Watchworthy

The Best '30s Thriller Movies 

Ranker Film
481 votes 217 voters 3.6k views 50 items

List Rules Vote up your favorite suspense films that were released in the 1930s

The Golden Age of Hollywood, which stretched from the end of the silent film era until the 1960s, saw the release of many great suspense films. Thriller movies became popular in the '30s due to their complex plots, shifting alliances, and distinctive visual style. The best '30s thriller movies will have you watching them on the edge of your seat. 


What are the greatest ‘30s thriller movies? In 1931, Fritz Lang, legend of the silent film era, used his unique vision and expressionist filmmaking style to produce
M, a gripping murder mystery that can also be found on our list of the “Best ‘30s Cop Movies.” Master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock also has a number of influential films on this list, including The Lady Vanishes and The 39 Steps, both of which can be found on our list of the “Best ‘30s Spy Movies.” One of the first talking films to feature famous fictional sleuth Sherlock Holmes also debuted in the 1930s, with Basil Rathbone portraying the title characters.


This list of the top ‘30s thriller films will leave your hair standing on end and your palms wet with sweat. Tod Browning’s
Freaks cast actual sideshow performers in the roles, as opposed to relying hair and makeup tricks, thus creating an eerie level of verisimilitude. Help us re-rank this list by voting up your favorites, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comment section.
Data-driven recommendations based on voting from over 40 million monthly visits to Ranker. Try the free app
list ordered by
1
The 39 Steps is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Alfred Hitchcock, Madeleine Carroll, Robert Donat

Released: 1935

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

The 39 Steps is a 1935 British thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll. Loosely based on the 1915 adventure novel The Thirty-Nine Steps by John ...more

More The 39 Steps 

#171 of 253 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #806 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #178 of 212 The Best Adventure Movies

2
The Lady Vanishes is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Alfred Hitchcock, Michael Redgrave, Paul Lukas

Released: 1938

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

The Lady Vanishes is a 1938 British comic thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Paul Lukas and Dame May Whitty. Written by Sidney Gilliat ...more
3
The Thin Man is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Maureen O'Sullivan, Frank O'Connor, Nat Pendleton

Released: 1934

Directed by: W. S. Van Dyke

The Thin Man is a 1934 American comedy-mystery film directed by W.S. Van Dyke and based on the novel of the same name by Dashiell Hammett. The film stars William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and ...more

More The Thin Man 

#311 of 1,211 The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Time #7 of 75 The Greatest Classic Romance Movies #210 of 385 The Greatest Romantic Comedies Of All Time

4
M is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Peter Lorre, Theo Lingen, Georg John

Released: 1931

Directed by: Fritz Lang

M is a 1931 German drama-thriller film directed by Fritz Lang and starring Peter Lorre. It was written by Lang and his wife Thea von Harbou and was the director's first sound film. Now ...more

More

#124 of 253 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #417 of 852 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #102 of 149 The Best and Scariest Psychological Thrillers of All Time

5
The Man Who Knew Too Muc... is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Peter Lorre, Edna Best, Pierre Fresnay

Released: 1934

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

The Man Who Knew Too Much is a British suspense film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, featuring Peter Lorre, and released by Gaumont British. It was one of the most successful and critically ...more
6
After the Thin Man is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
James Stewart, Myrna Loy, William Powell

Released: 1936

Directed by: W. S. Van Dyke

After the Thin Man is a 1936 American film, starring William Powell, Myrna Loy, and James Stewart, that is the sequel to the film The Thin Man. The movie presents Powell and Loy as Dashiell ...more
7
Freaks is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Wallace Ford, Edward Brophy, Roscoe Ates

Released: 1932

Directed by: Tod Browning

Freaks is a 1932 American horror film in which the eponymous characters were played by people who worked as carnival sideshow performers and had real deformities. The original version was ...more

More Freaks 

#169 of 852 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #96 of 157 The Best Movies You Never Want to Watch Again #12 of 45 The Most Controversial Movies of All Time

8
Sabotage is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Sylvia Sidney, Oskar Homolka, John Loder

Released: 1936

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

Sabotage, also released as The Woman Alone, is a 1936 British thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock about an agent who hides a time bomb in a delivery package to blow up London. It is ...more
9
The Adventures of Sherlo... is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Basil Rathbone, Ida Lupino, George Zucco

Released: 1939

Directed by: Alfred L. Werker

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a 1939 mystery-adventure film. It is a pastiche featuring the characters of the Sherlock Holmes series of books written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The film ...more

More The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes 

#191 of 367 The Best Movies Based On Books #189 of 529 The Greatest Crime Movies Ever Made #125 of 380 The Greatest Suspense Movies

10
The Black Cat is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, David Manners

Released: 1934

Directed by: Edgar G. Ulmer

Not to be confused with the 1941 version also featuring Bela Lugosi. The Black Cat is a 1934 horror film that became Universal Pictures' biggest box office hit of the year. The picture was the ...more

More The Black Cat 

#701 of 852 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #128 of 149 The Best and Scariest Psychological Thrillers of All Time #15 of 54 The Best Horror Movies About Cults and Conspiracies

11
Young and Innocent is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Alfred Hitchcock, Basil Radford, Edward Rigby

Released: 1937

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial Young and Innocent is a 1937 British crime thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Nova Pilbeam and Derrick De Marney. Based on the 1936 novel A Shilling for Candles by Josephine ...more
12
Star of Midnight is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Ginger Rogers, William Powell, Gene Lockhart

Released: 1935

Directed by: Stephen Roberts

Star of Midnight is an American mystery-comedy film released by RKO Pictures in 1935. William Powell was loaned out in this movie from MGM to star with Ginger Rogers.

More Star of Midnight 

#63 of 106 The Best Detective Fiction Movies #22 of 72 The Best Ginger Rogers Movies

13
Mad Love is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Peter Lorre, Colin Clive, Sara Haden

Released: 1935

Directed by: Karl Freund

Mad Love is a 1935 American horror film, an adaptation of Maurice Renard's story The Hands of Orlac. It was directed by German-émigré film maker Karl Freund, and stars Peter Lorre ...more
14
The Roaring Twenties is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Frank McHugh

Released: 1939

Directed by: Raoul Walsh

The Roaring Twenties is a 1939 crime thriller starring James Cagney, Priscilla Lane, Humphrey Bogart and Gladys George. The epic movie, spanning the periods between 1919 and 1933, was directed ...more
15
Another Thin Man is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Myrna Loy, William Powell, Ruth Hussey

Released: 1939

Directed by: W. S. Van Dyke

Another Thin Man is a 1939 American film that is the third film in the six-volume series, The Thin Man. It again stars William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles, and is based on the ...more
16
The Old Dark House is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Boris Karloff, Charles Laughton, Gloria Stuart

Released: 1932

Directed by: James Whale

The Old Dark House is a 1932 American pre-Code comedy horror film directed by James Whale. It is based on the novel Benighted (1927) by J.B. Priestley. The ensemble cast includes Boris Karloff, ...more

More The Old Dark House 

#559 of 852 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #59 of 100 The Best Movies On Shudder #17 of 26 The Best Horror Movies That Take Place in Castles

17
Mystery of the Wax Museu... is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Fay Wray, Lionel Atwill, Glenda Farrell

Released: 1933

Directed by: Michael Curtiz

Mystery of the Wax Museum is a 1933 American mystery horror-thriller film released by Warner Bros. in two-color Technicolor and directed by Michael Curtiz. The film stars Lionel Atwill, Fay ...more
18
Night Nurse is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Clark Gable, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Blondell

Released: 1931

Directed by: William A. Wellman

Night Nurse is a 1931 American pre-code crime drama and mystery film produced and distributed by Warner Bros. and directed by William A. Wellman. The film stars Barbara Stanwyck, Ben Lyon, Joan ...more
19
The Most Dangerous Game ... is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Fay Wray, Joel McCrea, Buster Crabbe

Released: 1932

Directed by: Irving Pichel, Ernest B. Schoedsack

The Most Dangerous Game is a 1932 Pre-Code adaptation of the 1924 short story of the same name by Richard Connell, the first film version of that story. The plot concerns a big game hunter on an ...more

More The Most Dangerous Game 

#805 of 852 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #20 of 21 20+ Great Movies Where People Have to Fight to the Death #3 of 43 The Best Horror Movies About Deserted Islands

20
Murder! is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Alfred Hitchcock, Herbert Marshall, Edward Chapman

Released: 1930

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial Murder! is a 1930 British drama film co-written and directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Herbert Marshall, Norah Baring and Edward Chapman. Written by Hitchcock, his wife Alma Reville and ...more
21
Marked Woman is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Eduardo Ciannelli

Released: 1937

Directed by: Michael Curtiz, Lloyd Bacon

Marked Woman is a dramatic crime film released by Warner Bros. in 1937. It was directed by Lloyd Bacon, and stars Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart, with featured performances by Lola Lane, Isabel ...more
22
Daybreak is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Jean Gabin, Bernard Blier, Arletty

Released: 1939

Directed by: Marcel Carné

Le jour se leve is a 1939 film written by Jacques Viot and Jacques Prévert and directed by Marcel Carne.
23
Doctor X is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Fay Wray, Lionel Atwill, Lee Tracy

Released: 1932

Directed by: Michael Curtiz

Doctor X is a First National/Warner Bros. horror and mystery film. Based on the play originally titled The Terror by Howard W. Comstock and Allen C. Miller. It was directed by Michael Curtiz and ...more

More Doctor X 

#65 of 96 Early Technicolor Films #86 of 115 The Best Old Horror Movies #32 of 45 The Best '30s Horror Movies

24
Penthouse is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Myrna Loy, Charles Butterworth, Warner Baxter

Released: 1933

Directed by: W. S. Van Dyke

Penthouse is a 1933 black-and-white crime film starring Warner Baxter as a lawyer and Myrna Loy, as a call girl who helps him with a murder case. It was directed by W. S. Van Dyke and written by ...more
25
Murders in the Zoo is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Randolph Scott, Charlie Ruggles, Lionel Atwill

Released: 1933

Directed by: A. Edward Sutherland

Murders in the Zoo is 1933 horror film directed by A. Edward Sutherland, written by Philip Wylie and Seton I. Miller. Considered particularly dark for its time, film critic Leonard Maltin has ...more

More Murders in the Zoo 

#54 of 94 The Best Randolph Scott Movies #40 of 45 The Best '30s Horror Movies