Best 1940s Movies

Updated
Best 1940s Movies

Have you heard these Best 1940s Movies? We know you'll find some new picks. We gathered 17 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 holiday film about George Bailey, a small-town banker who is on the edge of suicide at Christmas time. On Christmas Eve, he is visited by an angel named Clarence who shows him how life in his hometown of Bedford Falls would have been had he never been born. Through a series of flashbacks, George is able to realize the immense impact he has had on those around him and, ultimately, that his life is worth living. A timeless story of hope, redemption, and the power of friendship, It's a Wonderful Life is a Christmas classic that has become a staple of the holiday season.

Casablanca (1942)

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

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

Set during World War II in the Vichy-controlled city of Casablanca, Morocco, "Casablanca" tells the story of Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), a disillusioned American expatriate who runs a nightclub. When his former lover, Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), and her husband, Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), arrive in town with letters of transit, Rick must choose between his feelings for Ilsa and helping her escape with her husband. Complicating matters is the presence of Nazi Major Strasser (Conrad Veidt), who is trying to capture Laszlo and force Ilsa to stay with him. In the end, Rick makes the ultimate sacrifice and aids Ilsa and Laszlo in their escape. Along the way, he has encountered a colorful cast of characters and forged powerful bonds of loyalty and friendship.

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 1941 American drama film directed, co-written, produced, and starring Orson Welles. Considered by many critics, filmmakers, and audiences to be the greatest film ever made, it was nominated for Academy Awards in nine categories, and won for Best Writing (Original Screenplay) by Herman J. Mankiewicz and Welles. The story is about a powerful publishing tycoon, Charles Foster Kane, who rose from poverty to become one of the most influential men of his time. Kane's deathbed utterance of the word "Rosebud" is the focus of a newsreel reporter's inquiry into the life of the late newspaper magnate. Through flashbacks, the film follows Kane's life from his childhood in Colorado to his adulthood, where he becomes a business tycoon and politician. As the newsreel reporter tracks down the meaning of "Rosebud," the audience is presented with a narrative of Kane's life, his struggles, and ultimately his death.

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 1945 French romantic drama film directed by Marcel Carné. Set in Paris during the mid-19th century, it tells the story of a passionate love triangle between an actor, a mime, and a courtesan. The film follows the lives of these characters as they search for love, happiness, and acceptance in a world that does not always embrace them. It is widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time. The film is separated into two parts: "The Boulevard of Crime" and "The Waxworks". The first part follows the love triangle of the three main characters, Baptiste, Garance, and Frédérick. In the second part, the action shifts to the waxworks, a place of fantasy and escape. Here, the three main characters reflect on their past and their future, and Baptiste and Garance finally realize their true love for each other.

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 classic film noir directed by Billy Wilder in 1944. It stars Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck as insurance salesman Walter Neff and femme fatale Phyllis Dietrichson, respectively. The two of them become embroiled in a scheme to commit fraud by taking out a life insurance policy on Phyllis' husband, with a double indemnity clause, and then murder him to collect the full benefit. As they carry out the plan, they become increasingly tangled in a web of deception, lies, and blackmail, leading to a tense and thrilling climax. Along the way, they are tracked by Neff's friend and co-worker, Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson), who slowly pieces together the truth.

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 classic adventure-drama directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, and Tim Holt. It tells the story of three drifters in Mexico who stumble upon a gold mine and set off to make their fortune. As they become increasingly desperate and paranoid, their greed and mistrust drive them to violent confrontations with each other and with the indigenous people who live in the area. The film is a powerful exploration of the human capacity for greed, betrayal and despair, as well as the importance of friendship and loyalty.

To Be or Not to Be (1942)

To Be or Not to Be
★★★★
★★★★
3.3 out of 4 stars

From Ernst Lubitsch, starring Carole Lombard, Jack Benny, Robert Stack, Felix Bressart
Rated Passed

To Be or Not to Be is a 1942 dark comedy directed by Ernst Lubitsch, starring Jack Benny and Carol Lombard. Set during the Nazi occupation of Poland, the film centers around a troupe of actors led by renowned husband-and-wife thespians Joseph and Maria Tura (Benny and Lombard). When their theater is threatened by the Nazi regime, Joseph and Maria concoct a daring plan to foil the occupiers using their acting and disguise skills. Meanwhile, they must also protect their relationship from the advances of a smitten Polish pilot. With its irreverent humor, To Be or Not to Be is a classic satire of wartime conflict that speaks to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of oppression.

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, adapted from John Steinbeck's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name. The film tells the story of the Joad family, who are forced to leave their Oklahoma farm during the Dust Bowl and travel to California in search of a better life. Along the way, they must overcome numerous obstacles and hardships, including labor exploitation, illness, and persecution. Ultimately, the Joads learn to rely on each other and their resilience helps them to survive against all odds. Ultimately, the film is an uplifting story of hope and solidarity in the face of adversity.

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, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo, and Harold Russell. The film tells the story of three World War II veterans who return home to small-town America to find that they and their families have been irrevocably changed. Al Stephenson (Fredric March) is a bank manager struggling to adjust to civilian life; Fred Derry (Dana Andrews) is a soda jerk turned bomber pilot who is searching for a better life; and Homer Parrish (Harold Russell) is a sailor who lost his hands in battle and struggles to find employment and a wife who will accept him. As the men face the difficulties of adjusting to life after the war, their stories intertwine and ultimately lead to a satisfying conclusion. The film won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Fredric March), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Harold Russell), Best Writing, Best Film Editing and Best Music.

The Third Man (1949)

The Third Man
★★★★
★★★★
3.2 out of 4 stars

From Carol Reed, starring Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Trevor Howard
Rated Approved

The Third Man is a 1949 British noir film directed by Carol Reed and starring Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles, and Trevor Howard. The darkly suspenseful story is set in post-World War II Vienna, which is divided into four Allied occupation zones. A pulp novelist (Cotten) is unexpectedly reunited with his childhood friend, Harry Lime (Welles), who seems to have survived a mysterious death. As the two investigate, they become entangled in a web of deceit and corruption, uncovering a sinister plot to obtain penicillin for criminal gain. The film is known for its haunting theme music, atmospheric cinematography, and an iconic ferris wheel finale. It won the 1949 Grand Prix, the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and is generally considered one of the greatest films of all time.

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 an Academy Award-winning 1940 film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, based on the novel of the same name by Daphne du Maurier. It tells the story of a young woman, Mrs. de Winter (Joan Fontaine), who arrives at the grand estate of her new husband, Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier), living in the shadow of his dead, first wife, Rebecca. The mysterious and sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson), is obsessed with Rebecca and is determined to sabotage the new marriage. Mrs. de Winter struggles to win the respect of the household and the affections of her husband, while finding out the truth about Rebecca's death.

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 1929 novel of the same name by Dashiell Hammett. The film stars Humphrey Bogart as private investigator Sam Spade, who is hired by a beautiful woman, Brigid O'Shaughnessy (played by Mary Astor), to find a valuable statue of a falcon. As Sam and his partner, Miles Archer (played by Jerome Cowan), begin to uncover clues about the statue, they soon find themselves mixed up in a dangerous world of double-crosses and murder. With the help of a police detective, Tom Polhaus (played by Ward Bond), Sam discovers that the statue is linked to an international smuggling ring involving a wide cast of shady characters. In the end, Sam is able to unravel the mystery and uncover the truth about the Maltese Falcon.

Out of the Past (1947)

Out of the Past
★★★★
★★★★
3.2 out of 4 stars

From Jacques Tourneur, starring Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming
Rated Not Rated

Out of the Past is a classic noir drama directed by Jacques Tourneur and starring Robert Mitchum as Jeff Bailey, a former private detective who is dragged back into the business in order to help his old flame, Kathie Moffat (Jane Greer). Jeff is hired by a powerful gangster, Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas), to retrieve Kathie and her new lover, who may have stolen a large sum of money from him. As Jeff searches for Kathie, he finds himself in a complex web of lies, danger and passion, as the past comes back to haunt him and his relationship with Kathie is put to the test. In the end, Jeff must make a decision between his own safety and the woman he loves.

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 directed by David Lean. The film stars Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard and tells the story of two ordinary people who meet by chance in a railway station and fall in love. They both become deeply affected by their brief encounter and must make a difficult decision whether or not to pursue their relationship. The film deals with topics such as love, loss, longing, and regret, and is widely regarded as one of the classic British films of its era.

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. Two young and wealthy college friends, Brandon and Philip, decide to challenge themselves by committing a perfect murder. They strangle their classmate, David Kentley, and hide the body in a chest in their apartment. They then host a dinner party in the same room as the chest and invite their victim’s family and friends. Throughout the dinner, Brandon and Philip toy with the guests and try to outsmart each other as they search for a way to get away with the crime. As the night progresses and the tension builds, it appears that the guests may be onto them. In the end, the truth is revealed and Brandon and Philip's fate is decided.

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 Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart. The story revolves around the wedding of socialite Tracy Lord (Hepburn) and her ex-husband C.K. Dexter Haven (Grant). Her plans are disrupted when her ex-husband and two journalists, Macaulay "Mike" Connor (Stewart) and Liz Imbrie (Ruth Hussey), arrive at her home to cover her nuptials. Despite her initial attempt to reject them, Tracy finds herself drawn to both men, leading to a dramatic triangle full of love and laughter. In the end, Tracy realizes that it is love, not societal expectations, that will make her happy.

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 classic coming-of-age story that follows the lives of the Morgan family in a small Welsh mining village. Led by patriarch Gwilym Morgan, the Morgans are a tight-knit family who rely on each other for support. As the youngest son, Huw Morgan grows up in the village, learning about love and life from his parents, siblings, and the people in the village. As time passes and the world changes, the Morgans must grapple with their changing surroundings and the difficult choices they have to make. While Gwilym fights for the rights of the miners, Huw finds solace in the beauty of nature and the peaceful valley where he was born. As his family struggles to survive, Huw’s love for the valley brings him closer to understanding the true value of life.

 



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