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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 1933 a big year for movies but it was also a big year for film debuts and the birth of future actors and directors.


Making Their Film Debuts

Fred Astaire – Flying Down to Rio, Lucille Ball – The Bowery, Errol Flynn – In the Wake of the Bounty, Margaret Hamilton – Another Language, Phil Harris – Melody Cruise, King Kong, Dorothy LamourFootlight Parade, Cesar Romero – The Shadow Laughs, and Margaret Sullavan – Only Yesterday.


Born In 1933:

Chita Rivera, Kim Novak, Michael Caine, Frank Gorshin, Jayne Mansfield, Carol Burnett, Joan Collins, Gene Wilder, Danny Aiello, Dom DeLuise, Julie Newmar, Tom Skerritt, Robert Blake, Hope Lange, and Tim Conway


The Top Grossing Films of 1933

1Queen ChristinaMGM$2,887,285
2I’m No AngelParamount$2,850,000
3King KongRKO$2,847,000
442nd StreetWarner Bros.$2,250,000
5She Done Him WrongParamount$2,200,000
6State FairFox$1,800,000
7Dinner at EightMGM$1,207,068
8Hold Your ManMGM$1,100,000
9. (tie)Little WomenRKOunknown
9. (tie)Design for LivingParamount 


Academy Awards

Best Picture: Cavalcade – Fox
Best Director: Cavalcade — Frank Lloyd
Best Actor: Charles LaughtonThe Private Life of Henry VIII
Best Actress: Katharine HepburnMorning Glory

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The Greatest Films of 1933

This year some of the top grossing were also the greatest films of 1933


The Bitter Tea of General YenThe Bitter Tea of General Yen

D: Frank Capra

A sophisticated, beautifully photographed film, controversial and provocative at its time due to the inter-racial or cross-cultural romance in the plot. Strong-willed missionary Megan Davis (Barbara Stanwyck) from New England travels to Shanghai, China in the 1930s, during a war-torn time of civil unrest. After joining her childhood sweetheart and chaste fiancee Dr. Robert ‘Bob’ Strike (Gavin Gordon), the betrothed couple become separated as they attempt to liberate an orphanage. Megan is taken prisoner (during rescue from a street riot) by ruthless and imposing Chinese warlord General Yen (Danish actor Nils Asther), who is assisted in his country stronghold by financial consultant Jones (Walter Connolly). Megan is presumed dead. To everyone’s surprise, they develop an affectionate courtship and relationship, even though he has a mistress (also traitorous) – the lovely Mah-Li (Toshia Mori). However, their forbidden romance is threatened by invading Chinese rebels, and things came to a tragic, bitter end for the general.



Poster for the movie "Bombshell"

© 1933 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) − All right reserved.

Blonde Bombshell

D: Victor Fleming

A satirical, pre-Code farce with many inside jokes and rapidly-paced dialogue about. Pampered movie sex symbol Lola Burns (Jean Harlow), the “bombshell” of the title, was thwarted by studio press agents and her demanding director – her divorced ex-lover Jim Brogan (Pat O’Brien), so she tries to get away by changing her locale and loose-living image. She escapes Hollywood for a desert hotel in Palm Springs, where she falls for wealthy Gifford Middleton (Franchot Tone), an upper-class snob, but leaves him too when her alcoholic father Pops Burns (Frank Morgan) is snubbed by Middleton’s ‘blue-blood’ family. When she returns to the movie studio, she realizes that her unscrupulous, unethical, manipulative and overbearing publicity director Space Hanlon (Lee Tracy) (who also loves her) has set her up, hiring Middleton and others in his “family” as impersonators, in order to get her to return to the movies and to him.

Learn more and watch preview here.


Poster for the movie "Cavalcade"

© 1933 Fox Film Corporation − All right reserved.


D: Frank Lloyd

The oft-forgotten Fox film, an adaptation based on Noel Coward’s dramatic stage play (adapted by Reginald Berkeley), was honored with four nominations and three wins – Best Picture, Best Director, and Art Direction/Decoration. A big budget production, with epochal scenes and an anti-war attitude. The sweeping, episodic film, spanning over thirty years, featured an all-British cast (including Clive Brooks, Diana Wynyard, and young Frank Lawton) and traced the lives of the British upper-class Marryot turn-of-the-century family, from an 1899 New Year’s Eve celebration around the time of the Boer War and the death of Queen Victoria through the sinking of the Titanic, World War I, the 1920s, the Depression, and up to a second New Year’s Eve celebration in 1932. The effects of good and bad times and world events on the family’s lives were chronicled (wartime, the death of the Queen, the husband’s knighthood, the loss of one son on the Titanic and another in the Great War).

Learn more and watch preview here.


Poster for the movie "Dinner at Eight"

© 1933 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) − All right reserved.

Dinner at Eight

D: George Cukor

A star packed classic masterpiece. A Park Avenue snob Mrs. Oliver Jordan (Billie Burke) invites an assortment of guests to come to a formal dinner party, ignoring the ailments of her husband (Lionel Barrymore). From the time of the invitations to the actual dinner party, vignettes tell the story of the invited individuals, including forgotten stage star Carlotta Vance (Marie Dressler), fading matinee idol Larry Renault (John Barrymore), and the battling Packard couple including brassy blonde Kitty (Jean Harlow) and entrepreneur Dan (Wallace Beery).

Learn more and watch preview here.


Poster for the movie "Duck Soup"

© 1933 Paramount Pictures − All right reserved.

Duck Soup

D: Leo McCarey

An anarchistic, satirical, zany, anti-war film, and one of the Marx Brothers’ finest. Mrs. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont), wealthy millionaire supporter of the financially strapped, tiny country of Freedonia, decides to appoint a new president, dictatorial Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho). War clouds threaten almost immediately when Firefly insults neighboring Sylvania’s ambassador Trentino (Louis Calhern). Chicolini (Chico) and Brownie (Harpo) were hired as incompetent spies sent to get war plans. With classic diplomatic blunders, terrific one-liners, slapstick gags, and great political humor.

Learn more and watch preview here.




Poster for the movie "Footlight Parade"

© 1933 Warner Bros. − All right reserved.

Footlight Parade

D. Lloyd Bacon

One of the three most spectacular musicals in 1933 from Warner Bros. and legendary choreographer Busby Berkeley, alongside 42nd Street (1933) and Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933) – with this one often considered the best of all three. It is also notable for its suggestive pre-Hays Code dialogue and scenes. It starred James Cagney in his first, big singing-and-dancing musical role as unemployed yet enterprising Broadway theatrical producer Chester Kent, with Joan Blondell as his loyal secretary Nan Prescott. Its familiar plot, a backstage tale about putting on a lavish show, revolved around the production of live music numbers (called “prologues”) for movie theatres to present before features, to give stage performers work who had been rendered unemployed by the advent of the “talkies.” The thin plot is basically an excuse to show off the elaborate and extravagant Berkeley production numbers, especially the three showstoppers at the end of the film: “Honeymoon Hotel,” “By a Waterfall” with gorgeous bathing beauties, and “Shanghai Lil” (providing commentary on Paramount’s Shanghai Lily character (Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express (1932) from the year before)).

Learn more and watch preview here.



Poster for the movie "42nd Street"

© 1933 Warner Bros. − All right reserved.

42nd Street

D: Lloyd Bacon

The quintessential backstage musical, a terrific song and dance Busby Berkeley choreographic extravaganza. Berkeley made screen history in this milestone-grandfather of spectacular musicals, with scores of chorus girls, large extravagant musical ‘production numbers’ and sumptuous art deco sets, surrealistic imagery, optical effects, zoom lenses, escapist musical numbers, fast-paced timing and rhythmic editing, and wise-cracking dialogue. The lively musical drama chronicles the hard work of a manic, ailing Broadway director Julian Marsh (Warner Baxter) behind the making of a musical comedy – where life (whether as a director or chorus girl) depended upon the success of the opening show. The Warner Bros.’ ‘putting on a show’ film also featured two fresh new juvenile stars, Ruby Keeler, as a chorus girl, and tenor Dick Powell, and it starred Ginger Rogers as veteran showgirl Anytime Annie. Marsh is putting one last effort into a Broadway musical. But at the last-minute right before opening night, it appeared doomed when the leading dancer Dorothy Brock (Bebe Daniels) breaks her ankle. The show is saved when inexperienced chorus girl and understudy Peggy Sawyer (Keeler) dream is realized, and she is trained in a marathon rehearsal.

It received two Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Sound, with no wins.

Learn more and watch preview here.



Poster for the movie "Gold Diggers of 1933"

© − All right reserved.

Gold Diggers of 1933

D: Mervyn LeRoy

Mervyn LeRoy’s blockbuster was a hugely-successful follow-up to Warners’ 42nd Street (1933). It was one of choreographer Busby Berkeley’s purest fantasies for the Depression Era, with spectacular numbers. The simple plot is the story of a Broadway show and intrigue surrounding its financial backing. It features a young, coin-clad Ginger Rogers in the opening production number leading a chorus line of showgirls garbed in more gold-coin costumes singing “We’re in the Money” (with one verse in Pig Latin). In another scene, Berkeley undressed his pretty chorus girls entirely behind screens, back-lighting them so that the audience could see all they had to offer in silhouette. In another romantic scene “The Shadow Waltz,” neon-lighted violins formed geometric designs on the screen with girls dressed all in white. The film ends with the social commentary of the finale’s downbeat number: “Remember My Forgotten Man” accompanied by the singing of Joan Blondell – a tribute to unemployed WWI veterans.

Learn more and watch preview here.



I'm No AngelI’m No Angel

D: Wesley Ruggles

One of Mae West’s funniest films, with lots of double entendres, and one of only two films in which West co-starred with Cary Grant. The star of a carnival side show act is dancer and lion tamer Tira (Mae West). When not performing, she fleeces many of her prospective suitors during numerous dalliances – she pursues playboy Jack Clayton (Cary Grant), but later the spurned Tira sues him for breach of promise. In the hilarious madcap courtroom scene that ends the film, he counters by assembling all her ex-lovers, but then allows her to win the case.



Poster for the movie "The Invisible Man"

© 1933 Universal Pictures − All right reserved.

The Invisible Man

D: James Whale

H.G. Wells’ novella tale, beautifully executed as a classic, Universal horror thriller. An obsessed mad scientist Jack Griffin (Claude Rains in his American film debut) creates a chemical formula compound that made him irreversibly invisible (with spectacular special effects), without any counter-agent. At first, the effects were comedic, but the serum slowly turns him into an insane megalomaniac lusting for power, and he wreaks havoc on a British country village.

Learn more and watch preview here.


Poster for the movie "King Kong"

© 1933 RKO Radio Pictures − All right reserved.

King Kong

D: Merian C. Cooper

One of the greatest adventure and monster classics of all time, from RKO. Nature documentary filmmaker Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) find destitute and beautiful Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) and hires her to join a chartered ship expedition to the mysterious and remote Skull Island. He discovers and captures a giant ape, King Kong (a marvel of stop-motion animation), using Ann as bait. The scenes between the blonde, screaming maiden and Kong bristles with fear and sexual overtones. A terrific scene includes Kong’s island battle with a Tyrannosaurus. Kong is transported to New York City and put on display. Tormented by crowds, he escapes and creates havoc in the city. After breaking free, Kong seeks out Ann, and takes her to the top of the Empire State Building in the thrilling climax.

Learn more and watch preview here.



Poster for the movie "Little Women"

© 1933 RKO Radio Pictures − All right reserved.

Little Women

D: George Cukor

Regarded as the best and most incomparable of all versions especially Katharine Hepburn as Jo. A delightful and faithful screen adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic American story of the teen-aged March sisters and the sorrows and joys of the New England family. Father March has gone off to fight in the Civil War, so the family is left with four very independent sisters who were all coming of age, including an outstanding Katharine Hepburn as coltish tomboy Jo who wants to be a writer. Each of the sisters finds independence and strength, and some discover romance.

Learn more and watch preview here.


Poster for the movie "Morning Glory"

© 1933 RKO Radio Pictures − All right reserved.

Morning Glory

D: Lowell Sherman

Adapted from a Zoe Atkins play, a headstrong, star struck, yet naive small-town girl from New England Eva Lovelace (Katharine Hepburn in her third film) wishes to be a stage actress in the big city of New York, to make it big on Broadway. She shows incredible will and determination following disappointments, until she finally gets her big break – after being recognized for a drunken Shakespearean soliloquy of the Romeo and Juliet balcony scene delivered at a cocktail party. She also becomes involved in a love triangle between Broadway manager Louis Easton (Adolphe Menjou) and playwright Joseph Sheridan (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.). Whether her quick success will be long-lasting or withering like a “morning glory” remains to be seen.

Notable as the film in which Hepburn won her first Oscar for Best Actress (the first of four career Academy Awards).

Learn more and watch preview here.


Poster for the movie "The Private Life of Henry VIII"

© − All right reserved.

The Private Life of Henry VIII

D: Alexander Korda

The well-known historical drama chronicling of the life of the famous 16th century ruler, the eccentric, spoiled, despotic, corpulent, bawdy and much-married King Henry VIII (Charles Laughton), notoriously known for his gluttony scene and frequent beheading of his wives. The film centers on the succession of many wives, with a terrific performance by Elsa Lanchester (Laughton’s real-life wife) as Henry’s wily fourth wife, Anne of Cleves. Merle Oberon is on-screen briefly in the opening scene as Henry’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, awaiting execution for alleged adultery. Boleyn is executed on the same day as King Henry’s third marriage to Boleyn’s maid Jane Seymour (Wendy Barrie) while Henry already has his sights on Lady Katherine Howard (Binnie Barnes), an opportunist courtesan involved in a private affair with Henry’s courtier Thomas Culpeper (Robert Donat). She eventually becomes his fifth wife.

Learn more and watch preview here.



Poster for the movie "Queen Christina"

© − All right reserved.

Queen Christina

D: Rouben Mamoulian

A classic, romantic, ethereal performance by Greta Garbo, in a lavish story about the choice between love or duty. The lovely yet controversial 17th century queen of Sweden, Queen Christina (Greta Garbo), rather than being forced into the possibility of a political marriage to military hero cousin Prince Charles (Reginald Owen) to give her country an heir to the throne, restlessly escapes the court dressed in a young man’s clothes. She journeys to a country inn during a snowstorm. She accidentally meets and find love with the new Spanish (and Catholic) ambassador to Sweden, Don Antonio de la Prada (John Gilbert, Garbo’s silent era leading man and lover). She reveals her true self and has a passionate love affair with him in their shared inn room. She shocks all of Europe by abdicating her throne for love, to follow Don Antonio to Spain. Unfortunately, ambitious and jealous courtier and ex-lover Count Magnus (Ian Keith) destroys her dream by demonizing her lover. The final image of the film as she sailed away while standing pensively at the bow of the ship is most famous.

Learn more and watch preview here.



Poster for the movie "She Done Him Wrong"

© − All right reserved.

She Done Him Wrong

D: Lowell Sherman

A lusty 1890s spoof, with lots of clever innuendo, witty and irreverent one-liners, and bold carnality. The film deeply worried censorship officials and helped to speed the enforcement of the Code in the next year. Her main goals are to demolish the double standard, to be sexually frank, and to end prudery on screen. It is Mae West’s star-making, most famous film role as a liberated, racy woman who enjoyed her sexuality. Buxom Mae West portrays Bowery saloon owner and Madame Diamond Lil. She romances handsome and dashing Salvation Army mission director Captain Cummings (actually an undercover police officer (Cary Grant)).

Includes West’s singing of “Frankie and Johnny,” “I Wonder Where My Easy Rider’s Gone,” and “I Like a Man What Takes His Time,” and her most famous line of dialogue to the Captain: “Why don’t you come up sometime ‘n see me? I’m home every evening.”

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Poster for the movie "Sons of the Desert" - Greatest Films of 1933

© − All right reserved.

Sons of the Desert

D: William A. Seiter

A classic, hilarious comedy – the funniest full-length feature from Laurel and Hardy. The two boys, Stan Laurel (Himself) and Oliver Hardy (Himself), deviously plan to fool their wives by claiming to have gone on a prescribed ocean voyage to Hawaii (to cure Ollie’s illness), while instead attending the national convention of their fraternal Sons of the Desert lodge members in Chicago, with mad-cap conventioneer Charley Chase (Himself). Their plan fails miserably when the ship is reported sunk, and Mrs. Hardy (Busch) and Mrs. Laurel (Christy) discovered the truth, viewing their husbands in the fraternal parade in a movie newsreel. The pair must explain why they have returned one day ahead of all the other survivors. In revenge, the two wives plot to test their exposed mates.

Learn more and watch preview here.


Did the movies that you consider the greatest films of 1933 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