Best Films of the 1930's

  1. 7.5/10
  2. The Blue Angel - Josef Von Sternberg (1930)
  3. M - Fritz Lang (1931)
  4. Grand Illusion - Jean Renoir (1937)
  5. Modern Times - Charlie Chaplin (1936)
  6. City Lights - Charlie Chaplin (1931)
  7. Earth - Alexander Dovzhenko (1930)
  8. The Rules of the Game - Jean Renoir (1939)
  9. Scarface - Howard Hawks (1932)
  10. The Scarlet Empress - Josef Von Sternberg (1934)
  11. The 39 Steps - Alfred Hitchcock (1935)
  12. Duck Soup - Leo McCarey/The Marx Brothers (1933)
  13. Bringing Up Baby - Howard Hawks (1938)
  14. L'Age D'Or - Luis Bunuel (1930)
  15. All Quiet on the Western Front - Lewis Milestone (1930)
  16. Alexander Nevsky - Sergei Eisenstein (1938)
  17. Vampyr - Carl Theodor Dreyer (1931)
  18. Pepe Le Moko - Julien Duvivier (1937)
  19. King Kong - Ernest Schoedsack (1933)
  20. The Bride of Frankenstein - James Whale (1935)
  21. Freaks - Tod Browning (1932)
  22. Zero for Conduct - Jean Vigo (1933)

I think the most conspicuous omissions are Chaplin's City Lights, Van Dyke's The Thin Man Renoir's The Grand Illusion, Hawks' Only Angels Have Wings and Ozu's I Was Born... But. I'd also give the nod to Lewis Milestone's The Front Page, but I can see it not being for everyone.

It's almost nice not to see the Marx Brothers. I never got their brand of comedy, far too dated. The Renoir, Bunuel and Vigo are all lower than I would place them, but they're included so I can't complain.

I'm a bit thin on the 30's. Haven't seen any of the ones in you mention in your 1st paragraph but I'll get to them. Grand Illusion and City Lights are on my must see list.

A good animated short form the 30s I can suggest is Len Lye's "A Colour Box" (and also "Kaleidoscope" which is virtually the same and just as good) from 1935.
It's sort of like Stan Brakhage's work, what with the painting-on-film stuff. Although it's a bit of a "controversial" thing to say, I'd say Lye is far more expressive and better at painting-on-film than Brakhage (with all due respect to Mothlight and The Dante Quartet). Lye's animations are so fluid and joyous and free. Occasionally quite tongue-in-cheek too (often if not always set to Swing or Calypso music), but always amazing little feats (Free Radicals is also a marvel from the 1950s (scratches on black leader made to look like 3D moving shapes))

Thanks, I've never even heard of this...

Might I suggest you check out Lewis Milestone's "All Quiet On The Western Front", great film from 1930.

Thanks for the suggestion. Already seen it though. I agree with you that it's great ( :

Thanks for the given information! It, certainly, will help to orient for fans of cinema. But, as it seems to me, this list reflects purely a subjective view. And there is also another, fuller and, the most important thing, the objective list (FilmGourmand). In the same place, on this site, objective criteria of inclusion of films into the list of the best movies are specified.

Thanks for the recommendation but I'm not going to rank and rate films based on an "objective criteria" which is, of course, based on a collective of subjective criterias in the first place. If I wanted to call this list "The most acclaimed films of the 30's" or "The most popular films of the 30's" then I'd use such a criteria, but these are my choices, and personally, I find lists a lot more interesting when someone is voicing his own views and has real conviction behind them.

I agree with AfterHours here. One's opinion should be the most important factor in ranking and rating, not some objective criterion, which is actually subjective itself too.

Dear Eggman_Walrus_Taxman!
You are absolutely right, so far as concerns «One's opinion». And you are absolutely right and fair, when entitle the lists “50 Greatest Music Albums of All time (According to Me)” or “Some of the Greatest Books Ever, In My Opinion”. And, I dare to assume, you agree that lists really The Best Music Albums or The Best Books could be generated on the basis of enough considerable number of the similar lists made by fans and experts of music or the literature. As a matter of fact, my Ranking Methodology ( Ranking Methodologies ) is based on this approach. Also this is everything that I wanted to say. Nothing more.

Your "Ranking Methodologies" is an attempt to make a science out of art. And, of course, your methodology was developed by you--and is, thus, subjective, no matter what way you look at it. A amalgamation of many lists would just be an amalgamation of subjective perspectives, that doesn't quite add up to objective. Here's something I read, which may put things into perspective:

"Beware of rankings. Top ten lists. Bests of. Worsts of. The ten best list. The ten worst list. That's thinking like a journalist. Like a reviewer. In other words, an idiot. Which is better Brandenberg 3 or 5? Which is greater Bach or Beethoven? Is Pynchon a better writer than Gaddis? Is Carver better than Munro? What would that mean? It's not a "Best of the Times." It's not a Top Ten List. Life and art are about differences."

"[T]ry to break away from thinking in terms of "best" or "second best" versions of anything. It's a "Top 40," "Academy Awards," "News at Nine" vision of reality. What is the best film? Who is the best director? Who is the best novelist, poet, or playwright? What is his or her best novel, poem, or play? Who is the best parent, brother, sister, child, boy or girlfriend in your acquaintance? What is the best job? Who is the best person alive? Who was the best philosopher, historian, mathematician? What is the best country to live in?

[These are] false understandings of art and reality. There is no "best" or "second best" -- except in stupid awards ceremonies and magazine polls. Things are unique. People are different. Films are different. Artists are different. Most of Henry James's novels and stories are published in two different texts. Neither is better or worse.They are different. Art Tatum performed "Tea for Two" and "Someone to Watch Over Me" and "Night and Day" and "The Man I Love" dozens of times, each time in a different way. None of those performances is the best -- or the worst. They are all different and all interesting for different reasons. That's the way art and life are. There is seldom a best or worst..."

Now, this may seem hypocritical considering my page has a number of lists, but it's more of an organization of personal thoughts and feelings--as well as an attempt to come to grips with them--opposed to being a search for Objective Truth.

(Sorry to crowd your page, AfterHours)

Crowd away man!

Interesting quote btw :-)

I am rather grateful to you for an estimation of my Methodology Ranking Methodologies and for your recommendations. However, it is necessary to notice that it were not your reasonings, but someone’s quotation. Unfortunately, author is not known for me. But it is not important, because actually the similar point of view is rather extended. However, as a rule, losers adhere to the similar point of view. It is convenient for them to cover the inconsistency with reasonings that all people are different, and that there are no "best" or "second best" , or the “worst”, and, it means, and they, untalented mediocrities, have also the right for "place in the sun".
The argument, about absurd of a question who is better, Bach or Beethoven, is absolutely incorrect. For each reasonable person such question even will not come to a head. But the questions who was better, Bach or Louis Marchand, Bach or Georg-Phillip Telemann, Beethoven or Joseph Wölffl, Mozart or Muzio Clementi, Paganini or Charles Philippe Lafont and etc., etc. stood in due time very sharply. And, thanks God, Bach, Beethoven, Mozart or Paganini did not profess your point of view, and were eager to prove, that they were “the best”. Due to this we remember today them and we esteem and have almost forgotten their contenders. We will render thanks to the Lord that he has saved them from the sights, similar to yours. Otherwise we would lose their ingenious music. And, finally, the main criterion in the decision of questions who was the best were, as a rule, the audience applause. I.e., speaking to the modern language, ratings.
Once again I thank you that you have actually confirmed and have strengthened me in confidence with your comment that I do absolutely correct and useful work.

I find it interesting that, while you come to Listology to advertise your own website, and couch your remarks in fairly polite language, you still take the chance to call someone who actually spent a few minutes browsing your page a loser, in addition to completely misrepresenting what has been said.

You are creating lists. You are not, yourself, trying to prove yourself the greatest composer, filmmaker, or anything of that nature (as far as I can tell). You are creating lists and posturing as if you have found an objective way of saying A is better than B. Objective is the key word here. You can like some things more than others, I certainly do, but I find the issue is that you think you've found an impartial way of doing so. This is particularly problematic because it misunderstands art, as it is meaningless to pass off opinions such as: Tarkovsky is better than Bresson, Proust is better than Hawthorne, Coltrane is better than Ellington, etc, as fact. Pitting artists against each other is not a useful way for understanding them, I don't think.

Interestingly, from what I've read and heard, your second paragraph is ahistorical. For example: if you look at the music, letters and biography of Beethoven there is little to indicate that he was trying to be better than preceding composers. To the contrary, he held the likes of Haydn and Mozart in the highest esteem (as musicians). He was merely trying to express himself as best he could, a torturous activity that in hindsight is one of the greatest human achievements known today. Competitiveness inspires some artists, but it's wrong to say that's the case across the board.

Judging artwork by their reception does not strike me as an effective way to go about things, otherwise works as varied as The Rules of the Game, Gertrude and The Rite of Spring should have been discarded of from the beginning. Most people today would probably take Steven Spielberg over Abbas Kiarostami, that doesn't mean the former is objectively better than the latter.

I’m a little bit surprised why you decided that I “call someone who actually spent a few minutes browsing my page a loser”. Seemingly it’s some kind of misunderstanding. Or maybe my poor English is a reason. Let’s check from the very beginning. First, I wrote that “it is necessary to notice that it were not your reasonings, but someone’s quotation. Unfortunately, author is not known for me.” Thereby, I have stressed that it is a question not of you, but of the unfamiliar to me author of the quotation. Further, I have written «the similar point of view is rather extended. However, as a rule, losers adhere to the similar point of view.” Thereby I wanted to express thought that I already met similar views in my life, and those who stated me such point of view as a rule were losers. Differently, you did not have any bases to take the given words personally. If only you did not want it yourself.
As to all the rest I will answer you tomorrow. It’s about 2 a.m. now, and I want to sleep.
So, now with a fresh mind it is possible to continue. Really, as you fairly mark, I have made list Top 1000 Greatest Movies Ever (( The Top 1000 Movies of all time ), which I consider as most objective of all lists seen by me on the given theme (an explanation why I consider it as the most objective, you can find on page of your friend Zacharyyy (, Afterwards I have come to Listology not only and not so much «to advertise my own website” as you have desired to be expressed, but mostly to find critics of my Methodology ( Ranking Methodologies ), because I suppose its quite imperfection. Really, where else to search for experts in the field of drawing up the lists, if not on Listology? Instead I receive from you the recommendation «Beware of rankings … That's thinking like... an idiot”. Is it politely, in your opinion? However, it not the most important thing. The main thing – that to the friend Zacharyyy who makes lists and ranges films too, you do not give such recommendations. At least, I have not found those. What is it: double standards or discrimination according to the principle “My friend – may, you may not”?
Now about an antihistoricism. Not clearly, what for you needed to notice that Beethoven «likes of Haydn and Mozart in the highest esteem (as musicians)» while I accurately and clearly wrote about rivalry between Beethoven and Joseph Wölffl. Meanwhile, it is well-known fact (even Wikipedia writes about it) that till some time contemporaries considered as the best musician Joseph Wölffl, not Beethoven. To prove that he is the best, Beethoven had to take part in duel on a piano which has taken place in house of Graf Wetzlar in 1799. This historic fact visually confirms that Beethoven, as well as the majority of geniuses in various areas, was alien foolish sights that «There is no "best" or "second best"». And still I will notice that this duel has taken place long before «stupid awards ceremonies and magazine polls».

This will probably be my last part towards you, unless you say something particularly provocative, because it is clear the conversation is going nowhere.

You are right about the vocabulary of the quote, and I should have cleaned it up while maintaining the thrust of the statement. So I apologize for that. The fact still remains that you say you came to find critics of your methodology, but you write them off as losers. Actually Zacharyyy and myself have had multiple conversations about art in general, and I have never seem him posture and say that his lists are Objective, or that he has a system that can achieve Objectivity. Haven't seen AfterHours do it either. I never once took an issue with your taste, I just found your stance, that there is a possibility of Objectivity, to be somewhat objectionable, so I commented.

I think the anecdote about Wolffl and Beethoven unwittingly proves my point. Public reception can be mistaken. It can be mistaken in the past, and it can still be mistaken today. Even Bach fell into obscurity before being rescued by Mendelssohn. If your methodology was used at that point in time then there would have been no Bach on your objective list. My fundamental point is that saying the opinions of the populace hold the most weight, and are objective, is incorrect. Multiple subjective viewpoints don't add up to a singular objective perspective. Additionally, you missed my point in saying that as a consumer of art it can be useless to pass off saying A is better than B as fact. What does it mean to say Spielberg is better than Cassavetes because he's more popular? Is Thomas Kinkade superior to Winslow Homer because of his larger fan base? Does it enhance one's understanding of any artworks to approach them in such a fashion? My point is that objective posturing is ultimately useless, in my view. Additionally, just because your list has more directors than others doesn't mean it's better, doesn't mean it's worse either. Just different. It is arrogant to say that you've achieved objectivity.

You are absolutely right, doing a conclusion that “conversation is going nowhere”. And the main reason of it that you do not see a difference between CRITICISM and NEGATION. Yes, I have come on Listology in search of CRITICS of my Methodology. But you instead of CRITICISM have REJECTED it, without having worked at all with it to familiarise. In general, all this situation has reminded me the events occurring in my country half a century ago. When in 1958 Boris Pasternak has been awarded the Nobel Prize for his novel "Doctor Zhivago", the communistic country leaders had been organised persecution of the writer. Communists on all country organised meetings on which, everybody as one, repeated «I did not read this book, but I know: the book harmful». Eventually, Pasternak, without having sustained this persecution, has died in 1960. In absolutely the same way you, with the same communistic firmness, without having found time to read my Methodology, have initially condemned her as harmful. That you did not read my Methodology, convincingly proves that fact that you attribute to me the statement «Spielberg is better than Cassavetes because he's more popular», which has nothing common with my approach. In the beginning I had a desire to explain an essence of my approach in the given comments, but then has remembered the Sacred Writing and has decided to follow to it. For it is told «Nofite mittere margaritas ante porcos».

Welp, turns out you did say something provocative. Comparing my disagreements with your methodology to communist Soviet Union. Wow. Reductio ad ridiculum.

The communistic mentality is not necessarily connected with Soviet Union. By the way, the communistic ideology has been introduced to Russia from the outside. Typical displays of communistic mentality – negation of that is incapable to understand, aspiration to balance everything («Adam Sandler is not worse, than Sean Penn, Paris Hilton is not worse, than Meryl Streep. They are simply different.»). You have shown presence of all these displays of communistic mentality. So, no any absurdity.

It's not a big deal. Thanks for the explanation. The site you linked is an interesting site :-)

Dear AfterHours (or maybe Paul Hackett ;-))!
I almost completely agree with everything that you write. But there is one "but". You are absolutely right, that did not “call this list" The most acclaimed films of the 30's "or" The most popular films of the 30's "”. But at the same time your list is entitled «Best films of 30s”, and in the answer you write that «these are my choices». Whether it is necessary to understand, what YOUR choice is the BEST choice?