film The Best '40s Thriller Movies  

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List Rules Vote up your favorite suspense films that were released in the 1940s

Femme fatales, dangerous men, and nail-biting plot twists - these gritty noir films of the 1940s have it all. With roots in German expressionist films, these '40s thriller movies were typically featured in black and white, although a select few were filmed in color. Many of these stylish, Hollywood crime dramas and often portrayed the cynical attitude of the post-Great Depression era. 


One man is so closely associated with the thriller genre, his name may as well be synonymous with suspense: Alfred Hitchcock. The legendary British director has many entries on this list of the top ‘40s thriller movies, including the haunting
Rebecca, and the political thriller Notorious, starring Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman at the top of their games. Other notable directors on this list include Frank Capra, John Huston (father of Anjelica), and Billy Wilder.


Also on this list of the greatest ‘40s thriller movies, you’ll find the Orson Welles picture
The Lady from Shanghai, starring his estranged wife Rita Hayworth. Although it wasn't massive hit upon its initial release, the film developed a solid reputation in later years.  

Vote up the best thriller movies from the 1940's, and be sure to let us know what  you think in the comment section!  

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Rebecca is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
Rebecca Laurence Olivier, Alfred Hitchcock, Joan Fontaine Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free TrialRebecca is a 1940 American psychological thriller-drama film. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, it was his first American project, and his first film produced under contract with David O. Selznick. The film's screenplay was a version by Joan ...more

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The Third Man is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
The Third Man Orson Welles, Trevor Howard, Joseph Cotten The Third Man is a 1949 British film noir, directed by Carol Reed and starring Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles, and Trevor Howard. It is considered one of the greatest films of all time, celebrated for its atmospheric cinematography, ...more

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Double indemnity is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies

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Notorious is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
Notorious Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock Notorious is a 1946 American spy thriller film directed and produced by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains as three people whose lives become intimately entangled during an espionage operation. It was shot in ...more

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Suspicion is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
Suspicion Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock, Joan Fontaine Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free TrialSuspicion is a romantic psychological thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and starring Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine as a married couple. It also stars Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Nigel Bruce, Dame May Whitty, Isabel Jeans, Heather Angel, and Leo ...more

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Shadow of a Doubt is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
Shadow of a Doubt Alfred Hitchcock, Teresa Wright, Joseph Cotten Shadow of a Doubt is a 1943 American psychological thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and starring Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten. Written by Thornton Wilder, Sally Benson, and Alma Reville, the film was nominated for an Academy Award for ...more

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Laura is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
Laura Gene Tierney, Clifton Webb, Judith Anderson Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free TrialLaura is a 1944 American film noir produced and directed by Otto Preminger. It stars Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, and Clifton Webb along with Vincent Price and Judith Anderson. The screenplay by Jay Dratler, Samuel Hoffenstein, and Betty ...more

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Lifeboat is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
Lifeboat Tallulah Bankhead, Hume Cronyn, Heather Angel Lifeboat is an American drama thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock from a story by John Steinbeck. The film stars Tallulah Bankhead with William Bendix. Also in the cast are Walter Slezak, Mary Anderson and John Hodiak. Additional roles ...more

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Foreign Correspondent is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
Foreign Correspondent Alfred Hitchcock, George Sanders, Joel McCrea Foreign Correspondent is a 1940 American spy thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It tells the story of an American reporter who tries to expose enemy spies in Britain, a series of events involving a continent-wide conspiracy that ...more

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The Lady from Shanghai is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
The Lady from Shanghai Rita Hayworth, Orson Welles, Errol Flynn The Lady from Shanghai is a 1947 film noir directed by Orson Welles and starring Welles, his estranged wife Rita Hayworth and Everett Sloane. It is based on the novel If I Die Before I Wake by Sherwood King. Although The Lady from Shanghai ...more

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The Stranger is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
The Stranger Orson Welles, Edward G. Robinson, Loretta Young Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free TrialThe Stranger is a 1946 American film noir starring Edward G. Robinson, Loretta Young and Orson Welles. It was the third feature film completed by Welles as a director. A drama about a war crimes investigator who tracks a high-ranking Nazi ...more

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The Postman Always Rings Twice is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
The Postman Always Rings Twice Lana Turner, Hume Cronyn, John Garfield The Postman Always Rings Twice is a 1946 drama-film noir based on the 1934 novel of the same name by James M. Cain. This adaptation of the novel features Lana Turner, John Garfield, Cecil Kellaway, Hume Cronyn, Leon Ames, and Audrey Totter. It ...more

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Rope is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
Rope James Stewart, Alfred Hitchcock, Cedric Hardwicke Rope is a 1948 American psychological crime thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, based on the 1929 play of the same name by Patrick Hamilton and adapted by Hume Cronyn and Arthur Laurents. The film was produced by Hitchcock and Sidney ...more

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The Spiral Staircase is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
The Spiral Staircase Rhonda Fleming, Ethel Barrymore, Elsa Lanchester The Spiral Staircase is a 1946 American psychological thriller film directed by Robert Siodmak, from a screenplay by Mel Dinelli based on Ethel Lina White's novel Some Must Watch. The novel was adapted for a radio production starring Helen ...more

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White Heat is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
White Heat James Cagney, Edmond O'Brien, Virginia Mayo White Heat is a 1949 film noir starring James Cagney, Virginia Mayo and Edmond O'Brien and featuring Margaret Wycherly and Steve Cochran. Directed by Raoul Walsh from the Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts screenplay based on a story by Virginia ...more

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Arsenic and Old Lace is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
Arsenic and Old Lace Cary Grant, Peter Lorre, Raymond Massey Arsenic and Old Lace is a 1944 American dark comedy film directed by Frank Capra, starring Cary Grant, and based on Joseph Kesselring's play Arsenic and Old Lace. The script adaptation was by Julius J. Epstein and Philip G. Epstein. Capra ...more

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Key Largo is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
Key Largo Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson Key Largo is a 1948 film noir directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson and Lauren Bacall and featuring Lionel Barrymore and Claire Trevor. The movie was adapted by Richard Brooks and Huston from Maxwell ...more

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Gaslight is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
Gaslight Ingrid Bergman, Angela Lansbury, Charles Boyer Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free TrialGaslight is an American 1944 mystery-thriller film adapted from Patrick Hamilton's 1938 play Gas Light. It was the second version to be filmed, following the British film Gaslight, directed by Thorold Dickinson and released in 1940. This 1944 ...more

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Cat People is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
Cat People Alan Napier, Simone Simon, Tom Conway Cat People is a 1942 horror film produced by Val Lewton and directed by Jacques Tourneur. DeWitt Bodeen wrote the original screenplay which was based on Val Lewton's short story The Bagheeta published in 1930. The film stars Simone Simon, Kent ...more

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Sorry, Wrong Number is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
Sorry, Wrong Number Barbara Stanwyck, Burt Lancaster, William Conrad Sorry, Wrong Number is a 1948 American suspense film noir directed by Anatole Litvak and starring Barbara Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster. It tells the story of a woman who overhears a murder plot. The film was adapted by Lucille Fletcher from her ...more

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Murder, My Sweet is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
Murder, My Sweet Claire Trevor, Dick Powell, Mike Mazurki Murder, My Sweet is a 1944 American film noir, directed by Edward Dmytryk and starring Dick Powell, Claire Trevor, and Anne Shirley. The film is based on Raymond Chandler's 1940 novel Farewell, My Lovely. A second film adaptation of the novel ...more

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Dark Passage is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
Dark Passage Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, Agnes Moorehead Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free TrialDark Passage is a Warner Bros. film noir directed by Delmer Daves and starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. The film is based on the novel of the same name by David Goodis. It was the third of four films real-life couple Bacall and Bogart ...more

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Le Corbeau is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
Le Corbeau Pierre Fresnay, Pierre Larquey, Roger Blin Le Corbeau is a 1943 French film directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot. The film caused serious problems for its director after World War II as it had been produced by Continental Films, a German production company established near the beginning of ...more

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Gaslight is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
Gaslight Anton Walbrook, Robert Newton, Diana Wynyard Gaslight is a 1940 British film directed by Thorold Dickinson which stars Anton Walbrook and Diana Wynyard, and features Frank Pettingell. The film adheres more closely to the original play upon which it is based – Patrick Hamilton's Gas Light ...more

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The Blue Dahlia is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
The Blue Dahlia Veronica Lake, Alan Ladd, William Bendix The Blue Dahlia is a 1946 film noir, directed by George Marshall and written by Raymond Chandler. The film marks the third pairing of stars Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake.

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The Body Snatcher is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
The Body Snatcher Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Bill Williams The Body Snatcher is a 1945 horror film directed by Robert Wise based on the short story The Body Snatcher by Robert Louis Stevenson. The film's producer Val Lewton helped adapt the story for the screen, writing under the pen name of ...more

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Stray Dog is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
Stray Dog Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Keiko Awaji Stray Dog is a 1949 Japanese police procedural film noir directed by Akira Kurosawa and starring Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura. The film is considered a precursor to the contemporary police procedural and buddy cop film genres. ...more

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Saboteur is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
Saboteur Alfred Hitchcock, Robert Mitchum, Norman Lloyd Saboteur is a 1942 Universal spy thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock with a screenplay written by Peter Viertel, Joan Harrison and Dorothy Parker. The film stars Priscilla Lane, Robert Cummings and Norman Lloyd. ...more

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Spellbound is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
Spellbound Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck, Alfred Hitchcock Spellbound is a 1945 American psychological mystery thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It tells the story of the new head of a mental asylum who turns out not to be what he claims. The film stars Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck, Michael ...more

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Detour is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
Detour Ann Savage, Tom Neal, Tim Ryan Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free TrialDetour is a 1945 film noir thriller that stars Tom Neal and Ann Savage. The film was adapted by Martin Goldsmith and Martin Mooney from Goldsmith's novel of the same name and was directed by Edgar G. Ulmer. The 68-minute film was released by ...more

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Dead of Night is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
Dead of Night Michael Redgrave, Googie Withers, Mervyn Johns Dead of Night is a British portmanteau horror film made by Ealing Studios; the individual stories were directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden and Robert Hamer. The film stars Mervyn Johns, Googie Withers and Michael ...more

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The Big Clock is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
The Big Clock Charles Laughton, Ray Milland, Maureen O'Sullivan The Big Clock is a 1948 film noir thriller directed by John Farrow, and adapted by renowned novelist-screenwriter Jonathan Latimer from the novel of the same name by Kenneth Fearing. The black-and-white film is set in New York City and stars ...more

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This Gun for Hire is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
This Gun for Hire Veronica Lake, Alan Ladd, Robert Preston This Gun for Hire is a 1942 film noir, directed by Frank Tuttle and based on the novel A Gun for Sale by Graham Greene. The film stars Veronica Lake, Robert Preston, Laird Cregar, and Alan Ladd.

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The Woman in the Window is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
The Woman in the Window Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, Raymond Massey The Woman in the Window is a 1944 film noir directed by Fritz Lang that tells the story of psychology professor Richard Wanley who meets and becomes enamored of a young femme fatale. Based on J. H. Wallis' novel Once Off Guard, the story ...more

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Criss Cross is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
Criss Cross Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Yvonne De Carlo Criss Cross is a 1949 film noir starring Burt Lancaster, directed by Robert Siodmak from Don Tracy's novel of the same name. This black-and-white film was shot partly on location in the Bunker Hill section of Los Angeles. The film was written ...more

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The Seventh Victim is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
The Seventh Victim Kim Hunter, Tom Conway, Evelyn Brent The Seventh Victim is a 1943 horror and film noir starring Tom Conway, Jean Brooks, Isabel Jewell, Kim Hunter, and Hugh Beaumont, directed by Mark Robson, and produced by Val Lewton for RKO Radio Pictures. The film focuses on a young woman who ...more

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49th Parallel is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
49th Parallel Laurence Olivier, Leslie Howard, Raymond Massey 49th Parallel is a 1941 British war drama film; it was the third film made by the British writer-director team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. It was released in the United States as The Invaders. Despite the title, no scene in the ...more

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Kiss of Death is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
Kiss of Death Richard Widmark, Karl Malden, Coleen Gray Kiss of Death is a 1947 film noir movie directed by Henry Hathaway and written by Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer from a story by Eleazar Lipsky. The story revolves around a former robber played by Victor Mature and the ruthless, violent Tommy ...more

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The Glass Key is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
The Glass Key Veronica Lake, Alan Ladd, William Bendix The Glass Key is a 1942 film noir, directed by Stuart Heisler and based on the novel of the same name by Dashiell Hammett. An earlier film version had been released in 1935.

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The Talk of the Town is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
The Talk of the Town Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Lloyd Bridges The Talk of the Town is a 1942 American comedy/drama film directed by George Stevens, starring Cary Grant, Jean Arthur and Ronald Colman, with a supporting cast featuring Edgar Buchanan and Glenda Farrell. The screenplay was adapted by Dale Van ...more