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Tuesday
Feb192013

Top Ten 1930s

Apropos of nothing other than my urge to throw a tuesday top ten at you, my favorite films of the 1930s. The order and even the titles might be different if you ask me tomorrow, but you didn't ask me tomorrow. I asked me today.

 

  1. The Wizard of Oz
  2. It Happened One Night
  3. The Awful Truth
  4. Gone With the Wind
  5. Dodsworth
  6. L'Atalante
  7. My Man Godfrey
  8. Trouble In Paradise
  9. The Women
  10. Bringing Up Baby

 

With apologies to: Min & Bill, "M", Grand Hotel, All Quiet on the Western Front, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Jezebel and many more. Which 30s movies do you love most and have you seen all of these? 

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Reader Comments (42)

Room would definitely have to be made on my list for All Quiet on the Western Front (which is probably top 10 all time for me), City Lights, M, and Grand Illusion. It Happened One Night absolutely deserves to be as high as it is on your list though. I love that movie, and yet it seems that no one ever remembers how flat-out great it is.

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoe K

TROUBLE IN PARADISE is probably my favorite film from any decade.

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJulien Faddoul

Oh my. Where to begin?

Duck Soup
The Thin Man
The Rules of the Game
Stagecoach
My Man Godfrey
King Kong
The Bride of Frankenstein
City Lights
Modern Times
Freaks

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

my list. my favorite movies of all time

House at the end of the street
The Guilt Trip
Twilight Saga
Alice in Wonderland (Tim Burton)
Battlefield Earth
You don't mess with the zohan

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdavid

10 indisputable classics.

And I love that this is the kind of blog where Haneke and Paul Thomas Anderson and Mean Girls come up alongside Trouble in Paradise and Montgomery Clift and Norma freaking Shearer.

My Top 10 of the 30s reads thusly:

1. L'Atalante
(which is also my tied all-time favourite film)
2. Bringing Up Baby
3. Grand Illusion
4. The Scarlet Empress
5. Gone with the Wind
6. Duck Soup
7. Modern Times
8. My Man Godfrey
(I can't believe someone has My Man Godfrey higher in a list than I do!)
9. King Kong
10. Destry Rides Again

Honourable mentions include
Rules of the Game, Hunchback of Notre Dame, It Happened One Night, Dodsworth, Wizard of Oz, M, Love Me Tonight, A Night at the Opera etc etc etc - - Really I could do a top 100.

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commentergoran

Mine would go something like this:

Bringing Up Baby
M
Duck Soup
City Lights
Stagecoach
Baby Face
The 39 Steps
Little Caesar
My Man Godfrey
Dodsworth

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterW.J.

I'm doing this alphabetically because I'm not in the mood for the mental stress of ranking.

The Awful Truth
Bringing Up Baby
City Lights
Grand Illusion
Fury
The Lady Vanishes
Love Me Tonight
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Ninotchka
Queen Christina

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJ.D.

My Top 10, in chronological order:

The Blue Angel
City Lights
M
Freaks
Bombshell
Dinner at Eight
It Happened One Night
Bride of Frankenstein
Modern Times
Rules of the Game

Barely missing the list are Dracula, Vampyr, The Invisible Man, Top Hat and Bringing Up Baby.

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMrW

alphabetically:

Baby Face
Dark Victory
Follow the Fleet
Holiday
Imitation of Life
It Happened One Night
Jezebel
The Public Enemy
The Thin Man
The Wizard of Oz

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I'd add:

Holiday
Ninotchka
Mr.Smith Goes to Washington
Rules of the Game
Jezebel

-- to your list, since I haven't seen Dodsworth, Trouble in Paradise, L'Atalante (the latter is on my "to see" list, in part because of its high regard by Sight & Sound magazine. Can't decide on two other eliminations!

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCraig

Oh dear...

In the order they come to me:

The Thin Man
The Wizard of Oz
Bringing Up Baby
Duck Soup
It Happened One Night
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
The Adventures of Robin Hood
Swing Time
Modern Times
A Story of Floating Weeds

I really need to see Dodsworth and My Man Godfrey.

Apologies to Gone With the Wind, parts of which I absolutely adore but more than I'd like of which is kind of unbearable (MUST Scarlett be such an awful bitch all the time?!?). Although it is probably due for a re-watch.

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

What great lists from everyone.

I remember seeing Bringing Up Baby and laughing my head off. Katherine and Cary were at their brilliant best.

And of course Gone with the wind, Wizard of Oz, King Kong, It happened one night, and one film that still gives me shivers - Freaks.

And there are so many more from the wonderful 30s.

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBette Streep

Swingtime
Bringing Up Baby
You Can't Take it With You
The Thin Man
Dark Victory
First Love (Aaahh! Deanna Durbin.)
Gone With the Wind
The Wizard of Oz
The Lady Vanishes
The Awful Truth (Irene Dunne! Yay!)
So many more......

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohnnyBS

I havent seen much from the 30s, but "Mr Deed goes to town", "Lost Horizon" and "Frankenstein" should be seen by every cinema lover.

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterskyfly_to

Not a Chaplin fan?

City Lights was the best movie ever until we've got Citizen Kane.

1 - City Lights
2 - Stagecoach
3 - The Awful Truth
4 - Modern Times
5 - Trouble in Paradise
6 - The Wizard of Oz
7 - It happened on Night
8 - Bringing Up Baby
9 - Holiday
10 - Gone With The Wind

Yes, I have an All-American top ten. I love a lot of foreign movies from the 30's, but they still couldn't beat USA. TOP 10 foreign:

1 - The Only Son, Japan
2 - The Story of the Last Chrysantemus, Japan
3 - La signora di Tutti, Italy
4 - The Rules of the Game, France
5 - M, Germany
6 - L'âge d'or, France
7 - La Grand Illusion, France
8 - Sans Lendemain, France
9 - L'Atalante, France
10 - Triumph of the Will, Germany

It's funny the America was still way ahead of every other country when the sound came, after a decade in which everything was about Germany and Russia. If we had a champion for every decade, it'd be like this:

20's: Gold: Germany Silver: Russia Bronze: USA
30's: G: USA S: France B: Germany
40's: G: USA S: Italy B: UK
50's: G: Japan S: USA B: Italy
60's: G: France S: Japan B: UK
70's: G: USA S: Japan B: Germany
80's: G: Hong Kong S: Japan B: France
90's: G: Iran S: China B: USA
2000's: G: South Korea S: France B: Romania

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Not a Chaplin fan?

City Lights was the best movie ever until we've got Citizen Kane.

1 - City Lights
2 - Stagecoach
3 - The Awful Truth
4 - Modern Times
5 - Trouble in Paradise
6 - The Wizard of Oz
7 - It happened on Night
8 - Bringing Up Baby
9 - Holiday
10 - Gone With The Wind

Yes, I have an All-American top ten. I love a lot of foreign movies from the 30's, but they still couldn't beat USA. TOP 10 foreign:

1 - The Only Son, Japan
2 - The Story of the Last Chrysantemus, Japan
3 - La signora di Tutti, Italy
4 - The Rules of the Game, France
5 - M, Germany
6 - L'âge d'or, France
7 - La Grand Illusion, France
8 - Sans Lendemain, France
9 - L'Atalante, France
10 - Triumph of the Will, Germany

It's funny the America was still way ahead of every other country when the sound came, after a decade in which everything was about Germany and Russia. If we had a champion for every decade, it'd be like this:

20's: Gold: Germany Silver: Russia Bronze: USA
30's: G: USA S: France B: Germany
40's: G: USA S: Italy B: UK
50's: G: Japan S: USA B: Italy
60's: G: France S: Japan B: UK
70's: G: USA S: Japan B: Germany
80's: G: Hong Kong S: Japan B: France
90's: G: Iran S: China B: USA
2000's: G: South Korea S: France B: Romania

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Here is my top 16 of 30s movies (impossible to narrow down: so many great films here!)

All quiet on the western front (1930) - The best war movie ever made. A technical marvel as well, considering this was made only a couple of years after the first talkie.

M (1931) - The best European movie of the decade: Peter Lorre is simply perfect.

Freaks (1932) - The amount of heart that Todd Browning puts into this is stunning.

King Kong (1933) - Surely one of the most influential movies ever made

It Happened One Night (1934) - Despite being 80 years old, still as modern a romcom as you could hope for

Bride of Frankenstein (1935) - what every horro movie should aspire to be

Captain Blood (1935) - One of the best adventure yarns I have seen in my lifetime.

Fury (1936) - Fritz Lang's crowning achievement. Unsettling in all its bleakness.

Snow White (1937) - A prime example of how ambition can pay off big time.

Make Way for Tomorrow (1937) - I love The Awful Truth but Leo McCarey himself said that his Oscar for that movie should have been awarded for this one. Orson Welles could it the movie that would make a stone cry. The final half hour is simply perfect. A forgotten classic that should take its place among the true movie greats!

Bringing Up Baby (1938) - Screwball at its most inventive

The adventures of Robin Hood (1938) - Glorious technicolor and superb direction.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) - Frank Capra's best: wins you over with its honest naivity

Ninotchka (1939) - Lubitsch directing a Billy Wilder script? No wonder its a comedy gem!

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939) - The best Sherlock Holmes movie ever oozes atmosphere

The Wizard of Oz (1939) - I don't know anyone who doesn't love this movie.

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDieter

I think the best war movie ever made is Larisa Shepitko's The Ascent. If you like to champion women directors, you should try this masterpiece. The Criterion edition is gorgeous.r

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

1. All Quiet on the Western Front
2. City Lights
3. It Happened One Night
4. Stagecoach
5. Ninotchka
6. M
7. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
8. Dodsworth
9. Modern Times
10. Bringing Up Baby

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterhcu

Grand Hotel was on TCM a few days ago... I love Garbo, but she is total RuPaul Drag Race in that role.

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBia

Wow! I've seen all of your top ten except L'Atalante. I should definitely watch that one since I liked all the titles you mentioned.

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterkent

Favorites -- as opposed to my sense of what is best. In chronological order:

City Lights
Duck Soup
The Thin Man
Top Hat
A Night at the Opera
Theodora Goes Wild
The Adventures of Robin Hood
Holiday
The Lady Vanishes
Stagecoach

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMythical Monkey

Loving all the Bringing Up Baby mentions. Hands down my favourite film of the '30s, and I'd currently call it my second favourite of all time to boot. Just sublime comedy, I've still found nothing that makes me laugh so heavily and so consistently.

The rest of my top ten would include The Scarlet Empress, Holiday ('38 - did it ever get better than Grant and Hepburn?), The Lady Vanishes, Gone With the Wind, Modern Times, A Night at the Opera, Trouble in Paradise, Alexander Nevsky and Bachelor Mother (remind me to get round to that blog post on Ginger Rogers sans Fred sometime).

The '40s has more gilded classics, but I prefer the wildness in the '30s - the sharp shift from pre-Code to buttoned up good behaviour, the post-Depression blues to the rumble of War, the discovery of new technologies... a more volatile decade and for my money, more thrilling for it.

Oh, and the only one I've not seen from your (super) top ten is Dodsworth. I know Glenn wasn't totally sold a week or so back, but I'm still intrigued, and when you AND Nick Davis are such fans...

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

WHAT?!? No love for Errol Flynn in "The Adventures of Robin Hood"? Definitely be in my Top 5, along with several of the others ("Only Angels Have Wings" "Gone With The Wind" "The Wizard of Oz" "The Women").

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDback

I take my top ten back: Only Angels Have Wings is my number two, and the best non-Chaplin movie os the 30's

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

I'm in total agreement with those who'd put City Lights on the list, but then it's my number 1 of all time. I definitely feel the love for It Happened One Night and My Man Godfrey, such a great films.

What about You Can't Take It With You? Been a while since I've seen it, but I remember it being sublimely ridiculous.

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSusanP

A brain teaser for Tuesday, fun!! Of course the list for me could be different tomorrow, most of the films would be the same but positioned differently. I did come up with 11 though and had to make a choice so at least one would probably change.

1. Gone with the Wind-Vivien, Clark, Olivia, Hattie and a whole lot of drama keeps you spellbound for almost 4 hours.
2. Dark Victory-For me Bette's best performance alongside All About Eve.
3. The Adventures of Robin Hood-A joyful ride.
4. The Wizard of Oz-Just magical.
5. Wuthering Heights-Populated with contemptible characters Wyler manages to spin this into a lyrical, ridiculously romantic, and gossamer gem.
6. Camille-The essence of Garbo in one film.
7. Libeled Lady-Four great stars working at top steam. Jean Harlow was never better
8. The Thin Man-What perfect chemistry can make of simple material
9. I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang-Haunting
10. The Sisters-Another Bette and one of her lesser known films but I've always had a soft spot for it. She suffers, Errol Flynn is dashing, Anita Louise beautiful and Henry Travers and Beulah Bondi great as her parents. Plus the San Francisco earthquake without Jeanette MacDonald trilling in my face!

Nathaniel I seen all of yours except L'Atalante, I'll have to keep an eye out for it. All great films, Bringing Up Baby was my 11th. I could have easily come up with a list of 20 or more!

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

Dear Nathaniel: This is your Top 6 comedies/musicals of the 1930s! How about a new list: Top 10 dramas of the 1930s?

I agree with your comeides, but my dramas would take up some of those spots:

Gone With the Wind
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
Jezebel
Camille
Dark Victory
Wuthering Heights
The Good Earth
La Grande Illusion
Rules of the Game

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos

After a night's sleep, I'd have to replace one of the Bette Davis films on my list with The Awful Truth. But don't ask me which one...

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I really love that you found room for Dodsworth, especially since I couldn't!

My ten:

1. Rules of the Game
2. City Lights
3. Duck Soup
4. Only Angels Have Wings
5. You Only Live Once
6. Vampyr
7. The Roaring Twenties
8. L'Atalante
9. M
10. Freaks

This is way too light on comedies, but there you go...

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

Nathan, I haven't seen your 2, 5, 6, 7 or 8, but what a list!

My Top Ten:

The Thin Man
Jezebel
The Awful Truth
Goodbye, Mr. Chips
Gone With The Wind
Top Hat
The Citadel
Libeled Lady
Frankenstein
Dark Victory

Special Mentions: The 39 Steps, Swing Time, Captain Blood

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Marcos -- but that's just the thing. The 30s were MAGIC for comedies. It's impossible to miss it ;)

February 20, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Trouble in Paradise (1932)
It Happened One Night (1934)
The Scarlett Empress (1934)
The Awful Truth (1937)
Snow White and the Huntsman (1937)
Jezebel (1938)
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Gone With the WInd (1939)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
The Women (1939)

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJesper

Great list! Love love love The Women. Can't believe Bening et al made that abysmal remake a few years back

My list would include:
Stella Dallas (with my fav, Barbara Stanwyck)
Ninotchka
Shop Around the Corner
Adventures of Robin Hood
Love Affair (again the likeable Bening disappoints w remake)

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPam

Love Affair
Young and Innocent
Holiday
Red Dust
Dinner at Eight
Little Women
Only Angels Have Wings
The Wizard of Oz
Dodsworth
The Lady Vanishes

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBedeNZ

Oh no! I have seen very few 30s movies and they are:

La Grande Illusion
Gone With The Wind
Stagecoach
Snow White
City Lights
Heidi

La Grande Illusion is the best. Stagecoach was surprisingly boring

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterManuel

I don't love Garbo, sue me. I like some of her performances (Queen Christina), but, to me, she lacks sense of humor and charisma. I think she is a disaster in Ninochtka, and I love Lubitsch and all about this movie but her.

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Jesper -- I love that you loved the 1937 version of SNOW WHITE and the hunstman. Honestly he *was* a good animated side-hero :)

SusanP -- i was actually kind of disappointed with that one. But ridiculous it is.

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commenternathanielr

When I think of 30's movies, I think of tragic romance. They did it right back then. Camille, Wuthering Heights, GTWT... all absolutely outstanding.

As for favorite, I go back and forth between GTWT and Camille.

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

Oops, (G)one (W)ith (T)he (W)ind obviously, not GTWT. :)

February 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

Seriously? The Awful Truth? The rest of your list is great, but the idea that The Awful Truth should be anywhere near a "best of" list, let alone above Trouble in Paradise or L'Atalante, is positively bonkers. Bonkers, I tell ya.

February 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterThe Bengal

The Bengal -- You may be the first person i've ever heard from who does not like that movie! It's SO hilarious. And both Dunne & Grant are perfect. But like i said, a different day a different order but these are my ten favorites (mostly) give or take the "honorable mentions" (another day another order)

February 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

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