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
The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933)

The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933), 88 minutes, D: Frank Capra

Bombshell (1933)

Bombshell (1933), 90 minutes, D: Victor Fleming
A satirical farce with many inside jokes about Hollywood and the movie business. Movie sex symbol Lola (Jean Harlow) is thwarted by studio press agents and directors, so she tries to change her image. She leaves Hollywood and goes to Palm Springs, where she falls for Gifford Middleton (Franchot Tone), a upperclass snob, but leaves him too when her father is snubbed by him. When she returns to the movie studio, she realizes that her unscrupulous publicity director Space (Lee Tracy) has set her up, hiring Middleton and others in his "family" as impersonators, in order to get her to return to the movies.

Cavalcade (1933)

Cavalcade (1933), 110 minutes, D: Frank Lloyd
An adaptation of Noel Coward's stage play, a Best Picture-winning film. The story of the 30 years of hardships suffered by the Marryot family from the Boer War through the Depression. A big budget production, with epochal scenes and an anti-war attitude.

Dinner at Eight (1933)

Dinner at Eight (1933), 113 minutes, D: George Cukor
A star packed classic masterpiece. A Park Avenue snob Mrs. Oliver Jordan (Billie Burke) invites an assortment of guests to come to a formal dinner party, ignoring the ailments of her husband (Lionel Barrymore). From the time of the invitations to the actual dinner party, vignettes tell the story of the invited individuals, including forgotten stage star Carlotta Vance (Marie Dressler), fading matinee idol Larry Renault (John Barrymore), and the battling Packard couple including brassy blonde Kitty (Jean Harlow) and entrepreneur Dan (Wallace Beery).

Duck Soup (1933)

Duck Soup (1933), 70 minutes, D: Leo McCarey
An anarchistic, satirical, zany, anti-war film, one of the Marx Brothers' finest. Mrs. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont), wealthy millionaire supporter of the financially strapped, tiny country of Freedonia, decides to appoint a new president, dictatorial Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho). War clouds threaten almost immediately when Firefly insults neighboring Sylvania's ambassador Trentino (Louis Calhern). Chicolini (Chico) and Brownie (Harpo) are hired as incompetent spies sent to get war plans. With classic diplomatic blunders, comic combat, terrific one-liners, slapstick gags, and great political humor.

Footlight Parade (1933)

Footlight Parade (1933)
, 104 minutes, D. Lloyd Bacon
One of the three most spectacular musicals in 1933 from Warner Bros. and legendary choreographer Busby Berkeley, alongside 42nd Street (1933) and Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933) - with this entry often considered the best of all three. The film is also notable for its suggestive pre-Hays Code dialogue and scenes. It stars James Cagney in his first, big singing-and-dancing musical role as unemployed yet enterprising Broadway theatrical producer Chester Kent, with Joan Blondell as his loyal secretary Nan Prescott. Its familiar plot, a backstage tale about putting on a lavish show, revolves around the production of live music numbers (called "prologues") for movie theatres to present before features, to give stage performers work who had been rendered unemployed by the advent of the "talkies." The thin plot is basically an excuse to show off the elaborate and extravagant Berkeley production numbers, especially the three showstoppers at the end of the film: "Honeymoon Hotel," "By a Waterfall" with gorgeous bathing beauties, and "Shanghai Lil" (providing commentary on Paramount's Shanghai Lily character (Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express (1932) from the year before)).

42nd Street (1933)

42nd Street (1933), 89 minutes, D: Lloyd Bacon
The quintessential backstage musical, a terrific song and dance Busby Berkeley choreographic extravaganza. An ailing Broadway director Julian Marsh (Warner Baxter) puts one last effort into a Broadway musical. But at the last minute right before opening night, it appears doomed when the leading dancer Dorothy Brock (Bebe Daniels) breaks her ankle. The show is saved when inexperienced chorus girl and understudy Peggy Sawyer's (Ruby Keeler) dream is realized, and she is trained in a marathon rehearsal.

Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933), 96 minutes, D: Mervyn LeRoy
Warner Bros. follow up to the hugely successful 42nd Street, again with spectacular Busby Berkeley numbers. The story of a Broadway show and intrigue surrounding its financial backing. Includes "We're In the Money," "Pettin' in the Park," "Brother Can You Spare a Dime," "Shadow Waltz," and "Remember My Forgotten Man," a tribute to unemployed WWI veterans.

I'm No Angel (1933)

I'm No Angel (1933), 87 minutes, D: Wesley Ruggles
One of Mae West's funniest films. The star of a side show act is carnival dancer and lion tamer Tira (Mae West). She pursues playboy Jack Clayton (Cary Grant), but later sues him for breach of promise. In the hilarious courtroom scene, he counters by assembling all her ex-lovers, but then allows her to win the case.

The Invisible Man (1933)

The Invisible Man (1933), 71 minutes, D: James Whale
H.G. Wells' tale, beautifully executed as a classic, Universal horror thriller. An obsessed scientist Jack Griffin (Claude Rains) creates a chemical formula compound that makes him irreversibly invisible (with spectacular special effects) without any counter-agent. At first, the effects are comedic, but the serum slowly turns him into an insane megalomaniac, and he wreaks havoc on a British country village.

King Kong (1933)

King Kong (1933), 100 minutes, D: Merian C. Cooper
One of the greatest adventure and monster classics of all time, from RKO. Nature documentary filmmaker Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) finds destitute and beautiful Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) and hires her to join a chartered ship expedition to the mysterious and remote Skull Island. He discovers and captures a giant ape, King Kong (a marvel of stop-motion animation), using Ann as bait. The scenes between the blonde, screaming maiden and Kong are bristling with fear and sexual overtones. A terrific scene includes Kong's island battle with a Tyrannosaurus. Kong is transported to New York City and put on display. Tormented by crowds, he escapes and creates havoc in the city. After breaking free, he seeks out Ann, and takes her to the top of the Empire State Building in the thrilling climax.

Land Without Bread (1933, Sp.) (aka Las Hurdes, or Terre Sans Pain)

Land Without Bread (1933, Sp.) (aka Las Hurdes, or Terre Sans Pain), 27 minutes, D: Luis Buñuel

Little Women (1933)

Little Women (1933), 117 minutes, D: George Cukor
Regarded as the best of all versions. A delightful and faithful screen adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic American story of the March sisters and the sorrows and joys of the New England family. Father March has gone off to fight in the Civil War, so the family is left with four very independent sisters who are all coming of age, including an outstanding Katharine Hepburn as tomboy Jo, who wants to be a writer. Each of the sisters finds independence and strength, and some find romance.

Morning Glory (1933)

Morning Glory (1933), 74 minutes, D: Lowell Sherman
A headstrong, stagestruck, small-town girl from New England, Eva Lovelace (Katharine Hepburn) wishes to be an actress in the big city of New York, and make it big on Broadway. She shows incredible will and determination following disappointments, until she finally gets her big break. Hepburn's role parallels her real-life career experience. Notable as the film in which Hepburn won her first Oscar for Best Actress.

The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933, UK)

The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933, UK), 97 minutes, D: Alexander Korda
The well-known historical drama, the chronicling of the life of the famous 16th century ruler, the eccentric, spoiled, despotic and much-married King Henry VIII (Charles Laughton), notoriously known for his gluttony and frequent beheading of his wives. The film centers on his many wives and his battle with Sir Thomas More over the creation of the Church of England. Also a terrific performance by Elsa Lanchester as one of his wives, Anne of Cleves.

Queen Christina (1933)

Queen Christina (1933), 97 minutes, D: Rouben Mamoulian
A classic, romantic, ethereal performance by Greta Garbo. The lovely 17th century queen of Sweden, Queen Christina (Greta Garbo), rather than being forced into the possibility of a political marriage, escapes to a country inn dressed in a young man's clothes. She accidently meets and finds love with the new Spanish ambassador Don Antonio (John Gilbert). She reveals her true self and has a passionate love affair with him. She shocks all of Europe by abdicating her throne for love. The final image of the film is famous.

She Done Him Wrong (1933)

She Done Him Wrong (1933), 66 minutes, D: Lowell Sherman
A lusty Gay 90s spoof, with racy dialogue and great one-liners. Liberated and buxom Mae West is Bowery saloon owner and madame Diamond Lil. She tells handsome and dashing Salvation Army mission director Captain Cummings (actually an undercover cop (Cary Grant)) her most famous line: "Come up sometime 'n see me."

Sons of the Desert (1933)

Sons of the Desert (1933), 68 minutes, D: William A. Seiter
One of Laurel and Hardy's best films. The two of them want to attend a fraternal Sons of the Desert convention in Chicago, so they fool their wives into believing that Oliver (with Stan) has to take an ocean cruise to Hawaii for health reasons. Problems arise when the ship back from the islands sinks, they are seen by their wives in a newsreel filmed at the convention, and the pair must explain how they have returned one day ahead of all the other survivors.

Zero De Conduite (1933, Fr.) (aka Zero For Conduct)

Zéro de Conduite: Jeunes Diables au Collège (1933, Fr.) (aka Zero For Conduct), 41 minutes, D: Jean Vigo

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