Favorite Films of 1934

I watched 53 films that were released in 1934.  A complete list can be found here:  http://www.imdb.com/list/fmXidXs5FOE/?publish=save.  These were my ten favorites.

Note:  I was unable to get a copy of The Merry Widow (1934), directed by Ernst Lubitsch and starring Jeanette MacDonald and Maurice Chevalier for viewing this time around.  I loved the film when I saw it several years ago and am fairly confident it would have placed in the top five if I had seen it.

1. It Happened One Night (Frank Capra):The Academy got it right when it made this film the first to win all five major awards.  It has rarely been equalled and never bettered as a romantic comedy. (#86 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

It Happened One Night

2.  L’Atalante (Jean Vigo) – Vigo captures the intensity of young love in images and sound in this masterpiece.  (#83 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)


3.  The Thin Man (W. S. Van Dyke):  The mystery is just an excuse to showcase the fantastic repartee of Myrna Loy and William Powell, the best screen couple of all time.  (#87 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

The Third Man

4.  The Gay Divorcee (Mark Sandrich):  Add snappy dialogue to the elegance of Astaire and Rogers and you have a timeless entertainment.

The Gay Divorcee

5.  Les Misérables (Raymond Bernard):  Harry Bauer’s unforgettable performance as Jean Valjean is the highlight of this sumptuous and comprehensive adaptation of the Victor Hugo novel.

Les Miserables 6

6.  A Story of Floating Weeds (Yasujiro Ozu):  A look at what it means to be a father through the story of an actor who has always hidden his identity from his son.

A Story of Floating Weeds

7.  Of Human Bondage (John Cromwell):  This sad story of a cripple’s obsession with a manipulative tart made Bette Davis a star.  Leslie Howard is no slouch in it either. I didn’t imagine that this film would make my Top 10 list after I viewed it but now see that it was exceptional, one of the very best of the year.


8.  The Scarlet Pimpernel (Harold Young):  Leslie Howard is fantastic as the foppish Sir Percy Blakeney and the daring Scarlet Pimpernel in this entertaining adventure.

Scarlet Pimpernel 9.  Treasure Island (Victor Fleming): Fun adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson novel with some of the vilest pirates around and a good performance by Jackie Cooper as the young hero.

Treasure Island 2

10.  Imitation of Life (John Stahl):  One of the first studio films to portray African-Americans as complex characters with emotional lives of their own, the performances of Louise Beavers and Fredi Washington are must-sees.


Honorable Mentions:  La mujer del puerto  and, as previously mentioned, The Merry Widow

My rankings of 1934 films on the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list:

1.  It Happened One Night

2.  L’Atalante

3.  The Thin Man

15.  The Black Cat (after The Scarlet Empress)

37.  It’s a Gift (after Manhattan Melodrama)

39.  Judge Priest (after A Mother Should Be Loved)

I will review Triumph of the Will as part of my 1935 viewing.

6 thoughts on “Favorite Films of 1934

    • In the end, I crossed off a bunch of serials and low-rated Westerns from my viewing list. I couldn’t wait to get to some better pictures.

  1. It is a great list, Bea with a couple of exceptions for me (but those are just my opinions) I have not seen “A Story of Floating Weeds” so will have to look for it since you and I usually agree.
    “Triumph of the Will” will knock your socks off!!!! It is beautiful and frightening at the same time. It is so powerful and it is amazing to see the choreography of the Nazi rally and the use of props/emblems to further enthuse the crowd. I have never seen such complete adoration as the people expressed for Hitler…..but yet you can almost understand it. Leni Riefenstahl was an artist, pure and simple. Too bad it had to be for Nazi glorification. But looking at the film with a disinterested attitude (which is difficult), it is obvious that it is a masterpiece.

    • Triumph of the Will is coming from Netflix on Monday, so I’ll probably be watching it sometime early next week.

  2. You have obviously seen a lot more stuff from 34 than I have so I respect your list. However on my list L’Atalante would not be even close to a second place and certainly not above The Thin Man. I guess it is a movie you either like or dislike and I fall into the second group.
    The Triumph is indeed outside category. You cannot honestly like it, the content is just too horrible but it may be the most important film to come out of the decade. Any attempt at understanding events unfolding in the thirties and forties must include this film.

    • I should have made it clearer that these are just my favorite films from 1934, of the ones I have seen, and not the “best” films. I can understand not liking L’Atalante because I hated it too the first time I saw it. I don’t know what happened to me but I just started having more patience with movies that are light on plot at some point.

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