Carbon films are deposited on 304 stainless steel (SS304) by close field unbalanced magnetron sputter ion plating using different substrate bias voltages and target currents to improve the corrosion resistance and electrical conductivity of bipolar plates made of SS304 in proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs). The surface morphology, Raman scattering spectra, corrosion resistance, interfacial contact resistance (ICR), and contact angle with water of the carbon films are determined. A dense carbon film is produced on the SS304 by this technique and the corrosion resistance is improved significantly. The ICR value diminishes drastically and water contact angle increases after deposition. In addition, the passive current density in the simulated PEMFC environment decreases initially, increases as the substrate bias voltage is increased, and drops with decreasing target current. As the substrate bias is increased, the ICR between the carbon film and carbon paper exhibits an initial diminishing trend and then increases, but the effect of the target current on the ICR is not as substantial as that of the bias voltage. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.