The Best Of The Best Pictures From the 1920s, 30s, 40s And 50s: Which Show Will You Watch?

You have some time and you want to watch an old movie. You want to watch a movie from the 1920s, 30s, 40s or 50s — the first four decades of the Academy Awards. It should probably be one of the 32 Best Pictures from those years — one that received the Oscar, but you don’t know which one? What are the top films of the 32 movies selected by the Academy of Motions Picture Arts and Sciences as the best movies of the 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s?

Your question has been answered!

Your quandary is resolved.

The EthnoFamilyMovieOgraphy (EFMO) family of viewers has done just what you are requesting. They have watched each the Best Pictures from the first four decades of the Academy Awards, and the faithful EFMO reviewers have rated each film individually and evaluated all 32 movies together as a group.

It has taken some time, but the combined results are now tabulated and ready for your review.

The best of the best films for the first four decades of the Best Pictures are — with the top rated movie shown in the #1 position . . . and the year of each film noted in parentheses . .  . well, I can’t wait any longer, herrrre they are!!!!

#1 Ben-Hur (1959)

#2 Gone With The Wind (1939)

#3 It Happened One Night (1933-34)

#4 Casablanca (1943)

#5 On The Waterfront (1954)

#6 The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957)

#7 Mrs. Miniver (1942)

#8 Marty (1955)

#9 Going My Way (1944)

#10 Rebecca (1940)

Ben-Hur and Gone with the Wind are no surprises. They essentially tied for top EFMO appreciation. Charlton Heston as Judah Ben-Hur was appreciated more for his moral positioning than his place in the most memorable horse race of movietime. Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh are more than memorable as Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara, perhaps the most famous couple of all movietime, and their film is still the greatest overall money-maker of any show to take the Best Picture Award.

Surprisingly, a comedy is next. At #3, Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert chase each other around the countryside in the screwball comedy that launched the genre. Delightfully entertaining and the oldest show on our top list, you can watch this movie anytime and laugh. It does transcend the ages.

Casablanca is probably my favorite. I can’t get the music and the line out of my head, and I don’t want to. Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart are magical in a film that reminds me oddly and sadly of the The Lord of the Rings. There is something in a good leaving that does last forever.

On the Waterfront is, in its ways, the most serious and most dramatic of the top 5 films. Marlon Brando is the beat-up and knocked-down Terry Malloy who stands true at the end and walks into movie history. The supporting cast is outstanding, as it is in all the Best Pictures.

There is, I think, a natural break here. The next five films can move up and down. In some sorts, they can switch with ones farther down the line; but in their own ways, they are the best of the next tier.

The Bridge On The River Kwai may be the best war film made after World War II. It took some time to look back at that hard time. There is an honesty here that may always be hard to appreciate.

Mrs. Miniver is set during the wartime at the moment of the rescue of the British troops stranded on the sands of Dunkirk. The film is an oddly at-home piece and one that struck home with our audience today, so many years later.

Marty is, what can I say, Marty. My grandfather was a butcher. Marty reminds me of him and the quiet era when the young boomers were starting to grow up in a new time and place. The street scenes are worth the show.

Going My Way is good clean fun, a respite in a war-torn time and an uplifting film for every audience.

Rebecca, to me, represents a new age or style or something in film. Mrs. Danvers is the villain I remember from watching movies on the old black and white TV in the cold basement of our home. She is the very worst and never to be forgotten.

Well, there you have it. They are all great movies. One thing we have learned from watching the Best Pictures is that they are all best films. Amazingly, in one evaluation, 24 movies of these first 32 received at least one vote in someone’s top 5. Truly, they are all great films. You can not go wrong.

Enjoy the shows.

Grandpa Jim