Exactly two months ago, I posted here on the blog my list of 20 favorite movies from the 1940s, the list through which I voted in the election of the best movies by decade that we’ve been selecting in the Cinema em Cena message board. With the end of that voting, we opened the selection of the best movies of the 1930s, and in the beginning I prepared a pre-list of the movies from the decade in question which I considered worthy of being in a list of tops. My first draft had 12 movies: The 39 Steps, The Blue Angel, City Lights, King Kong, Modern Times, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Scarface, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Stagecoach, Triumph of the Will and Way Out West. Even though I’m the current organizer of the best by decade votings, I thought I was reaching my limit, it seemed to me that it would be very complicated to be able to come up with a top 20 of movies that really deserved it.
However, one of those astronomic conjunctions happened: in addition to having enough time available and being in the right mood to watch movies, I counted on the support of a few message board mates, with whom I ended up creating a kind of temporary informal club, all of us excited about debating the movies we’d seen and sharing suggestions. Based on the love of cinema and fueled by team work, I went through one of the most pleasing processes of immersion in cinema of my life. I more than doubled the amount of movies of the 1930s I’ve watched, checked out a few classics I’d neglected until then and also found out some great movies I’d never heard of before. Moreover, I was able to cover different formats (feature and short; live action and animation) and many genres (from horror to musical). I’ve seen American movies, certainly (among them Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz, two of my redeemed sins), as well as British (Pygmalion), French (The Great Illusion, The Rules of the Game, Land Without Bread, The Age of Gold, The Mascot and all four movies by Jean Vigo), German (The Vampire and M), a Russian (Alexander Nevsky) and a Japanese movie (I Was Born, But…).
And what was the result of all that? You’ll find out now:
01. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Frank Capra, 1939)
02. M (Fritz Lang, 1931)
03. Gone With the Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939)
04. Modern Times (Charles Chaplin, 1936)
05. City Lights (Charles Chaplin, 1931)
06. Triumph of the Will (Triumph des Willens, Leni Riefenstahl, 1935)
07. The Great Illusion (La grande illusion, Jean Renoir, 1937)
08. Dodsworth (William Wyler, 1936)
09. L’atalante (Jean Vigo, 1934)
10. Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939)
11. The Vampire (Vampyr, Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1932)
12. I Was Born, But… (Otona no miru ehon – Umarete wa mita keredo, Yasujirô Ozu, 1932)
13. The Blue Angel (Der blaue Engel, Josef von Sternberg, 1930)
14. The 39 Steps (Alfred Hitchcock, 1935)
15. Freaks (Todd Browning, 1932)
16. Pygmalion (Anthony Asquith & Leslie Howard, 1938)
17. The Mascot (Fétiche, Wladyslaw Starewicz, 1934)
18. You Can’t Take it With You (Frank Capra, 1938)
19. The Old Mill (Wilfred Jackson, 1937)
20. The Awful Truth (Leo McCarey, 1937)
Yeah, in the end I was able to make a top 20 list, and five of those first twelve candidates wound up not having room (as well as other good movies I’ve seen). In some cases, such as animation and horror, I felt like an archeologist who comes closer to finding the missing link. I also got to know better about the career of one of my favorite directors, Frank Capra, through the movies It Happened One Night and You Can’t Take it With You, that joined the other seven movies by the director which I already knew. One can say that my list eventually reflected the intensity of this plunge into the movies of the period. There is a little bit of everything, in a delicious salad. My favorite director – Hitchcock – appears once again. Among many notorious movies, for which I had high hopes, the big surprises were Dodsworth, The Vampire, I Was Born, But…, Freaks, Pygmalion and The Mascot, of which I’d never heard of, and which are all great works. If the list could have one more title, it would probably be Scarface. Another runner-up might be I Love to Singa, a short animation. And, as a result of all the before-mentioned internationality, the list turned out to have 10 non-American movies, the largest ratio in all of my lists. Pre-war Germany did great, placing four movies on the list, two on the top 10.
Now it’s time to start thinking of movies from before the 1930s. An even bigger challenge ahead. Here we go!
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Lists for other decades:
Best movies of the 1940s
Best movies of the 1940s – my list
Best movies of the 1950s
Best movies of the 1950s – my list
Best movies of the 1960s
Best movies of the 1960s – my list
Best movies of the 1970s
Best movies of the 1970s – my list
Best movies of the 1980s
Best movies of the 1980s – my list
Best movies of the 1990s
Best movies of the 1990s – my list
Best movies of the 2000s
Best movies of the 2000s – my list