The Best Years in Movie History Showdown
1939 vs 1963
For many, 1939 is the best year in movie history, but I say it needs to be tested. So far, up through 1962, the year 1939 has proven to be an unquestioned champion in my eyes. However, 1963 turned out to be an incredible year in film, maybe as good or better than 1939. Can the great 1939 hold up to 1963?
Before I continue. Let’s state the obvious. Both of these years in film history are incredible. Frankly, you can just respect them alone without putting them against one another. Ultimately, it will come down to your taste in movies that will determine which is the better year. Besides, considering the advancement in filming technology, plenty of new faces to acting and directing, and the needs and desires of the people. I can say that 1939 and 1963 aren’t in the same time period in movie history.
In fact, let me break down what I consider the various periods in film history. This not exact, but more approximately the time I felt movies changed from one era to the next. I don’t think films from 1939 can have the same feel as ones from 1963. The country, the film industry is all radically different.
Period One: Birth of Film-1902
Period Two: 1902-1927
Period Three: 1927-1954
Period Four: 1954- 19??
Do you agree with my general idea of movie history having unique periods? If not, tell me why. If you think the dates are different, tell me your viewpoint.
Masterpieces of 1963. According to IMDb (I give all great movies 2 points.)
The Great Escape– 8.3 Directed by John Sturges Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasence. Genre: Adventure, Drama, History
8 ½ 8.1 Drama Italian film
The Leopard – 8.1 Starring Burt Lancaster Drama, History (Foreign)
Charade 8.0 Starring Cary Grant, Walter Matthau, Audrey Hepbrun- Comedy, Mystery, Romance
Hud – 8.0 Paul Newman, Patricia Neal Drama
It’s a Mad Mad Mad World 7.6 – Directed by Stanley Kramer- Starring Milton Berle, Ethel Merman, Spencer Tracy, Mickey Rooney, Comedy (Comedies tend to rank lower because they are comedies. I consider this film so star-studded and so funny that it hits the next level from very good to great)
12- Points for 1963
Masterpieces of 1939 According to IMDb
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington 8.3 Directed by Frank Capra Starring Jimmy Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains Drama,
Gone With the Wind 8.2 Directed by Victor Fleming/George Cukor Starring Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh Drama, Romance, War
The Wizard of Oz– 8.1 Directed by Victor Fleming/George Cukor Starring Judy Garland, Ray Bolger Family/Fantasy/ Adventure
The Women-8.0 Directed by George Cukor, Starring Joan Crawford Comedy, Drama
Ninotchka 8.0 Directed by Ernst Lubitsch, Starring Greta Garbo, Comedy
10 Points for 1939
1939 vs 1963
Ninotchka vs It’s a Mad Mad Mad World– Both are well directed. Both have talented actors. Mad World does have the bigger star power, and personally I find it much funnier than Ninotchka.
The Women vs Charade- I respect The Women, but the combo of Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Walter Matthau is too much to beat.
Gone With the Wind vs The Great Escape –
Both are very well directed and have a great cast.
The Great Escape has more star power.
Gone With the Wind does have that legendary burning of Atlanta. The scene where they burn down the set.
Great Escape’s tone drastically switches in the last 45 minutes
Both drag on a bit or a lot too long.
Point to Gone with the Wind– Better ending. Better tone transition and it’s more iconic
Mr Smith Goes to Washington vs The Leopard
Mr Smith features the work of Frank Capra, Jimmy Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claud Rains vs Burt Lancaster in The Leopard. Mr. Smith has too much star power to deny.
Wizard of Oz: This is a great film in early cinema. The way they filmed it, the effects. It was revolutionary. It gets a point for being so iconic.
1939-13 vs 1963-14
Hud – A very good drama starring Paul Newman and Patricia. I have such respect for Newman as an actor. It’s well crafted, engaging, well acted. It’s too good not to give a point to.
8 1/2– the least familiar title of all these great films. I think it should be respected for the artful way it was put together. I wanted to include it because I think people should check it out. Plus, I have no film like it to compare with.
Timeless Films of 1963
The Birds 7.8 Directed by Alfred Hitchcock Horror, Mystery
From Russia With Love 7.5 Starring Sean Connery, Robert Shaw, Action, Adventure, Thriller
Jason and the Argonauts 7.4 Adventure, Family, Fantasy,
The Pink Panther-7.2 Starring Peter Sellers, Robert Wagner Comedy, Crime
Cleopatra 7.0 Starring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Rex Harrison, Martin Landau Biography,Drama, History
5 Points- 1963-20
Timeless Films of 1939
Stagecoach 7.9 John Wayne Adventure, Western
The Hunchback of Notre Dame– 7.9 Starring Charles Laughton Drama, Horror, Romance
Wuthering Heights– 7.7 Directed by William Wyler. Starring Laurence Olivier Drama, Romance
Destry Rides Again 7.8 James Stewart, Marlene Dietrich Comedy, Western
Gunga Din 7.6 Starring Cary Grant Adventure,War
5 Points – 1939-18
The Birds vs Hunchback of Notre Dame
Hitchcock created a great avian horror film that really hasn’t been equaled.
Hunchback has been made a half dozen times. 1939 may be slightly better than others, but barely.
Hitchcock takes this one for 1963
Gunga Din vs Russia With Love
Both are very good, but among the finest Bond films ever made starring Sean Connery can not be taken down so easily.
Jason and the Argonauts vs Stagecoach
Really it depends on your taste. Which do you like more? Ancient mythology and adventure or Old West mythology starring John Wayne. For me, no question it is Jason and his Argonauts
Pink Panther vs Destry Rides Again
Not even close. Pink Panther wins in a landslide
Wuthering Heights vs Cleopatra
Heights is the overall better movie.
However Elizabeth Taylor is fantastic is Cleopatra. Plus the overall cast I think is better.
Still, Heights has the better director and it is more original where as Cleopatra was the third film of its kind.
Very Good films (1963)
Lilies of the Field 7.7 Sidney Poitier Drama
Love with the Proper Stranger– 7.6 Steve McQueen, Natalie Wood Comedy, Drama, Romance
The Haunting 7.6 Horror
Irma La Douce– 7.5 Directed by Billy Wilder. Starring Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Comedy, Romance
1963- 28 Points
Very Good Films of 1939 (Here is where the strength of 1939 shines, it is incredibly deep with talent.)
The Roaring Twenties-7.9 James Cagney/ Humphrey Bogart. Crime, Drama,Film Noir
Beau Geste 7.9 Action/Adventure/ Drama
Of Mice and Men-7.8 Lon Chaney Jr. Drama
The Old Maid 7.8 Bette Davis, Miriam Hopkins Drama
On Borrowed Time -7.8 Lionel Barrymore Comedy, Drama, Fantasy
The Hound of the Baskervilles- 7.7 Starring Basil Rathbone. Mystery/Thriller
Only Angels Have Wings-7.7 Cary Grant, Jean Arthur Adventure/Drama
Goodbye Mr. Chips – 7.7 Drama/Romance
Young Mr. Lincoln-7.7 Directed by John Ford. Starring Henry Fonda. Biography/Drama
Dark Victory – 7.6 Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart. Drama, Romance
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes 7.6 Basil Rathbone Crime, Mystery, Thriller
The Four Feathers 7.6 Adventure/ Drama/ Romance
1939- 31 Points
Beau Geste vs Lillies in the Field
Sidney Poitier is amazing. Because of him, Lillies takes it-
Love of a Proper Stranger vs On Borrowed Time
Steve McQueen and Natalie Wood trump Lionel Barrymore all day
Comedy, Drama, Romance vs Adventure, Drama Romance
Irma La Douce vs The Four Feathers
Director- Billy Wilder, Stars Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine are just too good
Showdown (Using some of 1963’s good movies from below to match up against 1939)
Horror vs Thriller
A Haunting vs Hound of the Baskervilles
Basil Rathbone may not be Cumberbatch, but for the classic vision of Sherlock Holmes, none have presented him better.
The Raven vs The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
While Sherlock Holmes with Rathbone is incredible, the overpowering star power of director Roger Corman, Vincent Price and Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre.
Adventure, Comedy, History vs Biography, Drama
Young Mr. Lincoln vs Tom Jones
John Ford Directing and Henry Fonda acting. Mr. Lincoln wins all day, everyday.
Dark Victory vs Lord of the Flies
Victory has Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart. Hard to get better than that.
Only Angels Have Wings vs The Incredible Journey
Incredible Journey may be a cute story, but Cary Grant and Jean Arthur are better.
The Roaring Twenties vs McLintock
These movies feel a bit mismatched, but even so. Cagney and Bogart team up for a far better film.
Good Films of 1963
McLintock 7.3- John Wayne, Comedy, Romance, Western
Sword in the Stone 7.2 Animation, Adventure, Comedy
The Incredible Journey 7.1 Adventure, Drama, Family
Lord of the Flies 7.0 Adventure, Drama, Thriller
The Thrill of It All – 7.0 Directed by Norman Jewison Starring James Garner and Doris Day Comedy, Romance
Move Over Darling- 7.0 Doris Day, James Garner Comedy, Romance
Donovan’s Reef 6.9 Directed by John Ford, Starring John Wayne, Lee Marvin Adventure, Comedy, Romance
Tom Jones 6.8 Starring Albert Finney Adventure, Comedy, History
The Raven 6.7 Directed by Roger Corman, Starring Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, Vincent Price Comedy, Fantasy, Horror
Good Films of 1939
Dodge City 7.2 Directed by Michael Curtiz. Starring: Errol Flynn, Olivia De Haviland Western
The Man in the Iron Mask 7.2 Directed by James Whale. Action, History, Romance
Jesse James 7.1 Starring Henry Fonda Biography, Crime, Drama
Another Thin Man 7.5 Comedy
Sword in the Stone vs Dodge City.
Mismatched films of course, but if we look at which is a better movie. There is far more talent in Dodge City. The directing, the acting, all of it better.
Adventure vs Action
Donovan’s Reef vs Man in the Iron Mask
James Whale’s version of Iron Mask is superior to most others of it’s kind. Donovan’s Reef is good, but not Ford’s finest work with Wayne and Marvin.
As I said at the start, both of these years in film history produced great movies. Being among the earlier years, 1939 scores points with originality, but there was also plenty of t acting and directing alent to go around as well.
AS for preference, I lean towards the year that was 1963. I can relate and enjoy the comedies more, the color movies were vivid and beautiful. The language of the movies has become more realistic (perhaps just more modern. Not stuck in that high-brow old-school manner of speaking).
The movie business in the 1960’s allowed for greater versatility of female and minority actors to shine. New directors with innovative styles. All in all I very much prefer 1963 movies over those of 1939. However, by a score of 42-41, I have to say that 1939 holds on to its crown as best year in film history.
The key is in the depth of talented people working movies in 193. Even the lesser known movies were often well made. As the movie industry grew right into the 60’s, the more chances for lackluster films also grew with it. from
However, by a score of 42-41 I have to give the crown to 1939 for a bit longer.