Jump to a year: 1940  1941  1942  1943  1944  1945  1946  1947  1948  1949

[Films are listed according to release date. Best Picture Winners are listed first each year]

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Rebecca (1939 poster).jpeg

Outstanding Production (1940): Rebecca (1940)
Release Date: March 21, 1940
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Studio: United Artists
Hitchcock’s brilliant Oscar-winning film was based on Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 novel of the same name. Rebecca is filmed as a hazy, atmospheric, and ominous mystery story about a traumatized young woman (Joan Fontaine), and the psychological ghosts that haunt her new life as she marries a wealthy aristocratic widower, Mr. Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier), and moves to his coastal English estate only to find that the memory of his late wife, Rebecca, still haunts his life.


The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
Release Date: January 24, 1940
Director: John Ford
Studio: 20th Century Fox
The Grapes of Wrath is one of those rare films that captures much of the spirit and essence of its parent novel. The director of choice was the great John Ford who hurriedly cobbled together the picture into a now classic film. The story follows the Joad family on their epic Dust Bowl quest to California, and the film stars Henry Fonda as Tom Joad.


The Great Dictator (1940)
Release Date: October 15, 1940
Director: Charlie Chaplin
Studio: United Artists
The Great Dictator was Charlie Chaplin’s first true talking picture. It memorably features a version of the Little Tramp character, albeit a talking “little fellow” (technically the last time he would ever grace the silver screen). This was an extraordinary film for its indictment of the Third Reich and other rapidly growing fascist movements around the world. Chaplin’s stance was as precocious as it was courageous.


Fantasia (1940)
Release Date: November 13, 1940
Directors: Various
Studio: Disney
Fantasia is an experimental cartoon-re-imagining of classical music told in eight different segments, each directed by Leopold Stokowski, the English-Polish conductor who became a famous Hollywood composer. Remarkably, Fantasia is only Disney’s third feature animated film. It was the first film released with stereophonic sound (a.k.a. “fantasound” for which it received a special Academy Award in 1941).

Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940)

All This, And Heaven Too (1940)

The Bank Dick (1940)

Dance, Girl, Dance (1940)

Foreign Correspondent (1940)

The Great McGinty (1940)

La Fille du puisatier (“The Well Diggers Daughter” 1940)

His Girl Friday (1940)

The Letter (1940)

The Long Voyage Home (1940)

The Mark of Zorro (1940)

The Mortal Storm (1940)

Our Town (1940)

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

Pinocchio (1940)

Pride and Prejudice (1940)

Santa Fe Trail (1940)

The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

The Thief of Baghdad (1940)

The Waterloo Story (1940)

The Westerner (1940)


how green

Outstanding Motion Picture (1941): How Green Was My Valley (1941)
Release Date: October 28, 1941
Director: John Ford
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Based on the popular 1939 novel of the same name, How Green Was My Valley is the beautiful and nostalgic story of the Morgans, a hardworking and humble Welsh family in a coal mining town during the late 19th century. The story is episodic and takes us through the innocent early days of the town, until changes at the coal mine force a decline in the town as well as the Morgan family. How Green Was My Valley rather infamously beat out Citizen Kane and The Maltese Falcon for Best Picture in 1941.

Image result for citizen kane

Citizen Kane (1941)
Release Date: May 1, 1941
Director: Orson Welles
Studio: RKO Productions
Popularly considered the greatest film ever made (and with good reason), the prodigy Orson Welles co-wrote, directed, and starred in Citizen Kane as the lead, Charles Foster Kane. The film opens with the death of Kane in his massive castle as he utters a mysterious word: “rosebud.” The rest of the film uniquely depicts the life of Kane in a series of flashbacks as a journalist seeks to uncover the meaning of Kane’s last word. Amazingly, the story behind the film, and its endless controversies (particularly with William Randolph Hearst and his media empire) are just as fascinating as the movie, itself. Of course, Citizen Kane is an essential film.

The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941)

Dumbo (1941)

Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941)

High Sierra (1941)

Hold Back the Dawn (1941)

The Lady Eve (1941)

The Little Foxes (1941)

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Meet John Doe (1941)

Sergeant York (1941)

The Wolf Man (1941)

Sullivan’s Travels (1941)

Suspicion (1941)

The Hamilton Woman (1941)

The Wolf Man (1941)


mrs miniver 1942

Outstanding Motion Picture (1942): Mrs. Minivar (1942)
Release Date: June 4, 1942
Director: William Wyler
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Mrs. Miniver is often remembered as a remarkable Allied propaganda movie released during World War II (in fact, Goebbels once praised its propagandist appeal in the ways it incites hatred toward Germany). Mrs. Miniver was a critical success, and it has had a particularly lasting legacy in England. It won six Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Mrs. Miniver is a domestic, upper middle-class English drama that follows the trials of one family during the advent of World War II.

The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
Release Date: July 10, 1942
Director: Orson Welles
Studio: RKO Productions
Based on Booth Tarkington’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel of the same name published in 1918, The Magnificent Ambersons is a wonderful film that tells the story of the rise and fall of a once great Midwestern family, as their town changes with the advent of electricity and the automobile. Despite controversies surrounding the film, and the studio’s unfortunate decision to hack and revise Welles’s original picture, The Magnificent Ambersons is still one of the greatest films of all time. Of particular significance to me is the opening scene in which Welles narrates the changing fashion and times of this little Indiana town.

Bambi (1942)

Gentleman Jim (1942)

In Which We Serve (1942)

Kings Row (1942)

The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942)

Cat People (1942)

Now, Voyager (1942)

The Palm Beach Story (1942)

The Pride of the Yankees (1942)

Random Harvest (1942)

The Talk of the Town (1942)

Gun For Hire (1942)

To Be or Not To Be (1942)

Woman of the Year (1942)

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)



Outstanding Motion Picture (1943): Casablanca (1942)
Release Date: November 26, 1942
Director: Michael Curtiz
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Casablanca is one of the greatest films of all time, and it has sometimes been called one of the great American propaganda films of the 20th century. Starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Peter Lorre and others, Casablanca depicts the impossibility of neutrality during the Second World War as bar owner, Rick Blaine, acquires transit papers when suddenly his long-lost love, Ilsa Lund, arrives in his bar one night requesting the papers from Rick for she and her husband. Casablanca is incredible film about love, war, and heroism.


For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943)
Release Date: July 14, 1943
Director: Sam Wood
Studio: Paramount Pictures
For Whom The Bell Tolls is a beautiful technicolor film version of Ernest Hemingway’s famous novel of the same name. The story is about Robert Jordan (played by Gary Cooper), an American soldier in the International Brigades caught in the middle of the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s, and his newfound love for Maria (played by Ingrid Bergman). He is tasked with destroying a strategic bridge that is a key point of transportation for the Nationalists (i.e. the fascists).

Forever And A Day (1943)

Heaven Can Wait (1943)

The Human Comedy (1943)

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)

Jane Eyre (1943)

Madame Curie (1943)

The Man in Grey (1943)

The More the Merrier (1943)

Obsession (1943)

The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)

Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

The Song of a Bernadette (1943)

Watch on the Rhine (1943)


Best Motion Picture (1944): Going My Way (1944)

Gaslight (1944)
Release Date: May 4, 1944
Director: George Cukor (1944)
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Gaslight stars a young Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, and Joseph Cotton. The film tells the story of Gregory and Paula Anton. She inherits priceless jewelry from a relative in London, and then she and Gregory elope, as Gregory begins playing psychological tricks (i.e. “gaslighting”) Paula so he can control her and steal her jewelry.

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

A Canterbury Tale (1944)

Double Indemnity (1944)

Hail the Conquering Hero (1944)

King Henry V (1944)

Ivan the Terrible Part I (1944)

Laura (1944)

Lifeboat (1944)

Meet me in St Louis (1944)

The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944)

Murder, My Sweet (1944)

National Velvet (1944)

None But the Lonely Heart (1944)

Since You Went Away (1944)

To Have and Have Not (1944)

The Uninvited (1944)


Best Motion Picture (1945): The Lost Weekend (1945)

Anchors Aweigh (1945)

And Then There Were None (1945)

The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)

Les Enfants du Paradis (1945)

Rome, Open City (1945)

Detour (1945)

Leave Her to Heaven (1945)

Mildred Pierce (1945)

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)

Scarlet Street (1945)

The Seventh Veil (1945)

The Southerner (1945)

Spellbound (1945)

The Spiral Staircase (1945)

They Were Expendable (1945)

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945)

A Walk in the Sun (1945)


Best Motion Picture (1946): The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)


Notorious (1946)
Release Date: August 15, 1946
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Studio: RKO Pictures
In some ways, Notorious, is a natural introduction to Hitchcock’s later classic spy thriller, North By Northwest. Starring Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, and Claude Rains the film is about the “notorious” reputation of the daughter of a former Nazi spy. She is persuaded by a US government agent to travel to Brazil to help infiltrate a former Nazi ring. Along the way, they fall in love but she must be pushed into the hands of another man to complete the mission, however, her new suitor soon discovers her secret. It is a brilliant film of sabotage, intrigue, and double crossing.


The Yearling (1946)
Release Date: December 18, 1946
Director: Clarence Brown
Studio: MGM
Based on the 1938 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, The Yearling is about the struggles of a late 19th century rural family (the Baxter family) while their son befriends a young fawn. The film was nominated for a variety of Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director (Clarence Brown), Best Actor (Gregory Peck), and others.

La Belle et la Bete (1946)

The Big Sleep (1946)

Brief Encounter (1946)

Duel in the Sun (1946)

Gilda (1946)

Great Expectations (1946)

It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

The Killers (1946)

My Darling Clementine (1946)

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

The Razor’s Edge (1946)

The Stranger (1946)

To Each His Own (1946)


Best Motion Picture (1947): Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)


Monsieur Verdoux (1947)
Release Date: April 11, 1947
Director: Charlie Chaplin
Studio: United Artists
Charlie Chaplin’s controversial and odd character of Henri Verdoux, a self-proclaimed “liquidator” of women who lives a lavish Parisian life. Monsieur Verdoux represents Chaplin’s transformation from beloved “Little Tramp” to villainous social monster in a not-so-subtle critique of upper-class society. Mr. Verdoux (or any number of his aliases “Varnay” or “Bonheur” or “Floray”) is an organized, ruthless criminal who travels the world seducing wealthy women in order to rob and murder them, all the while maintaining the facade of perfect gentlemanliness.

Lady From Shanghai (1947)
Release Date: December 24, 1947
Director: Orson Welles
Studio: Columbia Pictures
This Welles film noir, starring Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles, is a psychological thriller about a staged killing, which turns into a covert framing of an innocent man. Before he can be arrested and imprisoned, he must uncover the truth about the killing. A funhouse shootout scene at the end of the film is of particularly note, as the main character walks off into the distance saying “Maybe I’d forget her. Maybe I’d die trying.”

The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

Black Narcissus (1947)

Body and Soul (1947)

Boomerang (1947)

Crossfire (1947)

Dark Passage (1947)

A Double Life (1947)

The Farmer’s Daughter (1947)

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Monsieur Verdoux (1947)

Odd Man Out (1947)

Out of the Past (1947)

The Paradine Case (1947)

Pursued (1947)

Secret Beyond the Door (1947)

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947)

They Won’t Believe Me (1947)



Best Motion Picture (1948): Hamlet (1948)
Release Date: May 4, 1948
Director: Laurence Olivier
Studio: Two Cities/Universal
As a follow-up to 1944’s triumphant Henry V, the writer/director/producer virtuoso Laurence Oliver returned with an absolutely iconic depiction of Hamlet in 1948 which won a string of awards including Best Picture (the first non-American film to win Best Picture) and Best Actor (Laurence Olivier), though Oliver ultimately lost Best Director to John Huston for his equally amazing film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. In the end, Hamlet won four Academy Awards. Despite the omission of numerous characters and scenes (especially the absence of Fortinbras and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern), as well as some revisionist dialogue, this dark and brooding masterpiece comes with high praise from me –one which I have seen several times now.

3 Godfathers (1948)
Release Date: December 1, 1948
Director: John Ford
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
3 Godfathers tells the story of three cattle ranchers, led by Robert “Bob” Hightower (John Wayne), who rob a bank in Welcome, Arizona. As they flee the town, the youngest is shot in the arm and they escape on horseback into the desert with limited water. They discover an abandoned pregnant woman and help her deliver a baby, just as she names them the baby’s godfathers.

An Act of Murder (1948)

Bicycle Thieves (1948)

Easter Parade (1948)

Force of Evil (1948)

I Remember Mama (1948)

Johnny Belinda (1948)

Key Largo (1948)

Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948)

Louisiana Story (1948)

The Naked City (1948)

Oliver Twist (1948)

The Paleface (1948)

Red River (1948)

The Red Shoes (1948)

Rope (1948)

The Snake Pit (1948)

Sorry Wrong Number (1948)

Spring in a Small Town (1948)

State of the Union (1948)

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

Unfaithfully Yours (1948)



Best Motion Picture (1949): All the King’s Men (1949)
Release Date: November 8, 1949
Director: Robert Rossen
Studio: Columbia Pictures
All The King’s Men is an enjoyable noir-esque interpretation of Robert Penn Warren’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. The plot fades in and out of a variety of scenes that tell the rise of Willie Stark, the bombastic populist politician who wins over the voters of Louisiana to become Governor only to fall in spectacular fashion.

The Accused (1949)

Adam’s Rib (1949)

Battleground (1949)

Beyond the Forest (1949)

Champion (1949)

The Heiress (1949)

Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)

Knock on any Door (1949)

On the Town (1949)

Orpheus (1949)

The Reckless Moment (1949)

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)

The Third Man (1949)

Jour de fête (1949)

La Belle Meunière (“The Pretty Miller Girl” 1949)

Twelve O’Clock High (1949)

Whiskey Galore (1949)

White Heat (1949)

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