Pre-Code essentials

by leftistcritic | created - 4 months ago | updated - 4 months ago | Public

According to Danny the Pre-Code movie critic (http://pre-code.com/my-list-of-essential-pre-code-hollywood-films/) and my own thoughts

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1. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

Not Rated | 136 min | Drama, War

91 Metascore

A young soldier faces profound disillusionment in the soul-destroying horror of World War I.

Director: Lewis Milestone | Stars: Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim, John Wray, Arnold Lucy

Votes: 53,840 | Gross: $3.27M

2. The Miracle Woman (1931)

Passed | 90 min | Drama, Romance

After an unappreciated minister dies, his daughter loses her faith in God, prompting her to open a phony temple with a con man. Can the love of a blind aviator restore her faith and happiness?

Director: Frank Capra | Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, David Manners, Sam Hardy, Beryl Mercer

Votes: 1,638

3. Duck Soup (1933)

Not Rated | 68 min | Comedy, Musical, War

93 Metascore

Rufus T. Firefly is named president/dictator of bankrupt Freedonia and declares war on neighboring Sylvania over the love of wealthy Mrs. Teasdale.

Director: Leo McCarey | Stars: Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx, Zeppo Marx

Votes: 52,621

4. 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: 59,269

5. It Happened One Night (1934)

Not Rated | 105 min | Comedy, Romance

87 Metascore

A spoiled heiress running away from her family is helped by a man who is actually a reporter in need of a story.

Director: Frank Capra | Stars: Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly, Roscoe Karns

Votes: 85,710 | Gross: $4.36M

6. 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: 5,565

7. Bad Girl (1931)

Passed | 90 min | Drama, Romance

A man and woman, skeptical about romance, nonetheless fall in love and are wed, but their lack of confidence in the opposite sex haunts their marriage.

Director: Frank Borzage | Stars: James Dunn, Sally Eilers, Minna Gombell, Frank Austin

Votes: 947

8. The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1932)

Approved | 88 min | Drama, Romance, War

A Chinese warlord and an engaged Christian missionary fall in love.

Director: Frank Capra | Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, Nils Asther, Toshia Mori, Walter Connolly

Votes: 3,192

9. The Black Cat (1934)

Not Rated | 65 min | Adventure, Crime, Horror

American honeymooners in Hungary become trapped in the home of a Satan-worshiping priest when the bride is taken there for medical help following a road accident.

Director: Edgar G. Ulmer | Stars: Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, David Manners, Julie Bishop

Votes: 8,302 | Gross: $0.24M

10. Blonde Venus (1932)

Not Rated | 93 min | Drama

A cabaret singer takes up with a millionaire to pay for her gravely ill husband's operation.

Director: Josef von Sternberg | Stars: Marlene Dietrich, Cary Grant, Herbert Marshall, Dickie Moore

Votes: 3,881

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: 641

12. Diplomaniacs (1933)

Passed | 61 min | Comedy, Musical

Barbers Willy Nilly and Hercules Glub have opened a barbershop in an Indian reservation, where they have no customers. When suddenly a white man asks for a shave, several Indians of the ... See full summary »

Director: William A. Seiter | Stars: Bert Wheeler, Robert Woolsey, Marjorie White, Phyllis Barry

Votes: 253

13. 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: 2,486

14. 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: 11,521

15. 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: 936

16. 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: 38,643

17. 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: 1,065

18. Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

Not Rated | 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: 6,653 | Gross: $4.80M

19. Heroes for Sale (1933)

Passed | 76 min | Drama, War

A veteran fights drug addiction to make his way in the business world.

Director: William A. Wellman | Stars: Loretta Young, Richard Barthelmess, Aline MacMahon, Gordon Westcott

Votes: 1,924

20. 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: 10,633

21. I'm No Angel (1933)

Passed | 87 min | Comedy, Musical, Romance

Circus performer Tira seeks a better life pursuing the company of wealthy New York men with improbable comic complications along the way.

Director: Wesley Ruggles | Stars: Mae West, Cary Grant, Gregory Ratoff, Edward Arnold

Votes: 2,699 | Gross: $2.85M

22. The Lost Patrol (1934)

Passed | 73 min | Adventure, War

A dozen British soldiers, lost in a Mesopotamian desert during World War I, are menaced by unseen Arab enemies.

Director: John Ford | Stars: Victor McLaglen, Boris Karloff, Wallace Ford, Reginald Denny

Votes: 2,721

23. Murder at the Vanities (1934)

Passed | 89 min | Musical, Mystery, Romance

A homicide detective with an eye for the ladies investigating a murder in Earl Carroll's Vanities allows the music review to continue during the investigation.

Director: Mitchell Leisen | Stars: Carl Brisson, Victor McLaglen, Jack Oakie, Kitty Carlisle

Votes: 538

24. Night Nurse (1931)

Not Rated | 72 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama

A nurse enlists the help of a petty criminal to foil a sinister plot to murder two children.

Director: William A. Wellman | Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, Ben Lyon, Joan Blondell, Clark Gable

Votes: 2,948

25. Queen Christina (1933)

Approved | 99 min | Biography, Drama, History

Queen Christina of Sweden is a popular monarch who is loyal to her country. However, when she falls in love with a Spanish envoy, she must choose between the throne and the man she loves.

Director: Rouben Mamoulian | Stars: Greta Garbo, John Gilbert, Ian Keith, Lewis Stone

Votes: 6,649 | Gross: $0.77M

26. Red Dust (1932)

Passed | 83 min | Drama, Romance

The owner of a rubber plantation becomes involved with the new wife of one of his employees.

Director: Victor Fleming | Stars: Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Gene Raymond, Mary Astor

Votes: 3,406

27. Red-Headed Woman (1932)

Approved | 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: 2,427

28. 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: 1,010

29. Scarface (1932)

PG | 93 min | Action, Crime, Drama

An ambitious and nearly insane violent gangster climbs the ladder of success in the mob, but his weaknesses prove to be his downfall.

Directors: Howard Hawks, Richard Rosson | Stars: Paul Muni, Ann Dvorak, Karen Morley, Osgood Perkins

Votes: 23,079

30. The Story of Temple Drake (1933)

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: 914

31. 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: 1,819

32. Smarty (1934)

Passed | 65 min | Comedy, Romance

Vicki Wallace (Joan Blondell) takes great pleasure in teasing her husband,Tony Wallace (Warren William), who takes no pleasure at all in being teased and it isn't long before he ups and ... See full summary »

Director: Robert Florey | Stars: Joan Blondell, Warren William, Edward Everett Horton, Frank McHugh

Votes: 290

33. Tarzan and His Mate (1934)

Passed | 104 min | Action, Adventure

The idyllic life of Tarzan and Jane is challenged by men on safari who come seeking ivory, and come seeking Jane as well.

Directors: Cedric Gibbons, James C. McKay, Jack Conway | Stars: Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O'Sullivan, Neil Hamilton, Paul Cavanagh

Votes: 4,481

34. 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: 2,906

35. Trouble in Paradise (1932)

Not Rated | 83 min | Comedy, Crime, Romance

A gentleman thief and a lady pickpocket join forces to con a beautiful perfume company owner. Romantic entanglements and jealousies confuse the scheme.

Director: Ernst Lubitsch | Stars: Miriam Hopkins, Kay Francis, Herbert Marshall, Charles Ruggles

Votes: 11,819



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