naaz), who after the death of their mother are forced by their aunty Kamla Devi (Chanda Burque) to become street beggars. However, with the help of Uncle John (David Abraham), they decide to go against their aunty and lead a respectful life.

4. Shree 420 (1955)


Cast: Raj Kapoor, Nargis, Nadira

The highest-grossing Indian film of 1955, Shree 420 revolves around a small town man Ranbir Raj (Raj Kapoor) who heads to the city to make it big. He falls in love with Vidya (Nargis). However, the city life teaches him to become a fraud. Seductress Maya (Nadira) makes things complicated by trying to manipulate him.

5. Pyaasa (1957)


Cast: Guru Dutt, Waheeda Rehman, Mala Sinha, Johnny Walker, Rehman

Ranked at 160th spot on the Sight & Sound critics’ and directors’ poll of all-time greatest films, Pyaasa is also rated as one of the 100 best movies of all time by TIME magazine.

It is a story about a poet who struggles to make space for himself in the selfish world because no one wants to publish his poems. As he also struggles to find love and recognition, he falls in love with kind prostitute Gulabo (Waheeda Rehman) who not only falls in love with him but his poetry as well.

6. Naya Daur (1957)


Cast: Dilip Kumar, Vyjayanthimala, Ajit, Chand Usmani, Jeevan, Johnny Walker

The film that inspired Aamir Khan’s Lagaan, Naya Daur made Dilip Kumar win his Filmfare Award for Best Actor for the third time in a row. The movie gained such a huge success also dubbed in Tamil.

It follows the story of a son Kundan (Jeevan) of a landlord Seth Ji (Nazir Hussain) that attempts to modernize his business by replacing Tonga (horse carts) with buses to transport passengers. Shankar (Dilip Kumar) who makes his living by pulling a Tonga challenges him.

7. Madhumati (1958)


Cast: Dilip Kumar, Vyjayanthimala, Pran, Johnny Walker 

Based on the theme of reincarnation, Madhumati won nine Filmfare awards and National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi.

A young engineer Devinder (Dilip Kumar) is on his way to the railway station when a landslide blocks the way. He takes shelter in a mansion that he finds familiar. Gradually, he learns the story of his rebirth. In previous life he was Shyamnagar Timber Estate manager Anand, where he had a beautiful relationship with Madhumati (Vyjanthimala).

8. Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi(1958)

Where to watch: MX Player, Amazon Prime, YouTube
Popular song: Ek Ladki Bhigi Bhagi
Cast: Kishore Kumar, Madhubala, Ashok Kumar, Anoop Kumar

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Out of three women-hating brothers Manmohan ‘Manu’, Sharma (Kishore Kumar), Brijmohan Sharma (Ashok Kumar) and Jagmohan ‘Jaggu’ Sharma (Anoop Kumar) played by real life Kumar brothers, two fall in love.

9. Kaagaz ke Phool (1959)

Where to watch: Amazon Prime, YouTube
Popular song: Waqt ne Kiya Kya Haseen Sitam
Cast: Guru Dutt, Waheeda Rehman, Kumari Naaz, Mehmood, Johnny Walker

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The movie which is inspired by Guru Dutt’s association with Gyan Mukherjee, revolves around a famous director Suresh Sinha (Guru Dutt)  who stumbles upon a woman Shanti (Waheeda Rehman) and discovers star potential in her. He casts her as the lead in a film. In the twisted tale of fate, Shanti indeed becomes a superstar and Suresh faces a decline in his career.

10. Chaudavin Ka Chand (1960)


Cast: Guru Dutt, Waheeda Rehman, Rehman, Minoo Mumtaz, Johnny Walker, Mumtaz Begum, Pravin Paul

This masterpiece also entered into the 2nd Moscow International Film Festival and won several Filmfare awards too.

The story of a love triangle revolves around two friends Aslam and Nawab, who fall in love with the same woman Jameela unknowingly. While the friends are ready to sacrifice for each other, it is Jameela who decides who she is in love with. 

11. Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam(1962)


Cast: Meena Kumari, Guru Dutt, Waheeda Rehman, Rehman, DK Sapru, Dhumal, Pratima Devi

If you have watched Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster, that film was Tigmanshu Dhulia’s attempt to take the story that was narrated in Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, a film produced by Guru Dutt and based on a classic Bengali novel Shaheb Bibi Golam by Bimal Mitra, forward. The film was nominated for the Golden Bear at the 13th Berlin International Film Festival, and was chosen as India’s official entry to the Oscars

The story of this film revolves around humble servant Bhootnath (Guru Dutt) gets close to the wife Chhoti Bahu (Meena Kumari) of his employer Chhote Sarkar (Rehman) and narrates the story from his POV