The 50 best movies of 1940s

by jjavatomateos | created - 27 May 2015 | updated - 1 day ago | Public
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1. Citizen Kane (1941)

PG | 119 min | Drama, Mystery

100 Metascore

Following the death of publishing tycoon, Charles Foster Kane, reporters scramble to uncover the meaning of his final utterance; 'Rosebud'.

Director: Orson Welles | Stars: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Comingore, Agnes Moorehead

Votes: 368,763 | Gross: $1.59M

2. The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

Not Rated | 99 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

Two employees at a gift shop can barely stand each other, without realizing that they are falling in love through the post as each other's anonymous pen pal.

Director: Ernst Lubitsch | Stars: Margaret Sullavan, James Stewart, Frank Morgan, Joseph Schildkraut

Votes: 24,787 | Gross: $0.20M

3. Brief Encounter (1945)

Not Rated | 86 min | Drama, Romance

Meeting a stranger in a railway station, a woman is tempted to cheat on her husband.

Director: David Lean | Stars: Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard, Stanley Holloway, Joyce Carey

Votes: 32,368

4. Notorious (1946)

Not Rated | 102 min | Drama, Film-Noir, Romance

100 Metascore

A woman is asked to spy on a group of Nazi friends in South America. How far will she have to go to ingratiate herself with them?

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains, Louis Calhern

Votes: 86,168 | Gross: $10.46M

5. The Big Sleep (1946)

Not Rated | 114 min | Crime, Film-Noir, Mystery

Private detective Philip Marlowe is hired by a rich family. Before the complex case is over, he's seen murder, blackmail, and what might be love.

Director: Howard Hawks | Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, John Ridgely, Martha Vickers

Votes: 74,379 | Gross: $6.54M

6. Rope (1948)

PG | 80 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

73 Metascore

Two men attempt to prove they committed the perfect crime by hosting a dinner party after strangling their former classmate to death.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: James Stewart, John Dall, Farley Granger, Dick Hogan

Votes: 117,064

7. The Third Man (1949)

Not Rated | 93 min | Film-Noir, Mystery, Thriller

97 Metascore

Pulp novelist Holly Martins travels to shadowy, postwar Vienna, only to find himself investigating the mysterious death of an old friend, Harry Lime.

Director: Carol Reed | Stars: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Trevor Howard

Votes: 147,358 | Gross: $0.45M

8. Portrait of Jennie (1948)

Approved | 86 min | Drama, Romance, Fantasy

A mysterious girl inspires a struggling artist.

Director: William Dieterle | Stars: Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotten, Ethel Barrymore, Lillian Gish

Votes: 5,731

9. Casablanca (1942)

PG | 102 min | Drama, Romance, War

100 Metascore

A cynical American expatriate struggles to decide whether or not he should help his former lover and her fugitive husband escape French Morocco.

Director: Michael Curtiz | Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains

Votes: 483,717 | Gross: $1.02M

10. Rebecca (1940)

Not Rated | 130 min | Drama, Mystery, Romance

A self-conscious woman juggles adjusting to her new role as an aristocrat's wife and avoiding being intimidated by his first wife's spectral presence.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders, Judith Anderson

Votes: 112,521 | Gross: $4.36M

11. Rome, Open City (1945)

Not Rated | 103 min | Drama, Thriller, War

During the Nazi occupation of Rome in 1944, the Resistance leader, Giorgio Manfredi, is chased by the Nazis as he seeks refuge and a way to escape.

Director: Roberto Rossellini | Stars: Anna Magnani, Aldo Fabrizi, Marcello Pagliero, Vito Annichiarico

Votes: 20,826

12. The Great Dictator (1940)

Passed | 125 min | Comedy, Drama, War

Dictator Adenoid Hynkel tries to expand his empire while a poor Jewish barber tries to avoid persecution from Hynkel's regime.

Director: Charles Chaplin | Stars: Charles Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Jack Oakie, Reginald Gardiner

Votes: 184,542

13. The Lady from Shanghai (1947)

Not Rated | 87 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

Fascinated by gorgeous Mrs. Bannister, seaman Michael O'Hara joins a bizarre yachting cruise, and ends up mired in a complex murder plot.

Director: Orson Welles | Stars: Rita Hayworth, Orson Welles, Everett Sloane, Glenn Anders

Votes: 23,887 | Gross: $0.01M

14. Bicycle Thieves (1948)

Not Rated | 89 min | Drama

In post-war Italy, a working-class man's bicycle is stolen. He and his son set out to find it.

Director: Vittorio De Sica | Stars: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola, Lianella Carell, Elena Altieri

Votes: 130,559 | Gross: $0.33M

15. The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)

Not Rated | 88 min | Drama, Romance

93 Metascore

The spoiled young heir to the decaying Amberson fortune comes between his widowed mother and the man she has always loved.

Directors: Orson Welles, Fred Fleck, Robert Wise | Stars: Tim Holt, Joseph Cotten, Dolores Costello, Anne Baxter

Votes: 20,545

16. Out of the Past (1947)

Not Rated | 97 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

A private eye escapes his past to run a gas station in a small town, but his past catches up with him. Now he must return to the big city world of danger, corruption, double crosses and duplicitous dames.

Director: Jacques Tourneur | Stars: Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming

Votes: 29,542

17. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

PG | 130 min | Drama, Family, Fantasy

89 Metascore

An angel is sent from Heaven to help a desperately frustrated businessman by showing him what life would have been like if he had never existed.

Director: Frank Capra | Stars: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell

Votes: 363,107

18. Day of Wrath (1943)

Not Rated | 110 min | Drama, History

The young wife of an aging priest falls in love with his son amidst the horror of a merciless witch hunt in 17th century Denmark.

Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer | Stars: Thorkild Roose, Lisbeth Movin, Sigrid Neiiendam, Kirsten Andreasen

Votes: 8,346

19. Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)

Not Rated | 14 min | Short, Fantasy, Mystery

A woman returning home falls asleep and has vivid dreams that may or may not be happening in reality. Through repetitive images and complete mismatching of the objective view of time and space, her dark inner desires play out on-screen.

Directors: Maya Deren, Alexander Hammid | Stars: Maya Deren, Alexander Hammid

Votes: 9,682

20. Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

PG | 108 min | Thriller

94 Metascore

A young woman discovers her visiting uncle may not be the man he seems to be.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: Teresa Wright, Joseph Cotten, Macdonald Carey, Henry Travers

Votes: 54,714

21. At Land (1944)

15 min | Short

Silently, a woman wakes on a beach as the tides go in reverse. Her dreamscape unfolds as she tries to locate a chess piece traveling from the beach to a party to a country road and then back.

Director: Maya Deren | Stars: John Cage, Maya Deren, Alexander Hammid, Hella Heyman

Votes: 2,401

22. Suspicion (1941)

Not Rated | 99 min | Mystery, Thriller

83 Metascore

A shy young heiress marries a charming gentleman, and soon begins to suspect he is planning to murder her.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine, Cedric Hardwicke, Nigel Bruce

Votes: 29,485 | Gross: $4.50M

23. Shoeshine (1946)

Not Rated | 87 min | Drama

Two shoeshine boys in postwar Rome, Italy, save up to buy a horse, but their involvement as dupes in a burglary lands them in juvenile prison where the experience take a devastating toll on their friendship.

Director: Vittorio De Sica | Stars: Rinaldo Smordoni, Franco Interlenghi, Annielo Mele, Bruno Ortensi

Votes: 5,724

24. The Stranger (1946)

Not Rated | 95 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

76 Metascore

An investigator from the War Crimes Commission travels to Connecticut to find an infamous Nazi.

Director: Orson Welles | Stars: Orson Welles, Edward G. Robinson, Loretta Young, Philip Merivale

Votes: 19,870

25. Spellbound (1945)

Approved | 111 min | Film-Noir, Mystery, Romance

A psychiatrist protects the identity of an amnesia patient accused of murder while attempting to recover his memory.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck, Michael Chekhov, Leo G. Carroll

Votes: 39,865 | Gross: $7.00M

26. Ritual in Transfigured Time (1946)

Not Rated | 15 min | Short

An experiment with editing techniques that distort space and time in order to further contextualize an image.

Director: Maya Deren | Stars: Rita Christiani, Maya Deren, Anaïs Nin, Frank Westbrook

Votes: 1,340

27. Lifeboat (1944)

Not Rated | 97 min | Drama, War

78 Metascore

Several survivors of a torpedoed merchant ship in World War II find themselves in the same lifeboat with one of the U-boat men who sunk it.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: Tallulah Bankhead, John Hodiak, Walter Slezak, William Bendix

Votes: 24,638

28. Under Capricorn (1949)

Approved | 117 min | Crime, Drama, Romance

A young gentleman goes to Australia where he reunites with his now married childhood sweetheart, only to find out she has become an alcoholic and harbors dark secrets.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotten, Michael Wilding, Margaret Leighton

Votes: 5,736

29. Prison (1949)

79 min | Drama

A film director tries to create the best film in history, but finds out that human abilities have their limits.

Director: Ingmar Bergman | Stars: Doris Svedlund, Birger Malmsten, Eva Henning, Hasse Ekman

Votes: 1,458

30. Fantasia (1940)

G | 125 min | Animation, Family, Fantasy

96 Metascore

A collection of animated interpretations of great works of Western classical music.

Directors: James Algar, Samuel Armstrong, Ford Beebe Jr., Norman Ferguson, David Hand, Jim Handley, T. Hee, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske, Bill Roberts, Paul Satterfield, Ben Sharpsteen | Stars: Leopold Stokowski, Deems Taylor, Corey Burton, Walt Disney

Votes: 82,750 | Gross: $76.41M

31. Macbeth (1948)

Passed | 92 min | Drama, History, War

Macbeth, the Thane of Glamis, receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife, Macbeth murders his king and takes the throne for himself.

Director: Orson Welles | Stars: Orson Welles, Jeanette Nolan, Dan O'Herlihy, Roddy McDowall

Votes: 5,806

32. The Private Life of a Cat (1947)

22 min | Documentary, Short

Two cats have a litter of 5 kittens and then nurse, teach and play with them.

Directors: Alexander Hammid, Maya Deren

Votes: 751

33. The Great Madcap (1949)

92 min | Comedy

Buñuel's first "comeback" film since "L'Age d'Or" in 1930 (he made only a few musicals in the interim), "El Gran Calavera" concerns a family's attempts to change the patriarch's somewhat ... See full summary »

Director: Luis Buñuel | Stars: Fernando Soler, Rosario Granados, Andrés Soler, Rubén Rojo

Votes: 1,008

34. Meditation on Violence (1949)

Not Rated | 12 min | Short

The setting with the low walls and river views is located in a private area of The Cloisters museum.

Director: Maya Deren | Star: Chao Li Chi

Votes: 808

35. A Ship to India (1947)

Not Rated | 98 min | Drama

A sailor returns to his hometown after 7 years and remembered the dark and the light moments of his past.

Director: Ingmar Bergman | Stars: Holger Löwenadler, Anna Lindahl, Birger Malmsten, Gertrud Fridh

Votes: 1,111

36. Foreign Correspondent (1940)

Passed | 120 min | Action, Romance, Thriller

On the eve of World War II, a young American reporter tries to expose enemy agents in London.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: Joel McCrea, Laraine Day, Herbert Marshall, George Sanders

Votes: 16,756 | Gross: $3.48M

37. Witch's Cradle (1944)

12 min | Short, Fantasy, Mystery

The surrealist film shows repetitive imagery involving a string fashioned in a bizarre, almost spiderweb-like pattern over the hands of several individuals, most notably an unnamed young woman and an elderly gentleman.

Director: Maya Deren | Stars: Marcel Duchamp, Pajorita Matta

Votes: 528

38. Saboteur (1942)

PG | 109 min | Thriller, War

64 Metascore

An aircraft factory worker goes on the run after being wrongly accused of starting a fire that killed his best friend.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: Priscilla Lane, Robert Cummings, Otto Kruger, Alan Baxter

Votes: 21,365

39. That Uncertain Feeling (1941)

Passed | 84 min | Comedy

A psychoanalyst causes a woman to doubt her happy marriage.

Director: Ernst Lubitsch | Stars: Merle Oberon, Melvyn Douglas, Burgess Meredith, Alan Mowbray

Votes: 2,046

40. The Paradine Case (1947)

Approved | 125 min | Crime, Drama, Romance

A happily married London barrister falls in love with the accused poisoner he is defending.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: Gregory Peck, Ann Todd, Charles Laughton, Charles Coburn

Votes: 9,312

41. A Study in Choreography for Camera (1946)

4 min | Short

A man dances in several locations, edited to have a fluent effect.

Director: Maya Deren | Star: Talley Beatty

Votes: 1,288

42. Crisis (1946)

Not Rated | 93 min | Drama, Romance

A small-town piano teacher is shocked by the arrival of her foster daughter's real mother, whose young lover soon follows and causes further disruption.

Director: Ingmar Bergman | Stars: Inga Landgré, Stig Olin, Marianne Löfgren, Dagny Lind

Votes: 2,113

43. Bon Voyage (1944)

TV-G | 26 min | Short, War

A young Scottish R.A.F. gunner is debriefed by French officials about his escape from occupied territory, and in particular one person who may or may not have been a German Agent.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: John Blythe, Janique Joelle

Votes: 1,557

44. Port of Call (1948)

Not Rated | 100 min | Drama

A suicidal factory girl out of reformatory school, anxious to escape her overbearing mother, falls in love with a sailor who can't forgive her past.

Director: Ingmar Bergman | Stars: Nine-Christine Jönsson, Bengt Eklund, Mimi Nelson, Berta Hall

Votes: 1,763

45. It Rains on Our Love (1946)

95 min | Drama, Romance

A young love fights against the stupidity and boredom of society.

Director: Ingmar Bergman | Stars: Barbro Kollberg, Birger Malmsten, Gösta Cederlund, Ludde Gentzel

Votes: 1,141

46. Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941)

Approved | 95 min | Comedy, Romance

A couple who have been married for three years are shocked to learn that their marriage is not legally valid.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: Carole Lombard, Robert Montgomery, Gene Raymond, Jack Carson

Votes: 8,549

47. Aventure malgache (1944)

Not Rated | 32 min | Short, War

While preparing backstage, an actor tells his castmates about an adventure he had during World War II in the Axis-controlled French colony of Madagascar working for the Resistance and clashing with the collaborationist local police chief.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: Paul Bonifas, Paul Clarus, Jean Dattas, Andre Frere

Votes: 1,359

48. Music in Darkness (1948)

87 min | Drama

A blind musician falls in love with a kindhearted girl. This love begin to confront with his disease and with his music.

Director: Ingmar Bergman | Stars: Mai Zetterling, Birger Malmsten, Olof Winnerstrand, Naima Wifstrand

Votes: 1,018