The Great Depression, history’s most tragic and economically disastrous decade, has been tackled in a number of beautiful, moving, and occasionally even humorous films. The massive impacts of the 1929–1939 economic shock were felt by people all over the world, rich and poor alike. As a relatively accessible medium at the time, movies were crucial in keeping people happy and entertained. Numerous movies, TV series, books, and novels have been written about the time period in history, with Tinseltown power players choosing to use the medium of film to emphasize how difficult it was.
The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck’s moving Pulitzer Prize–winning classic that also won an Oscar for best drama in 1940, is renowned for its depiction of the effects of the Great Depression. The uplifting sports film Seabiscuit, starring Tobey Maguire, attracted a large audience as a tribute to the coveted stallion that provided a great deal of happiness and optimism for Americans all around the nation during the 1930s. The best films on the Great Depression include those listed here.
Russell Crowe played heavyweight boxing champion James J. Braddock in Ron Howard’s 2005 Oscar-nominated biographical sports drama Cinderella Man. Braddock battles his way out of professional obscurity by making a full-time comeback to the ring in an effort to support his family financially during the Great Depression.
The rags-to-riches story centers on the struggling Braddock’s remarkable recovery, his dramatic bout with the deadly boxer Maz Baer in 1935, and his decisive victory that went down as one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. A critical and financial success, Cinderella Man brought in over $108 million at the box office and earned Crowe a Golden Globe nomination for his outstanding performance as the renowned sports icon.
Emperor of the North Pole
In the sincere 1973 action adventure Emperor of the North Pole, Lee Marvin gave a mesmerizing portrayal as revered drifter A-No.-1, demonstrating the legendary hobo’s remarkable train hopping abilities as he also squares off with a strict conductor in 1930s Oregon during the Great Depression. While also taking a brash young guy under his wing and teaching him how to survive during the harsh economic downturn, the good-natured wanderer outwits the determined train director.
Emperor of the North Pole had a modest initial success, but it has since gained new fans and praise. It was praised as an unappreciated gem for decades by The New York Times, who termed it “a magnificent, lavishly choreographed action melodrama” that is “brimming with splendid performances.”
The neo-noir gangster movie Miller’s Crossing, directed by the Coen brothers, is set in 1929 during Prohibition and follows mob boss Leo O’Bannon (Alfred Finney) and his right-hand man Tom Reagan (Gabriel Bryne) as they try to maintain order despite growing tensions.
The well acclaimed film from the Great Depression shows Tom attempting to straddle his personal and professional obligations in order to prevent a full-blown carnage. Despite being a box office flop, The Coens’ tribute to classic gangster flicks like The Godfather and Goodfellas and film noirs from the past is now regarded as one of the best crime films ever made.
The 1936 satirical black comedy Modern Times, written, directed, and starring by legendary movie icon Charlie Chaplin, gives a profound look at the labor circumstances and precarious financial positions of millions of people during the Great Depression. Chaplin played the Tramp for the final time.
After seeing the depressing state of Europe following the economic shock and engaging in a vigorous discussion with Mahatma Gandhi about modern technology, Chaplin came up with the concept for the painting. The outstanding actor made his on-screen debut in Modern Times, which went on to become one of the highest-grossing films of 1936. In 2002, it was chosen as one of the “Top 100 Essential Films of All Time” by the National Society of Film Critics.
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
The Coen brothers’ 2000 smash dramedy O Brother, Where Art Thou stars George Clooney, John Turturro, and Tim Blake Nelson in superb performances as escaped prisoners looking for a sacred lost treasure. The story revolves around the chain gang inmates who are searching for their freedom as well as a lucrative reward in the shape of an unidentified cash treasure in 1930s rural Mississippi.
While attempting to elude a vicious county sheriff, the group meets a variety of odd people from varied origins and experiences firsthand the depressing effects of the Great Depression. The Odyssey, a Greek epic poem by Homer, served as the basis for the Coen brothers’ underappreciated masterpiece (with a smash soundtrack). It was also one of the first movies to use digital color correcting, which gave it a distinctive autumnal sepia-tinted appearance on screen.
In the acclaimed 1973 road dramedy Paper Moon, directed by Peter Bogdanovich and based on the Joe David Brown book, father-daughter pair Ryan and Tatum O’Neal play shrewd con artists Moses Pray and Addie Loggins as they scam their way through the barren landscapes of 1936 Kansas and Missouri. The unexpected friends form an appealing bond along the way, which helps them get through the depressing and gloomy backdrop of a Depression-era America.
The film, which was made in black and white, won plaudits for its compelling subject matter, humor, outstanding acting, and realistic portrayal of poverty. Tatum won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar at the age of just 10, making her the youngest competitive Academy Award winner to date.
Road to Perdition
The 2002 crime thriller Road to Perdition, which boasts a stellar ensemble cast that includes Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, and Jude Law, is a graphic novel adaption by David Self that follows a mafia enforcer’s quest for vengeance after his family is murdered in 1931, at the height of the Great Depression.
Hanks is outstanding as the fearsome enforcer Michael Sullivan, who, together with his eldest son, patrols Chicago’s streets in search of the perpetrator of the heinous crime. The Sam Mendes film received accolades for its moving depiction of the sombre city life during the devastating moment in history as well as for its captivating performances. It went on to get six Academy Award nominations and won for Best Cinematography.
The 2003 sports drama Seabiscuit tells the inspiring story of the namesake Thoroughbred race horse, who became a symbol of hope for many Americans during the Great Depression. The media sensation rose to racing popularity despite being an undersized and previously unheralded competitor.
As John “Red” Pollard, the eponymous horse’s jockey, Tobey Maguire makes an appearance. Together, they triumph in competitions and garner national acclaim. In their ecstatic review, the Chicago Tribune praised the film as “sleek, gorgeous, and packed with emotion, not too flashy, but full of heart, this is a movie worthy of its improbable yet lovely subject.” The emotional drama struck a chord with audiences and critics alike.
The Grapes of Wrath
The 1940 John Ford masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath, a gripping retelling of the John Steinbeck Pulitzer Prize-winning work, is without a doubt one of the greatest novel-to-film adaptations of all time. It follows the poor Oklahoma family the Joads as they move to California for a fresh start after losing their cherished farm during the Great Depression.
For his captivating depiction of Tom Joad, the father of the Joad family, who must give up his agricultural trade since it is located in the Dust Bowl in order to find work in a promised country he believes will be his family’s salvation, Henry Fonda received an Oscar nomination. The Grapes of Wrath is recognized as one of the greatest movies ever made and won praise for accurately depicting the unfathomable panic, humanity, and fear of the tragic period in which the Steinbeck classic is set.
Our Team DCS includes 5 different writers proficient in English and research based Content Writing. We allow them and encourage them to follow the Entertainment news all day long. Our posts, listicles and even the exclusives are a result of their hard work.