Best 40s movies HBO Max must have in classics catalog

Best 40s movies HBO Max must have in classics catalog
Credit: WarnerMedia

HBO Max revealed at the TV Critics Association press tour that they’d have 500 classic movies in their catalog, and there are some from the ’40s in particular that must be included.

WarnerMedia executive Michael Quigley further explained the plans for HBO Max’s vintage section of films:

It bodes well that 1942’s Casablanca has already been announced as a headliner. Let’s take a look at our favorite movies from the ’40s that HBO Max should definitely include in their classics initiative.

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Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

Three-time Best Director Oscar winner Frank Capra directed this adaptation from the 1941 play. The dark comedy stars Cary Grant in rare form, and his famous line, “Insanity runs in my family — it practically gallops” is a fitting summary of the film.

The premise revolves around a writer named Mortimer Brewster (Grant). He has to deal with his aunts who lure lonely bachelors to rent a room in their home, and kill them to put them out of their misery.

It sounds crazy, but with a game cast, Capra’s trademark direction and Grant shining in the central role, Arsenic and Old Lace stands the test of time.

The Big Sleep (1946)

An incredible writing team made this Howard Hawks-directed noir happen. Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winner William Faulkner had a credit, as well as prolific screenwriter Jules Furthman. Leigh Brackett was also credited; she penned the first draft of The Empire Strikes Back.

In spite of all that, The Big Sleep‘s complicated plot even confused the screenwriters. Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall costarred and had such good chemistry that Warner Bros. heavily altered the theatrical release to focus more on their relationship.

This is an excellent, golden age of Hollywood showcase for the stars. It’s fun to pull apart the murder mystery and draw your own conclusions.

The Letter (1940)

Nominated for seven Academy Awards, The Letter stars Bette Davis in one of her most acclaimed roles. She plays Leslie Crosbie, who shoots a man (revealed to be her lover) dead within the opening minutes of the movie.

What follows is a fascinating yarn in which Leslie successfully argues self-defense. Her ulterior motives and manipulative actions throughout make it a performance that holds up to this day.

It doesn’t sound like Davis’ adulterous, murdering character is likeable, yet she pulls it off. The Letter features an exceptional score that feeds into the melodrama of this twisted story.

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The Maltese Falcon (1941)

One of the most intricately plotted movies of all-time, this is another Bogart classic noir. The source material comes from arguably the best hardboiled detective novelist ever in Dashiel Hammett.

This marked John Huston’s directorial debut, and he earned a third Oscar nomination as a screenwriter for his phenomenal script. All these factors make The Maltese Falcon iconic in a multitude of ways.

Bogart’s Sam Spade is a private investigator who’s implicated as a murderer. Then, the titular MacGuffin drives the rest of the thrilling plot, which wraps in a complex, compelling conclusion.

Now, Voyager (1942)

It’s Bette Davis again! However, she’s not a killer this time, but a repressed, lovesick protagonist named Charlotte who’s easy to empathize with.

She takes a long, oceanic voyage and falls in love with Paul Henreid’s Jerry. Although they don’t really wind up together in the end, it’s a great story of Charlotte finding her self-confidence and independence.

Now, Voyager features the famous scene in which Jerry lights his and Charlotte’s cigarettes, and ranks No. 23 on the American Film Institute’s “100 Years…100 Passions” among U.S. cinema’s best love stories.

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The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

Huston won Oscars for writing and directing in this Bogart-led feature, which is a departure from the star’s previously mentioned noirs.

Set in Mexico, Bogart’s Fred C. Dobbs and his partner Bob Curtin (Tim Holt) join forces with the writer-director’s father Walter Huston, who plays a gold prospector named Howard. Fred spent his last money on a lottery ticket, and won! Thus, they go off in search of gold.

Mixing in humor and irony to a desperate situation of thematic avarice, Huston and Co. deliver a magnificent ’40s classic with The Treasure of the Sierra Madre that will likely feature on HBO Max in May.