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Top 10 Movies of the 1930s

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Niki Neptune. The 1930s saw Hollywood overcome the Great Depression to begin its Golden Age. For our series of the Best Movies of All Time, we’ve chosen ten movies per decade based on their iconic status, critical acclaim, box-office success, and watchability. And just so you know, we’re not necessarily choosing the movies your film studies professor would pick. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today, in this installment of our series on the greatest movies of all time, we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 movies of the 1930s. Special thanks to our users Andrew A. Dennison, JediMasterJosh3, Moore7Guardian, jwiking62 and TheLolman3433 for submitting the idea on our Suggest Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Transcript
Script written by Niki Neptune.

This decade saw Hollywood overcome the Great Depression to begin its Golden Age. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today, in this installment of our series on the greatest movies of all time, we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 movies of the 1930s.

For our series of the Best Movies of All Time, we’ve chosen ten movies per decade based on their iconic status, critical acclaim, box-office success, and watchability. And just so you know, we’re not necessarily choosing the movies your film studies professor would pick.

So sit back and relax as we follow the yellow brick road, bunk with some dwarves and watch as the monsters take over.

#10: “Frankenstein” (1931)

This Universal Pictures landmark is considered one of the best horror movies ever made, and that’s even among folks who aren’t 100-years-old. Most people are familiar with Frankenstein’s monster, as it’s Boris Karloff’s version of Mary Shelley’s horror monster in this movie and its sequels that made him famous the world over. Acclaimed for its creativity in the horror genre, Universal’s “Frankenstein” is famous for the genuine scares it still delivers to this day.

#9: “All Quiet on the Western Front” (1930)

If the Nazis hated the film, it must’ve been great. Depicting the grim hardships of World War I, the movie follows a group of young men facing the transition into war-hardened soldiers. Credited with establishing film standards for the depiction of war, it influenced future directors like Steven Spielberg in their representations of battle. Winning two Oscars and claiming a spot as one of the greatest American epics, “All Quiet on the Western Front” is an anti-war pioneer.

#8: “It Happened One Night” (1934)

Everyone likes a good romantic comedy, even if they claim they don’t. And in the 1930s, it didn’t hurt to have Clark Gable as headliner. He plays a reporter who crosses paths with a bride on the run from her overbearing father in this screwball Frank Capra romp. After a slow start commercially, the film eventually became the first to sweep the five major Academy Awards categories.

#7: “Stagecoach” (1939)

Set in the 1880s, this John Ford classic follows a band of travelers who board a stagecoach headed for New Mexico. The group includes a sheriff, a prostitute, and a criminal on the run, played by a young John Wayne. As the voyagers make their way across rugged terrain, they face a number of obstacles, including the threat of attack from Apache natives. It’s an iconic western from top to bottom, and one that took home two Oscars.

#6: “King Kong” (1933)

Noted for its stop-motion animation and its incredible story, “King Kong” is a cultural landmark. The plot follows a film crew as they adventure to an unknown island, where they encounter, capture and transport a colossal gorilla. The great ape is doomed from then on, living one last hurrah atop the Empire State Building. Since special-effects awards did not exist, “Kong” was not nominated for any Oscars; but its significance in the fantasy monster/adventure genre cannot be denied.

#5: “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937)

Live-action movies weren’t the only ones making a splash in the ‘30s. This was Disney’s first foray into full-length movies, having previously only made shorts. Following the German fairytale by the Brothers Grimm, the story centers on a princess and her evil stepmother’s murderous jealousy. It became a humungous hit globally, raking in millions at the box-office. But “Snow White” also paved the way for animation and the fantasy genre, and won Walt Disney an honorary Academy Award.

#4: “Modern Times” (1936)

Although it’s a comedy featuring Charlie Chaplin’s famous “Tramp,” “Modern Times” is also laced with social commentary – despite being almost completely silent. Centering on an unemployed factory worker and his female counterpart, the film depicts their attempts to find and maintain work while staying out of jail. The film stirred up controversy with its critical depiction of industry. However, it resonated with audiences and critics alike, as it spoke to the issues associated with navigating the Great Depression.

#3: “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939)

Touching on the theme of corruption in the U.S. government, this political Frank Capra comedy-drama caused an uproar. As a somewhat naïve junior senator, Jimmy Stewart’s Mr. Smith filibusters for a full 24-hours to defend his name and convince those on the Senate floor of his innocence. The depiction of a scheming, underhanded branch of government did not sit well with many U.S. politicians at the time. Even so, “Mr. Smith” was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, winning one.

#2: “The Wizard of Oz” (1939)

Piggybacking off the success of “Snow White,” “The Wizard of Oz” was met with critical acclaim upon its release, but slowly trudged towards commercial success. In all its Technicolor glory, the movie follows Dorothy Gale’s adventures through a fictitious land and her journey back to Kansas. For all its glitter, pizzazz and ageless music, “The Wizard” has become one of the most famous films ever made thanks to L. Frank Baum’s timeless story, which makes a child of us all.

Honorable Mentions

- “M” (1931)
- “City Lights” (1931)
- “The Rules of the Game” [“La Règle du jeu”] (1939)
- “Of Mice and Men” (1939)
- “Dracula” (1931)
- “La Grande Illusion” (1937)

#1: “Gone with the Wind” (1939)

Set in the war-torn South during the Civil War, the film focuses on young Scarlett O’Hara as she navigates her romantic life as her home is ravaged by conflict. With a runtime that exceeds 220-minutes, the film was one of the longest to that point. While it’s since been accused of historical revisionism, “Gone with the Wind” was rewarded for its ambition with a record number of Academy Awards, including an historic Oscar for African-American actress Hattie McDaniel.

Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite movie of the ‘30s? For more thrilling top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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