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Top 10 Favourite Films of the 1940s

The 1940s were marked by World War II, the deadliest conflict in human history. The end of the war signified a change in the political alignment and social structure of the globe. The Marshall Plan helped rebuild war-torn Europe, while the United States became the most influential economic power in the world. Germany was divided in two, and the Cold War began. The State of Israel was established, Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated, and Chairman Mao founded the People's Republic of China. Engineers at the University of Pennsylvania developed the world's first general-purpose electronic computer, and Percy Spencer invented the microwave oven.

American troops of the 1st Infantry Division landing on Omaha Beach on D-Day (June 6, 1944). Glen Beck and the ENIAC, the first electronic general-purpose digital computer (ca. 1947). Mahatma Gandhi, assassinated on January 30, 1948. Mao Zedong proclaiming the establishment of the People's Republic of China (October 1, 1949).
World War II affected Hollywood as well. As many male stars sacrificed their careers to serve their country, studios brought out an array of films that were both patriotic and propagandist. Film noir became one of the most popular genres, and colourful musical extravaganzas served as escapism to the hardships of war. These are my top 10 favorite films of the 1940s. Please bear in mind that this my own personal opinion, which is limited to the films that I have seen so far.

Directed by William Wyler | Starring Fredric March, Dana Andrews and Harold Russell

In The Best Years of Our Lives, Fredric March, Dana Andrew and Harold Russell are three American servicemen trying to adjust back to civilian life after coming home from World War II. I dare you to watch this film and tell me Dana Andrews did not deserve an Oscar for it.

9. Casablanca (1942)
Directed by Michael Curtiz | Starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Paul Henreid

In Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart must decide between his love for Ingrid Bergman and helping her and Paul Henreid escape the country to continue their work with the Resistance. Spoiler alert: he doesn't choose Ingrid Bergman. But they'll always have Paris.
8. Kings Row (1942)
Directed by Sam Wood | Starring Robert Cummings, Ann Sheridan and Ronald Reagan

Robert Cummings is a young doctor, Ann Sheridan is a tomboy, Ronald Reagan is a wealthy orphan, and they're all best friends living in a small American town at the turn of the 20th century. The entire story is a sordid affair, but the performances are outstanding. If you have any doubts about Ronald Reagan's acting abilities, I strongly suggest you watch Kings Row.
7. Anchors Aweigh (1945)
Directed by George Sidney | Starring Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Kathryn Grayson

In Anchors Aweigh, Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra play two sailors on leave. Gene is athletic and confident and disgustingly attractive. And he dances with Jerry Mouse. Frankie is... well, just the most awkward thing you'll ever see in your life and beyond. He's awfully cute, though.
6. Johnny Belinda (1948)
Directed by Jean Negulesco | Starring Jane Wyman, Lew Ayres and Charles Bickford

Jane Wyman plays a deaf-mute in Johnny Belinda, which means she doesn't speak a single word in the entire film. Yet she delivers one of the most beautiful and heartbreaking performances I have ever seen from any actor in any film in any decade.
Directed by Frank Capra | Starring James Stewart, Donna Reed and Henry Travers

James Stewart has given up on his own dreams in favour of his community. Just as he is about to throw himself off a bridge, Henry Travers appears and shows him how different life would be without him. If you haven't seen It's a Wonderful Life, you seriously need to re-evaluate your life. Also, somebody ought to build a George Bailey statue or something.

4. The Clock (1945)
Directed by Vincente Minnelli | Starring Judy Garland, Robert Walker and James Gleason

Robert Walker is a soldier on a 48-hour leave and Judy Garland is a secretary. They meet when she trips over his foot at Penn Station in New York, and instantly fall in love. The Clock is classic case of boy-meets-girl (or girl-meets-boy, however you want to phrase it) and one of the cutest «meet-cutes» in the history of «meet-cutes». Robert Walker is also very cute.

3. Waterloo Bridge (1940)
Directed by Mervyn LeRoy | Starring Robert Taylor, Vivien Leigh and Virginia Field

Robert Taylor is a soldier on his way to the Western Front and Vivien Leigh is a beautiful dancer with whom he falls in love. Waterloo Bridge is another classic story of boy-meets-girl in the midst of war, only this one has a tragic ending (spoiler alert!).

Directed by Irving Rapper | Starring Ronald Reagan, Eleanor Parker and Eve Arden

Eleanor Parker is a naïve young actress who agrees to go on a blind date with soldier Ronald Reagan after he is stood up by her best friend Eve Arden. I'm sure you can guess what happens afterwards. The Voice of the Turtle is one of the best rom-coms out there. You may quote me.
Directed by George Cukor | Starring Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and James Stewart

In The Philadelphia Story, Katharine Hepburn is a socialite torn between three men: Cary Grant, her ex-husband, John Howard, her about-to-be-husband, and James Stewart, the reporter who's covering her wedding. Who will she choose? Yes, you guessed it. Or did you?

And there you have it, my top 10 favorite films of the 1940s. Some of them might not be the greatest films ever made, but they all hold a very special place in my heart.


  1. No, no, no! One can not ignore "The Ghost & Mrs. Muir" with Rex Harrison & Gene Tierney and the beautiful musical score of Bernard Hermann. Love is eternal.


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