There are two decades throughout film history that have very definitive tonal shifts in them. The 30s is one, and the 60s is the other. The 30s has the shift because at the start of it, the industry was getting used to telling stories with sound, and then they were getting used to what they could or could not portray up on the screen. And, by the end of the decade, they not only had everything down pat, but along the way color got introduced, and they managed to turn it all into a well-oiled machine that would continue up until the 60s, when it all came crumbling down.
Going into this list, I suspect it will skew much more heavily toward the end of the decade, with at least half the list coming from 1938 or 1939. Partly because there’s so few films from those early years that I truly love, and also because, as I said earlier, they got the hang of everything toward the end and the product just felt better. Not to mention, 1939 is one of the single greatest years in the history of cinema. Which also helps.
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. (more…)