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The Greatest, Part 2: Top 40 of the 40's


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It's taken a while but I finally finished watching all the movies I wanted to in order to rank my top movies of the 1940s. Again, I took every bit of information I could from the American Film Institute, IMDB, and other lists of the greatest.

Again, I thought this could be a place to discuss movies from the 1940s.

The Greatest, Part 2: Top 40 of the 40's

1. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
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

2. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
When a rich woman's ex-husband and a tabloid-type reporter turn up just before her planned remarriage, she begins to learn the truth about herself.
Director: George Cukor | Stars: Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey

3. Double Indemnity (1944)
An insurance representative lets himself be talked by a seductive housewife into a murder/insurance fraud scheme that arouses the suspicion of an insurance investigator.
Director: Billy Wilder | Stars: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson, Byron Barr

4. Bicycle Thieves (1948)
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

5. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
When a nice old man who claims to be Santa Claus is institutionalized as insane, a young lawyer decides to defend him by arguing in court that he is the real thing.
Director: George Seaton | Stars: Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O'Hara, John Payne, Gene Lockhart

6. Brief Encounter (1945)
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

7. The Bells of St. Mary's (1945)
At a big city Catholic school, Father O'Malley and Sister Benedict indulge in friendly rivalry, and succeed in extending the school through the gift of a building.
Director: Leo McCarey | Stars: Bing Crosby, Ingrid Bergman, Henry Travers, William Gargan

8. The Ox-Bow Incident (1942)
When a posse captures three men suspected of killing a local farmer, they become strongly divided over whether or not to lynch the men.
Director: William A. Wellman | Stars: Henry Fonda, Dana Andrews, Mary Beth Hughes, Anthony Quinn

9. Sullivan's Travels (1941)
A Hollywood director, John L Sullivan, sets out to experience life as a poor, homeless person in order to gain relevant life experience for his next movie.
Director: Preston Sturges | Stars: Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake, Robert Warwick, William Demarest

10. Casablanca (1942)
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

11. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
Two Americans searching for work in Mexico convince an old prospector to help them mine for gold in the Sierra Madre Mountains.
Director: John Huston | Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt, Bruce Bennett

12. Laura (1944)
A police detective falls in love with the woman whose murder he is investigating.
Director: Otto Preminger | Stars: Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb, Vincent Price

13. Rebecca (1940)
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

14. The Third Man (1949)
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

15. Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
A drama critic learns on his wedding day that his beloved maiden aunts are homicidal maniacs, and that insanity runs in his family.
Director: Frank Capra | Stars: Cary Grant, Priscilla Lane, Raymond Massey, Jack Carson

16. Gaslight (1944)
Years after her aunt was murdered in her home, a young woman moves back into the house with her new husband. However, he has a secret that he will do anything to protect, even if it means driving his wife insane.
Director: George Cukor | Stars: Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotten, May Whitty

17. Rope (1948)
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

18. Johnny Belinda (1948)
In post-war Cape Breton, a doctor's efforts to tutor a deaf/mute woman are undermined when she is raped, and the resulting pregnancy causes scandal to swirl.
Director: Jean Negulesco | Stars: Jane Wyman, Lew Ayres, Charles Bickford, Agnes Moorehead

19. Going My Way (1944)
Father Charles O'Malley, a young priest at a financially failing Church in a tough neighborhood, gains support and inspires his superior.
Director: Leo McCarey | Stars: Bing Crosby, Barry Fitzgerald, Frank McHugh, James Brown

20. Bambi (1942)
The story of a young deer growing up in the forest.
Directors: James Algar, Samuel Armstrong, David Hand, Graham Heid, Bill Roberts, Paul Satterfield, Norman Wright, Arthur Davis, Clyde Geronimi | Stars: Hardie Albright, Stan Alexander, Bobette Audrey, Peter Behn

21. Gentleman's Agreement (1947)
A reporter pretends to be Jewish in order to cover a story on anti-Semitism, and personally discovers the true depths of bigotry and hatred.
Director: Elia Kazan | Stars: Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire, John Garfield, Celeste Holm

22. The Great Dictator (1940)
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

23. The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
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

24. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
Three World War II veterans return home to small-town America to discover that they and their families have been irreparably changed.
Director: William Wyler | Stars: Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews, Fredric March, Teresa Wright

25. Sergeant York (1941)
A marksman is drafted in World War I and ends up becoming one of the most celebrated war heroes.
Director: Howard Hawks | Stars: Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan, Joan Leslie, George Tobias

26. The Bishop's Wife (1947)
An angel in human form enters the life of a bishop in order to help him build a new cathedral and repair his fractured marriage.
Director: Henry Koster | Stars: Cary Grant, Loretta Young, David Niven, Monty Woolley

27. National Velvet (1944)
A jaded former jockey helps a young girl prepare a wild but gifted horse for England's Grand National Sweepstakes.
Director: Clarence Brown | Stars: Mickey Rooney, Elizabeth Taylor, Donald Crisp, Anne Revere

28. Mrs. Miniver (1942)
A British family struggles to survive the first months of World War II.
Director: William Wyler | Stars: Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Teresa Wright, May Whitty

29. The Little Foxes (1941)
The ruthless, moneyed Hubbard clan lives in, and poisons, their part of the deep South at the turn of the twentieth century.
Director: William Wyler | Stars: Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall, Teresa Wright, Richard Carlson

30. Holiday Inn (1942)
At an inn which is only open on holidays, a crooner and a hoofer vie for the affections of a beautiful up-and-coming performer.
Directors: Mark Sandrich, Robert Allen | Stars: Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Marjorie Reynolds, Virginia Dale

31. The Red Shoes (1948)
A young ballet dancer is torn between the man she loves and her pursuit to become a prima ballerina.
Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger | Stars: Anton Walbrook, Marius Goring, Moira Shearer, Robert Helpmann

32. White Heat (1949)
A psychopathic criminal with a mother complex makes a daring break from prison and leads his old gang in a chemical plant payroll heist.
Director: Raoul Walsh | Stars: James Cagney, Virginia Mayo, Edmond O'Brien, Margaret Wycherly

33. Citizen Kane (1941)
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

34. Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
A food writer who has lied about being the perfect housewife must try to cover her deception when her boss and a returning war hero invite themselves to her home for a traditional family Christmas.
Director: Peter Godfrey | Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, Sydney Greenstreet, Reginald Gardiner

35. The Lost Weekend (1945)
The desperate life of a chronic alcoholic is followed through a four-day drinking bout.
Director: Billy Wilder | Stars: Ray Milland, Jane Wyman, Phillip Terry, Howard Da Silva

36. His Girl Friday (1940)
A newspaper editor uses every trick in the book to keep his ace reporter ex-wife from remarrying.
Director: Howard Hawks | Stars: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy, Gene Lockhart

37. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
In the year leading up to the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, the four Smith daughters learn lessons of life and love, even as they prepare for a reluctant move to New York.
Director: Vincente Minnelli | Stars: Judy Garland, Margaret O'Brien, Mary Astor, Lucille Bremer

38. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
A poor Midwest family is forced off their land. They travel to California, suffering the misfortunes of the homeless in the Great Depression.
Director: John Ford | Stars: Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell, John Carradine, Charley Grapewin

39. Mildred Pierce (1945)
A hard-working mother inches towards disaster as she divorces her husband and starts a successful restaurant business to support her spoiled daughter.
Director: Michael Curtiz | Stars: Joan Crawford, Jack Carson, Zachary Scott, Eve Arden

40. Now, Voyager (1942)
A frumpy spinster blossoms under therapy and becomes an elegant, independent woman.
Director: Irving Rapper | Stars: Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Gladys Cooper


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^You have to watch “It’s A Wonderful Life”! It’s a must-see for everyone. Plus, it’s the perfect movie lift spirits during these crazy times.


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I watched Double Indemnity just a couple of weeks ago.

This is a great list. Hope you enjoyed them.


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I realized I posted this thread and wanted to discuss old movies but haven't really done that. So here it goes...

The 40's for me was all about James Stewart. "It's A Wonderful Life," "The Philadelphia Story," "Rope," "The Shop Around The Corner"... his work was tremendous. (Although my #1 favorite James Stewart performance came in the 1950s. Can't wait to get to that one!) To me, James Stewart just had that likability factor with his "aw shucks" demeanor, yet this vast talent. The only actor to come along since that is on his level is Tom Hanks.

As with the 30's, I also really enjoyed Cary Grant and Gary Cooper. I mean, Cary Grant in "Arsenic and Old Lace" was hilarious. And Gary Cooper is just the ultimate movie star to me.

My favorite actress of the 40's was Maureen O'Hara. I grew up on "Miracle On 34th Street" and have always loved her. Bette Davis and Ingrid Bergman are not too far behind.

I finally sat down and watched 'the greatest of all-time' "Citizen Kane" for the first time. It was okay. I guess you need to be a film school type person to really appreciate it. Or maybe it was because I knew what "Rosebud" was before I watched it. Either way, it didn't do it for me like I hoped it would.

As "City Lights" (a mostly silent movie by Charlie Chaplin) was the biggest surprise of the 30's, "Bicycle Thieves," an Italian movie (with subtitles) was the biggest surprise for the 40's. A simple movie about a father and son trying to find a bicycle pulled out so much emotion I couldn't believe it. It is a truly moving experience. I HIGHLY recommend watching it!


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^Well, I love movies but had seen very few movies from the 30s-40s. So I started this mission to watch all the movies that are considered ‘the greatest’ from each decade and make a list of my faves. I’m a nerd for lists. Lol. So I have learned a lot over the past year. Now as I get to later decades, like the 90’s, it’s definitely going to change because I love the movies I grew up on, whether or not critics or IMDB users do.