Entertainment

The Best '30s Thriller Movies  

Ranker Film
419 votes 211 voters 3.1k 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.
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
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
2
The Lady Vanishes is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
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
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
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
4
M is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
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
5
After the Thin Man is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
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
6
The Man Who Knew Too Much is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
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
7
Freaks is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
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
8
The Black Cat is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
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
9
The Adventures of Sherlock Hol... is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
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
10
Mad Love is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
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
11
Star of Midnight is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
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.
12
Sabotage is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
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
13
Young and Innocent is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
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
14
Mystery of the Wax Museum is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
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
15
Night Nurse is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
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
16
The Old Dark House is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Boris Karloff, Charles Laughton, Gloria Stuart
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
17
The Roaring Twenties is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
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
18
The Most Dangerous Game is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
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
19
Another Thin Man is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
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
20
Doctor X is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
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
21
Charlie Chan at the Olympics is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
Warner Oland, Katherine DeMille
Charlie Chan at the Olympics is a 1937 film directed by H. Bruce Humberstone.
22
The Return of Doctor X is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
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
23
Penthouse is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
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
24
Murder! is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
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
25
Daybreak is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best '30s Thriller Movies
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.