1931 Movies

Experience the movie magic of 1931 through Plex’s meticulously curated guide to the year's releases. With direct links to each film, you can easily immerse yourself in the mesmerizing world of vintage cinema. Our 1931 Plex database is an invaluable tool that will transport you to a bygone era of Hollywood glamour and timeless classics.
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Browse 883 titles in our 1931 Movies Database

The Best Movies in 1931

City Lights

Released when sound films dominated cinemas, "City Lights" by Charles Chaplin remains a testament to the power of silent cinema. Chaplin's portrayal of a tramp who falls in love with a blind flower girl weaves comedy, drama, and romance seamlessly. This film stands out for its balance of humor and emotional depth, highlighted by memorable scenes such as an unforgettable boxing match. Chaplin's performance and directorial prowess in "City Lights," showcasing his mastery of visual storytelling, have cemented this film's place as a timeless classic.


Fritz Lang's "M" represented a breakthrough in the use of sound in film, employing a leitmotif to signify the presence of the child murderer played hauntingly by Peter Lorre. Set against the backdrop of Berlin, the film explores the search for the murderer and the ensuing mob justice. Lorre's portrayal, combined with Lang's innovative use of sound, makes "M" a seminal work in the thriller genre and a critical examination of societal reactions to crime.


James Whale's adaptation of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" introduced audiences to a horror narrative that was as visually striking as it was emotionally resonant. Boris Karloff's portrayal of the Monster, with Colin Clive as Dr. Frankenstein, brings a sympathetic depth to a character that has become iconic. Celebrated for its atmospheric cinematography and special effects, "Frankenstein" not only set a high standard for horror films but also demonstrated the genre's capacity for complex character development and moral inquiry.


Tod Browning's "Dracula," featuring Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula, set the standard for vampire portrayals in media. Based on Bram Stoker's novel and adapted from the stage play, the film captures the eerie, gothic atmosphere quintessential to the horror genre. Lugosi's performance, characterized by its charismatic malevolence, helped define the archetype of the cinematic vampire. "Dracula" remains a cornerstone of horror, influencing numerous adaptations and interpretations of vampire lore.

The Public Enemy

William A. Wellman's "The Public Enemy" explores the rise of a young man within the criminal underworld during Prohibition. James Cagney's portrayal of Tom Powers shifts from a charismatic anti-hero to a figure emblematic of the consequences of crime. Renowned for its portrayal of gritty realism and dynamic performances, the film offers a critical look at the allure and pitfalls of criminal life. "The Public Enemy" has been celebrated as a defining work in the gangster genre, noted for its unflinching examination of the impact of crime on individuals and society.

Film & Industry Highlights of 1931

Notable Films and Achievements

The year 1931 holds a special place in cinema history, marked by the release of films that would forever shape the industry. "City Lights," a brainchild of Charlie Chaplin, not only emerged as one of North America's top-grossing films, earning $2,000,000, but also solidified Chaplin's legacy. This film, being his last completely silent film, weaved comedy and drama together, leaving audiences both entertained and moved. Meanwhile, "Dracula," directed by Tod Browning, carved a new path for the horror genre. Bela Lugosi's performance as Count Dracula set a new benchmark for character portrayal in horror films. The film's success was instrumental in establishing Universal Pictures as a key player in the horror genre. "The Public Enemy," an offering by William A. Wellman, depicted the gritty life of 1920s gangsters, marking an influential moment for the gangster film genre with its raw realism.

The 3rd Academy Awards

The 3rd Academy Awards ceremony, commemorating films released between August 1, 1929, and July 31, 1930, saw "All Quiet on the Western Front" clinching the Best Picture award. This event highlighted outstanding films and talents of the era, with Norma Shearer winning the Best Actress award for her role in "The Divorcee."

Industry Trends and the Pre-Code Era

The year 1931 was nestled within the Pre-Code Hollywood era, spanning from 1927 to 1934. This was a time when the film industry operated with minimal restrictions on content, paving the way for movies that explored racy and violent themes. The emergence of the Pre-Code era marked a period of creative freedom in Hollywood, preceding the enforcement of the Hays Code in 1934, which sought to regulate film content.

Technological and Artistic Innovations

The transition to sound films, or "talkies," was well underway by 1931, representing a pivotal moment in cinematic history. This leap in technology allowed for more nuanced storytelling and performances, enriching the audience's viewing experience. Additionally, despite the financial strains of the Great Depression, the film industry sustained its growth, partly due to the escapist allure of movies during tough economic times.