Pre-code movies worth a watch

by Apophos | created - 18 Sep 2018 | updated - 11 months ago | Public

Movies that were released before the Hays code

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1. Dirigible (1931)

Passed | 100 min | Adventure

Jack Bradon is tasked to reach the South Pole with a dirigible.

Director: Frank Capra | Stars: Jack Holt, Fay Wray, Ralph Graves, Hobart Bosworth

Votes: 524

2. Lonesome (1928)

Passed | 69 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

Two lonely people in the big city meet and enjoy the thrills of an amusement park, only to lose each other in the crowd after spending a great day together. Will they ever see each other again?

Director: Pál Fejös | Stars: Barbara Kent, Glenn Tryon, Fay Holderness, Gusztáv Pártos

Votes: 1,911

3. Frankenstein (1931)

Passed | 70 min | Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi

91 Metascore

An obsessed scientist assembles a living being from parts of exhumed corpses.

Director: James Whale | Stars: Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, Boris Karloff, John Boles

Votes: 61,030

4. Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

Passed | 97 min | Comedy, Drama, Musical

A wealthy composer rescues unemployed Broadway performers with a new play.

Director: Mervyn LeRoy | Stars: Warren William, Joan Blondell, Aline MacMahon, Ruby Keeler

Votes: 6,865 | Gross: $4.80M

5. M (1931)

Not Rated | 99 min | Crime, Mystery, Thriller

When the police in a German city are unable to catch a child-murderer, other criminals join in the manhunt.

Director: Fritz Lang | Stars: Peter Lorre, Ellen Widmann, Inge Landgut, Otto Wernicke

Votes: 133,509 | Gross: $0.03M

6. The Public Enemy (1931)

Not Rated | 83 min | Crime, Drama

A young hoodlum rises up through the ranks of the Chicago underworld, even as a gangster's accidental death threatens to spark a bloody mob war.

Director: William A. Wellman | Stars: James Cagney, Jean Harlow, Edward Woods, Joan Blondell

Votes: 16,681

7. Kept Husbands (1931)

Passed | 76 min | Drama, Romance

Daughter of a wealthy family decides to marry a poor working man.

Director: Lloyd Bacon | Stars: Clara Kimball Young, Joel McCrea, Dorothy Mackaill, Ned Sparks

Votes: 395

8. Baby Face (1933)

Approved | 71 min | Drama, Romance

A young woman, sexually exploited all her life, decides to turn the tables and exploit the hapless men at a big city bank - by gleefully sleeping her way to the top.

Director: Alfred E. Green | Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, George Brent, Donald Cook, Alphonse Ethier

Votes: 5,788

9. Of Human Bondage (1934)

Not Rated | 83 min | Drama, Romance

A young man finds himself attracted to a cold and unfeeling waitress who may ultimately destroy them both.

Director: John Cromwell | Stars: Bette Davis, Leslie Howard, Frances Dee, Kay Johnson

Votes: 5,752

10. I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)

Passed | 92 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

Wrongly convicted James Allen serves in the intolerable conditions of a southern chain gang, which later comes back to haunt him.

Director: Mervyn LeRoy | Stars: Paul Muni, Glenda Farrell, Helen Vinson, Noel Francis

Votes: 10,920

11. Call Her Savage (1932)

Passed | 88 min | Drama

Sexy Texas gal storms her way through life, brawling and boozing until her luck runs out, forcing her to learn the errors of her ways.

Director: John Francis Dillon | Stars: Clara Bow, Gilbert Roland, Thelma Todd, Monroe Owsley

Votes: 657

12. Murder! (1930)

TV-PG | 92 min | Crime, Mystery, Thriller

A juror in a murder trial, after voting to convict, has second thoughts and begins to investigate on his own before the execution.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: Herbert Marshall, Norah Baring, Phyllis Konstam, Edward Chapman

Votes: 5,283

13. Golden Dawn (1930)

Passed | 81 min | Comedy, Drama, Music

Add a Plot

Director: Ray Enright | Stars: Walter Woolf King, Vivienne Segal, Noah Beery, Alice Gentle

Votes: 118

14. Safe in Hell (1931)

Passed | 73 min | Crime, Drama

After accidentally killing the man who raped her and forced her into prostitution, a New Orleans woman flees to a Caribbean island. While she awaits her fiancé, the vicious local police chief sets his sights on her.

Director: William A. Wellman | Stars: Dorothy Mackaill, Donald Cook, Ralf Harolde, John Wray

Votes: 1,074

15. Imitation of Life (1934)

Approved | 111 min | Drama, Romance

A struggling widow and her daughter take in a black housekeeper and her fair-skinned daughter; the two women start a successful business, but face familial, identity, and racial issues along the way.

Director: John M. Stahl | Stars: Claudette Colbert, Warren William, Rochelle Hudson, Ned Sparks

Votes: 3,798

16. The Letter (1929)

Passed | 65 min | Drama

Jeanne Eagels plays the bored and restless Leslie Crosbie who turns to another man, Geoffrey Hammond (Herbert Marshall) for attention when neglected by her husband Robert (Reginald Owen). ... See full summary »

Director: Jean de Limur | Stars: Jeanne Eagels, Reginald Owen, Herbert Marshall, Irene Browne

Votes: 575

17. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)

Not Rated | 98 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

Dr. Jekyll faces horrible consequences when he lets his dark side run wild with a potion that transforms him into the animalistic Mr. Hyde.

Director: Rouben Mamoulian | Stars: Fredric March, Miriam Hopkins, Rose Hobart, Holmes Herbert

Votes: 11,831

18. Mädchen in Uniform (1931)

Passed | 87 min | Drama, Romance

At an all-girls boarding school, Manuela falls in love with a teacher, to terrific consequences.

Directors: Leontine Sagan, Carl Froelich | Stars: Dorothea Wieck, Hertha Thiele, Emilia Unda, Hedy Krilla

Votes: 2,213

19. The Maltese Falcon (1931)

Passed | 80 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

A lovely dame with dangerous lies employs the services of a private detective, who is quickly caught up in the mystery and intrigue of a statuette known as the Maltese Falcon.

Director: Roy Del Ruth | Stars: Bebe Daniels, Ricardo Cortez, Dudley Digges, Una Merkel

Votes: 2,630

20. The Broadway Melody (1929)

Passed | 100 min | Drama, Musical, Romance

A pair of sisters from the vaudeville circuit try to make it big time on Broadway, but matters of the heart complicate the attempt.

Director: Harry Beaumont | Stars: Bessie Love, Anita Page, Charles King, The Angeles Twins

Votes: 6,031 | Gross: $6.12M

21. The Blue Angel (1930)

Not Rated | 104 min | Drama, Music

88 Metascore

An elderly professor's ordered life spins dangerously out of control when he falls for a nightclub singer.

Director: Josef von Sternberg | Stars: Emil Jannings, Marlene Dietrich, Kurt Gerron, Rosa Valetti

Votes: 12,870 | Gross: $0.08M

22. Tarnished Lady (1931)

83 min | Drama

Tarnished Lady is a 1931 Pre-Code American drama film directed by George Cukor. The screenplay by Donald Ogden Stewart is based on his short story, A Story of a New York Lady.

Director: George Cukor | Stars: Tallulah Bankhead, Clive Brook, Phoebe Foster, Alexander Kirkland

Votes: 119

24. Sin Takes a Holiday (1930)

Passed | 81 min | Comedy, Romance

Dowdy Sylvia accepts her boss' marriage proposal, even though he only asked her to avoid marriage to another woman. As a wealthy wife, Sylvia changes from ugly duckling to uninhibited swan ... See full summary »

Director: Paul L. Stein | Stars: Constance Bennett, Kenneth MacKenna, Basil Rathbone, Rita La Roy

Votes: 447

26. The Matrimonial Bed (1930)

Passed | 69 min | Comedy

It is the fifth anniversary of the death of Adolphe Noblet who died in a train wreck. His servant and friends still worship him but don't care much for his wife Sylvaine's second husband ... See full summary »

Director: Michael Curtiz | Stars: Frank Fay, James Gleason, Lilyan Tashman, Beryl Mercer

Votes: 121

27. The Greeks Had a Word for Them (1932)

Passed | 79 min | Comedy

Sophisticated comedy: a trio of money hungry women who all have sugar daddies who keep them in the lap of luxury, even as they drive the men crazy. Each woman represents a different ... See full summary »

Director: Lowell Sherman | Stars: Joan Blondell, Madge Evans, Ina Claire, David Manners

Votes: 328

28. Confessions of a Co-Ed (1931)

75 min | Drama

A young college student gets pregnant by the man she loves, but circumstances prevent their marrying, so she marries a classmate she doesn't love. Soon, however, her lover returns, and she finds herself in a dilemma as to who to choose.

Directors: David Burton, Dudley Murphy | Stars: Phillips Holmes, Sylvia Sidney, Norman Foster, Claudia Dell

Votes: 45

29. Merrily We Go to Hell (1932)

Not Rated | 78 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

A drunken newspaperman is rescued from his alcoholic haze by an heiress whose love sobers him up and encourages him to write a play, but he lapses back into dipsomania.

Director: Dorothy Arzner | Stars: Sylvia Sidney, Fredric March, Adrianne Allen, Richard 'Skeets' Gallagher

Votes: 734

30. Hallelujah I'm a Bum (1933)

Passed | 82 min | Comedy, Drama, Musical

A New York tramp (Jolson) falls in love with the mayor's amnesiac girlfriend after rescuing her from a suicide attempt

Director: Lewis Milestone | Stars: Al Jolson, Madge Evans, Frank Morgan, Harry Langdon

Votes: 708

31. Hips, Hips, Hooray! (1934)

Passed | 68 min | Comedy, Musical

Two salesmen try to market a flavored lipstick.

Director: Mark Sandrich | Stars: Bert Wheeler, Robert Woolsey, Ruth Etting, Thelma Todd

Votes: 383

32. The Age of Consent (1932)

Passed | 63 min | Drama, Romance

College co-eds learn to handle the responsibilities of romance.

Director: Gregory La Cava | Stars: Dorothy Wilson, Arline Judge, Richard Cromwell, Eric Linden

Votes: 239

33. The Beast of the City (1932)

Passed | 86 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

Police Chief Jim Fitzpatrick ruthlessly goes after organized crime and is prepared to use brutal and violent methods to fight it.

Director: Charles Brabin | Stars: Walter Huston, Jean Harlow, Wallace Ford, Jean Hersholt

Votes: 994 | Gross: $0.89M

34. Freaks (1932)

Not Rated | 64 min | Drama, Horror

80 Metascore

A circus' beautiful trapeze artist agrees to marry the leader of side-show performers, but his deformed friends discover she is only marrying him for his inheritance.

Director: Tod Browning | Stars: Wallace Ford, Leila Hyams, Olga Baclanova, Roscoe Ates

Votes: 39,805

35. The Story of Temple Drake (1933)

Not Rated | 70 min | Drama

A wealthy but neurotic Southern belle finds herself trapped in the hideout of a gang of vicious bootleggers. The gang's leader lusts after her, and is determined not to let anything stand in the way of his having her.

Director: Stephen Roberts | Stars: Miriam Hopkins, William Gargan, Jack La Rue, Florence Eldridge

Votes: 1,045

36. Three on a Match (1932)

Passed | 63 min | Crime, Drama, Romance

Although Vivian Revere is seemingly the most successful of a trio of reunited schoolmates, she throws it away by descending into a life of debauchery and drugs.

Director: Mervyn LeRoy | Stars: Joan Blondell, Warren William, Ann Dvorak, Bette Davis

Votes: 3,100

37. The Divorcee (1930)

Passed | 84 min | Romance, Drama

When a woman discovers that her husband has been unfaithful to her, she decides to respond to his infidelities in kind.

Director: Robert Z. Leonard | Stars: Norma Shearer, Robert Montgomery, Chester Morris, Conrad Nagel

Votes: 2,546

38. The Sign of the Cross (1932)

Not Rated | 108 min | Drama, History

A Roman soldier becomes torn between his love for a Christian woman and his loyalty to Emperor Nero.

Director: Cecil B. DeMille | Stars: Fredric March, Claudette Colbert, Elissa Landi, Charles Laughton

Votes: 1,855

39. Red-Headed Woman (1932)

Passed | 79 min | Comedy, Romance

Lillian relentlessly attempts to seduce a married man.

Director: Jack Conway | Stars: Jean Harlow, Chester Morris, Lewis Stone, Leila Hyams

Votes: 2,504

40. Employees' Entrance (1933)

Passed | 75 min | Drama, Romance

A working girl is menaced by her tyrannical employer.

Director: Roy Del Ruth | Stars: Warren William, Loretta Young, Wallace Ford, Alice White

Votes: 1,007

41. Murders in the Zoo (1933)

Passed | 62 min | Crime, Horror

A monomaniacal zoologist is pathologically jealous of his beautiful but unfaithful wife Evelyn and will not stop short of murder to keep her.

Director: A. Edward Sutherland | Stars: Charles Ruggles, Lionel Atwill, Gail Patrick, Randolph Scott

Votes: 885

42. Gabriel Over the White House (1933)

Passed | 86 min | Drama, Fantasy, Romance

A political hack becomes President during the height of the Depression and undergoes a metamorphosis into an incorruptible statesman after a near-fatal accident.

Director: Gregory La Cava | Stars: Walter Huston, Karen Morley, Franchot Tone, Arthur Byron

Votes: 1,094

43. Wild Boys of the Road (1933)

Approved | 68 min | Adventure, Drama

In the depths of the Depression, two teenage boys strike out on their own in order to help their struggling parents and find life on the road tougher than expected.

Director: William A. Wellman | Stars: Frankie Darro, Rochelle Hudson, Edwin Phillips, Dorothy Coonan Wellman

Votes: 1,715



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