Top 10 Most Influential Movies of the 30s

King Kong 1933 pic 1

10) King Kong (1933) – the tragic and dynamic tale of an over sized gorilla taken from his jungle home was a completely original step forward in the special effects department for practically every film to follow. However, King Kong oversteps the typical criticism of special effects driven films by having a unique and emotionally involving story that has been admired and mimicked countless times making this one of the leading influential films of all time.


9) M (1931) – Fritz Lang’s quintessential and overwhelming noir mystery simply titled M, is a cinematic powerhouse engaging the mind, eyes, and ears to a movie experience that was unlike any other until this thriller hit the screens. This poetically frightening film paved the way for all quality mystery films and gave them a sort of model on how to approach delicate subject matter, while also pushing the limits on technical creativity and the darkness of the story.


8 Modern Times (1936) –Modern Times is the multifaceted revolutionary comedy from Charlie Chaplin that tackled some immensely sensitive subject matters, relating to the working classes and the unions, but at the same time was a light hearted work of comedic genius that expanded the ability of technical stunts and comedic gags. This absurd yet realist comedy is a relic to future comedy writers and directors that comedy does not necessarily mean that there is no purpose or message behind it.


7) Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) – the political underdog story of a man chosen to be the weak representative that can be easily swayed and then turns out to be a courageous and influential politician is one of the examples of Frank Capra’s cinematic gems. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington proves to be one of the first political critiques that is original and engaging, due to one of Jimmy Stewart’s most marvelously powerful performances that is unforgettable and astonishingly relevant.

it happened

6) It Happened One Night (1934) – Another one of Frank Capra’s brilliant pieces of work, It Happened One Night is the definition of romantic comedy and is done so delightfully well, especially with a unique approach to a battle between the sexes, that this films amusing qualities are still relevant and as potent as they were over 70 years ago. Wonderfully directed and exceptionally adapted for the screen, this film wouldn’t have been what it was if it hadn’t been for the understated and memorable performances from Clark Cable and Claudette Colbert.


5) Stagecoach (1939) – John Ford’s sweeping western Stagecoach is a prime example of the epic landscapes and the profound characters that came to define the eloquence of the western. Using a cast of characters that are incredibly multi-layered and a finely tuned directing style that has been a key influence to most of the western genre, John Ford was able to paint a western masterpiece that was as deep and as beautiful as Monument Valley, which was practically John Ford’s personal landmark to film.


4) Duck Soup (1933) – Known for their multi-dimensional use of comedy, with signature takes from insult jokes to gag techniques, the Marx Brother’s were able to pull together an absurdist political satire entitled Duck Soup. Filled with many of the Marx Brothers best sketches along with a grandiose set production, directed by Leo McCarey, this ridiculous comedy was an incredible influence to most comedies to follow but has yet to be repeated successfully in all of its unique and original comedic delivery.


3) Gone with the Wind (1939) – Grandiose in delivery and epic in scope, Victor Fleming’s Gone with the Wind is another iconic piece of cinema that reflects just how complex films can be either with the their technical achievements or their difficulties in presenting unique characters and their strengths and flaws. Gone with the Wind is a love story as grand as it is compelling and inspired most epic productions that would eventually follow.

Wizard of Oz Emerald City

2) The Wizard of Oz (1939) – the enchanting and unforgettable The Wizard of Oz is one of the most widely recognizable pieces of film that is as deep and enjoyable as it is colorful. Widening the limits of imagination and opening new doors to the potential of cinema, Victor Fleming was able to make The Wizard of Oz an icon for Hollywood and a symbol for extraordinary filmmaking.


1) City Lights (1931) – considered to be Charlie Chaplin’s masterpiece, City Lights is a delightful yet difficult cinematic journey that deals with an immense amount of sensitive subject matter that heightens the emotional impact that the film was intended to deliver. A classic piece of artistic cinema, City Lights is an influence to filmmakers and actors alike, willing to portray extremely real and sometimes incredibly difficult scenarios, and is recognized for its contribution sitting at the number eleven position on the AFI top 100 movies ever made.

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order): All Quiet on the Western Front, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Angels with Dirty Faces, The 39 Steps, Mutiny on the Bounty, A Night at the Opera, Freaks, Frankenstein, Gunga Din, and Bringing Up Baby.

3 Responses to “Top 10 Most Influential Movies of the 30s”
  1. Nice list – unfortunately, I’ve only seen The Wizard of Oz.

    Older films seem to have less availability in places like Perth, Western Australia. I had the opportunity to watch King Kong on television (on a channel where they show some respect and have no ads during programs), but, for some reason, passed it up.

    All of the movies on this list are on my ‘To-Watch’ list, and you seem to have made a brilliant list.

  2. octavarium08 says:

    Perth, Western Australia? Didn’t even think my blog would reach outside of my state in the US of A let alone out of the country itself.
    I highly recommend all of these films and even more than the other honorable mentions. I will be doing a top 20 films of each decade (something that is slightly less objective than influence, but then again bias always is a factor), which will include this last decade.

    I’m becoming a fan of Australian cinema through directors such as Peter Weir, John Hillcoat, and George Miller. Are there any Australian films that you would recommend?

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