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.

Today we start a new series called the “Greatest Films of…….”. The Greatest Films of 1930 starts the series and by the end of the year we will be in the 1960s. For this particular series we are looking at English language films which mean predominately from the USA and UK. You may or may not agree with us and if you don’t, you can leave us a comment and tell us what you think. You can leave us a comment if you agree with our choices as well.

Not only was 1930 a big year for movies but it was also a big year for actors making their film debuts and the birth of future actors and directors.


Making Their Film Debuts:

Pat O’Brien – Compliments of the Season; James Cagney – Sinners’ Holiday; Buster Crabbe – Good News; Laurence Olivier – The Temporary Widow; Bing Crosby – King of Jazz; Irene Dunne – Leathernecking; Rex Harrison – The Great Game; Ruby Keeler – Show Girl in Hollywood; Ethel Merman – Her Future; Spencer Tracy – The Strong Arm


Among Those Born in 1930:

Robert Loggia, Roy E. Disney, Frances Sternhagen, Tippi Hedren, Gene Hackman, Robert Wagner, Joanne Woodward, Steve McQueen, Paul Mazursky, Carolyn Jones, Clint Eastwood, Gena Rowlands, Sean Connery, Anne Francis, Richard Harris, Jean-Luc Godard, and Armin Mueller-Stahl.



Top-grossing Films

1.Tom SawyerParamount Pictures$11,000,000
2.Hell’s AngelsUnited Artists$8,000,000
3.IngagiCongo Pictures$4,000,000
4.All Quiet on the Western FrontUniversal Pictures$3,000,000
5.Whoopee!United Artists$2,655,000
6.Feet FirstThe Harold Lloyd Corporation$1,589,000
7.Anna ChristieMGM$1,499,000
9.The Indians Are ComingUniversal Pictures$1,000,000
10.RafflesThe Samuel Goldwyn Company$1,000,000


Academy Awards

Best Picture: All Quiet on the Western Front – Universal Studios
Best Actress: Norma ShearerThe Divorcee
Best Actor: George Arliss – Disraeli
Best Director: Lewis Milestone – All Quiet on the Western Front


Among Those Who Died In 1930:

Dorothy Seastrom, Mabel Normand, Arthur Conan Doyle, Lon Chaney, Tom Mintz, Milton Sills, Clare Eames, Diane Ellis

The Greatest Films of 1930


Poster for the movie "All Quiet on the Western Front"

© 1930 Universal Pictures − All right reserved.

All Quiet on the Western Front

Director: Lewis Milestone

Stars: Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim, John Wray

The first major anti-war film of the sound era, it is faithfully based upon the timeless, best-selling 1929 novel by Erich Maria Remarque

The film is series of vignettes and scenes that portray the senselessness and futility of war from the sympathetic point of view of the young German soldiers in the trenches in the Great War who found no glory on the battlefield, meeting only death and disillusionment.

In the film’s grim epilogue, there is the haunting image of a dark, battle-scarred hillside covered with a sea of white crosses. Across the corpse-strewn fields, a super-imposed ghostly view emerges of Paul and his comrade soldiers in a column marching obliquely away from the camera toward a void. They are ghostly soldiers who, one by one, look back with bitterness, sadness, and accusation in their eye.

It won the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director and it was also nominated for Best Writing Achievement and Best Cinematography. It was a critical and financial success, and probably the greatest of pacifist, anti-war films – the grainy black and white film is still not dated and the film hasn’t lost its initial impact.

Learn more and watch the trailer here.


Animal Crackers, one of The Greatest Films of 1930Animal Crackers

Director: Victor Heerman

Stars: The Marx Brothers, Lillian Roth

The second of many classic Marx Brothers films, it was the last to be taken from one of their stage successes and the last to be filmed on the East Coast on the Astoria, NY sound stages before they transferred to Hollywood. The comic madness of the Marx Brothers in this early talkie is typical of all their films – an intrusive and silly plot – an excuse for numerous verbal ad-libs, criticism of sophisticated and affected high-society life, expository dialogues and battles and two memorable scenes among many: the lunatic bridge card game scene and Groucho’s African safari adventure.

Available as part of a Marx Brothers Collection from the TCM Shop.


Poster for the movie "Anna Christie"

© 1930 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) − All right reserved.

Anna Christie

Director: Clarence Brown

Stars: Greta Garbo, Charles Bickford, George F. Marion

A film adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s play, it was advertised, in a two-word ad campaign, as the first talking picture for cinema’s greatest silent star, Greta Garbo: “Garbo Talks!” Her first line of dialogue: “Gimme a viskey…” Garbo plays an alcoholic ex-prostitute who returns home after a long absence, to locate her barge captain father Chris Christofferson, the alcoholic skipper of a coal barge, and finds a sympathetic ear from gruff Marthy. She falls in love with strong Scottish seaman Matt, and has to tell him and her estranged father about her past.

Considered an over-rated and stagy drama by some, it received three Academy Award nomination: Best Actress in a Leading Role Greta Garbo, Best Director Clarence Brown, Best Cinematography William H. Daniels.

Learn more and watch the trailer here.



Poster for the movie "The Big House"

© 1930 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) − All right reserved.

The Big House

Directors: George W. Hill

Stars: Chester Morris, Wallace Beery, Lewis Stone

One of the earliest and most realistic of melodramatic prison pictures, used by many subsequent dramatic prison films as a model. It starred Wallace Beery as condemned prison inmate “Machine Gun” Butch Schmidt, a murderous cell-block leader. The grim prison is introduced when Kent Marlowe is sent to the prison for a ten-year sentence on vehicular manslaughter charges related to drunk driving, and is placed in a cell with two notorious prisoners: brutish Butch and John Morgan, convicted of forgery and robbery.

Things became complicated when escaped prisoner Morgan falls in love with Marlowe’s sister Anne, and then is recaptured and returned to the prison.. The film’s highlights include a jailbreak by angry prisoners led by Butch to escape from sadistic guards and overcrowded, inhumane conditions, and the subsequent bloody massacre.

It won Academy Awards for Best Writing, Achievement Frances Marion; Best Sound, Recording Douglas Shearer (sound director). It was also nominated for Best Picture and Best Actor in a Leading Role Wallace Beery.

Learn more and watch the trailer here.


The Devil's Holiday, one of The Greatest Films of 1930The Devil’s Holiday

Director: Edmund Goulding

Stars: Nancy Carroll, Phillips Holmes, James Kirkwood

A manipulative, flirtatious, gold-digging, big-city manicurist Hallie Hobart schems to marry a millionaire’s son David Stone from a family of wealthy wheat farmers, but is opposed by the young man’s father Ezra Stone and brother Mark. He marries her for all the wrong reasons, and continues to smother her with his love. Then, she offers to divorce him if given a fat payoff of $50,000. After leaving, her conscience begins to take over and she takes solace in parties and drink. Meanwhile, David is seriously ill as a result of a fall suffered in a fight over her with his brother. She returns to the side of her seriously-ill ex-husband, realizing she really loves him, and she also returns the $50,000.

It received one Academy Award nomination, Best Actress in a Leading Role, Nancy Carroll

If you find this online, please let us know.


Poster for the movie "The Divorcee"

© 1930 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) − All right reserved.

The Divorcee

Director: Robert Z. Leonard (uncredited)

Stars: Norma Shearer, Robert Montgomery, Chester Morris

A melodrama that was regarded as hot and racy in its day. Jerry married newspaperman Ted, but then when he became a flirtatious philanderer with an ex-girlfriend, the recently divorced Janice, Jerry decides to divorce him and live the adventurous single life as a wayward wife, matching his behavior. After a series of sexual escapades and two weeks on a yacht with married (but separated) former beau Paul she selflessly returns and reconciles with her husband on New Year’s Eve in Paris.

It won an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role Norma Shearer. It was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Director Robert Z. Leonard; Best Writing, Achievement John Meehan.

Learn more and watch the trailer here.



Hell's AngelsHell’s Angels

Directors: Howard Hughes, Edmund Goulding (uncredited)

Stars: Ben Lyon, James Hall, Jean Harlow

A legendary war film and aviation epic from mogul producer/director Howard Hughes. With sensational aerial photography and dogfight sequences, at $3.8 million,it was the most expensive film to date until Gone With the Wind (1939) beat its record by $1 million. Originally, it was to be a silent film, but Hughes discarded two years’ worth of footage and began filming again as a talkie in 1929.

Two brothers, Monte and Roy Rutledge leave Oxford to join the British Royal Flying Corps and become fliers during World War I. Both brothers are rivals for the love of beautiful “Platinum Blonde”, sexy siren Helen (an 18 year old Jean Harlow), who has fickle, two-timing affections – Harlow launched her career with the famous line: “Would you be shocked if I put on something more comfortable?” Most memorable wartime scenes: the beautifully photographed aerial dogfight skirmishes, German zeppelin raids over London, and the red-tinted and two-color Technicolor scenes.

It was nominated for one Academy Award for Best Cinematography.

Available on DVD from the TCM Shop.


Did your favorite film from 1930 make our list?


Greatest Films from:

1930 | 1931 | 1932 | 1933 | 1934 | 1935 | 1936 | 1937 | 1938 | 1939

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