The 1940's was a decade influenced by WWII and social conscience films. Many of the best pictures fall into one of these two categories. While there are some great movies from the 1940's, I feel the decade was not as great as the 1930's. Films seemed to lose their edge, they weren't as powerful, many of them were lacking in quality.
That being said, here is what I've seen so far for the 1940's.
Films I have seen - Rebecca (Best Picture), All This, and Heaven Too, The Grapes of Wrath, The Great Dictator, Kitty Foyle, The Letter, The Philadelphia Story
Films I have not seen - Foreign Correspondent, The Long Voyage Home, Our Town
Analysis - Rebecca is the first and only Hitchcock movie to win best picture and stars Laurence Olivier. Other from that there isn't much to it. All This, and Heaven Too has Bette Davis as a school teacher in the 1800's afraid of scandal keeping her from being a teacher. Basically it was something that would cause an uproar 150 years ago, kind of silly today. The Grapes of Wrath, one of the few books that make Sylvia Plath look like Pollyanna, is made into a depressing movie. They changed the ending, or to be more correct, they ended the movie before the ending of the book, so there appears to be a happy ending to the film. The Great Dictator could have been a silent film and about 90 minutes shorter. Kitty Foyle is a great drama with Ginger Rogers that is not as shocking today since many women are single mothers, but still a good movie. The Letter is a predictable murder mystery with Bette Davis, but good acting all around. The Philadelphia Story is a classy comedy, a very funny classic.
Verdict - Of the seven films I saw, overall I would have to agree that Rebecca was the best picture compared to the others.
Films I have seen - How Green Was My Valley (Best Picture), Citizen Kane, Here Comes Mr. Jordan, The Maltese Falcon, Sergeant York, Suspicion
Films I have not seen - Blossoms in the Dust, Hold Back the Dawn, The Little Foxes, One Foot in Heaven
Analysis - This is the first and most well know mistakes made by the academy. How Green Was My Valley is a great movie about Scottish coal miners in the 1800's, real cheerful story as any story about coal miners could be. But it was based on a popular novel and was a very well done film adaption. Citizen Kane is one of the finest if not the best film ever made. Seventy years later it is still amazing to watch. Here Comes Mr. Jordan is Heaven Can Wait with a different title. Claude Rains is really good, I think one of his finest. The Maltese Falcon is a great film noir mystery that still stands the test of time. Sergeant York is based on the true story about the WWI soldier who captured an entire German regiment single handed. And has Gary Cooper whom Alvin York insisted as the only actor to play him. Suspicion is just another Hitchcock mystery.
Verdict - While How Green Was My Valley is a very good film that could have won many other years, it didn't deserve it this year. History has shown that Citizen Kane was the best film of 1941 and one of the five best of all time.
Films I have seen - Mrs. Miniver (Best Picture), 49th Parallel, Kings Row, The Magnificent Ambersons, The Pride of The Yankees, Random Harvest, Yankee Doodle Dandy
Films I have not seen - The Pied Piper, The Talk of The Town, Wake Island
Analysis - Mrs. Miniver is the first WWII film to win best picture and it was during the war. Basically a drama about how hard life is during the war. 49th Parallel another war movie with Laurence Olivier who gets killed about 45 seconds into the film as Germans try to invade Canada. Kings Row is one of the most powerful dramas you will ever see and great acting by Ronald Reagan. The Magnificent Ambersons is an Orson Wells film that seems to be not complete. It's good but feels like it was rushed or could have more work put into it. The Pride of the Yankees is about Lou Gehrig. Gary Cooper is good, rotten luck to catch a disease that has your same name, and it's about the Yankees who I hate more than any other team in the history of sports (Let's Go Mets!), but still a good movie. Random Harvest is a sappy romance film about a woman trying to find her husband with amnesia, but Greer Garson is very easy on the eyes. Yankee Doodle Dandy is the great musical, blah blah blah, you know how I feel about musicals.
Verdict - Mrs. Miniver is a good movie and is better than the rest. Random Harvest I would put second and Kings Row third, the rest lumped together in fourth and fifth place.
Films I have seen - Casablanca (Best Picture), The More The Merrier, The Ox-Bow Incident
Films I have not seen - For Whom The Bell Tolls, Heaven Can Wait, The Human Comedy, In Which We Serve, Madame Currie, The Song of Bernadette, Watch on The Rhine
Analysis - Casablanca is one of the most well know classic films of all times. The More The Merrier was a funny romantic comedy, kind of a Three's Company but in Washington DC during the early 40's. The Ox-Bow Incident is one of those dramatic westerns that is a simple film that is done well.
Verdict - I have only see three of the ten films nominated so I don't have a lot to go off of, but Casablanca will most likely not lose out to anything else I suppose. This is also the last year of ten nominees until 2009.
Films I have seen - Going My Way (Best Picture), Gaslight
Films I have not seen - Double Indemnity, Since You Went Away, Wilson
Analysis - This is the start of a sixty five year run of only five best picture nominees. Going My Way is a happy go lucky movie about a priest with a golden touch (not that type of touch, shut up!) who solves problems everywhere he goes. It's the movie equivalent of watching a cute puppy for and hour and forty five minutes. Gaslight is a great suspense film that helped coin the phrase Gaslight or Gaslighting, a skill my wife has been working on for about seventeen years now.
Verdict - I am looking forward to seeing Double Indemnity since I have heard it is very good. I have Since You Went Away on tape so I will see it soon and couldn't care less about Wilson, the film or the President. Realizing that the country was still deeply involved with WWII I can see why Going My Way won and if you match it up to Gaslight it is a better picture. This one could change after watching the other three films though.
Films I have seen - The Lost Weekend (Best Picture), Mildred Pierce
Films I have not seen - Anchors Aweigh, The Bells of St. Mary's, Spellbound
Analysis - This is the first year of Muckraking films to win best picture. The Lost Weekend is Ray Milland's finest acting winning him a best Oscar, better than him in the Man with X-Ray Eyes or The Thing with Two Heads. A very intense film of an alcoholic drinking and showing the real dark side of addiction. Mildred Pierce is a great Joan Crawford film that is one you have to see, don't want to reveal any spoilers if you haven't seen it yet.
Verdict - The Lost Weekend is one of the most well know films and one that is timeless. You can show this movie to someone fifty years from now and they would agree that this is a great movie.
Films I have seen - The Best Years of Our Lives (Best Picture), It's A Wonderful Life, The Yearling
Films I have not seen - Henry V, The Razor's Edge
Analysis - The Best Years of Our Lives is a powerful drama about soldiers returning home from the war and how they are trying to settle back into normal life. It's A Wonderful Life is the Christmas staple with the great Lionel Barrymore and some other good actors. The Yearling is about a kid in the 19th century who keeps a deer for a pet even though it keeps eating their crops and destroying everything.
Verdict - WWII ended, we won (spoiler alert) and a movie like The Best Years of Our Lives was going to win, and edges out the other two I have seen.
Films I have seen - Gentleman's Agreement (Best Picture), The Bishop's Wife, Crossfire, Miracle on 34th Street
Films I have not seen - Great Expectations
Analysis - Another year where a best picture was a drama that was a social conscience film. Somewhat dated today Gentleman's Agreement exposes anti-semitism in America by Gregory Peck changing his last name and then seeing what prejudice comes about. Even has a very young Dean Stockwell as his son. The Bishop's Wife is a simpler Going My Way and they are not Catholic (obvious from the title, right?!?!?!). Crossfire is an attempt to be a Gentleman's Agreement where a murder is committed by an anti-semite and the police finally realize that the birthmark on the neck of the guy they are questioning is really a swaskita. Not really, but you get the point half way through the movie and you will get bored by the end of the film. Miracle on 34th Street is another Christmas classic, this being the original and not the David Hartman remake.
Verdict - As soon as I can tape Great Expectations, oh wait I did but my wife deleted it "accidentally" of the DVR (Hi honey, don't kill me) I can have a complete decision. Until then Gentleman's Agreement was the better of the rest and is a good drama to see from an era of WWII guilt.
Films I have seen - Hamlet (Best Picture), Johnny Belinda, The Red Shoes, The Snake Pit, The Treasure of The Sierra Madre
Films I have not seen - None
Analysis - This is the second year where I have seen all the nominated films. This Hamlet is the best ever with Laurence Olivier who carries the entire movie. Also when you read Hamlet and picture it in your brain, this is exactly how you expect it to look. Johnny Belinda is Lew Ayers as a Canadian doctor helping a deaf girl learn how to speak with sign language. Rather funny with characters believing that a deaf person is no smarter than a monkey even at her trial. The Red Shoes is one of the most spectacular films you will ever see. It is a musical but it has a great story that goes along with the music. It is also a bit surreal at times but that just adds to the intensity of the film. The Snake Pit is another social commentary about insane asylums, but it does have Olivia de Havilland who still looks hot even as a crazy chick. The Treasure of The Sierra Madre is a classic with the famous "We don't need no stinking badges" line. You can see how Humphrey Bogart had become a better actor over the years and this film showcases it.
Verdict - Five great films, well maybe four. Hamlet is so well done that it is overall the best picture of the group. The Red Shoes comes second, close third is The Snake Pit, a somewhat close fourth for The Treasure of The Sierra Madre, and fifth for Johnny Belinda.
Films I have seen - All The King's Men (Best Picture), Battleground, The Heiress, A Letter To Three Wives
Films I have not seen - Twelve O'Clock High
Analysis - Another social conscience film All The King's Men which is loosely based on Huey Long, shows the rise and fall of an honest politician who is corrupted by the system. Battleground is a great WWII, one of the better ones made. It's about soldiers during the Battle of the Bulge. The Heiress has Olivia de Havilland and Montgomery Clift in a suspenseful drama about a wealthy heiress who falls for a deadbeat. Great film and it doesn't go the way you think it would go. A Letter To Three Wives is a somewhat sappy movie about wives worrying that one of their husbands has run off with another woman that they all know but you never see during the movie. The Simpsons spoof was much better.
Verdict - I understand why All The King's Men won but I don't agree. I would say it is a toss up between Battleground and The Heiress, maybe they split the vote.