1940's Movies

Updated
1940's Movies

Many films have explored 1940's Movies. Here are 21 of the best ones.

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

It's a Wonderful Life
★★★★
★★★★
3.4 out of 4 stars

From Frank Capra, starring James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell
Rated PG

It's a Wonderful Life is a classic Christmas movie about George Bailey, a man who has given up his dreams of a life of travel and adventure to help his small hometown, Bedford Falls. George's guardian angel, Clarence, reveals to him what life would have been like if he had never been born. Through this experience, George learns to appreciate the life he has and the people he loves. The movie shows the importance of family, friends, and community and has become a timeless holiday favorite.

Casablanca (1942)

Casablanca
★★★★
★★★★
3.4 out of 4 stars

From Michael Curtiz, starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains
Rated PG

Casablanca is a classic and beloved romantic drama set during World War II. It tells the story of Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), an American expatriate who owns a nightclub and gambling den in the Moroccan city of Casablanca. Through a series of circumstances, he comes into contact with his former lover, Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), who is now married to a Czech Resistance leader. As the film progresses, Blaine is forced to choose between sacrificing his own happiness for a greater cause or letting Ilsa go again. In the end, Blaine makes a noble sacrifice, solidifying his position as one of cinema's greatest heroes. Along with its iconic characters and memorable quotes, Casablanca won three Academy Awards and has become a timeless classic.

Double Indemnity (1944)

Double Indemnity
★★★★
★★★★
3.3 out of 4 stars

From Billy Wilder, starring Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson, Byron Barr
Rated Passed

Double Indemnity is a 1944 film noir directed by Billy Wilder. It tells the story of an insurance salesman, Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray), who is drawn into a deadly scheme by a femme fatale, Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck). In an attempt to get out of a loveless marriage, Phyllis concocts a plan to kill her husband and collect on his life insurance policy. Walter is drawn in, and they eventually commit the crime, but not without a few complications along the way. The film follows the pair as they struggle to keep their scheme a secret, while also trying to avoid the suspicion of the insurance company's claims investigator, Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson). The film features themes such as betrayal and greed, and is recognized as one of the early classic films of the film noir genre.

Citizen Kane (1941)

Citizen Kane
★★★★
★★★★
3.3 out of 4 stars

From Orson Welles, starring Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Comingore, Agnes Moorehead
Rated PG

Citizen Kane is a classic 1941 American drama film written, produced, and directed by Orson Welles and loosely based on the life of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. It stars Welles as Charles Foster Kane, a powerful newspaper tycoon whose life is explored in a jumbled narrative, told in flashback by a reporter seeking to uncover the meaning of Kane's dying words, “Rosebud”. The story follows Kane's rise to fame and power, his tumultuous personal life, and his eventual descent into madness and death. The drama features a stellar ensemble cast including Joseph Cotten, Everett Sloane, Agnes Moorehead, and Dorothy Comingore. With its innovative cinematography, complex narrative structure, and daring challenges to film industry conventions, Citizen Kane is widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time.

Children of Paradise (1945)

Children of Paradise
★★★★
★★★★
3.3 out of 4 stars

From Marcel Carné, starring Arletty, Jean-Louis Barrault, Pierre Brasseur, Pierre Renoir
Rated Not Rated

Children of Paradise is a French film from 1945 directed by Marcel Carné. It tells the story of four men who love the same woman in 19th century Paris. The film follows Garance, a beautiful courtesan, as she is pursued by the mime Baptiste, the actor Frédérick, the thief Pierre and the count Édouard. As their stories intertwine, the men are forced to confront the harsh realities of their lives and the social gulf that separates them. Along the way, they learn lessons about the power of love, the beauty of art, and the importance of friendship. Ultimately, each of them discovers the power of their own humanity. The film is widely regarded as one of the greatest French films ever made.

Bicycle Thieves (1948)

Bicycle Thieves
★★★★
★★★★
3.3 out of 4 stars

From Vittorio De Sica, starring Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola, Lianella Carell, Elena Altieri
Rated Not Rated

Bicycle Thieves tells the story of Antonio Ricci, an unemployed man in post-WWII Italy who is desperate to find work. When he finally lands a job as a poster hanger, the only catch is that he must have a bicycle to get to and from his job. He and his wife pawn their bed sheets and buy a bicycle, which is almost immediately stolen. Antonio and his son, Bruno, then spend the rest of the movie searching Rome for his bicycle. Along the way, they are confronted with the harsh realities of life in postwar Italy and the growing social unrest. In the end, Antonio's search is unsuccessful and he is left broken and defeated.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
★★★★
★★★★
3.3 out of 4 stars

From John Huston, starring Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt, Bruce Bennett
Rated Passed

"The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" is a 1948 American adventure drama directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, and Tim Holt. Two down-and-out American drifters, Fred Dobbs (Bogart) and Bob Curtin (Holt), meet an old prospector (Walter Huston) in Mexico and decide to join him in search of gold in the Mexican Sierra Madre. After experiencing the harshness of the desert and the dangers of pursuing their treasure, the men find themselves at odds with each other. Greed and paranoia soon overtake them, leading to a dramatic, violent climax.

The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

The Grapes of Wrath
★★★★
★★★★
3.2 out of 4 stars

From John Ford, starring Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell, John Carradine, Charley Grapewin
Rated Passed

The Grapes of Wrath is a 1940 American drama film directed by John Ford. It is based on John Steinbeck's 1939 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name. The film tells the story of the Joad family, a poor farming family from Oklahoma who are forced to leave their home and migrate to California in search of work and a better life. After facing many hardships along the way, the Joads eventually find a home in California. But their struggles are far from over as they must also face the harsh realities of life as migrant workers. The film follows the Joads as they fight for survival and hope in a cruel and unforgiving world. The film stars Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell, John Carradine, and many other notable actors. The Grapes of Wrath won two Academy Awards, including Best Director for John Ford.

Rebecca (1940)

Rebecca
★★★★
★★★★
3.2 out of 4 stars

From Alfred Hitchcock, starring Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders, Judith Anderson
Rated Approved

Rebecca is a 1940 film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and based on the 1938 novel of the same name by Daphne du Maurier. The film tells the story of a young woman (Joan Fontaine) who is hired as a companion to the intimidating and mysterious Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson) of the estate of Manderley. When the young woman marries Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier), the owner of the estate, she finds herself living in the shadow of his deceased first wife, Rebecca, who is viewed by all of Manderley's inhabitants with a sort of reverence. As the new Mrs. de Winter struggles to find her place at Manderley, she discovers dark secrets surrounding Rebecca's death and is haunted by her presence. The film is notable for its Gothic atmosphere and Hitchcock's masterful use of suspense and romance.

The Red Shoes (1948)

The Red Shoes
★★★★
★★★★
3.2 out of 4 stars

From Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, starring Anton Walbrook, Marius Goring, Moira Shearer, Robert Helpmann
Rated Not Rated

The Red Shoes is a 1948 British drama film about a young ballet dancer who is torn between her artistic ambitions and her need for love. The film follows Victoria Page, a talented young dancer who is taken under the wing of Boris Lermontov, the impresario of a prestigious ballet company. When she falls in love with the company's composer, Julian Craster, they are both forced to choose between their love and their art. Along the way, Victoria experiences the joy and heartbreak that come with pursuing her dream. The Red Shoes is widely regarded as one of the greatest films ever made and is remembered for its stunning visuals, emotional depth, and memorable score.

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

The Best Years of Our Lives
★★★★
★★★★
3.2 out of 4 stars

From William Wyler, starring Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews, Fredric March, Teresa Wright
Rated Approved

The Best Years of Our Lives is a 1946 American drama film directed by William Wyler and starring Myrna Loy, Fredric March, Dana Andrews, Virginia Mayo, and Harold Russell. Set during the post-World War II period, the film follows three decorated war veterans as they return to civilian life and must adjust to the struggles of dealing with the aftermath of the war. Al, Fred, and Homer all have different stories to tell as they cope with the physical and emotional scars of war, and must find a way to move forward despite their newfound disabilities, financial troubles, and other obstacles in their lives. With humor, tragedy, and hope, The Best Years of Our Lives is a powerful story of the struggles of returning war veterans and the sacrifices they make for the sake of their families and country.

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

The Maltese Falcon
★★★★
★★★★
3.2 out of 4 stars

From John Huston, starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Gladys George, Peter Lorre
Rated Passed

The Maltese Falcon is a 1941 film noir directed by John Huston and based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett. The film follows the story of private detective Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) as he is hired to locate a valuable statuette known as the Maltese Falcon. Along the way, he is confronted by several shady characters including a seductive woman (Mary Astor) and a ruthless gangster (Sidney Greenstreet). As the story progresses, Spade becomes ensnared in a complex web of murder and deception, eventually discovering the truth behind the valuable statuette. With the help of his partner Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) and the police, Spade is able to foil the criminals and bring the case to a close.

Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)

Kind Hearts and Coronets
★★★★
★★★★
3.2 out of 4 stars

From Robert Hamer, starring Dennis Price, Alec Guinness, Valerie Hobson, Joan Greenwood
Rated Not Rated

Kind Hearts and Coronets is a 1949 British black comedy film directed by Robert Hamer. The film stars Alec Guinness in the lead role of Louis Mazzini, a distant relative of the wealthy D'Ascoyne family who plots to become the next Duke of Chalfont by murdering the current family members in order to inherit the title. The movie follows Louis as he goes through a series of misadventures, eventually succeeding in his goal of becoming the Duke. Along the way, he meets a variety of characters, including the young Lady Agatha, who eventually falls in love with him. The film features a darkly humorous tone and features a unique use of flashback, as Louis often reflects on the past as he goes through his journey.

The Ox-Bow Incident (1942)

The Ox-Bow Incident
★★★★
★★★★
3.2 out of 4 stars

From William A. Wellman, starring Henry Fonda, Dana Andrews, Mary Beth Hughes, Anthony Quinn
Rated Passed

The Ox-Bow Incident is a classic Western film directed by William A. Wellman and based on the novel of the same name by Walter Van Tilburg Clark. The film is set in a small western town in the late 19th century and follows the story of two drifters, Gil and Art, who become embroiled in a cattle rustling conflict taking place in the area. As the conflict escalates, a vigilante posse is formed and set to lynch three innocent men accused of the crime. Gil and Art must make a difficult decision between standing with their friends or preserving justice in a system without mercy. This gripping film is a timeless morality tale that examines the complexities of human nature and the power of mob mentality.

Brief Encounter (1945)

Brief Encounter
★★★★
★★★★
3.2 out of 4 stars

From David Lean, starring Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard, Stanley Holloway, Joyce Carey
Rated Not Rated

Brief Encounter is a 1945 British romantic drama film directed by David Lean about the bittersweet relationship between a married woman and a married man. The film is set in England in the late 1930s and stars Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard as the two leads. The two characters meet when the woman's husband is away on business and the two quickly form a platonic but passionate bond. As their relationship progresses, they consider leaving their spouses for each other. In the end, the fact that they are both married keeps them from taking the next step and they reluctantly part ways. The film is known for its nuanced and believable characters, its powerful performance from Trevor Howard, and its memorable soundtrack.

The Lost Weekend (1945)

The Lost Weekend
★★★★
★★★★
3.2 out of 4 stars

From Billy Wilder, starring Ray Milland, Jane Wyman, Phillip Terry, Howard Da Silva
Rated Passed

The Lost Weekend is a 1945 American drama film directed by Billy Wilder, and starring Ray Milland and Jane Wyman. The film follows the story of Don Birnam, a struggling writer and alcoholic, as he desperately tries to find the money to buy more alcohol over the course of a weekend. As his drinking escalates, so does the danger and desperation of his situation. Don ultimately faces the harsh reality of his addiction, and the consequences of his actions. The Lost Weekend won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay. The film is widely regarded as one of the greatest films ever made, and it was inducted into the National Film Registry in 1992.

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

The Philadelphia Story
★★★★
★★★★
3.2 out of 4 stars

From George Cukor, starring Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey
Rated Not Rated

The Philadelphia Story is a 1940 romantic comedy starring Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and James Stewart. The film tells the story of Tracy Lord, an upper-class socialite from Philadelphia whose marriage plans to a wealthy socialite are disrupted when her ex-husband and a tabloid journalist arrive to cover her wedding. Tracy must reconcile her feelings for the two men, while at the same time trying to keep her wedding plans intact. The film is set in the pre-World War II era and takes place among the upper-class elite of Philadelphia society. The film is noted for its witty dialogue and sharp performances, and it was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

Rope (1948)

Rope
★★★★
★★★★
3.2 out of 4 stars

From Alfred Hitchcock, starring James Stewart, John Dall, Farley Granger, Dick Hogan
Rated Approved

Rope is a 1948 psychological thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock, based on the play of the same name by Patrick Hamilton. It tells the story of two young, wealthy men, Brandon Shaw and Phillip Morgan, who murder a fellow classmate and hide the body in a chest in their apartment. The pair decide to host a dinner party for their friends and family, hiding the chest in plain sight, as a challenge to their superior intellect. However, the presence of their former teacher Rupert Cadell, who taught them about the “perfect crime”, raises suspicion and the truth slowly starts to unravel. As the tension builds and suspicion mounts, it is revealed that the two men have acted out of a misguided sense of superiority, believing their perfect crime to be an art form. The film ends with Rupert Cadell desperately trying to save the boys from the consequences of their actions.

Laura (1944)

Laura
★★★★
★★★★
3.2 out of 4 stars

From Otto Preminger, starring Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb, Vincent Price
Rated Passed

"Laura" (1944) is a classic film noir directed by Otto Preminger. It follows police detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) as he investigates the murder of Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney), a beautiful and successful young woman. As he talks to her friends, colleagues, and admirers, McPherson begins to fall in love with her through the stories they tell. After unraveling the mystery, he discovers that Laura's jealous suitor Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb) is the killer. In a shocking plot twist, it is revealed that Laura is still alive and has been living in seclusion with her former fiancé, Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price). After Lydecker's arrest, Laura and McPherson reconcile and begin a new life together.

Scarlet Street (1945)

Scarlet Street
★★★★
★★★★
3.1 out of 4 stars

From Fritz Lang, starring Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, Dan Duryea, Margaret Lindsay
Rated Approved

Scarlet Street is a 1945 film noir directed by Fritz Lang. It stars Edward G. Robinson as a middle-aged cashier, Chris Cross, who is seduced and exploited by a young woman, Kitty March (Joan Bennett), and her partner in crime, Johnny (Dan Duryea). Chris, an aspiring painter, is drawn into their scheme, unaware that he is being used to cover their tracks as they commit a series of robberies. Ultimately, Chris is caught in a web of deceit, blackmail and murder as he tries to find a way out of the situation. The film is a dark, cautionary tale of temptation, corruption, and betrayal.

How Green Was My Valley (1941)

How Green Was My Valley
★★★★
★★★★
3.1 out of 4 stars

From John Ford, starring Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O'Hara, Anna Lee, Donald Crisp
Rated Passed

How Green Was My Valley is a 1941 American drama film directed by John Ford, and starring Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O'Hara, and Roddy McDowall. Set in a small Welsh mining town at the end of the 19th century, the film follows the life of the Morgan family as they struggle with the changing social and economic forces of their time. The main story follows young Huw Morgan (McDowall) as he navigates the various conflicts of his family, including his father's struggles with the coal mine, his older brother's search for work, and his mother's moral dilemmas. Along the way, Huw learns valuable lessons about the importance of family, loyalty, and friendship. With its beautiful cinematography, outstanding performances, and powerful story, How Green Was My Valley was a critical and commercial success, winning the Academy Award for Best Picture.

 



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