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DISCLAIMER: All film criticism is extremely subjective and there is no such thing as the definitive list of the Greatest (English-language) Films. Great Films can't be measured scientifically because greatness is extremely subjective. Just because we like a film doesn't mean that you will like it as well. Please feel free to leave us a comment with the films that you think are the greatest which we have not included on our list.

Not only was 1942 a big year for movies but it was also a big year for actors making their film debuts and the deaths of some truly great talent. Here is a snap shot of the American film industry.


Making Their Film Debuts:

Richard AttenboroughIn Which We Serve; Anne Jeffreys – Billy the Kid Trapped; Gene Kelly – For Me and My Gal; Harry Morgan – To the Shores of Tripoli; Simone Signoret – Bolero; Elizabeth Taylor – There’s One Born Every Minute; and Esther Williams – Andy Hardy’s Double Life


Top-grossing Films

Box office numbers were reported at the time as a percentage compared to ‘normal’ business at each theater. For example, Mrs. Miniver performed at 244% while The Major and the Minor did a solid 155%. This is why exact dollar grosses for the period are unreliable at best.

1.Mrs. MiniverMGM
2.Yankee Doodle DandyWarner Bros.
3.Random HarvestMGM
4.Road to MoroccoParamount
5.Reap the Wild WindParamount
6.The Black Swan20th Century Fox
7.Somewhere I’ll Find YouMGM
8.Holiday InnParamount
9.Eagle SquadronUniversal
10.The Pride of the YankeesRKO
11.Wake IslandParamount
12.For Me and My GalMGM
13.Pardon My SarongUniversal
14.My Sister EileenColumbia
15.Who Done It?Universal
16.The Major and the MinorParamount
17.This Above All20th Century Fox
18.The Talk of the TownColumbia
19.My Favorite BlondeParamount



Academy Award Winners

Best Picture: Mrs. Miniver – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Best Actor: James CagneyYankee Doodle Dandy

Best Actress: Greer GarsonMrs. Miniver

Best Supporting Actor: Van HeflinJohnny Eager

Best Supporting Actress: Teresa WrightMrs. Miniver

Best Director: William WylerMrs. Miniver

Special Academy Award: In Which We Serve


Among Those Who Died In 1942:

The Greatest Films of 1942




Poster for the movie "Bambi"

© 1942 Walt Disney Productions − All right reserved.


D: Disney Studio

Another appealing, popular Disney animated film classic, based on Felix Salten’s book. The legendary film follows newborn baby fawn Bambi as he grows up, experiences the loss of his mother by a hunter, and eventually becomes a leader of the herd – a magnificent stag. The maturing of Bambi illustrates the struggles, turmoil, and changes that accompany the changing of seasons, the passage of time, and life’s survival, as he comes of age and completes the cycle of life. With memorable supporting characters and forest friends of Bambi, including Thumper the rabbit, Flower the skunk and Owl the owl.

Learn more and watch the trailer here.


Poster for the movie "Casablanca"

© 1942 Warner Bros. − All right reserved.


D: Michael Curtiz

The best-loved film of all time, a perennial-favorite, a must-see classic and Best Picture. A tale of intrigue, romance, love lost, heroism, and conscience, with a well-paced dialogue, sentimental script, moody and atmospheric sets, and a first-rate cast of memorable characters.

Set during World War II in Casablanca (North Africa) at a nightclub run by cynical saloon keeper Richard “Rick” Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), an American expatriate. The Cafe Americain is filled with European refugees, smugglers, thieves and Nazis. Into his joint walked long-lost-love Ilsa Lund Laszlo (Ingrid Bergman) and her underground Resistance freedom-fighter husband Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), who are trying to arrange their escape from the Nazis. They urge him to help support the French Resistance movement. Vivid memories of Rick’s and Ilsa’s passionate Paris love affair (just before the Germans occupied the city) ending in betrayal are shown in flashback. Ilsa asks Rick to help them escape to neutral Lisbon, because he has two “letters of transit” – will he give the letters to them, or will she leave with Rick?

Learn more and watch the trailer here.


Poster for the movie "Cat People"

© 1942 RKO Radio Pictures − All right reserved.

Cat People

D: Jacques Tourneur

A classic, suspenseful RKO horror film, the first produced by horror film master Val Lewton (and his biggest hit), with moody and sinister atmosphere, eerie sound effects, subtle understatement, interesting camera angles, and judicious use of shock effects.

An ship-building architect Oliver Reed (Kent Smith) marries a mysterious and beautiful young fashion designer Irena Dubrovna (Simone Simon). He worries when his obsessed wife refuses to consummate the marriage. She believes she has inherited her Balkan family’s ancient and evil curse from the homeland – part of a legend that if she becomes sexually and passionately aroused, she might be transformed into a killer panther and hunt and kill her lover. Psychiatrist Dr. Judd (Tom Conway) foolishly thinks he can cure her.

Learn more and watch the trailer here.


Poster for the movie "Gentleman Jim"

© 1942 Warner Bros. − All right reserved.

Gentleman Jim

D: Raoul Walsh

An entertaining, highly-fictionalized sports biography of famous heavyweight boxer “Gentleman Jim” James J. Corbett (Errol Flynn). It follows his career from a poor, brawling Irish family, to a lowly job as a bank clerk, then an amateur boxer, and onto the professional level in the 1890s – in the early days of bare-knuckled boxing. Based loosely upon James J. Corbett’s own autobiography The Roar of the Crowd. The film is set in turn-of-the-century San Francisco. He is known for using “scientific” boxing techniques – the first to “dance” around the ring with elusive footwork. He also finds time to romance San Francisco socialite love interest Victoria Ware (Alexis Smith), an ambivalent patrician belle who believes he has a “swelled” head, although she supports him. Boxing was being transformed from a lower-class, illegal sport with new Marquis of Queensberry rules – three minute rounds, one minute between rounds, a ten-count, and no hitting below the belt. The brash, extroverted, stylish and charming Gentleman Jim cheerfully challenges John L. Sullivan (Ward Bond) to a 1892 championship match, revealed in an exciting, action-packed sequence of 21 rounds.

Learn more and watch the trailer here.


Poster for the movie "In Which We Serve"

© − All right reserved.

In Which We Serve (UK)

D: Noel Coward, David Lean

The first film with a directorial credit by David Lean. A stirring, patriotic, British World War II drama, the story of the lives of the crew of a torpedoed British destroyer HMS Torrin, commanded by Captain E. V. Kinross R.N. (director Noel Coward) (aka Captain ‘D’), sunk in the Battle of Crete in 1941 in the Mediterranean. Based on the real-life experiences of Lord Louis Mountbatten, Captain of the Royal Navy destroyer named HMS Kelly, which was sunk by enemy action early in the war in May, 1941.

Filmed like a black and white documentary, with narration (by Leslie Howard) recounting the historic efforts of the three surviving crew members on a life raft, while they flash back to memories of their loved ones and service to the ship. The three are: (1) ordinary seaman Shorty Blake (John Mills), whose girlfriend is Freda Lewis (Kay Walsh), (2) Chief Petty Officer Walter Hardy (Bernard Miles) who is married to ill-fated pregnant Katherine Lemmon Hardy (Joyce Carey), and (3) Capt. Edward Kinross, with two children and wife Alix (Celia Johnson). With two stirring speech sequences: an after-dinner speech by Alix, and Kinross’ own concluding speech. The film closes with the narrator’s words: “God bless our ships and all who sail on them.” It received a special Academy Award.

Learn more and watch the trailer here.


Poster for the movie "Kings Row"

© 1942 Warner Bros. − All right reserved.

Kings Row

D: Sam Wood

A penetrating look at American morals (rivalries, jealousies, and sordid affairs) in a seemingly peaceful small rural Midwestern (Missouri) town, Kings Row, at the turn of the century through to the time of World War I. With a fantastic score by composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold.

Two young men, future medical student Parris Mitchell (Robert Cummings) and future playboy Drake McHugh (Ronald Reagan, in his career’s best and most memorable role) grow up in Kings Row. Other characters included the town’s psychiatrist Dr. Alexander Tower (Claude Rains) and his unbalanced, home-schooled daughter Cassandra Tower (Betty Field), Drake’s working class girlfriend Randy Monoghan (Ann Sheridan), and the troubled and sheltered Louise Gordon (Nancy Coleman), daughter of vengeful and moralistic Dr. Henry Gordon (Charles Coburn). When they reach adulthood, a series of tragic incidents reveal sadism, insanity, moral decay, deceitfulness, and pettiness deceptively hidden. At one point, Drake asks Louise to marry him, but she declines. And then Cassie is poisoned by her father (who wishes to protect Parris from his insane daughter), who then kills himself. Drake, who marries Randy, is unexpectedly the victim of a brutal Dr. Gordon, who unnecessarily amputates both his legs following an accident, prompting him to ask in the famous line: “Where’s the rest of me?” The film ends with Parris becoming the town’s doctor after the death of Dr. Gordon, his truthful support of Drake, and his romancing of Elise Sandor (Kaaren Verne) whose family lives. in his former residence.

Learn more and watch the trailer here.


Poster for the movie "The Magnificent Ambersons"

© 1942 RKO Radio Pictures − All right reserved.

The Magnificent Ambersons

D: Orson Welles

An adaptation of Booth Tarkington’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, a rich and dramatic period production, although Welles claimed it was “ruined” by the studio’s intervention, editing, and censorship. The studio reshot some of the footage, re-edited the film down from the original length – 148 minutes – to 88 minutes, misunderstanding it and mutilating it with cuts, and adding a happy ending. This was Orson Welles’ first film following his cinematic success with Citizen Kane a year earlier. Welles both wrote the screenplay and directed this film, a favorite of the critics, and a score composed by Bernard Herrmann. With rich innovative cinematographic and audio techniques (by Stanley Cortez), including contrasting light and dark shadows, deep-focus photography, moving dolly and truck camera shots, iris-in iris-out scene closings, and “Welles sound” montages.

It was the 25-year story of the decline of a wealthy Midwestern Victorian family, the Ambersons, beginning in the 1890s and continuing into the 20th century. Young Eugene Morgan (Joseph Cotten) loves Isabel Amberson (Dolores Costello), but she marries Wilbur Minafer (Donald Dillaway). About twenty years later, Eugene returns to the town as a successful automobile inventor/manufacturer and begins to court the widowed Isabel. But her spoiled and arrogant Oedipal youngest son George Amberson (Tim Holt), brakes up their relationship. The Amberson family fortune disappears, as Eugene’s automobile industry flourishes.

Learn more and watch the trailer here.


Poster for the movie "The Man Who Came To Dinner"

© − All right reserved.

The Man Who Came to Dinner

D: William Keighley

A wacky, side-splitting classic screwball comedy, originally a smash Broadway hit play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. A bombastic, cocky, and witty radio celebrity Sheridan Whiteside (Monty Woolley) on a lecture tour falls and breaks his leg on slippery ice while in Mesalia, Ohio. The egotistical and abrasive Sheridan is forced to remain at the house of a local Midwestern family, conservative businessman Ernest (Grant Mitchell) and his dotty matronly wife Daisy Stanley (Billie Burke) while he recuperates from his injury, aided by nurse Miss Preen (Mary Wickes). His hosts are driven crazy and relegated to the second floor, and the household is thrown into chaos by his unending eccentric demands, expensive long-distance phone calls, orders to the servants, his loud-mouthed obnoxious manner, exotic animals (an octopus and penguins), and an assortment of oddball friends that come to visit him. His trusted secretary Maggie Cutler (Bette Davis) fall in love with local newspaper man Bert Jefferson (Richard Travis), complicating everything when the conniving Sheridan hires gold-digging, narcissistic actress friend Lorraine Sheldon (Ann Sheridan) to seductively steal Maggie’s love interest so that she won’t marry and then quit as his secretary. When Sheridan discovers that his leg has healed, he bribes Dr. Bradley (George Barbier) to prolong his stay, and uses blackmail (the threat to reveal) that the Stanley’s nutty sister Harriet (Ruth Vivian) was once put away for being an axe murderer.

Learn more and watch the trailer here.


Poster for the movie "Mrs. Miniver"

© 1942 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) − All right reserved.

Mrs. Miniver

D: William Wyler

A moving, morale-boosting, war drama (Best Picture winner) and box-office hit from MGM, adapted from the novel by Jan Struther. It follows the lives of beleaguered but courageous British villagers who face tremendous trials, hardships, and dangers during World War II and the Nazi aggression. In the town of Belham outside of London in the Thames Valley, the middle-class Miniver family, headed by Clem (Walter Pidgeon) and Kay Miniver (Oscar-winning Greer Garson), face the onset of the war, including war-time rationing, bombings during the London Blitz, a downed, wounded and threatening German paratrooper, the trauma of their sons fighting in the effort – one of whom was their eldest Oxford-educated son Vin (Richard Ney) who entered the Royal Air Force, and terrifying air raids – one of which kills daughter-in-law Carol Beldon (Teresa Wright), Vin’s wife. In the finale, the courageous family sang: “Onward Christian Soldiers” in a bombed-out village church as proof that there would always be an England, and the church’s vicar (Henry Wilcoxon) read from Psalm 91 and delivers a moving, patriotic speech. Included dramatic footage of the Dunkirk evacuation (in which Clem participated). A secondary story is trials and tribulations of the annual Rose show that continues despite the war.

Learn more and watch the trailer here.


Poster for the movie "Now, Voyager"

© 1942 Warner Bros. − All right reserved.

Now, Voyager

D: Irving Rapper

A sentimental, superb, romantic tearjerker with great performances and a lush Max Steiner score, with a title based on Walt Whitman’s 1900 work Leaves of Grass and the poem “The Untold Want”: “Now, Voyager, sail thou forth to seek and find.” A shy, disturbed, dowdy and lonely middle-aged spinster, Charlotte Vale (Bette Davis) from a prominent Boston family is dominated and tormented by her mean, unloving mother Mrs. Henry Windle Vale (Gladys Cooper). Sheltered ugly duckling Charlotte is helped by kindly psychiatrist Dr. Jaquith (Claude Rains) at his clinic to assist her in blossoming into a swan – a lovely, confident young woman is brought out of her shell. Before returning home, she takes an ocean cruise to discover herself and meets handsome, but unhappily married Jerry Durrance (Paul Henreid). They have an affair and enter into an ill-fated romance – because he can never leave his wife. Returning to Boston, she resists falling under her mother’s domination. Her mother suffers a stroke when Charlotte breaks off her engagement to eminent Bostonian Elliot Livingston (John Loder) after meeting Jerry again. Charlotte returns to Jaquith’s clinic to resolve feelings of guilt and there identifies with and helps Jerry’s shy, withdrawn daughter Tina (Janis Wilson), who had been rejected by her mother too. By coming close to Tina as a surrogate mother, she brings Jerry back into her life. Includes the famous, memorable scene of Durrance lighting two cigarettes at once.

Learn more and watch the trailer here.


Poster for the movie "Palm Beach Story"

© − All right reserved.

The Palm Beach Story

D: Preston Sturges

One of the best of Preston Sturges’ fast-paced, zany and madcap screwball comedies with snappy dialogue, originally titled: ‘Is Marriage Necessary?’ It opens with the end of the five-year marriage of struggling, poor, stingy architectural engineer/inventor Tom (Joel McCrea) and his frustrated, slightly wacky, but ambitious wife Gerry Jeffers (Claudette Colbert). As she was preparing to leave, the couple met the half-deaf Texas “Wienie King” (Robert Dudley) who is apartment-hunting and offers the destitute couple $700 (for back rent, a new dress and salon visit, and dinner). Shortly after, Gerry departs and boards a train bound for posh Palm Beach, Florida, to get a divorce. Her scheme is to help finance her husband’s inventions (and plans for a $99,000 airport) by locating a rich bank-rolling financier. On the train, she encounters a wealthy but wacky, oddball heiress divorced five times named Princess Centimillia (Mary Astor), her companion Toto (Sig Arno) and her eccentric, clumsy millionaire brother John D. Hackensacker III (Rudy Vallee), and a group of tipsy millionaire hunters in the Ale and Quail Club, led by First Member (William Demarest). J.D. falls madly in love with Gerry and pursues her with wealth and riches. Things get more complicated, hilarious and interesting when Gerry’s husband arrives in Florida (financed by the “Wienie King”) to jealously win her back (by pretending to be Gerry’s brother Captain McGlew), even while the Princess falls in love with him.

Learn more and watch the trailer here.


Poster for the movie "The Pride of the Yankees"

© − All right reserved.

The Pride of the Yankees

D: Sam Wood

An exceptional sports biography of one of the greatest baseball players ever, Yankee first baseman Lou Gehrig (Gary Cooper), following his life from his playground days to New York Yankee stardom in the 1920s and 30s. At the height of his career, he was afflicted by a crippling, lethal and incurable muscle disease – ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (now bearing his name “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) and eventually died.

The film chronicles the struggles of his immigrant parents, his early life, his romantic courtship and marriage to Eleanor (Teresa Wright), his career and his courageous fight against the disease. It is a sensitive portrayal, endearing and touchingly portrayed, especially the final emotional scene – his memorable farewell address at Yankee Stadium: “…People all say that I’ve had a bad break. But today – today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

Learn more and watch the trailer here.


Poster for the movie "Random Harvest"

© 1942 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) − All right reserved.

Random Harvest

D: Mervyn LeRoy

MGM’s sentimental, moving melodramatic romance with an implausible plot (based on the James Hilton novel) – about an amnesia victim who forgot the woman he loved and married. A shell-shocked and mute World War I army officer Charles Rainier (Ronald Colman) suffers from amnesia and is named John Smith (or “Smithy”). He escapes from a county asylum and in a small town, he meets and fall in love with dance hall singer/performer Paula Ridgeway (Greer Garson). They are happily married, move into a cottage, and have a son. About three years later while away in London to sell a story he has written, a sudden shock to his head from a car accident causes him to regain his former memory/life as Charles Rainier and forgets Paula and their life together. Paula tracks him down, and finds him at work in his family’s industrial factory. She reenters his life as Margaret Hansen, but on the advice of the doctor, does not reveal her identity or their past life together (or that their son has died). She becomes his devoted secretary as she persistently but patiently attempts to rekindle their relationship which he still does not remember. Rainier’s new fiancee, Kitty (Susan Peters) calls off their engagement, leaving him depressed, so he turns to Paula and asks her for marriage “in friendship” – or a “merger” in name only. In the final memorable scene, he is jarred into remembering his past life with her while visiting in the familiar setting of their cottage.

Learn more and watch the trailer here.


Poster for the movie "The Talk of the Town"

© 1942 Columbia Pictures − All right reserved.

The Talk of the Town

D: George Stevens

An intelligent screwball comedy concerning a love triangle between a woman, a suspected murderer and a celebrated defense attorney. An avowed anarchist, factory worker Leopold Dilg (Cary Grant) is a fugitive from justice, falsely wanted and framed by his employer for murder/manslaughter and the arson of the factory. He escapes into the countryside and seeks refuge in the attic of a rented summer house, being prepared by sympathetic school teacher Nora Shelley (Jean Arthur) for an unsuspecting vacationing law professor Michael Lightcap (Ronald Colman). Dilg poses as the gardener while he attempts to prove his innocence. The stuffy renter, a strict law-and-order man, and a Supreme Court judge appointee, takes a liking to the fugitive as they engage in a series of witty debates and discuss the justice system. The judge defends Dilg from an angry lynch mob in the final trial, clearing him of the charges. The final scene reveals whom Nora romantically chooses (one of the film’s two possible endings).

Learn more and watch the trailer here.


Poster for the movie "This Gun for Hire"

© 1942 Paramount Pictures − All right reserved.

This Gun for Hire

D: Frank Tuttle

An atmospheric, sinister, film noir mystery from Paramount Studios, an adaptation from Graham Greene’s novel A Gun for Sale. This was the first of four pictures teaming Alan Ladd with co-star Veronica Lake and their great on-screen chemistry, followed by two great noirs: The Glass Key (1942) and The Blue Dahlia (1946).

Paid professional killer Philip Raven (Alan Ladd), after committing two murders for hire, seeks revenge after being double-crossed by double-agent Willard Gates (Laird Cregar) and chemical company president Alvin Brewster (Tully Marshall). Drawn into the hunt after meeting by accident (and sharing a common enemy, Gates) is super-sultry, peek-a-boo blonde nightclub singer/magician Ellen Graham (Veronica Lake), who attempts to understand the “soft side” of the murderous, cold-blooded hired gun, who admits he was abused as a child. The pair struggle to avoid the police, led by Ellen’s boyfriend – police investigator Michael Crane (Robert Preston), as Raven tracks his double-crossing smugglers down to a secret plant where the spy ring manufactures poison gas to sell to Japan – the wartime enemy. In the rousing conclusion, Brewster attempts to kill Raven but dies of heart failure, while Raven shoots Gates dead. Raven is lethally-wounded by police, but did not shoot Michael because Ellen was helping him. As Raven dies, they find the sabotagers’ written confession.

Learn more and watch the trailer here.


Poster for the movie "Woman of the Year"

© 1942 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) − All right reserved.

Woman of the Year

D: George Stevens

A witty romantic comedy-drama (and a semi-screwball comedy) about gender roles originally developed by Garson Kanin (with an Oscar-winning script by Ring Lardner, Jr. and Michael Kanin). This marked the first onscreen pairing of Tracy and Hepburn (the first of nine such films that lasted over a period of 25 years). It is a charming film with superb acting, dialogue and chemistry between the two actors.

Successful New York newspaper sportswriter Sam Craig (Spencer Tracy) works for the same newspaper as celebrated, sophisticated, no-nonsense, career-minded political columnist Tess Harding (Katharine Hepburn). They first meet after he angrily responds in a column to her unpopular opinion that baseball games should be suspended during the war. The opposites have some attraction to each other and get married, but find that they have very little in common with each other. After She is clueless when he takes her to a daytime baseball game – a classic scene. The plot highlights their strained marital relationship. In the film’s conclusion, she considers getting divorced, but then is chosen “Woman of The Year.” The film included the famous final scene of Tess attempting to cook breakfast (coffee, waffles, and eggs) in his kitchen, with disastrous results.

Learn more and watch the trailer here.


Poster for the movie "Yankee Doodle Dandy"

© 1942 Warner Bros. − All right reserved.

Yankee Doodle Dandy 

D: Michael Curtiz

A somewhat fictionalized rags-to-riches, All-American biography and grand musical – one of Hollywood’s greatest musicals, and the highest-grossing film of the year. Notable for having its energetic tough-guy star, James Cagney, honored as the first Academy Award Oscar for Best Actor for a performance in a musical. Cagney reprised the role of George M. Cohan in The Seven Little Foys (1955). This film, mostly told in flashback, is about the legendary life of Cohan, the early 20th century vaudevillian song and dance man (hoofer), prodigious Broadway playwright and songwriter (with at least three dozen-produced Broadway musical shows and more than 300 songs).

Born on the 4th of July, immensely patriotic Cohan (James Cagney) relates his life story in flashback to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Captain Jack Young, only viewed from the back). He was a member of a vaudevillian family including his father Jerry (Walter Huston), mother Nellie (Rosemary DeCamp), and sister Josie (Jeanne Cagney). Through sheer determination and talent, he becomes the most famous performer, songwriter and screen writer (aka “the man who owned Broadway”). With fancy footwork and memorable flag-waving tunes (such as “Over There,” You’re a Grand Old Flag,” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy”), this is a film that helped to build World War II morale on the home front.

Learn more and watch the trailer here.


Did your favorites make our list? If not, let us know what your favorites are.



Greatest Films from:

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1940 | 1941 | 1942 | 1943 | 1944 | 1945 | 1946 |1947 | 1948 | 1949

1950 | 1951 | 1952 | 1953 | 1954 | 1955 | 1956 | 1957 | 1958 |1959

1960 | 1961 | 1962 | 1963 | 1964 | 1965 | 1966 | 1967 | 1968 |1969

1970 | 1971 | 1972 | 1973 | 1974 | 1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1979