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The Best Pre-Code Movies

Updated September 23, 2019 3.0k votes 313 voters 21.3k 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
    193
    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...  more
  • 2
    191
    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...  more
  • 3
    73
    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...  more
  • 4
    70
    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...  more
  • 5
    61
    7

    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
  • 6
    63
    13

    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
  • 7
    57
    11

    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
  • 8
    50
    7

    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
  • 9
    46
    17

    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
  • 10
    34
    6

    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

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  • 11
    37
    10

    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

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  • 12
    35
    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...  more

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  • 13
    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...  more

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  • 14
    28
    6

    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
  • 15
    29
    7

    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
  • 16
    29
    8

    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

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  • 17
    27
    8

    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
  • 18
    24
    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...  more

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  • 19
    28
    10

    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

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  • 20
    23
    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...  more

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  • 21
    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...  more

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  • 22
    20
    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...  more
  • 23
    32
    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
  • 24
    19
    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...  more

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  • 25
    20
    6

    Night Nurse

    Clark Gable, Barbara Stanwyck

    Released1931

    Directed byWilliam A. Wellman

    Night Nurse is a 1931 American pre-code crime drama and mystery film produced and distributed...  more