Greatest Films of the 1930s
Greatest Films of the 1930s

Greatest Films of the 1930s
1930 | 1931 | 1932 | 1933 | 1934 | 1935 | 1936 | 1937 | 1938 | 1939


Title Screen Film Genre(s), Title, Year, (Country), Length, Director, Description
Arrowsmith (1931)

Arrowsmith (1931), 108 minutes, D: John Ford
A film adaptation from a Sinclair Lewis novel. A small-town, idealistic, young, and dedicated research doctor, Dr. Martin Arrowsmith (Ronald Colman) tries to remain true to his medical ethics. He leaves his practice to conduct research to help stop bubonic plague in the West Indies. He suffers personal tribulations when his pure wife Leora (Helen Hayes) dies. Tempted by commercial interests and quick, big money offers, he nearly strays from his calling, but remains true to his idealism, although tempted by a vampish rich girl's love, Joyce Lanyon (Myrna Loy).

Bad Girl (1931)

Bad Girl (1931), 90 minutes, D: Frank Borzage
A simple love story, a touching melodrama of the hardships of a young, lower-income New York couple who must marry when the wife Dorothy (Sally Eilers) unexpectedly gets pregnant.

The Champ (1931)

The Champ (1931), 85 minutes, D: King Vidor
A sports-related film and great, sentimental tearjerker, the story of a down-and-out ex-heavyweight boxing Andy 'Champ' Purcell (Wallace Beery) and his adoring son Dink (Jackie Cooper). Training in Tijuana for an eventual comeback, he is also a drinker and a gambler. He is threatened with separation from his boy when the boy's mother Linda (Irene Rich) who had abandoned them, now married to a wealthy husband, returns for him. In the climactic boxing bout, the Champ wins the match, but dies with his son by his side in the locker room.

La Chienne (1931, Fr.) (aka The Bitch)

La Chienne (1931, Fr.) (aka The Bitch), 91 minutes, D: Jean Renoir

City Lights (1931)

City Lights (1931), 87 minutes, D: Charles Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin's greatest masterpiece, the last of his totally silent films. As the Little Tramp, he falls in love with a blind flower girl (Virginia Cherrill), and also develops a friendship with a drunken millionaire (Harry Meyers). Unable to see him, she believes he is wealthy. He uses money from the millionaire for an operation to restore the girl's sight. A moving, eloquent film with a priceless ending, when the girl learns the identity of her benefactor.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), 90 minutes, D: Rouben Mamoulian
From Robert Louis Stevenson's classic novel. The story of a fatally curious doctor, Dr. Henry Jekyll (Fredric March) who adventures into the unknown. He self-tests a serum formula that releases the uninhibited, subconscious evil in his soul, and develops a monstrous split personality as Mr. Hyde. As the hideous Mr. Hyde, he cruelly brutalizes and victimizes prostitute Ivy Pearson (Miriam Hopkins). In the finale, he is hunted and killed by London police, who gasp to see him revert to Dr. Jekyll in death.

Dracula (1931)

Dracula (1931), 75 minutes, D: Tod Browning
A film that defined the genre of horror pictures. A creepy, weird, and frightening film with tremendous atmosphere and dialogue. Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi) plays the Transylvanian vampire, with a lilting Hungarian accent. He moves from Europe to London to find his true love and satisfy his craving for human blood. He lures and victimizes innocent English women, leading them to his underground vaults. In a secondary role, Dracula's insane slave Renfield (Dwight Frye) is unforgettable.

Frankenstein (1931)

Frankenstein (1931), 71 minutes, D: James Whale
A great horror classic. An obsessed Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Colin Clive) creates the hideous monster Frankenstein (Boris Karloff) out of body pieces, including a criminal brain. Karloff's rendition of the pathetic, innocent figure is superb. When the mad doctor's creation accidently drowns a little girl, the angry townspeople attack the creature.

M (1931, Germ.)

M (1931, Germ.), 117 minutes, D: Fritz Lang
Fritz Lang's first sound film, an expressionistic psychological thriller about a child molester named Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre) who terrorized the German city of Berlin. As he approached his targets, he compulsively whistled Grieg's Hall of the Mountain King, and was later marked by underworld members with the letter M on his back, until caught and tried in a kangaroo court, and then by a conventional court. A highly influential film.

Le Million (1931, Fr.) (aka The Million)

Le Million (1931, Fr.) (aka The Million), 89 minutes, D: René Clair

A Nous La Liberte (1931, Fr.) (aka Freedom For Us)

À Nous la Liberté (1931, Fr.) (aka Freedom For Us), 104 minutes, D: René Clair

The Public Enemy (1931)

The Public Enemy (1931), 83 minutes, D: William A. Wellman
A powerfully stunning gangster film, the film that made James Cagney a star. Two young Chicago street toughs who grow up during Prohibition become small-time thieves, bootleggers and then gangsters. This is a larger than life portrayal of one of the kids, who becomes a vicious, brutal, arrogant Irish gangster, Tom Powers (James Cagney). The film is memorably known for the infamous scene of his nagging mistress Kitty (Mae Clarke) having a grapefruit smashed in her face.

The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1931)

The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1931), 74 minutes, D: Edgar Selwyn
A sentimental tale of a French woman Madelon Claudet (Helen Hayes) who has an illegitimate son. She is forced to give him up, loses her social standing, and becomes a haggard streetwalker. She secretly devotes her entire life to her son (Robert Young), even supporting him financially in medical school.

The Smiling Lieutenant (1931)

The Smiling Lieutenant (1931), 102 minutes, D: Ernst Lubitsch
A comedy about Niki (Maurice Chevalier), a Viennese officer of the guards who leaves his mistress, a violinist named Franzi (Claudette Colbert) for a visiting Austrian princess, Princess Anna (Miriam Hopkins).

Tabu (1931) (aka Tabu: A Story of the South Seas)

Tabu (1931) (aka Tabu: A Story of the South Seas), 84 minutes, D: F.W. Murnau

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