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The Best Pre-Code Movies

Updated September 23, 2019 3.1k votes 324 voters 21.7k 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
    172
    6

    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 songs by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, staged and choreographed by Busby Berkeley. It stars Warren William,...  more
  • 2
    175
    7

    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 Keeler and Dick Powell and featuring Frank McHugh, Guy Kibbee, Hugh Herbert and Ruth Donnelly. The movie...  more
  • 3
    74
    7

    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 choreography by Busby Berkeley. The songs were written by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, and the script was written...  more

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  • 4
    66
    10

    Bombshell

    Jean Harlow, Frank Morgan

    Released1933

    Directed byVictor Fleming

    Bombshell is a 1933 American Pre-Code romantic comedy-drama film directed by Victor Fleming and starring Jean Harlow, Lee Tracy, Frank Morgan, C. Aubrey Smith, Mary Forbes and Franchot Tone. The film...  more
  • 5
    60
    6

    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 with musical numbers created and directed by Busby Berkeley. The screenplay by F. Hugh Herbert and Carl...  more
  • 6
    60
    11

    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 important as the second two-strip Technicolor all-talking feature length movie. Gold Diggers of Broadway was...  more
  • 7
    53
    9

    Platinum Blonde

    Jean Harlow, Loretta Young

    Released1931

    Directed byFrank Capra

    Platinum Blonde is a 1931 American romantic comedy motion picture starring Jean Harlow, Robert Williams, and Loretta Young. The film was written by Jo Swerling and directed by Frank Capra. Platinum...  more
  • 8
    49
    6

    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 of Sylvania and her consort, Count Alfred Renard. Despite his love for Louise and his promise to be an...  more
  • 9
    43
    15

    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 Dashiell Hammett and directed by Roy Del Ruth. The film stars Ricardo Cortez as private detective Sam...  more
  • 10
    33
    5

    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. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. The screenplay by James Ashmore Creelman and Ruth Rose was from an idea...  more

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  • 11
    36
    8

    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 ascends the ranks of organized crime until he reaches its upper echelons. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy and...  more

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  • 12
    34
    7

    She Done Him Wrong

    Cary Grant, Mae West

    Released1933

    Directed byLowell Sherman

    She Done Him Wrong is a Pre-Code 1933 Paramount Pictures comedy romance starring Mae West and Cary Grant. Its plot includes melodramatic and musical elements. The supporting cast features Owen Moore,...  more

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  • 13
    34
    9

    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 comedy directed by Frank Capra, in which a pampered socialite tries to get out from under her father's thumb,...  more

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  • 14
    30
    5

    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 novel of the same name. It was directed by Lewis Milestone, and stars Louis Wolheim, Lew Ayres, John...  more

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  • 15
    28
    5

    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 directed by Mervyn LeRoy and stars Joan Blondell, Ann Dvorak and Bette Davis. The film also features...  more
  • 16
    27
    6

    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 Gable, Jean Harlow and Mary Astor. The film is based on the 1928 play of the same name by Wilson...  more
  • 17
    28
    7

    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 by Warner Brothers. The film was directed by William A. Wellman and stars James Cagney, Jean Harlow,...  more

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  • 18
    23
    4

    Hold Your Man

    Clark Gable, Jean Harlow

    Released1933

    Directed bySam Wood

    Hold Your Man is a 1933 American romantic drama film directed by an uncredited Sam Wood and starring Jean Harlow and Clark Gable, the third of their six films together. The screenplay by Anita Loos...  more
  • 19
    26
    7

    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 William A. Drake is based on the 1930 play of the same title by Drake, who had adapted it from the 1929 novel...  more
  • 20
    23
    5

    Freaks

    Wallace Ford, Edward Brophy

    Released1932

    Directed byTod Browning

    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 considered...  more

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  • 21
    22
    5

    Dracula

    Bela Lugosi, Tod Browning

    Released1931

    Directed byTod Browning, Karl Freund

    Dracula is a 1931 vampire-horror film directed by Tod Browning and starring Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula. The film was produced by Universal and is based on the 1924 stage play Dracula by Hamilton...  more

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  • 22
    21
    4

    Frankenstein

    Boris Karloff, John Boles

    Released1931

    Directed byJames Whale

    Frankenstein is a 1931 horror monster film from Universal Pictures directed by James Whale and adapted from the play by Peggy Webling, which in turn is based on the novel of the same name by Mary...  more

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  • 23
    32
    18

    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 Stanwyck and George Brent. Based on a story by Darryl F. Zanuck, this sexually charged, Pre-Code Hollywood...  more
  • 24
    19
    4

    Trouble in Paradise

    Herbert Marshall, Charlie Ruggles

    Released1932

    Directed byErnst Lubitsch

    Trouble in Paradise is a 1932 American pre-Code romantic comedy film directed by Ernst Lubitsch, starring Miriam Hopkins, Kay Francis, and Herbert Marshall and featuring Charles Ruggles and Edward...  more
  • 25
    18
    4

    Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

    Fredric March, Wallace Beery

    Released1931

    Directed byRouben Mamoulian

    Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a 1931 American Pre-Code horror film directed by Rouben Mamoulian and starring Fredric March. The film is an adaptation of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, the...  more

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