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The Best Pre-Code Movies 

Ranker Film
Updated September 23, 2019 2.2k votes 293 voters 20.5k views

List Rules Vote 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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list ordered by
1
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James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Dorothy Lamour

Released: 1933

Directed by: Busby 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 ...more
2
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Ginger Rogers, Joan Blondell, Billy Barty

Released: 1933

Directed by: Mervyn 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 ...more
3
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Ginger Rogers, Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler

Released: 1933

Directed by: Lloyd 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 ...more

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4
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Jean Harlow, Frank Morgan, Franchot Tone

Released: 1933

Directed by: Victor 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 ...more
5
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George Raft, Nick Lucas, Winnie Lightner

Released: 1929

Directed by: Roy 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 ...more
6
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Bette Davis, William Powell, Reginald Owen

Released: 1934

Directed by: William 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 ...more
7
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Jean Harlow, Loretta Young, Halliwell Hobbes

Released: 1931

Directed by: Frank 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. ...more
8
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Thelma Todd, William Dieterle, Bebe Daniels

Released: 1931

Directed by: Roy 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 ...more
9
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Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Ward Bond

Released: 1934

Directed by: Frank 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 ...more

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10
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Fay Wray, Merian C. Cooper, Bruce Cabot

Released: 1933

Directed by: Merian 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 ...more

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11
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Jean Harlow, James Cagney, Joan Blondell

Released: 1931

Directed by: William 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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12
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John Wayne, Barbara Stanwyck, Margaret Lindsay

Released: 1933

Directed by: Alfred 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 ...more

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13
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Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Maggie Cheung

Released: 1932

Directed by: Victor 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
14
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Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, John Barrymore

Released: 1932

Directed by: Edmund 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 ...more
15
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Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Joan Blondell

Released: 1932

Directed by: Mervyn 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 ...more
16
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Bela Lugosi, Tod Browning, Carla Laemmle

Released: 1931

Directed by: Tod 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 ...more

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17
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Wallace Ford, Edward Brophy, Roscoe Ates

Released: 1932

Directed by: Tod 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 ...more

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18
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Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Zeppo Marx

Released: 1933

Directed by: Leo McCarey

Duck Soup is a 1933 Marx Brothers anarchic comedy film written by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby, with additional dialogue by Arthur Sheekman and Nat Perrin, and directed by Leo McCarey. First ...more

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19
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Jean Harlow, Jeanette MacDonald, Maurice Chevalier

Released: 1929

Directed by: Ernst 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 ...more
20
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Herbert Marshall, Charlie Ruggles, Miriam Hopkins

Released: 1932

Directed by: Ernst 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 ...more
21
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Tom Webb added Boris Karloff, John Boles, Colin Clive

Released: 1931

Directed by: James 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 ...more

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22
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Bette Davis, Leslie Howard, Reginald Denny

Released: 1934

Directed by: John Cromwell

Of Human Bondage is a 1934 American drama film directed by John Cromwell and is widely regarded by critics as the film that made Bette Davis a star. The screenplay by Lester Cohen is based on ...more
23
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Fredric March, Wallace Beery, Miriam Hopkins

Released: 1931

Directed by: Rouben 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, ...more

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24
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Jean Harlow, Charles Boyer, Lewis Stone

Released: 1932

Directed by: Jack Conway

Red-Headed Woman is a 1932 American romantic comedy film, produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, based on a novel of the same name by Katherine Brush, and with a screenplay by Anita Loos. It was ...more
25
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Tom Webb added Jean Harlow, John Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore

Released: 1933

Directed by: George Cukor

Dinner at Eight is a Pre-Code 1933 comedy of manners / drama starring Marie Dressler, John Barrymore, Wallace Beery, Jean Harlow, Lionel Barrymore, Lee Tracy, Edmund Lowe, and Billie Burke, and ...more