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The Best Pre-Code Movies

Updated September 23, 2019 3.2k votes 298 voters 20.7k 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
    Footlight Parade is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Pre-Code Movies
    194
    3

    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... moreamazon buy button
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  • 2
    Gold Diggers of 1933 is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Pre-Code Movies
    190
    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... moreamazon buy button
  • 0
  • 3
    Bombshell is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Pre-Code Movies
    73
    6

    Bombshell

    Jean Harlow, Frank Morgan

    Released1933

    Directed byVictor Fleming

    Bombshell is a 1933 American Pre-Code romantic comedy-drama film directed by Victor Fleming... moreamazon buy button
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  • 4
    42nd Street is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Pre-Code Movies
    73
    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... moreamazon buy button

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    #6 of 372 The Best Musical Movies Of All Time#36 of 94 The Best Dance Movies Ever Made

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  • 5
    Gold Diggers of Broadway is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Pre-Code Movies
    68
    8

    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... moreamazon buy button
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  • 6
    Fashions of 1934 is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Pre-Code Movies
    63
    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... moreamazon buy button
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  • 7
    Platinum Blonde is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Pre-Code Movies
    60
    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... moreamazon buy button
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  • 8
    The Love Parade is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Pre-Code Movies
    52
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    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... moreamazon buy button
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  • 9
    The Maltese Falcon is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Pre-Code Movies
    47
    14

    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... moreamazon buy button
  • 0
  • 10
    Animal Crackers is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Pre-Code Movies
    38
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    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... moreamazon buy button

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    #279 of 1,137 The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Time#107 of 922 The All-Time Greatest Comedy Films

  • 0
  • 11
    Little Caesar is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Pre-Code Movies
    37
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    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... moreamazon buy button

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    #58 of 108 The Best Mafia Films Of All Time#61 of 224 The Best Black and White Movies Ever Made

  • 0
  • 12
    I Am a Fugitive from a Chain G is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Pre-Code Movies
    35
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    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... moreamazon buy button

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    #91 of 105 The Best Prison Movies#317 of 530 The Greatest Crime Movies Ever Made

  • 0
  • 13
    All Quiet on the Western Front is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Pre-Code Movies
    31
    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... moreamazon buy button

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  • 0
  • 14
    Dames is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Pre-Code Movies
    33
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    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... moreamazon buy button
  • 0
  • 15
    King Kong is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Pre-Code Movies
    29
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    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.... moreamazon buy button

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    #224 of 781 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time#34 of 404 The Greatest Disaster Movies of All Time

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  • 16
    Scarface is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Pre-Code Movies
    26
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    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... moreamazon buy button

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    #48 of 364 The Best Movies Based On Books#207 of 481 The Greatest Movies For Guys

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  • 17
    The Smiling Lieutenant is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Pre-Code Movies
    24
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    The Smiling Lieutenant

    Claudette Colbert, Maurice Chevalier

    Released1931

    Directed byErnst Lubitsch

    The Smiling Lieutenant is an American film directed by Ernst Lubitsch, starring Maurice... moreamazon buy button
  • 0
  • 18
    Three on a Match is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Pre-Code Movies
    24
    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... moreamazon buy button
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  • 19
    It Happened One Night is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Pre-Code Movies
    31
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    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... moreamazon buy button

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    #41 of 1,189 Every Oscar Winning Film Ever#1016 of 1,647 The Most Rewatchable Movies

  • 0
  • 20
    The Public Enemy is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Pre-Code Movies
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    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... moreamazon buy button
  • 0
  • 21
    Red Dust is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Pre-Code Movies
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    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... moreamazon buy button
  • 0
  • 22
    Duck Soup is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Pre-Code Movies
    22
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    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,... moreamazon buy button

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    #184 of 194 Musical Movies With the Best Songs#6 of 55 The Funniest Movies About Politics

  • 0
  • 23
    Grand Hotel is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Pre-Code Movies
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    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... moreamazon buy button
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  • 24
    Tarzan the Ape Man is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Pre-Code Movies
    15
    2

    Tarzan the Ape Man

    Maureen O'Sullivan, Johnny Weissmuller

    Released1932

    Directed byW. S. Van Dyke, Richard Thorpe

    Tarzan the Ape Man is a 1932 pre-Code American action adventure film featuring Edgar Rice... moreamazon buy button
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  • 25
    The Cocoanuts is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Pre-Code Movies
    26
    15

    The Cocoanuts

    Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx

    Released1929

    Directed byRobert Florey, Joseph Santley

    The Cocoanuts is a 1929 musical comedy film starring the Marx Brothers. Produced for Paramount... moreamazon buy button
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