Best 20 Films of the 30’s

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  • The rules are here. A little heavy on the French films, but what are you going to do?

  • 1. The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938). A very under-rated comedic thriller with Edward G. Robinson at his best, and a sulky Humphrey Bogart in an early role. Every small role is filled by top-notch supporting actors of the time.
  • 2. Bride of Frankenstein (1935). Let the screaming commence. Probably the best of the early Universal horror films, especially because of the humor in this one.
  • 3. Boys Town (1938). Maybe a little sappy for some, but I like Spencer Tracy’s portrayal and it’s a solid docu-drama.
  • 4. Freaks (1932). Tod Browning’s film is truly a horror film, in every sense of the word. This keeps Browning's Dracula (1931) from consideration on this list.
  • 5. Grand Hotel (1931) A cast of some of the best stars the studio had at the time (both Barrymore's, Garbo, Crawford, and more) make this an interesting view. The story supports it well enough, and this won Best Picture.
  • 6. Grand Illusion (1937). Jean Renoir’s masterpiece with the great Jean Gabin (he's on this list three different times) in the lead. Knocks out Renoir’s Rules of the Game (1939) from this list, which is a shame.
  • 7. It Happened One Night (1934). A simply wonderful film that doesn’t have the syrup pouring off of it like many other Capra films, such as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), and Gable and Colbert are perfect leads.
  • 8. Modern Times (1936). A good combination of slapstick humor with biting satire, this is a great vehicle for Chaplin.
  • 9. Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933). I say Michael Curtiz, and you say Casablanca (1942), but he was a solid director for many years. This one is an early suspense/horror film that actually works really well.
  • 10. Pepe Le Moko (1937). Another film starring Jean Gabin, this is a devilishly good film centered in the Casbah of Algeirs and makes for a gritty look for a very compelling film that matches that grittiness beat for beat.
  • 11. The Lady Vanishes (1938). Hitchcock’s best of the decade has a good blend of comedy and taut suspense. Surprise, surprise.
  • 12. Port of Shadows (1938). Gabin’s third appearance on the list, he plays a down on his luck soldier in this fabulous film by Marcel Carne. Film noir in the States owes a lot to the dark 'poetic realism' genre of the French, and nobody embodies the anti-hero better than Gabin.
  • 13. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). It’s hard to believe that Disney has been making feature films for over 70 years. This one is a classic in every sense of the word.
  • 14. Swing Time (1936). If you can’t find pleasure in Astaire and Rogers, I feel bad for you.
  • 15. The Thin Man (1934). Perhaps the most defining film of the era: a comedic mix of the sexes (Powell and Loy shine), sharp dialogue from Hammett, and a convoluted thriller at its heart.
  • 16. Top Hat (1935). The other Astaire/Rogers pairing may be better than the first one. The tap dancing is out of this world and that title song is still a popular standard for crooners.
  • 17. Trouble in Paradise (1932).Ernst Lubitsch deftly directs this grand film about two thieves made for each other and what might break them apart. Lubitsch goes for the subtle joke, and this one has aged better than many of its contemporaries.
  • 18. Vampyr (1932). Dreyer’s early horror film is solid even if it’s mostly a silent film.
  • 19. The Wizard of Oz (1939). Victor Fleming has a great 1939, but this classic is a little better than Gone with the Wind. A great family film that has one of the most indelible antagonists of all time.
  • 20. Zero for Conduct (1933). Jean Vigo’s bawdy and silly tale of rough and tumble schoolboys is hilarious.