It’s perfectly easy to get so caught up in the marvels of expensive technology and awe-inspiring movie-making technology that we forget about a time before any of the magic tricks we have at our disposal today were even as much as conceived, let alone invented.
Compiling any “best of” list is a wholly subjective affair, and because of preference and personal taste, this truism applies especially to the world of films and entertainment. Even so, when asked to name their top favorite movies from the 1940s, film enthusiasts so tend to come up with lists of movies that largely overlap in terms of content.
And so, without further ado, we present to you our own list of all-time best 1940s classics.
Day Of Wrath – 1943
This was Danish director Carl Th. Dreyer’s first film in more than a decade and it certainly wasn’t underrated. Developed in Denmark during actual Nazi occupation, Day of Wrath invites the viewer into the very inner circle of Nazi occupation and oppression.
Dreyer tells the story with the help of a real-life pastor and witch hunter who in 1623 spared a woman accused of having dabbled in and performed acts of witchcraft. He does this for the sole purpose of being able to marry the women’s daughter. The pair are happy in marriage only until the pastor’s son from a first marriage makes his way back home. The son and the pastor’s new wife instantly fall in love, leading to a sequence of very unfortunate events for the clergyman’s once beloved. Masterfully created and told from the point of view of a sensitive storyteller and observer, Day of Wrath is an absolute bucket-list see.
Beauty And The Beast – 1946
That’s right, it’s that old. Long before there were Disney animations or live betting opportunities present in every home in the modern free world, there first lived a man by the name of Jean Cocteau. In fact, the story of a beast-turned-man by the raw emotion and power of true love has been with us as far back as the 18th century. But it certainly can be argued that the 1946 rendition of the classic film is one of the best versions ever created. Not only was Cocteau a filmmaker, but he was also a poet. And it’s this poetic rhythm that can so tangibly be felt all throughout the movie, that makes it a deserving addition to our list of 1940s classics.
Sullivan’s Travels – 1941
Is it possible for a storyteller to tell a story not quite the result of their own personal experience? Such is the nature of the rhetoric posed by Sullivan’s Travels. “Rhetoric” because the movie clearly expects no answers to this and other powerful questions, but instead uses those questions to almost punish the protagonist into fearful submission. And as fate would have it, artist John L. Sullivan ends up showing himself completely deserving of everything his fraudulent nature has coming its way. This is classic screwball movie variety and a must-see for any fan of the snowballing power of purposefully produced insanity.