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The Best Thriller Movies of the 1940s  

Ranker Film
863 votes 296 voters 11.4k views 40 items

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!  

 

list ordered by
1
Rebecca is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1940s
Laurence Olivier, Alfred Hitchcock, Joan Fontaine

Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial, then check out our list of other must-watch thriller movies.

Rebecca 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. ...more
2
Double Indemnity is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1940s
Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson
Double Indemnity is a 1944 film noir crime drama directed by Billy Wilder, co-written by Wilder and Raymond Chandler, based on James M. Cain's 1943 novella of the same name, which originally ...more
3
Laura is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1940s
Gene Tierney, Clifton Webb, Judith Anderson
Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial Laura 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 ...more
4
Notorious is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1940s
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 ...more
5
The Third Man is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1940s
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 ...more
6
Shadow of a Doubt is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1940s
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 ...more
7
Rope is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1940s
James Stewart, Alfred Hitchcock, Cedric Hardwicke
Rope is a 1948 American psychological 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 ...more
8
Suspicion is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1940s
Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock, Joan Fontaine
Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial Suspicion 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 ...more
9
The Stranger is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1940s
Orson Welles, Edward G. Robinson, Loretta Young
Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial The 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 ...more
10
Gaslight is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1940s
Ingrid Bergman, Angela Lansbury, Charles Boyer
Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial Gaslight 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 ...more
11
The Lady from Shanghai is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1940s
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 ...more
12
The Spiral Staircase is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1940s
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 ...more
13
The Postman Always Rings Twice is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1940s
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 ...more
14
Sorry, Wrong Number is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1940s
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. ...more
15
Gaslight is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1940s
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 ...more
16
Murder, My Sweet is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1940s
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, ...more
17
The Big Clock is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1940s
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 ...more
18
Dead of Night is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1940s
Michael Redgrave, Googie Withers, Mervyn Johns
This film 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 ...more
19
Spellbound is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1940s
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 ...more
20
Dark Passage is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1940s
Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, Agnes Moorehead
Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial Dark 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 ...more
21
Cat People is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1940s
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 ...more
22
Foreign Correspondent is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1940s
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 ...more
23
Arsenic and Old Lace is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1940s
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 ...more
24
The Blue Dahlia is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1940s
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.
25
Criss Cross is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Thriller Movies of the 1940s
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 ...more