Thrillers The Best '40s Thriller Movies  

Ranker Film
766 votes 274 voters 9k 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
34 8
Double indemnity is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
2
35 9
Rebecca is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
Laurence Olivier, Alfred Hitchcock, Joan Fontaine
Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial 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
3
28 7
Notorious is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
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
4
32 11
The Third Man is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
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
5
26 7
Shadow of a Doubt is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
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
6
23 6
Laura is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
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
7
25 8
Rope is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
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
15 3
Suspicion is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
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
17 5
Gaslight is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
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
10
19 7
The Stranger is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
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
11
17 6
The Postman Always Rings Twice is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
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
12
14 5
The Lady from Shanghai is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
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
13
15 6
The Spiral Staircase is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
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
14
13 5
Sorry, Wrong Number is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
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
14 6
Gaslight is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
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
9 2
The Big Clock is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
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
17
13 6
Murder, My Sweet is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
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
18
12 6
Spellbound is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
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
19
10 5
Dead of Night is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
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
20
9 5
The Body Snatcher is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
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 ...more
21
12 9
Foreign Correspondent is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
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
22
9 6
Dark Passage is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
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
23
9 6
Cat People is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
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
24
15 13
Arsenic and Old Lace is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
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
25
8 6
White Heat is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best '40s Thriller Movies
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 ...more