Best Movies of the 1940s
Here are our picks for the best films from the 40s!
Honorable Mention: Foreign Correspondent
One of Alfred Hitchcock's earliest American films is this gem from 1940. While it was unfairly overshadowed by his Oscar-winning film Rebecca, Foreign Correspondent is just as stylish and remains more of a signature Hitchcock film. It's got some great action set pieces and thrilling scenes throughout it's entire two-hour runtime.
Walt Disney took a big risk with this experimental film from 1940. Fantasia is a collection of animated shorts set to some of the most recognizable and memorable pieces of music ever recorded. It's most famous segment features Mickey Mouse stealing a wizard's magical hat for some help with his chores which quickly gets out of his white-gloved, four-fingered hands.
9. Red River
John Wane established himself as the quintessential western hero in Howard Hawks production Red River. The film features some stunning cinematography as Hawks beautifully captures the American frontier. It's got great action, intense character drama, and some laughs too.
8. Double Indemnity
One of the best film noirs of all time, Double Indemnity also features some electric, witty dialogue. Barbara Swanwick delivers the ultimate femme fatale performance and Fred MacMurray changes up his straight-laced persona for a sly and scheming insurance salesman. It's underrated writer/director Billy Wilder's best film and it still holds up today.
7. The Grapes of Wrath
In what may be genius director John Ford's greatest achievement, Henry Fonda stars as a young man who must take his family across country to survive during the Great Depression. The Grapes of Wrath features stellar performances, a harrowing story, and important themes. This is one of the best American dramas.
6. It's a Wonderful Life
The ultimate holiday classic, Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life is a heartfelt story of love and family. It's a well-written screenplay and features fantastic performances from Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, and Lionel Barrymore. It's emotional, hilarious, and meaningful.
5. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Writer/Director John Huston's father Walter Huston won a much deserved Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance here alongside Humphrey Bogart and Tim Holt. Based on the book of the same name, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre has three men set out to find gold who end up learning valuable lessons about materialism, paranoia, and determination. It's a must-see and keeps you engaged from start to finish.
A classic folk tale, Pinocchio remains one of the best animated movies of all time. Disney and his team brought these characters to life, and although this story has been retold countless times on film, none compare to this version. The gorgeous songs, beautiful animation, and important morals, all come together to create a true classic.
3. The Maltese Falcon
The Maltese Falcon brings us into the seedy underworld of private detectives and crime lords as several people vie for the same coveted item for their own selfish reasons. The cast is what makes it so great as Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, Mary Astor, Elisha Cook Jr., Gladys George, and Syndey Greenstreet all deliver knock-out performances as greedy and deceptive individuals. It's a story full of twists and turns and the ultimate comeuppance.
2. Citizen Kane
A surprising and sad story that unfortunately mirrored real life, Orson Welles' greatest achievement is the reason we have movies today. It broke new ground with it's cinematography, lighting, editing, and non-linear narrative storytelling. The brilliance of this film cannot be overstated and it's impactful moral should be taken to heart.
The best film of the 1940s is Casablanca. This is the greatest romance of all time, but one that's also completely unconventional. Michael Curtiz directs this story of forbidden love flawlessly. In the movies the lead characters must choose to do what's right or give in to their own selfish desires as a gin joint owner meet his ex-flame and her husband as they must evade the Germans in Nazi-occupied Moracco to escape to France and join the resistance. It's intense, dramatic, romantic, and features the best screenplay ever written which is delivered wonderfully by it's brilliant cast including Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, and Paul Henreid.