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