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Best Movies of the 1940s: Top 30 & Top 100 Films of the Flying Forties

Top 10 & Top 100 Films of the 1940s, Best Movies of the 1940s

Welcome to the Cinema of the Flying Forties

The 1940s 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 1940s.

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 1940s”, 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 1940s 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 1940s?

The Golden Age of Cinema reached its peak by 1940. Movies started to resonate with the mood of the audience, and several all-time classics were born.

The 1940s wasn’t just the next decade after the great depression, but it was also a decade of war and hardship. Maybe that is why one of the most popular movie genres of the 1940s cinema was film noir, also known as “dark cinema“.

Classic film noir movies of the 1940s cinema present a dark, cynical world filled with hard-boiled detectives, treacherous femme fatales, crooked lawyers, corrupt politicians and double-crossing villains.

However, lighthearted genres were blossoming too.

Elaborate musicals with high-kicking women and screwball comedies were enormously popular during the 1940s. In addition to that, Technicolor brought a colorful alternative to those who didn’t like the shady world of film noir.

Directors were beginning to take charge over the mood and style of the movies, giving them unprecedented uniqueness. Alfred Hitchcook, for example, made some of his best works during the 1940s.

If you’re an absolute fan of the of the 1940s cinema, or you’d really like to get into the mood of the era, you may want to decorate your home with original vintage movie posters – and we know just the right place to get them: Vintoz.com

So yeah, there’s is plenty to talk about, when it comes to the Cinema of the 1940s, 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 1940s carry you to the Cinematic era they came from!



Presenting the Top 30 Films of the 1940s

Chronologically
– 3 movies from each year –


The Great Dictator (1940)

The Great Dictator 1940 Charlie Chaplin, Best Movies of the 1940s list, Classic films of the 1940s Cinema
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Political satire comedy-drama film written, directed, produced, scored by, and starring Charlie Chaplin.

Story: Dictator Adenoid Hynkel tries to expand his empire while a poor Jewish barber tries to avoid persecution from Hynkel’s regime. (IMDB)

Charlie Chaplin demonstrates that his comedic voice is undiminished by dialogue in this rousing satire of tyranny, which may be more distinguished by its uplifting humanism than its gags.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is The Great Dictator among the greatest movies ever made?
✓ Included among the American Film Institute’s list of the Top 100 Funniest American Movies, and also part of Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list.
✓ One of the most popular movies of the 1940s Cinema and an influential, timeless classic.
✓ Selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.


Pinocchio (1940)

Pinocchio (1940), Disney, Best movies of the 1940s
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Animated musical fantasy film produced by Disney.

Story: A living puppet, with the help of a cricket as his conscience, must prove himself worthy to become a real boy. (IMDB)

Ambitious, adventurous, and sometimes frightening, Pinocchio arguably represents the pinnacle of Disney’s collected works – it’s beautifully crafted and emotionally resonant.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Pinocchio among the best movies of the 1940s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list.
✓ With its characters still being prevalent in popular culture, it is considered one of the greatest animated films ever made.
✓ Added to the United States National Film Registry for being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.


Rebecca (1940)

Rebecca (1940), Alfred Hitchcock, Best films of the 1940s
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Romantic psychological thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Story: A self-conscious woman juggles adjusting to her new role as an aristocrat’s wife and avoiding being intimidated by his first wife’s spectral presence. (IMDB)

Hitchcock’s first American film (and his only Best Picture winner), Rebecca is a masterpiece of haunting atmosphere, Gothic thrills, and gripping suspense.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Rebecca among the best movies of the 1940s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ Won two Academy Awards, Best Picture and Best Cinematography, out of a total 11 nominations.
✓ Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.


Dumbo (1941)

Disney's Classic Dumbo 1941 Best Movies of the 1940s list, Popular films of the 1940s Cinema
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Animated family films produced by Disney.

Story: Ridiculed because of his enormous ears, a young circus elephant is assisted by a mouse to achieve his full potential. (IMDB)

Dumbo packs plenty of story into its brief runtime, along with all the warm animation and wonderful music you’d expect from a Disney classic.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Dumbo among the best movies of the 1940s?
✓ Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically and aesthetically significant”.
✓ Won the “Best Animation Design” award of the Cannes Film Festival in 1947.
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.


Citizen Kane (1941)

Citizen Kane (1941), Orson Welles, Top movies of the 1940s
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Drama mystery movie written, directed by and starring Orson Welles.

Story: Following the death of publishing tycoon Charles Foster Kane, reporters scramble to uncover the meaning of his final utterance; ‘Rosebud’. (IMDB)

Orson Welles’s epic tale of a publishing tycoon’s rise and fall is entertaining, poignant, and inventive in its storytelling, earning its reputation as a landmark achievement in film.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Citizen Kane among the best movies of the 1940s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list.
✓ Considered by many critics, filmmakers, and fans to be the greatest film ever made.
✓ Particularly praised for its cinematography, editing, music, and its narrative structure, all of which have been considered innovative and precedent-setting.



The Maltese Falcon (1941)

The Maltese Falcon (1941), John Huston, Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Top films of the 1940s

Mystery film-noir directed by John Huston, starring Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor.

Story: A private detective takes on a case that involves him with three eccentric criminals, a gorgeous liar, and their quest for a priceless statuette. (IMDB)

Suspenseful, labyrinthine, and brilliantly cast, The Maltese Falcon is one of the most influential noirs – as well as a showcase for Humphrey Bogart at his finest.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is The Maltese Falcon among the best movies of the 1940s?
✓ 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”.
✓ Ranked #6 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 10 greatest films in the genre “Mystery”, and #31 on their list of the Greatest Movies of All Time.


Casablanca (1942)

Casablanca 1942 Humphrey Bogart, Best Movies of the 1940s list, Famous films of the 1940s Cinema
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Romantic drama film directed by Michael Curtiz, starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.

Story: A cynical American expatriate struggles to decide whether or not he should help his former lover and her fugitive husband escape French Morocco. (IMDB)

An undisputed masterpiece and perhaps Hollywood’s quintessential statement on love and romance, Casablanca has only improved with age, boasting career-defining performances from Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Casablanca among the best movies of the 1940s?
✓ Winner of 3 Oscars, including “Best Picture of the Year” Academy Award.
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list.
✓ Its lead characters, memorable lines, and pervasive theme song have all become iconic.


Bambi (1942)

Bambi (1942), Disney, Classic movies of the 1940s
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Animated family film produced by Disney.

The story of a young deer growing up in the forest. (IMDB)

Elegantly animated and deeply touching, Bambi is an enduring, endearing, and moving Disney classic.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Bambi among the best movies of the 1940s?
✓ Selected for preservation in the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and it has been “recognized for its eloquent message of nature conservation”.
✓ Ranked #3 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 10 greatest films in the genre “Animation”.


To Be or Not to Be (1942)

To Be or Not to Be (1942), Ernst Lubitsch, Classic movies of the 1940s
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Black comedy war film directed by Ernst Lubitsch.

Story: During the Nazi occupation of Poland, an acting troupe becomes embroiled in a Polish soldier’s efforts to track down a German spy. (IMDB)

A complex and timely satire with as much darkness as slapstick, Ernst Lubitsch’s To Be or Not To Be delicately balances humor and ethics.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is To Be or Not to Be among the best movies of the 1940s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
✓ Widely recognized and praised as an influential comedy classic.


Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

Shadow of a Doubt 1943 Alfred Hitchcock, Best Movies of the 1940s list, Classic films of the 1940s Cinema
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Psychological thriller film noir directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Story: A young woman discovers her visiting uncle may not be the man he seems to be. (IMDB)

Alfred Hitchcock’s earliest classic — and his own personal favorite — deals its flesh-crawling thrills as deftly as its finely shaded characters.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Shadow of a Doubt among the best movies of the 1940s?
✓ 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”.
✓ One of the most popular movies of the 1940s Cinema, a timeless classic, and Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite of all of his films.



The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, Popular movies of the 1940s
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Romantic drama war film written, produced and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

Story: From the Boer War through World War II, a soldier rises through the ranks in the British military. (IMDB)

A moving evocation of both British values and the passage of time, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is an epic portrait of a singular character by Powell and Pressburger.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp among the best movies of the 1940s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list.
✓ Praised for its dazzling Technicolor cinematography and the performances by the lead actors.
✓ #80 on Empire’s list of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.


I Walked with a Zombie (1943)

I Walked with a Zombie (1943), Jacques Tourneur, Famous movies of the 1940s
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Fantasy horror film directed by Jacques Tourneur.

Story: A nurse is hired to care for the wife of a sugar plantation owner, who has been acting strangely, on a Caribbean island. (IMDB)

Evocative direction by Jacques Tourneur collides with the low-rent production values of exploitateer Val Lewton in I Walked with a Zombie, a sultry sleeper that’s simultaneously smarmy, eloquent and fascinating.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is I Walked with a Zombie among the best movies of the 1940s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ Praised by critics and audiences for its atmosphere, story and Jacques Tourneur’s direction.
✓ Widely considered to be one of the greatest zombie movies ever made, and an influential horror classic.


Double Indemnity (1944)

Double Indemnity 1944 Billy Wilder, Best Movies of the 1940s list, Popular films of the 1940s Cinema
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Crime drama film-noir directed by Billy Wilder, starring Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck.

Story: An insurance representative lets himself be talked by a seductive housewife into a murder/insurance fraud scheme that arouses the suspicion of an insurance investigator. (IMDB)

A dark, tautly constructed adaptation of James M. Cain’s novel – penned by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler – Double Indemnity continues to set the standard for the best in Hollywood film noir.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Double Indemnity among the best movies of the 1940s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list.
✓ Selected into the National Film Registry in for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
✓ Praised by many critics and widely regarded as a classic, often is cited as having set the standard for film noir.


Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), Frank Capra, Cary Grant, Best movies of the 1940s
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Black comedy film directed by Frank Capra and starring Cary Grant.

Story: A drama critic learns on his wedding day that his beloved maiden aunts are homicidal maniacs, and that insanity runs in his family. (IMDB)

Why is Arsenic and Old Lace among the best movies of the 1940s?
✓ Included among the American Film Institute’s list of the Top 100 Funniest American Movies.
✓ The film received overwhelmingly positive reviews from audiences and critics, who praised its spirit, humor and Capra’s direction.


Laura (1944)

Laura (1944), Otto Preminger, Gene Tierney, Best films of the 1940s
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Mystery film-noir directed by Otto Preminger and starring Gene Tierney.

Story: A Police detective falls in love with the woman whose murder he is investigating. (IMDB)

A psychologically complex portrait of obsession, Laura is also a deliciously well-crafted murder mystery.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Laura among the best movies of the 1940s?
✓ 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”.
✓ The American Film Institute named it one of the 10 best mystery films of all time.



Spellbound (1945)

Spellbound 1945 Alfred Hitchcock, Best Movies of the 1940s list, Famous films of the 1940s Cinema
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Film noir psychological mystery thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck.

Story: A psychiatrist protects the identity of an amnesia patient accused of murder while attempting to recover his memory. (IMDB)

Spellbound‘s exploration of the subconscious could have benefited from more analysis, but Alfred Hitchcock’s psychedelic flourishes elevate this heady thriller along with Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck’s star power.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Spellbound among the best movies of the 1940s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ One of the most popular movies of the 1940s Cinema and an all-time classic.
✓ The film received overwhelmingly positive reviews from audiences and critics, who praised its plot, suspense, Hitchcock’s direction and the performance of the two leading stars.


Brief Encounter (1945)

Brief Encounter (1945), David Lean, Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard, Top movies of the 1940s
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British romantic drama film directed by David Lean, starring Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard.

Story: Meeting a stranger in a railway station, a woman is tempted to cheat on her husband. (IMDB)

Brief Encounter adds a small but valuable gem to the Lean filmography, depicting a doomed couple’s illicit connection with affecting sensitivity and a pair of powerful performance.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Brief Encounter among the best movies of the 1940s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ Won the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and also voted as the second greatest British film of all time by the British Film Institute.
✓ Widely praised for its black-and-white photography and the mood created by the steam-age railway setting.


The Lost Weekend (1945)

The Lost Weekend (1945), Billy Wilder, Ray Milland, Jane Wyman, Top films of the 1940s
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Drama film-noir directed by Billy Wilder, starring Ray Milland and Jane Wyman.

Story: The desperate life of a chronic alcoholic is followed through a four-day drinking bout. (IMDB)

Director Billy Wilder’s unflinchingly honest look at the effects of alcoholism may have had some of its impact blunted by time, but it remains a powerful and remarkably prescient film.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is The Lost Weekend among the best movies of the 1940s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and won the Cannes Film Festival Grand Prix du Festival International Film.
✓ Nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
✓ Added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.


It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

It's a Wonderful Life 1946 James Stewart, Best Movies of the 1940s list, Classic films of the 1940s Cinema
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Christmas fantasy drama film produced and directed by Frank Capra, starring James Stewart.

Story: An angel is sent from Heaven to help a desperately frustrated businessman by showing him what life would have been like if he had never existed. (IMDB)

The holiday classic to define all holiday classics, It’s a Wonderful Life is one of a handful of films worth an annual viewing.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is It’s a Wonderful Life among the best movies of the 1940s?
✓ Selected by the Vatican in the “values” category of its list of 45 “great films”.
✓ 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 Most Inspirational Movie of All Time and as the #20 Greatest Movie of All Time.


Notorious (1946)

Notorious (1946), Alfred Hitchcock, Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Classic movies of the 1940s
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Romantic spy film-noir directed and produced by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman.

Story: A woman is asked to spy on a group of Nazi friends in South America. How far will she have to go to ingratiate herself with them? (IMDB)

Sublime direction from Hitchcock, and terrific central performances from Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant make this a bona-fide classic worthy of a re-visit.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Notorious among the best movies of the 1940s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list.
✓ Considered by critics and scholars to mark a watershed for Hitchcock artistically, and to represent a heightened thematic maturity.
✓ Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.



The Big Sleep (1946)

The Big Sleep (1946), Howard Hawks, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Classic movies of the 1940s
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Mystery crime film-noir directed by Howard Hawks, starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.

Story: Private detective Philip Marlowe is hired by a rich family. Before the complex case is over, he’s seen murder, blackmail, and what might be love. (IMDB)

A perfect match of screenplay, director, and leading man, The Big Sleep stands as a towering achievement in film noir whose grim vitality remains undimmed.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is The Big Sleep among the best movies of the 1940s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list.
✓ The U.S. Library of Congress deemed the film “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant,” and added it to the National Film Registry.
✓ One of the most popular and most successful films of the 1940s, and an influential all-time classic.


Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Miracle on 34th Street 1947 Best Movies of the 1940s list, Popular films of the 1940s Cinema
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Christmas comedy-drama film written and directed by George Seaton.

Story: When a nice old man who claims to be Santa Claus is institutionalized as insane, a young lawyer decides to defend him by arguing in court that he is the real thing. (IMDB)

Irrefutable proof that gentle sentimentalism can be the chief ingredient in a wonderful film, Miracle on 34th Street delivers a warm holiday message without resorting to treacle.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Miracle on 34th Street among the best movies of the 1940s?
✓ Winner of three Academy Awards and nominated for Oscar’s “Best Picture of the Year” Award.
✓ Ranked #9 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Most Inspiring Movies of All Time.
✓ Selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”.


Out of the Past (1947)

Out of the Past (1947), Jacques Tourneur, Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, Kirk Douglas, Popular movies of the 1940s
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Crime film-noir directed by Jacques Tourneur, starring Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer and Kirk Douglas.

Story: A private eye escapes his past to run a gas station in a small town, but his past catches up with him. Now he must return to the big city world of danger, corruption, double crosses and duplicitous dames. (IMDB)

Anchored by a wistful Robert Mitchum, Out of the Past is an exemplary noir steeped in doom and sensuality.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Out of the Past among the best movies of the 1940s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list.
✓ Film historians consider it a superb example of film-noir due to its complex, fatalistic story-line, dark cinematography, and classic femme fatale.
✓ Added to the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.


The Lady from Shanghai (1947)

The Lady from Shanghai (1947), Orson Welles, Famous movies of the 1940s
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Crime film-noir directed by and starring Orson Welles.

Story: Fascinated by gorgeous Mrs. Bannister, seaman Michael O’Hara joins a bizarre yachting cruise, and ends up mired in a complex murder plot. (IMDB)

Energetic and inventive, The Lady from Shanghai overcomes its script deficiencies with some of Orson Welles’ brilliantly conceived set pieces.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is The Lady from Shanghai among the best movies of the 1940s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ Received positive reviews from audiences and critics, who praised its set designs and camerawork.
✓ Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.


Rope (1948)

Rope 1948 Alfred Hitchcock, Best Movies of the 1940s list, Famous films of the 1940s Cinema
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Psychological crime thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring James Stewart.

Story: Two men attempt to prove they committed the perfect crime by hosting a dinner party after strangling their former classmate to death. (IMDB)

As formally audacious as it is narratively brilliant, Rope connects a powerful ensemble in service of a darkly satisfying crime thriller from a master of the genre.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Rope among the best movies of the 1940s?
✓ Considered to be Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s most controversial movie. Several American theaters banned it upon release.
✓ It is included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ Notable for taking place in real time and being edited so as to appear as a single shot through the use of long takes.



Bicycle Thieves (1948)

Ladri di biciclette (original Italian title)

Bicycle Thieves (1948), Vittorio De Sica, Best movies of the 1940s
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Italian neorealist drama film directed by Vittorio De Sica.

Story: In post-war Italy, a working-class man’s bicycle is stolen. He and his son set out to find it. (IMDB)

An Italian neorealism exemplar, Bicycle Thieves thrives on its non-flashy performances and searing emotion.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Bicycle Thieves among the best movies of the 1940s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ Received an Academy Honorary Award as the Most outstanding foreign language film.
✓ In 1952 it was deemed the greatest movie of all time by Sight & Sound magazine’s poll of filmmakers and critics.


The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), John Huston, Humphrey Bogart, Best films of the 1940s
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Western adventure drama film written and directed by John Huston, starring Humphrey Bogart.

Story: Two Americans searching for work in Mexico convince an old prospector to help them mine for gold in the Sierra Madre Mountains. (IMDB)

Remade but never duplicated, this darkly humorous morality tale represents John Huston at his finest.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is The Treasure of the Sierra Madre among the best movies of the 1940s?
✓ 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”.
✓ One of the most popular movies of the 1940s, with a significant influence on pop culture.


The Third Man (1949)

The Third Man 1949, Best Movies of the 1940s list, Classic films of the 1940s Cinema
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Mystery thriller film noir directed by Carol Reed, starring Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten.

Story: Pulp novelist Holly Martins travels to shadowy, postwar Vienna, only to find himself investigating the mysterious death of an old friend, Harry Lime. (IMDB)

This atmospheric thriller is one of the undisputed masterpieces of cinema, and boasts iconic performances from Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is The Third Man among the best movies of the 1940s?
✓ It is included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list.
✓ Ranked #5 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 10 greatest films in the genre “Mystery”.
✓ Notable for its atmospheric use of black-and-white expressionist cinematography, harsh lighting, distorted camera technique, its iconic theme music, seedy locations and acclaimed performances from the cast.


Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)

Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), Robert Hamer, Top movies of the 1940s
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British black comedy crime film directed by Robert Hamer.

Story: A distant poor relative of the Duke of D’Ascoyne plots to inherit the title by murdering the eight other heirs who stand ahead of him in the line of succession. (IMDB)

Performed with chameleonic brio by Alec Guinness, Kind Hearts and Coronets is a triumphant farce.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Kind Hearts and Coronets among the best movies of the 1940s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list.
✓ Part of the British Film Institute’s list of the Top 100 British films and also part of Time’s list of the top 100 films since 1923.


White Heat (1949)

White Heat (1949), James Cagney, Top films of the 1940s
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Crime film-noir starring James Cagney.

Story: A psychopathic criminal with a mother complex makes a daring break from prison and leads his old gang in a chemical plant payroll heist. (IMDB)

Raoul Walsh’s crime drama goes further into the psychology of a gangster than most fear to tread and James Cagney’s portrayal of the tragic anti-hero is constantly volatile.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Kind Hearts and Coronets among the best movies of the 1940s?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ Widely considered to be one of the best gangster movies of all time.
✓ Added to the National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress.



…end of the reel…

So there you have it: The 30 Greatest Movies of the 1940s

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 1940s
Three films from each year, chronologically
- 1940 -
The Great Dictator 1940
The Great Dictator
Pinocchio 1940
Pinocchio
Rebecca 1940
Rebecca
- 1941 -
Dumbo 1941
Dumbo
Citizen Kane 1941
Citizen Kane
The Maltese Falcon 1941
The Maltese Falcon
- 1942 -
Casablanca 1942
Casablanca
Bambi 1942
Bambi
*Part of the Collection: Disney’s Classic Bambi Duology
To Be or Not to Be 1942
To Be or Not to Be
- 1943 -
Shadow of a Doubt 1943
Shadow of a Doubt
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp 1943
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
I Walked with a Zombie 1943
I Walked with a Zombie
- 1944 -
Double Indemnity 1944
Double Indemnity
Arsenic and Old Lace 1944
Arsenic and Old Lace
Laura 1944
Laura
- 1945 -
Spellbound 1945
Spellbound
Brief Encounter 1945
Brief Encounter
The Lost Weekend 1945
The Lost Weekend
- 1946 -
It's a Wonderful Life 1946
It's a Wonderful Life
Notorious 1946
Notorious
The Big Sleep 1946
The Big Sleep
- 1947 -
Miracle on 34th Street 1947
Miracle on 34th Street
Out of the Past 1947
Out of the Past
The Lady from Shanghai 1947
The Lady from Shanghai
- 1948 -
Rope 1948
Rope
Bicycle Thieves 1948
Bicycle Thieves
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre 1948
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
- 1949 -
The Third Man 1949
The Third Man
Kind Hearts and Coronets 1949
Kind Hearts and Coronets
White Heat 1949
White Heat
*Click any Title for more Info and for Streaming / Disc Buying options.

Wait, there’s more!

If you’re a hardcore fan of the 1940s, 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 1940s
Click to reveal the List ↴

The 100 Greatest Movies of the 1940s

Ten films from each year, chronologically

Top 10 Movies of 1940
The Great Dictator 1940
The Great Dictator
Pinocchio 1940
Pinocchio
Rebecca 1940
Rebecca
The Grapes of Wrath 1940
The Grapes of Wrath
The Philadelphia Story 1940
The Philadelphia Story
His Girl Friday 1940
His Girl Friday
The Shop Around the Corner 1940
The Shop Around the Corner
Foreign Correspondent 1940
Foreign Correspondent
The Thief of Bagdad 1940
The Thief of Bagdad
The Mark of Zorro 1940
The Mark of Zorro
*Click any Title for more info or for Streaming / Disc Buying options
Top 10 Movies of 1941
Dumbo 1941
Dumbo
Suspicion 1941
Suspicion
Sullivan's Travels 1941
Sullivan's Travels
How Green Was My Valley 1941
How Green Was My Valley
The Lady Eve 1941
The Lady Eve
Sergeant York 1941
Sergeant York
High Sierra 1941
High Sierra
Citizen Kane 1941
Citizen Kane
The Maltese Falcon 1941
The Maltese Falcon
The Wolf Man 1941
The Wolf Man
*Part of the Collection: Wolfrancula Cinematic Universe
*Click any Title for more info or for Streaming / Disc Buying options
Top 10 Movies of 1942
Casablanca 1942
Casablanca
To Be or Not to Be 1942
To Be or Not to Be
Bambi 1942
Bambi
*Part of the Collection: Disney’s Classic Bambi Franchise
Saboteur 1942
Saboteur
The Magnificent Ambersons 1942
The Magnificent Ambersons
The Ox-Bow Incident 1942
The Ox-Bow Incident
Cat People 1942
Cat People
Mrs. Miniver 1942
Mrs. Miniver
Now, Voyager 1942
Now, Voyager
Yankee Doodle Dandy 1942
Yankee Doodle Dandy
*Click any Title for more info or for Streaming / Disc Buying options
Top 10 Movies of 1943
Shadow of a Doubt 1943
Shadow of a Doubt
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp 1943
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
I Walked with a Zombie 1943
I Walked with a Zombie
Heaven Can Wait 1943
Heaven Can Wait
Day of Wrath 1943
Day of Wrath
Le Corbeau 1943
Le Corbeau
For Whom the Bell Tolls 1943
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Jane Eyre 1943
Jane Eyre
Sahara 1943
Sahara
The Miracle of Morgan's Creek 1943
The Miracle of Morgan's Creek
*Click any Title for more info or for Streaming / Disc Buying options
Top 10 Movies of 1944
Double Indemnity 1944
Double Indemnity
To Have and Have Not 1944
To Have and Have Not
Lifeboat 1944
Lifeboat
Meet Me in St. Louis 1944
Meet Me in St. Louis
Murder, My Sweet 1944
Murder, My Sweet
Gaslight 1944
Gaslight
The Woman in the Window 1944
The Woman in the Window
Going My Way 1944
Going My Way
Arsenic and Old Lace 1944
Arsenic and Old Lace
Laura 1944
Laura
*Click any Title for more info or for Streaming / Disc Buying options
Top 10 Movies of 1945
Spellbound 1945
Spellbound
Brief Encounter 1945
Brief Encounter
The Lost Weekend 1945
The Lost Weekend
Rome, Open City 1945
Rome, Open City
Mildred Pierce 1945
Mildred Pierce
Children of Paradise 1945
Children of Paradise
Detour 1945
Detour
And Then There Were None 1945
And Then There Were None
The Picture of Dorian Gray 1945
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Dead of Night 1945
Dead of Night
*Click any Title for more info or for Streaming / Disc Buying options
Top 10 Movies of 1946
It's a Wonderful Life 1946
It's a Wonderful Life
Notorious 1946
Notorious
The Big Sleep 1946
The Big Sleep
The Best Years of Our Lives 1946
The Best Years of Our Lives
Gilda 1946
Gilda
Beauty and the Beast 1946
Beauty and the Beast
Great Expectations 1946
Great Expectations
My Darling Clementine 1946
My Darling Clementine
The Stranger 1946
The Stranger
A Matter of Life and Death 1946
A Matter of Life and Death
*Click any Title for more info or for Streaming / Disc Buying options
Top 10 Movies of 1947
Miracle on 34th Street 1947
Miracle on 34th Street
Out of the Past 1947
Out of the Past
The Lady from Shanghai 1947
The Lady from Shanghai
Black Narcissus 1947
Black Narcissus
Dark Passage 1947
Dark Passage
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir 1947
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
Monsieur Verdoux 1947
Monsieur Verdoux
Gentleman's Agreement 1947
Gentleman's Agreement
The Bishop's Wife 1947
The Bishop's Wife
The Paradine Case 1947
The Paradine Case
*Click any Title for more info or for Streaming / Disc Buying options
Top 10 Movies of 1948
Rope 1948
Rope
Bicycle Thieves 1948
Bicycle Thieves
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre 1948
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Key Largo 1948
Key Largo
Red River 1948
Red River
The Red Shoes 1948
The Red Shoes
Fort Apache 1948
Fort Apache
Hamlet 1948
Hamlet
The Naked City 1948
The Naked City
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein 1948
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
*Part of the Collection: Wolfrancula Cinematic Universe
*Click any Title for more info or for Streaming / Disc Buying options
Top 10 Movies of 1949
The Third Man 1949
The Third Man
Kind Hearts and Coronets 1949
Kind Hearts and Coronets
White Heat 1949
White Heat
Adam's Rib 1949
Adam's Rib
On the Town 1949
On the Town
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon 1949
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
Stray Dog 1949
Stray Dog
Late Spring 1949
Late Spring
All the King's Men 1949
All the King's Men
The Fountainhead 1949
The Fountainhead
*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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1 Comment

  1. Mark Nearenberg

    With all due respect, I am shocked to see that “The Best Years of Our Lives,” widely considered to be one of the best films ever made by film critics and the film industry itself, is not one of the best 30 films of the 1940s. Bettie Davis, who declared it to be her favorite film and the best movie ever made, is spinning in her grave. I recognize that all art is subjective, but still . . . “a masterpiece is a masterpiece,” also known as “objective subjectivity.”

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