thrillers The Best '30s Thriller Movies  

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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.

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The 39 Steps is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
The 39 Steps Alfred Hitchcock, Madeleine Carroll, Robert Donat 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

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The Thin Man is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
The Thin Man Maureen O'Sullivan, Frank O'Connor, Nat Pendleton 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

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M is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
M Peter Lorre, Theo Lingen, Georg John 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

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The Lady Vanishes is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
The Lady Vanishes Alfred Hitchcock, Michael Redgrave, Paul Lukas 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

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

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After the Thin Man is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
After the Thin Man James Stewart, Myrna Loy, William Powell 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

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The Roaring Twenties is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
The Roaring Twenties Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Frank McHugh 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

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

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Star of Midnight is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Star of Midnight Ginger Rogers, William Powell, Gene Lockhart 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.

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Freaks is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Freaks Wallace Ford, Edward Brophy, Roscoe Ates 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

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The Adventures of Sherlock Hol... is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Basil Rathbone, Ida Lupino, George Zucco 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

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Mad Love is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Mad Love Peter Lorre, Colin Clive, Sara Haden 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

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The Black Cat is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
The Black Cat Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, David Manners 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

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The Most Dangerous Game is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
The Most Dangerous Game Fay Wray, Joel McCrea, Buster Crabbe 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

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Young and Innocent is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Young and Innocent Alfred Hitchcock, Basil Radford, Edward Rigby 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

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The Old Dark House is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
The Old Dark House Boris Karloff, Charles Laughton, Gloria Stuart The Old Dark House is an American comedy and horror film directed by James Whale and starring Boris Karloff. The film is based on the 1927 novel Benighted by J. B. Priestley. The supporting cast ...more

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Night Nurse is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Night Nurse Clark Gable, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Blondell 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

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The Return of Doctor X is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
The Return of Doctor X Humphrey Bogart, Wayne Morris The Return of Doctor X is a 1939 American science fiction-horror film directed by Vincent Sherman and starring Wayne Morris, Rosemary Lane, and Humphrey Bogart as the title character. It was ...more

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Each Dawn I Die is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Each Dawn I Die James Cagney, George Raft, Maxie Rosenbloom Each Dawn I Die is a 1939 gangster film featuring James Cagney and George Raft in their only movie together as leads, although Raft had made an unbilled appearance in a 1932 Cagney vehicle ...more

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Doctor X is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Doctor X Fay Wray, Lionel Atwill, Lee Tracy 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

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Mystery of the Wax Museum is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Mystery of the Wax Museum Fay Wray, Lionel Atwill, Glenda Farrell 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

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Midnight is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Midnight Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche, John Barrymore Midnight is a 1939 American screwball comedy film directed by Mitchell Leisen and starring Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche, John Barrymore, Francis Lederer, Mary Astor, and Elaine Barrie. Written ...more

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The Bat Whispers is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
The Bat Whispers Una Merkel, Chester Morris, Gustav von Seyffertitz The Bat Whispers is a mystery film directed by Roland West, produced by Joseph M. Schenck, and released by United Artists. The film is based on the 1920 mystery play The Bat, written by Avery ...more

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Devil Doll is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Devil Doll Jarl Olsen, Ashley Hunter, Nina Murphy Devil Doll is a 1999 short film written and directed by Jarl Olsen.

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Night Flight is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Night Flight Clark Gable, Myrna Loy, Helen Hayes Night Flight is a 1933 aviation drama film produced by David O. Selznick and distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and directed by Clarence Brown. The film stars Lionel Barrymore, John Barrymore, ...more

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Murders in the Zoo is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Murders in the Zoo Randolph Scott, Charlie Ruggles, Lionel Atwill 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

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Another Thin Man is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Another Thin Man Myrna Loy, William Powell, Ruth Hussey 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

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Penthouse is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Penthouse Myrna Loy, Charles Butterworth, Warner Baxter 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

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Charlie Chan at the Olympics is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Charlie Chan at the Olympics Warner Oland, Katherine DeMille Charlie Chan at the Olympics is a 1937 film directed by H. Bruce Humberstone.

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The Invisible Ray is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
The Invisible Ray Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Beulah Bondi The Invisible Ray is a 1936 American science fiction film starring Boris Karloff and Béla Lugosi as Dr. Felix Benet that was released by Universal Pictures.

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Marked Woman is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Marked Woman Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Eduardo Ciannelli 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

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The Unholy Three is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
The Unholy Three Lon Chaney, Lila Lee, John Miljan The Unholy Three is a 1930 American melodrama involving a crime spree, directed by Jack Conway and starring Lon Chaney. The film is a remake of the 1925 film of the same name, with both movies ...more

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Thirteen Women is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Thirteen Women Myrna Loy, Irene Dunne, Ricardo Cortez Thirteen Women is a 1932 American psychological thriller film, produced by David O. Selznick and directed by George Archainbaud. It stars Myrna Loy, Irene Dunne, Ricardo Cortez, Florence ...more

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Rich and Strange is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Rich and Strange Alfred Hitchcock, Diana Dors, Brandon deWilde Rich and Strange, released in the United States as East of Shanghai, is a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock during his time in the British film industry. The film was adapted by Hitchcock, his ...more

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The Cat and the Canary is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
The Cat and the Canary Bob Hope, Paulette Goddard, Gale Sondergaard The Cat and the Canary starring Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard is a 1939 comedy horror film remake of the 1927 film The Cat and the Canary, which was based on the 1922 play of the same name by ...more

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Murder! is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Murder! Alfred Hitchcock, Herbert Marshall, Edward Chapman 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

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Bullets or Ballots is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Bullets or Ballots Humphrey Bogart, Joan Blondell, Edward G. Robinson Bullets or Ballots is a 1936 gangster film starring Edward G. Robinson, Joan Blondell, Barton MacLane and Humphrey Bogart. Robinson plays a police detective who infiltrates a crime gang. This is ...more

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Mata Hari is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Mata Hari Greta Garbo, Lionel Barrymore, Ramon Novarro Mata Hari is a 1931 American Pre-Code film loosely based on the life of Mata Hari, an exotic dancer/courtesan executed for espionage during World War I. The film stars Greta Garbo in the title ...more

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Daybreak is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Daybreak Jean Gabin, Bernard Blier, Arletty Le jour se leve is a 1939 film written by Jacques Viot and Jacques Prévert and directed by Marcel Carne.

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The Black Camel is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
The Black Camel Bela Lugosi, Robert Young, J. M. Kerrigan The Black Camel is a 1931 mystery film based on the novel of the same name by Earl Derr Biggers. It is the second film to star Warner Oland as detective Charlie Chan, and the sole survivor of ...more

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An American Tragedy is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
An American Tragedy Sylvia Sidney, Frances Dee, Charles Middleton An American Tragedy is a 1931 sound film drama produced and distributed by Paramount Pictures and directed by Josef von Sternberg. The film is based on Theodore Dreiser's 1925 novel An American ...more

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The Lost City is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
The Lost City William Boyd, Josef Swickard, Kane Richmond The Lost City is an independently made fantasy film serial produced in 1935 directed by Harry Revier.

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Night Must Fall is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Night Must Fall Rosalind Russell, Robert Montgomery, May Whitty Night Must Fall is a 1937 film adaptation of the Emlyn Williams play of the same name. It was directed by Richard Thorpe and adapted by John Van Druten. It stars Robert Montgomery, Rosalind ...more

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Maniac is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Maniac Phyllis Diller, Horace B. Carpenter, William Woods Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial Maniac, also known as Sex Maniac, is a 1934 black-and-white exploitation/horror film, directed by Dwain Esper and written by Hildegarde Stadie, Esper's wife, as a loose adaptation of the Edgar ...more

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The Big House is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
The Big House Robert Montgomery, Wallace Beery, Lewis Stone The Big House is a 1930 American film released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It was directed by George Hill, with stars Chester Morris, Wallace Beery, Lewis Stone, Robert Montgomery, Leila Hyams, ...more

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The Saint in New York is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
The Saint in New York Louis Hayward, Jonathan Hale, Kay Sutton The Saint in New York is an American 1938 crime film, directed by Ben Holmes and adapted from Leslie Charteris's novel of the same name by Charles Kaufman and Mortimer Offner. Released by RKO ...more

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Think Fast, Mr. Moto is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Think Fast, Mr. Moto Peter Lorre, J. Carrol Naish, Sig Ruman Think Fast, Mr. Moto is a 1937 film featuring a mysterious Japanese detective named Mr. Moto. It is the first of eight films in the Mr. Moto series, all based on Mr. Moto novels written by John ...more

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Charlie Chan at the Opera is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Charlie Chan at the Opera Boris Karloff, William Demarest, Keye Luke Charlie Chan at the Opera is considered by many to be the best Warner Oland Charlie Chan film, probably due to the co-acting of Boris Karloff. This is the 13th film starring Oland as Chan and ...more

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The Mad Miss Manton is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
The Mad Miss Manton Henry Fonda, Barbara Stanwyck, Sam Levene The Mad Miss Manton is a 1938 American screwball comedy and mystery film directed by Leigh Jason and starring Barbara Stanwyck as fun-loving socialite Melsa Manton and Henry Fonda as newspaper ...more

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Charlie Chan in London is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Charlie Chan in London Ray Milland, Alan Mowbray, Mona Barrie Charlie Chan in London is a 1934 American mystery film directed by Eugene Forde. The film stars Warner Oland as Charlie Chan, with Drue Leyton. This is the sixth film produced by Fox with Warner ...more