Wikipedia's List of Pre-Code Films

by georgebobolink | created - 27 Sep 2012 | updated - 27 Sep 2012 | Public

Pre-Code Hollywood refers to the era in the American film industry between the introduction of sound in the late 1920s and the enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code (Hays Code) censorship guidelines.

Although the Code was adopted in 1930, oversight was poor and it did not become effectively enforced until July 1, 1934. Before that date, movie content was restricted more by local laws, negotiations between the Studio Relations Committee and the major studios, and popular opinion than strict adherence to the Hays Code, which was often ignored by Hollywood filmmakers. Criteria for inclusion on this list is the direct mention of a film as a Pre-Code in a mainstream source, or its discussion in an article, essay, or book on Pre-Codes.


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1. Alibi (1929)

Passed | 91 min | Action, Crime, Romance

Chick Williams, a prohibition gangster, rejoins his mob soon after being released from prison. When a policeman is murdered during a robbery, he falls under suspicion. The gangster took ... See full summary »

Director: Roland West | Stars: Chester Morris, Harry Stubbs, Mae Busch, Eleanor Griffith

Votes: 803

2. Applause (1929)

Passed | 80 min | Drama, Musical

A burlesque star seeks to keep her convent-raised daughter away from her low-down life and abusive lover/stage manager.

Director: Rouben Mamoulian | Stars: Helen Morgan, Joan Peers, Fuller Mellish Jr., Jack Cameron

Votes: 1,384

3. Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925)

Not Rated | 143 min | Adventure, Drama, Romance

A Jewish prince seeks to find his family and revenge himself upon his childhood friend who had him wrongly imprisoned.

Directors: Fred Niblo, Charles Brabin, Christy Cabanne, J.J. Cohn, Rex Ingram | Stars: Ramon Novarro, Francis X. Bushman, May McAvoy, Betty Bronson

Votes: 7,625 | Gross: $12.45M

Rereleased with audio in 1929.

4. The Broadway Melody (1929)

Passed | 100 min | Drama, Musical, Romance

A pair of sisters from the vaudeville circuit try to make it big time on Broadway, but matters of the heart complicate the attempt.

Director: Harry Beaumont | Stars: Bessie Love, Anita Page, Charles King, Eddie Kane

Votes: 7,194 | Gross: $6.12M

Best Picture Winner for 1929.

5. The Cocoanuts (1929)

Passed | 96 min | Adventure, Comedy, Musical

69 Metascore

During the Florida land boom, The Marx Brothers run a hotel, auction off some land, thwart a jewel robbery, and generally act like themselves.

Directors: Robert Florey, Joseph Santley | Stars: Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx, Zeppo Marx

Votes: 7,629 | Gross: $3.92M

6. Coquette (1929)

Unrated | 76 min | Drama, Romance

A flirtatious Southern belle is compromised with one of her suitors.

Director: Sam Taylor | Stars: Mary Pickford, Johnny Mack Brown, Matt Moore, John St. Polis

Votes: 2,182

7. The Desert Song (1929)

Passed | 123 min | Action, Musical, Romance

The Desert Song is a 1929 American Pre-Code operetta film directed by Roy Del Ruth and starring John Boles, Louise Fazenda, and Myrna Loy.

Director: Roy Del Ruth | Stars: John Boles, Carlotta King, Louise Fazenda, Johnny Arthur

Votes: 110

8. The Godless Girl (1928)

Passed | 113 min | Drama, Romance

Two teenagers, one an atheist and the other a Christian, fall in love at a brutal reform school.

Director: Cecil B. DeMille | Stars: Lina Basquette, Marie Prevost, Tom Keene, Noah Beery

Votes: 765

9. Gold Diggers of Broadway (1929)

Passed | 101 min | Comedy, Musical

Three Broadway chorus girls seek rich husbands.

Director: Roy Del Ruth | Stars: Nancy Welford, Conway Tearle, Winnie Lightner, Ann Pennington

Votes: 188 | Gross: $5.54M

10. Glorifying the American Girl (1929)

Passed | 95 min | Comedy, Drama, Musical

The rise of a showgirl, Gloria Hughes, culminating in a Ziegfeld extravaganza "Glorifying the American Girl".

Director: Millard Webb | Stars: Mary Eaton, Eddie Cantor, Helen Morgan, Rudy Vallee

Votes: 717

11. Hallelujah (1929)

Passed | 109 min | Drama, Musical

A sharecropper decides to become a preacher after falling for a vamp from the city.

Director: King Vidor | Stars: Daniel L. Haynes, Nina Mae McKinney, William Fountaine, Harry Gray

Votes: 1,836

12. The Lady Lies (1929)

Passed | 75 min | Drama, Romance

Much to the disapproval of his snooty children, a wealthy widowed attorney takes up with a beautiful but "lower-class" woman.

Director: Hobart Henley | Stars: Walter Huston, Claudette Colbert, Charles Ruggles, Patricia Deering

Votes: 100

13. The Last of Mrs. Cheyney (1929)

Passed | 94 min | Comedy, Drama

At an elegant gathering of English nobility, young widow Fay Cheyney wins with her beauty, musicality and clever repartee. Cheyney, however, is not who she claims to be.

Director: Sidney Franklin | Stars: Norma Shearer, Basil Rathbone, George Barraud, Herbert Bunston

Votes: 520

14. The Love Parade (1929)

Passed | 107 min | Comedy, Musical, Romance

The queen of mythical Sylvania marries a courtier, who finds his new life unsatisfying.

Director: Ernst Lubitsch | Stars: Maurice Chevalier, Jeanette MacDonald, Lupino Lane, Lillian Roth

Votes: 2,326

15. Our Modern Maidens (1929)

Passed | 76 min | Drama, Comedy

A flapper charms a diplomat to procure her fiancé a career opportunity, while the fiancé starts a relationship with her best friend.

Director: Jack Conway | Stars: Joan Crawford, Rod La Rocque, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Anita Page

Votes: 869

16. Redskin (1929)

82 min | Western, Adventure, Drama

Wing Foot (Richard Dix), is a Navaho educated in an otherwise all-white school. In the course of the story he experiences prejudice from both the whites (because of his race) and the ... See full summary »

Director: Victor Schertzinger | Stars: Richard Dix, Julie Carter, Tully Marshall, George Regas

Votes: 199

17. Rio Rita (1929)

Passed | 140 min | Comedy, Musical, Western

Capt. James Stewart pursues the bandit "The Kinkajou" over the Mexican border and falls in love with Rita. He suspects, that her brother is the bandit.

Director: Luther Reed | Stars: Bebe Daniels, John Boles, Bert Wheeler, Robert Woolsey

Votes: 741

18. The Trial of Mary Dugan (1929)

Passed | 113 min | Drama

Mary Dugan, a Broadway showgirl, is charged with murder in the knifing death of her wealthy lover, and goes on trial for her life. When her defense counsel appears to bungle his job, Mary's... See full summary »

Director: Bayard Veiller | Stars: Norma Shearer, Lewis Stone, H.B. Warner, Raymond Hackett

Votes: 140

19. Sunny Side Up (1929)

Passed | 121 min | Comedy, Musical

Molly and Bee, sweet young 'working girls,' live in a cheap room over a New York grocery store. Molly's idol, wealthy Jack Cromwell, lives in a Long Island mansion but is markedly less ... See full summary »

Director: David Butler | Stars: Janet Gaynor, Charles Farrell, Marjorie White, El Brendel

Votes: 420

20. The Voice of the City (1929)

Passed | 81 min | Crime, Drama, Romance

An escaped convict and the detective tasked with hunting him down end up working in parallel to clear the convict's name and nab the gangsters that framed him.

Director: Willard Mack | Stars: Robert Ames, Willard Mack, Sylvia Field, Jim Farley

Votes: 80

21. Wolf Song (1929)

Passed | 80 min | Drama, Western

In 1840, Sam Lash heads west for adventure. He meets up with some Mountain Men, and they head for the Rockies to trap beavers and cats. In Taos he meets Lola, a beautiful Mexican girl from ... See full summary »

Director: Victor Fleming | Stars: Gary Cooper, Lupe Velez, Louis Wolheim, Constantine Romanoff

Votes: 110

22. Africa Speaks! (1930)

Passed | 75 min | Documentary, Adventure, History

Explorer Paul Hoefler leads a safari into central Africa and what was then called the Belgian Congo, in the regions inhabited by the Wassara and the famous Ubangi tribes.

Director: Walter Futter | Stars: Harald Austin, Paul L. Hoefler, Lowell Thomas, Charles Gemora

Votes: 109

23. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

Passed | 152 min | Drama, War

91 Metascore

A German youth eagerly enters World War I, but his enthusiasm wanes as he gets a firsthand view of the horror.

Director: Lewis Milestone | Stars: Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim, John Wray, Arnold Lucy

Votes: 60,854 | Gross: $3.27M

24. Animal Crackers (1930)

G | 97 min | Comedy, Family, Musical

77 Metascore

Mayhem and zaniness ensue when a valuable painting goes missing during a party in honor of famed African explorer Captain Spaulding.

Director: Victor Heerman | Stars: Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx, The Marx Brothers

Votes: 14,438 | Gross: $0.91M

25. Anna Christie (I) (1930)

Passed | 89 min | Drama, Romance

A young woman reunites with her estranged father and falls in love with a sailor, but struggles to tell them about her dark past.

Director: Clarence Brown | Stars: Greta Garbo, Charles Bickford, George F. Marion, Marie Dressler

Votes: 3,167 | Gross: $1.01M

26. The Bad Man (1930)

77 min | Western

Film version of a play about a Mexican bandit.

Director: Clarence G. Badger | Stars: Walter Huston, Dorothy Revier, James Rennie, O.P. Heggie

Votes: 32

27. The Big Pond (1930)

Passed | 72 min | Comedy, Music, Romance

A tour guide in Venice romances a visiting American tourist whose father owns a chewing-gum factory back in the U.S. She sets out to convince her skeptical father to bring the tour guide to America and give him a job in the plant.

Director: Hobart Henley | Stars: Maurice Chevalier, Claudette Colbert, Frank Lyon, George Barbier

Votes: 274

28. The Blue Angel (1930)

Not Rated | 104 min | Drama, Music

88 Metascore

An elderly professor's ordered life spins dangerously out of control when he falls for a nightclub singer.

Director: Josef von Sternberg | Stars: Emil Jannings, Marlene Dietrich, Kurt Gerron, Rosa Valetti

Votes: 14,971 | Gross: $0.08M

29. Bride of the Regiment (1930)

79 min | Musical, Romance

Filmed operetta in technicolor based on hit play/book that opened on Broadway in 1922 and ran 232 performances.

Director: John Francis Dillon | Stars: Vivienne Segal, Allan Prior, Walter Pidgeon, Louise Fazenda

Votes: 32

30. Bright Lights (1930)

Passed | 69 min | Drama, Musical, Romance

A successful Broadway star ready to retire from her wild career announces her engagement. But her tumultuous past isn't done with her yet.

Director: Michael Curtiz | Stars: Dorothy Mackaill, Frank Fay, Noah Beery, Daphne Pollard

Votes: 297

31. Cheer Up and Smile (1930)

76 min | Musical

When a popular radio singer is knocked unconscious during a robbery, a squeaky-voiced college boy fills in for him. To everyone's amazement, especially his recent girlfriend, who just broke up with him, he becomes an overnight sensation.

Director: Sidney Lanfield | Stars: Arthur Lake, Dixie Lee, Olga Baclanova, 'Whispering' Jack Smith

Votes: 75

32. Children of Pleasure (1930)

Passed | 70 min | Comedy, Musical, Romance

Successful songwriter falls for society girl who is just playing around. He doesn't realize that his girl-Friday is the one he really loves until it is almost too late. Although he is ... See full summary »

Director: Harry Beaumont | Stars: Lawrence Gray, Wynne Gibson, Judith Wood, Kenneth Thomson

Votes: 176

33. The Divorcee (1930)

Passed | 84 min | Romance, Drama

When a woman discovers that her husband has been unfaithful to her, she decides to respond to his infidelities in kind.

Director: Robert Z. Leonard | Stars: Norma Shearer, Robert Montgomery, Chester Morris, Conrad Nagel

Votes: 3,151

34. Good News (1930)

Passed | 78 min | Comedy, Musical

Tom Marlowe is the star of his college football team, and has a promising romance with a female college student, Connie Lane. He does not excel, however, in his college studies. A series of... See full summary »

Director: Nick Grinde | Stars: Mary Lawlor, Stanley Smith, Bessie Love, Cliff Edwards

Votes: 353

35. Hell's Angels (1930)

Passed | 127 min | Drama, War

Brothers Monte and Ray leave Oxford to join the Royal Flying Corps. Ray loves Helen; Helen enjoys an affair with Monte; before they leave on their mission over Germany they find her in still another man's arms.

Directors: Howard Hughes, Edmund Goulding, James Whale | Stars: Ben Lyon, James Hall, Jean Harlow, John Darrow

Votes: 5,399 | Gross: $5.45M

36. Hold Everything (1930)

Passed | 74 min | Comedy, Music, Romance

A man is mistaken for a champion fighter.

Director: Roy Del Ruth | Stars: Joe E. Brown, Winnie Lightner, Georges Carpentier, Sally O'Neil

Votes: 30

37. Kismet (1930)

Passed | 90 min | Adventure, Fantasy, Musical

Hajj, beggar and thief, schemes with a guide to obtain gold from the famous bandit, the White Sheik, who is searching for his long-lost son; but Hajj recognizes the White Sheik as his enemy... See full summary »

Director: John Francis Dillon | Stars: Otis Skinner, Loretta Young, David Manners, Sidney Blackmer

Votes: 73

38. Ladies of Leisure (1930)

Passed | 99 min | Drama, Romance

An upper-crust artist hires a 'party girl' as a model; romance follows.

Director: Frank Capra | Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, Ralph Graves, Lowell Sherman, Marie Prevost

Votes: 1,215

39. Let Us Be Gay (1930)

Passed | 79 min | Comedy, Drama

Dowdy housewife Kitty dotes on her self-centered husband but divorces him when his mistress shows up at their home one day to break up their marriage. Bob had become bored with her ... See full summary »

Director: Robert Z. Leonard | Stars: Norma Shearer, Rod La Rocque, Marie Dressler, Gilbert Emery

Votes: 534

40. The Life of the Party (1930)

Passed | 79 min | Comedy, Musical

Two attractive female song-pluggers decide to become gold-diggers, with comic results.

Director: Roy Del Ruth | Stars: Winnie Lightner, Irene Delroy, Jack Whiting, Charles Butterworth

Votes: 165

41. Loose Ankles (1930)

Passed | 69 min | Comedy, Romance

In this light romantic comedy, 17-year old Loretta Young is cast as Ann Harper, a wealthy socialite who has inherited a fortune provided the family is involved in no scandals appearing in ... See full summary »

Director: Ted Wilde | Stars: Loretta Young, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Louise Fazenda, Otis Harlan

Votes: 426

42. Madam Satan (1930)

Passed | 116 min | Comedy, Drama, Musical

Angela and Bob Brooks are an upper class couple. Unfortunately, Bob is an unfaithful husband. But Angela has a plan to win back her husband's affections. An elaborate masquerade ball is to ... See full summary »

Director: Cecil B. DeMille | Stars: Kay Johnson, Reginald Denny, Lillian Roth, Roland Young

Votes: 1,047 | Gross: $0.50M

43. The Man from Blankley's (1930)

67 min | Comedy

When a nobleman loses his way in the fog and enters a house where there's a party going on, he's mistaken for a hired butler.

Director: Alfred E. Green | Stars: John Barrymore, Loretta Young, William Austin, Albert Gran

Votes: 84