1938 Movies

Finding films released in 1938 is a breeze with our Plex database. Linking to a large library of films, it provides a direct window into that year's cinematic world. This resource is perfect for anyone looking to explore or learn more about the 1938 cinema industry, including both well-known masterpieces and obscure gems.
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Browse 894 titles in our 1938 Movies Database

The Best Movies in 1938

The Adventures of Robin Hood

Released in a year marked by groundbreaking cinema, "The Adventures of Robin Hood" brought to life the legendary tale of the heroic outlaw. Starring Errol Flynn in what would become one of his signature roles, the film dazzles with its dynamic action sequences and rich Technicolor visuals. The production spared no expense, evident in the elaborate sets that transport viewers to a vividly realized medieval England. Integral to the film's enduring appeal is Erich Wolfgang Korngold's score, which enhances the swashbuckling action and sweeping romance. With Flynn at the helm, "The Adventures of Robin Hood" remains a quintessential adventure film, celebrated for its artistry and entertainment value.

Alexander's Ragtime Band

"Alexander's Ragtime Band" stands apart for its unique blend of musical drama and historical narrative. The film, directed by Henry King, charts the evolution of American popular music, from the vaudeville stages to the era of swing, using Irving Berlin's compositions as its backbone. Tyrone Power and Alice Faye lead a talented cast, bringing to life the trials and triumphs of musicians in a changing culture. The film not only pays homage to Berlin's music but also serves as a nostalgic look back at a transformative period in musical history, making it a rich, cinematic treat.


Set against the backdrop of the Casbah's winding streets and hidden courtyards, "Algiers" captures the imagination with its tale of love and danger. Charles Boyer delivers a compelling performance as Pepe le Moko, a jewel thief on the run from the law. His nuanced portrayal of a man torn between freedom and love adds depth to the film's romantic and suspenseful narrative. "Algiers" stands out for its atmospheric setting and the chemistry between its leads, offering a glimpse into a world of intrigue and passion.


Under the direction of George Cukor, "Holiday" explores themes of love, societal norms, and the quest for personal happiness. Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant shine as the film's protagonists, their performances imbuing the story with charm and relatability. Set against the backdrop of the affluent American society, the film gets into the conflict between individual desires and societal expectations. The chemistry between Hepburn and Grant elevates the film, making "Holiday" a captivating exploration of love and life's priorities.

Boys Town

"Boys Town" tells the inspiring story of Father Edward Flanagan's vision to create a haven for wayward boys. Spencer Tracy's portrayal of Father Flanagan is both authentic and poignant, reflecting the film's underlying themes of redemption and the power of compassion. The narrative focuses on Flanagan's unwavering belief in the goodness inherent in all boys, challenging societal preconceptions about juvenile delinquency. With its emotional depth and impactful storytelling, "Boys Town" champions the transformative effect of kindness and understanding.

Film & Industry Highlights of 1938

Notable Film Releases of 1938

In 1938, the film industry presented a lineup of movies that have since become benchmarks in cinematic history. "The Adventures of Robin Hood," directed by Michael Curtiz, featured Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland in pivotal roles, earning its place as a definitive adventure film. Its narrative, visual style, and performances have influenced countless productions in the genre.

Another release, "Boys Town" from MGM, emerged as the highest-grossing film in North America for the year, with earnings of $2,828,000. Its commercial success underscores its resonance with the audience of the time. Furthermore, films like "Alexander's Ragtime Band," "Test Pilot," "You Can't Take It with You," and "Sweethearts" also ranked among the top earners, highlighting a year rich in various cinematic stories.

Industry Events and Happenings

The 10th Academy Awards, held on March 10, 1938, celebrated the films released in 1937. "The Life of Emile Zola" stood out, securing the Best Picture award and becoming the evening's most lauded film with three Oscars. This ceremony is a historical point of reference for industry achievements and trends.

July 1938 saw the sixth Venice Mostra (Venice Film Festival) amid a tense international atmosphere. The influence of political pressures from Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy was evident, impacting the festival's operations and awards. This period underscores the complex relationship between politics and the arts.

Additionally, the groundwork for the Cannes Film Festival was laid in 1938 as a counter to the politicized environment of the Venice Film Festival, aiming for a more impartial celebration of cinema. Scheduled to officially start in 1939, its origins in 1938 mark a pivotal moment in film festival history.

Industry Challenges and Campaigns

The year also brought its share of hurdles for the film industry. A notable protest by cine technicians, as reported in the World Film News, underscored the industry's internal and external challenges. These included navigating bad publicity and rebounding from a period of diminished box office returns.

In an effort to revitalize interest and attendance, the American film industry initiated "Motion Pictures' Greatest Year" in September 1938, a four-month public relations effort. This campaign was designed to spotlight the industry's contributions and the entertainment value of its productions, aiming to bolster public engagement and box office performance.