Mike’s Top Ten of 1940-1949

The 40s is a complete, perfect decade. In a way, possibly the best decade in cinema. I know we all love the 70s, and I get that. But the 40s, at the top, has, quite possibly, the greatest set of films ever made.

Putting this one together was pretty simple. I didn’t even have to blink and I’d have at least seven of the ten films. Really all I had to do was make a difficult decision with the final film on the list. But then, when I think about which are actually among my favorite films of all time, the decision actually became easier.

For methodology purposes, the way I compile these Top Tens of the Decade lists: I take my top ten for each year of the decade, throw them all together, and simply whittle it down until I find what I feel are my ten favorites from that decade. Not the best, my favorite. That’s really all it is. I feel like if I can figure out what my favorite films of all time are, then I can figure it out by specific decades.

Mike’s Top Ten Films of 1940-1949

Black Narcissus (1947)

Casablanca (1942)

Citizen Kane (1941)

His Girl Friday (1940)

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

A Matter of Life and Death (1946)

My Darling Clementine (1946)

The Red Shoes (1948)

The Third Man (1949)

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

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Absolutely zero thought had to be put into this one. The Third Man is a top five all-time movie for me. So that was gonna be there. Casablanca, Citizen Kane and The Red Shoes are in my top 20. Just like the 30s, basically half my list is done for me automatically.

Then, if I branch out further — Treasure of the Sierra Madre and His Girl Friday are in my top 50. So those are on.  And the other four are in the top 100. It works out to an even ten, and the only thing I had to is feel okay with some of the next ten not making the top ten. But hey, when the list is as strong as it is, shit happens.

The only movie of this ten that I’d even remotely think about swapping out is My Darling Clementine, but when I look at it next to the other ten — sure, some might be better films, but I don’t love them as much. So I feel good with how it worked out.

It’s interesting to me that the years not to appear here are the war years. No 1943, no 1944, no 1945. Those are the years most affected by World War II. Really nothing from the early years either. It’s mostly the latter half of the decade, with your two automatics of 1941 and 1942 really being the major first-half entries.

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  • The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
  • Brief Encounter (1945)
  • Bicycle Thieves (1948)
  • Fantasia (1940)
  • The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
  • I Love You Again (1940)
  • The Maltese Falcon (1941)
  • Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
  • National Velvet (1945)
  • Random Harvest (1942)

Here’s the first half of the decade that was missing earlier. And man, look at some of these. I could easily put half this list in my top ten and no one would bat an eye. This decade is so strong.

The Maltese Falcon, The Best Years of Our Lives, Brief Encounter, Bicycle Thieves and Fantasia just got squeezed from the top ten due to space reasons. So half my list her was done for me.

Meet Me in St. Louis is one of my favorite musicals, so that had to go on there. I love National Velvet so much. That barely misses my top 100, if we’re being totally honest. And might have been the film most likely to sneak into the top 100 over those first five I mentioned above. (Well, maybe not Bicycle Thieves.) The Grapes of Wrath is a masterpiece and a classic, and I needed to put it on there. Random Harvest is a film that I fall in love with more and more with each passing year. And I needed to put Powell and Loy on here somewhere, so that’s how I Love You Again made it on there. I love that movie so much.

The only movie that I’d have wanted to see on here that just barely missed making it was The Ox-Bow Incident. That’s an unofficial #21 for the decade. Sucks, but there’s amazing stuff here, so it happens.

The only year not to make any appearance on this list is 1943, which is the weak year of the 40s. 1947 almost missed it, because that’s also the other weak year of the 40s, but fortunately it has Black Narcissus, which gave it its only appearance.

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