best film:  City Lights. This is a tough year because Fritz Lang’s M is a worthy “best film” of the year. I have city lights as Chaplin’s best film and one of the best silent film and screen romances. It’s both superb drama and comedy some of chaplin’s most perfected sequences.

most overrated:  Murnau’s tabu as #230 on TSPDT is very overrated.  My caveat here is that I’ve only seen it once so I could definitely be off.

most underrated:   Rene Clair’s Le Million at #799 is vastly underrated. It’s stylishly directed and has so much energy and flair.

gem I want to spotlight:  M. Lang’s devastating crime epic is a very worthy film and in most years in the 1930’s it would be the best film of the year.

trends and notables:  This is the first year where it became really difficult to push great films off my top 10 of the year. Films like tabu, the criminal code, the front page. I think it’s a combination of things coinciding in a really strong year but chief amongst those is directors, in larger numbers, finally figuring out sound and starting to improve their quality of work. It’s the first archvieable film from Hawks, Renoir and Capra.

best performance male: Peter Lorre’s performance in M is easily the best of 1931. It could’ve been played as a straight horror performance but there’s such nuance and pathos here. Cagney is brilliant in public enemy as is chaplin along with simon in la chienne. It’s a strong year.

best performance female: jean harlow is all over the place in 1931 but I’ll single out capra’s platinum blonde as my pick here

top 10

  1. City Lights
  2. M
  3. Le Million
  4. La Chienne
  5. Frankenstein
  6. Kameradschaft
  7. Public Enemy
  8. Threepenny Opera
  9. À nous la liberté
  10. Dracula

Archives, Directors, and Grades

À nous la liberté- Clair HR
A Free Soul- C. Brown R
City Lights- Chaplin MP
Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde- Mamoulian R
Dracula- Browning R/HR
Frankenstein- Whale MS
Kameradschaft- Pabst HR
La Chienne- Renoir MS
Le Million- Clair MS
M- Lang MP
Monkey Business- Marx R
Platinum Blonde- Capra R
Public Enemy- Wellman HR
Svengali R
Tabu- Murnau R
The Champ- K. Vidor R
The Criminal Code- Hawks R
The Front Page- Milestone HR
The Sin of Madelon Claudet R
The Smiling Lieutenant- Lubitsch R
Threepenny Opera- Pabst HR

*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives