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The Best Pre-Code Movies

Updated September 23, 2019 3.3k votes 303 voters 20.8k views

List RulesVote for your personal favorite Pre-code films, regardless of how popular or successful they were at the box office.

Here it is, ladies and gents, a list of all the best pre-code movies of all time, many of which are streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

The pre-code Hollywood movie genre refers to films made between the widespread use of sound in movies in 1929 and the enforcement of the Hays Code in 1934 (also known as the Motion Picture Production Code), and featured stars such as Clark Gable, Joan Blondell, and Barbara Stanwyck.

The films on this list cover the top pre-code movies of all time and is currently ordered from best to worst, according to your votes, so be sure to thums up movies like The Gay Divorcee or Hold Your Man if you like them -- or vote them down if they weren’t your cup of tea. This list has everything from Wonder Bar to The Wet Parade, and more, but if we missed any pre-code films on this list by famous directors like Cecil B. DeMille, please add them yourself, as this is an open list, which means you can add any movies whenever you like (choices are subject to moderation).

So whether you're at home and want to watch these pre-code Hollywood movies on DVD or streaming… or if you're seeing them at an Indie theatre for the first time, this list of the best pre-code films will help you decide what to watch. So from the latest, to the greatest pre-code movies, here is the full list of pre-code films, ordered from best to worst.

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  • 1
    Footlight Parade
    195
    4

    Footlight Parade

    James Cagney, Joan Blondell

    Released1933

    Directed byBusby Berkeley, Lloyd Bacon

    Footlight Parade is a 1933 American musical film starring James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Ruby... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 2
    Gold Diggers of 1933
    194
    9

    Gold Diggers of 1933

    Ginger Rogers, Joan Blondell

    Released1933

    Directed byMervyn LeRoy, Busby Berkeley

    Gold Diggers of 1933 is a pre-code Warner Bros. musical film directed by Mervyn LeRoy with... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 3
    42nd Street
    76
    8

    42nd Street

    Ginger Rogers, Dick Powell

    Released1933

    Directed byLloyd Bacon

    42nd Street is a 1933 American Warner Bros. musical film directed by Lloyd Bacon with... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button

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  • 4
    Bombshell
    73
    7

    Bombshell

    Jean Harlow, Frank Morgan

    Released1933

    Directed byVictor Fleming

    Bombshell is a 1933 American Pre-Code romantic comedy-drama film directed by Victor Fleming... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 5
    Fashions of 1934
    66
    9

    Fashions of 1934

    Bette Davis, William Powell

    Released1934

    Directed byWilliam Dieterle

    Fashions of 1934 is a 1934 Pre-Code American musical comedy film directed by William Dieterle... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 6
    Gold Diggers of Broadway
    66
    10

    Gold Diggers of Broadway

    George Raft, Nick Lucas

    Released1929

    Directed byRoy Del Ruth

    Gold Diggers of Broadway is a 1929 Warner Bros. comedy/musical film which is historically... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 7
    The Love Parade
    52
    10

    The Love Parade

    Jean Harlow, Jeanette MacDonald

    Released1929

    Directed byErnst Lubitsch

    The Love Parade is a 1929 musical comedy film about the marital difficulties of Queen Louise... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 8
    Platinum Blonde
    59
    17

    Platinum Blonde

    Jean Harlow, Loretta Young

    Released1931

    Directed byFrank Capra

    Platinum Blonde is a 1931 American romantic comedy motion picture starring Jean Harlow, Robert... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 9
    The Maltese Falcon
    47
    16

    The Maltese Falcon

    Thelma Todd, William Dieterle

    Released1931

    Directed byRoy Del Ruth

    The Maltese Falcon is an American pre-code crime film, based on the novel of the same name by... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 10
    Animal Crackers
    38
    8

    Animal Crackers

    Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx

    Released1930

    Directed byVictor Heerman

    Animal Crackers is a 1930 Marx Brothers comedy film, in which mayhem and zaniness ensue when a... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button

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  • 11
    Little Caesar
    37
    7

    Little Caesar

    Edward G. Robinson, Douglas Fairbanks

    Released1931

    Directed byMervyn LeRoy

    Little Caesar is a 1931 Warner Bros. Pre-Code crime film that tells the story of a hoodlum who... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button

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  • 12
    I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang
    35
    5

    I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang

    Paul Muni, Glenda Farrell

    Released1932

    Directed byMervyn LeRoy

    I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang is an American Pre-Code crime/drama film starring Paul Muni... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button

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  • 13
    Dames
    37
    8

    Dames

    Joan Blondell, Dick Powell

    Released1934

    Directed byRay Enright, Busby Berkeley

    Dames is a 1934 Warner Bros. musical comedy film directed by Ray Enright with dance numbers... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 14
    King Kong
    33
    4

    King Kong

    Fay Wray, Merian C. Cooper

    Released1933

    Directed byMerian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack

    King Kong is a 1933 American fantasy monster/adventure film directed and produced by Merian C.... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button

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  • 15
    All Quiet on the Western Front
    30
    2

    All Quiet on the Western Front

    Fred Zinnemann, Lew Ayres

    Released1930

    Directed byLewis Milestone

    All Quiet on the Western Front is a 1930 American epic film based on the Erich Maria Remarque... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button

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  • 16
    Three on a Match
    28
    4

    Three on a Match

    Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart

    Released1932

    Directed byMervyn LeRoy

    Three on a Match is a 1932 American pre-Code crime drama released by Warner Bros. The film was... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 17
    Scarface
    26
    6

    Scarface

    Jean Harlow, Boris Karloff

    Released1932

    Directed byHoward Hawks, Richard Rosson

    Scarface is a 1932 American film starring Paul Muni, produced by Howard Hughes and Howard... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button

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  • 18
    The Public Enemy
    32
    14

    The Public Enemy

    Jean Harlow, James Cagney

    Released1931

    Directed byWilliam A. Wellman

    The Public Enemy is a 1931 American all-talking pre-code crime film produced and distributed... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 19
    The Smiling Lieutenant
    24
    6

    The Smiling Lieutenant

    Claudette Colbert, Maurice Chevalier

    Released1931

    Directed byErnst Lubitsch

    The Smiling Lieutenant is an American film directed by Ernst Lubitsch, starring Maurice... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 20
    It Happened One Night
    34
    18

    It Happened One Night

    Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert

    Released1934

    Directed byFrank Capra

    It Happened One Night is a 1934 American romantic comedy film with elements of screwball... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button

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  • 21
    Red Dust
    27
    14

    Red Dust

    Clark Gable, Jean Harlow

    Released1932

    Directed byVictor Fleming

    Red Dust is a 1932 American romantic drama film directed by Victor Fleming and starring Clark... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 22
    Grand Hotel
    26
    13

    Grand Hotel

    Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford

    Released1932

    Directed byEdmund Goulding

    Grand Hotel is a 1932 American drama film directed by Edmund Goulding. The screenplay by... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 23
    Baby Face
    31
    19

    Baby Face

    John Wayne, Barbara Stanwyck

    Released1933

    Directed byAlfred E. Green

    Baby Face is a 1933 American dramatic film directed by Alfred E. Green, and starring Barbara... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 24
    Frankenstein
    20
    6

    Frankenstein

    Boris Karloff, John Boles

    Released1931

    Directed byJames Whale

    Frankenstein is a 1931 horror monster film from Universal Pictures directed by James Whale and... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button

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  • 25
    Duck Soup
    23
    11

    Duck Soup

    Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx

    Released1933

    Directed byLeo McCarey

    Duck Soup is a 1933 Marx Brothers anarchic comedy film written by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby,... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button

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