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Best Movies of the 1930s: Top 30 & Top 100 Films of the Turbulent Thirties

Best movies of the 1930s Cinema

Welcome to the Cinema of the 1930s

The 1930s may be a thing of the distant past, but thanks to an enthralling, good old invention called Film, it will never be really gone.

Whenever you feel like traveling back in time to relive the glamours of the decade, all you have to do, is to watch one (or more) of its movies.

But which ones should you watch?
Well, if that’s the very question lurking in your mind right now, then you came to the right place. We’re just about to present 30 of the greatest cinematic gems of the 1930s.

However, if you’re not a first-timer, then there’s a fair chance you already saw most movies of this Top 30 List, and you may want to dive a little bit deeper. No worries!

In that case, you should go and check out the Top 100 List at the end of this article.

If this is your first ride on the time-travelling FrameTrek Wagon, here’s what this is all about:

We choose a topic, in this case: “Best Movies of the 1930s”, and we set sail for a journey, where the bricks of the trek are made of movie frames, and each stop represents a magnificent achievement in Film.

The Best Movies of the 1930s is an episode of FrameTrek’s Best Movies of All Time. A mega-journey dedicated to identify the greatest films of each decade, chronologically. It starts with the Silent Era and goes all the way to our ever moving present.


So what was Cinema like in the 1930s?

We are in the Golden Age of Cinema right now, the revolutionary times of sound and color. Three years after the release of the first talking picture, 1930 marked the first year, when talkies took over silent films in every way.

Movies are beginning to concentrate on characters and stories more than ever. Talkies are well on their way to find their true voice and style, while silent movies are becoming fading pictures of the past.

We can meet plenty of new faces on the silver screen of the 1930s, as most silent actors found it quite difficult to make the transition to talkies.

Directors, on the other hand, were much more adaptable. Alfred Hitchcock, for example, looks like he just found the perfect tone for his visions…

So yeah, there’s plenty to talk about when it comes to the Cinema of the 1930s, but this article concentrates on its Top 30 and Top 100 Films, so let’s cut to the chase, shall we?

After all, a cinematic era is as good as its greatest achievements. Thus, the finest way to explore a decade in film history, is through watching its best movies as a marathon.

Ready? Buckle up then, and let the best movies of the 1930s carry you to the Cinematic era they came from!

See FrameTrek's definition of 'Best' and the story behind this List (click to expand) ↴

How to define ‘Best’?

That’s a pretty good question, since ‘Best’ is relative. A movie can be considered being among the best for multiple reasons, such as: Critical Acclaim, Audience Feedback, Box Office Performance, Awards and Nominations, Iconic Status, Popularity, Watchability, and even Personal Preference, or for being part of a famous list such as the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die or Roger Ebert’s The Great Movies list – or because that particular movie defined its era.

So how did we pick the Top 30 and Top 100 movies of the 1930s?

Well, it wasn’t simple, and it wasn’t easy! While composing the Best Films of the 1930s list, we tried to consider all of the factors mentioned in the ‘How to define Best’ paragraph above, and then some.

We believe that the movies that made the cut should not compete with one another any further, so we will just present them in the order they were released in.

We picked 10 movies from each year of the 1930s, thus created a Top 100 List, which can be found at the end of this article. We also highlighted three movies from each year of the decade, so there’s a Top 30 List too. Let’s start with that!



Presenting the Top 30 Films of the 1930s

Chronologically
– 3 movies from each year –


All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

All Quiet on the Western Front 1930, Best movies of the 1930s Cinema
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Epic pre-Code anti-war film directed by Lewis Milestone and starring Lew Ayres.

Story: A young soldier faces profound disillusionment in the soul-destroying horror of World War I. (IMDB)

Director Lewis Milestone’s brilliant anti-war polemic, headlined by an unforgettable performance from Lew Ayres, lays bare the tragic foolishness at the heart of war.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is All Quiet on the Western Front  among the best movies of the 1930s?
✓ It was the first film to win the Academy Awards for both Outstanding Production and Best Director.
✓ Selected into the National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
✓ Included among the American Film Institute’s list of the Top 100 Greatest American Movies and the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.


The Blue Angel (1930)

Der blaue Engel (original German title)

The Blue Angel (1930), Josef von Sternberg, Emil Jannings, Marlene Dietrich, Best Movies of the 1930s Cinema
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German tragicomedic film directed by Josef von Sternberg, starring Emil Jannings and Marlene Dietrich.

Story: An elderly professor’s ordered life spins dangerously out of control when he falls for a nightclub singer. (IMDB)

Marlene Dietrich steals more than one show in this backstage tragedy about a lowly professor besotted with a cruel and enigmatic singer.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is The Blue Angel among the best movies of the 1930s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ It is the first feature-length German full-talkie, and it is considered to be a landmark of German cinema, and an all-time classic.
✓ One of the most successful and most popular movies of the 1930s.


Animal Crackers (1930)

Animal Crackers (1930), Marx Brothers, Most Popular Movies of the 1930s
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Pre-Code musical comedy film starring the Marx Brothers.

Story: Mayhem and zaniness ensue when a valuable painting goes missing during a party in honor of famed African explorer Captain Spaulding. (IMDB)

Why is Animal Crackers among the best movies of the 1930s?
✓ It was a huge critical and commercial success upon its initial release.
✓ One of the most popular movies of the 1930s, with a significant influence on cult culture, through its jokes, songs and memorable characters.


Dracula (1931)

Dracula 1931 Bela Lugosi, Most popular movies of the 1930s
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Pre-Code supernatural horror film starring Bela Lugosi as Dracula.

Story: The ancient vampire Count Dracula arrives in England and begins to prey upon the virtuous young Mina. (IMDB)

Bela Lugosi’s timeless portrayal of Dracula in this creepy and atmospheric 1931 film has set the standard for major vampiric roles since.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Dracula among the best movies of the 1930s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list.
✓ It had a significant influence on popular culture, and Lugosi’s portrayal of Dracula established the character as a cultural icon.
✓ Selected by the United States Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.


City Lights (1931)

City Lights (1931), Charlie Chaplin, Best Films of the 1930s Cinema
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American slapstick romantic comedy film written, produced, directed by and starring Charlie Chaplin.

Story: The Little Tramp is in love with a sightless flower girl, whose blindness could be cured by an expensive operation. He decides to raise the money, even if that means being a prize fighter or worse.

One of the best underdog romance movies ever, with an ending that will light up any heart.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is City Lights among the best movies of the 1930s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list.
✓ The American Film Institute ranked this as the #1 Romantic Comedy of All Time, and the #11 Greatest Movie of All Time.
✓ Upon release it became a critical success and a box office hit, and today many critics consider it not only the highest accomplishment of Chaplin’s career, but one of the greatest films of all time.



M (1931)

M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder (original German title)

M (1931), Fritz Lang, Peter Lorre, Most popular films of the 1930s
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German crime thriller directed by Fritz Lang and starring Peter Lorre.

Story: When the police in a German city are unable to catch a child-murderer, other criminals join in the manhunt. (IMDB)

A landmark psychological thriller with arresting images, deep thoughts on modern society, and Peter Lorre in his finest performance.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is M among the best movies of the 1930s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, and it is considered to be one of the greatest German Expressionistic films.
✓ Received widespread critical praise for its cinematography, use of sound, and Lorre’s performance.


Freaks (1932)

Freaks 1931, Best Films of the 1930s Cinema
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Pre-Code dramatic horror film directed by Tod Browning.

Story: A circus’ beautiful trapeze artist agrees to marry the leader of side-show performers, but his deformed friends discover she is only marrying him for his inheritance. (IMDB)

Time has been kind to this horror legend: Freaks manages to frighten, shock, and even touch viewers in ways that contemporary viewers missed.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Freaks among the best movies of the 1930s?
✓ One of the most controversial movies of its time, mostly due to the fact that its eponymous characters were portrayed by people who had real disabilities and deformities.
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ Selected for preservation by the United States National Film Registry, which preserves films that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.


Scarface (1932)

Scarface (1932), Howard Hawks, Paul Muni, Top Movies of the 1930s
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American pre-Code gangster film directed by Howard Hawks and starring Paul Muni.

Story: An ambitious and nearly insane violent gangster climbs the ladder of success in the mob, but his weaknesses prove to be his downfall. (IMDB)

This Scarface foregoes his “little friend” and packs a different kind of heat, blending stylish visuals, thrilling violence, and an incredible cast.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Scarface among the best movies of the 1930s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ Regarded as among the most significant gangster films, and greatly influenced the genre.
✓ Selected by the United States Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.


The Mummy (1932)

The Mummy (1932), Boris Karloff, Top Films of the 1930s
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Pre-Code romantic horror film starring Boris Karloff.

Story: A resurrected Egyptian mummy stalks a beautiful woman he believes to be the reincarnation of his lover and bride. (IMDB)

Relying more on mood and atmosphere than the thrills typical of modern horror fare, Universal’s The Mummy sets a masterful template for mummy-themed films to follow.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is The Mummy among the best movies of the 1930s?
✓ A critical and commercial success, with critics and audiences praising the film’s mood and Karloff’s performance.
✓ Widely regarded as a timeless classic and an influential horror.


King Kong (1933)

King Kong 1933, Most popular films of the 1930s
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Pre-Code monster adventure film starring Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong.

Story: A film crew goes to a tropical island for an exotic location shoot and discovers a colossal ape who takes a shine to their female blonde star. He is then captured and brought back to New York City for public exhibition. (IMDB)

King Kong explores the soul of a monster – making audiences scream and cry throughout the film – in large part due to Kong’s breakthrough special effects.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is King Kong among the best movies of the 1930s?
✓ Included among the American Film Institute’s list of the Top 100 Greatest American Movies and Entertainment Weekly ranked this as the 47th Greatest Film of All Time.
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list.
✓ Deemed “culturally, historically and aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.



Duck Soup (1933)

Duck Soup (1933), Marx Brothers, Best Movies of the 1930s Cinema
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Pre-Code musical comedy film starring the Marx Brothers.

Story: Rufus T. Firefly is named president/dictator of bankrupt Freedonia and declares war on neighboring Sylvania over the love of wealthy Mrs. Teasdale. (IMDB)

Fueled by inspired silliness and blessed with some of the Marx brothers’ most brilliant work, Duck Soup is one of its – or any – era’s finest comedies.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Duck Soup among the best movies of the 1930s?
✓ Widely considered among critics to be a masterpiece of comedy, and the Marx Brothers’ finest film.
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list.
✓ The United States Library of Congress deemed it “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.


The Invisible Man (1933)

The Invisible Man (1933), James Whale, Claude Rains, Most Popular Movies of the 1930s
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Pre-Code science fiction horror film directed by James Whale and starring Claude Rains.

Story: A scientist finds a way of becoming invisible, but in doing so, he becomes murderously insane. (IMDB)

James Whale’s classic The Invisible Man features still-sharp special effects, loads of tension, a goofy sense of humor, and a memorable debut from Claude Rains.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is The Invisible Man among the best movies of the 1930s?
✓ Selected for the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.
✓ It was a critical and commercial success, with critics and audiences praising the film’s story, mood, special effects, and Rains’s disembodied voice performance.


It Happened One Night (1934)

It Happened One Night 1934 Clark Gable, Best movies of the 1930s Cinema
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Pre-Code romantic screwball comedy film directed by Frank Capra and starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert.

Story: A spoiled heiress running away from her family is helped by a man who is actually a reporter in need of a story. (IMDB)

Capturing its stars and director at their finest, It Happened One Night remains unsurpassed by the countless romantic comedies it has inspired.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is It Happened One Night among the best movies of the 1930s?
✓ Winner of five Academy Awards, including the Oscar’s Best Picture of the Year Award.
✓ It is included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and also selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
✓ Often credited as the very first screwball comedy.


The Thin Man (1934)

The Thin Man (1934), W. S. Van Dyke, William Powell, Myrna Loy, Best Films of the 1930s Cinema
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Pre-Code comedy-mystery film directed by W. S. Van Dyke, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy.

Story: Former detective Nick Charles and his wealthy wife Nora investigate a murder case, mostly for the fun of it. (IMDB)

Featuring an involving mystery and sparkling repartee between William Powell and Myrna Loy, The Thin Man is an endlessly charming romp.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is The Thin Man among the best movies of the 1930s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list.
✓ Received extremely positive reviews and was a box office hit, with special praise for the chemistry between Loy and Powell.
✓ Added to the United States National Film Registry having been deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.


L’Atalante (1934)

L'Atalante (1934), Jean Vigo, Most popular films of the 1930s
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French comedy romance film written and directed by Jean Vigo.

Story: Newly married couple Juliette and a ship captain Jean struggle through marriage as they travel on the L’atalante along with the captain’s first mate Le père Jules and a cabin boy. (IMDB)

As poetic as it is realistic, Jean Vigo’s L’Atalante passionately deals with relevant themes through the story of two star-crossed lovers.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is L’Atalante among the best movies of the 1930s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list.
✓ Hailed by many critics as one of the greatest films of all time.



Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Bride of Frankenstein 1935, Boris Karloff, James Whale, Most popular movies of the 1930s
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Science fiction horror film directed by James Whale and starring Boris Karloff as the Monster.

Story: The Monster demands a mate, and he does not take ‘no’ for an answer. Dr. Frankenstein joins forces with Dr. Pretorius, an even madder scientist then he is, and together they attempt to fulfill the monster’s wish.

An eccentric, campy, technically impressive, and frightening picture, James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein has aged remarkably well.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Bride of Frankenstein among the best movies of the 1930s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list.
✓ Selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry, having been deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”.
✓ Widely regarded as one of the greatest sequels in cinematic history, with many fans and critics considering it to be an improvement on the original Frankenstein.


The 39 Steps (1935)

The 39 Steps (1935), Alfred Hitchcock, Robert Donat, Madeleine Carroll, Top Movies of the 1930s
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British thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll.

Story: A man in London tries to help a counter-espionage Agent. But when the Agent is killed, and the man stands accused, he must go on the run to save himself and stop a spy ring which is trying to steal top secret information. (IMDB)

Packed with twists and turns, this essential early Alfred Hitchcock feature hints at the dazzling heights he’d reach later in his career.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is The 39 Steps among the best movies of the 1930s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ Widely regarded to be one of the greatest British films ever made.
✓ The film received overwhelmingly positive reviews from audiences and critics, who praised its suspense, camera movement, Hitchcock’s direction and the performance of the principal cast.


Top Hat (1935)

Top Hat (1935), Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Top Films of the 1930s
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American screwball musical comedy film starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

Story: An American dancer comes to Britain and falls for a model whom he initially annoyed, but she mistakes him for his goofy producer. (IMDB)

A glamorous and enthralling Depression-era diversion, Top Hat is nearly flawless, with acrobatics by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers that make the hardest physical stunts seem light as air.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Top Hat among the best movies of the 1930s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list.
✓ Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
✓ Most of its songs have become American song classics, and the film itself ranked number 15 on the American Film Institute’s list of best musicals.


Modern Times (1936)

Modern Times 1936 Charlie Chaplin, Best films of the 1930s Cinema
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Silent slapstick comedy film written, directed by and starring Charlie Chaplin.

Story: The Tramp struggles to live in modern industrial society with the help of a young homeless woman. (IMDB)

A slapstick skewering of industrialized America, Modern Times is as politically incisive as it is laugh-out-loud hilarious.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Modern Times among the best movies of the 1930s?
✓ Selected by the Vatican in the “art” category of its list of 45 “great films”, and also selected into the National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
✓ The American Film Institute ranked this as the #78 Greatest Movie of All Time and it is included in their list of the Top 100 Funniest American Movies.
✓ It is included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.


My Man Godfrey (1936)

My Man Godfrey (1936), William Powell, Best Movies of the 1930s Cinema
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American screwball comedy film starring William Powell.

Story: A scatterbrained socialite hires a vagrant as a family butler – but there’s more to Godfrey than meets the eye. (IMDB)

A class satire in a class of its own, My Man Godfrey‘s screwball comedy is as sharp as the social commentary is biting.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is My Man Godfrey among the best movies of the 1930s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list.
✓ It was a huge critical and commercial success, with critics praising the film’s humor and the performance of the principal cast.
✓ Deemed “culturally significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.



Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), Frank Capra, Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, Most Popular Movies of the 1930s
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American romantic comedy film directed by Frank Capra, starring Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur.

Stroy: A simple, small town man inherits a massive fortune, making him the target for scammers and publicity-seekers. Overwhelmed by the turn his life has taken, and awoken to another use for his new-found fortune, he makes a momentous decision. (IMDB)

Why is Mr. Deeds Goes to Town among the best movies of the 1930s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and among the American Film Institute’s list of the Top 100 Funniest American Movies.
✓ One of the most popular movies of the 1930s, with a significant influence on pop culture.


Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 1937 Disney, Most popular films of the 1930s
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Animated musical fantasy family film produced by Disney.

Story: Exiled into the dangerous forest by her wicked stepmother, a princess is rescued by seven dwarf miners who make her part of their household. (IMDB)

With its involving story and characters, vibrant art, and memorable songs, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs set the animation standard for decades to come.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs among the best movies of the 1930s?
✓ It is included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list.
✓ Selected into the National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
✓ It had a significant cultural impact, resulting in popular theme park attractions, a video game, and a Broadway musical.


The Grand Illusion (1937)

La grande illusion (original title)

The Grand Illusion (1937), Jean Renoir, Best Films of the 1930s Cinema
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French drama war film directed by Jean Renoir.

Story: During WWI, two French soldiers are captured and imprisoned in a German P.O.W. camp. Several escape attempts follow until they are eventually sent to a seemingly inescapable fortress. (IMDB)

Jean Renoir’s Grand Illusion is a masterful anti-war statement, bringing humane insight and an undercurrent of ironic humor to an unusual relationship between captor and captive.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is The Grand Illusion among the best movies of the 1930s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list.
✓ Regarded by critics and film historians as one of the masterpieces of French cinema, and among the greatest films ever made.


The Awful Truth (1937)

The Awful Truth (1937), Leo McCarrey, Cary Grant, Irene Dunne, Most popular films of the 1930s
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Screwball comedy romance film directed by Leo McCarrey, starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne.

Story: Unfounded suspicions lead a married couple to begin divorce proceedings, whereupon they start undermining each other’s attempts to find new romance. (IMDB)

Great comic direction by Leo McCarrey and memorable onscreen chemistry from stars Cary Grant and Irene Dunne make this screwball comedy a charmer.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is The Awful Truth among the best movies of the 1930s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, Premiere voted this movie as one of “The 50 Greatest Comedies of All Time”.
✓ Unique because the dialogue and comic elements were largely improvised by the director and the cast during filming.


The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

The Adventures of Robin Hood 1938 Errol Flynn, Best movies of the 1930s Cinema
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Technicolor swashbuckler film directed by Michael Curtiz, starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland and Basil Rathbone.

Story: When Prince John and the Norman Lords begin oppressing the Saxon masses in King Richard’s absence, a Saxon lord fights back as the outlaw leader of a rebel guerrilla army. (IMDB)

Errol Flynn thrills as the legendary title character, and the film embodies the type of imaginative family adventure tailor-made for the silver screen.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is The Adventures of Robin Hood among the best movies of the 1930s?
✓ It is included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list
✓ Deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation by the National Film Registry.
✓ One of the most popular movies of the 1930s, and also one of the highest grossing films of the decade.



Bringing Up Baby (1938)

Bringing Up Baby (1938), Howard Hawks, Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Top Movies of the 1930s
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American screwball comedy romance film directed by Howard Hawks, starring Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn.

Story: While trying to secure a $1 million donation for his museum, a befuddled paleontologist is pursued by a flighty and often irritating heiress and her pet leopard, Baby. (IMDB)

With Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant at their effervescent best, Bringing Up Baby is a seamlessly assembled comedy with enduring appeal.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Bringing Up Baby among the best movies of the 1930s?
✓ It is included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ Received acclaim from both critics and audience for its zany antics and pratfalls, absurd situations and misunderstandings, perfect sense of comic timing and light-hearted surprises.
✓ Selected for preservation in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”


You Can’t Take It with You (1938)

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Romantic comedy film directed by Frank Capra, starring Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore and James Stewart.

Story: A man from a family of rich snobs becomes engaged to a woman from a good-natured but decidedly eccentric family. (IMDB)

It’s predictably uplifting fare from Frank Capra, perhaps the most consciously uplifting of all great American directors – but thanks to immensely appealing performances and a nimble script, You Can’t Take It With You is hard not to love.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is You Can’t Take It with You among the best movies of the 1930s?
✓ Received two Academy Awards from seven nominations: Best Picture and Best Director for Frank Capra.
✓ A critical and commercial success, with critics and audiences praising its humor, Capra’s direction and the performance of the principal cast.


The Wizard of Oz (1939)

The Wizard of Oz 1939, Most popular movies of the 1930s
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Musical fantasy adventure family film directed by Victor Fleming and starring Judy Garland.

Story: Dorothy is swept away from a farm in Kansas to the magical land of Oz in a tornado and embarks on a quest with her new friends to see the Wizard who can help her return home. (IMDB)

An absolute masterpiece whose groundbreaking visuals and deft storytelling are still every bit as resonant, The Wizard of Oz is a must-see film for young and old.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is The Wizard of Oz among the best movies of the 1930s?
✓ Selected by the Vatican in the “art” category of its list of 45 “great films” and was added to the National Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress.
✓ It is included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list.
✓ Thanks to its brilliant use of Technicolor, fantasy storytelling, musical score, and memorable characters, the film has become an American pop culture icon.


Gone with the Wind (1939)

Gone with the Wind (1939), Victor Fleming, Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Best Movies of the 1930s Cinema
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Epic historical romance film directed by Victor Fleming, starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh.

Story: A manipulative woman and a roguish man conduct a turbulent romance during the American Civil War and Reconstruction periods. (IMDB)

Filmed and presented on a scale not seen in modern productions, Gone with the Wind is, if not the definitive Hollywood film, then certainly near the top of the list.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Gone with the Wind among the best movies of the 1930s?
✓ It was immensely popular when first released, it received positive reviews, and it became the highest-earning film of all time up to that point.
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list.
✓ It received ten Academy Awards from thirteen nominations, including wins for Best Picture and Best Director. It set records for the total number of wins and nominations at the time.


Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Frank Capra, Jean Arthur, James Stewart, Most Popular Movies of the 1930s
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Political comedy-drama film directed by Frank Capra, starring Jean Arthur and James Stewart.

Story: A naive man is appointed to fill a vacancy in the United States Senate. His plans promptly collide with political corruption, but he doesn’t back down. (IMDB)

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington — and returns with an uplifting ode to idealism that distills the strengths of its director and leading man.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Mr. Smith Goes to Washington among the best movies of the 1930s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ Selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry, deeming it “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
✓ One of the most popular and most successful films of the 1930s, with a significant influence on pop culture.



…end of the reel…

So there you have it: The 30 Greatest Movies of the 1930s

If you want to take a look at the movies listed above, without all that info between the titles, here’s a quick recap:

Top 30 Movies of the 1930s
Three films from each year, chronologically
- 1930 -
All Quiet on the Western Front 1930
All Quiet on the Western Front
The Blue Angel 1930
The Blue Angel
Animal Crackers 1930
Animal Crackers
- 1931 -
Dracula 1931
Dracula
*Part of the Collection: Wolfrancula Cinematic Universe
City Lights 1931
City Lights
M 1931
M
*Part of the Collection: Fritz Lang’s Dr. Mabuse and M Cinematic Universe
- 1932 -
Freaks 1932
Freaks
Scarface 1932
Scarface
The Mummy 1932
The Mummy
- 1933 -
King Kong 1933
King Kong
Duck Soup 1933
Duck Soup
The Invisible Man 1933
The Invisible Man
*Part of the Collection: Universal’s Classic Invisible Man Franchise
- 1934 -
It Happened One Night 1934
It Happened One Night
The Thin Man 1934
The Thin Man
*Part of the Collection: William Powell’s Thin Man Franchise
L'Atalante 1934
L'Atalante
- 1935 -
Bride of Frankenstein 1935
Bride of Frankenstein
*Part of the Collection: Wolfrancula Cinematic Universe
The 39 Steps 1935
The 39 Steps
Top Hat 1935
Top Hat
- 1936 -
Modern Times 1936
Modern Times
My Man Godfrey 1936
My Man Godfrey
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town 1936
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
- 1937 -
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 1937
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
The Grand Illusion 1937
The Grand Illusion
The Awful Truth 1937
The Awful Truth
- 1938 -
The Adventures of Robin Hood 1938
The Adventures of Robin Hood
Bringing Up Baby 1938
Bringing Up Baby
You Can't Take It with You 1938
You Can't Take It with You
- 1939 -
The Wizard of Oz 1939
The Wizard of Oz
*Part of the Collection: Land of Oz Franchise
Gone with the Wind 1939
Gone with the Wind
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington 1939
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
*Click any Title for more Info and for Streaming / Disc Buying options.

Wait, there’s more!

If you’re a hardcore fan of the 1930s, and you already saw most of the movies in the Top 30 List above, than here’s the extended version for you:

TOP 100 FILMS OF THE 1930s
Click to reveal the List ↴

The 100 Greatest Movies of the 1930s

Ten films from each year, chronologically

Top 10 Movies of 1930
All Quiet on the Western Front 1930
All Quiet on the Western Front
Age of Gold 1930
Age of Gold
Animal Crackers 1930
Animal Crackers
City Girl 1930
City Girl
Hell’s Angels 1930
Hell’s Angels
Morocco 1930
Morocco
Murder 1930
Murder
The Big Trail 1930
The Big Trail
The Blue Angel 1930
The Blue Angel
The Unholy Three 1930
The Unholy Three
*Click any Title for more info or for Streaming / Disc Buying options
Top 10 Movies of 1931
Dracula 1931
Dracula
*Part of the Collection: Wolfrancula Cinematic Universe
City Lights 1931
City Lights
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 1931
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Frankenstein 1931
Frankenstein
*Part of the Collection: Wolfrancula Cinematic Universe
Little Caesar 1931
Little Caesar
M 1931
M
*Part of the Collection: Fritz Lang’s Dr. Mabuse and M Cinematic Universe
Monkey Business 1931
Monkey Business
Tabu 1931
Tabu
The Champ 1931
The Champ
The Public Enemy 1931
The Public Enemy
*Click any Title for more info or for Streaming / Disc Buying options
Top 10 Movies of 1932
Freaks 1932
Freaks
Grand Hotel 1932
Grand Hotel
Horse Feathers 1932
Horse Feathers
I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang 1932
I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang
Scarface 1932
Scarface
Tarzan the Ape Man 1932
Tarzan the Ape Man
*Part of the Collection: Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan Franchise
The Most Dangerous Game 1932
The Most Dangerous Game
The Mummy 1932
The Mummy
Trouble in Paradise 1932
Trouble in Paradise
Vampyr 1932
Vampyr
*Click any Title for more info or for Streaming / Disc Buying options
Top 10 Movies of 1933
King Kong 1933
King Kong
The Invisible Man 1933
The Invisible Man
*Part of the Collection: Universal’s Classic Invisible Man Franchise
Duck Soup 1933
Duck Soup
42nd Street 1933
42nd Street
Dinner at Eight 1933
Dinner at Eight
Sons of the Desert 1933
Sons of the Desert
Queen Christina 1933
Queen Christina
Little Women 1933
Little Women
Design for Living 1933
Design for Living
The Testament of Dr. Mabuse 1933
The Testament of Dr. Mabuse
*Part of the Collection: Fritz Lang’s Dr. Mabuse and M Cinematic Universe
*Click any Title for more info or for Streaming / Disc Buying options
Top 10 Movies of 1934
It Happened One Night 1934
It Happened One Night
The Thin Man 1934
The Thin Man
*Part of the Collection: William Powell's Thin Man Franchise
The Man Who Knew Too Much 1934
The Man Who Knew Too Much
L'Atalante 1934
L'Atalante
The Black Cat 1934
The Black Cat
The Gay Divorcee 1934
The Gay Divorcee
Of Human Bondage 1934
Of Human Bondage
Babes in Toyland 1934
Babes in Toyland
Twentieth Century 1934
Twentieth Century
Tarzan and His Mate 1934
Tarzan and His Mate
*Part of the Collection: Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan Franchise
*Click any Title for more info or for Streaming / Disc Buying options
Top 10 Movies of 1935
Bride of Frankenstein 1935
Bride of Frankenstein
*Part of the Collection: Wolfrancula Cinematic Universe
Werewolf of London 1935
Werewolf of London
Anna Karenina 1935
Anna Karenina
A Tale of Two Cities 1935
A Tale of Two Cities
The Informer 1935
The Informer
Captain Blood 1935
Captain Blood
Top Hat 1935
Top Hat
Mutiny on the Bounty 1935
Mutiny on the Bounty
A Night at the Opera 1935
A Night at the Opera
The 39 Steps 1935
The 39 Steps
*Click any Title for more info or for Streaming / Disc Buying options
Top 10 Movies of 1936
Modern Times 1936
Modern Times
My Man Godfrey 1936
My Man Godfrey
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town 1936
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
Sabotage 1936
Sabotage
The Petrified Forest 1936
The Petrified Forest
Swing Time 1936
Swing Time
Fury 1936
Fury
After the Thin Man 1936
After the Thin Man
*Part of the Collection: William Powell’s Thin Man Franchise
Dodsworth 1936
Dodsworth
Secret Agent 1936
Secret Agent
*Click any Title for more info or for Streaming / Disc Buying options
Top 10 Movies of 1937
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 1937
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
The Grand Illusion 1937
The Grand Illusion
The Awful Truth 1937
The Awful Truth
A Day at the Races 1937
A Day at the Races
Lost Horizon 1937
Lost Horizon
Captains Courageous 1937
Captains Courageous
Young and Innocent 1937
Young and Innocent
A Star Is Born 1937
A Star Is Born
Stage Door 1937
Stage Door
Way Out West 1937
Way Out West
*Click any Title for more info or for Streaming / Disc Buying options
Top 10 Movies of 1938
The Adventures of Robin Hood 1938
The Adventures of Robin Hood
Bringing Up Baby 1938
Bringing Up Baby
The Lady Vanishes 1938
The Lady Vanishes
You Can't Take It with You 1938
You Can't Take It with You
Angels with Dirty Faces 1938
Angels with Dirty Faces
Holiday 1938
Holiday
Jezebel 1938
Jezebel
Alexander Nevsky 1938
Alexander Nevsky
The Port of Shadows  1938
The Port of Shadows
Pygmalion 1938
Pygmalion
*Click any Title for more info or for Streaming / Disc Buying options
Top 10 Movies of 1939
The Wizard of Oz 1939
The Wizard of Oz
*Part of the Collection: Land of Oz Franchise
Gone with the Wind 1939
Gone with the Wind
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington 1939
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Stagecoach 1939
Stagecoach
The Rules of the Game 1939
The Rules of the Game
Ninotchka 1939
Ninotchka
Wuthering Heights 1939
Wuthering Heights
The Roaring Twenties 1939
The Roaring Twenties
The Hunchback of Notre Dame 1939
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The Hound of the Baskervilles 1939
The Hound of the Baskervilles
*Part of the Collection: Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes Franchise
*Click any Title for more info or for Streaming / Disc Buying options

Is there a movie on the list you’d replace with another one? Share your thoughts in comments section bellow.


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