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The Best Pre-Code Movies  

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2.1k votes 275 voters 19.5k 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.

list ordered by
1
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James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Dorothy Lamour
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
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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Jean Harlow, Frank Morgan, Franchot Tone
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
4
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Ginger Rogers, Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler
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
5
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Gold Diggers of Broadway George Raft, Nick Lucas, Winnie Lightner
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
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
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
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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Joan Blondell, Mary Astor, Adolphe Menjou
Convention City is a 1933 American pre-Code sex comedy film directed by Archie Mayo, and starring Joan Blondell, Guy Kibbee, Dick Powell, Mary Astor and Adolphe Menjou. The film was produced by ...more
10
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Fay Wray, Merian C. Cooper, Bruce Cabot
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
11
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Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Ward Bond
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
12
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Jean Harlow, James Cagney, Joan Blondell
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
13
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Lucille Ball, Paulette Goddard, Gloria Stuart
Roman Scandals is a 1933 black-and-white American musical film starring Eddie Cantor, Ruth Etting, Gloria Stuart, Edward Arnold and David Manners. It was directed by Frank Tuttle. The film ...more
14
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Tom Webb added James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, Charles Lane
Smart Money is an all-talking pre-code drama film produced and distributed by Warner Brothers, directed by Alfred E. Green, and starring Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney, the only time ...more
15
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John Wayne, Barbara Stanwyck, Margaret Lindsay
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
16
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Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, John Barrymore
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
17
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Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Maggie Cheung
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
18
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Tom Webb added Johnny Mack Brown, Helen Chandler, Richard Barthelmess
The Last Flight is a 1931 ensemble film starring Richard Barthelmess, David Manners, John Mack Brown, and Helen Chandler.
19
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Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Joan Blondell
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
20
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Bela Lugosi, Tod Browning, Carla Laemmle
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
21
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Jean Harlow, Jeanette MacDonald, Maurice Chevalier
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
22
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Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Zeppo Marx
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
23
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Wallace Ford, Edward Brophy, Roscoe Ates
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
24
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Herbert Marshall, Charlie Ruggles, Miriam Hopkins
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
25
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Walter Huston, Sterling Holloway, Constance Cummings
American Madness is a 1932 American film directed by Frank Capra and starring Walter Huston as a New York banker embroiled in scandal. The story thematically anticipates Capra's 1946 classic ...more