The Best Movies Are From the '40s

A few weeks ago, a writer in my Odyssey community made the claim that the best movies are from the '80s. But one question popped in my head: Has he seen enough movies from earlier decades? If his film preferences are similar to many people of my generation, then the answer is most likely no.

I do agree with his claim up to a point.

Are all those '80s films fun and enjoyable? YES.

Iconic? Oh yeah.

Best films of all time? Eh.

Why, you ask?

While the movies he listed are certainly fun to watch and are undoubtedly iconic to modern filmgoers, the quality of these films simply can't match the great films of the past.

Specifically, I believe that the 1940s produced the best films—and even in black-and-white, they're more progressive then you'd think.

Allow me to take you through this the decade in film genre-by-genre to demonstrate why these films are worth watching:

Screwball Comedies!

The films of the 1940s mastered the art of the "Screwball Comedy", which were films that involved hilarious "battle-of-the-sexes" plotlines and jokes (in which women often "win" so to speak!). Watch these movies and you'll see why the witty charm of classic comedy films is lost in our raunchy modern-era comedies.

1. "The Lady Eve" (1941)

Thank you (Dir.) Preston Sturgess for your comedic brilliance.

2. "Adam's Rib" (1949)

3. "The Philadelphia Story" (1940)

Political films!

Many of these films from the 1940s, as you would expect, often contained themes relevant to World War II, such as self-sacrifice for the greater good. Some even touched on issues in our country unattached to the war such as the effects of the Depression carried into the 1940s. These films give you a look inside the political views of Americans during the era:

4. "Casablanca" (1942)

(Oops, spoilers!)

5. "The Grapes of Wrath" (1940)

Fun fact: that's Henry Fonda, a.k.a. the oafish man you just saw falling over a couch.

6. "The Great Dictator" (1940)

Before you make any assumptions, let me set the record straight—in this film, Charlie Chaplin (above) dressed in a Hitler-inspired getup to not only parody him, but to also make a bold political statement about Hitler's dangerous ideology during his "reign" in power. "The Great Dictator" was in fact an anti-fascist film—and this is especially evident in Chaplin's ending monologue.

Film Noir!

The art of "Film Noir" may have been left in the past, but it's definitely one worth discovering! Noir films, or dark sophisticated dramas, are like a good mystery book: they're thrilling, take you on many twists and turns, and leave you hungry for more. Start your journey into the dark world of Film Noir with these movies:

7. "The Maltese Falcon" (1941)

8. "Double Indemnity" (1944)

9. "Citizen Kane" (1941)

Trump before Trump—watch it, and you'll know what I mean!

10. "The Big Sleep" (1946)

Disney films!

Even after the success of the game-changing "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" in 1937, the next wave of Disney's successive feature-length films didn't arrive until the 1940s with the release of "Pinocchio." This era of Disney films put animators to work developing innovative techniques in animation and creating emotionally captivating narratives that set the stage for the Disney films we enjoy and hold dear today.

11. "Dumbo" (1941)

12. "Pinocchio" (1940)

13. "Bambi" (1943)


Nowadays, musical films are seldom produced, and when they are made, they sometimes tend to be cheesy, and are often not well-received. "La La Land" of course is an exception, but did you know it was inspired by many classic musical films? Musical films were once all the rage for people seeking to escape the grim realities of the Great Depression and World War II. As a result, some fun and truly magical musicals were produced during the 1940s.

14. "Meet Me in St. Louis" (1944)

15. "Cabin in the Sky" (1943)

"Cabin in the Sky" was unlike other films of its time—not only did the film feature African-Americans in major roles, but it also depicted its characters as people of glamour (rather than the usual roles of lowly servants or maids).

16. "Cover Girl" (1944)

17. "Easter Parade"

18. "On the Town"

And where would be without the wonderfully delightful Christmas classic of 1946 that we still hold dear today: "It's a Wonderful Life."

Do you agree that the 1940s are the "best decade" in film? Tweet me your thoughts @missjulia1207!

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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