My Favorite Films of the 1940’s

All of my favorite movies by decade lists always have 50 titles. Normally that amount of titles is an easy task except this one. The 1940’s was such an inventive golden age of cinema that I could’ve easily done 100 titles.

There are classics and some guilty pleasures thrown in here. As for this list, collaborating directors Powel & Pressburger loom large with three in the top ten. Howard Hawks and John Ford each have three mentions as well.

I’m sure there are ardent film buffs that are going to go apoplectic over placing Citizen Kane at #2. Also, those same critics might go ape over my opting for “The Time of Their Lives” over “Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein.” Most critics claim that the latter was their best work. However, I truly beg to differ. “The Time of Their Lives” is a much more comedic venue, with an interesting and creative story. For me, “The Time of Their Lives” represents Abbott & Costello at the top of their game.


Public Domain Image Courtesy of Pixabay

After WWII, some French film buffs noticed a darker world view and subject matter in American movies. They dubbed it “Film Noir.”

50. Sahara…d. Zoltan Korda

49. The Bells of St. Mary’s…d. Leo McCarey

48. Stray Dog…d. Akira Kurosawa

47. A Letter to Three Wives…d. Joseph L. Mankiewicz

46. And Then There Were None…d. René Clair

45. Going My Way…d. Leo McCarey

44. The Woman in Green…d. Roy William Neill

43. The Song of Bernadette…d. Henry King

42. Nightmare Alley…d. Edmund Goulding

41. Double Indemnity…d. Billy Wilder

There are quite a few films here for paranormal fans. The paranormal theme was used as a venue for horror, comedy, and drama.

40. Come to the Stable…d. Henry Koster

39. My Darling Clementine…d. John Ford

38. Angel on My Shoulder…d. Archibald Louis Mayo

37. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon…d. John Ford

36. On the Town…d. Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly

35. I Was a Male War Bride…d. Howard Hawks

34. Sergeant York…d. Howard Hawks

33. My Favorite Wife…d. Garson Kanin

32. I Married a Witch…d. René Clair

31. The Keys of the Kingdom…d. John M. Stahl

It was the decade of World War II, and therefore, war movies were a staple. Some of these films sum up the attitude, resolve, and plight of the greatest generation. The recreation of the raising of the flag in Sands of Iwo Jima stands as a great cinematic moment.

30. Topper Returns…d. Roy Del Ruth

29. Casablanca…d. Michael Curtiz

28. It’s a Wonderful Life…d. Frank Capra

27. Passport to Pimlico…d. Henry Cornelius (UK)

26. Sullivan’s Travels…d. Preston Sturges

25. Anchors Aweigh…d. George Sidney

24. Roma: Città Apertà…d. Roberto Rossellini (Italy)

23. His Girl Friday…d. Howard Hawks

22. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre…d. John Huston

21. The Best Years of Our Lives…d. William Wyler

Italian directors took their cameras into the streets and created what the French called “Cinéma Verité.” This style of bare-bones filmmaking would later become the standard for The French New Wave of the 1950’s and 1960’s.

20. The Time of Their Lives…d. Charles Barton

19. Laura…d. Otto Preminger

18. Miracle on 34th Street…d. George Seaton

17. The Uninvited…d. Lewis Allen

16. Twelve O’clock High…d. Henry King

Be sure to see my other listing of my favorite films from the 1950s 1960s  1970s  1980s  1990s

15. The Fountainhead…d. King Vidor

14. Sands of Iwo Jima…d. Allan Dwan

13. Santa Fe Trail…d. Michael Curtiz

12. Kind Hearts and Coronets…d. Robert Hamer

11. The Angel and the Bad Man…d. James Edward Grant

If the 1940’s belongs to any single actor, then this list grants that award to Cary Grant. Six of his films made it onto this list with three in the top ten.

10. Fantasia…d. Walt Disney & many others

09. I Ladroni della Bicicletta…d. Vittorio De Sica (Italy)

08. Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House…d. H.C. Potter

07. The Bishop’s Wife…d. Henry Koster

06. Arsenic and Old Lace…d. Frank Capra

05. The Shop Around the Corner…d. Ernst Lubitsch

04. Black Narcissus…d. Powell & Pressburger (UK)

03. The Red Shoes…d. Powell & Pressburger (UK)

02. Citizen Kane…d. Orson Welles

01. A Matter of Life and Death…d. Powell & Pressburger (UK)   a.k.a. Stairway to Heaven (U.S. Title)

I remember back in the 1970’s, “A Matter of Life and Death” was advertised and listed as “Stairway to Heaven” when it played on TV. Currently, my DVD carries the original British title, and a recent showing on Turner Classic Movies did the same. However, on IMDB’s top box office list, they still use the U.S. title.

How does my list stack up against yours? Have you seen all of these movies? Are you interested in seeing some of them?

Not shy? Then leave a reply!

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