1939 in film is widely considered the most outstanding one ever, when it comes to the high quality and high attendance at the large set of the best films that  premiered in the year (considered as a percentage of the population in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom at that time).
Events Film historians often rate 1939 as "the greatest year in the history of Hollywood".
 Hollywood movies produced in  Southern California are at the height of their Golden Age (in spite of many cheaply made or undistinguished films also being produced, something to be expected with any year in commercial cinema), and during 1939 there are the premieres of an outstandingly large number of exceptional motion pictures, many of which become honored as all-time classic films.
Canada establishes a National Film Commission, predecessor of the National Film Board of Canada, with John Grierson as first Commissioner.
Nominations for the Academy Award for Best Picture
The year 1939 was one in which the
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated ten films for Best Picture:
These films came from a wide variety of
film genres and sources for their stories and settings, including: historical fiction ( Gone with the Wind), contemporary affairs ( Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Of Mice and Men), love stories, classic novels ( Wuthering Heights), fantasies/musicals, ( The Wizard of Oz), tragic plays ( Dark Victory), westerns ( Stagecoach), and comedies ( Ninotchka).
Each of the five nominees for Best Director of 1939 went on to become a legendary film director with multiple acclaimed films to his credit:
Frank Capra, Victor Fleming, John Ford, Sam Wood, and William Wyler.
These figures, as reported in the
Box Office Digest of March 1940, are not necessarily the sums that were taken in during 1939 - and in particular for films that made their premieres in October, November, and December. Note that the number one film in this list premiered in mid-December, and it certainly did not take in $200,000,000 in December 1939. At the time, box office numbers were reported as a percentage of business for each theater in comparison to "normal" business. For example, Jesse James performed at 182% and The Wizard of Oz at 156%. This puts the astounding 388% that  performed at in perspective for the time. This type of reporting is one reason that exact dollar grosses for films of this period are unreliable at best.
Gone with the Wind
Gone with the Wind
$198,676,459  2.
20th Century Fox
$9,460,000  3.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
$9,600,000  4.
The Rains Came
20th Century Fox
$9,400,000  5.
Babes in Arms
$9,240,000  6.
$6,750,000  7.
Goodbye, Mr. Chips
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
$3,155,000  9.
The Wizard of Oz
$3,017,000  10.
$2,807,000  11.
$2,279,000  12.
Drums Along the Mohawk
20th Century Fox
$2,000,000  14.
Stanley and Livingstone
20th Century Fox
$8,000,000  15.
$5,550,000  16.
Another Thin Man
$6,090,000  17.
The Old Maid
$6,660,000  18.
20th Century Fox
$4,000,000  19.
Destry Rides Again
$2,900,000  20.
Andy Hardy Gets Spring Fever
1939 film releases
January-March January 1939
April-June April 1939
July-September July 1939
October-December October 1939
Notable films released in 1939 U.S.A. unless stated
, starring The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mickey Rooney and Rex Ingram
, starring The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce
, starring Allegheny Uprising Claire Trevor and John Wayne
, starring Andy Hardy Gets Spring Fever Lewis Stone, Mickey Rooney, Cecilia Parker, Fay Holden
, starring The Angels Wash Their Faces Ann Sheridan and the Dead End Kids
, starring Another Thin Man William Powell and Myrna Loy
, starring The Arizona Kid Roy Rogers
- ( The Arsenal Stadium Mystery GB)
, starring Ask a Policeman Will Hay, Graham Moffatt and Moore Marriott - ( GB)
, starring the At the Circus Marx Brothers
, directed by Babes in Arms Busby Berkeley, starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland
, starring Bachelor Mother Ginger Rogers and David Niven
, starring Bad Lands Robert Barrat and Robert Coote
, starring Barricade Alice Faye and Warner Baxter
, directed by Beau Geste William Wellman, starring Gary Cooper and Ray Milland
- ( Bel Ami Germany)
, starring Blackmail Edward G. Robinson
, starring Blue Montana Skies Gene Autry
, starring Boys' Reformatory Frankie Darro and
Blue Montana Skies , starring The Bronze Buckaroo Herb Jeffries
, starring The Cat and the Canary Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard
- ( Cesta do hlubin ?tudákovy du?e Czechoslovakia)
, starring Charlie Chan at Treasure Island Sidney Toler
, starring Charlie Chan in Reno Sidney Toler and Ricardo Cortez
, starring Cheer Boys Cheer Nova Pilbeam ( GB)
, starring Confessions of a Nazi Spy Edward G. Robinson, Francis Lederer, George Sanders, Paul Lukas
, starring Dark Victory Bette Davis, George Brent, Humphrey Bogart, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Ronald Reagan
, starring Daughter of the Tong Evelyn Brent and Grant Withers
, directed by Days of Jesse James Joseph Kane, starring Roy Rogers
, directed by Destry Rides Again George Marshall, starring Marlene Dietrich and James Stewart
, directed by Dodge City Michael Curtiz, starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland , directed by Drums Along the Mohawk John Ford, starring Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert
, starring Each Dawn I Die James Cagney and George Raft
- ( The Empress Wu Tse-tien China)
(Eva Fools Around) - ( Eva tropí hlouposti Czechoslovakia)
, starring Everything Happens at Night Sonja Henie and Ray Milland
, starring Fifth Ave Girl Ginger Rogers and Walter Connolly
, starring First Love Deanna Durbin and Robert Stack
, directed by Five Came Back John Farrow, starring Lucille Ball and Chester Morris
, directed by The Flying Deuces A. Edward Sutherland, starring Laurel and Hardy
, starring The Four Feathers John Clements and Ralph Richardson - ( GB)
, directed by The Four Just Men Walter Forde ( GB) , starring Frontier Marshal Randolph Scott, Caesar Romero, John Carradine
, starring The Girl from Mexico Lupe Velez
, directed by A Girl Must Live Carol Reed, starring Margaret Lockwood - ( GB)
, starring Golden Boy Barbara Stanwyck, William Holden, Adolphe Menjou
, directed by Gone with the Wind Victor Fleming, starring Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Olivia de Havilland, Leslie Howard, Hattie McDaniel - Academy Awards for best picture, director, actress and supporting actress
, directed by Goodbye, Mr. Chips Sam Wood, starring Robert Donat and Greer Garson - ( GB)
, starring Gulliver's Travels Jessica Dragonette and Lanny Ross
, directed by Gunga Din George Stevens, starring Cary Grant, Victor McLaglen, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Sam Jaffe
, starring The Hardys Ride High Lewis Stone, Mickey Rooney, Cecilia Parker, Fay Holden
, starring Heaven with a Barbed Wire Fence Glenn Ford
, starring Hello Janine! Marika Rökk - ( Germany)
, starring Hollywood Cavalcade Alice Faye, Don Ameche, J. Edward Bromberg, Alan Curtis
, starring Honolulu Eleanor Powell, Burns and Allen
, first in The Hound of the Baskervilles Sherlock Holmes series starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce , directed by The Hunchback of Notre Dame William Dieterle, starring Charles Laughton and Maureen O'Hara
, starring I Met a Murderer James Mason - ( GB)
, starring Idiot's Delight Clark Gable and Norma Shearer
, starring In Name Only Cary Grant, Carole Lombard, Kay Francis
, starring Inspector Hornleigh on Holiday Gordon Harker and Alastair Sim - ( GB)
, starring Intermezzo Ingrid Bergman and Leslie Howard
, directed by It's a Wonderful World W. S. Van Dyke, starring James Stewart and Claudette Colbert
, directed by Jamaica Inn Alfred Hitchcock, starring Charles Laughton and Maureen O'Hara - ( GB)
, starring Jesse James Tyrone Power, Henry Fonda, Nancy Kelly, Randolph Scott
, starring Juarez Paul Muni, Bette Davis, Claude Rains, John Garfield, Brian Aherne
(Daybreak), directed by Le Jour se lève Marcel Carné, starring Jean Gabin and Arletty - ( France)
, starring Judge Hardy and Son Lewis Stone, Mickey Rooney, Cecilia Parker, Fay Holden , starring King of the Underworld Humphrey Bogart and Kay Francis
, directed by The Lambeth Walk Albert de Courville, starring Lupino Lane and Sally Gray - ( GB)
(Le Dernier Tournant), starring The Last Turning Michel Simon - ( France)
(Lenin v 1918 godu) - ( Lenin in 1918 USSR)
, starring Let Us Live Maureen O'Sullivan and Henry Fonda
, starring The Little Princess Shirley Temple and Richard Greene
, starring Love Affair Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer (Academy Award nominee)
, starring Lucky Night Myrna Loy and Robert Taylor
, starring Made For Each Other Carole Lombard, James Stewart, and Charles Coburn
, starring Maisie Robert Young and Ann Sothern
, starring The Man in the Iron Mask Louis Hayward, Joan Bennett, Warren William
, starring Man of Conquest Richard Dix, Gail Patrick, Joan Fontaine
, starring Mexicali Rose Gene Autry
, starring Midnight Claudette Colbert and Don Ameche
, a The Mikado Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, first British film shot in Technicolor - ( GB)
, starring Million Dollar Legs Betty Grable
, starring Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation Peter Lorre
, directed by Mr. Smith Goes to Washington Frank Capra, starring James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains
, starring Mr. Wong in Chinatown Boris Karloff , starring The Mystery of Mr. Wong Boris Karloff
, starring Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase Bonita Granville
, starring Never Say Die Martha Raye and Bob Hope
, directed by Ninotchka Ernst Lubitsch, starring Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas, Ina Claire, Bela Lugosi
, directed by Of Mice and Men Lewis Milestone, starring Burgess Meredith, Betty Field, Lon Chaney Jr.
, a comedy short starring Oily to Bed, Oily to Rise The Three Stooges
, starring The Oklahoma Kid James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Donald Crisp
, starring The Old Maid Bette Davis and Miriam Hopkins
, starring On Borrowed Time Lionel Barrymore and Cedric Hardwicke
, starring On Dress Parade The Dead End Kids
(aka The Fugitive), starring On the Night of the Fire Ralph Richardson - ( GB)
, screenplay by On Your Toes Lawrence Riley, starring Vera Zorina and Eddie Albert
, starring Only Angels Have Wings Cary Grant, Rita Hayworth and Jean Arthur
(Prisoners of the Land) - ( Prisioneros de la tierra Argentina) , starring The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland
, starring Q Planes Ralph Richardson and Laurence Olivier - ( GB)
, starring The Rains Came Tyrone Power and Myrna Loy
, a Range War Hopalong Cassidy western starring William Boyd
, starring Remember? Greer Garson, Robert Taylor, Lew Ayres
, a The Return of Doctor X horror film starring Humphrey Bogart
, starring The Roaring Twenties James Cagney, Priscilla Lane, Humphrey Bogart
(La règle du jeu), directed by The Rules of the Game Jean Renoir - ( France)
, starring The Saint in London George Sanders
, starring The Saint Strikes Back George Sanders
, directed by Seven Little Australians Arthur Greville Collins - ( Australia)
, starring Son of Frankenstein Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi
(The Ghost Train) - ( De Spooktrein Netherlands)
, directed by The Spy in Black Michael Powell, starring Conrad Veidt and Valerie Hobson - ( GB)
, directed by Stagecoach John Ford, starring John Wayne, Claire Trevor, Berton Churchill, John Carradine
, starring Stanley and Livingstone Spencer Tracy and Cedric Hardwicke
(Zangiku monogatari), directed by The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums Kenji Mizoguchi - ( Japan)
, starring The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers , starring Susannah of the Mounties Shirley Temple and Randolph Scott
, starring Tarzan Finds a Son! Johnny Weissmuller
, starring These Glamour Girls Lew Ayres, Lana Turner, Tom Brown
, starring They Made Me a Criminal John Garfield
, starring They Shall Have Music Jascha Heifetz, Joel McCrea, Andrea Leeds, Walter Brennan
, starring The Three Musketeers Don Ameche and The Ritz Brothers
, starring Three Smart Girls Grow Up Deanna Durbin and Robert Cummings
, directed by Three Texas Steers George Sherman, starring John Wayne
, starring Tower of London Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, Vincent Price
(Die Reise nach Tilsit) - ( The Trip to Tilsit Germany)
, directed by Union Pacific Cecil B. DeMille, starring Barbara Stanwyck and Joel McCrea
(Vasilisa prekrasnaya) - ( Vasilisa the Beautiful U.S.S.R.) (Vyborgskaya storona) - ( The Vyborg Side U.S.S.R.)
, directed by Way Down South Leslie Goodwins and Bernard Vorhaus
(Boefje), directed by Wilton's Zoo Douglas Sirk - ( Netherlands)
, directed by The Wizard of Oz Victor Fleming, starring Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Margaret Hamilton
, directed by The Women George Cukor, starring Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell
, directed by Wuthering Heights William Wyler, starring Merle Oberon, Laurence Olivier, David Niven, Flora Robson
, starring Wyoming Outlaw John Wayne, directed by George Sherman
, starring You Can't Cheat an Honest Man W. C. Fields
, directed by Young Man's Fancy Robert Stevenson, starring Anna Lee - ( GB)
, directed by Young Mr. Lincoln John Ford, starring Henry Fonda and Alice Brady , directed by Zenobia Gordon Douglas, starring Oliver Hardy
Comedy film series
Animated short film series
Births January 10 -
Sal Mineo, American actor (died 1976) February 3 -
Michael Cimino, director; producer; screenwriter (died 2016) February 9 -
Janet Suzman, South African actress and director March 5 -
Samantha Eggar, English actress April 1 -
Ali MacGraw, American actress April 7 -
Francis Ford Coppola, director; producer; screenwriter April 13 -
Paul Sorvino, American actor May 4 -
Paul Gleason, American actor (died 2006) May 13 -
Harvey Keitel, American actor May 19 -
James Fox, English actor May 22 -
Paul Winfield, American actor (died 2004) May 25 -
Ian McKellen, English actor May 30 -
Michael J. Pollard, American actor July 1 -
Ines Aru, Estonian actress July 22 -
Terence Stamp, English actor July 30 -
Peter Bogdanovich, American director; producer; screenwriter July 31 -
France Nuyen, French actress August 2 -
Wes Craven, American director; producer; screenwriter (died 2015) August 12 -
George Hamilton, American actor August 25 -
John Badham, English-American director August 29 -
Joel Schumacher, American director; producer; screenwriter August 30 -
Elizabeth Ashley, American actress September 1 -
Lily Tomlin, American actress; comedian; producer September 5 -
George Lazenby, Australian actor September 18
September 27 -
Garrick Hagon, Canadian film, stage, television and radio actor October 8 -
Paul Hogan, Australian comedian and actor October 18 -
Salme Poopuu, Estonian actress and filmmaker (died 2017) October 22 -
Tony Roberts, American actor October 24 -
F. Murray Abraham, American actor October 25 -
Nikos Nikolaidis, Greek film director (died 2007) October 27 -
John Cleese, English actor, comedian and producer October 28 -
Jane Alexander, American actress November 10 -
Anton Gorchev, Bulgarian actor (died 2000) November 15 -
Yaphet Kotto, American actor November 22 - Allen Garfield, American actor
Deaths January 25 -
Helen Ware, 61, American actress, , Morning Glory Abraham Lincoln February 22 -
Joe Brandt, 56, American film producer and co-founder of C.B.C. which became Columbia Pictures April 22 -
Ann Murdock, 48, American actress, , Outcast Please Help Emily May 5 -
Clara Schønfeld, 82, Danish actress, , Master of the House Praesten i Vejlby June 9 -
Owen Moore, 54, Irish actor, , A Star is Born , She Done Him Wrong , The Red Mill Cinderella August 23 -
Sidney Howard, 48, American writer, , Gone with the Wind , Dodsworth , Arrowsmith A Lady to Love September 24 -
Carl Laemmle, 72, German producer, , Frankenstein , Dracula , Bride of Frankenstein The Phantom of the Opera October 13 -
Ford Sterling, 55, American actor, , Tango Tangles , The Show-Off Between Showers October 23 -
Zane Grey, 67, American writer, , Fighting Caravans , Riders of the Purple Sage , Western Union Born to the West October 28 -
Alice Brady, 46, American actress, , My Man Godfrey , Young Mr. Lincoln , The Gay Divorcee In Old Chicago November 7 -
Kirsti Suonio, 67, Finnish stage and film actress, Substitute Wife November 13 -
George Nicholls, Jr., 42, American director, , Anne of Green Gables Man of Conquest December 12 - Douglas Fairbanks, 56, American actor, , The Thief of Bagdad , The Black Pirate , Robin Hood Mr. Robinson Crusoe
Giltz, Michael (February 15, 2008). "Michael Giltz: DVDs: 1939 - The Best Year For Movies...Ever!". The Huffington Post . Retrieved 2012.
Fristoe, Roger. "Introduction to 1939, Hollywood's Greatest Year". Turner Classic Movies . Retrieved 2011.
Schwarzbaum, Lisa (October 2, 2009). "1939: Film's finest year". Entertainment Weekly . Retrieved 2011.
^ Box Office Digest, March 1940, p.18
^ Bloomberg.com / Box Office Mojo.com
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l
"Top Grossing Movies of 1939 - UMR". www.ultimatemovierankings.com.
^ Richard Jewel, 'RKO Film Grosses: 1931-1951', Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television, Vol 14 No 1, 1994 p56
Harmetz, Aljean (2013). (75th Anniversary ed.). The Making of The Wizard of Oz Chicago Review Press. p. 288. ISBN 978-1613748329.
^ Richard Jewel, 'RKO Film Grosses: 1931-1951', Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television, Vol 14 No 1, 1994 p57
on Ninotchka IMDb
^ 52 FEATURE FILMS ON FOX '39-40 LIST: Five Will Cost $2,000,000 Each--Zanuck to Supervise 24 Large Productions 'THE RAINS CAME' ON BILL 'Drums Along Mohawk', 'Little Old New York', 'Brigham Young' Scheduled Edmonds's Story in Color Elsa Maxwell Featured New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 04 Apr 1939: 29.