1939 in Film
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1939 in Film

The year 1939 in film is widely considered one of the most outstanding years ever,[1] 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).

Top-grossing films (U.S.)

The top ten 1939 released films by box office gross in North America are as follows:

Highest-grossing films of 1939
Rank Title Studio Box office gross rental
1 Gone with the Wind Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Selznick International Pictures $18,000,000[2]
2 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington Columbia Pictures $3,500,000[3]
3 Jesse James 20th Century Fox $2,335,000[4]
4 Babes in Arms Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer $2,311,000[5]
5 The Wizard of Oz $2,048,000[5]
6 Dark Victory Warner Bros. $2,000,000[4]
7 The Hunchback of Notre Dame RKO Radio Pictures $1,900,000[4]
8 Gunga Din $1,888,000[4]
9 Goodbye, Mr. Chips Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer $1,777,000[5]
10 Dodge City Warner Bros. $1,668,000[6]


Nominations for the Academy Award for Best Picture and Director

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 were or went on to become a legendary film director with multiple acclaimed films to his credit: Frank Capra (previous winner of the award), Victor Fleming, John Ford (who won a record four Best Director awards), Sam Wood, and William Wyler (who leads all directors in nominations with 11 while having three wins).[]

Academy Awards

1939 film releases

United States





Notable films released in 1939

United States unless stated












Comedy film series

Animated short film series





  1. ^ Giltz, Michael (February 15, 2008). "Michael Giltz: DVDs: 1939 - The Best Year For Movies...Ever!". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2012.
  2. ^ "York's 4,000,000". Variety. December 31, 1941. p. 20. Retrieved 2020.
  3. ^ Eyman, Scott (1993). Ernst Lubitsch: Laughter in Paradise. ISBN 0-8018-6558-1. Ninotchka's financial returns were less than those of the year's biggest hit, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, which made $3.5 million, but considerably more than other hits like The Old Maid ($1.4 million), Only Angels Have Wings ($1.1 million), or The Rains Came ($1.65 million).
  4. ^ a b c d "All-time Film Rental Champs". Variety. October 15, 1990. p. M162 to 166.
  5. ^ a b c The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  6. ^ Warner Bros financial information in The William Shaefer Ledger. See Appendix 1, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, (1995) 15:sup1, 1-31 p 20 DOI: 10.1080/01439689508604551
  7. ^ Fristoe, Roger. "Introduction to 1939, Hollywood's Greatest Year". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2011.
  8. ^ Schwarzbaum, Lisa (October 2, 2009). "1939: Film's finest year". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2011.

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