Modern audiences have gotten to see cinema advance in all sorts of amazing ways. Equally fascinating is the evolution of the craft during its infancy. During the 1920s, cinema was a curious and adventurous child. During the ’30s, it became a more mature and purposeful teen, still experimenting but with a lot more drive.
This decade was mostly characterized by the revolution of sound and color, the development of talkies which started in the ’20s with The Jazz Singer, and film genres beginning to truly define themselves. It was the decade that saw the release of beloved classics like The Wizard of Ozand Gone With the Wind, which IMDb users have praised throughout the years. In the following ranking: If two or more movies share the same rating, the one with the largest number of votes gets the upper spot.
10) How Disheartening Can War Be? – All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
The decade started strong with All Quiet on the Western Front, about a group of German recruits in World War I and how they go from idealism to hopelessness. It was the third film to ever win a Best Picture Oscar, and it’s often praised as one of the most powerful anti-war films ever made.
The movie has a great score of 8.1 on IMDb, where users claim that its timeless nature comes from its soul-stirring message of peace and appreciation for life. Truly, it is impossible not to feel moved by this film.
9) A New Kind of Comedy – It Happened One Night (1934)
It’s tough to trace the history of romantic comedies in cinema, but it’s certain that Frank Capra basically created the screwball genre (a subgenre of the rom-com that satirizes the traditional love story) with It Happened One Nightwhere a spoiled girl (Claudette Colbert) running away from her family is helped by a man (Clark Gable) who is actually a reporter in search of a story.
IMDb gave the movie an 8.1, lauding its creativity and hilariousness. It Happened One Night was the first film to sweep all five major Academy Award categories (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay), and users certainly believe that it deserved them.
8) Drama, Laughter, and Heartbreak – Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
Another Frank Capra film, his second collaboration with actor James Stewart, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington sees a naive man played by Stewart having to fill a vacancy in the US Senate.
IMDb users, who gave the political dramedy an 8.1, complimented its fast pace, intelligent style of humor, compelling dramatic qualities, and courage in delivering strong messages about the horrifying and destructive period of war that the world was going through at the time. Even after all these years, the film remains relevant and powerful.
7) A Colorful Landmark In the History of Fantasy Cinema – The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Victor Fleming‘s The Wizard of Oz is one of those movies that need no introduction, since it’s hard to come across someone not familiar with the story of Dorothy (Judy Garland) from Kansas, who must travel across a magical but often dangerous world to find a wizard who can help her get back home.
At the time of the movie’s release, the way the film took audiences from a rural sepia world to a land of fantasy full of bright colors was astonishingly novel. The film has lost none of that awe-inspiring magic, as proved by its score of 8.1 on IMDb.
6) A Comedy That’ll Make You Laugh and Then Stomp On Your Heart – Make Way for Tomorrow (1937)
Make Way for Tomorrow is a dramedy about an elderly couple forced to part ways when their home is foreclosed and none of their five children wants to take in both of them.
Leo McCarey‘s film is celebrated for its deeply moving depiction of the poignancy of aging and the tenderness of love, which has earned it a score of 8.2 on IMDb. It’s rare to find movies as effective as this one at making you smile and chuckle in one scene, and then sob uncontrollably in the next one.
5) Blasting His Way to Freedom – I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang (1932)
In this devastating social realism drama, a World War I veteran is falsely convicted of a crime and sent to work on a chain gang. The film was made as a critique of American labor camps, but it also works on pretty much every other level.
IMDb users gave I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang a score of 8.2, celebrating many things about it: How brave and intellectually stimulating its social messages are, how entertaining the whole thing is despite being so harrowing more often than not, and the effectiveness of its exceptionally dark tone.
4) A Civil War Romance of Epic Proportions – Gone With the Wind (1939)
Similar to The Wizard of Ozit’s hard to find someone who hasn’t at least heard about this epic, four-hour-long historical drama about the turbulent romance of a scoundrel (Clark Gable) and the manipulative daughter (Vivien Leigh) of a plantation owner. chronicling it as it develops alongside the American Civil War. It happens to also be directed by Victor Fleming.
Some aspects of the narrative haven’t aged well (to put it mildly), but IMDb users find that its moving and romantic story, fascinating characters, masterful performances, and first-rate technical qualities deserve a score of 8.2.
3) Who Is the Murderer? – M (1931)
In this classic German mystery thriller, a serial killer (Peter Lorre) who hunts children becomes the focus of a massive manhunt, soon finding that it is not only the police who are on his trail, but also other members of the criminal underworld.
For one, IMDb users praise how austerely M employs sound (as opposed to American cinema, which at the time often used more as a novelty than a tool). They also commend its alluring tenebristic visuals, grim atmosphere, and creative plot, giving it a great score of 8.3.
2) Love Truly Is Blind – City Lights (1931)
In Charles Chaplin‘s City Lightswhich some consider his masterpiece, his character of the Little Tramp falls in love with a blind florist and plans to get enough money to get her medical help.
IMDb users gave the movie a towering score of 8.5, celebrating Chaplin’s inimitable way of balancing hilarious humor and touching humanity. Reviewers say that the director’s signature slapstick is as polished and amusing as ever, and that the film’s tender romantic qualities make it all the more charming.
1) Make Way for Progress! – Modern Times (1936)
When it came to making movies, Chaplin was a traditionalist. At first, he was reluctant to embrace color or sound in his films. It’s only appropriate that at the height of these two elements starting to become the norm in Hollywood, Chaplin made a film about the Tramp struggling to fit into a modern industrial society characterized by never-ending progress.
Modern Times is many things. It’s a touching farewell to the character of The Tramp, a hilarious festival of laughter like the one you’d expect from the director, and an effective satirical celebration of life’s resilience in the face of harsh times. Some consider it the last great silent film, which makes it quite fitting that it’s the highest-rated feature film from the ’30s on IMDb with a score of 8.5.
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