Greatest Films of the 1940s
Greatest Films of the 1940s

Greatest Films of the 1940s
1940 | 1941 | 1942 | 1943 | 1944 | 1945 | 1946 | 1947 | 1948 | 1949


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

The Bicycle Thief (1948, It.) (aka Ladri di Biciclette), 98 minutes, D: Vittorio De Sica

Easter Parade (1948), 103 minutes, D: Charles Walters

Force of Evil (1948), 78 minutes, D: Abraham Polonsky

Hamlet (1948, UK), 155 minutes, D: Laurence Olivier

I Remember Mama (1948), 95 minutes, D: George Stevens

Johnny Belinda (1948), 102 minutes, D: Jean Negulesco

Key Largo (1948), 101 minutes, D: John Huston
An intelligent, exciting, theatrical, but moody, downbeat crime drama/thriller (and melodramatic film noir) about a bullying, fugitive gangster Johnny Rocco (Robinson), who is on-the-run with fellow mobsters and his alcoholic lush moll and ex-nightclub singer, Gaye Dawn (Claire Trevor). In a Florida Keys hotel in the off-season during a violent, tropical hurricane, the snarling Rocco waits for counterfeit money, prepares to flee to Cuba, and holds the various residents hostage: Frank McCloud (Humphrey Bogart), a disillusioned, returning war-scarred veteran who is visiting the newly-widowed Nora Temple (Lauren Bacall) and her wheelchair-bound father-in-law and hotel manager James Temple (Lionel Barrymore) - the father of his friend that died under his WWII command in Italy. Adapted from Maxwell Anderson's stage play by director Huston and Richard Brooks, the plot resembles Bogart's earlier film The Petrified Forest (1936).

The Lady From Shanghai (1948), 87 minutes, D: Orson Welles
Welles' imaginative, complicated, unsettling film noir who-dun-it thriller - a B/W tale of betrayal, lust, greed and murder. With fascinating visuals and tilting compositions, luminous and brilliant camerawork (by Charles Lawton, Jr.), and numerous sub-plots and confounding plot twists. Orson Welles served as director, producer, screenplay writer, and actor, and based his screenplay upon Sherwood King's 1938 novel If I Die Before I Wake. The moody film, originally titled Take This Woman and then Black Irish, was made when major stars Orson Welles and sexy Rita Hayworth (with dyed and bobbed bleached-blonde hair) in her last film under contract to Columbia Pictures) were still married although estranged and drifting apart. Poor Irish seaman Michael O'Hara (Orson Welles), after rescuing Mrs. Elsa 'Rosalie' Bannister (Rita Hayworth) and becoming mesmerized by her - the enigmatic wife of a crippled San Francisco trial lawyer named Arthur Bannister (Everett Sloane), he joins her yachting cruise as a crew member from New York to San Francisco (via the Panama Canal), and finds himself embroiled in a love affair and a mysterious plot (to kill Bannister's creepy business partner George Grisby (Glenn Anders)) that turns deadly and implicates him in murder. [The numerous close-ups of Rita Hayworth in the film were later added by Welles in Hollywood upon orders of the studio, to lend strength to her 'star' power.] The film, told through O'Hara's narration, was shot on locations including Acapulco, San Francisco, and at Columbia Studios sets, and features numerous classic set-pieces including: the aquarium scene, and the funhouse and Hall of Mirrors shoot-out climax. Ultimately, the film's length was severely cut down by one hour, creating an almost incomprehensible, discontinuous, cryptic patchwork from numerous retakes and substantial edits. Although it was filmed in late 1946 and finished in early 1947, it wasn't released until late in 1948. The film was mostly ignored - it failed both at the box-office and as a critical success.

Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948), 87 minutes, D: Max Ophuls
An emotionally-complex, bittersweet, old-fashioned, tearjerker romance, told with flashbacks, about Lisa Berndl (Joan Fontaine), a beautiful young woman with a childhood crush and doomed love for a charmingly suave, philandering concert pianist Stefan Brand (Louis Jourdan) in 19th century Vienna. The night before the cavalier, callow pianist is due to fight a duel for offending a lady's honor with Lisa's husband, he receives a letter from a strange, unknown woman (who has since died). Through the letter, he learns for the first time about the young girl, his next-door neighbor, and her undying love that she felt for him through the years, including a pregnancy and son.

Louisiana Story (1948), 78 minutes, D: Robert J. Flaherty

The Naked City (1948), 96 minutes, D: Jules Dassin

Oliver Twist (1948, UK), 116 minutes, D: David Lean

The Paleface (1948), 91 minutes, D: Norman Z. McLeod

Red River (1948), 133 minutes, D: Howard Hawks
A classic 40s Western, one of the best American westerns, from action director Howard Hawks, featuring Montgomery Clift in his first film. The story of a father/son battle of wills and the first monumental, historic cattle drive along the Chisholm Trail to Abilene. Texas rancher Tom Dunson (John Wayne), a self-made, dictatorial, vicious, authoritarian father is stubbornly pitted against his adopted son Matthew Garth (Montgomery Clift). Their vicious confrontations, capped by Dunson's tyrannical, unbearably harsh treatment of deserters, leads to a mutinous revolt - a western Mutiny on the Bounty - when the cowpokes support the natural leader - Matt. Dunson vows to pursue and kill his son that climaxes in an inevitable, brutal fist-fight and show-down.

The Red Shoes (1948, UK), 133 minutes, D: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
An exquisite musical tragedy, taken from Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale of the same name. An ambitious young English ballerina (Moira Shearer) is made a star by mentor impresario (Anton Walbrook) of the Lermontov Ballet Company. But she is soon torn between the struggling composer (Marius Goring) who can offer nothing but his love and the obsessed impresario who can further her dancing career. Includes a wonderful 15-minute balletic performance. From the masterful directing/producing team of Powell and Pressburger, and filmed in breathtaking, gorgeous Technicolor.

Rope (1948), 80 minutes, D: Alfred Hitchcock

The Snake Pit (1948), 108 minutes, D: Anatole Litvak

Sorry, Wrong Number (1948), 89 minutes, D: Anatole Litvak

Spring in a Small Town (1948, China) (aka Xiao cheng zhi chun), 98 minutes, D: Mu Fei

State of the Union (1948), 123 minutes, D: Frank Capra

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), 119 minutes, D: John Huston
Director and screenwriter John Huston's classic adventure film about three American gold prospectors in the Mexican wilderness - a tale of lustful greed, treachery, paranoia and suspicion. The three ill-matched men include an innocent, honest young Curtin (Tim Holt), a wise and experienced, fast-talking, grizzly, toothless old-timer Howard (Walter Huston, the director's father), and Fred C. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart), a greedy, deranged, selfish bastard who distrusts everyone. Their gold booty strike and fortune breeds violence, threatening Mexican bandits led by Gold Hat (Alfonso Bedoya), an end to their friendships, and the homicidal undoing of the avaricious Dobbs when he is killed for his boots and mule. Ends with an ironic climactic scene when the wind blows the gold dust away.

Unfaithfully Yours (1948), 105 minutes, D: Preston Sturges

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