When the Motion Picture Academy looked at 1938, it gave its Best Picture award to Frank Capra's You Can't Take It With You. That's a fine film, but I can think of four that are finer:
1. Porky in Wackyland Directed by Bob Clampett Written by Warren Foster
The most manic, dense, and Daliesque of Warner's classic cartoons.
2. La Bête Humaine Directed by Jean Renoir Written by Renoir and Denise Leblond, from a novel by Emile Zola
Movie historians classify this one as "poetic realism." To me it's a full-fledged film noir, even if it technically appeared a few years too early to qualify.
3. The Lady Vanishes Directed by Alfred Hitchcock Written by Sidney Gilliatt and Frank Launder, from a novel by Ethel Lina White
My favorite of Hitchcock's pre-Hollywood pictures.
4. Port of Shadows Directed by Marcel Carné Written by Jacques Prévert
I like Children of Paradisewell enough, but I've never comprehended the cult around it. When it comes to Carné/Prévert pictures, I prefer curious, character-driven crime stories like this one.
5. You Can't Take It With You Directed by Frank Capra Written by Robert Riskin, from a play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart
Who says there was no counterculture in the '30s?
6. Bringing Up Baby Directed by Howard Hawks Written by Dudley Nichols and Hagar Wilde
Cary Grant decides to go gay all of a sudden.
7. Pygmalion Directed by Anthony Asquith with Leslie Howard Written by George Bernard Shaw, W.P. Lipscomb, Cecil Lewis, Ian Dalrymple, Anatole de Grunwald, and Kay Walsh, from a play by Shaw
I miss the songs and there's far too much talk at the end, but it's still drenched in Shaw's satiric takes on class, masks, and language. And while I'll probably always prefer Rex Harrison and Stanley Holloway to Leslie Howard and Wilfrid Lawson, Audrey Hepburn can't hold a candle to Wendy Hiller.
8. Holiday Directed by George Cukor Written by Donald Ogden Stewart and Sidney Buchman, from a play by Philip Barry
"When I find myself in a position like this, I ask myself: What would General Motors do? And then I do the opposite."
9. Goonland Directed by Dave Fleischer
Like many of the Fleischer Popeye shorts, this feels like something out of Zap Comix.
10. The Adventures of Robin Hood Directed by Michael Curtiz and William Keighley Written by Norman Reilly Raine and Seton I. Miller
The best superhero movie of the '30s. (And don't try to tell me a masked adventurer isn't a superhero unless he has special powers. What about BATMAN, then? Huh? HUH?)